"DAD, it's nearly two o'clock now. Mr. Crowley's relatives should be here in a few minutes! I'm so excited!"
Carson Drew, who stood in the living room of the Drew home with Mr. Warren from the bank, smiled at his daughter as she fluttered about, arranging chairs.
"I believe you're more thrilled than if you were inheriting the fortune yourself," he remarked.
"I am thrilled," Nancy admitted. "I can scarcely wait until the will is read aloud. Won't everyone be surprised? Especially the Tophams. Do you think they will come?"
"Oh, yes, the Tophams will be here. And, unless I am mistaken, they will bring a lawyer with them. Just as soon as they learned that another will had come to light, they began to worry. They will certainly want to hear what is in this one."
"Are you certain the will we found can't be broken?" Nancy inquired anxiously.
"Of course I can't be certain, Nancy. But I have gone over it carefully, and so far as I can tell, it is technically perfect. I also asked a couple of lawyer friends and they agree. Josiah Crowley was peculiar in some ways, but he was a very smart man. I'll promise you the Tophams will have a difficult time if they try to contest this will."
"The bank will help you fight," Mr. Warren put in.
With the exception of Abby Rowen, who was still confined to bed, all the old gentleman's relatives had promised to be present. Grace and Allison Hoover, although not relatives, had also been invited.
"It's too bad Mrs. Rowen can't come," said Nancy. "But I'll take the news to her this very afternoon."
"The size of the fortune will probably be a great surprise to everyone but the Tophams," said her father with a smile. "Nancy, you did a remarkable piece of detective work."
"It was fun," she said modestly. "And I can hardly wait to have it all cleared up."
"We may have some trying minutes with the Tophams, Nancy," her father warned.
"Yes, I suppose so. I expect anybody would be sorry to see a fortune slip away. . . . Dad, I see Grace and Allison coming up the walk now," Nancy announced, glancing out the window.
She greeted them with kisses and escorted the sisters into the living room, where she introduced them to Mr. Warren. As Allison sat down, she whispered to Nancy:
"Is it true a later will has been found?"
"You and Grace have no cause to worry," Nancy assured her with a mysterious smile.
The doorbell rang. This time Nancy admitted Edna and Mary Turner, who were dressed as if for a party. With them was little Judy, who threw herself into Nancy's arms. A few minutes later the Mathews brothers, William and Fred, arrived.
"I guess everyone is here except the Tophams," Mr. Drew commented. "We had better wait for them a few minutes."
There was no need to wait, for at that moment the bell rang sharply. Nancy opened the door and the four members of the Topham family walked in haughtily, merely nodding to the others in the room. As Mr. Drew had predicted, they were accompanied by a lawyer.
"Why have we been called here?" Mrs. Topham demanded, addressing Mr. Drew. "Have you the audacity to claim that another will has been found?"
"I have a will written only this past March, Mrs. Topham," Carson Drew replied evenly. "And I'd like to introduce to all of you Mr. John Warren, trust officer of the Merchants Trust Company, of Masonville, which has been named as executor."
"It's preposterous!" Mrs. Topham stormed. "Josiah Crowley made only one will and in that he left everything to us with my husband as executor."
"It looks like a conspiracy to me," Ada added tartly, as she gazed coldly upon the relatives and friends who were seated about the room.
Isabel did not speak, but tossed her head contemptuously. Richard Topham likewise did not offer a comment, but uneasily seated himself beside his own attorney.
"If you will please be seated, Mrs. Topham, I will read the will," Mr. Drew suggested.
Reluctantly Mrs. Topham sat down.
"As I have said," Mr. Drew began, "a recent will of the late Josiah Crowley was found in a safe-deposit box in the Masonville bank. The will is unusually long, and with your permission I will read from a typed copy only the portions which have to do with the disposal of the property. But first I want to ask Mr. Topham what value he puts on the estate."
"A hundred thousand after taxes," the man replied.
"Oh!" the Turners exclaimed, and Mary said, "I had no idea Josiah had that much money."
"Nor I," Edna agreed.
Mr. Drew picked up several typewritten sheets from the table, and began to read in a clear voice:
" 'I, Josiah Crowley, do make this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time made. I give and bequeath all my property, real and personal, as follows:
" 'To my beloved friends and neighbors, Grace and Allison Hoover, a sum equal to twenty per cent of my estate, share and share alike.' "
"I must be dreaming!" Grace gasped.
"You mean I'm going to get ten thousand dollars?" Allison cried out. She burst into tears. "Oh, Nancy, you did this for me! Now I can have my voice lessons."
Isabel Topham eyed her disdainfully. "It would take more than ten thousand dollars to make a singer out of you!" she said maliciously.
"Quiet!" commanded her father. "Let's hear what else this will says."
His daughter subsided, but his wife exclaimed spitefully, "The will is a fraud. The Hoovers aren't even relatives."
"It is no fraud," Mr. Drew told her quietly. Again he picked up the will and began to read:
" 'To Abby Rowen, my late wife's cousin, in consideration of her kindness to me, a sum equal to ten per cent of my estate.' "
"Oh, I'm so glad," Grace murmured. "Now she'll be able to get the medical and other attention she needs."