Andy wanted to laugh, but forbore, lest the sound should be heard in the next room. When Fairfax found out the worthlessness of his booty, would he not come back and search for the real treasure? Still, he knew the conflict would be unequal, since the other was considerably his superior in strength.
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However, Andy determined that, come what might, he would defend his trust, "or perish in the attempt. Evidently, the thief had not found out the actual character of his booty, but was going off under the impression that it was valuable. Then, if he comes back, he'll get into hot water. First, however, he removed the money from under his pillow, and put it into his pocket. He found the clerk at the desk.
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He asked me if we kept open after twelve. Did you want to find him? He opened it, and stole a pocketbook from the pocket of my coat. He got hold of the wrong pocketbook.
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The money isn't mine, and I don't want to run any more risk with it. We'll make short work with him. Andy was informed in the morning that it would be necessary for him to appear as a witness against him in order to secure his conviction. This he did the next day, but the judge delayed sentence, on being informed that the accused was charged with a more serious offense, that of stopping a traveler on the highway.
His trial on this count must come before a higher court, and he was remanded to prison till his case was called in the calendar.
Andy was informed that he would be summoned as a witness in that case also, as well as Colonel Preston, and answered that he would be ready when called upon. We will so far anticipate events as to say that the testimony of Andy and the colonel was considered conclusive by the court, and, on the strength of it, Mr. Fairfax, alias Marvin, was sentenced to several years' imprisonment at hard labor. Andy met with no further adventures in his present visit, but had the satisfaction of delivering the money he had been sent to collect to Miss Priscilla Grant.
Now, advancing our story some three months, we come to an afternoon when Miss Sophia Grant, returning from a walk, with visible marks of excitement, rushed, breathless and panting, into her sister's presence. Sophia, why do you tantalize me so?
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I was there, and saw him. Suddenly, without an instant's warning, the colonel had been summoned from life--succumbing to a fit of apoplexy. This event, of course, made a great sensation in the village, but it is of most interest to us as it affects the fortunes of our young hero.
Preston was a cold woman, and was far from being a devoted wife. She was too selfish for that supreme love which some women bestow upon their husbands. Still, when Colonel Preston's lifeless form was brought into the house, she did experience a violent shock. To have the companion of nearly twenty years so unexpectedly taken away might well touch the most callous, and so, for a few minutes, Mrs.
Preston forgot herself and thought of her husband. But this was not for long. The thought of her own selfish interests came back, and in the midst of her apparent grief the question forced itself upon her consideration, "Did my husband make a will? She knew what was expected of her, and she was prudent enough to keep up appearances before the neighbors, who poured into the house to offer their sympathy. She received them with her cambric handkerchief pressed to her eyes, from which, by dint of effort, she succeeded in squeezing a few formal tears, and, while her bosom appeared to heave with emotion, she was mentally calculating how much Colonel Preston had probably left.
Cameron, in a tone full of warm interest and sympathy. Preston, in a low voice; "you are very kind, but I would rather be left alone. I can bear sorrow better alone," said the newly made widow. Thank you for your kind offer, but I know my own feelings, and the presence of others would only increase my pain.
It did not excite great surprise, for Mrs. Preston had never leaned upon anyone for sympathy, nor was she ready with her sympathy when others were in trouble. She was self-poised and self-contained, and, in fact, for this reason was not popular with her neighbors.
Still, in this her distress they were ready to forget all this and extend the same cordial sympathy which they would have done in other cases. There was but one person whose company she did crave at this time and this was her son, Godfrey. So, when Alfred Turner offered to go for him the next morning, she accepted his offer with thanks. At last she was left alone. The servant had gone to bed, and there was no one but herself and her dead husband in the lower part of the house.
She no longer sat with her handkerchief pressed before her eyes. Her face wore its usual look of calm composure. She was busily thinking, not of her husband's fate, but of her own future. And, if so, how much did he leave me? If there was a will, it was probably in the house, and Mrs. Preston determined to find it, if possible. Fortunately, my husband had no brothers or sisters, or perhaps he would have divided the property. If there is no will, I shall have my thirds, and shall have the control of Godfrey's property till he comes of age.
I think I will go to Boston to live. My friend, Mrs. Boynton, has a very pleasant house on Worcester Street.
I should like to settle down somewhere near her. I don't know how much Mr. Preston was worth, but I am sure we shall have enough for that. I always wanted to live in the city. This village is intolerably stupid, and so are the people.
I shall be glad to get away. Preston took the lamp in her hand, and began to explore her husband's desk. She had often thought of doing so, but, as his death was not supposed to be so near, she had not thought that there was any immediate cause of doing so. Besides, it had almost been her belief that he had made no will. Now she began to open drawers and untie parcels of papers, but it was some time before she came to what she sought. At length, however, her diligence was rewarded. Her heart beat as she opened it, and, though there was no need, for it was now past ten o'clock, and there was not likely to be a caller at that late hour, she looked cautiously about her, and even peered out of the window into the darkness, but could find no one whose observation she might fear.
I am not about to recite at length the items in the will, which covered a page of foolscap. It is enough to quote two items, which Mrs. Preston read with anger and dissatisfaction. They are as follows: "Item.
As Colonel Preston was well known to be rich, this seemed to be an adequate provision, but Mrs. Preston did not look upon it in that light.