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F JJ 1 JV K M O It T IME 11 , )
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Old Lawrence's Will:
Lost or fStolon V
flHE WILL lay upon the counter before
.1. me, and my eyes were riveted upon tho
large cover which contained it, and which
bore the inscription, "R. Grey, Esq., Mitre
Buildings, the Temple, London." Within
it lay Kate'B destiny and mine. Whether
we were to be married or not before our
hair was gray was the secret wrapped up in
To go back to the beginning. My father
bad been the junior partner in the old bank
of Fletcher and Slaney, of Thornbury,
which had come to grief, after an honora
ble old-fashioned manner, paying off all its
debts, according to the custom of forty
years ago, at the expense of the firm, who
thereupon became poor men. My father
had many friends, and in those times, when
political influence had its finger in the be
stowal of all public offices worth having,
the members for our Tory borough had lit
tle difficulty in procuring for the ex-banker
the office of postmaster, then vacant.
The bank-offices, occupying the ground
floor of our residence, were altered some
what to suit the new purposes to which
they were put. The public business room
became a sort of outer office, and my fath
er's private apartment the stamping and
sorting place for the letters. The upper
portion of the partition wall was thrown
down, but left at a sufficient height to
screeu the inner room from tho observation
of any person in the outer one ; yet it was
open enough to make every word audible
in either part, unless intentionally spoken
in a whisper. In the course of. a few years
my fatler appointed me his head clerk, up
on tho promotion of the previous clerk to
an office of his own ; and our united salaries
amounted to 400 a year, besides the nu
merous pcrquisities which at that time of
day fell to the share of the postmaster, such
as private letter-bags, and the postage up
on local letters. We had two under-clorks,
and the duties were light ; very different
from what they have since become, as I am
told. The penny postage had only just
come in ; postage stamps were still an insti
tution of tho future, and money-orders had
been a recognized branch of tho establish
ment no more than two years. Only four
years before, the stamp duty on newspapers
had been 8Jd. apiece, and the wildest Whig
had not yet dreamed of a penny paper.
There were hours in our post-office when
our two subordinates were more than suffi
cient for all the work of the place, and my
lather's post was little else than a sine
One of the borough-men, who had been
most active in procuring this comfortable
berth for us, was an old crony of my fath
er's, both of them were Masons, and both
dabbler in chemistry, and also the wealth
Wow DBloomfiold, Fn., .Tmiii n
iest man in the whole neighborhood, lie
was a bachelor and continued to live very
much in tho simple and inexpensive style
ho had been used to in poorer days. His
money had grown by lucky speculations
and careful economy. A good number of
his kindicd lived about the town, all mod
erately well off, and more or less successful
in life, except tho brother next eldest to
himself, who, having entered the Church
had gained no higher promotion in it than
a poor curacy in his native town, with an
income of 100 a year. Old Lawrence
treated him with a kind of fretful irritable
brotherliness, which was but poorly plas
tered over by a yearly gift, grudgingly giv
en, of another hundred. I need scarcely
say that all the kindred were specially af
fectionate to old Lawrence.
His niece, Kate Lawrence, the curate's
daughter, was, well I shall not try to de
scribe what she was, except by saying that
I was in love with her, and had been ever
since I had first seen her in church, listen
ing, with a beaming and loving face, to her
father preaching one of his prosiest ser
mons. Every body knew I was in love
with Katie, for I made no secret of it ; and
Katie was just as simply and frankly in
love with me, and made no secret of it ei
ther. Yet I am quite sure I had never ask
ed her, in so many words if shewould be
my wife ; but we were tacitly, without
pledge or promise, given, eugaged to marry
one another as soon as fickle fortune would
permit it. When that would be, the most
prophetic soul could not foretell ; for our
lavish household expenditure at home,
which had not been materially reduced up
on the failure of the bank, swallowed up
the united income of my father and my
self, while my three sisters, now portion
less, did not seem in a fair way to make
elligible settlements. There was only one
chance, a distant one, when old Lawrence
died, would he leave Katie or her father
any portion of his accumulated wealth ?
