“Thank you, Mr. Ferret!” said Frank. “I am likely to need a friend. I shall remember your kind proposal. I want to ask you one question.”
“Ask, and I shall answer.”
“Did my mother consult with you about making this will?”
“Did she ever say anything that would lead you to think she would leave the property as it is left in this will?”
“Not a word.”
“Was there another will?”
“Yes. I wrote her will at her direction more than a year ago. This will is dated only three months since, and, of course, takes precedence of it, even if the other is in existence.”
“Can you tell me what were the provisions of the other will?”
“A legacy of ten thousand dollars was left to Mr. Manning, and the rest of the estate to you, except the small legacies, which were all larger than in the will I have read. For instance, Deborah and Richard Green were each put down for five hundred dollars.”
“So they suffer as well as I?”
“Have you any idea, Mr. Ferret, of the value of the estate which falls into Mr. Manning’s hands?”
“I have some idea, because I have talked with your mother on the subject. This estate is worth fifty thousand dollars at least, and there are fully fifty thousand dollars in money and bonds. The legacies do not altogether exceed one thousand dollars, and therefore it may be said that your stepfather has fallen heir to one hundred thousand dollars.”
“I suppose there is nothing I can do, Mr. Ferret?”
“Not unless you can show that this will which I have read is not a genuine document. That would be difficult.”
“Did you notice my mother’s signature?”
“Yes. I am not an expert, but I cannot detect any difference greater than maybe existed between two signatures of the same person.”
“Then I suppose there is nothing to be done at present. I expect to have a hard time with Mr. Manning, Mr. Ferret.”
“How has he treated you in the past, Frank?” asked the lawyer.
“I have had nothing to complain of; but then he was not master of the estate. Now it is difficult, and I think his treatment of me will be different.”
“You may be right. You remember what I said, Frank?”
“That I should regard you as a friend? I won’t forget it, Mr. Ferret.”
One by one the company left the house, and Frank was alone.
Left alone and unsustained by sympathy, he felt more bitterly than before the totally unexpected change in his circumstances.
Up to the last hour he had regarded himself as the
heir of the estate.
Now he was only a dependent of a man whom he heartily disliked.
Could it be that this misfortune had come to him through the agency of his mother?
“I will not believe it!” he exclaimed, energetically.