University of Virginia Library

Search this document 

a web of many textures

collapse section 
expand section 


Page 71



The venerable Pritchard, for a thousand years, more
or less, head of the firm of Pritchard, Smead, & Raikes,
merchants, had finished his business on a pleasant
Saturday evening, in the summer before the beginning
of the present century, and retired to his old home-stead,
which he had occupied for a great number of
years, and which, like himself, was apparently strong
and good for many years to come. He had lived so
long in this house that it seemed as if he were a part of
it, and was in complete sympathy with its brick and
mortar components, though to all else it was a stupid
old pile enough, — a ghostly and ghoulish thing, — that
the timid heard strange sounds issue from, and hastened
by with all celerity. It was brimful of odd closets
and odd traps, the uses of which had outlived their
generation; and it was said that a secret communication
existed inside, with underground passages, conducting
to the garden behind the house, and that the house had,
in its day, served as the head-quarters of an expert
smuggler, who drove a lucrative business through the
medium of the viaduct aforesaid; though this was
merely a supposition, as, when the old house was pulled
down, to make way for a new block of granite stores,
no trace of the secret passage was to be found.

Mr. Pritchard entered his house, swinging the heavy
oaken door to behind him, which awakened dull echoes


Page 72
through the ancient fabric, hung his three-cornered hat
on a peg in the entry, and deposited his cane in its
accustomed corner. After which, he turned the brass
knob of the old parlor-door, and entered, his feet
making scarcely any sound upon the sand-strewn floor.
He seated himself in his arm-chair, to which he had
been long accustomed, and, laying back, seemed deep
in thought.

Mr. Pritchard had been what the world understands
by the term, a good man. He had been as honest as
circumstances would permit; had never been detected
in any flagrant violation of law or equity; his word had
long been law among the merchants of his day, and, at
the close of a long mercantile career, marked by some
shrewd speculations, including the purchase and sale of
a large amount of continental money, he was said to be
worth several hundred thousand dollars. He had not
wasted his substance in riotous living, nor in extensive
charities, though he gave freely at times to objects connected
with public benefit; and when collections were
taken in the church where he attended, the return of
the contribution-box from over the door of the faded
blue-lined wall-pew where he sat disclosed always a
bill lovingly hovering over the heads of the coppers
that lay at the bottom of it, the admiration of all who
saw it. Some said he was pharisaical about this; but
we know there are envious and slanderous people in
the world, and the very best of us are liable to
feel the force of their malignant and depreciating
remarks. With our statement of Mr. Pritchard's position
and acts, we leave him in the hands of the reader.
He has gone, long ago, with his faults and his virtues,
and the opinion of men cannot affect him one way or
the other.


Page 73

He had been several years a widower, his wife having
died in giving birth to his youngest child, who, at the
time of which we write, was about twelve years old, a
fair and sensitive boy, with a heart full of loving feeling
for every one, but especially for his father, who was
very dear to him, and who bestowed upon this, his
youngest born, as much love as a man absorbed by
business and the world can feel. The boy resembled
his mother, and in the old man's tender moments the
thoughts of her would stream down into his heart with
a touching influence, and invest her child with new
claims to his regard.

It was in one of these moods that Mr. Pritchard made
a will. He had drawn it up himself, and had it witnessed
by two men of substance, one of whom had
died, and had placed it away carefully, in a nook which
he knew, where it was to rest until called for, at his
death. There was nothing unusual in this mode of
proceeding; but those who witnessed his signature —
those to whom he necessarily confided the secret of his
making the instrument — had not the most remote idea
of the character of its provisions, or who were to be
benefited thereby. But the angel that prompted the
will, and was looking over his shoulder when he wrote
it, one dark night, saw the pleased smile that mantled
his face as he recorded the name of his youngest son,
Henry — named for himself.

The two other boys, James and Thomas, were of a different
character from the youngest. James, the oldest,
possessed all his father's shrewdness and much of his own,
and he early showed a disposition to pursue a course
likely to make him a leading mind in the community.
He was ambitious and persistent, and not too regardful
of the rights of others; a disposition that had revealed


Page 74
itself in many acts of youthful littleness towards his
companions and playmates, which now, at twenty-one,
gave him the reputation of being the sharpest young
man in town. He had been with his father since he
had left school, and had become conversant with all the
modes of making money then existing. His only affection
for any one was through their money, and his
father formed no exception to the rule. The second
boy was a dreamer, and exhibited no business proclivities:
better content with a book and quiet, at sixteen,
than with all that the mart could afford, obtained
through strife and endeavor.

The only one of his sons to whom Mr. Pritchard made
any mention concerning a will was to his youngest, as
he stood by his knee the morning after.

“How shall I name you in my will?” said the old
man to him, patting him upon his head. “Shall I leave
you enough, so that when I die you will be rich, and
never have to work any, and will have plenty of servants,
and coaches, and pretty things, as you wish for

The boy looked up in his father's face, and his eyes
filled with tears, as he said he would rather work and
forego all that had been named, so that his father might
live; and the old man let the will remain where he had
placed it, and never referred to it again.

