By Advice of Counsel (Arthur Train)/"That Sort of Woman"
"Tutt," said Mr. Tutt, entering the offices of Tutt & Tutt and hanging his antediluvian stovepipe on the hat-tree in the corner, "I see by the morning paper that Payson Clifford has departed this life."
"You don't say!" replied the junior Tutt, glancing up from the letter he was writing. "Which one,—Payson, Senior, or Payson, Junior?"
"Payson, Senior," answered Mr. Tutt as he snipped off the end of a stogy with the pair of nail scissors which he always carried in his vest pocket.
"In that case, it's too bad," remarked Tutt regretfully.
"Why 'in that case'?" queried his partner.
"Oh, the son isn't so much of a much!" replied the smaller Tutt. "I don't say the father was so much of a much, either. Payson Clifford was a good fellow—even if he wasn't our First Citizen—or likely to be a candidate for that position in the Hereafter. But that boy—"
"Shh!" reproved Mr. Tutt, slowly shaking his head so that the smoke from his rat-tailed cigar wove a gray scroll in the air before his face. "Remember that there's one thing worse than to speak ill of the dead, and that's to speak ill of a client!"
Mr. Payson Clifford, the client in question, was a commonplace young man who had been carefully prepared for the changes and chances of this mortal life first at a Fifth Avenue day school in New York City, afterwards at a select boarding school among the rock-ribbed hills of the Granite State, and finally at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the cultured atmosphere of Harvard College, through whose precincts, in the dim, almost forgotten past, we are urged to believe that the good and the great trod musingly in their beautiful prime. He emerged with a perhaps almost prudish distaste for the ugly, the vulgar, and the unclean,—and with distinct delusions of grandeur. He was still in that state not badly described by the old saw—"You can always tell a Harvard man,—but you can't tell him much."
His mother had died when he was still a child and he preserved her memory as the most sacred treasure of his inner shrine. He could just recall her as a gentle and dignified presence, in contrast with whom his burly, loud-voiced father had always seemed crass and ordinary. And although it was that same father who had, for as long as he could remember, supplied him with a substantial check upon the first day of every month and thus enabled him to achieve that exalted state of intellectual and spiritual superiority which he had in fact attained, nevertheless, putting it frankly in the vernacular, Payson rather looked down on the old man, who palpably suffered from lack of the advantages which he had furnished to his son.
Payson, Sr., had never taken any particular pains to alter his son's opinion of himself. On the whole he was more proud of him than otherwise, recognizing that while he obviously suffered from an overdevelopment of the ego and an excessive fastidiousness in dress, he was, at bottom, clearly all right and a good sort. Still, he was forced to confess that there wasn't much between them. His son expressed the same thought by regretting that his father "did not speak his language."
So, in the winter vacation when Payson, Sr., fagged from his long day at the office sought the "Frolics" or the "Folies," Payson, Jr., might be seen at a concert for the harpsichord and viola, or at an evening of Palestrina or the Earlier Gregorian Chants. Had he been less supercilious about it this story would never have been written—and doubtless no great loss at that. But it is the prerogative of youth to be arrogantly merciless in its judgment of the old. Its bright lexicon has no verdict "with mitigating circumstances." Youth is just when it is right; it is cruel when it is wrong; and it is inexorable in any case. If we are ever to be tried for our crimes let us have juries of white whiskered old boys who like tobacco, crab flakes, light wines and musical comedy.
All of which leads up to the sad admission upon our part that Payson, Jr., was a prig. And in the very middle of his son's priggishness Payson, Sr., up and died, and Tutt and Mr. Tutt were called upon to administer his estate.
There may be concealed somewhere a few rare human beings who can look back upon their treatment of their parents with honest satisfaction. I have never met any. It is the fate of those who bring others into the world to be chided for their manners, abused for their mistakes, and pilloried for their faults. Twenty years difference in age turns many an elegance into a barbarism; many a virtue into a vice-versa. I do not perform at breakfast for the edification of my offspring upon the mustache cup, but I chew my strawberry seeds, which they claim is worse. My grandpapa and grandmama used to pour the coffee from their cups and drink it from their saucers and they were—nevertheless—rated AA1 in Boston's Back Bay Blue Book. And now my daughters, who smoke cigarettes, object loudly to my pipe smoke! Autre temps autres manières. And no man is a hero to his children. He has a hanged-sight more chance with his valet—if in these days he can afford to keep one.
His father's death was a shock to Payson, Jr., because he had not supposed that people in active business like that ever did die,—they "retired" instead, and after a discreet period of semi-seclusion gradually disintegrated by appropriate stages. But Payson, Sr., simply died right in the middle of everything—without any chance of a spiritual understanding—"reconciliation" would be inaccurate—with his son. So, Payson, Jr., protestingly acquired by part cash and balance credit a complete suit of what he scathingly described as "the barbarous panoply of death" and, turning himself into what he similarly called a "human catafalque," followed Payson, Sr., to the grave.
Perhaps, after all, we have been a bit hard on Payson, Jr. He was fundamentally, as his father had perceived, good stuff, and wanted to do the right thing. But what is the right thing? Really it isn't half as hard to be good as to know how.
As the orphaned Payson, ensconced in lonely state in one of the funeral hacks, was carried at a fast trot down Broadway towards the offices of Tutt & Tutt, he consoled himself for his loss with the reflection that this was, probably, the last time he would ever have to see any of his relatives. Never in his short life had he been face to face with such a gathering of unattractive human beings. He hadn't imagined that such people existed. They oughtn't to exist. The earth should be a lovely place, its real estate occupied only by cultured and lovely people. These aesthetic considerations reminded him with a shock that, just as he had been an utter stranger to them, so he had been a stranger to his father—his poor, old, widowed father. What did he really know about him?—not one thing! And he had never tried to find out anything about him,—about his friends, his thoughts, his manner of life,—content merely to cash his checks, under the unconscious assumption that the man who drew them ought to be equally content to be the father of such a youth as himself. But those rusty relatives! They must have been his father's! Certainly his mother's wouldn't have been like that,—and he felt confident he took after his mother. Still, those relatives worried him! Up at Harvard he had stood rather grandly on his name—"Payson Clifford, Jr.,"—with no questions asked about the "Senior" or anybody else. He now perceived that he was to be thrown out into the world of fact where who and what his father had been might make a lot of difference. Rather anxiously he hoped the old gentleman would turn out to have been all right;—and would have left enough of an estate so that he could still go on cashing checks upon the first day of every month!
