My father, much to his surprise, has a bit of land to put his foot upon, and say "this is my own".
"You're too late, Tom," said Ben the Whaler, as I jumped down from off the basket of the coach; "the old woman died last night."
"I'm sorry for it, Ben," replied I, "as she wished so much to see me; but I did not receive Anderson's letter till this morning, and I could not get here sooner."
This intelligence induced me to direct my course to the hospital, where I had no doubt that I should find old Anderson, and obtain every information. I met him as he was walking toward the bench on the terrace facing the river, where he usually was seated when the weather was fine. "Well, Tom," said he, "I expected you, and did hope that you would have been here sooner. Come, sit down here, and I will give you the information which I know you have most at your heart. The old woman made a very happy end. I was with her till she died. She left many kind wishes for you, and I think her only regret was that she did not see you before she was called away."
"Poor old Nanny! she had suffered much."
"Yes, and there are great excuses to be made for her; and as we feel so here, surely there will be indulgence from above, where the secrets of all hearts are known. She was not insane, Tom; but from the time that she supposed that her son had been gibbeted, there was something like insanity about her: the blow had oppressed her brain—it had stupefied her, and blunted her moral sense of right and wrong. She told me, after you had communicated to her that her son was in the hospital, and had died penitent, that she felt as if a heavy weight had been taken off her mind; that she had been rid of an oppression which had ever borne down her faculties—a sort of giddiness and confusion in the brain which had made her indifferent, if not reckless, to everything; and I do believe it, from the change which took place in her during the short time which has since elapsed."
"What change was that? for you know that I have been too busy during the short intervals I have been here to call upon her."
"A change in her appearance and manners. She appeared to recover in part her former position in life; she was always clean in her person, as far as she could be in such a shop as hers; and if she had nothing else, she always had a clean cap and apron."
"Yes; and on Sundays she dressed very neat and tidy. She did not go to church, but she purchased a large Bible and a pair of spectacles, and was often to be seen reading it at the door; and when I talked to her she was glad to enter upon serious things. I spoke to her about her fondness for money, and pointed out that it was a sin. She replied that she did feel very fond of money for a long while, for she always thought that some one was nigh her snatching at it, and had done so ever since her son had robbed her; but that since she knew what had become of him she did not feel fond of it—that is, not so fond of it as before; and I believe that such was the case. Her love of money arose from her peculiar state of mind. She had many comforts about her house when she died which were not in it when I called to see her at the time when she was first ill; but her purchasing the large Bible on account of the print was to me a satisfactory proof that she had no longer such avaricious feelings."
"I am very glad to hear all this, Anderson, I assure you, for she was one of my earliest friends, and I loved her."
"Not more than she loved you, Tom. Her last words almost were calling down blessings on your head; and, thanks be to God! she died as a Christian should die, and, I trust, is now happy."
"Amen!" said I; for I was much moved at Anderson's discourse.
After a pause Anderson said, "You know, Tom, that she has left you all that she had. She told me before that such was her intention, although I said nothing to you about it; but I thought it as well that Mr. Wilson should make out a paper for her to put her name to, which she did. Ben and I witnessed it, but as for what she has left you I cannot imagine it can be much; for we examined and found no money except about seven pounds, in two small boxes; and then in her will she has left your sister Virginia ten pounds. Now, when that comes to be paid, I'm sure I don't know whether the things in the shop will fetch so much money as will pay your sister's legacy and the expenses of her funeral."
"It's of no consequence," replied I, smiling; "but we shall see. At all events all her debts shall be paid, and her funeral shall be decent and respectable. Good-by now, Anderson, I must go up and see my mother and sister."
Old Nanny's remains were consigned to the tomb on the following Monday. Her funeral was, as I had desired it to be, very respectable, and she was followed to the grave by Anderson, my father, Ben, and me. As soon as it was over, I requested Anderson to walk with me to Mr. Wilson's.
"I'm afraid, Tom," said Mr. Wilson, "you'll find, like a great many other residuary legatees, that you've not gained much by the compliment."
"Nevertheless, will you oblige me by walking down with Anderson and me to her house?"
"And take off the seals, I presume, in your presence? But the fact is, Tom, that not thinking the property quite safe there, even under seal, I have kept it all in my own pocket."
"Nevertheless, oblige me by coming down."
