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The Last Will And Testament.–The House Of Weeping
by [?]

From Jean Paul Frederick Richter.

Since the day when the town of Haslau first became the seat of a Court, no man could remember that any one event in its annals (always excepting the birth of the hereditary prince) had been looked for with so anxious a curiosity as the opening of the last will and testament left by Van der Kabel. This Van der Kabel may be styled the Haslau Croesus; and his whole life might be termed, according to the pleasure of the wits, one long festival of god-sends, or a daily washing of golden sands nightly impregnated by golden showers of Danae. Seven distant surviving relatives of seven distant relatives deceased of the said Van der Kabel, entertained some little hopes of a place amongst his legatees, grounded upon an assurance which he had made, ‘that upon his oath he would not fail to remember them in his will.’ These hopes, however, were but faint and weakly; for they could not repose any extraordinary confidence in his good faith–not only because in all cases he conducted his affairs in a disinterested spirit, and with a perverse obstinacy of moral principle, whereas his seven relatives were mere novices, and young beginners in the trade of morality,–but also because, in all these moral extravagances of his (so distressing to the feelings of the sincere rascal), he thought proper to be very satirical, and had his heart so full of odd caprices, tricks, and snares for unsuspicious scoundrels, that (as they all said) no man who was but raw in the art of virtue could deal with him, or place any reliance upon his intentions. Indeed the covert laughter which played about his temples, and the falsetto tones of his sneering voice, somewhat weakened the advantageous impression which was made by the noble composition of his face, and by a pair of large hands, from which were daily dropping favours little and great–benefit nights, Christmas-boxes and New-Year’s gifts; for this reason it was that, by the whole flock of birds who sought shelter in his boughs, and who fed and built their nests on him, as on any wild service-tree, he was, notwithstanding, reputed a secret magazine of springes; and they were scarce able to find eyes for the visible berries which fed them, in their scrutiny after the supposed gossamer snares.

In the interval between two apoplectic fits he had drawn up his will, and had deposited it with the magistrate. When he was just at the point of death he transferred to the seven presumptive heirs the certificate of this deposit; and even then said, in his old tone–how far it was from his expectation, that by any such anticipation of his approaching decease, he could at all depress the spirits of men so steady and sedate, whom, for his own part, he would much rather regard in the light of laughing than of weeping heirs; to which remark one only of the whole number, namely, Mr. Harprecht, inspector of police, replied as a cool ironist to a bitter one–‘that the total amount of concern and of interest, which might severally belong to them in such a loss, was not (they were sincerely sorry it was not) in their power to determine.’

At length the time is come when the seven heirs have made their appearance at the town-hall, with their certificate–of deposit; videlicet, the ecclesiastical councillor Glantz; Harprecht, the inspector of police; Neupeter, the court-agent; the court-fiscal, Knoll; Pasvogel, the bookseller; the reader of the morning lecture, Flacks; and Monsieur Flitte, from Alsace. Solemnly, and in due form, they demanded of the magistrate the schedule of effects consigned to him by the late Kabel, and the opening of his will. The principal executor of this will was Mr Mayor himself; the sub-executors were the rest of the town-council. Thereupon, without delay, the schedule and the will were fetched from the register office of the council to the council chamber: both were exhibited in rotation to the members of the council and the heirs, in order that they might see the privy seal of the town impressed upon them: the registry of consignment, indorsed upon the schedule, was read aloud to the seven heirs by the town-clerk: and by that registry it was notified to them, that the deceased had actually consigned the schedule to the magistrate, and entrusted it to the corporation-chest; and that on the day of consignment he was still of sound mind: finally, the seven seals, which he had himself affixed to the instrument, were found unbroken. These preliminaries gone through, it was now (but not until a brief registry of all these forms had been drawn up by the town-clerk) lawful, in God’s name, that the will should be opened and read aloud by Mr Mayor, word for word as follows:–