It was one of the unwritten laws of the office of Tutt & Tutt that Mr. Tutt was never to be bothered about the details of a probate matter, and it is more than doubtful whether, even if he had tried, he could have correctly made out the inventory of an estate for filing in the Surrogate's Court. For be it known that, while the senior member of the firm was long on the philosophy of the law and the subtleties of "restraints on alienation," "powers," "perpetuities" and the mysteries of "the next eventual estate," he was frankly short on the patience to add and subtract. So while Mr. Tutt drew their clients' wills, it was Tutt who attempted to probate and execute them. Then, if by any chance, there was any trouble or some ungrateful relative thought he hadn't got enough, it was Mr. Tutt who reluctantly tossed away his stogy, strolled over to court and defended the will which he had drawn,—usually with success.
So it was the lesser Tutt who wrung the hand of Payson Clifford and gave him the leathern armchair by the window.
"And now about the will!" chirped Tutt, as after a labored encomium upon the virtues of Payson, Senior, deceased, he took the liberty of lighting a cigarette before he commenced to read the instrument which lay in a brown envelope upon the desk before him. "And now about the will! I suppose you are already aware that your father has made you his executor and, after a few minor legacies, the residuary legatee of his entire estate?"
Payson shook his head mutely. He felt it more becoming to pretend to be ignorant of these things under the circumstances.
"Yes," continued Tutt cheerfully, taking up the envelope, "Mr. Tutt drew the will—nearly fifteen years ago—and your father never thought necessary to change it. It's lain right there in our 'Will Box' without being disturbed more than once,—and that was seven or eight years ago when he came in one day and asked to be allowed to look at it,—I think he put an envelope containing a letter in with it. I found one there the other day."
Payson languidly took the will in his hand.
"How large an estate did he leave?" he inquired.
"As near as I can figure out about seventy thousand dollars," answered Tutt. "But the transfer tax will not be heavy, and the legacies do not aggregate more than ten thousand."
The instrument was a short one,—drawn with all Mr. Tutt's ability for compression—and filling only a single sheet. Payson's father had bequeathed seventy-six hundred dollars to his three cousins and their children, and everything else he had left to his son. Payson rapidly computed that after settling the bills against the estate, including that of Tutt & Tutt, he would probably get at least sixty thousand out of it. At the current rate he would continue to be quite comfortable,—more so in fact than heretofore. Still, it was less than he had expected. Perhaps his father had had expensive habits.
"Here's the letter," went on Tutt, handing it to Payson who took out his pen-knife to open it the more neatly. "Probably a suggestion as to the disposal of personal effects—remembrances or something of the sort. It's often done."
The envelope was a cheap one, ornamented in the upper left hand corner with a wood cut showing a stout goddess in a night dress, evidently meant for Proserpina—pouring a Niagara of grain out of a cornucopia of plenty over a farmland stacked high with apples, corn, and pumpkins, and flooded by the beams of a rising sun with a real face. Beneath were the words:
"If not delivered in five days return to
Clifford, Cobb & Weng,
Grain Dealers and Produce
597 Water Street,
Even as his eye fell upon it Payson was conscious of its coarse vulgarity. And "Weng"! Whoever heard of such a name? He certainly had not,—hadn't even known that his father had a partner with such an absurd cognomen! "—& Weng!" There was something terribly plebeian about it. As well as about the obvious desire for symmetry which had led to the addition of that superfluous "N.Y." below the entirely adequate "N.Y. City." But, of course, he'd be glad to do anything his father requested in a letter.
He forced the edge of the blade through the tough fiber of the envelope, drew forth the enclosed sheet and unfolded it. In the middle of the top was a replica of the wood cut upon the outside, only minus the "If not delivered in five days return to." Then Payson read in his father's customary bold scrawl the simple inscription, doomed to haunt him sleeping and waking for many moons:—
"In case of my sudden death I wish my executor to give twenty-five thousand dollars to my very dear friend Sadie Burch, of Hoboken, N.J.
For a brief—very brief—moment, a mist gathered over the letter in the son's hand. "My dear friend Sadie Burch!" He choked back the exclamation of surprise that rose unconsciously to his lips and endeavored to suppress any facial evidence of his inner feelings. "Twenty-five thousand!" Then he held out the letter more or less casually to Tutt.
"Wee-e-ll!" whistled the lawyer softly, with a quick glance from under his eyebrows.
"Oh, it isn't the money!" remarked Payson in a sickly tone—although of course he was lying. It was the money.
The idea of surrendering nearly half his father's estate to a stranger staggered him; yet to his eternal credit, in that first instant of bewildered agony no thought of disregarding his father's wishes entered his mind. It was a hard wallop, but he'd got to stand it.
"Oh, that's nothing!" remarked Tutt. "It's not binding. You don't need to pay any attention to it."
"Do you really mean that that paper hasn't any legal effect?" exclaimed the boy with such a reaction of relief that for the moment the ethical aspect of the case was entirely obscured by the legal.
"None whatever!" returned Tutt definitely.
"But it's part of the will!" protested Payson. "It's in my father's own handwriting."
"That doesn't make any difference," declared the lawyer. "Not being witnessed in the manner required by law it's not of the slightest significance."
"Not even if it is put right in with the will?"
"Not a particle."
"But I've often heard of letters being put with wills."
"No doubt. But I'll wager you never heard of any one of them being probated."
Payson's legal experience in fact did not reach to this technical point.
"Look here!" he returned obstinately. "I'll be hanged if I understand. You say this paper has no legal value and yet it is in my father's own hand and practically attached to his will. Now, apart from any—er—moral question involved, just why isn't this letter binding on me?"
Tutt smiled leniently.
"Have a cigarette?" he asked, and when Payson took one, he added sympathetically as he held a match for him, "Your attitude, my dear sir, does you credit. It is wholly right and natural that you should instinctively desire to uphold that which on its face appears to be a wish of your father. But all the same that letter isn't worth the paper it's written on—as matter of law."
"But why not?" demanded Payson. "What better evidence could the courts desire of the wishes of a testator than such a letter?"
