“A few days since I went over the house and found that it was quite dirty. Where the dirt could come from in an unoccupied house I can’t tell, but, at all events, I felt justified in engaging a woman to clean the paint, so, if any of you should return unexpectedly, you would find the house fit to receive you. This was a very simple matter, you will think, and scarcely needs mentioning. But, my dear Frank, events of importance often hinge on trifles, and so it has proved in the present instance.
“On the evening of the second day I received a call from Mrs. Noonan, whom I had employed to scrub the house. She had in her hand a folded paper, which she gave to me.
“‘Here is something I found, sir, while I was scrubbing,’ she said.
“I opened it indifferently, but conceive of my amazement when I found it to be your mother’s will, properly signed, sealed and witnessed.
“Of course it was not the will which Mr. Manning presented for probate. This will gave Mr. Manning ten thousand dollars, and the residue of the property to you, except a small amount bestowed upon Richard Green, the coachman, and Deborah—sums larger, by the way, than those mentioned in the will which was read after your mother’s death.”
There was more to Colonel Vincent’s letter.
Frank showed it to Mr. Percival, and readily obtained permission to take a few days vacation.
“I hope you will get back the estate, Frank,” said Mr. Percival, “though I don’t know what I shall do without my secretary.”
“That need not separate us, Mr. Percival,” said our hero. “I have no home but this.”
Frank started for his old home on Saturday afternoon. He would arrive in time for supper, at the house of his father’s friend. The train was well filled, and he was obliged to share his seat with a shabbily dressed young man with whom, a single glance showed him, he was not likely to sympathize.
The shabby suit did not repel him at all—he was too sensible for that; but there was a furtive look in the man’s face, which seemed to indicate that he was not frank and straightforward, but had something to conceal.
Half the journey passed without a word between the two. Then his companion, glancing at Frank, opened a conversation by remarking that it was a fine day.
“Very,” answered Frank, laconically.
“A pleasant day to travel.”
“Do you go far?”
Frank mentioned his destination. His companion seemed to have his interest awakened.
“Do you know a Mr. Manning, living in your town?” he asked.
“He is my stepfather,” said Frank.
“Then you are Frank Courtney?” said his new acquaintance, quickly.
“Pardon me, but I think your mother died recently?”