Read CHAPTER V. of Mona, free online book, by Mrs. Georgie Sheldon, on ReadCentral.com.

MONA’S APPALLING DISCOVERY.

Mona Montague was very happy throughout that memorable evening as she sat beside Ray Palmer, and listened to the opera of “Il Trovatore.”

The four young people occupied a proscenium box, and made a very interesting group.  Many a glass was turned upon them, many an eye studied their bright, animated faces, and found the sight almost as entertaining as the scene being enacted upon the stage.

To Ray Palmer’s partial eye the fair girl beside him was the most beautiful object in the world, for he loved her with all his heart, and he made up his mind to win her if it were possible.

When the opera was over, the quartet repaired to a fashionable cafe, where they had a delicious little supper, and spent another happy half-hour discussing the merits of “Il Trovatore”; then they separated to go to their homes.

“You have given me great pleasure this evening, Miss Montague,” Ray Palmer remarked, as he lingered for a moment beside her at the door of Mr. Dinsmore’s residence, and loath to bid her good-night.

“Then I am sure the pleasure has been mutual, Mr. Palmer, for I have enjoyed myself exceedingly,” Mona replied, as she lifted her flushed and smiling face to him.

“You are very kind to give me that assurance,” he returned, “and you embolden me to crave another favor.  May I have your permission to call upon you occasionally?”

“I am only very happy to grant it; pray consider yourself welcome at any time,” Mona answered, cordially, but dropping her eyes beneath his earnest look.

“Thank you; I shall gladly avail myself of your kindness,” the young man gratefully responded; and then, with a lingering clasp of the hand, he bade her good-night and ran lightly down the steps.

With a rapidly beating heart and throbbing pulses, Mona softly let herself in with a latch-key, turned out the hall gas, which had been left burning dimly for her, and started to mount the stairs, when she espied a gleam of light shining beneath the library door.

“Why!  Uncle Walter has not gone to bed yet!  Can it be that he is sitting up for me?” she murmured.  “I will go and tell him that I have come in, and get my good-night kiss.”

She turned back and went quietly down the hall, and tapped lightly at the door.  Receiving no response, she opened it, and passed into the room.

The gas was burning brightly, and Mr. Dinsmore was sitting before his desk, but reclining in his chair, his head thrown back against the soft, bright head-rest, the work of Mona’s skillful fingers.

“He has fallen asleep,” said the fair girl, as she went to his side and laid her hand gently upon his shoulder.

“Uncle Walter,” she called, “why did you sit up for me?  Wake up now and go to bed, or you will be having one of your dreadful headaches to-morrow.”

But the man did not make or show any signs of having heard her.

He was breathing heavily, and Mona now noticed that his face was unnaturally flushed, and that the veins upon his temples were knotted and swollen.

A startled look swept over her face, and she grew white with a sudden fear.

“Uncle Walter!” she cried out, sharply, and trying to arouse him; “speak to me!  Oh! there is something dreadful the matter with him; he is ill-he is unconscious!”

With a wild cry and sob of fear and anguish, she turned and sped with flying feet from the room.

A moment later she was knocking vigorously at the door of the serving-man’s room, begging him to “get up at once and go for Doctor Hammond, for Mr. Dinsmore was very ill.”

Having aroused James, she called the other servants, and then flew back to her idolized uncle.

There was no change in him; he sat and breathed just the same.  Instinctively feeling that something ought to be done immediately for his relief, with trembling fingers she loosened his neck-tie, unbuttoned his collar, then drenching her handkerchief with water from an ice pitcher, she began to bathe his flushed and knotted forehead.

She imagined that this afforded him some relief, and that his breathing was not quite so labored, but his condition drove her nearly frantic with fear and anxiety.

James was very expeditious in his movements, and in less than half an hour returned with the family physician.

“Oh, Doctor Hammond, what is the matter with him?” Mona cried, with a sinking heart, as she saw the grave expression that settled over the doctor’s face the moment he reached his patient’s side.

“An apoplectic attack,” he replied, thinking it best that she should know the truth, and so be somewhat prepared for what he feared must soon come.

The unconscious man was borne to his chamber, and everything which human skill could devise was done for him.  He rallied somewhat toward morning, but Doctor Hammond gave them no hope that he would ever be any better, or even retain his consciousness for any length of time.

The whole of his right side was helpless, and his tongue was also paralyzed, so that he was entirely speechless.

His efforts to talk were agonizing to witness, for he appeared to realize that his hours were numbered, and seemed to have something special on his mind that he wished to make those around him understand.

Mona alone, who never left his side, seemed able to interpret something of his meaning, and she asked him question after question trying to learn his desire; but he could only slowly move his head to signify that she did not yet understand.

“Oh, what shall I do?” she moaned, in despair; then a bright thought flashed upon her.  “Is there some one whom you wish to see, Uncle Walter?” she asked.

His eyes lighted, and a faint nod of the head told her that she had got hold of the right thread at last.

“Who is it?” she said, eagerly; then remembering his helplessness, she added:  “I will say over the letters of the alphabet, and when I reach the right one you must press my hand.”

This method proved more successful, and Mona finally spelled out the name of Graves.

“Graves-Graves,” she repeated, with a puzzled look; then she cried, her face lighting:  “Oh, it is Mr. Graves, your lawyer, whom you want.”

Again the sufferer nodded, and weakly pushed her from him with his left hand to show that he wanted her to be quick about summoning the man.

In less than an hour Mr. Graves was in the sick-room, and by signs and questions and Mona’s use of the alphabet, he finally comprehended that Mr. Dinsmore wished him to draw up a will for him, leaving everything he had to Mona.

