Mark regarded his father fixedly.
“I guess the old man knows what’s in the will,” he said to himself. “He knows how to feather his own nest. I hope he’s feathered mine, too.”
Mr. Manning passed from his son’s chamber and went softly upstairs, looking thoughtful.
Anyone who could read the impassive face would have read trouble in store for Frank.
MRS. MANNING’S WILL
During the preparations for the funeral Frank was left pretty much to himself.
Mr. Manning’s manner was so soft, and to him had been so deferential, that he did not understand the man. It didn’t occur to him that it was assumed for a purpose.
That manner was not yet laid aside. His stepfather offered to comfort him, but Frank listened in silence. Nothing that Mr. Manning could say had the power to lighten his load of grief. So far as words could console him, the sympathy of Deborah and the coachman, both old servants, whom his mother trusted, had more effect, for he knew that it was sincere, and that they were really attached to his mother.
Of Mr. Manning he felt a profound distrust, which no words of his could remove.
Meanwhile, Mr. Manning was looking from an upper window down the fine avenue, and his eye ranged from left to right over the ample estate with a glance of self-complacent triumph.
“All mine at last!” he said to himself, exultingly. “What I have been working for has come to pass. Three years ago I was well-nigh penniless, and now I am a rich man. I shall leave Mark the master of a great fortune. I have played my cards well. No one will suspect anything wrong. My wife and I have lived in harmony. There will be little wonder that she has left all to me. There would be, perhaps, but for the manner in which I have taken care he shall be mentioned in the will—I mean, of course, in the will I have made for her.”
He paused, and, touching a spring in the wall, a small door flew open, revealing a shallow recess.
In this recess was a folded paper, tied with a red ribbon.
Mr. Manning opened it, and his eyes glanced rapidly down the page.
“This is the true will,” he said to himself. “I wish I could summon courage to burn it. It would be best out of the way. That, if found out, would make me amenable to the law, and I must run no risk. In this secret recess it will never be found. I will replace it, and the document which I have had prepared will take its place, and no one will be the wiser.”
On the day after the funeral, the family solicitor and a few intimate friends, who had been invited by Mr. Manning, assembled in the drawing room of the mansion to hear the will read.
Mr. Manning himself notified Frank of the gathering and its object.
He found our hero lying on the bed in his chamber, sad and depressed.