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That Mainwaring Affair
Maynard Barbour



REVIEWS:

"Possibly in a detective story the main object is to thrill. If so,
'That Mainwaring Affair' is all right. The thrill is there, full
measure, pressed down and running over."--_Life_, New York

"The book that reminds one of Anna Katherine Green in her palmiest
days.... Keeps the reader on the alert, defies the efforts of those who
read backward, deserves the applause of all who like mystery."--_Town
Topics_, New York

"The tale is well told, and the intricacies of the plot so adroitly
managed that it is impossible to foresee the correct solution of the
mysterious case until the final act of the tragedy.... Although vividly
told, the literary style is excellent and the story by no means
sensational, a fact that raises it above the level of the old-time
detective story,"--_Brooklyn Daily Eagle_




CHAPTER I

THE MAINWARINGS


The fierce sunlight of a sultry afternoon in the early part of July
forced its way through every crevice and cranny of the closely drawn
shutters in the luxurious private offices of Mainwaring & Co., Stock
Brokers, and slender shafts of light, darting here and there, lent
a rich glow of color to the otherwise subdued tones of the elegant
apartments.

A glance at the four occupants of one of these rooms, who had
disposed themselves in various attitudes according to their
individual inclinations, revealed the fact that three out of the
four were Englishmen, while the fourth might have been denominated
as a typical American from the professional class.  Of rather
slender form, with a face of rare sensitiveness and delicacy, and
restless, penetrating eyes, his every movement indicated energy and
alertness.  On the present occasion he had little to say, but was
engaged in listening attentively to the conversation of the others.

Beside a rosewood desk, whose belongings, arranged with mathematical
precision, indicated the methodical business habits of its owner,
sat Hugh Mainwaring, senior member of the firm of Mainwaring & Co.,
a man approaching his fiftieth birthday.  His dress and manners,
less pronouncedly English than those of the remaining two, betokened
the polished man of the world as well as the shrewd financier.  He
wore an elegant business suit and his linen was immaculate; his
hair, dark and slightly tinged with gray, was closely cut; his
smoothly shaven face, less florid than those of his companions,
was particularly noticeable on account of a pair of dark gray
eyes, cold and calculating, and which had at times a steel-like
glitter.  Though an attractive face, it was not altogether pleasing;
it was too sensuous, and indicated stubbornness and self-will rather
than firmness or strength.

Half reclining upon a couch on the opposite side of the room, in an
attitude more comfortable than graceful, leisurely smoking a fine
Havana, was Ralph Mainwaring, of London, a cousin of the New York
broker, who, at the invitation of the latter, was paying his first
visit to the great western metropolis.  Between the two cousins
there were few points of resemblance.  Both had the same cold,
calculating gaze, which made one, subjected to its scrutiny, feel
that he was being mentally weighed and measured and would, in all
probability, be found lacking; but the Londoner possessed a more
phlegmatic temperament.  A year or two his cousin's junior, he
looked considerably younger; as his hair and heavy English side
whiskers were unmixed with gray and he was inclined to stoutness.

Seated near him, in an immense arm-chair which he filled admirably,
was William Mainwaring Thornton, of London, also a guest of Hugh
Mainwaring and distantly connected with the two cousins.  He was
the youngest of the three Englishmen and the embodiment of
geniality.  He was a blond of the purest type, and his beard,
parted in the centre, was brushed back in two wavy, silken masses,
while his clear blue eyes, beaming with kindliness and good-humor,
had the frankness of a child's.

Hugh Mainwaring, the sole heir to the family estate, soon after
the death of his father, some twenty-five years previous to this
time, became weary of the monotony of his English homelife, and,
resolved upon making his permanent home in one of the large eastern
cities of the United States and embarking upon the uncertain and
treacherous seas of speculation in the western world, had sold the
estate which for a number of generations had been in the possession
of the Mainwarings, and had come to America.  In addition to his
heavy capital, he had invested a large amount of keen business tact
and ability; his venture had met with almost phenomenal success and
he had acquired immense wealth besides his inherited fortune.

His more conservative cousin, Ralph Mainwaring, while never quite
forgiving him for having disposed of the estate, had, nevertheless,
with the shrewdness and foresight for which his family were noted,
given to his only son the name of Hugh Mainwaring, confident that
his American-English cousin would never marry, and hoping thereby
to win back the old Mainwaring estate into his own line of the
family.  His bit of strategy had succeeded; and now, after more
than twenty years, his foresight and worldly wisdom were about to
be rewarded, for the occasion of this reunion between the
long-separated cousins was the celebration of the rapidly
approaching fiftieth birthday of Hugh Mainwaring, at which time
Hugh Mainwaring, Jr., would attain his majority, and in recognition
of that happy event the New York millionaire broker had announced
his intention of making his will in favor of his namesake, and on
that day formally declaring him his lawful heir.

This had been the object of the conference in the private office
of Hugh Mainwaring, and now that it was over and all necessary
arrangements had been made, that gentleman turned from his desk
with a sigh of relief.

"I am heartily glad that this business is over," he said,
addressing his guests; "it has been on my mind for some time, and
I have consulted with Mr. Whitney about it," with a slight nod
towards the fourth gentleman, who was his attorney and legal adviser.
"We have both felt that it should have been attended to before this;
and yet, as I considered this would be the most fitting time to make
a final adjustment of affairs, I have on that account delayed
longer than I otherwise would have done.  Now everything is arranged
in a manner satisfactory, I trust, to all parties immediately
concerned, and nothing remains but to draw up and execute the papers,
which will be done to-morrow."

"You are not then troubled with any unpleasant superstitions
regarding the making of a will?" commented Mr. Thornton.

"No," replied the other, slowly.  "I am not of the opinion that it
will hasten my exit from this world; but even if it did, I would
have the satisfaction of knowing that my own wishes would be
carried out in the settlement of my estate, and that no one would
derive any benefit from my demise excepting those whom I consider
legally entitled thereto."

Ralph Mainwaring looked curiously at his cousin through half-closed
eyes.

"I suppose," he remarked, very deliberately, "that even in case
there were no will the property would revert to our branch of the
family; we are the nearest of kin, you know."

"Yes, I know your family would be considered the lawful heirs,"
Hugh Mainwaring replied, while he and Mr. Whitney exchanged glances;
"but this is not England; here any common adventurer might come
forward with some pretended claim against the estate, and I prefer
to see affairs definitely settled in my own way."

"Of course," responded the other, resuming his cigar.  "Well,
speaking for myself, I am more than willing to relinquish any share
I might have had for the boy's sake, and I don't suppose, Thornton,
that you have any objections to raise on Edith's account."

"Oh, no, no," replied that gentleman, with a pleasant laugh.  "I
never considered Hugh a bad son-in-law to begin with, but I'll admit
he is a little more attractive now than ever."

The little clock on the marble mantel chimed the hour of four,
causing a general movement of surprise.  "'Pon my soul! had no idea
it was that late," exclaimed Mr. Thornton, taking out his watch,
while Hugh Mainwaring, touching an electric button, replied,-

"This business has detained us much longer than I anticipated.  I
will give some instructions to the head clerk, and we will leave at
once."

He had scarcely finished speaking, when a door opened noiselessly
and a middle-aged man appeared.

"Parsons," said Mr. Mainwaring, addressing him in quick, incisive
tones, "I am going out to Fair Oaks, and probably shall not be at
the office for two or three days, unless something of unusual
importance should demand my presence.  Refer all business callers
to Mr. Elliott or Mr. Chittenden.  Any personal calls, if specially
important, just say that I can be found at Fair Oaks."

Parsons bowed gravely, and after a few further instructions retired.

"Now, Mr. Whitney," Hugh Mainwaring continued, at the same time
touching another electric button, "you, of course, will be one of
our party at Fair Oaks; my secretary will accompany us, and the
papers will be drawn up to-morrow in my private library, after which
you will do us the honor to join us in the pleasures of the following
day."

"I am at your service, Mr. Mainwaring," responded the attorney; "but,"
he added, in low tones, intended only for Hugh Mainwaring's ear, but
which were heard distinctly by the private secretary, now standing
beside the desk, "would it not be better to draw up the will here,
in your private office?  My presence at the house on the present
occasion might attract attention and arouse some suspicions as to
your intentions."

"That makes no difference," replied Hugh Mainwaring, quickly, but
also speaking in a low tone; "my private papers are all at the house,
and I choose that this business shall be conducted there.  I believe
that I am master in my own house yet."

Mr. Whitney bowed in acquiescence, and Hugh Mainwaring turned to
his secretary,-

"Mr. Scott, just close up everything in the office as quickly as
possible and get ready to accompany me to Fair Oaks; I shall need
you there for two or three days."

It was not the first time the private secretary had accompanied Mr.
Mainwaring to his elegant suburban residence, and he understood
perfectly what was expected of him, and immediately withdrew to
make his preparations as expeditiously as possible.

For some reason, which Hugh Mainwaring had never stopped to explain
even to himself, he always accorded to his private secretary much
more respect and consideration than to any one of his other numerous
employees.

Harry Scott was not only a young man of superior education and good
breeding, but what particularly impressed his employer in his favor
was a certain natural reserve which caused him to hold himself aloof
from his associates in the offices of Mainwaring & Co., and an innate
refinement and delicacy which kept him, under all circumstances,
from any gaucherie on the one hand, or undue familiarity on the
other; he was always respectful but never servile.  He had been in
the employ of Hugh Mainwaring for a little more than a year, and,
having frequently accompanied him to Fair Oaks to remain for a day
or two, was, consequently, quite familiar with the house and grounds.

As he re-entered the room, having exchanged his business suit for
one more suitable to the occasion, there was not one present but
what instinctively, though perhaps unconsciously, recognized in him
a true gentleman and treated him as such.  Tall, with a splendid
physique, finely shaped head, dark hair, and eyes of peculiar beauty,
he was far from being the least attractive member of the party which,
a few moments later, entered the Mainwaring carriage, with its coat
of arms, and rolled away in the direction of Fair Oaks.




CHAPTER II

FAIR OAKS


The home of Hugh Mainwaring was one of many palatial suburban
residences situated on a beautiful avenue running in a northerly
direction from the city, but it had not been for so many years in
his possession without acquiring some of the characteristics of its
owner, which gave it an individuality quite distinct from its elegant
neighbors.  It had originally belonged to one of the oldest and
wealthiest families in the county, for a strictly modern house,
without a vestige of antiqueness lingering in its halls and with no
faint aroma of bygone days pervading its atmosphere, would have been
entirely too plebeian to suit the tastes of Hugh Mainwaring.

From the street to the main entrance a broad driveway wound beneath
the interlacing boughs of a double line of giant oaks, from which
the place had derived its name.  Beautiful grounds extended in every
direction, and in the rear of the mansion sloped gently to the edge
of a small lake.  Facing the west was the main entrance to the house,
which was nearly surrounded by a broad veranda, commanding a fine
view, not only of the grounds and immediately surrounding country,
but also of the Hudson River, not far distant.

The southwestern portion of the building contained the private rooms
of Hugh Mainwaring, including what was known as the "tower," and had
been added by him soon after he had taken possession of the place.
This part of the house was as far removed as possible from the large
reception-rooms, and the apartments on the second floor comprised
the suite occupied by Mr. Mainwaring.  The first of these rooms,
semi-octagonal in form, constituted his private library, and its
elegant furnishings and costly volumes, lining the walls from floor
to ceiling, bespoke the wealth and taste of the owner.  Across the
southwestern side of this room heavy portieres partially concealed
the entrance to what Mr. Mainwaring denominated his "sanctum
sanctorum," the room in the tower.  This was small, of circular form,
and contained an immense desk, one or two revolving bookcases, and
a large safe, which held his private papers and, it was rumored, the
old Mainwaring jewels.  Back of the library was a smoking-room, and
in the rear of that Mr. Mainwaring's dressing-rooms and sleeping
apartments.

This suite of rooms was connected with the remainder of the building
by a long corridor extending from the main hall, but there was on
the south side of the house an entrance and stairway leading directly
to these rooms, the upper hall opening into the library and
smoking-room.  From this southern entrance a gravelled walk led
between lines of shrubbery to a fine grove, which extended back
and downward to the western shore of the small lake already mentioned.

But the especially distinguishing characteristic of Fair Oaks since
coming into the possession of Hugh Mainwaring was the general air of
exclusion pervading the entire place.  The servants, with the
exception of "Uncle Mose," the colored man having charge of the
grounds, were imported,----the head cook being a Frenchman, the
others either English or Irish, and, from butler to chambermaid, one
and all seemed to have acquired the reserve which characterized
their employer.

Comparatively few servants were employed and few were needed, for
never, until the present occasion, had Fair Oaks been thrown open
to guests.  Occasionally Mr. Mainwaring brought out from the city
two or three gentleman friends, whom he entertained in royal
fashion.  Sometimes these guests were accompanied by their wives,
but such instances were extremely rare, as ladies were seldom seen
at Fair Oaks.

In the entertainment of these occasional guests Mr. Mainwaring was
frequently assisted by Mrs. LaGrange, known as his housekeeper, but
in reality holding a position much more advanced than is usually
implied by that term.  Among those who had been personally
entertained by Mrs. LaGrange, this fact, of itself, excited little
comment; it being evident that she was as familiar with the
fashionable world as was their host himself, but surrounding her was
the same dim haze of mystery that seemed to envelop the entire place,
impalpable, but thus far impenetrable.

She had come to Fair Oaks some fifteen years previous to this time,
dressed in deep mourning, accompanied by her infant son, about three
years of age, and it was generally understood that she was distantly
related to Mr. Mainwaring.  She was a strikingly handsome woman,
with that type of physical beauty which commands admiration, rather
than winning it; tall, with superb form and carriage, rich olive
skin, large dark eyes, brilliant as diamonds and as cold, but which
could become luminous with tenderness or fiery with passion, as
occasion required.  To those whom she sought to entertain she could
be extremely charming, but to a few even of these, gifted with deeper
insight than the others, it seemed that beneath that fascinating
manner was a dangerous nature, a will that would brook no restraint,
that never would be thwarted; and that this was, in reality, the
power which dominated Fair Oaks.

After years of mysterious seclusion, however, the beautiful home of
Hugh Mainwaring, while maintaining its usual reserve towards its
neighbors, had thrown open its doors to guests from across the water;
and on the particular afternoon of the conference in the private
offices of Mainwaring & Co., there might have been seen on one of
the upper balconies of the mansion at Fair Oaks a group of five
English ladies, engaged in a discussion of their first impressions
regarding their host and his American home.  The group consisted of
Mrs. Ralph Mainwaring and her daughter Isabel; Miss Edith Thornton,
the daughter of William Mainwaring Thornton and the fiancee of Hugh
Mainwaring, Jr.; Miss Winifred Carleton, a cousin of Miss Thornton;
and Mrs. Hogarth, the chaperone of the last-named young ladies.

Understanding, as they did, the occasion of this their first visit
to the western world, and being personally interested in the happy
event so soon to be celebrated, they naturally felt great interest
in their new surroundings.  The young ladies were especially
enthusiastic in their expressions of admiration of the house and
grounds, while Mrs. Mainwaring, of even more phlegmatic temperament
than her husband, remarked that it was a fine old place, really much
finer than she expected to see, which was quite an admission on her
part.

"It is just as lovely as it can be!" said Winifred Carleton, coming
from the railing, where she had been watching the broad expanse of
ocean visible in the distance, and seating herself on a divan beside
her cousin.  "I do think, Edith, you are the most fortunate girl in
the world, and I congratulate you with all my heart."

"Thank you, Winnie," replied Miss Thornton, a pronounced blonde
like her father, with large, childlike blue eyes; "but it will be
yours to enjoy as much as mine, for you will always be with me; at
least, till you are married, you know."

"That is a very reckless declaration on your part, for I am likely
never to marry," responded Miss Carleton, lightly.  She was an
orphan and an heiress, but had a home in the family of William
Mainwaring Thornton, who was her uncle and guardian.

Isabel Mainwaring, reclining in a hammock near Miss Thornton, smiled
languidly.  She was tall, with dark hair and the Mainwaring cold,
gray eyes.  "You seem to ignore the fact," she said, "that our cousin
is likely to live in the exclusive enjoyment of his home for many
years to come."

"You mercenary wretch!" retorted Miss Carleton; "are you already
counting the years before Mr. Mainwaring's death?"

"Isabel, I am shocked!" exclaimed Mrs. Mainwaring.

"I don't know why," replied that young lady, coolly.  "I was only
thinking, mamma; and one is not always accountable for one's
thoughts, you know."

"But," said Miss Thornton, wonderingly, raising her large eyes, full
of inquiry, to Mrs. Mainwaring, "after our cousin has announced his
intention of making Hugh his heir, don't you think he will be likely
to extend other invitations to visit Fair Oaks?"

"Undoubtedly, my dear," replied Mrs. Mainwaring, "there will probably
be an exchange of courtesies between the two branches of the family
from this time.  Though I must say," she added, in a lower tone, and
turning to Mrs. Hogarth, "I do not know that I, for one, will be
particularly anxious to repeat my visit when this celebration is once
over.  So far as I can judge, there seems to be no society here.
Wilson has learned from the servants that Mr. Mainwaring lives very
quietly, in fact, receives no company whatever; and, I may be
mistaken, but it certainly seems to me that this Mrs. LaGrange
occupies rather an anomalous position.  She is here as his housekeeper,
a servant, yet she entertains his guests, and her manners are anything
but those of a servant."

