Julia took the chair nearest to her. Emily stood at the window, waiting impatiently for Mr. Grandly to begin. He laid his hat on the parquet, wiped his forehead with his handkerchief, and drew an arm-chair forward. ’Mr. Burnett, as you know, made a will some years ago, in favour of his cousin and adopted daughter, Miss Emily Watson. In that will he left his entire fortune to her, Ashwood Park and all his invested money. No other person was mentioned in that will, except Miss Watson. It was I who drew up this will. I remember discussing its provisions with Mr. Burnett, and advising him to leave something, even if it were only a few hundred pounds, to his nephew, Hubert Price. But Mr. Burnett was always a very headstrong man; he had quarrelled with this young man, as he said, irreparably, and could not be induced to leave him even a hundred pounds. I thought this was harsh, and as Mr. Burnett’s friend I told him so—I have always been opposed to extreme measures,—but he was not to be gainsaid. So the matter remained for many years; never did Mr. Burnett mention his nephew’s name. I thought he had forgotten the young man’s existence, when, suddenly, without warning, Mr. Burnett came into my office and told me that he intended to alter his will, leaving all his property to his nephew, Hubert Price. You know what old friends we were, and, presuming on our friendship, I told him what I thought of his project of disinheritance, for it amounted to that. Well, suffice it to say, we very nearly quarrelled over the matter. I refused to draw up the will, so iniquitous did it seem to me. He said: “Very well, Grandly, I’ll go elsewhere.” Then I remembered that if I allowed him to go elsewhere I should lose all hold over him, and I consented to draw up the will.’
Emily listened, a vague expression of pain in her pathetic eyes. Then this house, this room where she was sitting, was not hers, and a strange man would come soon and drive her away!
‘And he has left Ashwood to Mr. Price, is not that his name?’ she said, abruptly.
‘Yes; he has left Ashwood to Mr. Price.’
‘And when did he make this new will?’
‘I think it is just about a month ago.’
Emily leaned forward, and her great eyes, full of light and sorrow, were fixed in space, her little pale hands linked, and the great mass of chestnut hair slipping from the comb. She was, in truth, at that moment the subject of a striking picture, and she was even more impressive when she said, speaking slowly: ’Then that old man was even wickeder than I thought. Oh, what I have learned in the last three or four weeks! Oh, what wickedness, what wickedness!... But go on,’ she said, looking at Mr. Grandly; ‘tell me all.’