They hastened back to Verner’s Pride. And the lawyer, in the presence of Mr. Bitterworth, received instructions for a codicil, revoking the bequest of the estate to the Massingbirds, and bestowing it absolutely upon Lionel Verner. The bequests to others, legacies, instructions in the former will, were all to stand. It was a somewhat elaborate will; hence Mr. Verner suggested that that will, so far, could still stand, and the necessary alteration be made by a codicil.
“You can have it ready by this evening?” Mr. Verner remarked to the lawyer.
“Before then, if you like, sir. It won’t take me long to draw that up. One’s pen goes glibly when one’s heart is in the work. I am glad you are willing it back to Mr. Lionel.”
“Draw it up then, and bring it here as soon as it’s ready. You won’t find me gone out,” Mr. Verner added, with a faint attempt at jocularity.
The lawyer did as he was bid, and returned to Verner’s Pride about five o’clock in the afternoon. He found Dr. West there. It was somewhat singular that the doctor should again be present, as he had been at the previous signing. And yet not singular, for he was now in frequent attendance on the patient.
“How do you feel yourself this afternoon, sir?” asked Mr. Matiss, when he entered, his greatcoat buttoned up, his hat in his hand, his gloves on; showing no signs that he had any professional document about him, or that he had called in for any earthly reason, save to inquire in politeness after the state of the chief of Verner’s Pride.
“Pretty well, Matiss. Are you ready?”
“We’ll do it at once, then. Dr. West,” Mr. Verner added, turning to the doctor, “I have been making an alteration in my will. You were one of the former witnesses; will you be so again?”
“With pleasure. An alteration consequent upon the death of John Massingbird, I presume?”
“No. I should have made it, had he been still alive. Verner’s Pride must go to Lionel. I cannot die easy unless it does.”
“But—I thought you said Lionel had done—had done something to forfeit it?” interrupted Dr. West, whom the words appeared to have taken by surprise.
“To forfeit my esteem and good opinion. Those he can never enjoy again. But I doubt whether I have a right to deprive him of Verner’s Pride. I begin to think I have not. I believe that the world generally will think I have not. It may be that a Higher Power, to whom alone I am responsible, will judge I have not. There’s no denying that he will make a more fitting master of it than would Frederick Massingbird; and for myself I shall die the easier knowing that a Verner will succeed me. Mr. Matiss, be so kind as read over the deed.”
The lawyer produced a parchment from one of his ample pockets, unfolded, and proceeded to read it aloud. It was the codicil, drawn up with all due form, bequeathing Verner’s Pride to Lionel Verner. It was short, and he read it in a clear, distinct voice.