"Why shouldn't she, mamma?" inquired Isabel, rather abruptly.  "Cousin
Hugh has never married,--which is a very good thing for us, by the
way,--and who would help him entertain if his housekeeper did not?"

"It is not her position to which I object so much," remarked Mrs.
Hogarth, quietly, "though I admit it seems rather peculiar, but there
is something about her own personality that impresses me very
unfavorably."

"In your opinion, then, she is not a proper person," said Mrs.
Mainwaring, who was fond of jumping at conclusions; "well, I quite
agree with you."

"No," said Mrs. Hogarth, with a smile, "I have not yet formed so
decided an opinion as that.  I am not prepared to say that she is
a bad woman, but I believe she is a very dangerous woman."

"Dear Mrs. Hogarth, how mercilessly you always scatter my fancies
to the winds!" exclaimed Miss Thornton; "until this moment I admired
Mrs. LaGrange very much."

"I did not," said Miss Carleton, quickly; "from my first glimpse of
her she has seemed to me like a malign presence about the place, a
veritable serpent in this beautiful Eden!"

"Well," said Isabel Mainwaring, with a slight shrug, "I see no
reason for any concern regarding Mrs. LaGrange, whatever she may be.
I don't suppose she will be entailed upon Hugh with the property;
and I only hope that before long we can buy back the old Mainwaring
estate into our own branch of the family."

"That is just what your father intends to have done whenever the
property comes into Hugh's possession," replied Mrs. Mainwaring,
and was about to say something further, when a musical whistle
attracted the attention of the ladies, and, looking over the
balcony railing, they saw Hugh Mainwaring, Jr., approaching the
house, on his return from a day's fishing, accompanied by Walter
LaGrange, a young sophomore, home on his vacation.

The former was a typical young Englishman, with a frank, pleasant
countenance.  The latter, while inheriting his mother's beauty and
resembling her in a marked degree, yet betrayed in his face a
weakness which indicated that, lacking ability to plan and execute
for himself, he would become a ready tool to aid in carrying out the
designs of others.

The ladies, having discovered the hour to be much later than they
supposed, and knowing that the gentlemen would soon return from the
city, speedily adjourned to their dressing-rooms to prepare for
dinner.




CHAPTER III

THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF HUGH MAINWARING


Immediately after breakfast the following morning, Hugh Mainwaring,
having excused himself to his guests, retired to his private
library, in company with his secretary and Mr. Whitney, his attorney.
A number of fine saddle horses having been brought around from the
stables, the young people cantered gayly down the oak-lined avenue,
intent upon a morning ride, their voices echoing musically through
the grounds.  The elderly people, after a short chat, gradually
dispersed.  Mrs. Mainwaring retired to her room for her accustomed
morning nap; Mrs. Hogarth sought the large library and was soon
absorbed in the works of her favorite author, while Ralph Mainwaring
and Mr. Thornton strolled up and down the gravelled walks, enjoying
their cigars.

"This is a very good bit of property," remarked Mr. Mainwaring at
length, running his eye with cold scrutiny over the mansion and
grounds; "taking into consideration the stocks and bonds and various
business interests that will go with it, it will make a fine windfall
for the boy."

"That it will, and Hugh certainly is a lucky dog!" responded Mr.
Thornton, "but you seem to have some definite knowledge regarding
our cousin's finances; has he given you any idea as to what he is
really worth?"

"He?  Not a word."  Then noting an expression of surprise on his
companion's face, Mr. Mainwaring continued.  "I have a number of
business acquaintances on this side of the water, and you may rest
assured I have kept myself well posted as to the way things were
going all these years.  I have had something of this kind in view
all the time."

"I might have known it," replied Mr. Thornton, with an amused
smile.  "I never yet saw a Mainwaring who did not understand how
to feather his own nest.  Well, as you say, it is a fine piece of
property; but, do you know, Mainwaring, it strikes me that the old
boy seems a bit anxious to get it disposed of according to his own
liking as quickly as possible."

"It does look that way," the other acknowledged.

"Well, now, doesn't that seem a little peculiar, when, with no
direct heirs that we know of, the property would in any case revert
to your family?"

Ralph Mainwaring puffed in silence for a few moments, then removing
his cigar and slowing knocking off the ashes, he replied very
deliberately,-

"It is my opinion that he and that attorney of his are aware of some
possible claimants, of whom we know nothing."

"That is my idea exactly," said Mr. Thornton; "and, don't you know,
it has occurred to me that possibly, unknown to us, Harold Mainwaring
may have left a child, whose existence is known to Hugh."

"That would cut no figure in this case," Mr. Mainwaring answered,
quickly.  "Even had there been a living child,--which there was
not,--he could make no claim whatever, for Harold was disinherited
by his father's will."

"Yes, I know the old gentleman disinherited Harold, but would his
heirs have no claim?"

"Not under that will.  I was present when it was read, and I remember
it debarred 'both him and his heirs, forever.'"

"Poor Harold!" said Mr. Thornton, after a moment's silence; "he was
the elder son, was he not?"

"Yes, and his father's favorite.  It broke the old man's heart to
disinherit him.  He failed rapidly after that occurred, and he never
was the same towards Hugh.  I always thought that accounted for
Hugh's selling the old place as he did; it had too many unpleasant
memories."

"Harold died soon after that unfortunate marriage, I believe."

"Yes; he learned too late the character of the woman he had married,
and after the death of their only child, he left her, and a few years
later was lost at sea."

"Well," continued Mr. Thornton, after a pause, "have you the remotest
idea as to who these possible claimants against the property may be?"

"Only the merest suspicion, as yet too vague even to mention; but I
think a day or two will probably enable me to determine whether I am
correct or not."

At that moment, Harry Scott, the private secretary, appeared, with a
message to the gentlemen from Hugh Mainwaring, to the effect that he
would like to have them join himself and Mr. Whitney in his library.

As they passed around to the southern entrance with the secretary,
they did not observe a closed carriage coming swiftly up the
driveway, nor a tall, slender man, with cadaverous features and
sharp, peering eyes, who alighted and hastily rang for admittance.
But two hours later, as Mr. Thornton was descending the winding
stairway in the main hall, he caught a glimpse of the strange
caller, just taking his departure.  The stranger, hearing footsteps,
turned towards Mr. Thornton, and for an instant their eyes met.
There was a mutual recognition; astonishment and scorn were written
on Mr. Thornton's face, while the stranger cowed visibly and, with
a fawning, cringing bow, made as speedy an exit as possible.

At luncheon that day both Hugh Mainwaring and a number of his guests
seemed rather preoccupied, and the meal passed in unusual silence.
Mrs. LaGrange exerted herself to be particularly entertaining to Mr.
Whitney, but he, though courteously responding to her overtures, made
no effort to continue the conversation.  Even the genial Mr. Thornton
was in so abstracted a mood that his daughter at last rallied him on
his appearance, whereupon he turned somewhat abruptly to his host
with the inquiry,-

"Are you personally acquainted with Richard Hobson?"

For an instant, Hugh Mainwaring seemed confused, and Mr. Whitney,
always on the alert, noted a peculiar expression flash across the
face of Mrs. LaGrange, and was also conscious of an almost
imperceptible start on the part of the young secretary seated near
him.

Mr. Mainwaring quickly recovered himself and replied, deliberately,
"Richard Hobson, the attorney?  I believe I met him once or twice,
years ago, in London, but I cannot claim any acquaintance with him."

"Dick Hobson does not deserve the name of attorney," remarked Ralph
Mainwaring; "he is a shyster and a scoundrel."

"He certainly bears a hard reputation," rejoined Mr. Thornton; "and
I would not have mentioned his name, only that I met him here about
half an hour since, and that caused me to make the inquiry I did."

Hugh Mainwaring paled visibly, though he remained calm.  "Met him
here, in my house?  Impossible!" he exclaimed, at the same time
glancing towards the butler, but the face of that functionary was
as immobile as rock.  "I did not suppose the man was in this
country!"

"Oh, yes," replied Ralph Mainwaring; "he left England about two
years ago; he played one too many of his dirty games there and took
the first steamer for America, hoping, I suppose, to find a wider
sphere of action in this country."

"Possibly I may have been mistaken," remarked Mr. Thornton, quietly,
realizing that he had unconsciously touched an unpleasant chord,
"but the resemblance was certainly striking."

An awkward silence followed, broken by young Scott, who excused
himself on the plea of important work and returned to Mr.
Mainwaring's library, where he was soon joined by all the gentlemen
excepting young Mainwaring.  In the hall, Hugh Mainwaring paused for
a few words with the butler, and the attorney, passing at that
moment, caught the man's reply, given in a low tone,-

"No, sir; Mrs. LaGrange."

A little later, the last will and testament of Hugh Mainwaring was
signed by the testator, and duly attested by Ralph Mainwaring,
William Mainwaring Thornton, and William H. Whitney.  As the last
signature was completed, Hugh Mainwaring drew a heavy sigh, saying
in a low tone,-

"That is as I wished, my namesake is my heir;" then taking the
document, he placed it in the hands of his secretary, adding, "Lay
this for the present on my desk.  To-morrow I wish it to be read in
the presence of all the members of the family, after which, Mr.
Whitney, I desire to have it put in your possession for safe keeping
until it is needed; when that will be, no one can say;--it may be
sooner than we think."

A marked change had come over his manner since luncheon, and his
tones, even more than his words, made a deep impression on the mind
of every one present.  The shade of melancholy passed, however, and,
ringing the bell, Hugh Mainwaring ordered carriages for himself and
his guests for the afternoon and departed, leaving his secretary
to attend to some private work in the library.  Harry Scott's manner,
upon finding himself alone within the private rooms of Hugh
Mainwaring, betrayed intense excitement.  He pushed his work
impatiently from him and, rising, began to walk swiftly, though
noiselessly, back and forth, the entire length of the two apartments.
Twice he paused before the large desk, and taking therefrom the will,
already familiar to him, read its contents with burning eyes while
his face alternately flushed and paled.  Then folding and replacing
the document, he turned towards the safe, muttering,-

"It is no use.  I have searched there once before and could find
nothing."

Suddenly he exclaimed, "No one knows what may happen; this may be my
last opportunity!  I will search once more and leave not a corner
unexplored."

Having locked the library, he returned to the safe.  He knew the
combination, and soon the great doors swung open, revealing the
contents arranged with the precision for which Mr. Mainwaring was
noted in his business habits.  Conscious that he had abundance of
time for the work he had undertaken and that he was secure from
interruption, he began a careful and methodical search through all
the compartments.  Various private documents were examined and then
replaced in exactly their original position, but all seemed of no
avail.  He discovered no trace of that which he hoped to find.

At last he came to a metallic box, which he surmised, from its
weight and general appearance, contained the old family jewels.
Should he open that?  A moment's thought decided the question; he
would leave nothing unexplored.  Further search revealed the key
concealed in a tiny drawer.  He applied it to the lock; the cover
flew backward, and a dazzling light flashed into his face as a ray
of sunlight fell across his shoulder upon the superb gems, gleaming
and scintillating from the depths of their hiding-place.  But he
paid little heed to them, for, in a long and narrow receptacle within
one side of the box, his keen eye had discovered a paper, yellow and
musty with age, the sight of which thrilled him with hope.  He
quickly drew it forth, and a single glance at its title assured him
it was indeed the object of his search.  With a low cry of joy, he
locked and replaced the metallic box, and, opening the ancient
document, he eagerly scanned its contents, an expression of intense
satisfaction overspreading his features.

He was still perusing the paper when he heard footsteps approaching
the library through the long corridor, followed an instant later by a
knock.  Depositing the precious document safely within an inside
pocket, he swung the doors of the safe together, turning the handle
so as to lock it securely, and, crossing the library, unlocked and
opened the door.

The butler was standing there, and, handing Scott a card, said,
briefly,

"A gentleman on private business; must see Mr. Mainwaring or his
secretary at once."

Scott glanced at the card: it bore the name of "J. Henry Carruthers,"
with a London address, and underneath had been hastily pencilled
the word "Important."

"Show the gentleman up," he said.  The butler bowed and was gone,
and in an incredibly short time, while yet Scott's pulse throbbed
wildly from his recent discovery, the stranger entered the room.

He was a little above the average height, with a somewhat commanding
presence, rather pale face, dark moustache, and black curling hair.
He wore dark glasses, and was dressed in a tweed suit, slightly
travel-worn, but his manners were those of a gentleman.

"Mr. Scott, I believe," he said, addressing the secretary.

"That is my name, sir; please be seated.  What can I do for you, Mr.
Carruthers?"

"Will you inform me, Mr. Scott, of the earliest hour at which I can
see Mr. Mainwaring?  I called at his city office and was directed
here; but the butler states that Mr. Mainwaring is away from home, and
is unable to say when he will return, or how soon he would be at
liberty to see me."

"Mr. Mainwaring will probably return about five o'clock; but it is
rather difficult for me to state when you could see him, as he is
entertaining a number of guests, and it is doubtful if he would care
to attend to any business just at this time, unless it were of special
importance."

"My business with Mr. Mainwaring is of special importance," replied
the other; "and I would be very glad if he could give me a little
time to-morrow."

"Perhaps, if you would give me some intimation of its nature,"
Scott suggested, "Mr. Mainwaring might consent to make an appointment
for the following day.  I hardly think he would see you sooner.
To-morrow is his birthday, and, as it is to be celebrated by him and
his guests, it is doubtful whether he would attend to any business
on that day."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Carruthers, rising, while Scott was conscious of
a peculiar scrutiny fixed upon himself from behind those dark glasses;
"it had escaped my mind, but now I recall that Mr. Mainwaring is to
celebrate his birthday by making his young English cousin and namesake
his heir.  I certainly would not intrude at a time so inopportune."

The secretary started.  "I was not aware that Mr. Mainwaring's
intentions were generally known," he remarked.

"Perhaps not," replied the other, in a peculiar tone.  "I merely
heard it mentioned, and all parties have my congratulations and best
wishes.  Kindly say to Mr. Mainwaring that when the happy event is
over I hope he will give me his earliest consideration.  My address
for the present will be the Arlington House.  Do not take the
trouble to ring, I can find my way."

"You will find this way much shorter, sir," Scott replied, opening
the door into the southern hall.  Mr. Carruthers thanked him and,
with a profound bow, took his departure.

As the hour was late, Scott found it necessary to devote himself at
once to his work, and he had but just completed it when the sound
of wheels was heard outside, and a few moments later his employer
entered the room.

The latter studied Mr. Carruthers's card quite attentively, and
frowned upon learning that his intentions regarding the making of
his will had become known by outsiders, but he soon seemed to forget
the occurrence.  Soon all were gathered about the dinner-table, and
the evening passed very pleasantly.

When, at a late hour, Hugh Mainwaring, in the dimly-lighted veranda,
bade his guests good-night, he grasped the hand of his namesake and
said, in a tone remarkably tender,-

"Hugh, my boy, the distance is long between the twenty-first and the
fiftieth mile-stones on the journey of life.  Heaven grant, when you
shall have reached the latter, you may look back over a brighter
pathway than I do to-night!"

Then, as the young man passed, he murmured to himself, "If I could
but have had just such a son as he!"

He did not see, though there was one who did, a woman's form glide
away in the dim light, her eyes gleaming with malignant fire.




CHAPTER IV

A TERRIBLE AWAKENING


For some time after his guests had retired, Hugh Mainwaring remained
outside, walking up and down in the starlight, apparently absorbed
in thought.  When at length he passed into the house, he met his
secretary coming out for a solitary smoke.

"Come to my library, Mr. Scott, before you retire for the night,"
said Mr. Mainwaring.

"At once, sir, if you wish," the secretary replied.

"No, there is no hurry; any time within an hour," and he passed
up-stairs.

Half an hour later Harry Scott passed down the corridor towards the
library, but paused on hearing an angry voice within, which he at
once recognized as Mrs. LaGrange's.

"Where would you be to-night?" she cried, "where would you have been
all these years, if I had but exposed your dishonesty and duplicity?
You defrauded your only brother during his lifetime; you have
persistently ignored your son, your own flesh and blood; and now you
would rob him, not only of his father's name, but of his father's
fortune,--cast him off with a mere pittance,--and put this stranger
in the place which is rightfully his, and wish that you had been
given such a son as he!  You are in my power, and you know it only
too well; and I will make you and your high-born, purse-proud family
rue this day's work."

Hugh Mainwaring's reply to this tirade was inaudible, and Scott,
feeling that he already had heard too much, withdrew, and continued
walking up and down the halls until the library door opened and Mrs.
LaGrange came out.  She swept past him in a towering rage, seeming
scarcely aware of his presence until, as he passed down the corridor
and entered the library, he was suddenly conscious that she had
turned and was watching him.

He found Mr. Mainwaring looking pale and fatigued.

"I will detain you but a moment, Mr. Scott," he said, speaking
wearily; "I have a few instructions I would like you to carry out
early in the morning; and I also want to say that I wish you to
consider yourself as one of my guests to-morrow, and join with us
in the festivities of the occasion."

Scott thanked his employer courteously, though there might have been
detected a shade of reserve in his manner, and, after receiving
brief directions for the following day, withdrew.

He went to his room, but not to sleep.  His mind was too full of
the events of the day just passed, as well as of the expected events
of the morrow.  His thoughts reverted to his discovery of the
afternoon, and, taking the shabby document from his pocket, he read
and re-read it carefully, his features betraying deep emotion.  What
should be done with it?  Should he let his employer know at once of
the proof which he now held against him?  Or should he hold it for a
few days and await developments?