"The reason is simple enough!" replied Tutt, settling himself in a comfortable position. "In the eye of the law no property is ever without an owner. It is always owned by somebody, although the ownership may be in dispute. When a man dies his real property instantly passes to his heirs and his personal property descends in accordance to the local statute of distributions or, if there isn't any, to his next of kin; but if he leaves a will, to the extent to which it is valid, it diverts the property from its natural legal destination. Thus, in effect, the real purpose of a will is to prevent the laws operating on one's estate after death. If your father had died intestate, you would have instantly become, in contemplation of law, the owner of all his property. His will—his legal will—deprives you of a small part of it for the benefit of others. But the law is exceedingly careful about recognizing such an intention of a testator to prevent the operation of the statutes and requires him to demonstrate the sincerity and fixity of that intention by going through various established formalities, such as putting his intention in due form in a written instrument which he must sign and declare to be his last will before a certain number of competent witnesses whom he requests to sign as such and who actually do sign as such in his presence and in the presence of each other. Your father obviously did none of these things when he placed this letter with his will."
"But isn't a letter ever enough—under any circumstances?" inquired Payson.
"Well," said Tutt. "It is true that under certain exceptional circumstances a man may make what is known as a nuncupative will."
"What is a—a—nuncupative will?" asked his client.
"Technically it is an oral will, operating on personality only, made in extremis—that is, actually in fear of death—and under our statutes limited to soldiers in active military service or to mariners at sea. Under the old common law it was just as effective to pass personal estate as a written instrument."
"But father wasn't either a soldier or a sailor," commented Payson, "and anyhow a letter isn't an oral will; if it's anything at all, it's a written one, isn't it?"
"That is the attitude the law takes," nodded Tutt. "Of course, one could argue that it made no difference whether a man uttered his wishes orally in the presence of witnesses or reduced them to writing and signed them, but the law is very technical in such matters and it has been held that a will reduced to writing and signed by the testator, or a memorandum of instructions for making a will, cannot be treated as a nuncupative will; nor is a written will, drawn up by an attorney, but not signed, owing to the sickness of the testator to be treated as a nuncupative will; but upon requisite proof—in a proper case—a paper, not perfected as a written will, may be established as a nuncupative will when its completion is prevented by act of God, or any other cause than an intention to abandon or postpone its consummation. The presumption of the law is against validity of a testamentary paper not completed. There must be in the testator the animus testandi, which is sometimes presumed from circumstances in such cases and in such places as nuncupative wills are recognized. Now, your father being as you point out, neither a soldier nor a sailor, couldn't have made a nuncupative will under any circumstances, even if a letter would legally be treated as such a will instead of as an ineffectual attempt to make a written one—upon which point I confess myself ignorant. Therefore"—and he tossed away his cigarette butt with an air of finality—"this letter bequeathing twenty-five thousand dollars to Sadie Burch—whoever and whatever she may be—is either an attempt to make a will or a codicil to a will in a way not recognized by the statute, or it is an attempt to add to, alter or vary a will already properly executed and witnessed by arbitrarily affixing to or placing within it an extraneous written paper."
"Well," commented Payson, "I understand what you've said about nun—nuncupative wills, all right,—that is, I think I do. But leaving them out of consideration I still don't see why this letter can't be regarded as part of the original will."
"For the reason that when your father executed the original document he went through every form required by the statute for making a will. If he hadn't, it wouldn't have been a will at all. If this paper, which never was witnessed by a single person, could be treated as a supplement or addition to the will, there would have been no use requiring the original will to be witnessed, either."
"That seems logical," agreed Payson. "But isn't it often customary to incorporate other papers by referring to them in a will?"
"It is sometimes done, and usually results in nothing but litigation. You see for yourself how absurd it would be to treat a paper drawn or executed after a will was made as part of it, for that would render the requirements of the statute nugatory."
"But suppose the letter was already in existence or was written at the same time as the will,—wouldn't that make a difference?" hesitated Payson.
"Not a bit! Not one bit!" chirped Tutt. "The law is settled that such a paper writing can be given effect only under certain very special conditions and only to a limited extent. Anyhow that question doesn't arise here."
"Why not?" queried the residuary legatee. "How do you know this letter wasn't written and placed inside the will when it was made?—And that my father supposed that of course it would be given effect?"
"In that case why shouldn't he have incorporated the legacy in the will?" countered Tutt sharply.
"He—er—may not have wished Mr. Tutt to know about it," murmured Payson, dropping his eyes.
"Oh,—hardly!" protested Tutt. "We can be morally certain that this letter was written and placed with the will that time your father came in here and asked to be allowed to see it, seven odd years ago. Mr. Tutt would have noticed it if your father had placed it with the will in the first instance and would have warned him that nothing of the sort could possibly be effective."
"But," insisted Payson, "assuming for argument's sake that this letter was in fact written at the time the will was originally executed, what is the reason the law won't recognize it as a valid bequest?"
Tutt smiled and fumbled in an open box for another cigarette.
"My dear sir," he replied, "no paper could possibly be treated as part of a will—even if extant at the time the will was executed—unless distinctly referred to in the will itself. In a word, there must be a clear and unmistakable intention on the part of the testator to attempt to incorporate the extraneous paper by reference. Now, here, there is no reference to the paper in the will at all."
"That is true!" admitted Payson. "But—"
"But even if there were," went on Tutt, eagerly, "the law is settled in this state that where a testator—either through carelessness or a desire to economize space or effort, has referred in his will to extraneous papers or memoranda, either as fixing the names of beneficiaries of particular devises or bequests, or as fixing the amount or the manner in which the amount of such devises or bequests is to be ascertained, such a paper must not contain any testamentary disposition of property. In a word the testator having willed something can identify it by means of an extraneous paper if properly designated, but he cannot will the thing away by an extraneous paper no matter how referred to. For example, if A wills to B 'all the stock covered by my agreement of May 1, with X' it merely describes and identifies the thing bequeathed,—and that is all right. The law will give effect to the identifying agreement, although it is separate from the will and unattested. But, if A's will read 'and I give such further bequests as appear in a paper filed herewith' and the paper contained a bequest to B of 'all the stock covered by my agreement of May 1, with X' it would be an attempted bequest outside of the will and so have no legal effect."
"Thanks," said Payson. "I understand. So in no event whatever could this letter have any legal effect?"
"Absolutely none whatever!—You're perfectly safe!" And Tutt leaned back with a comfortable smile.
But Payson did not smile in return. Neither was he comfortable. Be it said for him that, however many kinds of a fool he may have been, while momentarily relieved at knowing that he had no legal obligation to carry out his father's wishes so far as Sadie Burch was concerned, his conscience was by no means easy and he had not liked at all the tone in which the paunchy little lawyer had used the phrase "you're perfectly safe."
"What do you mean by 'perfectly safe'," he inquired rather coldly.
"Why, that Sadie Burch could never make you pay her the legacy—because it isn't a legal legacy. You can safely keep it. It's yours, legally and morally."
