All through the discourse, the hymns, and the concluding prayer, Lucina sobbed softly at intervals, her face hidden in her cambric handkerchief. Somehow it went to her tender soul that the poor Colonel should be lying there with no wife or child to mourn him; then she had loved him, as she had loved everybody and everything that had come kindly into her life. Every time she thought of the corals and the beautiful ear-rings which the Colonel had given her she wept afresh. Moreover, the motive for tears is always complex; hers may have been intensified somewhat by her anxiety about her lover and his misfortune. Now and then her mother touched her arm remonstratingly. “Hush; you’ll make yourself sick, child,” she whispered, softly; but poor Lucina was helpless before her grief.
The Squire, John Jennings, and Lawyer Means all sat by the dead body of their friend, with pale and sternly downcast faces. Jerome looked scarcely less sad. He remembered as he sat there every kind word which the Colonel had ever spoken to him, and every one seemed magnified a thousand-fold. This call to lend his living strength towards the bearing of the dead man to his last home seemed like a call to a labor of love and gratitude, though he was still much perplexed that he should have been selected.
“There’s Doctor Prescott and Cyrus Robinson and Uncle Ozias—any one of them nearer his own age,” he thought. It was not until the next day but one that the mystery was solved. That night Lawyer Eliphalet Means came to see Jerome, and informed him that the Colonel had left a will, whereby he was entitled to a legacy of twenty-five thousand dollars.
Colonel Lamson’s will divided sixty-five thousand dollars among five legatees—ten thousand was given to John Jennings, five thousand to Eliphalet Means, five thousand to Eben Merritt, twenty thousand to Lucina Merritt, and twenty-five thousand to Jerome Edwards.
Upham was not astonished by the first four bequests; the last almost struck it dumb. “What in creation did he leave twenty-five thousand dollars to that feller for? He wa’n’t nothin’ to him,” Simon Basset stammered, when he first heard the news on Tuesday night in Robinson’s store. His face was pale and gaping, and folk stared at him.
Suddenly a man cried out, “By gosh, J’rome promised to give the hull on’t away! Don’t ye remember?”
“That’s so,” cried another; “an’ Doctor Prescott an’ Basset have got to hand out ten thousand apiece if he does. Fork over, Simon.”
“Guess ye’ll wait till doomsday afore J’rome sticks to his part on’t,” said Basset, with a sneer; but his lips were white.
“No, I won’t; no, I won’t,” responded the man, hilariously. “J’rome’s goin’ to do it; Jake here says he heard so; it come real straight.” He winked at the others, who closed around, grinning maliciously.