A Very Singular Will
Far off in Switzerland there once stood a very small house, in a narrow valley, which was just wide enough for the house, and for the mountain brook that ran close beside it. Like most of the houses in Switzerland, the roof of this one was kept on by heavy stones resting upon it.
Only two people lived in the house—an old man and his little boy, Tobi. All the rest of the family had died, and you can well imagine how very much attached the old man and his son were to each other. The old man’s name was Limpking, but there was very little known about him by the people living in the village some three miles off; for he and Tobi had scarcely a neighbor nearer than that. The old man was very lame and small, and went half bent, for he was evidently in bad health, and perhaps could not live long. He had lived in that little old house only five or six years, and there was nobody who knew where he came from, nor in fact, anything about him but his name. Still, for some reason or other which nobody could tell, he received a great many letters and news papers, and was very fond of reading. Even in that gloomy old house he had some splendid books which he had brought with him when he bought the property.
Sometimes he and little Tobi would go down to the village together, and when they did so, they always walked, for they had no horse and carriage, and the valley was so narrow where they lived that no carriage road went through it. Whenever Mr. Limpking and Tobi were seen going along the street by the children of the village, they always made a great deal of fun of the old man. Some of them even used to mimic him, and the children generally called him “Old Limpy,” because he was so lame and half bent. They used to say to each other when they saw him, “Look yonder—there is Old Limpy again.”
It was suspected by some of the people of the village that old Mr. Limpking had led a very peculiar life, and, indeed, that there was something very interesting in his early experience. If anybody could only find out what it was. But all the inquiries that they made of each other, and of the strangers that went through the village, proved fruitless. Nobody knew anything about the old man and his little son, Tobi, except that he still received a great many letters, and sometimes the envelopes had the Government seal upon them. But the boys in the village did not care anything about this; they still made a great deal of fun of him, and there was not a child in the village who was not familiar with the nickname, “Old Limpy.”
Autumn passed, then the cold winter, and then spring came on. It was as beautiful a spring as had ever been seen in Switzerland. The birds sang very sweetly, and the flowers were lovely. It was one of the most beautiful mornings in May that little Tobi came to the village, and stood before the door of the undertaker, and told him that his dear father was dead.
“Who is your father?” said the undertaker in a course voice.
“My father!” said he, “don’t you know him? Why it is old Mr. Limpking, who lived in the little house in the narrow valley, about three miles from here.”
“Oh! indeed!” said he; “Old Limpy is dead, I am sorry for you, my son, for you now are left alone.”
“Never mind,” said Tobi; “the boy that is taught to pray is never alone.”
The funeral passed by, and nobody seemed to lament the death of old Mr. Limpking. But at the funeral there was a gentleman present who had never been seen in the valley before, and when the funeral was over, Tobi went away with him, and the little boy was not seen there again for many years.
Now, it is high time I should tell you something about the early life of this queer-looking, lame old man, he had been very prosperous in business when he was young, and lived in Holland: but he once met with a very severe accident, which came near killing him. After he got out of his bed again, it was found that he was left in a very bad shape, for the surgeons could not succeed in bringing his body back to its former erect position. Not long after this, all his children died except Tobi, and last of all, his wife died. Thus he was left completely alone, with the bare exception of his dear Tobi. Feeling sad beyond expression, he determined to make a journey to Switzerland, and took little Tobi with him. He was so pleased with the country that he resolved to buy a humble little cottage somewhere, and make it his home, for he knew that he had not long to live. He had his agents in Holland attending to his business still, and his property increased every year, until the time of his death, when it amounted to an immense sum. The many letters that came to the post office for him were from his agents and friends far up in Holland, who wrote to him frequently concerning his business. The gentleman who appeared at the funeral was a brother of his wife, and, therefore, Tobi’s own uncle, who, by a good providence, had just then arrived in the village, and was going to make a long-expected visit to Mr. Limpking. Of course he took Tobi home with him after the funeral was over.
Now, it so turned out that Mr. Limpking had made a very singular will, which was in the hands of the best lawyer in Amsterdam. The will read on this wise:
“All my property, which, at the lowest calculation, is computed to be worth two hundred and eighty thousand dollars, is left in the hands of my brother-in-law, to be disposed of as follows: to establish an orphan asylum in Amsterdam, another one in the Hague, and another in B Switzerland, and a fund for the support and education of the children of Swiss guides and other Swiss people who are killed in the mountains by avalanches or by other accidents, and leave children unprovided for, and the balance to belong to my son, Tobi.”
The death of Mr. Limpking made a profound impression throughout Holland, for he was known there to have been one of the kindest men toward children that had ever lived in the country. The news spread to Switzerland, and by and by a paper reached the obscure village near where he had lived, which told his whole history, the place of his death, and the singular disrespect which had been shown him by the old, and especially the young, of the village near where he died.
When it became known that he was so kind to children, and had left such a large amount of money for the taking care of poor children, you can imagine how these boys and girls felt who for years had called him nothing but “Old Limpy.” They little thought that, when they mimicked him, and called him all manner of nicknames, and were allowed to do so by their parents, with scarcely a word of reproof, they were making fun of one of the best friends of children that had ever lived in Switzerland or in any other country.
The following summer, a public meeting was held in the village, when all the children were dressed in white, and marched along the street, and bore a banner, on one side of which were inscribed these words, in gilt letters, “We repent,” and on the other, “Forgive us our trespasses. All the people gathered into the village church, and addresses were made which expressed the general sorrow of the community at the death of one who was such a friend to all, and who yet who had received in return nothing but the neglect and unfriendliness of man.--Selected