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 The funeral of Squire Thorndyke and Mr. Bastow was over, and all agreed they had never seen a more affecting spectacle than that at the churchyard when the two coffins were brought in. The distance was short, and the tenants had requested leave to carry the Squire's bier, while that of Mr. Bastow was borne by the villagers who had known and loved him. Behind followed all the magistrates and a great number of the gentry for miles round; the churchyard was crowded by every man, woman, and child in the village, and the women, as well as many of the men, wept unrestrainedly as the coffins passed by. Besides these, a large number of people from Reigate and the surrounding villages were present, attracted rather by the crime that had caused the death than by the loss of the Squire himself. The church was crowded, and it was with difficulty that Mr. Greg read the service. The Squire was laid by the side of his father, Mr. Bastow in the spot where many of his predecessors had slept before him. Mark had been greatly affected, not only by his own loss, but by the sight of the general grief among those for whom the Squire had done so much. Even Mr. Prendergast, who had taken part in many such functions over departed clients, was much moved by the scene.
“I have been at many funerals,” he said to Mark as they walked back to the Hall, “but I never have been at one that so affected me. No monument ever raised, sir, did such credit to him who was laid beneath it as the tears of those simple villagers.”
Mark did not reply; his heart was altogether too full to speak. As they entered the house he said, “The ladies will have their lunch upstairs, Mr. Prendergast; we may as well have ours at once, and then you can call them down if there is any business to be done.”
“That will not take long,” the lawyer said. “I have brought down the wills of both your uncle the Colonel, and your father, and I think that it would be as well for me to read them both. That of your father is a very short and simple document, extending, indeed, only over a few lines. Your uncle's is longer and more complicated, but as you are well aware of the gist of it, it will take us but a short time to get through it.”
Mark took his meal in a perfunctory manner. For himself he would have eaten nothing, but he made an effort to do so in order to keep his guest company. When it was over he said:
“We may as well go into the library at once, and I will send up for the ladies. It is as well to lose no time, for I know that you want to catch the afternoon coach up to town.”
Mrs. Cunningham and Millicent joined them in a minute or two, the girl looking very pale in her deep mourning.
“I am about,” Mr. Prendergast said quietly, “to read the wills of Colonel Thorndyke and Mr. John Thorndyke, and I will ask you, if there is any phrase that you do not understand, to stop me, and I will explain to you its purport.”
The three persons present were acquainted with the main provisions of the Colonel's will. It began by stating that, being determined that his daughter, Millicent Conyers Thorndyke, should not be married for her money, he hereby bequeathed to his brother, John Thorndyke, his estate in the parish of Crowswood, to be held by him until his daughter Millicent came to the age of twenty-one, or was married; if that marriage did not take place until she was over the age of twenty-one, so long was it to continue in John Thorndyke's possession, save and except that she was, on attaining the age of twenty-one, to receive from it an income of 250 pounds a year for her private use and disposal.
“To Jane Cunningham, the widow of the late Captain Charles Cunningham, of the 10th Madras Native Infantry, should she remain with my daughter until the marriage of the latter, I bequeath an annuity of 150 pounds per annum, chargeable on the estate, and to commence at my daughter's marriage. All my other property in moneys, investments, jewels, and chattels of all sorts, is to be divided in equal portions between my daughter, Millicent Conyers Thorndyke, and my nephew, Mark Thorndyke. Should, however, my daughter die before marriage, I bequeath the said estate in the parish of Crowswood to my brother, John Thorndyke, for his life, and after him to his son Mark, and to the latter the whole of my other property of all kinds, this to take effect on the death of my daughter. Should my brother predecease the marriage or coming of age of my daughter, she is at once to come into possession of the said estate of Crowswood. In which case my nephew Mark and Mr. James Prendergast, of the firm of Hopwood & Prendergast, my solicitors, are to act as her trustees, and Mrs. Jane Cunningham and the said James Prendergast as her guardians.”
