Mr. Mills, who, as you may remember, was a student of human nature, believed that Miss Whyte lived on her nerves, and he had therefore planned to leave her alone for a few moments to allow any hysterical tendency to exhaust itself. When he returned, he found her looking straight before her with the document in her lap.
“Is it all plain?” he asked kindly.
“Yes. But I don’t understand exactly why he left it to me.”
“Because he liked you, my dear. He had become very fond of you. And if you will excuse my saying so,” he added, with a knowing smile, “he was very anxious to see you well married. He said that he wished to provide you with a suitable dowry.”
“I see,” said Elizabeth, coloring. She reflected for a moment, then looked up and said, “But I am free to use it as I see fit?”
“Absolutely. I may as well tell you now as any time, however,” Mr. Mills added smoothly, “that Mr. Ramsay’s cousin, Mr. Horace Barker, has expressed an intention to contest the will. He is the next of kin, though only a first cousin once removed.”
Elizabeth started at the name, and drew herself up slightly.
“You need not give yourself the smallest concern in the matter,” the lawyer continued. “If Mr. Barker were in needy circumstances or were a nearer relative, he might be able to make out a case, but no jury will hesitate between a first cousin once removed, amply rich in this world’s goods, and a–a–pretty woman. I myself am ready to testify that Mr. Ramsay was completely in his right mind,” he added, with professional dignity; “and as for the claim of undue influence, it is rubbish–sheer rubbish.”
Elizabeth sat for a few moments without speaking. She seemed to pay no heed to several further reassuring remarks which Mr. Mills, who judged that she was appalled by the idea of a legal contest, hastened to let fall. At last she looked straight at him, and said with firmness, “I suppose that I am at liberty not to take this money, if I don’t wish to?”
“At liberty? Bless my stars, Miss Whyte, anybody is at liberty to refuse a gift of fifty thousand dollars. But when you call to see me again, you will be laughing at the very notion of such a thing. Go home, my dear young lady, and leave the matter in my hands. Naturally you are overwrought at the prospect of going into court.”
“It isn’t that, Mr. Mills. I cannot take this money; I have no right to it. I am no relation to Mr. Ramsay, and the only reason he left it to me was–was because he thought it would help me to be married. Otherwise he would have left it to Mr. Barker. I have no intention of marrying, and I should not be willing to take a fortune under such circumstances.”
“The will is perfectly legal, my dear. And as to marrying, you are free to remain single all your days, if you wish to,” said Mr. Mills, with another knowing smile. “Indeed, you are overwrought.”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I am sure that I shall never change my mind,” she answered. “I could never take it.”
by: Robert Grant (1852-1940)