We left him in his arm-chair, with the house hushed
and still; and he was sitting with his head laid back,
deeply thinking, perhaps, of past times, and perhaps,
thinking of the future, towards which he was hastening.
His two boys were at school, his eldest son at the store,
and the housekeeper, who had filled that position for
many years, was in her chamber, in a remote part of the
old pile. Was Mr. Pritchard asleep, that he sat there


Page 75
so still? It was unusual for him to sleep thus;
but the weather was warm, and the cool air blew in
from the garden, freighted with the odor of flowers,
and imparted somniferous influences. He slept well
after the fatigues of the day, and his breathing was so
gentle that the ear was pained by the effort to catch the
tone of its rise and fall. His eyes were open, as if the
outward senses were still awake, though his weary
spirit was steeped in forgetfulness. Still he sat there
in the venerable chair, saved from other generations,
and moved not, though hour after hour crept by, and
the stroke of the old clock on the stairs proclaimed
the passing time. It was a waste of time for Mr. Pritchard
to sit thus, when there were many papers to adjust
before bed-time, and a letter upon the table, involving a
sale of many goods, must be answered before the morning

“Father!” cried a joyful voice, breaking the silence,

Mr. Pritchard moved not, though the voice was one
that he loved to hear when awake. How soundly he
slept, not to hear it!

“Father!” and Henry Pritchard, awed by the
silence, moved towards his father's chair, and placed his
hand upon the arm that lay extended upon the velvet
covering. A moment more, and his cries rang through
the house, and “Father is dead!” reverberated through
the still rooms like a voice in a tomb. Mr. Pritchard
slept the long sleep of death!

There was a great parade at the funeral. The bells
were tolled, and the flags upon the shipping were
hoisted at half-staff, and a long train of respectable
mourners followed the remains to their last resting-place.
A funeral sermon was preached upon the virtues


Page 76
of the deceased, and the papers of the day were
full of eulogies upon the great man fallen in Israel, and
elegiac poets sang his praises in the most approved
verse. His death pointed a moral for many discourses
for a long time, and was used beneficially to illustrate
the fact that the rich and the great must die as well as
the poor; and a superb monument was erected to his
memory, bearing upon its tablet the inscription, “An
honest man 's the noblest work of God.” Mr. Pritchard


It was always a mystery to me what Pritchard did
with that will,” said a corpulent old gentleman, with
very white hair and a very red face, to another old gentleman,
with whom he was conversing. “He made a will,
I know, because I 've got a memorandum of having
witnessed it a year before he died. Let 's see, that
would make it more than thirty-five years ago. How
time does fly away! Pritchard was a very careful man,
and that the will was n't found seems very strange.”

“Perhaps he destroyed it,” said the other old gentleman.
“Some folks don't like to think of dying, and after
they have made their wills they destroy 'em. They 're
kind o' superstitional like.”

“Well, Pritchard was n't one of that sort. He
knowed he 'd have to die; and he was a very careful
man. I do wish it had been found. I guess that oldest
son of his would n't have fared so much better than
the rest.”

“I guess not,” said his shadow; “and how he 's managed
to get it all into his own hands, away from Thomas,
who is worth forty of him as a man, is more than I can


Page 77

“Why, 't is the same old story,” says the red-faced
man; “Thomas must foolishly go to speculating, and
ruin himself in that way; and then his kind brother
relieved him by paying half of what his share of the
patrimony is worth. It 's plain enough. Then his
younger brother, that he had sent off in one of his ships,
dies in the Indies, and he steps in for the whole of his
share on a pretended will from Henry. He must be
dead; for he has n't been heard of for more 'n thirty
years now.”

“Hush!” said the other; “here he comes in his
coach, with his wife and daughters, as proud as peacocks.”

The coach rolled by them as he spoke, and James
Pritchard bowed coldly to the old friends of his father,
who returned it for the father's sake, but not for his

“I han't got no patience with that fellow!” says the
one whom the red-faced man had been speaking to,
striking his cane on the ground. “He was the last, I
know, in his father's regard, and is now enjoying all his
money. It 'll make the old man unhappy in his grave,
if he knows anything about it.”

“I guess he does n't care about it,” said the red-faced
man; “where he 's gone our exchange is n't negotiable;
but sometimes, as I pass the old house, there, that 's
been shut up so long, I almost expect to see the old
man step out of the door. I wonder why James does n't
tear it down.”

“He dare not do it, it is thought,” replied his companion;
“for they say that the housekeeper, before she
died, hinted to him that when he pulled down the old
house, he would fall with it. It has doubled in value
since Pritchard died.”


Page 78

“Good-by,” said the red-faced man. — “Good-by,” responded
his friend; and they separated, rattling the
bricks with their canes as they moved away.

It was at the close of the day on which the above
conversation occurred that the family of James Pritchard
were seated in his magnificent drawing-room, supplied
with every luxury that wealth and art could produce.
The feet sunk in carpets wrought on foreign
looms, luxurious couches wooed repose, heavy curtains
gave a grandeur to the apartment, exquisite pictures
graced the walls, costly candelabras glittered upon the
marble mantelpieces, and large mirrors multiplied on
every hand the splendors collected there.

“James, who were those gross-looking people who
bowed to us as we were riding, this afternoon?” said
Mrs. Pritchard, as her husband sat, with a half-abstracted
air, reading the paper.

“Old Varney and Slade,” was his reply, somewhat
abruptly, and a little harsh, “old friends of my father's.”

“Well, what claims have they upon your attention,
if they were only his friends? I think their presumption
in speaking to you unbearable. You should respect your
daughters' feelings, Mr. Pritchard, if you have no regard
for your wife's, and not encourage any such familiarity.
Poor things!”

“One was such a horrid fat man!” said the youngest
daughter, raising her jewelled hands.