It was nearly three o'clock when he was aroused from his abstraction
by a slight sound, as of stealthy footsteps in the rear of the house.
He listened intently for a moment, but hearing nothing further and
discovering the lateness of the hour, he hastily extinguished the
light and, too exhausted and weary to undress, threw himself as he
was upon a couch and was soon sleeping heavily.

The sun was shining brightly into his room, when Harry Scott was
awakened the next morning by a woman's scream, followed by cries and
sobs and a confused sound of running to and fro.  Almost before he
could collect his thoughts, he heard steps approaching his room,
and, rising, hastily exchanged the smoking-jacket in which he had
slept for a coat.  He had barely time to make the change when there
was a loud knock, and some one called his name in quick, sharp tones.

Opening the door, he saw Mr. Whitney standing before him, while in
the background servants were running in different directions,
wringing their bands and moaning and crying hysterically.

"Mr. Scott," said the attorney, in tones trembling with excitement,
"come to the tower-room at once. Mr. Mainwaring has been murdered!"

"Mr. Mainwaring murdered!" he exclaimed, reeling for an instant as
if from a blow.  "Great heavens! it cannot be possible!"

"It is terrible, but a fact, nevertheless," replied Mr. Whitney;
"he was murdered last night in his private rooms."

"How and when was it discovered?" Scott inquired, his mind still
dazed by the wild torrent of thought surging through his brain as
he recalled the events of the previous night.

"Hardy, his valet, was the first to discover it this morning.  We
have telephoned for his physician and for the coroner; they will be
out on the next train from the city."

Harry Scott shuddered as he entered the familiar room where he had
taken leave of his employer but comparatively few hours before.
Even amid the confusion, he noted that in the outer room everything
appeared the same as when he last saw it, but the portieres at the
farther side, pushed widely open, revealed a ghastly sight.

Upon the floor, about half-way between the desk and safe, his head
resting in a small pool of blood, lay Hugh Mainwaring.  He was
inclined slightly towards his right side, his arm partially extended,
and on the floor, near his right hand, lay a revolver, while an ugly
wound just above the right eye and near the temple showed where the
weapon had done its deadly work.  The closely cut hair about the
temple was singed and his face was blackened, showing that the fatal
shot had been fired at close range.  There were no indications,
however, of a struggle of any kind; the great revolving-chair,
usually standing in front of the desk, had been pushed aside, but
everything else was in its accustomed place, and the desk was closed
and locked.

Ralph Mainwaring was already kneeling beside the body; Mr. Thornton
and young Mainwaring, who had entered immediately after Scott and
the attorney, stood speechless with horror.  With what conflicting
emotions the young secretary gazed upon the lifeless form of his
employer, fortunately for him at that moment, no one knew; as his
mind cleared, he began to realize that his position was likely to
prove a difficult and dangerous one, and that he must act with
extreme caution.

The silence was first broken by Mr. Thornton, who exclaimed,-

"Terrible!  Terrible!  What do you think, Mainwaring? Is this murder
or suicide?"

"Time alone will tell," replied Mr. Mainwaring in a low tone; "but I
am inclined to think it is murder."

"Murder without a doubt!" added Mr. Whitney.

"But who could have done such a deed?" groaned Mr. Thornton.

Hugh Mainwaring was attired, as when Scott had last seen him, in a
rich dressing-gown; but as the secretary knelt beside the silent
form and touched the left hand lying partially hidden in its folds,
he gave a slight start, and, quickly passing his hand within the
dressing-gown, announced in a low tone,-

"His diamond ring and his watch are both gone!"

"Robbery!" exclaimed young Mainwaring; "that must have been the
object of the murderer!"  While his father, glancing towards the
safe, remarked,-

"We must ascertain whether anything else is missing."

"We will make a thorough examination of the room after the coroner's
arrival," said Mr. Whitney, "but, for the present, everything must
remain as it is."

"Should we not send for a detective at once?" Mr. Thornton inquired.

"I have already telephoned for one upon my own responsibility,"
replied the attorney.

"When were you last in these rooms, Mr. Scott?" asked Ralph
Mainwaring of the secretary, who had risen to his feet and was making
a careful survey of the room.

"About twelve o'clock last night, sir," was his reply; then noting a
look of surprise on the faces about him, he added,-

"I came at Mr. Mainwaring's request, as he wished to give directions
regarding some work to be done this morning."

"He was alone at that time?"

"Yes, sir."

"How did he appear?" inquired Mr. Thornton.

"The same as usual, except that he seemed very weary."

"Was he in this room?" asked Mr. Mainwaring.

"No, sir; he was seated in the library."

The sound of voices in the corridor attracted Mr. Mainwaring's
attention, and he turned quickly to his son, -

"Hugh, I hear your mother's voice; go and meet her.  The ladies must
not be allowed to come in here."

Mr. Thornton turned to accompany young Mainwaring.  Near the door he
met his daughter and Miss Carleton, while a little farther down the
corridor were Isabel Mainwaring and her mother.  With terror-stricken
faces they gathered about him, unable to believe the terrible report
which they had learned from the servants.  As best he could, he
answered their numerous inquiries, and, having escorted them to
another part of the house, left them in charge of young Mainwaring,
while he returned to the library.

Meanwhile, the news of the murder had spread with lightning-like
rapidity, and already crowds of people, drawn by that strange
fascination which always exists for a certain class in scenes of
this kind, were gathering on the grounds outside the house, forming
in little groups, conversing with the servants, or gazing upward
with awe-stricken glances at the closely-drawn shutters of the room
in the tower.  The invisible barriers which so long had excluded
the public from Fair Oaks had been swept away by the hand of death,
and rich and poor, capitalist and laborer, alike wandered
unrestrained up and down the oak-lined avenue.

At the door of the library, Mr. Thornton found Ralph Mainwaring and
the attorney conversing together in low tones.

"Yes," Mr. Mainwaring was saying, "as you say, it is undoubtedly
murder; but I confess I am at a loss to understand the motive for
such a deed, unless it were robbery; and you do not seem to give
that idea much credence?"

Mr. Whitney shook his head decidedly.  "Unless we find very strong
evidence in that direction, I cannot believe that this is any case
of common robbery."

"But to what other motive would you attribute it?" inquired Mr.
Mainwaring.

"Until further facts have been developed which may throw light upon
the subject, I do not feel prepared to say what the motive might
have been."

"You evidently have your suspicions," remarked Mr. Mainwaring, while
Mr. Thornton inquired,-

"Had our cousin any enemies that you know of?"

Mr. Whitney turned a keen, penetrating glance upon Mr. Thornton for
an instant, and the latter continued,-

"I thought it possible that in his business relations he might have
incurred the enmity of some one of whom you knew."

"No," the attorney answered, quickly, "I am not aware of anything
of that nature.  Mr. Mainwaring made few intimate friends, but he
was universally respected by all who knew him.  If he had any
enemies," he added, very slowly, "they were within his own
household."

Ralph Mainwaring looked sharply at the attorney, but
Mr. Thornton exclaimed,-

"'Egad! sir, but you surely do not think this deed was committed by
any one of the inmates of this house?"

"As I have already said," replied Mr. Whitney, "I am not prepared
to state what I do think without further knowledge of the facts in
the case."

"Of course we understand that," rejoined Mr. Mainwaring; "but we
desire to have the benefit of your opinions and judgment regarding
this case so soon as you do feel justified in expressing them, and,
since you are vastly more familiar with the circumstances
surrounding it than we, we wish to rely on your suggestions in
this matter,"

The attorney bowed.  "My advice for the present would be to take
care that no one leaves the premises, and that you also send for
Mrs. LaGrange; I wish to see her," he said briefly, and passed
into the library.

Ralph Mainwaring beckoned to the butler; who was standing at a
little distance, awaiting orders.

"Call the housekeeper at once, Mr. Whitney wishes to see her in the
library; and send Wilson to me, and also the coachman."

With a silent acknowledgment of the order the butler withdrew, and
a moment later, John Wilson, a middle-aged man and a servant of Ralph
Mainwaring's who had accompanied him from London, appeared, followed
by Brown, the coachman at Fair Oaks.

Mr. Mainwaring first addressed the latter.  "Brown, for the next
hour or so, I wish you to be stationed in the hall below.  Keep back
the crowd as much as possible; when the coroner and physician arrive
show them up at once, but on no account allow any one else to come
up-stairs."

Then turning to his own serving-man, as Brown departed to the duties
assigned him, Mr. Mainwaring continued,

"'For you, Wilson, I have a task which I cannot intrust to any one
else, but which I know you will perform faithfully and discreetly;
so far as you are able, keep a close watch upon every one within
this house, without seeming to do so; pay close attention to all
conversation which you hear, and if you hear or see anything unusual,
or that seems to have any bearing on what has occurred, report to
me at once.  Above all, do not let any of the servants leave the
premises without they have my permission."

"Very well, sir," Wilson replied; as he moved away the butler
reappeared.

"The housekeeper has not yet left her room, sir," he said, addressing
Mr. Mainwaring.  "I gave the message by the chambermaid, and she
sent word that she had been prostrated by the terrible news this
morning, sir, but that she would see Mr. Whitney in a few moments."

As the man retreated, Mr. Thornton paused suddenly in his walk up
and down the corridor,-

"'Pon my soul, Mainwaring! it strikes me--particularly since hearing
that will read yesterday--that there must have been something with
reference to that woman--well--rather peculiar, don't you know."

"It strikes me," replied Mr. Mainwaring with marked emphasis, "that
there may be something rather 'peculiar,' as you call it, in that
direction at present, and I believe Mr. Whitney is of the same
opinion."

"How is that?  You surely do not think it possible that in his mind
she is in any way associated with this murder--if it is a murder?"

"He evidently suspects some one in this house, and for the present
we can draw our own inferences.  Regarding those provisions in the
will to which you just now alluded, I can assure you I was not too
well pleased; but I knew it was useless to raise any objections or
questions; to my mind, however, they furnish a clue as to the
possible claimants against the estate, which we were discussing
yesterday, and perhaps a clue to this latest development, also."

"By my soul! it looks like it; but surely she could have no valid
claim."

"Valid or not," replied Ralph Mainwaring, "there must have been a
powerful claim of some kind.  When a man of Hugh Mainwaring's
type leaves a handsome annuity to his housekeeper, and an interest
in his business worth fifty or seventy-five thousand to her son,
it may be considered pretty strong evidence that--"

At a warning glance from Mr. Thornton, Ralph Mainwaring paused
abruptly and, turning, saw Mrs. LaGrange coming noiselessly down
the corridor.  She was dressed with even more than usual care,
with quantities of rich lace fastened loosely about her shapely
neck and falling in profusion over her beautifully moulded wrists
and hands.  Her dark, handsome features bore no trace of recent
prostration, but betrayed, instead, signs of intense excitement.
She bowed silently and passed onward, entering the library so
quietly that the attorney, absorbed in thought, was unaware of her
presence until she stood before him.  He started slightly, and for
an instant neither spoke.  Each was silently gauging the power of
the other.

For some time, Mrs. LaGrange had been conscious that Mr. Whitney
was one of the few whose penetration could not be blinded by her
blandishments.  In addition, the fact that he was the private
solicitor and legal adviser of Hugh Mainwaring did not tend to
inspire her with confidence regarding his attitude towards herself.
Nevertheless, he was an eminent attorney and this was a critical
moment; if she could gain his favor and his services in her behalf,
it would be a brilliant stroke of policy.  Her plans were well laid,
and she was prepared to assume whatever role was necessary, so soon
as his words or manner should give her the desired cue.

For this, she did not have long to wait; one searching glance, and
she had read in the piercing scrutiny and cold scorn of his keen
blue eye that, so far from winning favor from him, he would prove
her most bitter opponent, and as quickly she determined upon her
future course of action.

Mr. Whitney, on the other hand, though a frequent visitor at Fair
Oaks, and familiar with the fascinating manner with which, when she
chose, Mrs. LaGrange entertained the guests of Hugh Mainwaring, was
now forced to acknowledge to himself that never had he seen this
handsome woman so beautiful as at the present moment.  The eyes
looking into his with such depth of meaning,--the expression, the
attitude,--all were utterly unlike anything which he had ever seen;
but his face grew only the more stern, for the thought then and
there occurred to him that perhaps here was the solution of the
mysterious power which this woman had wielded over the man whose
lifeless form was now lying in their presence.

He observed that the luminous eyes grew suddenly cold, while her
head assumed its usual haughty poise; the brief spell was over, and
each understood the other.

After a few general directions, Mr. Whitney remarked, "This day's
events will be far different from what we had anticipated."

"Yes," she replied, with a mocking smile, "in that it brings to the
guests of this house, instead of future expectations, the immediate
realization of their wishes!"

"It is not to be conceived for one moment that any of them take that
view of what has occurred," he replied, in a tone of displeasure.

"Possibly not," she rejoined, "although the prospective long life
of their host seemed to greatly detract, at least in the case of one
of their number, from their enjoyment of the occasion which they had
come to celebrate."

"To whom do you refer?" he inquired.

"It is unnecessary to give names," she answered, coldly; "but had
the Mainwarings of London known the facts which I know, they would
never have crossed the water to take part in the farce which was
enacted here yesterday.  There are Mainwarings with better right
and title to this estate than they, as they will soon learn."

Neither by look nor gesture did she manifest the least consciousness
of, or concern for, the inanimate form visible in the adjoining room.
With sudden directness, and ignoring the implied threat in her last
words, Mr. Whitney asked,-

"Mrs. LaGrange, at what hour did you last see Hugh Mainwaring?"

She was about to reply, when Scott entered from the tower-room.  He
had heard her last remark, and his dark, piercing eyes were fixed
upon her face in keen scrutiny.  She was quick to note the fact and
hesitated an instant, while a change, inexplicable to the attorney,
passed over her face,--surprise, a shade almost of fear, and
haughty defiance were visible in quick succession; then, turning
again towards Mr. Whitney, she answered, indifferently,-

"It was quite late last night; I do not recollect the hour."

As the attorney was about to speak, Mr. Thornton appeared at the
door of the library.

"Beg pardon, Mr. Whitney, but I believe the coroner and others have
arrived; as you know the gentlemen, will you kindly meet them?"

"Certainly.  Mr. Scott, you will please remain here," and the
attorney hastened out into the corridor.

Again Mrs. LaGrange and the secretary faced each other in silence,
each apparently trying to read the other's thoughts and probe the
depth of the other's knowledge; then, as the gentlemen were heard
approaching, she withdrew, leaving him alone.




CHAPTER V

IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES


As the attorney, in response to the summons from Mr. Thornton,
hastened from the corridor into the main hall, five gentlemen were
slowly ascending the broad stairway, conversing together in subdued
tones.  One, younger than the others and evidently more familiar
with the surroundings at Fair Oaks, stepped quickly in advance of
the rest and extended his hand to Mr. Whitney in silent greeting.
This was Dr. Hobart, Hugh Mainwaring's physician and one of his most
intimate friends, although a number of years his junior.  Following
him were Mr. Elliott and Mr. Chittenden, of the firm of Mainwaring
& Co., while bringing up the rear were the coroner and a gentleman,
somewhat below medium size and of modest appearance, whom the
attorney greeted very cordially and afterwards introduced to Mr.
Thornton as Mr. Merrick.  Proceeding at once to the library, they
were joined a moment later by Ralph Mainwaring and his son.  The
necessary introductions followed, and Mr. Mainwaring having given
the butler instructions to admit no one into the library, Mr. Whitney
made a brief statement regarding the discovery of the murder, and
all passed into the room in the tower.

Dr. Hobart at once bent over the prostrate form with genuine sorrow.
The millionaire broker had been one of his earliest patrons, and
their acquaintance had soon ripened into a mutual attachment,
notwithstanding the disparity in their ages.  After a long look at
the face of his friend, he gave place to the coroner, who was also
a physician.  They partially lifted the body and both examined the
wound, the small man who had accompanied the coroner looking on
silently.  It was found that the bullet had entered just above the
right eye and had passed through the brain in a slightly downward
direction, coming out near the base upon the same side.  The most
careful search failed to disclose the bullet, and attention was
next directed to the revolver lying upon the floor near the right
hand.  It was a Smith & Wesson, thirty-two calibre, with but one
empty chamber, that from which the fatal bullet had probably
been discharged.

"Can any of you gentlemen tell me whether or not this belonged to
the deceased?" inquired the coroner, holding up the revolver.

There was an instant's pause, and Mr. Whitney replied, "I know
that Mr. Mainwaring owned a revolver, but, having never seen it,
am unable to answer your inquiry.  Perhaps his secretary could
give you the desired information."

"I have often seen a revolver lying in Mr. Mainwaring's desk,"
said the secretary; "but I doubt whether I could identify it, as
I never observed it closely.  I should judge, however, that this
was the same size and make."

"Would it not be well to see if it is still there?" suggested
the attorney.  "I suppose you have a key to the desk."

"I have, sir," he replied, at the same time producing it.  Crossing
the room, he unlocked and opened the desk.  An instant later, he
announced, as he closed the desk, "It is not here."

There was a subdued murmur, and Mr. Thornton was heard to exclaim,
"Suicide!  That has been my impression all along."

Ralph Mainwaring glanced inquiringly at the attorney, who shook
his head emphatically, while the coroner once more inspected the
wound with an air of perplexity.

"Doctor," inquired Ralph Mainwaring, "in your opinion, how long has
life been extinct?"

"I should judge about eight or nine hours," replied Dr. Hobart.
"What would you say, Dr. Westlake?"

"That would be my judgment, also."

"You would say that death was instantaneous?" questioned the
attorney.

