“I cannot consent to reverse, or in any way annul, the last wishes of my dear wife,” said Mr. Manning, hastily. “It was her arrangement solely, and I hold it sacred. She has put upon me a serious responsibility, from which I shrink, indeed, but which I cannot decline. I will do all in my power to carry out the wishes of my late wife.”
Mr. Ferret shrugged his shoulders.
“I am not surprised at your decision, sir,” he said, coldly. “Few men would resist the temptation. My duty is discharged with the reading of the will, and I will bid you good-afternoon!”
Mr. Manning was a crafty man. He knew that the strange will would be discussed, and he thought it best that the discussion should come at once, that it might be the sooner finished.
Deborah, faithful old servant, was in a blaze of indignation.
She went up quickly to Frank, and said:
“It’s a shame, Mr. Frank, so it is!”
“If my mother made that will, it is all right,” said Frank, gravely.
“But she didn’t, Mr. Frank! I know she would never do such a thing. She loved you as the apple of her eye, and she would not cheat you out of your rightful inheritance.”
“No more she would, Mr. Frank,” said the coachman, chiming in.
“I don’t know what to think,” said Frank. “It has surprised me very much.”
“Surprised you!” exclaimed Deborah. “You may well say that. You might have knocked me down with a feather when I heard the property left away from you. Depend upon it, that man knows all about it.”
“You mean Mr. Manning?”
“To be sure I mean him! Oh, he’s managed artfully! I say that for him. He’s got it all into his own hands, and you haven’t a cent.”
“If it was my mother’s will I wouldn’t complain of that, Deborah. It was hers to do with as she liked, and I know, at any rate, that she loved me.”
“There’s one thing surprises me,” said Richard Green. “If so be as the will isn’t genuine, how does it happen that you and I come in for a legacy, Deborah?”
“It’s meant for a blind,” answered Deborah. “Oh, he’s the artfulest man!”
“You may be right, Deborah. I must say the will sounded all right.”
“Maybe it was copied from the mistress’ will.”
This conversation took place in one corner of the room.
It ceased as Mr. Ferret advanced toward the disinherited boy.
“Frank,” said he, in a tone of sympathy, “I am very sorry for the provisions of the will.”
“So am I, sir,” answered our hero. “It isn’t pleasant to be dependent on Mr. Manning.”
“Particularly when the whole estate should be yours.”
“I wouldn’t have minded if half had been left to him, provided I had been left independent of him.”
“I appreciate your feelings, Frank. I knew your father, and I am proud to say that he was my friend. I knew your mother well, and I esteemed her highly. I hope you will let me regard myself as your friend also.”