"Well, is it?" asked Payson slowly. "Morally, isn't it my duty to pay over the money, no matter who she is?"
Tutt, who had tilted backward in his swivel chair, brought both his feet to the floor with a bang.
"Of course it isn't!" he cried. "You'd be crazy to pay the slightest attention to any such vague and unexplained scrawl. Listen, young man! In the first place you haven't any idea when your father wrote that paper—except that it was at least seven years ago. He may have changed his mind a dozen times since he wrote it. It may have been a mere passing whim or fancy, done in a moment of weakness or emotion or temporary irrationality. Indeed, it may have been made under duress. Nobody but a lawyer who has the most intimate knowledge of his clients' daily life and affairs has the remotest suspicion of—Oh, well, we won't go into that! But, the first proposition is that in no event is it possible for you to say that the request in that letter was the actual wish of your father at the time of his death. All you can say is that at some time or other it may have been his wish."
"I see!" agreed Payson. "Well, what other points are there?"
"Secondly," continued Tutt, "it must be presumed that if your father took the trouble to retain a lawyer to have his will properly drawn and executed he must have known first, that it was necessary to do so in order to have his wishes carried out, and second, that no wish not properly incorporated in the will itself could have any legal effect. In other words, inferentially, he knew that this paper had no force and therefore it must be assumed that if he made it that way he intended that it should have no legal effect and did not intend that it should be carried out. Get me?"
"Why, yes, I think I do. Your point is that if a man knows the law and does a thing so it has no legal effect he should be assumed to intend that it have no legal effect."
"Exactly," Tutt nodded with satisfaction. "The law is wise, based on generations of experience. It realizes the uncertainties, vagaries, and vacillations of the human mind—and the opportunities afforded to designing people to take advantage of the momentary weaknesses of others—and hence to prevent fraud and insure that only the actual final wishes of a man shall be carried out it requires that those wishes shall be expressed in a particular, definite and formal way—in writing, signed and published before witnesses."
"You certainly make it very clear!" assented Payson. "What do executors usually do under such circumstances?"
"If they have sense they leave matters alone and let the law take its course," answered Tutt with conviction. "I've known of more trouble—! Several instances right here in this office. A widow found a paper with her husband's will expressing a wish that a certain amount of money should be given to a married woman living out in Duluth. There was nothing to indicate when the paper was written, although the will was executed only a month before he died. Apparently the deceased hadn't seen the lady in question for years. I told her to forget it, but nothing would suit her but that she should send the woman a money order for the full amount—ten thousand dollars. She kept it, all right! Well, the widow found out afterwards that her husband had written that paper thirty years before at a time when he was engaged to be married to that woman, that they had changed their minds and each had married happily and that the paper with some old love letters had, as usually happens, got mixed up with the will instead of having been destroyed as it should have been. You know, it's astonishing, the junk people keep in their safe deposit boxes! I'll bet that ninety-nine out of a hundred are half full of valueless and useless stuff, like old watches, grandpa's jet cuff buttons, the letters Uncle William wrote from the Holy Land, outlawed fire insurance and correspondence that nobody will ever read,—everything always gets mixed up together,—and yet every paper a man leaves after his death is a possible source of confusion or trouble. And one can't tell how or why a person at a particular time may come to express a wish in writing. It would be most dangerous to pay attention to it. Suppose it was not in writing. Morally, a wish is just as binding if spoken as if incorporated in a letter. Would you waste any time on Sadie Burch if she came in here and told you that your father had expressed the desire that she should have twenty-five thousand dollars? Not much!"
"I don't suppose so!" admitted Payson.
"Another thing!" said Tutt. "Remember this, the law would not permit you as executor of your father's will to pay over this money, if any other than yourself were the residuary legatee. You'd have no right to take twenty-five thousand dollars out of the estate and give it to Miss Burch at the expense of anybody else!"
"Then you say the law won't let me pay this money to Sadie Burch whether I am willing to or not?" asked Payson.
"Not as executor. As executor you're absolutely obliged to carry out the terms of the will and disregard anything else. You must preserve the estate intact and turn it over unimpaired to the residuary legatee!" repeated Tutt.
"But I am the residuary legatee!" said Payson.
"As executor you've got to pay it over in full to yourself as residuary legatee!" repeated Tutt stubbornly, evading the issue.
"Well, where does that leave me?" asked his client.
"It gets you out of your difficulty, doesn't it?" asked Tutt. "Don't borrow trouble! Don't—if you'll pardon my saying so—be an idiot!"
There was silence for several minutes, finally broken by the lawyer who came back again to the charge with renewed vigor.
"Why, this sort of thing comes up all the time. Take this sort of a case, for instance. The law only lets a man will away a certain proportion of his property to charity—says it isn't right for him to do so, if he leaves a family. Now suppose your father had given all his property to charity, would you feel obliged to impoverish yourself for the benefit of a Home for Aged Mariners?"
"Really," replied the bewildered Payson. "I don't know. But anyway I'm satisfied you're quite right and I'm tremendously obliged. However," he added musingly, "I'd rather like to know who this Sadie Burch is!"
"If I were you, young man," advised the lawyer sagely, "I wouldn't try to find out!"
Mr. Payson Clifford left the offices of Tutt & Tutt more recalcitrant against fate and irritated with his family than when he had entered them. He had found himself much less comfortably provided for than he had expected, and the unpleasant impression created by the supposed paternal relatives at his father's funeral had been heightened by the letter regarding Sadie Burch. There was something even more offensively plebeian about them than that of the vulgar Weng. It would have been bad enough to have had to consider the propriety of paying over a large sum to a lady calling herself by an elegant or at least debonair name like Claire Desmond or Lillian Lamar,—but Sadie! And Burch! Ye gods! It was ignoble, sordid. That was a fine discovery to make about one's father!
As he walked slowly up Fifth Avenue to his hotel it must be confessed that his reflections upon that father's memory were far from filial. He told himself that he'd always suspected something furtive about the old man, who must have been under most unusual and extraordinary obligations to a woman to whom he desired his son to turn over twenty-five thousand dollars. It was pretty nearly half of his entire fortune! Would cut down his income from around four thousand to nearly two thousand! The more he pondered upon the matter the more the lawyer's arguments seemed absolutely convincing. Lawyers knew more than other people about such things, anyway. You paid them for their advice, and he would doubtless have to pay Tutt for his upon this very subject, which, somehow, seemed to be rather a good reason for following it. No, he would dismiss Sadie Burch and the letter forever from his mind. Very likely she was dead anyway, whoever she was. Four thousand a year! Not a bad income for a bachelor!
