WHEN her will was read, it was found that, except some legacies, and an annuity to Mrs. Brookes, she had left everything to Donal.
Mr. Graeme, rising the moment the lawyer looked up, congratulated Donal -- politely, not cordially, and took his leave.
|If you are walking towards home,| said Donal, |I will walk with you.|
|I shall be happy,| said Mr. Graeme -- feeling it not a little hard that one who would soon be heir presumptive to the title should have to tend the family property in the service of a stranger and a peasant.
|Lord Morven cannot live long,| said Donal as they went. |It is not to be wished he should.|
Mr. Graeme returned no answer. Donal resumed.
|I think I ought to let you know at once that you are heir to the title.|
|I think you owe the knowledge to myself!| said the factor, not without a touch of contempt.
|By no means,| rejoined Donal: |on presumption, after lord Forgue, you told me; -- after lord Morven, I tell you.|
|I am at a loss to imagine on what you found such a statement,| said Graeme, beginning to suspect insanity.
|Naturally; no one knows it but myself. Lord Morven knows that his son cannot succeed, but he does not know that you can. I am prepared, if not to prove, at least to convince you that he and his son's mother were not married.|
Mr. Graeme was for a moment silent. Then he laughed a little laugh -- not a pleasant one. |Another of Time's clownish tricks!| he said to himself: |the earl the factor on the family-estate!| Donal did not like the way he took it, but saw how natural it was.
|I hope you have known me long enough,| he said, |to believe I have contrived nothing?|
|Excuse me, Mr. Grant: the whole business looks suspicious. The girl was dying! You knew it!|
|I do not understand you.|
|What did you marry her for?|
|To make her my wife.|
|Pray what could be the good of that except -- ?|
|Does it need any explanation but that we loved each other?|
|You will find it difficult to convince the world that such was your sole motive.|
|Having no care for the opinion of the world, I shall be satisfied if I convince you. The world needs never hear of the thing. Would you, Mr. Graeme, have had me not marry her, because the world, including not a few honest men like yourself, would say my object was the property?|
|Don't put the question to me; I am not the proper person to answer it. There is not a man in a hundred millions who with the chance would not have done the same, or whom all the rest would not blame for doing it. It would have been better for you, however, that there had been no will.|
|It makes it look the more like a scheme: -- the will might have been disputed.|
|Why do you say -- might have been?|
|Because it is not worth disputing now. If the marriage stands, it annuls the will.|
|I did not know; and I suppose she did not know either. Or perhaps she wanted to make the thing sure: if the marriage was not enough, the will would be -- she may have thought. But I knew nothing of it.|
|You did not?|
|Of course I did not.|
Mr. Graeme held his peace. For the first time he doubted Donal's word.
|But I wanted to have a little talk with you,| resumed Donal. |I want to know whether you think your duty all to the owner of the land, or in any measure to the tenants also.|
|That is easy to answer: one employed by the landlord can owe the tenant nothing.|
It was not just the answer he would have given to another questioner.
|Do you not owe him justice?| asked Donal.
|Every legal advantage I ought to take for my employer.|
|Even to the grinding of the faces of the poor?|
|I have nothing to do, as his employé, with my own ideas as to what may be equitable.|
He drew the line thus hard in pure opposition to Donal.
|What then would you say if the land were your own? Would you say you had it solely for your own and your family's good, or for that of the tenants as well?|
|I should very likely reason that what was good for them would in the long run be good for me too. -- But if you want to know how I have treated the tenants, there are intelligent men amongst them, not at all prejudiced in favour of the factor!|
|I wish you would be open with me,| said Donal.
|I prefer keeping my own place,| rejoined Mr. Graeme.
|You speak as one who found a change in me,| returned Donal. |There is none.|
So saying he shook hands with him, bade him good morning, and turned with the depression of failure.
|I did not lead up to the point properly!| he said to himself.