“Afterwards is a long time, friend; but I mistrust you have found the comfort, as well as the providence, of ‘next of kin?’”
“Afterwards is a long time,” said Titus Oldways, gravely; “but the Lord’s line of succession stretches all the way through.”
And that same night he had his other old friend, Miss Craydocke, in; and he brought two papers that he had ready, quietly out to be signed, each with four names: “Titus Oldways,” by itself, on the one side; on the other,—
And one of those two papers—which are no further part of the present story, seeing that good old Uncle Titus is at this moment alive and well, as he has a perfect right, and is heartily welcome to be, whether the story ever comes to a regular winding up or not—was laid safely away in a japanned box in a deep drawer of his study table; and Marmaduke Wharne put the other in his pocket.
He and Titus knew. I myself guess, and perhaps you do; but neither you nor I, nor Rachel, nor Keren-happuch, know for certain; and it is no sort of matter whether we do or not.
The “next of kin” is a better and a deeper thing than any claim of law or register of bequest can show. Titus Oldways had found that out; and he had settled in his mind, to his restful and satisfied belief, that God, to the last moment of His time, and the last particle of His created substance, can surely care for and order and direct His own.
Is that end and moral enough for a two years’ watchful trial and a two years’ simple tale?
They laid out the Waite Place in this manner:—
Right into the pretty wooded pasture, starting from a point a little way down the road from the old house, they projected a roadway which swept round, horseshoe fashion, till it met itself again within a space of some twenty yards or so; and this sweep made a frontage—upon its inclosed bit of natural, moss-turfed green, sprinkled with birch and pine and oak trees, and with gray out-croppings of rock here and there—for the twenty houses, behind which opened the rest of the unspoiled, irregular, open slope and swell and dingle of the hill-foot tract that dipped down at one reach, we know, to the river.
The trees, and shrubs, and vines, and ferns, and stones, were left in their wild prettiness; only some roughness of nature’s wear and tear of dead branches and broken brushwood, and the like, were taken away, and the little footpaths cleared for pleasant walking.
There were all the little shady, sweet-smelling nooks, just as they had been; all the little field-parlors, opening with their winding turns between bush and rock, one into another. The twenty households might find twenty separate places, if they all wanted to take a private out-door tea at once.