Cursed by a FortuneGeorge Manville Fenn
Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England
Cursed by a Fortune, by George Manville Fenn.
________________________________________________________________________CURSED BY A FORTUNE, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
"Yes, James; this is my last dying speech and confession."
"Oh, papa!" with a burst of sobbing.
"Be quiet, Kitty, and don't make me so miserable. Dying is only goingto sleep when a man's tired out, as I am, with the worries of the world,money-making, fighting for one's own, and disappointment. I know aswell as old Jermingham that it's pretty nearly all over. I'm sorry toleave you, darling, but I'm worn out, and your dear mother has beenwaiting for nearly a year."
"Father, dearest father!" and two white arms clung round the neck of thedying man, as their owner sank upon her knees by the bedside.
"I'd stay for your sake, Kitty, but fate says no, and I'm so tired,darling, it will be like going into rest and peace. She always was anangel, Kitty, and she must be now; I feel as if I must see herafterwards. For I don't think I've been such a very bad man, Will."
"The best of fellows, Bob, always," said the stout, florid,country-looking gentleman seated near the great heavily-curtainedfour-post bed.
"Thanks, James. I don't want to play the Pharisee, but I have tried tobe an honest man and a good father."
"Your name stands highest in the city, and your charities--"
"Bother! I made plenty of money by the bank, and I gave some away, andI wish it had done more good. Well, my shares in the bank represent ahundred and fifty thousand; those are Kitty's. There's about tenthousand pounds in India stock and consols."
"Pray, pray don't talk any more, papa, dear."
"Must, Kitty, while I can. That money, Will, is yours for life, andafter death it is for that boy of yours, Claud. He doesn't deserve it,but perhaps he'll be a better boy some day. Then there's the lease ofthis house, my furniture, books, plate, pictures, and money in theprivate account. You will sell and realise everything; Kitty does notwant a great gloomy house in Bedford Square--out of proceeds you willpay the servants' legacies, and the expenses, there will be ample; andthe residue is to be given to your wife for her use. That's all. Ihave made you my sole executor, and I thought it better to send for youto tell you than for you to wait till the will was read. Give me alittle of that stuff in some water, Kitty."
His head was tenderly raised, and he drank and sank back with a sigh.
"Thank you, my darling. Now, Will, I might have joined John Garstangwith you as executor, but I thought it better to give you full control,you being a quiet country squire, leading your simple, honest,gentleman-farmer's life, while he is a keen speculative man."
James Wilton, the banker's brother, uttered something like a sigh,muttered a few words about trying to do his duty, and listened, as thedying man went on--
"I should not have felt satisfied. You two might have disagreed oversome marriage business, for there is no other that you will have tocontrol. And I said to myself that Will would not try to play thewicked uncle over my babe. So you are sole executor, with very littleto do, for I have provided for everything, I think. Her money stays inthe old bank I helped to build up, and the dividends will make her ahandsome income. What you have to see to is that she is not snapped upby some plausible scoundrel for the sake of her money. When she doesmarry--"
"Oh, papa, dear, don't, don't! You are breaking my heart. I shallnever marry," sobbed the girl, as she laid her sweet young face by thethin, withered countenance on the pillow.
"Yes, you will, my pet. I wish it, when the right man comes, who lovesyou for yourself. Girls like you are too scarce to be wasted. But youruncle will watch over you, and see to that. You hear, Will?"
"Yes, I will do my duty by her."
"I believe you."
"But, papa dear, don't talk more. The doctor said you must be kept soquiet."
"I must wind up my affairs, my darling, and think of your future. I'vehad quite enough of the men hanging about after the rich banker'sdaughter. When my will is proved, the drones and wasps will comeswarming round you for the money. There is no one at all, yet, isthere?" he said, with a searching look.
"Oh, no, papa, I never even thought of such a thing."
"I know it, my darling. I've always been your sweetheart, and we'velived for one another, and I'm loth to leave you, dear."
"Oh, father, dearest father, don't talk of leaving me," she sobbed.
He smiled sadly, and his feeble hand played with her curls.
"God disposes, my own," he said. "But there, I must talk while I can.Now, listen. These are nearly my last words, Will."
His brother started and bent forward to hear his half-whispered words,and he wiped the dew from his sun-browned forehead, and shivered alittle, for the chilly near approach of death troubled the hale,hearty-looking man, and gave a troubled look to his florid face.
"When all is over, Will, as soon as you can, take her down to Northwood,and be a father to her. Her aunt always loved her, and she'll be happythere. Shake hands upon it, Will."
The thin, white, trembling hand was placed in the fat, heavy palmextended, and rested there for some minutes before Robert Wilton spokeagain.
"Everything is set down clearly, Will. The money invested in the bankis hers--one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, strictly tied up. Ihave seen to that. There, you will do your duty by her, and see thatall goes well."
"I am satisfied, brother; I exact no oaths. Kate, my child, your unclewill take my place. I leave you in his hands." Then in a low voice,heard only by her who clung to him, weeping silently, he whisperedsoftly, "And in Thine, O God."
The next morning the blinds were all down in front of Number 204,Bedford Square, which looked at its gloomiest in the wet fog, with thewithered leaves falling fast from the great plane trees; and the ironshutters were half drawn up at the bank in Lothbury, for the oldleather-covered chair in the director's rom was vacant, waiting for anew occupant--the chairman of the Great British and Bengalie Joint StockBank was dead.
"As good and true a man as ever breathed," said the head clerk, shakinghis grey head; "and we've all lost a friend. I wonder who will marryMiss Kate!"