“And the other was so terribly gaunt!” said the
elder, with a tone of horror.

“Why, really, ladies,” said Mr. Pritchard, with a
chagrin that he vainly strove to conceal, “you treat my
father's old friends with considerable freedom. They
are very respectable citizens, and, besides, they are very
necessary people to me — or those whose good-will I


Page 79
would fain secure, though I half suspect, from their
coldness, that I have n't got it.”

“Very well,” said his wife; “I suppose it will always
be the case that a woman is to have no voice in determining
who her husband is to be intimate with, though
she herself must be circumspect in her acquaintance.
At any rate, the mother of your daughters will try to
retrieve what their father loses.”

His brow contracted, and his heart prompted a bitter
reply, — no unusual thing in that household, — when
the door-bell rang, and Mr. Varney was announced.
With a half-imprecation, he ordered the servant to admit
him; and, as the haughty wife and daughters swept in
stately pride from the room, our fat old friend of the
afternoon's conversation entered.

Mr. Pritchard welcomed him with a shake of the hand,
marked by assumed heartiness, and conducted him to a
seat, at the same time taking his hat from his hand.
But Mr. Varney held to this most tenaciously, for he
was a humble man, and it rather took him aback to witness
the splendors which he saw around him.

“Thank'ee — thank'ee!” said the old man; “your
father, Mr. Pritchard, was a very polite man — very. I
never went into the old house in my life that he did n't
order up the best his cellar had in it, to drink General
Washington's health.”

Mr. Pritchard rang the bell. The servant appearing,
he was ordered to bring a bottle of the best wine from
the cellar, and glasses.

“I did n't speak on that account,” said Mr. Varney;
“but it sounds so like your father! and, as I 've been
walking pretty brisk, I will try a thimble-full.”

The wine being brought, Mr. Varney imbibed rather


Page 80
more than his stipulated amount, and, placing his glass
upon the salver, he said,

“I 've come up, Mr. Pritchard, in this odd way, not
exactly on my own account. You see, about an hour
or so ago, I was sitting on the corner opposite, where
your father's old house is standing, when a stranger
came along, who stopped and looked at the old building,
and asked me who it belonged to. He seemed
mightily taken with it, and went over and tried the door,
as if he wanted to go in. I told him who it belonged
to now, and who used to own it. — Lord bless your
father! I can see him just as plain as if it were

Mr. Pritchard looked over his shoulder, with a troubled
expression, as if he expected to see some sight
which he did n't want to, and said,

“Well, Mr. Varney, this man?”

“So I told him,” continued Mr. Varney, who was
warmed up by his wine, “all that I knew about the
family, and about your father's making a will, and about
my witnessing it, and about how it never was found,
and much of the same sort, when he asked me if I did n't
think you would sell the old house. I told him he had
better come over here and inquire; but he asked me to
come, as I was somewhat acquainted with the family;
and so I 've come.”

“Very well, Mr. Varney, you have done your errand
very handsomely,” said Mr. Pritchard. “You may tell
the one who sent you that the old place is not to be
sold; and I may as well say to yourself that a repetition
of your visit on the same errand would be very
disagreeable to me.”

The old man had poured some wine from the bottle,
preparatory to taking another “thimble-full;” but, as


Page 81
Mr. Pritchard finished speaking, he placed it upon the
salver untasted, and, taking his hat, turned to go. He
was politely bowed to the door, and left the house with
a figurative brushing of the dust from his feet as he

“I could n't have drank it; it would have choked
me,” said he, the thought of the sparkling fluid dancing
through his mind, as if to tempt him into a regret
for his self-denial.

Soon after his departure, the house of James Pritchard
was illuminated with a blaze of light, and merry
sounds of music and the laughter of glad voices came
from the open windows. It was a reception night, and
fashionable forms moved here and there amid the splendors
revealed without. Poor people went by on the
other side, and looked up wistfully; but there was no
atmosphere there, they knew, wherein the virtue of
charity could grow, and they passed on.

A different scene was enacting, at the same moment,
in an obscure part of the town, at the home of the other
of the Pritchard heirs.

Thomas Pritchard sat in his little parlor alone. He
was a man apparently fifty years old, and his iron-gray
hair denoted that care had not passed over him lightly.
There was a gentle expression upon his face, and an
eye indicative of great kindness; but there prevailed
at the same time an expression of indecision and of
shrinking back in his manner, as if from extreme sensitiveness.
His bearing was that of the gentleman, and
his kind voice had a sympathetic and loving tone that
bespoke a heart attuned to rightful feelings. He was a
fine-looking man, intellectually, and his countenance
altogether was prepossessing in the extreme. Such
was Thomas Pritchard. His home exhibited none of


Page 82
the extravagance of wealth, as seen at his brother's;
but, though humble, an air of neatness prevailed on
every side, and competency was evident throughout.
A neat and somewhat extensive library occupied one
side of the small parlor, a piano found a place upon
the other side, some beautiful pictures in water-colors
graced the wall, and a portrait of old Mr. Pritchard
smiled down from above the mantelpiece. A fine taste
was perceptible in the arrangement of a vase of flowers
upon the table, and a stranger might guess that the
hand of woman had given the touch that lent such an
air of neat cheerfulness to the scene. Mr. Pritchard
had been a widower for several years. He had had a
number of children, but they had died, one by one, and
none remained of his family but one young boy, and an
adopted daughter, whose education he had mainly attended
to himself. Her works graced the walls, and
her fingers could awaken sweet tones from the instrument
which held its place in the room. He had
adopted her at a time when, involved in troubles, he
had scarce a hope of being able to give her a support;
and it was a source of joy to him, ever after, that he
had done so. He had cultivated her mind himself, and
trained it in a manner to repay him ten-fold for the care
bestowed; and now that his days were weary with the
thoughts of those he had lost, her voice broke through
the gloom to cheer him, and her hand ministered to his
comfort, as though hers was the reflected love of that
which had fled, returned from the brighter sphere to
soften the sorrow of this.