And while our innocent young Launcelot trudging uptown hardened his heart against Sadie Burch, by chance that lady figured in a short but poignant conversation between Mr. Ephraim Tutt and Miss Minerva Wiggin on the threshold of the room from which he had just departed.
Miss Wiggin never trusted anybody but herself to lock up the offices, not even Mr. Tutt, and upon this particular evening she had made this an excuse to linger on after the others had gone home and waylay him. Such encounters were by no means infrequent and usually had a bearing upon the ethical aspect of some proposed course of legal procedure on the part of the firm.
Miss Minerva regarded Samuel Tutt as morally an abandoned and hopeless creature. Mr. Ephraim Tutt she loved with a devotion rare among a sex with whom devotion is happily a common trait, but there was a maternal quality in her affection accounted for by the fact that although Mr. Tutt was, to be sure, an old man in years, he had occasionally an elfin, Puck-like perversity which was singularly boyish, at which times she felt it obligatory for her own self-respect to call him to order. Thus, whenever Tutt seemed to be incubating some evasion of law which seemed more subtly plausible than ordinary she made it a point to call it to Mr. Tutt's attention. Also, whenever, as in the present case, she felt that by following the advice given by the junior member of the firm a client was about to embark upon some dubious enterprise or questionable course of conduct she endeavored to counteract his influence by appealing to the head of the firm.
During the interview between Tutt and Payson Clifford the door had been open and she had heard all of it; moreover, after Payson had gone away Tutt had called her in and gone over the situation with her. And she regarded Tutt's advice to his client,—not the purely legal aspect of it, but the personal and persuasive part of it,—as an interference with that young gentleman's freedom of conscience.
"Dear me!—I didn't know you were still here, Minerva!" exclaimed her employer as she confronted him in the outer office. "Is anything worrying you?"
"Not dangerously!" she replied with a smile. "And perhaps it's none of my business—"
"My business is thy business, my dear!" he answered. "Without you Tutt & Tutt would not be Tutt & Tutt. My junior partner may be the eyes and legs of the firm and I may be some other portion of its anatomy, but you are its heart and its conscience. Out with it! What rascality portends? What bird of evil omen hovers above the offices of Tutt & Tutt? Spare not an old man bowed down with the sorrows of this world! Has my shrewd associate counseled the robbing of a bank or the kidnapping from a widowed mother of her orphaned child?"
"Nothing quite so bad as that!" she retorted. "It's merely that Mr. Samuel Tutt used his influence this afternoon to try to persuade a young man not to carry out his father's wishes—expressed in a legally ineffective way—and I think he succeeded—although I'm not quite sure."
"That must have been Payson Clifford," answered Mr. Tutt. "What were the paternal wishes?"
"Mr. Tutt found a letter with the will in which the father asked the son to give twenty-five thousand dollars to a Miss Sadie Burch."
"Miss Sadie Burch!" repeated Mr. Tutt. "And who is she?"
"Nobody knows," said Miss Wiggin. "But whoever she is, our responsibility stops with advising Mr. Payson Clifford that the letter has no legal effect. Mr. Tutt went further and tried to induce Mr. Clifford not to respect the request contained in it. That, it seems to me, is going too far. Don't you think so?"
"Are you certain you never heard of this Miss Burch?" suddenly asked Mr. Tutt, peering at her sharply from beneath his shaggy eyebrows.
"Never," she replied.
"H'm!" ejaculated Mr. Tutt. "A woman in the case!"
"What sort of a young fellow is this Payson Clifford?" inquired Miss Wiggin after a moment.
"Oh, not so much of a much!" answered Mr. Tutt whimsically.
"And what was the father like?" she continued with a woman's curiosity.
"He wasn't so much of a much, either, evidently," answered Mr. Tutt.
We have previously had occasion to comment upon the fact that no client, male or female, consults a lawyer with regard to what he ought to do. Women, often having decided to do that which they ought not to do, attempt to secure counsel's approval of the contemplated sin; but while a lawyer is sometimes called upon to bolster up a guilty conscience, rarely is he sincerely invited to act as spiritual adviser. Most men being worse than their lawyers, prefer not to have the latter find them out. If they have made up their minds to do a mean thing they do not wish to run the chance of having their lawyer shame them out of it. That is their own business. And it should be! The law presents sufficiently perplexing problems for the lawyer without his seeking trouble in the dubious complexities of his client's morals! Anyhow, that is the regulation way a lawyer looks at it and that is the way to hold one's clients. Do what you are instructed to do—so long as it isn't too raw! Question the propriety of his course and while your client may follow your advice in this single instance he probably will not return again.
The paradoxical aspect of the matter with Mr. Tutt was that while he was known as a criminal lawyer whenever he was asked for advice he concerned himself quite as much with his client's moral as his legal duty. The rather subtle reason for this was probably to be found in the fact that since he found the law so easy to circumvent he preferred to disregard it entirely as a sanction of conduct and merely to ask himself "Now is this what a sportsman and a gentleman would do?" The fact that a man was a technical criminal meant nothing to him at all; what interested him was whether the man was or was not a "mean" man. If he was, to hell with him! In a word, he applied to any given situation the law as it ought to be and not the law as it was. A very easy and flexible test! say you, sarcastically. Do you really think so? There may be forty different laws upon the same subject in as many different states of our political union, but how many differing points of view upon any single moral question would you find among as many citizens? The moral code of decent people is practically the same all over the terrestrial ball, and fundamentally it has not changed since the days of Hammurabi. The ideas of gentlemen and sportsmen as to what "is done" and "isn't done" haven't changed since Fabius Tullius caught snipe in the Pontine marshes.
Mr. Tutt was a crank on this general subject and he carried his enthusiasm so far that he was always tilting like Don Quixote at some imaginary windmill, dragging a very unwilling Sancho Panza after him in the form of his reluctant partner. Moreover, he had a very keen sympathy for all kinds of outcasts, deeming most of them victims of the sins of their own or somebody's else fathers. So when he learned from Miss Wiggin that Tutt had presumed to interfere with the financial prospects of the unknown Miss Sadie Burch he was distinctly aggrieved, less on her account to be sure than upon that of his client's whom he regarded more or less in his keeping. And, as luck would have it, the object of his grievance, having forgotten something, at that moment unexpectedly reëntered the office to retrieve it.
"Hello, Mr. Tutt!" he exclaimed. "Not gone yet!"
His senior partner glanced at him sharply, while Miss Wiggin hastily sidestepped into the corridor.