"Without a doubt.  It could not have been otherwise?"  Ralph
Mainwaring consulted his watch.  "It is now half after nine; in your
judgment, then, this must have occurred about one o'clock this
morning?"

"About that time."

"At what hour was Mr. Mainwaring last seen by any one in this
house?" asked the coroner.

"As nearly as we have ascertained thus far, at about twelve o'clock."

"Twelve?  Indeed!  By whom?  and where?"

"By his private secretary, and in the library adjoining."

"Very well," said the coroner, after a pause, during which he had
made a memorandum of certain details which he considered of special
importance; "the undertaker can now be summoned as I believe he is
waiting below, and we seem to have ascertained all the facts possible
in this direction; and, Mr. Whitney, I will next see the valet, who
you say was the one to discover the situation this morning."

In the slight confusion and delay which ensued, Mr. Elliott and Mr.
Chittenden took their departure, with the usual expressions of
condolence and regret, followed a few moments later by Dr. Hobart,
who was accompanied downstairs by young Mainwaring.

Meanwhile, Mr. Merrick, having made a close scrutiny of the lifeless
form, had been slowly walking back and forth in the tower-room and
library, his hands in the pockets of his short sacque coat and his
eyes apparently riveted on the floor.  Several times in the library
he paused and, bending downward, seemed to be intently studying the
carpet; then, after two or three turns about the room, he sauntered
towards the windows and doors, examining the fastenings of each in
turn, and, on reaching the door opening into the southern hall,
suddenly disappeared.

"A very mysterious case!" commented the coroner, when he had finished
his interview with the valet.  "Thus far nothing can be learned which
throws much actual light on the subject one way or another, but if
anybody can unravel the mystery, Merrick can."

"Merrick!" repeated Mr. Thornton, turning to Mr. Whitney in surprise.
"Is Mr. Merrick a detective?"

"He is.  I did not introduce him as such, for the reason that in a
case of this kind he usually prefers to make his first visit incognito
if possible."

"Very well; you have taken the responsibility in this matter.  You
understand, of course, Mr. Whitney, that we want no amateur work in
a case like this."

"Mr. Merrick is no amateur," said the attorney, quietly; "he is one
of the most trusted and one of the surest men on the force."

"Before we go any farther," interposed Ralph Mainwaring, "I suggest
that we ascertain whether or not there has been a robbery.  We can
at least satisfy ourselves on that point."

"Acting on your suggestion, we will examine the safe," said Mr.
Whitney; "though I, for one, am not inclined to think there has been
any robbery.  Without a knowledge of the combination, the safe could
not be opened unless force were employed; and it certainly bears no
evidence of having been tampered with."

"Proceed with your investigation, Mr. Whitney," said the quiet voice
of the detective, who had entered unobserved from the smoking-room;
"unless I am greatly mistaken, the person we are after is some one
pretty familiar with various 'combinations' in these apartments."

There was a general expression of surprise, and all turned towards
Mr. Merrick for an explanation, but a glance at his impassive face
convinced them that questions would be useless.

With a few swift turns the secretary unlocked the safe and the
ponderous doors swung open, showing books and papers in their
accustomed places.  Everything appeared in perfect order; but as the
attorney began a rapid examination of the interior, he suddenly
uttered a sharp exclamation, while, as he continued his search, his
manner betrayed considerable excitement.

"Anything wrong, Mr. Whitney?  anything missing?" queried Ralph
Mainwaring.

"Everything is missing!" the other exclaimed, after a moment's pause,
turning around with a pale face and holding in his hand an empty
cash box; "there is absolutely nothing left but an old cheque-book,
a few drafts, and some other papers of no value whatever except to
Hugh Mainwaring himself!"

Half a score of questions were instantly raised: "Was there a large
amount of money in the safe?"  "Did it contain anything of great
value?"

Scott, standing silently in the background, seemed to see
again the brilliant gems flashing in the sunlight, as he had
seen them in his search on the preceding day, but he said
nothing.

"There was a considerable amount of cash," the attorney was saying.
"Mr. Mainwaring deposited a large sum there when he last came out
from the city, and," he added more slowly, "the old family jewels
were kept in the safe."

"The Mainwaring jewels!" echoed both the Englishmen. "Impossible!
incredible!"  While Ralph Mainwaring exclaimed, "Why, they were
worth a fortune several times over in themselves!"

"I am aware of that," answered the attorney.  "I often remonstrated
with Mr. Mainwaring, but to no purpose; for some reason which he
never explained he always kept them there."

"I would never have believed him capable of such recklessness," said
Mr. Thornton.

"Recklessness!" exclaimed Ralph Mainwaring; "it was the biggest
piece of imbecility I ever heard of!  What is your opinion now, Mr.
Whitney, regarding a robbery in connection with this case?"

"That there has been a robbery I am forced to admit," the attorney
replied, courteously but firmly; "but my opinion of the matter is
still unchanged.  I regard the robbery as only incident to the
murder.  I do not yet believe it to have led to the deeper crime."

"Do you know, Mr. Scott, whether any one beside yourself understood
the combination of the safe?" Ralph Mainwaring inquired.

"I do not, sir," the secretary replied, conscious that all eyes had
turned upon him at the inquiry and that the detective was observing
him closely.

Meanwhile Ralph Mainwaring loudly lamented the missing jewels, until
it was evident to all that their loss, for the time at least, had
completely overshadowed all thought of the tragedy they were
investigating.

"They must be recovered at all hazards and at any price," he said,
addressing the detective.  "There were single gems in that
collection which cost a fortune and which have been heirlooms in
the family for generations."

After further search which failed to disclose anything of importance,
or any clue regarding either the murder or the robbery, arrangements
were made for the inquest to be held at three o'clock that afternoon,
and the party was about to leave the apartments, when Mr. Whitney
paused.

"One moment, gentlemen; there is one more point I would like
investigated.  I maintain that we have not yet discovered the most
essential clue to this case--something to throw light on the
possible motive which prompted the murder of Hugh Mainwaring.  I
now wish to make a final trial.  Mr. Scott, will you once more open
Mr. Mainwaring's desk for us and take out the will that was deposited
there yesterday?"

Ralph Mainwaring started.  "The will?  You surely do not think--"

"I think it might be safer in our own possession," said the attorney,
with a peculiar smile.

"And right you are!" added Mr. Thornton, approvingly.  "I wonder you
had not thought of that yourself, Mainwaring."

Meanwhile, Scott, having opened the desk in compliance with the
attorney's request, had looked for the will where he had last seen it
on the preceding day, and, failing to find it, was searching through
the numerous receptacles containing Mr. Mainwaring's private papers.
The silence around him became oppressive, and suddenly looking up,
he encountered the glance of both Mr. Whitney and the detective, the
former with an expression of triumph in his keen eyes.  Perplexed and
bewildered, Scott exclaimed in a mechanical tone,-

"The will is gone; it is nowhere to be found!"

"I thought as much," said the attorney, quietly.




CHAPTER VI

THE INQUEST


The crowd, which early in the day had gathered about Fair Oaks,
instead of diminishing, seemed rather to increase as the hours
slipped away.  Little by little the facts became known to outsiders,
--the loss of the old family jewels, concerning whose existence
and probable value vague rumors had been circulated in the past, the
drawing up of the will on the preceding day and its strange
disappearance in connection with the sudden and mysterious death of
the testator,--all combined to arouse public interest and curiosity
to an unusual degree; it seemed the culmination of the impenetrable
mystery which for years had shrouded the place.

As the hour for the inquest approached, the crowd was augmented by
each suburban train, until a throng of business men of all classes,
interspersed with numerous reporters eager for the details of the
affair, covered the grounds and even sought admittance to the house,
for the millionaire broker, though a man of few intimate friendships,
was widely known and honored in the financial and commercial world.

Shortly after the arrival of the 2.45 train from the city, the
Mainwaring carriage came rapidly up the avenue, two or three other
carriages following in the rear.  As it stopped, Mr. Whitney
alighted, followed by an elderly gentleman of fine appearance and
two officers of the special police, who immediately began to force
back the crowd, while the attorney and his companion hastily entered
the house and were met by the butler, who, in response to a hurried
inquiry, directed them up-stairs.

In the private library they found the detective who had been left
there alone at his own request.  There was a brief interview between
the three, after which Mr. Whitney begged his companion to excuse
him for a moment, and beckoning Mr. Merrick into the tower-room,
asked eagerly,-

"Well, what success?  Have you struck the trail?"

With an enigmatical smile, the detective replied, "The game has
doubled back on the trail pretty adroitly, but I have made one or
two little discoveries that may be of value later.  What do you
think of this?"

Opening a small note-book, he took therefrom several pieces of burnt
paper, most of which were so blackened that the faint traces of
writing which they bore were illegible.  On a few pieces, however,
words and parts of words could be distinctly read.

Mr. Whitney studied the bits of discolored paper for a moment, and
then exclaimed in excited tones,

"Good heavens, man! it is the will!  The will drawn up in these
rooms yesterday!  See, here is the date, 'this seventh day of July,
in the year of our'--the rest is gone."

"Here is part of a name," said the detective, "'nor Houghton
LaGra'--"

"Eleanor Houghton LaGrange!" exclaimed the attorney, "and below
you can just trace the words, 'this amount of annuity to be'; and
here are other bits, 'as to my estate and all property,' 'to hold
the same forever, together with.'  Well, I should say these were
of value; where did you find them?"

For answer, Mr. Merrick pointed to a small fireplace behind the
safe, near which a large screen was standing.

"Strange!" exclaimed the attorney.  "I never noticed that before,
much as I have been here."

"It escaped my observation for some time," replied the other.  "I
searched the fireplace in the library, but this grate is very small
and was concealed by that large screen, as well as by the safe.
Evidently, it was seldom used, and was selected for that reason by
whoever destroyed the will, as more likely to escape notice."

"Rather a bungling piece of work," commented the attorney, "leaving
these partially burned scraps.  I wonder that he or she, whoever it
was, did not make sure that they were entirely consumed."

"The person may have heard some sound and, fearing detection,
hastened away before the job was completed," suggested the other.

"Well, it is past three, we must hasten; you found nothing more?"

"Nothing of special importance.  I have learned one fact, however;
the murder was never committed in this room, but in the library."

"The library!  Why do you think that?"

"I do not think it, I know it, and was confident of it while we
were making the examination this morning.  Say nothing about it,
however, for the present.  We will go now, if you are ready."

Joining the gentleman still awaiting them in the library, they
descended into the lower hall, where the detective suddenly
disappeared.

Meanwhile, the coroner and members of the jury, after alighting
from their carriages, marched gravely up the broad stairs and were
conducted by a servant into one of the private apartments where lay
the body of the murdered man.  Under the direction of Dr. Westlake,
the jury individually viewed the wounds, noting their location and
character, and, after a brief visit to the room in the tower, all
passed downstairs and were shown into the large library on the first
floor.

The coroner occupied a large arm-chair at one end of a long
writing-table in the centre of the room, the jury being seated
together near his left, while on each side of the table chairs had
been placed for the accommodation of a few of the more prominent
reporters, the others, less favored, stationing themselves at the
doorways and open windows.

In the room back of the library were the servants, the women grouped
about the great arched doorway with white, frightened faces, the men
standing a little farther in the rear, while in a dim corner,
partially concealed by the heavy portieres and unseen by any one
excepting the servants, was the detective.

When everything was in readiness, Mr. Whitney entered the room with
the gentleman who had accompanied him out from the city and followed
by the London guests.  In the lead were Ralph Mainwaring and his
son, the entrance of the latter causing a small stir of interest and
excitement, as a score of pencils at once began to rapidly sketch
the features of the young Englishman, the intended heir of Hugh
Mainwaring.  The young man's face wore an expression of unconcern,
but his father's features were set and severe.  To him, the loss of
the will meant something more than the forfeiture of the exclusive
ownership of a valuable estate; it meant the overthrow and demolition
of one of his pet schemes, cherished for twenty-one years, just on
the eve of its fulfilment; and those who knew Ralph Mainwaring knew
that to thwart his plans was a dangerous undertaking.

Mr. Thornton followed, escorting Mrs. Mainwaring and her daughter,
the cold, gray eyes of Isabel Mainwaring flashing a look of haughty
disdain on the faces about her.  Bringing up the rear was Mrs. Hogarth
with her two charges, Edith Thornton and Winifred Carleton, the face
of the latter lighted with an intelligent, sympathetic interest in
her surroundings.

Harry Scott next entered, pausing in the doorway for an instant,
while just behind him appeared Mrs. LaGrange.  The room was already
crowded, and Miss Carleton, seated near the door, with a quick
glance invited the young secretary to a vacant chair by her side,
which he gracefully accepted, but not before a tiny note had been
thrust into his hand, unseen by any one excepting the detective.

Pale, but with all her accustomed hauteur, Mrs. LaGrange,
accompanied by her son, passed slowly around the group of reporters,
ignoring the chair offered by the attorney, and seated herself in a
position as remote as possible from the guests of the house and
commanding a full view of the servants.  Her gown was noticeable
for its elegance, and her jewelled hands toyed daintily with a
superb fan, from whose waving black plumes a perfume, subtle and
exquisite, was wafted to every part of the room.

In the silence that followed, the coroner, with a few brief words,
called for the first witness, George Hardy.  A young man, with a
frank face and quiet, unassuming manner, stepped forward from the
group of servants.  After the usual preliminaries, the coroner
inquired,-

"How long have you been in the employ of Mr. Mainwaring?"

"Nearly four years, sir."

"During that time you have held the position of valet?"

"Yes, sir."

"At what time this morning did you discover what had occurred?"

"About seven o'clock, sir."

"You may state how you came to make this discovery, giving full
particulars."

"I had gone as usual to the bath-room to prepare the bath for Mr.
Mainwaring, and when everything was in readiness I knocked at his
door to waken him.  There was no answer, and, after knocking several
times, I unlocked the door and looked in.  I saw he had not occupied
the room, but I didn't think much about that, and went on through
the smoking-room into the library, and then I saw Mr. Mainwaring
lying on the floor in the next room.  At first I thought he was sick
and went to him, but as I got nearer I saw that he was dead, and
then I noticed the revolver lying beside him."

"What did you then do?"

"I was frightened, sir, and I went to call help as quick as I could."

"Who was the first person whom you met and told of your discovery?"

"Well, sir, I went first for Mr. Whitney, because he was a friend
of Mr. Mainwaring's and a lawyer, and I thought he would know what
to do; but on my way to his room I met Wilson, Mr. Ralph Mainwaring's
valet, and I told him what had happened; then I called Mr. Whitney
and told him Mr. Mainwaring had shot himself."

"Did you get the impression that Mr. Mainwaring had shot himself
from the fact that the revolver lay near his hand, or had you any
other reasons for that inference?"

"No, sir, that was the only reason."

"Can you state positively whether this revolver belonged to Mr.
Mainwaring?" asked the coroner, at the same time passing the weapon
to Hardy.

"Yes, sir," replied the latter, promptly, handing it back after a
moment's inspection, "that is Mr. Mainwaring's revolver.  I've
cleaned it many a time, and there's little marks on it that I know
sure."

"Very well.  After summoning Mr. Whitney, did you call any other
members of the household?"

"Mr. Whitney sent me to call Mr. Ralph Mainwaring; but I met Wilson
again, and he said he had just told Mr. Mainwaring and Mr. Thornton,
and was on his way to the room of young Mr. Mainwaring.  Down the
hall I met the butler and told him what had happened, and we both
went into the library, and I stayed there till Mr. Whitney came."

"When did you last see Mr. Hugh Mainwaring?"

"Shortly after dinner last evening, between seven and eight o'clock,
I should say, sir."

"Where was that?"

"In the main hall down-stairs, sir.  He stopped me to say that he
would not need me last evening, and that after locking up his rooms
for the night I could have my time to myself."

"Was the locking of his rooms usually included among your duties at
night?"

"Yes, sir; his private rooms and the hall on the south side."

"Did you have any stated time for doing this?"

"At nine o'clock, sir."

"You locked the rooms as usual last night?"

"Yes, sir; that is, I locked them all right, but it was later than
usual."

"How was that?"

"About half an hour after Mr. Mainwaring spoke to me, the housekeeper
came and asked me to keep the rooms open till about ten o'clock, as
she was expecting callers and wanted to receive them by the south
hall into her private parlor."

"At what time did you lock the rooms?"

"A few minutes after ten, sir.  I felt kind of uneasy, because it
was Mr. Mainwaring's orders that the rooms be shut at nine; so soon
as 'twas ten o'clock I went around outside, and, seeing no light in
her parlor, I went in and locked the hall and then went up-stairs
to lock the rooms there."

"Did you see any strangers about the place at that time?"

"No, sir."

"You saw no one in any of Mr. Mainwaring's private rooms?"

"No strangers, you mean?  No, sir."

"Was there any one in his rooms?"

"The housekeeper was in the library.  She had gone up-stairs that
way, she said, and had found the door into the main hall locked,
and hearing me come, she waited for me to open it."

"Had you locked the door into the main hall?"

"No, sir; that door wasn't usually locked in the evening.  I don't
know who locked it, but I opened it for her and then locked it
again."

"Are you positive there was no one else in those rooms at that time?"

"Yes, sir, pretty sure," replied Hardy, with a smile, "for I looked
them over uncommon thorough last night.  I thought at first that I
smelled smoke, like something burning, but I looked around careful
and everything was all right."

At this point Mr. Whitney held a whispered consultation with the
coroner for a moment.

"You say," continued the latter, "you thought you smelled something
burning; could you state what the material seemed to be?"

"Well, sir, I thought it was like paper burning; but I must have
been mistaken, for the papers on the table was all right and there
was nothing in the fireplace."

