“I thought Mr. Manning destroyed it,” he said, hastily.
“No; he concealed it.”
“Is this true?”
“Yes. You see that a part of your information has been forestalled.”
“He was a fool, then, and still more a fool to refuse my last demand for money. I accept your offer of a thousand dollars, and will tell all.”
“I wrote the will which Mr. Manning presented for probate. It was copied in part from the genuine will.”
“Good! And you betray him because he will not pay what you consider the service worth?”
Jonas Barton here gave a full account of Mr. Manning, whom he had formerly known in New York, seeking him out and proposing to him a job for which he was willing to pay five hundred dollars. Barton was not scrupulous, and readily agreed to do the work. He was skillful with the pen, and did his work so well that all were deceived.
“You will be willing to swear to this in court?”
“Yes, sir, if you will guarantee the sum you proposed.”
“I will. I shall wish you to find a boarding place in the village, and remain here for the present, so as to be ready when needed. I will be responsible for your board.”
As Jonas Barton was leaving the house, one of the servants came in with important news, in which Frank was strongly interested.
The news was that Mr. Manning and Mark had just arrived at the Cedars. They had come by the last evening train. Why they had come back so unexpectedly no one knew, but the servant had heard that Mark was in poor health. This was true.
Mark, in Europe, had proved uncontrollable. He had given way to his natural love of drink, had kept late hours, and had seriously injured his constitution. In consequence of these excesses, he had contracted a fever, which alarmed him father and induced him to take the first steamer home.
“We won’t call upon your stepfather this evening, Frank,” said Col. Vincent; “but early Monday morning we will bring matters to a crisis.”
Mr. Manning did not hear of Frank’s presence in the village. He was fatigued with his rapid travel and kept at home. Besides, Mark was prostrated by his journey and didn’t wish to be left alone.
It was, therefore, a surprise to Mr. Manning when on Monday morning, Col. Vincent was ushered into his presence, accompanied by Frank.
“Really, colonel,” he said, recovering his composure, “you are very kind to call so soon. I hope you are well, Frank? Are you staying with the colonel? You must come back to your old home.”
“Thank you, Mr. Manning, but I am living in New York. I am only passing a day or two with the colonel.”
“It is very friendly in you to call, Col. Vincent.”