All this was, of course, expressed in the usual legal language, but the purport was clear to those previously acquainted with its bearing, the only item that was new to them being the legacy to Mrs. Cunningham. John Thorndyke's testament was a short one. He left all his property to his son Mark, with the exception of a hundred pounds to his niece to buy a mourning ring or brooch or other ornament in memory of him, and fifty pounds to Mrs. Cunningham for a similar purpose, as a token of his great esteem for her character, and 200 pounds to Ramoo for his faithful services to his brother and himself. When the lawyer had folded up the wills Millicent said:
“On my part, I have to say that I absolutely renounce the legacy of the estate in favor of my cousin Mark, who has always believed that it would be his.”
“And I as absolutely refuse to accept the sacrifice,” Mark said.
“My dear young lady,” Mr. Prendergast said quietly, “at present, at any rate, you have no power whatever to take any action in the matter; you are, in the eye of the law, an infant, and until you come of age you have no power to execute any legal document whatever. Therefore you must perforce remain mistress of the estate until you attain the age of twenty-one. Many things may happen before that time; for example, you might marry, and in that case your husband would have a voice in the matter; you might die, in which case Mr. Mark Thorndyke would, without any effort on your part, come into possession of the estate. But, at any rate, until you reach the age of twenty-one your trustees will collect the rents of the estate on your behalf, and will hold the monies in trust for you, making, of course, such payments for your support and maintenance as are fit and proper for your condition.”
The tears came into Millicent's eyes as she resumed the seat from which she had risen, and she did not utter another word until Mr. Prendergast rose to leave.
“I shall doubtless learn your wishes as to the future, Miss Thorndyke, from your cousin,” he said. “I hope that you will not cherish any malice against me, and that when you think it over you will come to the conclusion that second thoughts are sometimes the wisest, and also that you should have some consideration for your father's wishes in a matter of this kind. He worked hard and risked his life to build up the fortune that he has left. He evidently thought greatly of your welfare, and was, above all things, anxious to insure your happiness. I am sure that on thinking it over you will see that you should not thwart his wishes.”
“My dear boy,” he said to Mark, as they stood on the doorstep waiting for the carriage to come round, “the best plan by far in this business would be for the interests of your cousin and yourself to be identical. She is a very charming young lady, a little headstrong in this matter, perhaps, but I do not think that that is altogether unnatural.”
“That might have come about if it had not been for the property, Mr. Prendergast,” Mark said, “but it cannot be now. If she and I had been engaged before all this happened the case would have been different; but you see yourself that now my lips are sealed, for it would seem as if I had not cared for her until she turned out to be an heiress.”
“You are a silly young couple,” the lawyer said. “I can only hope that as you grow older you will grow wiser. Well, you had better come up and have a talk with me about the assets your uncle mentions in his will.”
“Then you don't know anything about them, sir?”
“Nothing at all, except as to the accumulations in his absence. He mentioned vaguely that he was a wealthy man. I thought that, as a matter of course, he had told his brother all about it.”
“It is a curious business, sir, and I doubt if there will ever be anything besides the accumulations you speak of.”
“Bless me, you don't say so! Well, well, I always thought that it was the most foolish business that I ever heard of. However, you shall tell me all about it when you come up. I shall miss my coach unless I start.”
So saying, he shook Mark's hand, took his place in the gig, and was driven away. Millicent did not come downstairs again that day.
“She is thoroughly upset,” Mrs. Cunningham said, “and it would be best to let her have her own way for a time. I think the sooner I can get her away from here the better. The house is full of sad memories, and I myself feel shaken and in need of a change.”
“I can quite understand her feeling and yours, Mrs. Cunningham. I do hope you will be able to disabuse her mind of the idea that I have any shadow of feeling of regret that she instead of I has the estate, and please try to work upon her on the ground of her father's wishes. I could see that her face changed when Mr. Prendergast put the matter in that light, which I do not think had occurred to her before. I am thinking of going up to town in a couple of days; I was thinking of doing so tomorrow, but a day or so will make no difference. I propose that you both go with me, and that I then help you look for a house. Even if you don't get one at once, a week in London will be a change, and you can then, if you like, go somewhere for a time. Of course Bath would be too gay at present; but you might go to Tunbridge Wells, or, if she would like a seaside place, as she has never been near the sea since she was a baby, that would be the greatest change for her. You might go down for a month or two to Dover or Hastings. There is no occasion for you to settle down in London for a time. There is Weymouth, too, if you would like it better. I believe that that is a cheerful place without being too fashionable.”