While the lawyer was thus engaged in the library, the invalid tried to make Mona understand that there was something else he wished to tell her, and she spelled out the word “mirror.”

“Oh, you want me to remember my promise never to part with it-is that it, Uncle?” she asked.

“No,” he signaled, and looked so distressed that the much-tried girl sobbed outright.  But she quickly controlled her grief, and finally spelled the word “bring,” though her heart almost failed her as she realized that his left hand was fast becoming helpless like the other so that she could scarcely distinguish any pressure when she named a letter.

But she flew to her room and brought the royal mirror to him, and he tried to make her understand that there was something he wished to explain in connection with it.

We who have learned the secret of it, know what he wanted, but he could not even lift his nerveless hand to show her the gilded point beneath which lay the spring that controlled the hidden drawer and its contents.

Mona asked him question after question, but all that she could elicit were sighs, while great tears welled up into the man’s eyes and rolled over his cheeks; and when at last a groan of agony burst from him, she could bear it no longer, and went weeping from the room, bearing the ancient relic from his sight.

She remained in her own room a few moments to compose herself before going back to him, and during her absence, Mr. Graves went up to him with the will which he had hastily drafted.

Mr. Dinsmore had had some conversation with him, in a general way, about the matter previous to this, and so he had drawn up the instrument to cover every point that he could think of.  He read it aloud, and Mr. Dinsmore signified his satisfaction with it, and yet he looked troubled, as if it did not quite cover all that he desired.

Doctor Hammond and the housekeeper were summoned to act as witnesses; then Mr. Graves placed the pen, filled with ink, within the sick man’s fingers, for him to sign the will.  But he could not hold it-there was no strength, no power in them.

In vain they clasped them around it, and urged him to “try;” but they instantly fell away, the pen dropped upon the snowy counterpane making a great, unsightly blotch of ink, and they knew that he was past putting his signature, or even his mark, to the will.

As he himself realized this, a shrill cry of despair burst from him, and the next instant he lapsed into unconsciousness from a second stroke.

“The end has come-he will not live an hour,” gravely remarked Doctor Hammond, as his skilled fingers sought the dying man’s feeble pulse.

In half that time Walter Dinsmore was dead, and Mona Montague was alone in the world.

We will pass over the next few days, with their mournful incidents and the despairing grief of the beautiful girl, who had been so sadly bereft, to the morning after the funeral ceremonies, when Mr. Graves, with Mr. Dinsmore’s unsigned will in his pocket, called to consult with Mona regarding her uncle’s affairs and her own plans for the future.

He found her in the library, looking sad and heavy-eyed from almost incessant weeping, her manner languid and drooping.

She was engaged in trying to make up some accounts which the housekeeper had requested her to attend to, hoping thus to distract her mind somewhat from her grief.

She burst into tears as the lawyer kindly took her hand, for the sight of him brought back to her so vividly the harrowing scenes of that last day of her idolized uncle’s life.

But she strove to control herself after a moment, and invited the gentleman to be seated, when he immediately broached the subject of his call.

“Perhaps you are aware, Miss Montague,” he began, “that Mr. Dinsmore, on the morning of his death, tried to make his will, in which he stated his wish to leave you all his property; but he was unable to sign it; consequently the document cannot stand, according to law.  I was somewhat surprised,” Mr. Graves continued, looking thoughtful, “at his excessive anxiety and distress regarding the matter, as he had previously given me to understand that you were his only living relative.  Still he might only have wished to make assurance doubly sure.  Do you know of any heirs beside yourself?”

“No,” Mona answered, “he had no relatives as near to him as I. There are, I believe, one or two distant cousins residing somewhere in the South.”

“Then you are of course the sole heir, and will have the whole of his handsome fortune-the will would only have been a matter of form.  Mr. Dinsmore was a very rich man, Miss Montague, and I congratulate you upon being the heiress to a large fortune,” the lawyer continued, with hearty sincerity in his tone.

But Mona looked, up at him with streaming eyes.

“Oh! but I would rather have my uncle back than all the wealth of the world!” she cried, with quivering lips.

“True.  I know that your loss is irreparable-one that no amount of money can make up to you,” was the kind and sympathetic response.  Then the man returned to business again, “But-do you mind telling me your age, Miss Montague?”

“I was eighteen the day before my uncle died,” the stricken girl replied, with a keen heart-pang, as she recalled that eventful day.

“You are very young to have care of so much property,” said the lawyer, gravely.  “What would be your wish as to the management of it?  You ought really to have a guardian for the next few years.  If you will designate some one whom you would wish, and could trust to act as such, I will gladly assist in putting Mr. Dinsmore’s affair in convenient shape for him.”

“You are very good, Mr. Graves,” Mona thoughtfully returned.  Then she added, wistfully:  “Why cannot you act as my guardian?  I know of no one in whom I have so much confidence.  Uncle Walter trusted you, and surely there can be no one who understands his affairs as well as you do.”

The man’s face lighted at this evidence of her trust in him.

“Thank you, Miss Mona,” he said.  “It is of course gratifying to me to know that you desire this, and I really think that Mr. Dinsmore would have suggested such an arrangement had he been able to do so; but of course I felt delicate about proposing it.  Walter Dinsmore was a dear and valued friend, as well as my client, and, believe me, I feel a deep interest in you, for his sake, as well as your own.  I will accept the trust, and do the best I can for you, my child, thanking you again heartily for your confidence in me.”

He spent a long time, after that, talking over business matters and looking over some of Mr. Dinsmore’s papers, and when at length he took his leave, Mona was really greatly comforted, and felt that she had found a true friend to rely upon in her loneliness.