As we have said, he sat alone. The shadows had fallen
gradually around him, and he was scarcely sensible of
the darkness, when the door opened, and a beautiful
girl entered, clothed in white, and bearing a light. The


Page 83
sudden glare startled him, and he shaded his eyes with
his hand.

“Madeline,” he said, “this gloom is more in keeping
with my present feelings than the light. Carry it away,
my dear child, and come to me.”

She obeyed him, and, returning to where he sat, threw
her arms around his neck and kissed him, with all of
a daughter's tenderness. Laying her head upon his
breast, she looked up into his face as though earnestly
endeavoring to pierce the gloom resting there, and
devise some means for its banishment.

“Father,” said she, in a sweet voice, sinking to her
knee by his side, “shall I sing for you? My voice, you
say, soothes you when your spirit is troubled.”

“No, my child,” replied he, placing his hand tenderly
upon her head; “this is a time when I would not have
my thoughts interrupted, even though they are very
sorrowful ones. Your voice is very sweet to me, my
child, always. This is the anniversary of my father's
death, and the thought comes to me of the strange fate
that has attended his sons — that —”

He ceased; and the whole tide of feeling for the
wrong done him by his brother, and his own humble
condition, rushed through his mind, but found no expression.
He would not wound the gentle ears inclined
towards him with the bitterness swelling up in
his own heart, and he pursued the theme no further.

“This home is too poor for you, my sweet girl,”
said he, kissing her forehead. “A refinement that
would grace a palace should not be hid in obscurity
like this.”

“Dear father,” cried she, starting to her feet, “you,
who have given me this refinement, know that its first
desire is to minister to your pleasure. What other companions


Page 84
do I want than yourself and my dear brother,
and the circle that I call friends? What more of gratification
do I want than my music and my painting? I
desire nothing, but to make you happy.”

The fond girl threw herself into his arms as she spoke,
and the father and daughter momentarily forgot their
sorrows in a loving embrace. They were disturbed by
a voice at their side, which called out,

“Hallo! what courting 's going on here? Who 's
this? You, Pritchard? Ah, yes, and here 's my little
pet, Miss Madeline. Bless you, my darling! That 's
right, love your father.”

This was all spoken in the hearty tones of our old fat
friend Varney, who caught Madeline, as she extricated
herself from her father's arms, into his own, and kissed
her voluminously before she escaped from the room, —
vanishing like a spirit through an opposite door.

Mr. Varney chuckled as she disappeared, and then,
with a renewal of his hearty tone, said,

“Mr. Pritchard, I ask your pardon, but I 've brought
a gentleman here, who wants to make some inquiries
about the old estate yonder, — if you know anything
about its being sold — if it 's ever going to be.”

“We will have a light,” said Mr. Pritchard, rising.

“No,” said another voice beside Mr. Varney's, “no
light is necessary. I merely wished to make inquiry concerning
the property, as I am pleased with its situation,
and would like to purchase it for building purposes.”

“I have no longer any interest in it,” said Mr. Pritchard,
with strong emotion; “my brother has got it all
now (there was a strong emphasis on the word brother),
and he will not sell. He believes the downfall of
his fortune depends upon that of the old house, and he
dare not do it.”


Page 85

“Has he no other brother?” asked the stranger.

“No,” replied Mr. Pritchard; “he never had but
one, beside myself — a little brother, who died abroad.
He was too good, and too frail, for a hard world like

“Well, sir,” said the stranger, “having ascertained
concerning the property, I will now take my leave.
Good-night, sir.”

He passed out as he spoke, but Mr. Varney remained
behind a moment, just to say that the stranger seemed
as rich as a Jew, and that he did n't, for the life of him,
know who he was.


Toward the close of the day after the one we
have described, a pedestrian, dusty and weary, walked
up the broad street that led by the stately mansion of
the oldest of the Pritchard heirs. He appeared to be
upwards of forty years of age, stooped in his gate like
one prematurely old, and was evidently a stranger, for
he gazed at the lofty dwelling of James Pritchard long
and earnestly, as if admiring the beauty of its architecture.

“Whose residence is this?” he asked of one who
was passing at that time.

“Pritchard's,” was the reply.

“Pritchard's?” reëchoed the stranger; “the name is
not familiar to me. Is he a native of this place?”

“Yes,” said the man, “he is one of the sons of old
Pritchard, the merchant, that died here many years ago,
and he has contrived to get all the old man's property
into his hands. Got a brother over here, humble
enough.” And he passed on.

The stranger stood looking at the house, when a gay


Page 86
party came tripping down the steps, consisting of the
two daughters of James Pritchard, and a young and
fashionably-dressed man, whose likeness to the sisters
was sufficient evidence of his relationship. It was their
brother, a petted and only son, the heir to the name
and fortune of James Pritchard. As they passed the
stranger, the youngest of the sisters whispered to her

“O, Richard, what a horrid-looking creature! What
can he be staring at our house for?”

