“Perhaps you ought to know them.”
“I know about them; I’ve kept the run; but I’ve held clear of family. They didn’t need me, and I had no right to put it into their heads they did, unless I fully meant”—
He broke off.
“They’re like everybody else, Wharne; neither better nor worse, I dare say; but the world is full of just such women. How do I know this money would be well in their hands—even for themselves?”
“One of ’em was brought up by an Oferr woman!”
The tone in which he commonized the name to a satiric general term, is not to be written down, and needed not to be interpreted.
“The other is well enough,” he went on, “and contented enough. A doctor’s widow, with a little property, a farm and two children,—her older ones died very young,—up in New Hampshire. I might spoil her; and the other,—well, you see as I said, I don’t know.”
“Find out,” said Marmaduke Wharne, again.
“People are not found out till they are tried.”
Mr. Oldways had been sitting with his head bent, thoughtfully, his eyes looking down, his hands on the two stiff, old-fashioned arms of his chair. At this last spondaic response from Marmaduke, he lifted his eyes and eyebrows,—not his head,—and raised himself slightly with his two hands pressing on the chair arms; the keen glance and the half-movement were impulsively toward his friend.
“Eh?” said he.
“Try ’em,” repeated Marmaduke Wharne. “Give God’s way a chance.”
Mr. Oldways, seated back in his chair again, looked at him intently; made a little vibration, as it were, with his body, that moved his head up and down almost imperceptibly, with a kind of gradual assenting apprehension, and kept utterly silent.
So, their talk being palpably over for this time, Marmaduke Wharne got up presently to go. They nodded at each other, friendlily, as he looked back from the door.
Left alone, Mr. Titus Oldways turned in his swivel-chair, around to his desk beside which he was sitting.
“Next of kin?” he repeated to himself. “God’s way?—Well! Afterwards is a long time. A man must give it up somewhere. Everything escheats to the king at last.”
And he took a pen in his hand and wrote a letter.
HOW THE NEWS CAME TO HOMESWORTH.
“I wish I lived in the city, and had a best friend,” said Hazel Ripwinkley to Diana, as they sat together on the long, red, sloping kitchen roof under the arches of the willow-tree, hemming towels for their afternoon “stent.” They did this because their mother sat on the shed roof under the fir, when she was a child, and had told them of it. Imagination is so much greater than fact, that these children, who had now all that little Frank Shiere had dreamed of with the tar smell and the gravel stones and the one tree,—who might run free in the wide woods and up the breezy hillsides,—liked best of all to get out on the kitchen roof and play “old times,” and go back into their mother’s dream.