I, Harold Elliot, being of sound mind and body, at least according to my own assessment of the situation, do hereby lay down this last will and testament in the presence of my solicitor and good friend, Mr. Charles Twilby. Mr. Twilby will discharge the office of executor of this will upon my death.
I have arranged my bequests in ascending order – I think this adds a nice touch of suspense. I certainly would not want anyone to be bored at the reading of my will.
First, to my two worthless sons, Thomas and Malcolm: I hereby confer upon both you the sum of one hundred pounds, to be divided as you see fit. That is enough for you both to have one last good time. After that, however, the lean years shall descend.
To my sister, Vanessa, I leave the jewelry box left by my first wife, Claudia. There is nothing real or valuable in there, so don’t get your hopes up. Claudia was a cheap, simple-minded actress who wouldn’t have known the difference between dirt and chocolate let alone between paste jewelry and the real deal. And, since you are as vain and stupid as she, if not more so, I grant these keepsakes to you with all my heart.
To my grandson, Peter, I leave you all my fishing poles and tackle. You have a bit more sense than your father, Thomas, but not much. Try not to catch your own eyelid.
This next item is very special to me. My second and current wife, Virginia, I give you a cold jail cell in London along with a life-time of playmates in Bedlam. Since you were the one, I have found—though not in time to reverse or stop the damage--responsible for putting rat poison in my fish chowder, I know you will appreciate this gift. Your moronic son, Phillip, will also share in this bequest as I know he is the one who procured the poison for you. On another note, I also know that Phillip is not the son of your first husband, Sir Talbot, but the illegitimate brat of a Scottish shoemaker. If you have opened the paper on the morning of this reading you will see that that little tid-bit has been made known to London Society. The constabulary should be arriving at any moment to take you and Phillip into custody.
Ah, I hope everyone is having a merry time! Now, on to my two daughters, Francesca and Abigail: Francesca, you, your despicable husband, and fiendish children will surely benefit from the London townhouse. Not the one in St. James Square, but the one in Grace Church Street—the dodgy part. I know it needs a new roof, floors, and that the mice have eaten away most of the insulation, but I am sure that with some hard work you can make it a shining gem.
Abigail, as the last of my family to receive a bequest from this will, I want you to know that I felt you were the only one of that lot that had a touch of sense or taste. And so, I am bequeathing you ten thousand pounds free and clear. You may do with this money as you see fit. I can only hope that my faith is not misplaced and that you use it to some good and worthy purpose.
That dispenses with the family. Now, on to the servants: Yes, my dear family, I have more regard for those who worked for me than you. At least they know how to earn an honest penny rather than live as barnacles on an old man’s backside.
To each of the chamber maids, they will be gifted with my lady-wife, Virginia’s, jewelry, clothing, and sundries (they are actually real). I leave the division of these gifts in their hands.
To each member of the kitchen staff, I grant one time gifts of five hundred pounds.
To the gardeners, stable-hands, and footmen they will also each receive a onetime gift of five hundred pounds.
To Bertha Candliss, my darling cook, I hereby name her as head cook to Highshire Abbey in perpetuity. She may not be legally terminated for any reason (other than pilfering or murder). She will also receive a raise of one hundred pounds per annum.
To my devoted assistant, Hugo de Beaudreux, I leave a onetime gift of five thousand pounds; my personal papers to be disposed of as he sees fit; my favorite gelding, Copernicus; and the summerhouse in Bath.