“I can't say,” replied the young man. — “Look here,
old fellow,” said he, addressing the stranger, “what
concern have you about the house, yonder, that you
stare at it so? Do you think of a midnight visit to it,
and a robbery of plate? The young ladies don't like
your looks, and you had better move on.”

“Don't be so severe, Richard,” said the young lady;
“he may come and murder us in our beds.”

The stranger made no reply, but looked upon the
party with a strong glance of contempt as they moved
away, and then mounted the steps that led to the elegant
mansion. He rang the bell with a feeble pull,
which was speedily answered by a servant in livery,
who stared upon him with a supercilious expression,
and then demanded why he had not gone round to the
back door.

“Because I want to see your master,” said the
stranger, with a weak voice.

“Well,” replied the domestic, “go round to the back
door, and I will call him.”

The stranger walked slowly round the house, looking
up at the windows, as he went along the gravelled
walks, that made his weary steps more slow and painful.
Reaching the door designated, he sat down upon


Page 87
the step to await the approach of the proprietor of the
mansion. At last the servant appeared, and requested
the stranger to walk into the library. Mr. James
Pritchard was sitting at his table writing, as the man

“Is this Mr. Pritchard?” he asked.

“It is,” was the reply.

“You had a brother Henry, sir?” continued the

“I had,” replied Mr. Pritchard, with a sudden flush
upon his face. “Why do you ask?”

“Because, sir, I knew your brother in India, and was
with him in his last moments. He enjoined a promise
upon me, if ever I came to his native place, to call upon
his brothers, assuring me of a warm welcome. It is
many years ago, but I have not forgotten the promise.
Fortune has gone rather hard with me since, and I am
induced to ask your aid for my old friend's sake.”

“Indeed, my brother's friend, you have a strong
memory, to retain the matter so long.”

“I never can forget him; he was so generous. I
remember that he left his share of his father's patrimony
to your brother.”

“There your memory fails you,” said Mr. Pritchard,
with irony in his tone, rising at the same time, and
going to his secretary. “This, perhaps, may refresh
your memory,” unfolding a paper, “if you are the one
you represent yourself to be. The property is willed
to me.”

And there, in unmistakable tracery, was the name of
James Pritchard as the legatee of Henry Pritchard.
The stranger grew pale with emotion as he looked upon
the paper, while the leggatee watched his face with sharp


Page 88
inspection. Resuming his composure, he said, with a

“True, true, time plays sad freaks with our memory;
but is the other brother of my friend — is your brother

“Yes, he lives,” said Mr. Pritchard, with embarrassment;
“but an estrangement has grown up between us.
Family difficulties have led to non-intercourse, and we
rarely meet. But our conversation is growing irksome,
and, as I have pressing business, you will please excuse
me if I bid you good-evening. Take this for your
needs, and, as a reminder of painful things is what I
cannot bear, owing to a too sensitive nature, I beg you
will not call again.”

He placed a five-dollar bill in his visitor's hand,
and, calling a servant, directed him to show the stranger
to the door. The bill was quietly laid upon the corner
of the table, and an expression of pain was visible
upon the man's face as he left the door of the inhospitable
mansion. On leaving the house, he strolled
pensively along, apparently unheeding as to where
he was walking, when he entered the street where
the old Pritchard house stood in its decay, with
its low-browed windows, its heavy cornices, and its
immense stacks of chimneys. The stranger paused a
moment to look at it, and moved away in deep thought.
He turned a corner at the end of the street, and, in a
moment more, was at the house of Thomas Pritchard.
Knocking at the door, it was opened to him by the
charming Madeline, who ushered him into the parlor, as
he expressed the wish to see Mr. Pritchard, who was
not in, but was momently expected. The stranger's
humble and weary appearance won her sympathy, and
her kind voice bade him be seated till her father's


Page 89
return. She arranged for him the softest seat, and
showed such a solicitude to please him that he was
profuse in thanks for her kindness. At length Mr.
Pritchard returned, and was informed that the stranger
awaited him. Entering the parlor, he courteously
saluted him, when, rising to his feet, the stranger stood
in the broad light that broke in a flood from the west,
and held out his hand. Mr. Pritchard took it, and, looking
full in his face, with a disturbed air, asked him who
he was.

“Thomas Pritchard, don't you know me?” was the

The voice was a voice from the dead, — the voice
broke the gloom that hung over a remembrance of
thirty years, — the voice was a renewal of fraternal joy
in his breast,— and, with a cry of “Henry, my brother!”
he held the stranger to his heart.

The sound had attracted the fair Madeline and her
brother Henry into the room, who were made partakers
in the joy of the reünion. The mystery was explained.
He had been very ill in India, and, in the belief that he
was about to die, had made a will bequeathing his porttion
of his father's estate to his brother Thomas, whose
name, as he had just seen, had been erased, and that of his
elder brother substituted. The vessel to which he was
attached had sailed, leaving him, as it was supposed, to
die. Reviving soon afterwards, a rich native of the
country, attracted by his friendless condition, had taken
him to his own home, where he had been cared for with
the greatest tenderness, and his life saved by the most
unremitting attention. He at last so ingratiated himself
that the old man adopted him as his son, he taking
the name of his new father. His remembrance of home,
at first vivid and mingled with regretful feelings at


Page 90
leaving the spot he loved so well, became dimmed by
the lengthening absence. Communication between the
portion of the country where he was and his own land
was rare, and at last indifference gained complete mastery
over him, and he had devoted his energies to
business. He had married young. His wife and family
were living, and had come with him to the adjoining
town, where he had stopped on account of cheapness
of accommodation; for “you must judge, my brother,”
said he, pointing with a melancholy smile to his faded
garments, “that I am not quite equal to our aristocratic
brother, with whom I had an interview this morning.”

