Old Daniel Mortimer sighed deeply. They had been parted nearly sixty years, but their last words and their first words had been on the same subject; and it was as fresh in the minds of both as if only a few days had intervened between them. Still it seemed he could find nothing to say, and she, rousing up, cried out passionately,—
“Would you have had me denounce my own flesh and blood?”
“No, madam, no,” answered the younger.
She noticed the different appellation instantly, and turning on him, said, with vigour and asperity,—
“And you, Augustus, that I hear is rich, and has settled all your daughters well, and got a son of your own, you might know a parent’s feelings. It’s ill done of you to encourage Dan’el in his obstinacy.”
Then, seeing that her words did not produce the slightest effect, she threw her lace apron over her head, and pressing her wrinkled hands against her face, gave way to silent tears.
“I’m a poor miserable old woman,” she presently cried; “and if there’s to be nobody but that child and the tenants to follow me to the grave, it’ll be the death of me to know it, I’m sure it will.”
With an air of indescribable depression, the elder son then repeated the same promise he had given before, and added the same condition.
The younger followed his example, and thereupon humbly taking down the lace from her face, and mechanically smoothing it over her aged knees, she gave the promise required of her, and placed her hand on a prayer-book which was lying on the small table beside her, as if to add emphasis and solemnity to her words.
GOLD, THE INCORRUPTIBLE WITNESS.
After she had received the promise she desired from her sons—a promise burdened with so strange a condition—Madam Melcombe seemed to lose all the keenness and energy she had displayed at first.
She had desired above all things that honour should be shown to her in her death; her mind often occupied itself with strange interest and pertinacity on the details of her funeral. All her wishes respecting it had long been known to her granddaughters, but her eldest surviving son had never been mentioned by name to them. She always spoke of him as “the chief mourner.”
Suddenly, however, it appeared to have occurred to her that he might not be present at it, after all. Everything must be risked to ascertain this. She must write, she must entreat his presence. But when he and his brother sent in their cards she, for the first time in her life, perceived that all she had done was useless. She saw the whole meaning of the situation; for this estate had come to her through the failure of heirs male to her father, and it was the provision of his will that she and her heirs should take back his name—the name of Melcombe.