"Did you see or hear anything unusual about the place at any time
last night?"

"No, sir."

For a moment the coroner was occupied with a slip of paper which
had been passed to him through a number of hands; then he said,-

"Before you are dismissed, will you describe the locks used on the
doors of Mr. Mainwaring's library and the south hall."

"They had the ordinary locks, sir; and then, in addition, a small,
patent lock, that when a certain spring was turned the door locked
of itself and could not be opened from either side unless one had
the key and understood the working of the spring."

"Who had keys to fit these locks?"

"No one but Mr. Mainwaring.  When he was home and wanted the doors
unlocked, he hung the keys in a particular place in the library
where I could find them, and when he went away he always took them
with him."

"Did you unlock the library doors this morning?"

"Only the door into the main hall when I went to call Mr. Whitney,
--that had nothing but an ordinary lock; but the other door, into
the south hall, was unlocked and the keys gone when I first went
into the library."

"One question more.  Do you know whether any one else in the house
had knowledge of or access to, these particular keys?"

"I don't know for certain, sir, but I think not."

The attorney was next called upon, and came forward, while Hardy
resumed his former place among the servants.

"Mr. Whitney," said the coroner, after the witness had given the
details of his arrival in the tower-room in response to the valet's
summons, "will you please state when, and under what circumstances,
you last saw Hugh Mainwaring living."

"At nearly eleven o'clock last night.  Mr. Mainwaring had just
bidden his guests good-night, and I believe they had all retired to
their rooms, leaving him and myself together upon the veranda in
front of the house.  I remained with him about ten minutes, I should
judge, talking over the events of the day which had been of unusual
interest.  I remember his remarking that he should not retire for an
hour or so, as, to use his own expression, his thoughts would not
let him sleep.  We clasped hands with an exchange of good wishes.
That was the last I ever saw him living or heard him speak."

Mr. Whitney's voice trembled slightly towards the close of his
recital, but as he repeated Hugh Mainwaring's words a smile of scorn
passed over the face of Mrs. LaGrange, who was seated directly
opposite.

"Will you please state," said the coroner, "how Mr. Mainwaring had
been engaged during the day, yesterday."

"Until about half-past two his time was spent in the preparation,
with the assistance of his secretary and myself, and the execution
of his last will and testament.  The remainder of the day was devoted
to the entertainment of his guests."

"Will you give briefly and in general terms the conditions of the
will."

"With the exception of an annuity to his housekeeper and a handsome
bequest to her son, it conveyed everything to his cousin and
namesake, Hugh Mainwaring, Jr., whom he intended to-day to formally
declare his heir."

"Where was this document placed, Mr. Whitney?"

"It was, at Mr. Mainwaring's request, placed by his secretary on his
desk in the tower-room."

"You can give no further information regarding this will, now
missing?"

"Only this," replied Mr. Whitney, with marked emphasis, "that we
now have positive proof that the will was burned."

There was a general movement of surprise, both among the members
of the household and outsiders; and the attorney, closely observant
of Mrs. LaGrange, saw her cheek, which but a moment before, at his
mention of the annuity contained in the will, had flamed with anger,
suddenly assume a strange pallor.

"Mr. Whitney," continued the coroner, having consulted a small
memorandum which he held, "do you know whether there were any
strangers at Fair Oaks yesterday?"

"I have no personal knowledge on that subject.  The secretary informs
me that a stranger inquired for Mr. Mainwaring in the afternoon, and
remarks were made at luncheon, that impressed me considerably,
regarding some one who had called in the forenoon, whether to see Mr.
Mainwaring I am not prepared to state."

"Will you state the nature of those remarks?"

"I should prefer to be excused until later in this examination.  For
the present, I will merely say that one of Mr. Mainwaring's guests
incidentally met and recognized this caller; that the latter was
evidently well and unfavorably known by both Mr. Mainwaring and his
guests, and, if I am not mistaken, by the secretary also, and that
the mention of the man's name seemed to affect Mr. Hugh Mainwaring
very unpleasantly."

"In what respect, Mr. Whitney?"

"He grew very pale and appeared confused, if not alarmed, on
learning that the man was in this country and had been seen at this
house, and he seemed abstracted and very unlike himself for fully
an hour after the occurrence."

"Will you state the name of this man?"

"He was spoken of as Richard Hobson, formerly an attorney, of London."





CHAPTER VII

A LITTLE ROYAL


"Harry Scott, private secretary of Hugh Mainwaring," announced the
coroner, when Mr. Whitney had resumed his chair.

As the young secretary walked deliberately through the crowded room,
there were few who failed to remark his erect, athletic form, his
splendid bearing, and especially the striking beauty of his dark
face, with its olive tint, clear-cut features, indicative of firmness
and strength, and large, piercing eyes, within whose depths, on the
present occasion, there seemed to be, half hidden, half revealed,
some smouldering fire.  Instantly a half-dozen pencils were
transferring to paper his form and features.

"Say, what are you 'doing' him for?" whispered one reporter to his
neighbor.  "He isn't anybody; only the old man's secretary."

"Can't help that," replied the other; "he's better looking than the
English chap, anyhow; and, in my opinion, the old fellow would have
shown better sense to have left him the 'stuff.'"

Meanwhile, young Scott, having answered a few preliminary
interrogatories, turned slowly, facing Mrs. LaGrange, who was
watching him with an intensity of manner and expression as though she
would compel him to meet her gaze.

As his glance met hers, a look of inquiry flashed from her eyes to
his, accompanied by an expression persuasive, almost appealing.  But
the only reply was an ominous flash from the dark eyes, as, with a
gesture of proud disdain, he folded his arms and again faced his
interlocutor, while, with eyes gleaming with revenge from under
their heavily drooping lids and lips that curled from time to time
in a smile of bitter malignity, she watched him, listening eagerly
for his testimony, losing no word that he said.

The young secretary well understood the character of the enemy with
whom he had thus declared war, though he was as yet in ignorance of
the weapons she would use against him, but the honeyed words of the
little note crushed within his pocket had no power to swerve him for
an instant from the course upon which he had determined.

After a few general questions, the coroner said,

"Please state when and what was the first intimation received by you
of any unusual occurrence."

"I was awakened this morning by a woman's scream and heard sounds of
confused running in different directions.  A few moments later Mr.
Whitney came to my room and informed me of what had occurred, and I
then went with him to the private rooms of Mr. Mainwaring."

"You were associated with Mr. Mainwaring yesterday during the greater
part of the day and evening, were you not?"

"I was during the day, but I did not see him after dinner until late
at night."

"Did you notice anything unusual in his appearance at any time
yesterday?"

"He appeared rather depressed for about an hour after luncheon,
during the execution of the will."

"Did you know any cause for such depression?"

"I attributed it, in my own mind, to the conversation at luncheon,
to which Mr. Whitney has referred."

"Regarding one Richard Hobson?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you know what, if any, relations existed between Mr. Mainwaring
and this Hobson?"

The black plumes of Mrs. LaGrange's fan suddenly quivered, her cheek
paled, and her breath came and went quickly, but these were the only
signs of agitation which she betrayed, as Scott replied,-

"I have no knowledge as to what relations existed between them of
late.  I only know that Mr. Mainwaring had, years ago, some important
private business with this man."

"Will you state the nature of this business?"

"Without giving exact details," Scott replied, speaking deliberately
but with no hesitation, though conscious of the surprise and
indignation depicted on some of the faces about him, "this man was
employed as an attorney by Mr. Mainwaring before the latter came to
this country, and has since, at various times, extorted money from
him by threats of exposure regarding certain transactions."

The silence that followed this statement was of itself eloquent.
The young secretary felt every eye fastened upon himself, and,
though his own eyes were fixed on the coroner's face, he saw
reflected even there the general expression of mingled astonishment,
incredulity, and resentment.  Unmoved, however, he awaited, coolly
and impassively, the next words of the coroner.

"Mr. Scott," said Dr. Westlake, a touch of severity in his tone,
"this is a serious assertion to make regarding a man so widely known
as Mr. Mainwaring, and so universally considered above reproach in
his business transactions."

"I am aware of that fact, sir," replied Scott, calmly, "but reference
to the private letter-files of Mr. Mainwaring will prove the truth
of my assertion.  I made this statement simply because the time and
place demanded it.  You were endeavoring to ascertain the cause of
Mr. Mainwaring's perturbation on learning yesterday of the arrival
of Hobson.  I have given what I consider the clue."

"How recently had this man Hobson extorted money from Mr. Mainwaring,
and in what amount?"

"The last money sent him was about three years ago, a sum of five
thousand dollars.  Hobson wrote a most insolent letter of
acknowledgment, stating that, as this money would set him on his
feet for a time, he would not write again immediately, but assuring
Mr. Mainwaring that he would never be able to elude him, as the
writer would keep posted regarding his whereabouts, and might, some
time in the future, call upon him in person."

"Can you describe this man's appearance?"

"I cannot, having never met him."

"Will you describe the stranger who is reported to have called in
the afternoon."

"He was tall, quite pale, with dark hair and moustache.  He was
dressed in a tweed suit, somewhat travel-worn, and wore dark
glasses."

"Did he state his errand?"

"Only that he wished to see Mr. Mainwaring on business of special
importance.  He at first seemed rather insistent, but, on learning
that Mr. Mainwaring was out and that he would receive no business
calls for a day or two, he readily consented to defer his interview
until later."

"Did he leave his name or address?"

"His card bore the name of J. Henry Carruthers, of London.  He gave
his present address as the Arlington House."

"You noticed nothing unusual in his appearance?"

"The only thing that struck me as rather peculiar was that Mr.
Carruthers seemed well informed regarding events expected to take
place here, while his name was wholly unfamiliar to Mr. Mainwaring."

At this point a pencilled note was handed by the coroner to Mr.
Whitney, who immediately summoned George Hardy and hastily
despatched him on some errand.

"Mr. Scott," resumed the coroner, "were you in Mr. Mainwaring's
private library at any time during last evening?"

"I was not.  I spent the entire evening in my own room."

"When did you again see Mr. Mainwaring?"

"Not until after eleven o'clock.  I had come down for a smoke in
the grounds outside and met Mr. Mainwaring in the lower hall on
the way to his rooms.  He asked me to come to his library before
retiring, as he wished to give some final directions for the next
day.  About half an hour later I went to the library door, but
hearing loud and angry talk within, I waited in the hall some
fifteen or twenty minutes until I knew Mr. Mainwaring was alone.
I then entered, received his instructions, and went directly to
my room for the night."

"Were you able to recognize the voices or hear any of the
conversation?"

"I was.  I recognized the voice of the housekeeper, Mrs. LaGrange;
but feeling that I was hearing what was not intended for me, I
walked back into the main hall and remained there until Mrs.
LaGrange came out."

"You saw her leave the library?"

"Yes, sir; I passed her in the corridor."

"She saw you, of course?"

"She seemed scarcely conscious of my presence until we had passed;
she then turned and watched me as I entered the library."

"What was the nature of the conversation which you heard?"

"I only heard what Mrs. LaGrange said.  She evidently was very
angry with Mr. Mainwaring."
"Can you repeat her words as you heard them?"

"Not entirely.  She accused Mr. Mainwaring of dishonesty, saying
that he had defrauded his only brother, and had ignored and robbed
his own son to put a stranger in his place.  The last words I heard
were, 'You are in my power, and you know it only too well; and I
will make you and your high-born, purse-proud family rue this day's
work.'"

Harry Scott, with the proof of his employer's crimes in his
possession, repeated these words with an indifference and
impassiveness that seemed unnatural, while the smouldering fire in
his eyes gleamed fitfully, as though he knew some secret of which
the others little dreamed.

But, if spoken indifferently, the words were not received with
indifference.  The reporters bent to their task with renewed ardor,
since it promised developments so rich and racy.  Ralph Mainwaring's
face was dark with suppressed wrath; Mr. Thornton seemed hardly
able to restrain himself; while the attorney grew pale with
excitement and anger.  Mrs. LaGrange alone remained unmoved, as much
so as the witness himself, her eyes half closed and a cynical smile
playing about her lips as she listened to the repetition of her own
words.

"Did Mr. Mainwaring make no reply?" inquired the coroner.

"He did, but it was inaudible to me."

"You went into the library as soon as he was alone?"

"I did."

"At what hour was this?"

"A few minutes past twelve."

"Was that the last time you saw Mr. Mainwaring living?"

"It was."

"Can you state whether any one was in his rooms after you left?"

"I cannot."

"Mr. Scott, by your own statement, you must have been in Mr.
Mainwaring's library within an hour preceding his death;
consequently, I would like you to give every detail of that
interview."

"I am perfectly willing, sir, but there are few to give.  The
interview occupied possibly ten minutes.  Mr. Mainwaring appeared
very weary, and, after giving directions regarding any personal
mail or telegrams which might be received, stated that he wished
me to consider myself his guest on the following day and join in
the festivities of the occasion.  I thanked him, and, wishing him
good-night, withdrew."

"In which room were you?"

"We were both in the library.  When I first entered, Mr. Mainwaring
was walking back and forth, his hands folded behind him, as was
usually his habit when thinking deeply, but he immediately seated
himself and gave me my instructions.  The tower-room was dimly
lighted and the curtains were drawn quite closely together at the
entrance."

"Did you hear any unusual sound after reaching your room?"

"Not at that time.  I was aroused about three o'clock this morning
by what I thought was a stealthy step in the grounds in the rear of
the house, but I listened for a moment and heard nothing more."

"That will do for the present, Mr. Scott.  You will probably be
recalled later," said the coroner, watching the secretary rather
curiously.  Then he added, in a different tone,-

"The next witness is Mrs. LaGrange."

There was a perceptible stir throughout the crowd as, with a
movement of inimitable grace, Mrs. LaGrange stepped forward, darting
a swift glance of such venomous hatred towards Scott, as he again
seated himself beside Miss Carleton, that the latter, with a woman's
quick intuition, instantly grasped the situation and watched the
proceedings with new interest and closer attention.  As Mrs. LaGrange
took her place and began answering the questions addressed to her,
the eager listeners pressed still more closely in their efforts to
catch every word, feeling instinctively that some startling
developments would be forthcoming; but no one was prepared for the
shock that followed when, in response to the request to state her
full name, the reply came, in clear tones, with unequivocal
distinctness, -

"Eleanor Houghton Mainwaring."

For an instant an almost painful silence ensued, until Dr. Westlake
said,-

"Will you state your relation to the deceased?"

"I was the lawfully wedded, but unacknowledged, wife of Hugh
Mainwaring," was the calm reply.

"Please state when and where your marriage took place," said the
coroner, watching the witness narrowly.

"We were married privately in London, about three months before Mr.
Mainwaring came to this country."

"How long ago was that?"

"A little more than twenty-three years."

"You say that you were privately married, and that in all these
years Mr. Mainwaring never acknowledged you as his wife?"

"Yes.  I was at that time a widow, and, owing to certain unpleasant
circumstances attending the last months of my former husband's life,
Mr. Mainwaring insisted that our marriage be strictly private.  I
acceded to his wishes, and we were married as quietly as possible.
At the end of three months he deserted me, and for four years I did
not even know where he had gone.  During that time, however, I
learned that my husband, who had been fearful of soiling his proud
name by having it publicly joined with mine, was, in the sight of
the law, a common criminal.  I finally traced him to America, and
five years after he deserted me I had the pleasure of confronting
him with the facts which I had obtained.  With passionate
protestations of renewed love and fair promises of an honorable
married life, he sought to purchase my silence, and, fool that I
was! I yielded.  He claimed that he could not at once acknowledge
me as his wife, because he was already known as an unmarried man,
but in the near future we would repeat the marriage ceremony and I
should be the honored mistress of his heart and home.  I believed
him and waited.  Meantime, our child was born, and then a new role
had to be adopted.  Had he not known that he was in my power, I
would then have been thrust out homeless with my babe, but he dared
not do that.  Instead, I was brought to Fair Oaks dressed in widow's
garb, as a distant relative of his who was to be his housekeeper.
So, for my son's sake, hoping he would some day receive his rights,
I have lived a double life, regarded as a servant where I should
have been mistress, and holding that poor position only because it
was within my power to put the master of the house in a felon's
cell!"

"Can you produce the certificate of this marriage?" inquired the
coroner, regarding the witness with a searching glance as she
paused in her recital.

"Unfortunately," she replied, in a tone ringing with scorn and
defiance, "I cannot produce our marriage certificate, as my husband
kept that in his possession, and frequently threatened to destroy
it.  If it is in existence, it will be found in his safe; but I can
produce a witness who was present at our marriage, and who himself
signed the certificate."

"State the name of this witness."

"Richard Hobson, of London."

"You are then acquainted with this Hobson?" the coroner inquired,
at the same time making an entry in the memorandum he held.

"Naturally, as he was at one time my husband's attorney."

"He called at Fair Oaks yesterday, did he not?"

"He did."

"Do you know whether he called more than once?"

"He came a second time, in the evening, accompanied by his clerk."

"Was his object at either time to secure an interview with Mr.
Mainwaring?"

"He called to see me on private business."

"Had he any intention of meeting Mr. Mainwaring later?"

"I know nothing regarding his intentions."

"Mrs. LaGrange," said the coroner, after a pause, "you were in Mr.
Mainwaring's library between the hours of eleven and twelve last
night, were you not?"

Her face darkened with anger at his form of address.  "I was in
my husband's library at that hour," she replied.

"How long were you there?"

"I cannot state exactly," she answered, indifferently; "perhaps
half an hour."