Six or seven yearn had passed without the
brightening of our prospects, when, quite
unexpectedly, one morning old Lawrence's
housekeeper rushed in with news that she
had found her master dead in his bed. On
ly the night before, be and my father had
been trying some chemical experiments,
and tho shock to the latter was so violent
that he was insensible for some) time, and
continued speechless after his conciousness
had apparently returned. Of course, my
mother and sisters were' in great agitation,
and it was an hour or two before I could
leave them, after assisting to get my father
to bed, and sending for his doctor. As
soon as I could, however, I hastened to the
poor solitary old man's house. The streets
were all in commotion, and the whole town
seemed in a fever of curiosity concerning
the sudden event, and what might result
from it. In the house inself I found every
one of the relatives who lived in tho town,
including two younger brothers and a mar
ried sister of the deceased, and by the side
of the dead man sat Katie's father, genuine
tears of sorrow blinding his eyes.
The excitement, once awakened, did not
seem likely to slumber again till curiosity
was satisfied. It was plain that the old
man had died from natural causes ; but as
soon as the town was assured of that, the
question upon every tongue was, "Has he
made a will?" or, "How has he left his
money?" I was myself devoured by anxi
ety, of which I was half ashamed. If he
had died intestate, Katie's father, as heir-at-law,
would come into possession of his
landed property, and into a fourth part of
bis personality, which would Imj no insig
nificant windfall in itself. It was a subject
which might well thrust itself upon mo, in
spite of my father's serious attack, which
seemed not unlike a stroke of paralysis.
During the course of the afternoon, old
Lawrence's solicitor, Mr. Snapo, was an
nounced, and I went to speak to him. lie
requested to see my father, with a very im
portant tone and expression of counte
nance. "It is impossible," I answered, "quite
impossible ; he cannot see any oue. He has !
not spoken since this morning, when he
heard of the sudden death of his old friend.
Arnold is apprehensive of paralysis. Is it
anything that I can do?"
"No, no," replied Mr. Snape ; "your
father is one of tho executors to Mr. Law
rence's will, and I have brought it hero
with me, to consult hiin about it. The oth
er is Grey, of the Temple. Underjthese
circumstances, I suppose I must forward it
to him ; and perhaps it is best. It must be
proved at Canterbury, and he can see to it
"Why at Canterbury?" I asked eagerly.
"Because there is landed property in three
different dioceses," ho answered. " I'll
send it to Grey by to-night's mail."
"Well, my father can do nothing," I
said, wondering all the time whether Mr.
Snape knew what were the provisions of
the will, so momentous to Katie and me.
There was a will, however ; that far was
certain. A kind of wild hope which had
been kindled in my breast, was' quite
quenched by the visit from Mr. Snape.
I felt myself sinking into a gloomy depres
sion, which appeared exceedingly ominous
to me. For three or four hours I brooded
despondently over the fact that there was a
will, scarcely allowing myself to cherish a
spai'k of hope that Katie was provided for
in it ; for how often docs a rich man leave
his money to the poorest of his kindred ? I
had nothing else to occupy my mind. My
mother and sisters sat weeping in my fath
er's darkened and silent room. All the
windows in our house had the curtains
drawn. At last it occurred to me that this
was the last day of September, and that the
money-order account, which was made up
quarterly, ought to be balanced, and sent
up to London by the night's mail. Glad of
anything to work at, I went down stairs to
the inner office, found the necessary forms,
and set myself steadily to the task.
I had just completed it, and folded up my
balance-sheet, when I heard a footstep and
voice in the outer office, both loud, and of
a kind to arrest attention. They belonged
to one of Snape's clerks, who had come in
to post his master's letter.
"Look here," ho said ; "I was to see
you take this one straight in to Mr. Slaney ;
it's on no account to be left here with ordi
nary letters. It's old Lawrence's will, I
guess. By George 1 I only wish that my
name was inside of it."
It was brought to me immediately, and
placed before me on the counter. I did not
touch it, but there it lay, a long narrow
packet, not over largo or bulky, yet contain
ing the whole of Kate's future and mine.