His kind brother assured him that he was most welcome
to such as he had, and asked a description of that
interview, which was given him. Thomas Pritchard
heard it with a downcast face, and when he raised it
there was a cloud upon it; but no word escaped him of
censure for one who had done him such wrong.

“And now that I have come to life again,” said
Henry Pritchard, in a lively tone, “I shall be the executor
of my own will, and adjust the slight mistake of a
name that has somehow occurred.”

“Not for the world,” said his brother; “let him have
it all, as he has got all the rest. I wish not to contend
with him for it.”

“Well, then, for the present let it remain as it is,”
said Henry; “and for the present let me remain the
stranger that I was an hour since, for a purpose of my
own. I will be your guest for a day or two.”

Madeline busied herself in preparing the evening
meal, and the Pritchard heirs spent a long hour at the
board, talking of old times and scenes, and the thousand
things that come up to interest those who have
been long separated.


Page 91

“And now, Thomas,” said Henry Pritchard, “I want
to get permission to visit the old house again. There
is a strange feeling in my mind with regard to it. I am
not superstitious; but, if ever a man was visited by a
denizen of the other world, our father has paid me a
visit. He came in a dream, and I thought he revealed
the old room to me where he died. Doing so, he
seemed to point to a closet which I do not remember to
have existed, but without a word of explanation he disappeared.
Three times the vision appeared to me, and
there was a troubled appearance upon the face that disturbed
me. It revived the interest in my home, and
the new desire that brought me here. How is this
entrance to be gained?”

“Our neighbor, Mr. Varney, will get permission for
me,” said his brother, “and you can accompany me.”

Mr. Varney was sent for, and our old fat friend came
soon after, waddling into the room. He started as he
saw the stranger with Mr. Pritchard, who placed his
fingers on his lips in token of silence. The desire to
visit the old house was stated, and Mr. Varney under-took
to procure the necessary leave in the name of
Thomas Pritchard. This he succeeded in doing the
next morning, and the three proceeded together to the
old pile, that had been deserted for many years.

The massive oaken door grated harshly on its hinges
as the brothers entered, and their footfalls and subdued
voices wakened strange echoes through the
rooms. It was with deep emotion they entered the
room where their father had died. Several articles yet
remained of what then filled it, and for a short time the
main object of visiting the place was forgotten in the
tender reminiscences of the past that were awakened.
An exclamation from Henry Pritchard at last attracted


Page 92
attention, and, pointing to a panel in the wainscot, he
said, in a whisper,

“The very spot the ghost revealed to me!”

An examination showed that the panel was a secret
door, secured to the floor by small hinges, and at the
top by a spring, which was hid in the deep moulding.
The rust of years prevented an immediate removal of
the panel, but after some little exertion it was done,
when a large amount of old papers was found, and in
a case by itself a paper, labelled “The Last Will and
Testament of Henry Pritchard.

As the paper was unrolled, the eye of Mr. Varney
fell upon the names of those who had witnessed the
will, and he shouted out, in a tone that made the old
house ring again,

“Found, at last! — found, at last! I told 'em there was
a will. Found, at last! `Witness, Simon Varney,' as
plain as your hand.”

The will was written in a clear and distinct manner,
and the tenor of it was, that the eldest son, James, having
been fitted for business, should enjoy his position in
the firm of Pritchard, Smead, & Raikes, and that the
property should be equally divided between the brothers,
Thomas and Henry Pritchard. The instrument
abounded with kind expressions for his children. It
was thought advisable to return the papers to their
hiding-place, and the panel was restored as before. No
sooner was this done than the door opened, and James
Pritchard entered. His brow was dark as night, and
the expression of his face cruelly forbidding, as he
looked upon the assembled group in the little low
parlor. He took no notice of his brother Thomas, but,
turning to the stranger, whom he recognized as his


Page 93
visitor of the day previous, he demanded, in an imperious

“By what right, sir, do you enter here without my

“By permission of Mr. Pritchard, sir,” was the
stranger's reply, in a humble tone.

“And by what right has he permitted you?” cried
the imperious man, with increasing violence.

“By my right as one of my father's heirs,” said
Thomas Pritchard, in a voice firm and distinct, as though
the occasion had given him new powers.

“Then leave, all of you,” said he; “for the house is

“James Pritchard,” said Thomas, with a firmness
of tone that was unusual, “you are yourself an intruder
here, and remain but by our sufferance. Our father
made a will, deeding his property to myself and our
youngest brother. That brother lives.”

James Pritchard laughed scornfully, and his laugh
sounded fearfully in the old house.

“It is too late a day,” said he, “for such an assertion,
and assertion is not proof.”

He stamped his foot as he spoke, and the panel, but
feebly secured, fell with a loud sound at his feet, revealing
the secret closet.

“Our father speaks to you, James Pritchard, from the
tomb,” said Thomas Pritchard, holding the will towards
him, “and affirms my truth; and here, by your side, is
one from the grave to claim his right. It is our
brother Henry.”