"Did Mr. Scott repeat correctly your words to Mr. Mainwaring?"

"I have no doubt that he did.  His memory on the subject is much
better than mine."

"What was the meaning of your threat to Mr. Mainwaring, that you
would make him and his friends regret the day's proceedings?"

"He understood my meaning.  He knew that I could set aside the
will, and could ruin him by exposing his duplicity and fraud."

"What reply did he make?"

"He answered me, as usual, with sneers; but I saw that he felt
somewhat apprehensive.  I wished to give him a little time to
reflect upon a proposition I had made, and I left the library,
intending to return later; but," she added, slowly and
significantly, "I was superseded by another visitor."

"Explain your meaning," said the coroner, briefly.

"My husband's private secretary entered the library directly after
I left.  Some thirty minutes later I passed down the corridor
towards the library, and was startled to hear Mr. Mainwaring, in
loud and excited tones, denouncing some one as a liar and an
impostor.  The reply was low, in a voice trembling with rage, but
I caught the words, 'You are a liar and a thief!  If you had your
deserts, you would be in a felon's cell to-night, or transported
to the wilds of Australia!'  There was much more in the same tone,
but so low I could not distinguish the words, and, thinking Mr.
Mainwaring was likely to be occupied for some time, I immediately
retired to my room."

"Was the voice of the second speaker familiar to you?" inquired
Dr. Westlake, in the breathless silence that followed this statement.

A half smile, both cunning and cruel, played around the lips of the
witness, as she answered, with peculiar emphasis and with a ring
of triumph in her tone,-

"The voice was somewhat disguised, but it was distinctly recognizable
as that of Mr. Scott, the private secretary."

To Scott himself, these words came with stunning force, not so much
for the accusation which they conveyed, as that her recital of those
words spoken within the library seemed but the repetition of words
which had rung in his brain the preceding night, as, alone in his
room, he had, in imagination, confronted his employer with the proof
of his guilt which that afternoon's search had brought to light.
His fancy had vividly portrayed the scene in which he would arraign
Hugh Mainwaring as a thief, and would himself, in turn, be denounced
as an impostor until he should have established his claims by the
indubitable evidence now in his possession.  Such a scene had in
reality been enacted,--those very words had been spoken,--and,
for an instant, it seemed to Scott as though he had been,
unconsciously, one of the actors.

The general wonder and consternation with which he was now regarded
by the crowd quickly recalled him, however, to the present
situation, and awakened within him a sudden, fierce resentment,
though he remained outwardly calm.

"At that time," continued the coroner, "were you of the opinion
that it was Mr. Scott whom you heard thus addressing Mr.
Mainwaring?"

"Yes, I had every reason to believe it was he, and I have now
additional reasons for the same belief."

"Are these additional reasons founded on your own personal
knowledge, or on the information of others?"

"Upon information received from various members of the household."

"Did you see Mr. Scott leave the library?"

"I did not."

"Can you state about what time you heard this conversation?"

"I went immediately to my room, and there found that it lacked only
ten minutes of one."

"Did you hear any unusual sound afterwards?"

"I did not.  I heard no one in the halls; and Mr. Mainwaring's
apartments were so remote from the general sleeping-rooms that no
sound from there, unless very loud, could have reached the other
occupants of the house."

Further questions failed to develop any evidence of importance, and
the witness was temporarily dismissed.  Glancing at his watch, the
coroner remarked,

"It is nearly time to adjourn, but if Mr. Hardy has returned we
will first hear what he has to report."

As the valet again came forward, Dr. Westlake asked, "Were you able
to learn anything concerning the strangers who were here yesterday?"

"Not very much, sir," was the reply.  "I went to the Arlington first
and inquired for Mr. J. Henry Carruthers, and they told me there
was no such person registered there; but they said a man answering
that description, tall and wearing dark glasses, came into the
hotel last evening and took dinner and sat for an hour or so in the
office reading the evening papers.  He went out some time between
seven and eight o'clock, and they had seen nothing more of him."

"Was Richard Hobson at the Arlington?"

"No, sir; but I went to the Riverside, and found R. Hobson
registered there.  They said he came in in the forenoon and ordered
a carriage for Fair Oaks.  He came back to lunch, but kept his room
all the afternoon.  He had a man with him in his room most of the
afternoon, but he took no meals there.  After dinner Hobson went
out, and nobody knew when he came back; but he was there to
breakfast, and took the first train to the city.  I made some
inquiries at the depot, and the agent said there was a tall man,
in a gray ulster and with dark glasses, who took the 3.10 train
this morning to the city, but he didn't notice him particularly.
That was all I could learn."

As the hour was late, the inquest was then adjourned until ten
o'clock the next morning.  Every one connected with the household
at Fair Oaks was expected to remain on the premises that night; and,
dinner over, the gentlemen, including Mr. Whitney, locked themselves
within the large library to discuss the inevitable contest that
would arise over the estate and to devise how, with the least
possible delay, to secure possession of the property.

Later in the evening Harry Scott came down from his room for a
brief stroll through the grounds.  A bitter smile crossed his face
as he noticed the brightly illumined library and heard the eager,
excited tones within, remembering the dimly-lighted room above with
its silent occupant, unloved, unmourned, unthought of, in marked
contrast to the preceding night, when Hugh Mainwaring lavished upon
his guests such royal entertainment and was the recipient of their
congratulations and their professions of esteem and regard.

As he paced slowly up and down the avenues, his thoughts were not
of the present, but of the past and future.  At the earliest
opportunity that day he had returned to the city, ostensibly, to
attend to some telegraphic despatches, but his main errand had been
to consult with an eminent lawyer whom he knew by reputation, and
in whom both Hugh Mainwaring and Mr. Whitney, in numerous legal
contests, had found a powerful and bitter opponent.  To him Scott
had intrusted his own case, giving him the fullest details, and
leaving in his possession for safe keeping the proofs which were
soon to play so important a part; and Mr. Sutherland, the attorney
retained by Scott, had been present at the inquest, apparently
as a disinterested spectator, but, in reality, one of the most
intensely interested of them all.




CHAPTER VIII

THE WEAVING OF THE WEB


Ten o'clock found an eager crowd assembled in and about the large
library at Fair Oaks, drawn by reports of the sensational features
developed on the preceding day.  The members of the household
occupied nearly the same positions as on the preceding afternoon,
with the exception of the secretary, who had entered the room a
little in advance of the others and had seated himself near the
coroner.

Notwithstanding the glances of doubt and distrust which Scott
encountered, and his own consciousness that suspicion against
himself would deepen as all the facts in the case became known,
he was as impassive as ever.  Even Mr. Whitney was wholly at a
loss to account for the change in the bearing of the secretary.
He was no longer the employee, but carried himself with a proud
independence, as though conscious of some mysterious vantage-ground.

On the other side of the coroner, but conveniently near Scott, was
Mr. Sutherland, while in the rear, commanding a good view of both
gentlemen, as well as of nearly every face in the room, sat Mr.
Merrick, though to a stranger his manner would have implied the
utmost indifference to the proceedings.

The first witness called for by the coroner was Johnson, the butler.
For the first five or ten minutes his testimony was little more
than a corroboration of that given by the valet on the preceding
day, of the discovery of the death of Hugh Mainwaring.

"You say," said the coroner, "that at Mr. Whitney's request you
remained in the upper hall, near the library and within call?"

"Yes, sir."

"Will you state how long a time you should think elapsed between
the alarm given by Hardy and the appearance of the entire household,
including both the guests and the servants?"

"Well, sir, Hardy gave the alarm a little after seven.  The servants
were already up and crowded around there immediately, and I should
say that every one, including the ladies, was out within twenty
minutes, or thirty at the latest, with the exception of Mrs. LaGrange
and her son."

"At what time did the latter appear?"

"It must have been considerably after eight o'clock, sir, when she
came to the library in response to a message from Mr. Whitney."

"And her son?"

"I did not see Mr. Walter LaGrange at all during the forenoon, sir."

"How was that?" inquired Dr. Westlake, rather quickly.  "Was he not
at Fair Oaks?"

"I cannot say, sir.  I did not see him until luncheon."

"When did you last see Mr. Mainwaring?"

"A little after eleven o'clock night before last,--Wednesday night,
sir.  I was in the hall as he passed upstairs to his rooms, and I
heard him ask Mr. Scott to come to his library."

"Did there seem to be any coldness or unpleasantness between them?"

"No, sir; they both appeared the same as usual."

"Did any strangers call at Fair Oaks Wednesday aside from those
mentioned yesterday?"

"No, sir."

"Will you describe the strangers who were here, stating when they
called and any particulars you are able to give?"

"The man giving his name as R. Hobson called between eleven and
twelve, Wednesday morning.  He was tall, with thin features, small,
dark eyes, and a very soft voice.  He came in a carriage, inquired
for Mrs. LaGrange, and seemed in considerable haste.  He stayed
about an hour.  The gentleman who called about four in the afternoon
also came in a carriage and inquired for Mr. Mainwaring, saying he
had been directed to Fair Oaks at the city offices of Mainwaring &
Co.  On learning that Mr. Mainwaring was out, he asked for the
secretary; and I took his card to Mr. Scott, who gave directions
to have him shown up into the library.  I do not know when he left.
He was tall, with black hair and moustache and dark glasses."

"Mr. Hobson's call occasioned considerable comment at luncheon, did
it not?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you observe that it had any effect on Mr. Mainwaring?"

"Well, sir, I thought he appeared considerably annoyed, and after
luncheon he asked me whether Mr. Hobson had inquired for him."

"Did you admit Hobson when he called in the evening?"

"I did not, sir.  I merely met him at the door and directed him to
the south side entrance."

"At Mrs. LaGrange's request?"

"Yes, sir; in accordance with her instructions."

"Did she give any reason for such instructions?"

"Merely that his former call had caused so much remark she wished
to receive him privately."

"Was he alone when he called the second time?"

"No, sir."

"Can you describe the person who accompanied him?"

"No, sir.  The man stood so far in the shadow that I could only see
the outlines of his form.  I should say he was about the same height
as Mr. Hobson, but considerably heavier."

"Do you know at what hour they left?"

"No, sir."

Further questions failing to elicit any facts bearing upon the
situation, the butler was dismissed, and Brown, the coachman, took
his place.  The latter was far less taciturn than the butler,
seeming rather eager to impart some piece of information which he
evidently considered of special importance.

After a few preliminary questions, the coroner said,-

"At what time, and from whom, did you first hear of Mr. Mainwaring's
death?"

"About half-past seven, yesterday morning, sir.  I was a-taking
care of the horses, sir, when Uncle Mose--he's the gardener, sir
--he comes past the stable on his way to the tool-house, and he
tells me that Mr. Mainwaring had been murdered in the night, right
in his own rooms, and then he tells me--"

"How long had you been up and at work in the stables?"

"Before I heard of the murder?  Well, about an hour, I should say.
I generally gets up at six."

"Had you been to the house that morning?"

"No, sir; but I went right up there after seeing Uncle Mose, and I
was in the kitchen telling what I had seen the night before, when
the butler he comes down and said as how Mr. Ralph Mainwaring wanted
me, and that I had better keep my mouth shut till I was asked to
tell what I knew."

"Where were you last Wednesday night?" asked the coroner, rather
abruptly.

Brown looked surprised, but answered readily, "I was out with some
friends of mine.  We all went down to the city together that night
and stayed out pretty late, and it seems a mighty good thing we
did, too."

"Why so?" asked the coroner.

"Well, sir," said Brown, deliberately, glad of an opportunity to
tell his story and evidently determined to make the most of it, "as
I said, we stayed out that night later than we meant to, and I didn't
waste no time getting home after I left the depot.  So, when I got
to Fair Oaks, I thought I'd take the shortest cut, and so I come in
by the south gate, off from the side street, and took the path
around the lake to get to the stables."

"What lake do you mean?" interrupted the coroner.

"The small lake back of the grove in the south part of the grounds.
Well, I was hurrying along through that grove, and all of a sudden
I seen a man standing on the edge of the lake with his back towards
me.  He was very tall, and wore an ulster that came nearly to his
feet, and he looked so queer that I stepped out of the path and
behind some big trees to watch him.  I hadn't no more than done so,
when he stooped and picked up something, and come right up the path
towards me.  The moon was shining, had been up about two hours, I
should say, but his back was to the light and I couldn't see his
face, nor I didn't want him to see me.  After he'd got by I stepped
out to watch him and see if he went towards the house, but he
didn't; he took the path I had just left and walked very fast to
the south gate and went out onto the side street."

"In which direction did he then go?" asked the coroner.

"He went up onto the main avenue and turned towards the town."

"Can you describe his appearance?"

"Only that he was tall and had very black hair; but his face was in
the shadow, so I couldn't tell how he looked."

"What did he pick up from the ground?"

"I couldn't see very plain, but it looked like a small, square box
done up in paper."

"You did not try to call any one?"

"No, sir.  The man didn't go near the house, and I didn't think
much about it until Uncle Mose told me yesterday morning that the
night before he seen--"

"Never mind what he saw; we will let him tell his own story.  Was
that all you saw?"

"No, sir; it wasn't," replied Brown, with a quick side glance
towards Mrs. LaGrange, who occupied the same position as on the
preceding day.  "I was going along towards the stables, thinking
about that man, and all of a sudden I noticed there was a bright
light in one of the rooms up-stairs.  The curtains wasn't drawn,
and I thought I'd see whose room it was, so I walked up towards the
house carefully, and I saw Mr. Mainwaring's secretary.  He looked
awfully pale and haggard, and was walking up and down the room kind
of excited like.  Just then I happened to step on the gravelled walk
and he heard me, for he started and looked kind of frightened and
listened a moment, and then he stepped up quick and extinguished the
light, and I was afraid he'd see me then from the window, so I
hurried off.  But I thought 'twas mighty queer--"

"Mr. Scott was dressed, was he?" interrupted the coroner.

"Yes, sir," Brown answered, sullenly.

"Did you go directly to your room?"

"Yes, sir."

"What time was this?"

"I heard the clock strike three just after I got in."

"You saw or heard nothing more?"

"No, sir."

"You knew nothing of what had occurred at the house until the
gardener told you in the morning?"

"N--yes--no, sir," Brown stammered, with another glance towards
Mrs. LaGrange, who was watching him closely.

"What did you say?" demanded the coroner.

"I said I didn't know what had happened till Uncle Mose told me,"
Brown answered, doggedly.

"That will do," said the coroner, watching the witness narrowly as
he resumed his place among the servants.

During the latter part of Brown's testimony, quick, telegraphic
glances had been exchanged between Scott and Mr. Sutherland, and
one or two slips of paper, unobserved by any one but Merrick, had
passed from one to the other.

Scott was well aware that the statements made by the coachman had
deepened suspicion against himself.  He paid little attention to
the crowd, however, but noted particularly the faces of the guests
at Fair Oaks.  Ralph Mainwaring's, dark with anger; that of the
genial Mr. Thornton coldly averted; young Mainwaring's supercilious
stare, and his sister's expression of contemptuous disdain; and as
he studied their features his own grew immobile as marble.  Suddenly
his glance encountered Miss Carleton's face and was held for a
moment as though under a spell.  There was no weak sentimentality
there, no pity or sympathy,--he would have scorned either,--but
the perfect confidence shining in her eyes called forth a quick
response from his own, though not a muscle stirred about the
sternly-set mouth.  She saw and understood, and, as her eyes fell,
a smile, inexplicable and mysterious, flashed for an instant across
her face and was gone.

"John Wilson," announced the coroner, after a slight pause.

A middle-aged man, rather dull in appearance, except for a pair of
keenly observant eyes, stepped forward with slow precision.

"You are Mr. Ralph Mainwaring's valet, I believe?" said the coroner.

"That I am, sir," was the reply.

"Have you been for some time in his employ?"

The man peered sharply at Dr. Westlake from under his heavy brows,
and replied, with great deliberation, "Nigh onto thirty years, sir."

Then, noting the surprise in his interlocutor's face, he added, with
dignity, "The Wilsons, sir, have served the Mainwarings for three
generations.  My father, sir, was valet to the father of the dead
Hugh Mainwaring, the Honorable Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring, sir."

A smile played over the features of young Mainwaring at these words,
but Scott started involuntarily, and, after studying Wilson's face
intently for a moment, hastily pencilled a few words on a slip of
paper which he handed to Mr. Sutherland, and both watched the
witness with special interest.

His testimony differed little from that given by Hardy and by the
butler.  He stated, however, that, after accompanying Mr. Ralph
Mainwaring to the scene of the murder, the latter sent him to summon
Mr. Scott; but on his way to the young gentleman's room he saw Mr.
Whitney in advance of him, who called the secretary and immediately
returned with him to the library.

"Was Mr. Scott already up when Mr. Whitney called him?" the coroner
inquired, quickly.

"He was up and dressed, sir," was the reply.

Wilson also corroborated the butler's statement that Walter LaGrange
was not seen about the premises until luncheon, and stated, in
addition, that the horse belonging to young LaGrange was missing
from the stables until nearly noon.  Having mingled very little with
the servants at Fair Oaks, he had but slight knowledge concerning the
occurrences of the day preceding the murder.  His testimony was
therefore very brief.

"Katie O'Brien, chambermaid," was next called; and in response a
young Irish woman quietly took her place before the coroner.  She
answered the questions addressed her as briefly as possible, but
with deliberation, as though each word had been carefully weighed.

"Did you have charge of the private rooms of Mr. Mainwaring?"

"Yes, sir."

"You took care of his rooms as usual Wednesday?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you see Mr. Mainwaring during the day or evening?"

