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guarded and distrustful. When they offered their smirking congratulations on so vast an accession of wealth, he answered never a word. When they offered their whimpering condolences on the loss of his much-respected relative, he was equally silent. And, while he despised their hypocrisy, and mistrusted their servility, they probably decided within themselves that the rising young barrister, whose phrases had a marketable value, had already acquired a habit of economising his words.
They did, however, begin to suspect that he was not without his share in the oddities of Wraysbury nature, when, in the midst of their explanation of the steps they had been forced to take in consequence of his inexplicable inattention to their letters, they saw him snatch a candle from the table, and hold it high aloft for the better contemplation of an old-fashioned family picture, which they had passed over unregarded, as long as they could remember; but which the newly-inheriting heir was already
examining with the interest due to the key-stone of his fortunes.
It afforded him no small comfort that his benefactor had been laid in the grave previous to his arrival. Mr. Wraysbury's will having contained explicit instructions as to the spot and manner of his interment, which he desired should take place within four days of his decease, his solicitors had complied with his injunctions. John Woolston was consequently relieved from that painful sense of the presence of death, which rebukes all worldly solicitudes; and there was nothing to obstruct his scrutiny of the strange, unsightly old premises, the dirt and discomfort of which were so unaccountably at variance with the overflowing riches of the man for whom parsimony appeared to have constituted a luxury in itself.
While Messieurs Wortham and Stock were negociating with the banking firm in which Adam Wraysbury had been for years a sleeping partner, the tens of thousands indispensable to
enable his heir to appropriate to himself his hundreds of thousands, Woolston gave his whole attention to the papers and personalty of the deceased.
It was clear that, till within a few years of his end, Adam Wraysbury had contemplated matrimony; or, at all events, a settlement in life accordant with his splendid income. With house-agents and land-agents, he had commenced a series of treaties for a more suitable residence; usually breaking off at the last moment negociations which regarded the investment of some enormous sum, on a quibble or dispute for a few hundreds. In the midst of his household discomfort, too, the old man had amassed materials for a mode of existence almost epicurean. A princely service of plate lay tarnished in his cellars. Warrants for bonded hogsheads of the most costly wines, lay dusty in his bureau. Webs of Gobelin tapestry, and Aubusson carpets were piled, moth-eaten and mouldy, in his lumber-rooms; and articles of fur
niture of the most luxurious nature were scattered about in dim and mildewed attics, waiting a more appropriate domicile. Here and there, some fine statue, neglected and forgotten on its pedestal, had been appropriated by low-conditioned servants as a clothes-horse, or drying post; while pictures which had cost thousands to the penurious old man, who grudged not the purchase, because, aware that he could at any moment sell them again at a high premium, he regarded them simply as an investment, were turned with their faces to the wall, to secure them from dust in an atmosphere that corroded the very canvas. And now, the master's eye, which had never revelled in their beauties, was closed for ever; and John Woolston, as he gazed on the mouldy and rat-gnawn frames, felt for the first time sensitively alive to the Scriptural injunction against laying up treasures that moth and rust do corrupt.
But the closer his insight into the magnitude of his inheritance, the greater his wonder that his father so money-loving as to have banished his only son for an improvident marriage, should have neglected the fountain-head of such a Pactolus. Adam Wraysbury's constant announcement of matrimonial intentions, and his proximity to an extensive family of equally mercenary nephews and nieces, had probably blinded Sir Harry to future contingencies ; or, more probably still, the offence given to the old merchant had been risked at a period of life when human clay has not altogether degenerated into mud, and the rank weeds of our vices and degenerations have not enrooted themselves inextricably in the soil. When the shabby old Sir Harry who succeeded to Sir Harry the jolly fox-hunter, began to perceive that ingots were ingots, even if amassed in a Liverpool countinghouse, it was too late. He had lost that “tide in the affairs of man, which, taken at the flood,” &c., &c., &c.