"Look here, Tutt!" said Mr. Tutt. "I don't know just what you've been telling young Clifford, or how you've been interfering in his private affairs, but if you've been persuading him to disregard any wish of his father plainly expressed in his own handwriting and incorporated with his will you've gone further than you've any right to go."
"But," expostulated Tutt, "you know how dangerous it is to meddle with things like that. Our experience certainly shows that it's far wiser to let the law settle all doubtful questions than to try to guess what the final testamentary intention of a dead testator really was. Don't you remember the Dodworth case? A hypersensitive conscience cost our widowed client ten thousand dollars! I say, leave well enough alone."
"'Well enough'! 'Well enough'!" snarled Mr. Tutt. "Are you going to constitute yourself the judge of what is well enough for a young man's soul? I give you fair warning, Tutt: he's heard your side of it, but before he gets through he's going to hear mine as well!"
Samuel Tutt turned a faint pink in the region of his collar.
"Why, certainly, Mr. Tutt!" he stammered. "Do so, by all means!"
"You jolly well bet I will!" replied Mr. Tutt, jamming on his stovepipe.
Several days passed, however, without the subject being mentioned further, while the proper steps to probate the will were taken as usual. Payson Clifford's dilemma had no legal reaction. He had made up his mind and he was going to stick to it. He had taken the opinion of counsel and was fully satisfied with what he had done. Nobody was going to know anything about it, anyway. When the proper time came he would burn the Sadie Burch letter and forget Sadie Burch. That is, he thought he was going to and that he could. But—as Plautus says: "."
You see, Payson Clifford, having been sent to a decent school and a decent college, irrespective of whether his father was a rotter or not, had imbibed something of a sense of honor. Struggle as he would against it, the shadow of Sadie Burch kept creeping athwart his mind. There were so many possibilities! Suppose she was in desperate straits? Hadn't he better look her up, anyhow? No, he most definitely didn't want to know anything about her! Supposing she really had rendered some service to his father for which she ought to be repaid as he had sought to repay her? These thoughts obtruded themselves upon Payson's attention when he least desired it, but they did not cause him to alter his intention to get his hooks into his father's whole residuary estate and keep it for himself. He had, you observe, a conscience, but it couldn't stand up against twenty-five thousand dollars reinforced by perfectly sound legal arguments.
No, he had a good excuse for not being a gentleman and a sportsman and he did not purpose to look for any reasons for doing differently. Then unexpectedly he was invited to dinner by Mr. Ephraim Tutt in a funny old ramshackle house on West Twenty-third Street with ornamented iron piazza railings all covered with the withered stalks of long dead wistarias, and something happened to him. "Payson Clifford's Twenty-five Thousand Dollar Dinner." He had no suspicion, of course, what was coming to him when he went there,—went, merely because Mr. Tutt was one of the very few friends of his father that he knew. And he held towards the old lawyer rather the same sort of patronizing attitude that he had had towards the old man. It would be a rotten dinner probably followed by a deadly dull evening with a snuffy old fossil who would tell him long-winded, rambling anecdotes of what New York had been like when there were wild goats in Central Park.
The snuffy old fossil, however, made no reference whatever to either old New York or wild goats,—the nearest he came to it being wild oats. Instead he began the dreary evening by opening a cupboard on his library wall and disclosing three long bottles, from which he partially filled a shining silver receptacle containing cracked ice. This he shook with astonishing skill and vigor, meantime uttering loud outcries of "Miranda! Fetch up the mint!" Then a buxom colored lady in calico—with a grin like that which made Aunt Sallie famous—having appeared, panting, with two large glasses and a bundle of green herbage upon a silver salver, the old fossil poured out a seething decoction—of which like only the memory remains—performed an incantation over each glass with the odoriferous greens, smiled fondly upon the work of his hands and remarked with amiable hospitality, "Well, my son! Glad to see you!—Here's how!"
Almost immediately a benign animal magnetism pervaded the bosom of Payson Clifford, and from his bosom reached out through his arteries and veins, his arterioles and venioles, to the uttermost ends of his being. He perceived in an instant that Mr. Tutt was no ordinary man and his house no ordinary house; and this impression was intensified when, seated at his host's shining mahogany table with its heavy cut glass and queer old silver, he discovered that Miranda was no ordinary cook. He began to be inflated over having discovered this Mr. Tutt, who pressed succulent oysters and terrapin stew upon him, accompanied by a foaming bottle of Krug '98. He found himself possessed of an astounding appetite and a prodigious thirst. The gas lights in the old bronze chandelier shone like a galaxy of radiant suns above his head and warmed him through and through. And after the terrapin Miranda brought in a smoking wild turkey with two quail roasted inside of it, and served with currant jelly, rice cakes, and sweet potatoes fried in melted sugar. Then, as in a dream, he heard a soul-satisfying pop and Miranda placed a tall, amber glass at his wrist and filled it with the creaming redrose wine of ancient Burgundy. He heard himself telling Mr. Tutt all about himself,—the most intimate secrets of his heart,—and saw Mr. Tutt listening attentively, almost reverently. He perceived that he was making an astonishing impression upon Mr. Tutt who obviously thought him a great man; and after keeping him in reasonable doubt about it for awhile he modestly admitted to Mr. Tutt that this was so. Then he drank several more glasses of Burgundy and ate an enormous pile of waffles covered with maple syrup. "I'se in town, honey!" Mr. Tutt had grown several sizes larger—the whole room was full of him. Lastly he had black coffee and some port. It was an occasion, he asserted,—er—always goo' weather,—or somethin'—when goo' fellows got together! He declared with an emphasis which was quite unnecessary, but which, however, did not disturb him, that there were too few men like themselves in the world,—men with the advantage of education,—men of ideals. He told Mr. Tutt that he loved him. He no longer had a father, and, evidently relying on further similar entertainments, he wanted Mr. Tutt for one. Mr. Tutt generously assented to act in that capacity and as the first step assisted his guest upstairs to the library where he opened the window a few inches.
Presently, Payson did not know how exactly, they got talking all about life,—and Mr. Tutt said ruminatively that after all the only things that really counted were loyalty and courage and kindness,—and that a little human sympathy extended even in what sometimes seemed at first glance the wrong direction often did more good—made more for real happiness—than the most efficient organized charity. He spoke of the loneliness of age—the inevitable loneliness of the human soul,—the thirst for daily affection. And then they drifted off to college, and Mr. Tutt inquired casually if Payson had seen much of his father, who, he took occasion to remark, had been a good type of straightforward, honest, hard-working business man.
