That was all; there was no legacy, no further directions.
“Allow me to congratulate-” began the elder lawyer.
“No-no-oh, stay a bit,” cried she, in breathless dismay and bewilderment. “It can’t be! It can’t mean only me. There must be something about Elvira de Menella.”
“I fear there is not,” said Mr. Rowse; “I could wish my late client had attended more to the claims of justice, and had divided the property, which could well have borne it; but unfortunately it is not so.”
“It is exactly as he led us to expect,” said Mr. Gould. “We have no right to complain, and very likely the child will be much happier without it. You have a fine family growing up to enjoy it, Mrs. Brownlow, and I am sure no one congratulates you more heartily than I.”
“Don’t; it can’t be,” cried the heiress, nearly crying, and wringing the old farmer’s hand. “He must have meant Elvira. You know he sent for you. Has everything been hunted over? There must be a later will.”
“Indeed, Mrs. Brownlow,” said the solicitor, “you may rest assured that full search has been made. Mr. Richards had the same impression, and we have been searching every imaginable receptacle.”
“Besides,” added Colonel Brownlow, “if he had made another will there would have been witnesses.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Richards; “but to make matters certain, I wrote to several of the servants to ask whether they remembered any attestation, but no one did; and indeed I doubt whether, after his arrival here, poor Mr. Barnes ever had sustained power enough to have drawn up and executed a will without my assistance, or that of any legal gentleman.”
“It is too hard and unjust,” cried Caroline; “it cannot be. I must halve it with the child, as if there had been no will at all. Robert! you know that is what your brother would have done.”
“That would be just as well as generous, indeed, if it were practicable,” said Mr. Rowse; “but unfortunately Colonel Brownlow and myself (for Mr. Ball is dead) are in trust to prevent any such proceeding. All that is in your power is to divide the property among your own family by will, in such proportion as you may think fit.”
“Quite true, my dear sister,” said the Colonel, meeting her despairing appealing look, “as regards the principal, but the ready money at the bank and the income are entirely at your own disposal, and you can, without difficulty, secure a very sufficient compensation to the little girl out of them.”
“No doubt,” said Mr. Rowse.
“You’ll let me-you’ll let me, Mr. Gould,” implored Caroline; “you’ll let me keep her, and do all I can to make up to her. You see the Colonel thinks it is only justice; don’t you, Robert?”
“Mrs. Brownlow is quite right,” said the Colonel, seeing that her vehemence was a little distrusted; “it will be only an act of justice to make provision for your granddaughter.”