AN IMPORTANT PROPOSAL

“THERE is a further sum of a thousand dollars,” suggested the lawyer.
“What is your pleasure in regard to that?”

“The boy is to have that too. Deposit it in some savings’ bank in your
own name as his trustee.”

“That makes the boy worth five thousand dollars—a large gift.”

“Exactly, but I know of no better use for it.”

“He is to remain ignorant of this also?”

“For the present, yes.”

“Now for your instructions concerning the will. I will note them down,
and prepare the document for your signature.”

These directions were given, one-half of the hermit’s property being
left to certain specified charities, the remaining half to Mark Manning.

The lawyer wrote in silence. Then, pausing, he said:

“Will you allow me, in right of our long friendship, to make one
suggestion?”

“Surely, John.”

“Then let me ask if you are sure that there is no one having a rightful
claim upon you, and who ought to be considered in this matter?”

“Do you mean Lyman?”

“By no means. He has forfeited any claim he may once have possessed.”

“Then what is your meaning?”

“Are you sure that your daughter left no issue?”

Anthony’s brow contracted, not with anger but with pain. The old wound
had not healed.

“I never heard of any,” he answered, after a pause.

“Yet there may have been a child.”

“And if there were?”

“It would be your grandchild,” said the lawyer, firmly.

“And his child,” said the hermit, bitterly.

“You should not impute that to the child for blame.”

“What would you have me do, old friend?”

“Make provision for the child, if there should be one.”

“What would you suggest?” asked Anthony, slowly.

“I don’t wish to injure the boy; I would only suggest that charity
begins at home. Divide your estate into thirds; give one-third to Mark,
one to the child, if there be one, and one to charity.”

“I have no objection to that. But suppose there be no child living?”

“Then divide that third between Mark and the charitable societies you
have enumerated.”

“Wisely counseled, John, but why not give it to you?”

“Because I am moderately rich already, and need nothing more. Then,
also, it would work against my interest to find the child. I might turn
out to be as wicked and unprincipled as most lawyers are said to be,” he
concluded, with a smile.

“I have no fear of that. So that is your only objection—”

“It isn’t. Give it all to the boy in preference.”

“No, let it be as you proposed.”

“One thing more. Don’t you think it is your duty to ascertain whether
you have a grandchild? It may be living in poverty; perhaps in actual
want.”

“You are right; I should have thought of that before. But what steps
would you advise me to take?”

“Send some trusted messenger to the last place where you have
information that your daughter lived. Have you tidings of her husband?”

“He died first. Both died of typhoid fever, as I learned.”

“Where did they die?”

“At a small place in Indiana—Claremont, I think.”

“Then you should send there, and make inquiries. It would be well to go
yourself, if you could bring yourself to do it.”

“But I couldn’t.”

“Then send a trusted messenger.”

“I have none whom I could trust—except that boy.”

John Hardy looked thoughtful. He appeared to be pondering something.
Finally he said: “Then send him. He is a boy, but he is faithful and
discreet. Moreover, I could advise him.”

“Let it be so!”

“Can you spare him?”

“Yes, I am quite recovered, and he may not be gone many weeks. If I need
help I can easily receive it.”

“I would suggest a delay of a week or two, or till the will is drawn up
and signed, and some other business attended to.”

“I shall be guided entirely by your advice.”

“Now shall I leave you some money?”

“No, I have enough to last for some time to come.”

“You don’t keep it in this cabin, do you? It would be imprudent. You
would be exposed to robbery.”

“No, I have a place of concealment in the woods. I shall go this
afternoon, taking Mark with me, to draw from it. It is my bank.”

“The bank of the woods,” suggested Hardy, laughing.

“Yes.”

Presently Mark returned, and conducted the lawyer back to the station.
Without the boy’s remarking it, his elderly companion drew him out,
weighed him mentally in the balance, and decided that his client was
not, after all, rash in confiding in a mere boy.

“He’s smart and honest!” was his mental verdict.

At the station, he handed Mark a card containing the address of his
office.

“Unless I am much mistaken,” he said, “Mr. Taylor will have occasion to
send you to my office in the city before long.”

“I shall be very glad to come,” answered Mark, gladly. “I don’t often
get a chance to come to New York.”

The lawyer shook hands with Mark, and boarded the train.

Turning to leave the station, Mark encountered the gaze of his two
hunting companions, James Collins and Tom Wyman, fixed curiously upon
him.

“Who is that old file?” asked James, with his usual want of ceremony.

“A gentleman from New York,” answered Mark, briefly.

“What’s his name?”

“John Hardy.”

“How did you run across him?”

“I didn’t; he ran across me.”

“How did you get acquainted with him?”

“He asked me to be his guide. I walked about with him.”

“O, a tourist! Did he give you anything?”

“No.”

“Then all your time and trouble was thrown away,” sneered James.

“I don’t know about that. He invited me to call at his office when I
came to the city.”

“That is hardly likely to do you any good. Business doesn’t call you to
the city very often.”

“That is true,” said Mark, his temper undisturbed.




“A quarter would have helped you more, especially now that you are out
of work.”

“I am glad you sympathize with me, James. Perhaps you will ask your
father to take me back into the shop?”

“Not after the mean way in which you treated me. I swore I’d come up
with you, and I have.”

“I hope you’ll enjoy your revenge.”

“I do, you may be sure of that. If you had minded your own business, it
would have been better for you.”

“I am not sure about that. It may surprise you, James, to hear that I
wouldn’t go back to the shop, if your father were to call and ask me to
do so.”

“That’s a likely story!”

“Likely or not, it’s true.”

“I suppose you have come into a fortune,” said James, with a sneer.

This was what had actually happened, but Mark had no more knowledge of
his good fortune than James.

Later in the day Mark presented himself at the cabin in the woods.

“I thought you might have an errand for me,” he said.

“So I have,” returned the hermit. “Take yonder spade and come with me.”