Payson, smoking his third cigar, and taking now and then a dash of cognac, began to think better of his old dad. He really hadn't paid him quite the proper attention. He admitted it to Mr. Tutt—with the first genuine tears in his eyes since he had left Cambridge;—perhaps, if he had been more to him—. But Mr. Tutt veered off again—this time on university education; the invaluable function of the university being, he said, to preserve intact and untarnished in a materialistic age the spiritual ideals inherited from the past.
In this rather commonplace sentiment Payson agreed with him passionately. He further agreed with equal enthusiasm when his host advanced the doctrine that after all to preserve one's honor stainless was the only thing that much mattered. Absolutely! declared Payson, as he allowed Mr. Tutt to press another glass of port upon him.
Payson, in spite of the slight beading of his forehead and the blurr about the gas jets, began to feel very much the man of the world,—not a "six bottle man" perhaps, but—and he laughed complacently—a "two bottle man." If he'd lived back in the good old sporting days very likely he could have done better. But he's taken care of two full bottles, hadn't he? Mr. Tutt replied that he'd taken care of them very well indeed. And with this opening the old lawyer launched into his favorite topic,—to wit, that there were only two sorts of men in the world—gentlemen, and those who were not. What made a man a gentleman was gallantry and loyalty,—the readiness to sacrifice everything—even life—to an ideal. The hero was the chap who never counted the cost to himself. That was why people revered the saints, acclaimed the cavalier, and admired the big-hearted gambler who was ready to stake his fortune on the turn of a card. There was even, he averred, an element of spirituality in the gambler's carelessness about money.
This theory greatly interested Payson, who held strongly with it, having always had a secret, sneaking fondness for gamblers. On the strength of it he mentioned Charles James Fox—there was a true gentleman and sportsman for you! No mollycoddle—but a roaring, six bottle fellow—with a big brain and a scrupulous sense of honor. Yes, sir! Charley Fox was the right sort! He managed to intimate successfully that Charley and he were very much the same breed of pup. At this point Mr. Tutt, having carefully committed his guest to an ethical standard as far removed as possible from one based upon self-interest, opened the window a few more inches, sauntered over to the mantel, lit a fresh stogy and spread his long legs in front of the sea-coal fire like an elongated Colossus of Rhodes. He commenced his dastardly countermining of his partner's advice by complimenting Payson on being a man whose words, manner and appearance proclaimed him to the world a true sport and a regular fellow. From which flattering prologue he slid naturally into said regular fellow's prospects and aims in life. He trusted that Payson Clifford, Senior, had left a sufficient estate to enable Payson, Junior, to complete his education at Harvard?—He forgot, he confessed just what the residue amounted to. Then he turned to the fire, kicked it, knocked the ash off the end of his stogy and waited—in order to give his guest a chance to come to himself,—for Mr. Payson Clifford had suddenly turned a curious color, due to the fact that he was unexpectedly confronted with the necessity of definitely deciding then and there whether he was going to line up with the regular fellows or the second raters, the gentlemen or the cads, the C.J. Foxes or the Benedict Arnolds of mankind. He wasn't wholly the real thing, a conceited young ass, if you choose, but on the other hand he wasn't by any means a bad sort. In short, he was very much like all the rest of us. And he wasn't ready to sign the pledge just yet. He realized that he had put himself at a disadvantage, but he wasn't going to commit himself until he had had a good chance to think it all over carefully. In thirty seconds he was sober as a judge—and a sober judge at that.
"Mr. Tutt," he said in quite a different tone of voice. "I've been talking pretty big, I guess,—bigger than I really am. The fact is I've got a problem of my own that's bothering me a lot."
Mr. Tutt nodded understandingly.
"You mean Sadie Burch."
"Well, what's the problem? Your father wanted you to give her the money, didn't he?"
Payson hesitated. What he was about to say seemed so disingenuous, even though it had originated with Tutt & Tutt.
"How do I know really what he wanted? He may have changed his mind a dozen times since he put it with his will."
"If he had he wouldn't have left it there, would he?" asked Mr. Tutt with a smile.
"But perhaps he forgot all about it,—didn't remember that it was there," persisted the youth, still clinging desperately to the lesser Tutt. "And, if he hadn't would have torn it up."
"That might be equally true of the provisions of his will, might it not?" countered the lawyer.
"But," squirmed Payson, struggling to recall Tutt's arguments, previously so convincing, "he knew how a will ought to be executed and as he deliberately neglected to execute the paper in a legal fashion, isn't it fair to presume that he did not intend it to have any legal force?"
"Yes," replied Mr. Tutt with entire equanimity, "I agree with you that it is fair to assume that he did not intend it to have any legal effect."
"Well, then!" exclaimed Payson exultantly.
"But," continued the lawyer, "that does not prove that he did not intend it to have a moral effect,—and expect you to honor and respect his wishes, just as if he had whispered them to you with his dying breath."
There was something in his demeanor which, while courteous, had a touch of severity, that made Payson feel abashed. He perceived that he could not afford to let Mr. Tutt think him a cad,—when he was really a C.J. Fox. And in his mental floundering his brain came into contact with the only logical straw in the entire controversy.
"Ah!" he said with an assumption of candor. "In that case I should know positively that they were in fact my father's wishes."
"Exactly!" replied Mr. Tutt. "And you'd carry them out without a moment's hesitation."
"Of course!" yielded Payson.
"Then the whole question is whether or not this paper does express a wish of his. That problem is a real problem, and it is for you alone to solve,—and, of course, you're under the disadvantage of having a financial interest in the result, which makes it doubly hard."
"All the same," maintained the boy, "I want to be fair to myself."
"—And to him," added Mr. Tutt solemnly. "The fact that this wish is not expressed in such a way as to be legally obligatory makes it all the more binding. In a way, I suppose, that is your hard luck. You might, perhaps, fight a provision in the will. You can't fight this—or disregard it, either."
"I don't exactly see why this is any more binding than a provision in the will itself!" protested Payson.
Mr. Tutt threw his stogy into the fire and fumbled for another in the long box on the library table.
"Maybe it isn't," he conceded, "but I've always liked that specious anecdote attributed to Sheridan who paid his gambling debts and let his tailor wait. You remember it, of course? When the tailor demanded the reason for this Sheridan told him that a gambling debt was a debt of honor and a tailor's bill was not, since his fortunate adversary at the card table had only his promise to pay, whereas the tailor possessed an action for an account which he could prosecute in the courts.
"'In that case!' declared the tailor, 'I'll tear up my bill!' which he did, and Sheridan thereupon promptly paid him. Have another nip of brandy?"