I cannot say how long I sat before it,
fascinated, perfectly spell-bound ; my eyes
riveted upon it, as if they could see through
the thick cover, and read the momentous
lines within. I never touched it with my
fingers even. I felt as if I no more dare do
that than I would have da red to tease and
arouse some deadly serpent. I am concious
however, that not the shadow of an idea of
opening it ever crossed my mind. At last
I felt a warm smooth little hand laid upon
mine, and Katie's voice whispered close to
my ear. " What is it you're staring at,
There was of course an entrance into
this inner office from the house, and Katie
had stolen in several times before, when I
was alone, and had always spoken in the
lowest of whispers, lest tho clerks in the
office beyond should overhear her; yet I
started nervously at the sound of her voice
and the touch of her baud, and she was
obliged to reioat her question liefore I seein
ed to comprehend it.
"This is your uncle's will," I answered.
Her eyes met. mine, and there was a
strange, look in them, such as I had never
seen before, an uneasy, troubled, almost
sly expression. She had Inien crying until
they appeared smaller than usual under
their swollen lids. She dropped her eyelids
hurriedly, and then she whispered again,
"If there had been no will?"
I answered her as if that were a question
but afterwards it occurred to me that it was
an involuntary utterance of her wish.
" Your father would have lx-en heir-at-law,
Katie," I replied, "and you a great
As I was speaking, an alarmed and bur
ied voice called loudly for me from the inte
rior of the house, a voice so urgent, and
Killing to such a pitcn of terror, that it
drove every thought of everything else out
of my mind. At a couple of bounds I sprang
up the staircase, and into my father's bed
room, whore every one was in confusion and
dismay. Some crisis of bis sudden attack
had come on, and he was to all appearance
in the agonies of death. A friendship, too
rare between father and son, existed be
tween him and me, a very close friend
ship, which had grown with my growth
trom boyhood. To lose him would be to
ise half my life. I did not give a thought
my official duties : the Queen's mail was
nothing to me ; and during the whole of
that long night I never left my father's
The next morning ho was pronounced to
be out of immediate danger, though he
continued speechless, and seemed scarely
concious ot our presence. By dint of per
severing entreaiy. my mother nersuaded
me to go and lie down, when I fell into one
of those utter aud awful lethargies, deeper
and more deathlike than sleep, which now
and then seem to come to obliterate any im
pression stamped too deeply upon the brain.
When I awoke I felt calm and strong again.
Katie was in the house, and she and my sis
ter lavished upon me those trivial feminine
attentions so expressibly soothing a' sr any
great emotion, when one is suffering from
anguor which usually follows it.
When the hour for making ud the mail
arrived, I went down into tho office, and
made some slight inquiries as to how the
clerks had managed the work the evening
before. They had been late, of course : but.
the mail-coach there was no railway near
Thornbury then had waited for them to
complete their evening's dispatch, and they
believed everything had gone off as well as
But the return mail proved that every
thing had not gone off as well as usual.
Our mail, leaving Thornbury at 8 P. M.,
reached the London office about noon the
next day ; and the return mail, not quitting
London until eight o'clock on the following
morning, threw the arrival of tho answers
to correspondence to the fourth morning.
un the iourtn day after old Lawrence's
death, to the serious inconvenience of all
parties, there appeared no reply to Mr.
Snape's communication to Mr. Grey, which
had been enclosed with the will, and in
which he desired to be immediately up.
quainted with any instructions left by the
neeeusea m regard to his funeral. The
next London mail was waited for, but there
was still no letter : and then tho interment
necessarily took place, while the solicitor
addressed a second communication to the
I awaited with the keenest anxiety, the
arrival of Mr. Grey or his reply, and all the
town was on tip-toe of expectation. The
relatives did nothing but meet one another,
and discuss the will in all its possibilities.
There was a wistful look abput Katie's face.
It was nine days now since old Lawrence's
death, but tho wonder, instead of dying out,
was growing greater every day. Why did
not the executor come to satisfy the general
curiosity, and set the general mind to ease?