The color fled from the haughty man's cheeks, as
though a ghost had, indeed, risen and was standing
before him. He clutched at the air, as if to seize something
with which to support himself, and gazed upon


Page 94
the stranger with an eye in which hatred and fear
seemed combined.

“I deny his identity!” at length he found voice to
say. “I deny his identity, — he is an impostor! I have
twenty witnesses of my brother's death. Your credulity
has been deceived. The will is a fabrication.”

“I was one of the witnesses, myself,” said Mr. Varney,
as though this were the greatest event in his life;
“no cheat, sir! See there, `Witness, Simon Varney.'”

James Pritchard left the house, saying, as he left,

“I deny the will, and deny the scheme trumped up
by a fool and an impostor to deprive me of my right.”

The younger brothers held a brief conference as
to what course to pursue. To establish their claim
would require money, of which they had apparently
none at command, while the one who was to contest it
with them had abundant means. In this strait they
appealed to Mr. Varney, who, after revolving the
matter for some time, gave it as his opinion that the
one who had proposed to buy the property the day or
two before would advance money to aid their cause,
through hope of obtaining it. He said this with a significant
glance at Henry Pritchard, who nodded in
reply; and Mr. Varney was left to consult with the
stranger, when he should see him. The next morning
Mr. Varney informed the brothers that the stranger
would advance them money to any amount, through
him, though desirous of remaining unknown in the
matter. This seemed to remove one difficulty from
the path, and, having retained eminent counsel, the
cause was submitted entirely to his hands. The town
became interested in the affair, and public opinion
divided upon the question, a large party siding with
James Pritchard; but the will was too well authenticated


Page 95
to admit of doubt, although the second brother
had long since sold his right in the property unconditionally
to the elder, which shut him out from his
interest in the will, and the denial of the identity of the
younger seemed hard to prove, which rendered the case
apparently a safe one for the possessor of the property.
But there were those engaged in the cause, backed by
the wealth which came from the invisible friend of the
Pritchard heirs, who met the fierce contestant of their
father's will with a powerful force. Evidence was introduced
to prove the death of the young Pritchard in India,
— the one who had brought the will, — and the probability
of his decease argued from after circumstances.
On the other side, the cause was left to the evidence of
personal resemblance to the deceased, attested by old
people who remembered the elder Pritchard, and by the
memory of his brother Thomas. After great difficulty,
and the occupancy of months of time, the case was
decided in favor of the Pritchard heirs. This decision
was made at the close of a fine day, and Thomas Pritchard,
sad at his success, went home with a clouded brow
and a weary heart. Henry Pritchard had gone to
inform his family of the result.

Since his return he had acted very mysteriously with
regard to his family. To the repeated invitations to
bring them to his brother's house, he had invariably
replied that they were very well where they were, and
from his evasion it had appeared that he was desirous
they should remain in present obscurity.

Thomas Pritchard was received by his children with
affectionate regard, and they learned from his lips the
intelligence of his success. He sat down in his arm-chair,
and leaned his head upon his hand, with the air of
a man who had been defeated. A knock at the door


Page 96
aroused him, and in a moment more James Pritchard
stood before him. His surprise was great. Neither
spoke for a minute; at last, motioning to a chair,
Thomas Pritchard asked his visitor to be seated.

“Not,” said he, in a manner far different from that
which he usually employed, “till I am assured, by my
brother's forgiveness of unbrotherly wrong, that I am
welcome. Thomas, we have long been estranged. I
have deeply wronged you; and during this vexed trial
I have thought of that wrong. My father's spirit has
struggled with me, and my stubborn heart has yielded.
I had, before the decision, resolved to make reparation,
and have now come to express that determination, and
to beg your forgiveness, and that of my disowned
younger brother.”

Thomas Pritchard had risen to his feet as his brother
was speaking, and before he had concluded he had
grasped the hand held towards him, and pressed it to
his heart with a fervent embrace.

“And you have my most hearty forgiveness, James,”
he cried, shaking the hand warmly. “This moment is
worth more to me than all the wealth of India. I have
never been estranged from you; my feelings have been
true to you, with a conviction that you would some day
come back to brotherly allegiance. James, you are
welcome. I wish Henry were here to share my joy.”

The door opened as he spoke, and Henry Pritchard
entered, accompanied by Mr. Varney, whose delight in
the success of the heirs was great, in the importance
that the witnessing of the will had given him. A blank
expression fell on his jolly features, as he saw in whose
presence he stood, while Henry Pritchard, with no
further notice than a glance, passed to the other side of
the room. James Pritchard left the spot where he was


Page 97
standing, and crossed over gently to where his younger
brother was gazing upon the picture of his father upon
the wall.

“Henry Pritchard,” he said, laying his finger upon
his brother's shoulder, “your elder brother asks your
forgiveness. He disowned you from a mistaken belief,
and is willing to repair, as far as possible, the injury he
has done, by restoring, without further contest, the
property he has held so long, — unjustly, dishonestly

Henry Pritchard turned and looked upon his brother's
face. Its expression assured him, and, seizing his
hand, he shook it warmly. It was enough. The Pritchard
brothers were at peace!

Mr. Varney coughed and fidgeted to attract attention;
at last, when wearied with trying, he spoke, —

“I 've come for you to go with me and see the benefactor
who has befriended you, in his own house. He 's
sent his coach for you.”

