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The Heir [from The men who succeed]
by [?]

Mr. Trevor Pilkington, of the well-known firm of Trevor Pilkington, fixed his horn spectacles carefully upon his nose, took a pinch of snuff, sneezed twice, gave his papers a preliminary rustle, looked slowly round the crowded room, and began to read the will. Through forty years of will-reading his method of procedure had always been the same. But Jack Summers, who was sharing an ottoman with two of the outdoor servants, thought that Mr. Pilkington’s mannerisms were designed specially to annoy him, and he could scarcely control his impatience.

Yet no one ever had less to hope from the reading of a will than Jack. For the first twenty years of his life his parents had brought him up to believe that his cousin Cecil was heir to his Uncle Alfred’s enormous fortune, and for the subsequent ten years his cousin Cecil had brought his Uncle Alfred up in the same belief. Indeed, Cecil had even roughed out one or two wills for signature, and had offered to help his uncle–who, however, preferred to do these things by himself–to hold the pen. Jack could not help feeling glad that his cousin was not there to parade his approaching triumph; a nasty cold, caught a week previously in attending his uncle to the Lord Mayor’s Show, having kept Cecil in bed.

“To the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, ten shillings and sixpence”–the words came to him in a meaningless drone–“to the Fresh Air Fund, ten shillings and sixpence; to the King Edward Hospital Fund, ten shillings and sixpence”–was all the money going in charities?–“to my nephew Cecil Linley, who has taken such care of me”–Mr. Pilkington hesitated–“four shillings and ninepence; to my nephew, John Summers, whom, thank Heaven, I have never seen, five million pounds—-“

A long whistle of astonishment came from the ottoman. The solicitor looked up with a frown.

“It’s the surprise,” apologised Jack. “I hardly expected so much. I thought that that brute–I mean I thought my cousin Cecil had nobbled–that is to say, was getting it all.”

“The late Mr. Alfred made three wills,” said the lawyer in a moment of expansion. “In the first he left his nephew Cecil a legacy of one shilling and tenpence, in the second he bequeathed him a sum of three shillings and twopence, and in the last he set aside the amount of four shillings and ninepence. The evidence seems to show that your cousin was rapidly rising in his uncle’s estimation. You, on the other hand, have always been a legatee to the amount of five million pounds; but in the last will there is a trifling condition attached.” He resumed his papers. “To my nephew, John Summers, five million pounds, on condition that, within one year from the date of my death, he marries Mary Huggins, the daughter of my old friend, now deceased, William Huggins.”

Jack Summers rose proudly from his end of the ottoman.

“Thanks,” he said curtly. “That tears it. It’s very kind of the old gentleman, but I prefer to choose a wife for myself.” He bowed to the company and strode from the room.

. . . . .

It was a cloudless August day. In the shadow of the great elms that fringed the Sussex lane a girl sat musing; on its side in the grass at her feet a bicycle, its back wheel deflated. She sat on the grassy bank with her hat in her lap, quite content to wait until the first passer-by with a repairing outfit in his pocket should offer to help her.

“Can I be of any assistance?” said a manly voice, suddenly waking her from her reverie.

She turned with a start. The owner of the voice was dressed in a stylish knickerbocker suit; his eyes were blue, his face was tanned, his hair was curly, and he was at least six foot tall. So much she noticed at a glance.