The mail-bags reached Thornbury about
midnight, and were ordinarily deposited in
the office to await the appointed hour for
opening them at seven in tho morning,
which was considered quite early enough for
tho accommodation of the public. But
upon this occasion Mr. Snapo spent the
evening with me. and when tho mail ar
rived, ho and I went down alone into the
quiet office, where I picked out the London
bag, opened it, took out the bundles of
letters, ran my eager fingers aud eyes ovo
them, until I came to the one I was ii
search of, and handed it over to tho lawyei
There was a dead silence in the hour and
place, only the clock ticking off the seconds
as evenly as if nothing was happening. I
watching Mr. Snape's face hungrily, as if it
would reflect and disclose what he was read
ing. The letter was brief, but ho read it
over twice. It seemed a very long pause
of suspense to me, yet I suppose three
minutes had scarcely passed.
"Ho says he has never heard of old Law
rence's death !" exclaimed Mr. Snape at
length ; "ho knows nothing about his will ;
lias never received it I"
" Never received it!" I repeated, "not
received it ! But I could take niv oatli il
ent from this office."
" Did you see it go into the boar your
self?" asked Mr. 8iuiDe.
I hesitated a minute or two. for that
deep lethargic sleep I spoke of had dimmed
my recollections of that night. I remem
bered it was the night I had left the two
under-clerks to do all the work alone, while
was watching beside my father : but I
recalled also tho exact spot where I had
left the will on the counter, lvm-prl
igainst the folded money-order account.
which had been duly acknowledged as
eceiveu. it one had gone safely, why not
" No," I answered, after that long pause ;
' I took it in, and left it here on the coun
ter ; but the clerks did the work that eve
ning. It would be impossible for them to
overlook it. Besides, we should hv fonnrl
it the next day if it had been left behind ;
and I should certainly have informed you
of the irregularity. No. It mutt have
gone from hero."
So said the elder clerk, when we auei-
tioned him in the morning. He could not.
positively swear to it, because they had
oeen nurnea and Hurried over their work ;
but he was quite sure it must have cone, if
it had been on the counter as I described.
The other clerk who had taken it in. and
knew it to be Lawrence's will, had not
made up in tho London bag, or he would
have taken special notice of it, and
would have been able to swear to it. Still,
both of them were positive that it bad not,
been left behind ; though it might have got
into the wrong bag, and leen missent.
1 11 go to London by to-night's mail."
said Mr. Snipe.
Nothing could Iks more significant of
the importance of the document : for a
journey to London by coach, occupying six
teen nours at the swittest, was not under
taken for a trifle. The anxiety which had
been devouring me was now sharpened to
a keener point ; but both Mr. Snape and
I wisiiea to keep the affair quiet as lonff as
possible, and I said nothing about it to any
one, my lather still being too ill to have it
confided to him. As for th r.Wka fcnf l.
being unmarried men, there was little dan
gar of their telling tales out of school, af
ter being once warned to keep it to them
selves for the present.
But the anxiety I had suffered before was
security itself compared with my consterna
tion and disquietude when Mr. Snape re
turned, accompanied by Mr. Grey, who as
serted that he had seen nothing whatever o'
tho packet which had been posted in oui
office. There was not a shadow of a doub
of that last circumstance. The clerk win
received it and I myself were compelled t'
admit that it had been safely deposited wit)
us ; but no trace of it could be found bt
yond that. Both Snape and Grey had beei
to the General Post-office to make inquirie
there, but nothing was known of it. Th.
whole onus of tho disappearance rested up.
on our office, and three persons within it.
It was simply impossible to keep tin
mysterious loss of old Lawrence's will am
longer, a secret. The relatives were read
to pull Mr. Grey to pieces as soon as lu
showed his face in the town. Was it no
shameful, scandalous, that a fortnight hue
already dragged by, and no one knew how
a quarter of a million of money for Ill
inois said the old man's wealth was no los
had been bequeathed ? With what rehn
tanoe Grey made known the facts. Thei .
had been a will ; ho and the postmaste
were executors ; it had been posted for bin
on the night after old Lawrence's deatl
and nothing more was known about it.
LCOKCLUDKD NEXT WEEK,