"I met him once or twice in the halls."

"When did you last see him?"

"About two o'clock Wednesday afternoon."

"State how you first heard of his death."

"I was working in the halls up-stairs about seven that morning and
heard running back and forth, as if there was trouble.  I went out
into the front hall and met the butler, and he told me Mr. Mainwaring
had been murdered."

"Did you go in to see him at that time?"

"Yes, sir, for a moment."

"Did you notice anything unusual in his rooms?"

"I didn't notice anything unusual in Mr. Mainwaring's rooms."

"Did you in any room?"

"Yes, sir."

"In what one?"

"In Mr. Scott's room, a little later."

"State what you observed."

"A few minutes after I left the library I saw Mr. Scott come out of
his room and go away with Mr. Whitney, and I thought I would go in
and do up the room.  So I went in, but the bed was just as I had
made it up the day before.  It hadn't been slept in nor touched.
Then things was strewn around considerable, and the top drawer of
his dressing-case was kept locked all the forenoon until he went to
the city."

"When did he go to the city?"

"About noon."

"Did you see Mr. Scott the day or evening preceding Mr. Mainwaring's
death?"

"No, sir; but I know he was locked in Mr. Mainwaring's library all
the afternoon, after the folks had gone out driving."

"How do you know the library was locked?"

"I was sweeping in the corridor, and I heard him unlock the door
when the butler came up with some gentleman's card."

"Did you see the gentleman who came up-stairs later?"

"No, sir."

"Did you see Walter LaGrange at any time during yesterday forenoon?"

The witness colored slightly, but replied, "I think I met him once
or twice; I don't remember just when."

"He was away from home part of the time, was he not?"

"I don't know where he was."

Nothing further of importance could be learned from the witness,
and, as it was then past twelve, a short recess was taken until
after lunch.

Scott took his place at the table with the guests, seemingly alike
indifferent to cold aversion or angry frowns.  He was conscious that
Miss Carleton was watching him, her manner indicating the same frank
friendliness she had shown him on the preceding day, and in response
to a signal from her, as they rose from the table, he followed her
into one of the drawing-rooms, joining her in a large alcove window,
where she motioned him to a seat on a low divan by her side.

"You have made a bitter enemy in Mrs. LaGrange," she said, archly;
"and she has marshalled her forces against you."

"Do you think so?" he asked, with an amused smile.

"Certainly.  She displayed her tactics this morning.  I am positive
that much of the testimony was given in accordance with her orders."

"For the most part, however, the witnesses stated facts," Scott
replied, watching her closely.

"Yes; but facts may be so misrepresented as to give an impression
quite the reverse of the truth."

"That is so.  And a misrepresentation having a foundation of truth
is the hardest to fight.  But," he added, in a lighter tone, "all
this testimony against me does not seem to have produced the same
impression upon you that it has upon the others.  Your suspicions
do not seem, as yet, to have been very thoroughly aroused."

"Perhaps my suspicions are as dormant as your own apprehensions.
I fail to detect the slightest anxiety on your part as to the
outcome of this, one way or another."

"No," he replied, after a pause; "I feel no anxiety, only resentment
that circumstances have conspired against me just at this time, and
contempt for people who will be led by appearances rather than their
own judgment."

"People sometimes use very little judgment where their own personal
interests are concerned."

"In that case," said Scott, as they rose to return to the library,
where the others had already preceded them, "I suppose the word of
one unprincipled woman and of three or four ignorant servants will
be allowed to outweigh mine."

They had reached the library and Miss Carleton made no reply, but
Scott again saw the same inscrutable little smile play over her
features, and wondered at its meaning.




CHAPTER IX

TANGLED THREADS


Upon resuming the examination, the first witness called for was
Mary Catron, the second cook, a woman about thirty-five years of
age, with an honest face, but one indicative of a fiery temper.
Her testimony was brief, but given with a directness that was
amusing.  When questioned of the occurrences of the day preceding
the murder, she replied,-

"I know nothing of what went on except from the gossip of the rest.
My place was in the kitchen, and I had too much to do that day to
be loitering round in the halls, leaning on a broom-handle, and
listening at keyholes," and she cast a glance of scathing contempt
in the direction of the chambermaid.

"Did this 'gossip' that you speak of have any bearing on what has
since occurred?" the coroner inquired.

"Well, sir, it might and it mightn't.  'Twas mostly about the will
that Mr. Mainwaring was making; and as how them that got little
was angry that they didn't get more, and them as got much was
growling at not getting the whole."

"How did the servants gain any knowledge of this will?"

"That's more than I can say, sir, except as I knows the nature of
some folks."

Upon further questioning, the witness stated that on the night of
the murder, between the hours of two and three, she was aroused by
a sound like the closing of an outside door, but on going to one
of the basement windows to listen, she heard nothing further and
concluded she had been mistaken.

"Did you see the coachman at that time?" she was asked.

"A few minutes later I looked out again and I see him gaping and
grinning at the house and jabbering to himself like an idiot, and
I was minded to send him about his business if he hadn't a-took
himself off when he did."

"He was perfectly sober, was he not?"

"Sober for aught that I know; but, to my thinking, he's that daft
that he's noways responsible for aught that he says."

"Were you up-stairs soon after the alarm was given?" asked the
coroner, when she had told of hearing from the butler the news of
the murder.

"Yes, sir; I went up as soon as ever I heard what had happened."

"Who was in the library at that time?"

"Nobody but some of the servants, sir.  I met Mr. Whitney just as
I came out."

"Did you meet any one else?"

"I met no one, but I saw the housekeeper coming out of her son's
room.  She didn't see me; but she was telling him to get ready
quick to go somewheres, and I heard her say to hurry, for every
minute was precious."

Louis Picot, the head cook, could give no information whatever.
When the alarm was given, he had rushed, with the other servants,
to the scene of the murder, and in his imperfect English,
accompanied by expressive French gestures, he tried to convey his
horror and grief at the situation, but that was all.

The two maids who attended the English ladies were next called upon;
but their testimony was mainly corroborative of that given by the
chambermaid, except that Sarah Whitely, Miss Carleton's maid,
stated, in addition, that she had seen Mr. Walter LaGrange leave
his mother's room in great haste and go down-stairs, and a little
later, from one of the upper windows, saw him riding away from
the stables in the direction of the south gate.

But one servant remained, "Uncle Mose," as he was familiarly called,
the old colored man having charge of the grounds at Fair Oaks.  His
snow-white hair and bent form gave him a venerable appearance; but
he was still active, and the shrewd old face showed both humor and
pathos as he proceeded with his story.  He had been a slave in his
younger days, and still designated his late employer by the old term
"mars'r."  He was a well-known character to many present, including
Dr. Westlake, who knew that in this instance questions would have
to be abandoned and the witness allowed to tell his story in his
own way.

"Well, Uncle Mose, you have been employed at Fair Oaks for a long
time, haven't you?"

"Moah dan twenty yeahs, sah, I'se had charge ob dese y'er grounds;
an' mars'r Mainwaring, he t'ought nobody but ole Mose cud take cyah
ob 'em, sah."

"You were about the grounds as usual Wednesday, were you not?"

"I was 'bout de grounds all day, sah, 'case dere was a pow'ful lot
to do a-gittin' ready for de big doins dere was goin' to be on
mars'r's birfday."

"Did you see either of the strangers who called that day?"

"I'se a-comm' to dat d'rectly, sah.  You see, sah, I wants to say
right heah, befo' I goes any furder, dat I don' know noffin 'cept
what tuk place under my own obserbation.  I don' feel called upon
to 'spress no 'pinions 'bout nobody.  I jes' wants to state a few
recurrences dat I noted at de time, speshally 'bout dem strangers
as was heah in pertickeler.  Well, sah, de fust man, he come heah
in de mawnin'.  De Inglish gentlemens, dey had been a-walkin' in
de grounds and jes' done gone roun' de corner oh de house to go
to mars'r Mainwaring's liberry, when dis man he comes up de av'nue
in a kerridge, an' de fust ting I heah 'im a-cussin' de driver.
Den he gets out and looks roun' kind o' quick, jes' like de possum
in de kohn, as ef he was 'fraid somebody done see 'im.  I was fixin'
de roses on de front poach, an' I looked at 'im pow'ful sharp, an'
when de dooh opened he jumped in quick, as ef he was glad to get
out o' sight.  Well, sah, I didn't like de 'pearance ob dat man,
an' I jes' t'ought I'd get anoder look at 'im, but he stayed a
mighty long time, sah, an' bime'by I had to go to de tool-house,
an' when I gets back the kerridge was gone."

"Could you describe the man, Uncle Mose?" the coroner asked.

"No, sah, I don' know as I could 'scribe 'im perzacly; but I'd know
'im, no matter where I sot eyes on 'im, and I know'd 'im the nex'
time I see 'im.  Well, sah, dat aft'noon, mars'r Mainwaring an' de
folks had gone out ridin', an' I was roun' kind o' permiscuous like,
an' I see anoder kerridge way down de av'nue by de front gate, an'
I waited, 'spectin' maybe I'd see dat man again.  While I was waitin'
by de front dooh, all oh a sudden a man come roun' from de side, as
ef he come from mars'r Mainwaring's liberry, but he was anoder man."

"Didn't he look at all like the first man?" inquired the coroner.

"No, sah; he looked altogedder diff'rent; but I don' know as I could
state whar'in de differensiashun consisted, sah.  Dis man was berry
good lookin' 'ceptin' his eyes, an' dem yoh cudn' see, 'case he had
on cull'ed glasses.  Mebbe his eyes was pow'ful weak, er mebbe he
didn't want nobody to see 'em; but I 'spicioned dem glasses d'rectly,
sah, an' I watched 'im.  He goes down to de kerridge an' takes out
a coat an' says sump' in to de driver, an' de kerridge goes away
tow'ds de town, an' he walks off de oder way.  Bime'by I see 'im
gwine back again on de oder side ob de street-"

"Was he alone?" interrupted the coroner.

"Yes, sah; an' I done kep' my eye on 'im, an' he didn' go on to de
town, but tuhned down de fust side street.  Well, sah, I didn' see
no moah ob 'im den; but dat ebenin' I'd ben a-workin' roun' de
house, sprinklin' de grass and gettin' ready foh de nex' day, when
I happens to pass by de side dooh, an' I sees dem two men comm'
out togedder."

"What time was this, Uncle Mose?" the coroner asked, quickly.

"Well, sah," said the old man, reflectively, "my mem'ry is a little
derelictious on dat p'int, but I knows 'twas gettin' putty late."

"Are you sure these were the same two men you had seen earlier in
the day?"

"Yes, sah; 'case I stepped in de bushes to watch 'em.  Dey talked
togedder berry low, an' den one man goes back into de house, an' I
seen 'im plain in de hall light, an' he was de fust man; an' while
I was a-watchin' 'im, de oder man he disappeahed an' I cudn' see
'im nowhar, but I know'd he was de man dat came in de aft'noon,
'case he look jes' like 'im, an' toted a coat on his arm.  Well,
sah, I t'inks it a berry cur'is sarcumstance, an' I was jes' comm'
to de preclushun dat I'd mention it to some ob de fambly, when de
fust man, he come to de dooh wid de housekeeper.  I was in de
shadder and dey didn' see me, but I heah 'im say, kind o' soft
like, 'Remember, my deah lady, dis is a biz'ness contract; I does
my part, an' I 'spects my pay.'  An' she says, 'Oh, yes, yoh shall
hab yohr money widout fail.'  An' I says to myse'f, 'Mose, yoh ole
fool, what you stan'in' heah foh?  Dat ain't nuffin dat consarns
yoh nohow,' an' I goes home, an' dat's all I know, sah.  But I'se
ben pow'ful sorry eber sence dat I didn' let mars'r Mainwaring
know 'bout it, 'case I has my 'spicions," and the old darkey shook
his head, while the tears coursed down his furrowed cheeks.

"How did you hear of Mr. Mainwaring's death?" asked the coroner.

"De coachman, he done tole me, sah."

"Why, the coachman stated that you told him what had occurred."

"No, sah; he done tole me; I'd come up to de place pow'ful ahly
dat mawnin' 'case dere was to be such big doings dat day, an' I
was gwine to de tool-house foh sump'in, an' I see mars'r Walter
ridin' away from de stables pow' ful fas' on his hoss--"

"Do you mean Walter LaGrange?"

"Yes, sah; an' de coachman he came out an' I ax 'im whar de young
man was gwine dat ahly, an' he say mars'r Mainwaring ben killed, an'
mars'r Walter had to go to town as fas' as his hoss cud take 'im."

"Do you know when he returned?"

"He came back, sah, befo' berry long, an' den he went away agin and
didn't come back till mos' noon."

When the old darkey had been dismissed the coachman was recalled.

"What did you mean by stating that you first heard of Mr.
Mainwaring's death from the gardener, when the reverse was the
truth?"

"I don't know," he replied, carelessly; "I s'pose I got mixed.  I
remember talking with him about it, and I thought he told me."

"You had forgotten the interview with Walter LaGrange, I presume."

Brown made no answer.

"Why did you not mention that?"

"I wasn't asked to," he replied in insolent tones; "you said nothing
to me about Mr. LaGrange."

"You are expected to state in full every occurrence having any
bearing on the situation.  You may give the particulars of that
interview now."

"There's nothing to tell more than Uncle Mose told.  I was working
in the stables as usual, and Mr. LaGrange came in in a big hurry
and ordered me to saddle his horse as quick as I could, that Mr.
Mainwaring had been murdered, and he'd got to go to town."

"At what time was this?"

"About half-past seven, I should say."

"Did he state his errand?"

"No, sir."

"When did he return?"

"I saw his horse standing in the yard outside the stables about half
an hour after, and then 'twas gone, and I didn't see it again till
noon."

Walter LaGrange was next called.  He stated that he had spent the
greater part of the day preceding the murder away from Fair Oaks;
he had not been at home to luncheon or dinner, and consequently knew
nothing of the strangers seen on the place that day.  He had returned
about half-past ten that evening, and remembered seeing Mr.
Mainwaring and his guests seated on the veranda, but he had gone
directly to his room without meeting any one.  The first intimation
which he had received of any unusual occurrence the next morning
was when his mother entered his room and told him that Mr. Mainwaring
had either been murdered or had committed suicide, no one knew which.

"Was that her only object in coming to your room?"

"No, sir; she wanted me to do an errand for her."

"Will you state the nature of this errand?"

"It was only to deliver a note."

"To whom?"

"To Mr. Hobson," the young man answered weakly, while his mother
frowned, the first sign of emotion of any kind which she had
betrayed that day.

"Did you deliver the note?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then, under your mother's orders, you went to the city on your
second trip, did you not?"

"Y-yes, sir."

"Were you successful in finding Mr. Hobson there?"

"Yes, sir," the witness answered sullenly.

"You had other business in the city aside from meeting him, had you
not?"

Between the coroner's persistence and his mother's visible signs of
displeasure, Walter LaGrange was fast losing his temper.

"If you know so much about this business, I don't see the use of
your questioning me," he retorted angrily.  "It's no affair of mine
anyway; I had nothing to do with it, nor I won't be mixed up in it;
and if you want any information you'd better ask mother for it; it's
her business and none of mine."

After a few more questions, which the witness answered sullenly and
in monosyllables, he was dismissed.

"Mr. Higgenbotham," announced the coroner.  The greatest surprise
was manifested on every side as the senior member of a well-known
firm of jewellers stepped forward; the same gentleman who had
accompanied Mr. Whitney on his return from the city on the preceding
day.

"Mr. Higgenbotham," said the coroner, "I believe you are able to
furnish some testimony which will be pertinent at this time."

"Yes, Dr. Westlake," responded the other, in deep, musical tones,
"I think possibly I can render you a little assistance in your
investigations."

"Mr. Higgenbotham, do you recognize the young gentleman who has just
given his testimony?"

"I do, sir," said the witness, adjusting a pair of eyeglasses and
gazing steadily at Walter LaGrange.  "I recall his features
perfectly."

"You were personally acquainted with the late Hugh Mainwaring, I
believe?"

"Yes, sir, intimately acquainted with him."

"You are, I believe, familiar with the Mainwaring jewels which are
now missing?" continued the coroner.

Walter LaGrange looked uncomfortable and his mother's cheek paled.

"I am, sir; having had them repeatedly left in my possession for
safe keeping during their owner's absence from home; and I have
also a complete list of them, with a detailed description of every
piece."

"Very well, Mr. Higgenbotham, will you now please state when, and
under what circumstances, you saw this young gentleman?"

"I was seated in my private office yesterday morning, when my head
clerk came in and asked me to step out into the salesrooms for a
moment, as he said a young man was there trying to sell some very
fine jewels, and, from his youth and his ignorance of their value,
he feared something was wrong.  I went out immediately and saw this
young gentleman, who handed me for inspection a superb diamond
brooch and an elegant necklace of diamonds and pearls.  I instantly
recognized the gems as pieces from the old Mainwaring collection of
jewels.  Simultaneously there occurred to my mind the report of the
murder of Hugh Mainwaring, which I had heard but a short time before,
although then I knew nothing of the robbery.  Naturally, my
suspicions were awakened.  I questioned the young man closely,
however, and he stated that his home was at Fair Oaks, and that his
mother was a distant relative of Mr. Mainwaring's; that the jewels
were hers, and she wished to dispose of them for ready cash to meet
an emergency.  His story was so plausible that I thought possibly
my suspicions had been somewhat hasty and premature.  Still, I
declined to purchase the jewels; and when he left the store I
ordered one of our private detectives to follow him and report to
me.  In the course of an hour the detective returned and reported
that the young man had sold the jewels to a pawnbroker for less
than one-fourth their actual value.  About half an hour later I
heard the news of the robbery at Fair Oaks, and that the family
jewels were missing; and knowing that Mr. Whitney was here, I
immediately telephoned to him the facts which I have just stated.
He came in to the city at once, and we proceeded to the pawnshop,
where he also identified the jewels."