“I think that will be an excellent plan,” Mrs. Cunningham said.
“If you like I will drive you up to town, and the luggage can go by the carrier; it is more pleasant than being shut up in a coach.”
“Much more cheerful, of course.”
“You will, of course, leave many of your things here, and the packing them up will give her something to do, and prevent her from brooding.”
“I think that is an excellent idea, Mark.”
Late in the afternoon Ramoo came in in his usual silent manner. The man had said but little during the past few days, but it was evident that he was grieving deeply, and he looked years older than he had done before that fatal night.
“Of course, Ramoo, you will stay with me for the present. I hardly know what I shall be doing for a time, but I am sure that until I settle down, Miss Conyers will be very glad to have you with her.”
“No, sahib, Ramoo will return home to India. Ramoo is getting old; he was thirty when he entered the service of the Colonel, sahib; he is fifty now; he will go home to end his days; he has saved enough to live in comfort, and with what the lawyer sahib told him your father has left him he will be a rich man among his own people.”
“But you will find things changed, Ramoo, since you left; while here, you know, we all regard you as a friend rather than as a servant.”
“You are all very kind and good, sahib. Ramoo knows that he will meet no friends like those he has here, but he longs for the bright sun and blue sky of India, and though it will well nigh break his heart to leave the young missie and you, he feels that he must go.”
“All right, Ramoo. We shall all be very sorry to lose you, but I understand your longing to go home, and I know that you always feel our cold winters very trying; therefore I will not oppose your wishes. I shall be going up to town in two or three days, and will arrange to pay your legacy at once, and will inquire what vessels are sailing.”
Millicent was unfeignedly sorry when she heard of Ramoo's determination; she was very fond of him, for when as a child she first arrived at Crowswood he had been her companion whenever the Squire did not require his services, and would accompany her about the garden and grounds, listening to her prattle, carrying her on his shoulder, and obeying her behests. No doubt he knew that she was the daughter of his former master, and had to a certain extent transferred his allegiance from the sahib, whose life he had several times saved, to his little daughter. Still, she agreed with Mark that it was perhaps best that he should go. She and Mrs. Cunningham would find but little occasion for his services when established in London, and his swarthy complexion and semi-Eastern costume would attract attention, and perhaps trouble, when he went abroad—the population being less accustomed to Orientals then than at present—but still less would they know what to do with him were they for a time to wander about. Mark said at once that so long as he himself was engaged in the task that he had set himself, he could not take Ramoo with him, and as for his staying alone in the house when it was only in charge of a caretaker, it was not to be thought of.
Although not inclined at the present time to agree with Mark in anything, Millicent could not but acknowledge that it were best that Ramoo should not be urged further to reconsider his determination, and she also fell in with his proposal that they should go up to London for a week, and then go down to Weymouth for a time, after which they would be guided by circumstances. Accordingly, two days later, Mark drove Millicent and Mrs. Cunningham up to London. A groom accompanied them on Mark's favorite horse. This was to be left in town for his use, and the groom was to drive the carriage back again. Comfortable rooms were obtained in a quiet inn for the ladies, while Mark put up at the Bull, saying that he would come every day to take them out.
“Why did not Mark stay here, Mrs. Cunningham?” Millicent asked pettishly.
“I suppose he thought it better that he should not do so; and I own that I think he was right.”
“When we were, as we supposed, no relation to each other,” Millicent said, “we could be like brother and sister. Now that we find that we are cousins we are going to be stiff and ceremonious.”
“Not necessarily because you are cousins, Millicent. Before, you were his father's ward, and under his father's care; now you are a young lady on your own account. You must see that the position is changed greatly, and that what was quite right and proper before would not be at all right and proper now.”
Millicent shrugged her shoulders.
“Oh, if Mark wishes to be distant and stiff he can certainly do so if he likes it. It makes no matter to me.”
“That is not at all fair, Millicent, and very unlike yourself. Had not Mark suggested his going to another inn, I should have suggested it myself.”
“Oh, yes; no doubt it is better,” Millicent said carelessly. “He has several friends in town, and of course we cannot expect him to be devoting himself to us.”
Mrs. Cunningham raised her eyebrows slightly, but made no answer. Millicent was seldom wayward, but at present things had gone very hardly with her, and her frie............
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