The heirs at once obeyed the summons, and invited
their elder brother to accompany them, which he assented
to, and, getting into the coach together, they
drove away. Through the main street of the town they
passed, towards the suburbs, and, after riding about
ten miles, they arrived at a splendid mansion-house,
embowered in trees, and everything about it denoting
affluence and taste. The coach stopped, and the party
alighted. They were met at the door by a lady of
about forty years of age, in whose complexion the
effect of an ardent sun was visible, who, in elegant
terms, bade them welcome, ushering them into a parlor,
richly but neatly furnished. She told them her husband,
General de Main, would welcome them presently.
In a few moments the door opened, and Henry Pritchard


Page 98
stood before them, and was introduced to the
astounded brothers as “General de Main,” the proprietor
of the mansion in which they then were. They
had not missed him from their side, and the surprise
was complete. He smiled at the puzzled expression
they wore, while Mr. Varney chuckled and rubbed his
hands gleefully, as if the matter was nothing new to
him, and he was aching to tell all he knew about it.

“I am here,” said their host, “in four capacities: as
the East Indian General de Main, Henry Pritchard, the
unknown benefactor of the Pritchard heirs, and your
host, — in all of which I shall endeavor to do my duty;
and this, my sweet wife, shall make up for my deficiencies.”
He touched a bell, and folding doors unclosing,
disclosed a rich banquet, spread for a large party; and
there assembled were the family of their host, — the
oldest, a young man of about twenty-two, and four
young ladies, of ages varying from sixteen to six years,
— as beautiful as their mother, and as vivacious as they
were beautiful. And there, among them all, to the
astonishment of Thomas Pritchard, were the sweet Madeline
and his son Henry, who, through the good Mr.
Varney, had been brought there before them, he
having transformed himself into an ancient Ariel to
bring about results on which his heart was set. He
looked upon the scene with tears in his eyes, and his
great sides shook at the fun of the thing.

The party welcomed the guests, and James Pritchard,
though his heart smote him for what he had done,
experienced a pleasure he had not known for years, —
the first return for sincere repentance. He was cordially
welcomed by his brother, and every attention
shown him that could make him at ease; and Thomas


Page 99
Pritchard, in his new-found joy, made all happy by the
magnetism of his presence.

“And how could you so hide yourself from us?”
asked Thomas of his brother Henry.

“Through the aid of my father's old friend, Varney,
whom I remembered. I sought him, and through
him learned all of our family affairs, and proposed the
purchase of the old house. Then I visited you in the
dark, the night before I disclosed myself to you; and
the idea suddenly occurred to me to preserve my incognito.
My friend Varney assisted me in it all, and
through his aid, in spending my money, I am located
here, where I shall remain for a season.”

Mr. Varney smiled blandly with new importance,
and smoothed the napkin upon his lap with nervous

The party sat long, and separated with the promise
of renewed affection, which promise was fully redeemed.
The Pritchard estate was settled; how, the world knew
not, and Mr. Varney, who knew all about it, would n't
tell; but things remained relatively with the brothers
as before, with the exception that Thomas Pritchard's
house was enlarged, and more beautiful pictures graced
the walls, and more books swelled the library, in which
he took delight; and neater and more roomy grounds
appeared about the house, in which the fair face of
Madeline was often seen of mornings in the summer
time, bending over the blossoms less bright than the
glow upon her cheek. And the blush was brighter
when young Frank de Main pressed her hand and whispered
into her ear tender words, not unwillingly
heard. The families mingled, although the haughty
wife and daughters of James Pritchard reluctantly consented


Page 100
to associate with those they had despised; but
the General and his wealth reconciled all difficulties,
and even the humble Thomas, reflecting the glitter,
became a visitable brother. It was a moment of mortification
when the daughters and son discovered in their
India uncle the one they had feared as a robber; but
they were of the class that are willing to be forgiven,
and forgot it, as their uncle seemingly did.

There was a grand family party, the next year, at the
house of Thomas Pritchard, on the occasion of the marriage
of Frank de Main Pritchard and the charming
Madeline; and the papers of the day, which we have
consulted, bear testimony to the gallantry of the groom
and the beauty of the bride, of which we have no
doubt. The superb set of diamonds, given her by
James Pritchard, was scarcely less beautiful than the
costly products of the India looms with which she was
presented by her husband's mother. But neither gift
was so precious to her heart as was the blessing of her
father, as he placed his hand upon her head and invoked
upon her the richest of heaven's bounty for her dutiful
regard, and kissed her brow as the amen to the prayer.
The amen was echoed by Mr. Varney, who took her in
his arms, and kissed her vehemently, much to the disgust
of the fashionable portion of the family, who looked
with aversion, as they had at a time previously, on the
horrid fat man. Mr. Varney did n't know what they
thought, and did n't care. He was as happy as though
he had been made the possessor of all the Indies, and
acted accordingly. Some thought it was the wine, in
which he pledged the bride's health eleven times. The
last act of folly which he committed was to punch the
aristocratic James Pritchard in the ribs, in a great style


Page 101
of familiarity, which that gentleman overlooked in the
hilarity of the occasion.

The old house was torn down, soon after, by general
consent, and a fine block of stores was raised upon its
site, that long was regarded an ornament to the part
of the city where it was located, and even now, though
some thirty years have transpired, is looked at with
pride by the older merchants.

If the reader see no other moral in this story than
the simple struggle for money that forms its basis, then
the writer will feel that his real effort has been overlooked,
and that his work has been in vain. But he
hopes its true meaning will have been observed, and in
this hope he leaves in their hands the story of the
Pritchard Heirs.