"No, thank you!" answered Payson. "It's getting late and I must be going. I've—I've had a perfectly—er—ripping time!"
"You must come again soon!" said Mr. Tutt warmly, from the top of the steps outside.
As Payson reached the sidewalk he looked back somewhat shamefacedly and said:
"Do you think it makes any difference what sort of a person this Sadie Burch is?"
In the yellow light of the street lamp it seemed to the collegian as if the face of the old man bore for an instant a fleeting resemblance to that of his father.
"Not one particle!" he answered. "Good night, my boy!"
But Payson Clifford did not have a good night by any manner of means. Instead of returning to his hotel he wandered aimless and miserable along the river front. He no longer had any doubt as to his duty. Mr. Tutt had demolished Tutt in a breath,—and put the whole proposition clearly. Tutt had given, as it were, and Mr. Tutt had taken away. However, he told himself, that wasn't all there was to it; the money was his in law and no one could deprive him of it. Why not sit tight and let Mr. Tutt go to the devil? He need never see him again! And no one else would ever know! Twenty-five thousand dollars? It would take him years to earn such a staggering sum! Besides, there were two distinct sides to the question. Wasn't Tutt just as good a lawyer as Mr. Tutt? Couldn't he properly decide in favor of himself when the court was equally divided? And Tutt had said emphatically that he would be a fool to surrender the money. As Payson Clifford trudged along the shadows of the docks he became obsessed with a curious feeling that Tutt and Mr. Tutt were both there before him; Mr. Tutt—a tall, benevolent figure carrying a torch in the shape of a huge, black, blazing stogy that beckoned him onward through the darkness; and behind him Tutt—a little paunchy red devil with horns and a tail—who tweaked him by the coat and twittered, "Don't throw away twenty-five thousand dollars! The best way is to leave matters as they are and let the law settle everything. Then you take no chances!"
But in the end—along about a quarter to seven A.M.—Mr. Tutt won. Exhausted, but at peace with himself, Payson Clifford stumbled into the Harvard Club on Forty-fourth Street, ordered three fried eggs done on one side, two orders of bacon and a pot of coffee, and then wrote a letter which he dispatched by a messenger to Tutt & Tutt.
"Gentlemen," it read: "Will you kindly take immediate steps to find Miss Sarah Burch and pay over to her twenty-five thousand dollars from my father's residuary estate. I am entirely satisfied that this was his wish. I am returning to Cambridge to-day. If necessary you can communicate with me there.
"Yours very truly,
One might suppose that a legatee to twenty-five thousand dollars could be readily found; but Miss Sadie Burch proved a most elusive person. No Burches grew in Hoboken—according to either the telephone or the business directory—and Mr. Tutt's repeated advertisements in the newspapers of that city elicited no response. Three months went by and it began to look as if the lady had either died or permanently absented herself—and that Payson Clifford might be able to keep his twenty-five thousand with a clear conscience. Then one day in May came a letter from a small town in the central part of New Jersey from Sadie Burch. She had, she said, only just learned entirely by accident that she was an object of interest to Messrs. Tutt & Tutt. Unfortunately, it was not convenient for her to come to New York City, but if she could be of any service to them she would be pleased, etc.
"I think I'll give the lady the once-over!" remarked Mr. Tutt, as he looked across the glittering bay to the shadowy hills of New Jersey. "It's a wonderful day, and there isn't much to do here...."
"Sadie Burch? Sadie Burch? Sure, I know her!" answered the lanky man driving the flivver tractor nearby, as he inspected the motor carrying Mr. Tutt. "She lives in the second house beyond the big elm—" and he started plowing again with a great clatter.
The road glared white in the late afternoon sun. On either side stretched miles of carefully cultivated fields, the country drowsed, the air hot, but sweet with magnolia, lilac and apple blossoms. Miss Burch had obviously determined that when she retired from the world of men she would make a thorough job of it and expose herself to no temptation to return—eight miles from the nearest railroad. Just beyond the elms they slowed up alongside a white picket fence enclosing an old-fashioned garden whence came to Mr. Tutt the busy murmur of bees. Then they came to a gate that opened upon a red-tiled, box-bordered, moss-grown walk, leading to a small white house with blue and white striped awnings. A green and gold lizard poked its head out of the hedge and eyed Mr. Tutt rather with curiosity than hostility.
"Does Miss Sadie Burch live here?" asked Mr. Tutt of the lizard.
"Yes!" answered a cheerful female voice from the veranda. "Won't you come up on the piazza?"
The voice was not the kind of voice Mr. Tutt had imagined as belonging to Sadie Burch. But neither was the lady on the piazza that kind of lady. In the shadow of the awning in a comfortable rocking chair sat a white-haired, kindly-faced woman, knitting a baby jacket. She looked up at him with a friendly smile.
"I'm Miss Burch," she said. "I suppose you're that lawyer I wrote to? Won't you come up and sit down?"
"Thanks," he replied, drawing nearer with an answering smile. "I can only stay a few moments and I've been sitting in the motor most of the day. I might as well come to the point at once. You have doubtless heard of the death of Mr. Payson Clifford, Senior?"
Miss Burch laid down the baby-jacket and her lips quivered. Then the tears welled in her faded blue eyes and she fumbled hastily in her bosom for her handkerchief.
"You must excuse me!" she said in a choked voice. "—Yes, I read about it. He was the best friend I had in the world,—except my brother John. The kindest, truest friend that ever lived!"
She looked out across the little garden and wiped her eyes again.
Mr. Tutt sat down upon the moss-covered door-step beside her.
"I always thought he was a good man," he returned quietly. "He was an old client of mine—although I didn't know him very well."
"I owe this house to him," continued Miss Burch tenderly. "If it hadn't been for Mr. Clifford I don't know what would have become of me. Now that John is dead and I'm all alone in the world this little place—with the flowers and the bees—is all I've got."
They were silent for several moments. Then Mr. Tutt said:
"No, it isn't all. Mr. Clifford left a letter with his will in which he instructed his son to pay you twenty-five thousand dollars. I'm here to give it to you."
A puzzled look came over her face, and then she smiled again and shook her head.
"That was just like him!" she remarked. "But it's all a mistake. He paid me back that money five years ago. You see he persuaded John to go into some kind of a business scheme with him and they lost all they put into it—twenty-five thousand apiece. It was all we had. It wasn't his fault, but after John died Mr. Clifford made me—simply made me—let him give the money back. He must have written the letter before that and forgotten all about it!"