"Oh, with all my heart, since you do not like to take possession unless in due form."
As soon as we arrived at the hovel I went into the bedroom and threw open the window. I then, to their great astonishment, went to the fire-grate, threw out some rubbish which was put into it, pulled up the iron back, and removed the bricks. In a short time I produced two small boxes, one of them very heavy. There was nothing else in the hole.
"Here," said I, "Mr. Wilson, is a portion of the property which you have overlooked."
"No wonder," replied he. "Pray let us see what it is."
I opened the boxes, and, to their surprise, made up in a variety of packages, I counted out gold coin to the amount of four hundred and twenty pounds.
"Not a bad legacy," said Mr. Wilson. "Then you knew of this?"
"Of course; I have known it some time—ever since the attempt to rob her."
"But what are those papers?"
On one was written "Arsenic—Poison;" on the other, "Receipt for Toothache."
"Nothing of any value," said I, "by the outside."
I opened them, and found, to my surprise, bank-notes to the exact amount of two hundred pounds.
"Well, I declare," said I, smiling, "I had nearly thrown all this money away."
"And now you see what induced the old woman to write those labels on the outside of it; in case she should be robbed, that the robbers might have thrown the papers away—as you nearly did, and as very probably they might have done."
"Well, Mr. Wilson, I have no further search to make. Will you oblige me by taking care of this money for me?"
"Yes; that is, if you'll carry the gold, which is rather heavy, up to my house, and then I will give you a receipt for the whole."
Anderson then left us, and I followed Mr. Wilson home. As soon as the money was all re-counted, and a note made of it, Mr. Wilson asked me what I wished that he should do with it. I replied, what was the truth, that I really did not know what to do with it, but still I should like to lay it out in something tangible.
"You want to buy a farm, I suppose, and be a landed proprietor, like Bramble; but I'm afraid there is not enough. But I tell you what, Tom; we lawyers know many things which do not come to everybody's ears, and I know that the proprietor of the house in which your mother lives wishes to sell it; and I think, as he is much pinched for money, that this sum will about buy it. Now your mother pays fifty-five guineas a year for it, and if it sells for six hundred pounds, that will give you more than nine per cent for your money. What do you think?"
"Well, sir, I think it's the very best thing I can do; if more should be necessary, I have saved a little besides which Bramble takes care of."
"Well, then, I'll see about it."
A few days afterward Mr. Wilson told me that the house was to be had for five hundred and sixty pounds, and that he had closed the bargain.
"I thank you, sir," replied I. "Since I have been with you I have been thinking about it, and I wish now you would make it over to my father for his life. You see, sir, my father does put my mother to some expense, and I should like him to be more independent of her. If the house belongs to him, the rent will more than meet any demands he may make upon her purse—and it will be pleasant for both parties—and my mother will pay more respect to my father."
"I shall do it with pleasure, Tom. You deserve money, for you make a good use of it—I must say that. Come to me to-morrow."
The next day I went to my father, and gave him the deed by which he was owner of my mother's house. "Well, now, Tom," said he, after I had explained why I did so, "this is the kindest thing that ever was done, and God bless you, boy, and a thousand thanks. I shan't mind now calling for two extra pots of porter when I have friends—and I say, Tom, is the garden mine, too?"
"Yes, and the summer-house, father, all your own property."
"Well, then," replied he, chuckling, "I have a bit of land of my own to stick my timber toe on after all. Well, I never did expect that. I must go up there, and stand upon it, and feel how I feel."
I communicated to my mother that my father was in future her landlord, at which she expressed much surprise, until I told her how I became possessed of the money. When my father came in, which he did shortly after, she said rather sharply:
"Well, Mr. Saunders, I suppose I must pay you my rent now, every quarter?"
"Pay me!" exclaimed my father; "come, not so bad as that, neither. Haven't you found me in beer, without a grumble, for these many years, and do you think I've forgotten it? No, no! You've been a kind woman to me, after all, although things did go a little cross at first, and so here's the paper for you to keep for me; and there's an end of the matter, only—"
"Only what?" inquired my mother, looking very kindly at my father.
"Only let's have a pot of beer now, to drink Tom's health, that's all."
Having thus satisfactorily settled this point, I returned to Chatham. I had promised to take a farewell of my sister and the O'Connors, as I expected they would leave previous to my again coming up the river.