Mr. Higgenbotham paused for a moment, producing a package from an
inner pocket, which he proceeded to open.

"We secured a loan of the jewels for a few days," he continued,
advancing towards the coroner.  "Here they are, and here is a copy
of the list of which I spoke.  By comparing these gems with the
description of those which I have checked on the list, you will
see that they are identical."

He placed the open casket on the table.  There was a moment's
silence, broken by subdued exclamations of admiration as Dr.
Westlake lifted the gems from their resting-place.

"You are correct," he said; "the description is complete.  There is
no doubt that these are a part of the collection.  I see you have
marked the value of these two items as seven thousand dollars."

"Yes; that is a moderate valuation.  And were the prices of the
other articles carried out, you would see that, with the exception
of a few very small pieces, these have the least value of the entire
lot.  I believe I can be of no further service."

Mrs. LaGrange was next recalled.

"Have you anything to say in reference to the testimony just given?"
the coroner inquired.

"I have this much to say," she replied, haughtily, "that I could
have given you the history of those jewels, including, perhaps,
some facts of which even Mr. Higgenbotham and Mr. Whitney are in
ignorance, and thus have spared you the infinite pains you have
taken to make public the straits to which I was reduced, because
of my position here, when in need of a little ready money.  I could
have informed you that they were originally a part of the old
Mainwaring collection of gems, until they were given me by my
husband."

"It hardly seems consistent that a man who treated his wife in the
manner in which you claim to have been treated would bestow upon
her gifts of such value as these," the coroner remarked with
emphasis.

"They were of little value to him," she answered, with scorn; "as
you have been informed, they were the poorest which he possessed.
Besides, there were times when I could persuade him to almost
anything,--anything but to acknowledge his lawful wife and his
legitimate son."

"Was the money which you were forced to raise by the sale of these
jewels to be paid to Hobson?"

"It was."

"In accordance with the terms of your contract with him, made a
few hours preceding the death of Mr. Mainwaring?"

"Yes," she replied, defiantly.  "And as you probably would ask the
nature of that contract, I will save you the trouble.  Knowing that
my son and I were likely to be defrauded of our rights in the same
manner in which Hugh Mainwaring had defrauded others, I engaged Mr.
Hobson as my attorney, as he, better than any one else, knew the
facts in the case.  When I learned yesterday morning of my husband's
death, I realized that I would have immediate need of his services,
and accordingly sent him word to that effect.  He demanded a large
cash payment at once.  The result of this demand Mr. Higgenbotham
has already told you."

"How was Hobson to secure for you your rights from Hugh Mainwaring?"

"That was left entirely to his own discretion."

"Will you describe the appearance of Mr. Hobson's clerk?"

"Unfortunately, I am unable to do so.  He was merely brought as a
witness to our contract.  I knew that he was present, but he
remained in the shadow, and I took no notice of him whatever."

"Your contract, then, was a verbal one?"

"It was."

Upon being closely questioned, Mrs. LaGrange reiterated her
assertions of the preceding day, laying particular stress upon the
alleged interview between Hugh Mainwaring and his secretary, after
which she was dismissed, and Harry Scott was recalled.

"Mr. Scott," said the coroner, "what were the relations existing
between Mr. Mainwaring and yourself up to the time of his death?"

Scott flushed slightly as he replied, "Those ordinarily existing
between employer and employed, except that I believe Mr. Mainwaring
accorded me more than usual consideration, and I, while duly
appreciative of his kindness, yet took especial pains never to
exceed the bounds of an employee."

"Were there ever any unpleasant words passed between you?"

"None whatever."

"Was your last interview with Mr. Mainwaring of a friendly nature?"

"Entirely so."

"What have you to say in reference to the testimony given to the
effect that your voice was heard and recognized in angry
conversation with Mr. Mainwaring at nearly one o'clock?"

"I have to say that it is false, and without foundation."

"Do you mean to say that the statement of the witness was wholly
without truth?"

"I do not deny that such an interview, as alleged by the witness,
may have taken place, for that is something concerning which I have
no knowledge whatever; but I do deny that she heard my voice, or
that I was in the library at that time, or at any time after about
twenty minutes past twelve."

"Was that the time at which you went to your room?"

"Very near that time, as my interview with Mr. Mainwaring could not
have exceeded ten minutes."

"At what time did you retire?"

"I sat up very late that night, for my mind was so occupied with
some personal matters that I felt no inclination for sleep.  I
lighted a cigar and became so absorbed in my own thoughts that I
was totally unaware of the lapse of time, until I was aroused by
what I thought was a stealthy step outside.  I then became conscious,
for the first time, that I was very weary, both physically and
mentally, and I also discovered that it was nearly three o'clock.
Astonished to find it so late, and exhausted by hours of protracted
thought, I threw myself as I was upon a low couch, where I slept
soundly until awakened in the morning."

Further questions failed to reveal any discrepancy in his statement,
and he was dismissed.

The testimony of Ralph Mainwaring and of his son added nothing of
interest or importance.  Mr. Thornton testified to his incidental
meeting with Hobson and to the reputation which the man had borne in
London.  When he had resumed his seat the coroner remarked,-

"As a matter of form, I will have to call upon the ladies, though
it is not expected they will be able to furnish any information
throwing light on this mysterious case."

It was, as he had said, little more than a ceremony and occupied
but a few moments.  Miss Carleton was the last one called upon.  She
stated that it was nearly eleven o'clock when she reached her room,
but added that she did not retire immediately, as her cousin, Miss
Thornton, had come in, and they had chatted together for more than
an hour; that while so engaged, she heard Mr. Scott come up-stairs
and enter his room, which adjoined hers, and lock the door for the
night.

"At what hour was this?" inquired the coroner.

"It could not have been more than twenty minutes after twelve, as
it was twenty-five minutes after twelve when my cousin went to her
room, and this was about five minutes earlier."

"Can you state whether or not he left his room within the next
half-hour?"

"I know that he did not," she replied.  "I can testify that he
remained in his room until after one o'clock.  After my cousin left
I discovered that the moon was just rising, and the view across the
Hudson being extremely beautiful, as well as novel to me, I
extinguished the light in my room and sat down by the open window
to enjoy it.  I heard Mr. Scott stepping quietly about his room for
a few moments; then all was still.  I sat for some time admiring the
scenery, until I was aroused by hearing him pacing back and forth
like a person in deep thought.  I then found it was much later than
I supposed,--nearly one o' clock,--and I immediately retired; but
so long as I was awake I could hear him walking in his room."

As Miss Carleton finished her testimony it was evident that the
tide of general opinion had turned somewhat in favor of the young
secretary, but the latter quietly ignored the friendly glances cast
in his direction.

It was generally supposed that all testimony in the case had now
been heard.  Considerable surprise was, therefore, manifested when
the coroner nodded to Mr. Whitney, who, in turn, beckoned to some one
in the hall.  In response the butler appeared, ushering in a tall
man, with cadaverous features and small, dark eyes, which peered
restlessly about him.

"Richard Hobson," announced the coroner.

"At your service, sir," said the man, advancing with a cringing gait
and fawning, apologetic smile.

"Mr. Hobson," said the coroner, after a few preliminaries, "I
understand you were somewhat acquainted with the late Hugh
Mainwaring."

"Well, yes, sir, somewhat," the other replied in soft, insinuating
tones, but with peculiar emphasis on the word used by Dr. Westlake.
"Indeed, I might say, without exaggeration, that I was probably
better acquainted with that estimable gentleman than was any one
in this country."

"When did you last see Mr. Mainwaring?"

"I have not seen him to speak with him for fully twenty-three years."

"You have corresponded with, him, however, in that time?"

The witness showed no surprise.

"We exchanged a few letters while I was in England.  I have neither
heard from him nor written to him since coming to this country."

"When did you last see him, regardless of whether you spoke to him
or not?"

"Probably within the last two or three weeks.  I have occasionally
met him on the street."

"Did Mr. Mainwaring see you at any of these times?"

"If he did, he did not recognize me."

"Did you see him when you called at Fair Oaks, Wednesday,--either
morning or evening?"

"I did not."

"Mr. Hobson, will you describe the man who accompanied you when
you called in the evening, Wednesday?"

"I could give you a general description.  He was a large man, about
my own height, but heavier, and rather good looking, on the whole.
But I am not good on details, such as complexion, color of hair, and
so on; and then, you know, those little things are very easily
changed."

"What was his name?"

Mr. Hobson smiled blandly.  "The name by which I know him is John
Carroll, but I have no idea as to his real name.  He is a very
eccentric character, many-sided as it were, and I never know which
side will come uppermost."

"He is your clerk and in your employ, is he not?"

"Agent, I think, would be a preferable term.  He is in my employ,
he transacts certain business for me, but he does it in his own way,
and comes and goes at his own discretion."

"Where is he at present?"

"I have no idea, sir."

"Did he leave for the city that night, or did he remain with you at
the Riverside Hotel?"

"He was not with me at the hotel except for a few hours.  I have not
the slightest idea from whence he came to see me, when he went away,
or in what direction he went.  He was in haste to be excused as soon
as our joint business was done, and I have not seen him since."

"Did he have on dark glasses that day?"

"Not when I saw him, but that was only in my room at the hotel, and
for a few moments in this house; he would have no need for them at
either place."

"Did he not accompany you from the hotel to Fair Oaks?"

"No, sir; we met here by prearrangement."

"When do you expect to see your agent again?"

"Whenever he has any business reports to make," Hobson replied,
with an exasperating smile; "but I have no idea when that will be.
He has other commissions to execute; he is in the employ of others
besides myself, and transacts some business on his own account also."

"I understand, Mr. Hobson, that you have repeatedly extorted money
from Mr. Mainwaring by threatening to disclose facts in your
possession regarding some questionable transaction."

"No, sir; my action could not be termed extortion or blackmail
within the meaning of the law, though to any one conversant with Mr.
Mainwaring's private correspondence it may have had that appearance.
I was, however, merely making an effort to collect what was legally
due me.  Mr. Mainwaring, before leaving England, had voluntarily
bound himself to pay me a certain sum upon the condition that I
would not reveal certain transactions of considerably more than
questionable character.  I kept my part of the contract, but he
failed in his.  I wrote him, therefore, threatening, unless he
fulfilled his share of the agreement, to institute proceedings
against him, which would naturally involve a disclosure of his secret.
He never paid me in full and the secret is still mine," he paused,
then added slowly, "to keep or to sell, as will pay me best."

"Was Hugh Mainwaring ever married?" the coroner asked, abruptly.

"I believe he was not generally considered a married man, sir."

"Was there ever any private marriage?"

Hobson smiled enigmatically.  "You already have the word of the
lady herself, sir; that should be sufficient.  I cannot reveal any
of Hugh Mainwaring's secrets,--unless I am well paid for it!"

Hobson was dismissed without further questions, and the examination
being now at an end, the coroner's jury retired to the room in the
rear of the library.  Very few left the house, for all felt that
little time would be required for the finding of a verdict, and
comment and opinion were freely exchanged.

"Well," said Mr. Sutherland, turning towards the secretary with a
smile, "they did not learn one fact from that last witness, for I
doubt whether one of the few statements he did make had an iota of
truth in it.  By the way, Mr. Scott, it's a very fortunate thing
that you've got the proofs you have.  It would be a risky piece of
work to depend on that man's word for proof; he is as slippery as
an eel.  With those proofs, however, there is no doubt but that
you've got a strong case."

"It will be hard to convince Ralph Mainwaring of that fact."

"Yes, he looks as though he would hold on to his opinions pretty
tenaciously."

"Not so tenaciously as he would grasp any money coming within his
reach!"

At a little distance, Mr. Whitney was engaged in conversation with
the Englishmen.

"I never thought he could be in any way connected with it," he was
saying.  "In the first place, there was no motive, there could be
none; then, again, I believe he is altogether above suspicion.  I
know that Mr. Mainwaring had the most implicit confidence in him."

"Well," said Mr. Thornton, "for my part, I'm heartily glad if there
is nothing in it.  I always liked the young fellow."

"That's just where I don't agree with you; I don't like him," Ralph
Mainwaring replied in a surly tone.  "He may be all right so far as
this matter is concerned; I don't say yet that he is or isn't; but
I do say that to defame a man's character after he's dead, in the
manner he has, is simply outrageous, and, you may depend upon it,
there's some personal spite back of it."

"Oh, well, as to Hugh's character, I don't think you or I are going
to fret ourselves about that," laughed Mr. Thornton.  "He probably
sowed his wild oats with the rest of us, and there may have been
some reason for his leaving England as he did."

"I don't believe it," Ralph Mainwaring retorted, angrily; but before
he could say more, the doors opened and the coroner's jury filed
into the room.  There was instant silence, and a moment later the
verdict had been announced.  It was what every one had expected, and
yet there was not one but experienced a feeling of disappointment
and dissatisfaction.

"We find that the deceased, Hugh Mainwaring, came to his death by
the discharge of a revolver in the hands of some person or persons
to us unknown."





CHAPTER X

BEHIND THE SCENES


The crowd dispersed rapidly, passing down the oak-lined avenue in
twos and threes, engaged in animated discussion of the details of
the inquest, while each one advanced some theory of his own
regarding the murder.  Mr. Sutherland had taken his departure after
making an appointment with Scott for the following day, and the
latter now stood in one of the deep bow-windows engrossed with his
own thoughts.  Suspicion had been partially diverted from himself,
but only partially, as he well knew, to return like a tidal wave,
deepened and intensified by personal animosity, whenever the facts
he had thus far so carefully concealed should become known.  He gave
little thought to this, however, except as it influenced him in
planning his course of action for the next few days.

He was aroused from his revery by the sound of approaching steps,
and, turning, met Mr. Whitney.

"Ah, Mr. Scott, I was just looking for you.  I thought possibly you
had slipped back to the city with the crowd.  I wanted to say, Mr.
Scott, that, if it will be agreeable to you, I wish you would remain
at Fair Oaks for the next few days, or weeks, as the case may be.
Mr. Ralph Mainwaring has retained my services to aid in securing
his title to the estate, and the will having been destroyed,
complications are likely to arise, so that it may take some time to
get matters adjusted.  Much of the business will, of necessity, have
to be transacted here, as all of Mr. Mainwaring's private papers are
here, and if you will stay and help us out I will see, of course,
that your salary goes right on as usual."

An excuse for remaining at Fair Oaks was what Scott particularly
desired, but he replied indifferently, "If it will accommodate you,
Mr. Whitney, I can remain for a few days."

"Very well.  I cannot say just how long we may need you, though I
anticipate a long contest."

"Against Mrs. LaGrange?"

"Yes; though she has, in my opinion, no legal right whatever, yet
she will make a hard fight, and with that trickster Hobson to help
her with his chicanery, it is liable to take some time to beat them."

"You expect to win in the end, however?"

"Certainly; there is no doubt but that Ralph Mainwaring will win the
case.  He will get the property either for his son or for himself.
We are first going to try to have the will upheld in the courts.
Failing in that, the property will, of course, be divided between
the nearest heirs, Ralph Mainwaring and a younger bachelor brother;
in which event, the whole thing will, in all probability, finally
revert to his son Hugh."

"Mr. Whitney, what is your opinion of Mrs. LaGrange's story of a
private marriage?"

The attorney shook his head decidedly.  "One of her clever lies; but
if she ever undertakes to tell that little romance in court, I'll
tear it all to shreds.  She never was married to Hugh Mainwaring;
but," he added, slowly, "I may as well tell you that Walter was his
son.  Mr. Mainwaring the same as admitted that to me once; but I
am certain that, aside from that fact, that woman had some terrible
hold on him, though what I never knew.  By the way, Mr. Scott, do
you know anything of the particulars of that transaction to which
those letters referred and to which Hobson alluded to-day?"

"Yes, sir."

Mr. Whitney looked keenly at the young man.  "You obtained your
knowledge originally from other sources than Mr. Mainwaring's
correspondence, did you not?"

"Yes, sir."

"I thought so.  Do you know, Mr. Scott, I would denounce the whole
thing as a lie, a scheme of that adventuress, or that impostor,
Hobson, or both, by which they hope to gain some hold on the heirs,
were it not that, from your manner, I have been convinced that you
have some personal knowledge of the facts in the case,--that you
know far more than you have yet told."

Mr. Whitney paused, watching the young secretary closely, but there
was no reply, and, with all his penetration, the attorney could read
nothing in the immobile face before him.  He continued,-

"Whatever that transaction may have been, I wish to know nothing
about it.  I was much attached to Mr. Mainwaring and respected him
highly, and I want to respect his memory; and I will tell you
frankly what I most dread in this coming contest.  I expect nothing
else but that either that woman or Hobson will drag the affair out
from its hiding-place, and will hold it up for the public to gloat
over, as it always does.  I hate to see a man's reputation blackened
in that way, especially when that man was my friend and his own
lips are sealed in death."

"It is a pity," said Scott, slowly; "but if one wishes to leave
behind him an untarnished reputation, he must back it up, while
living, with an unblemished character."

"Well," said the attorney, tentatively, after another pause, "Mr.
Mainwaring's character, whatever it may have been before we were
associated with him, certainly had no effect upon your life or mine,
hence I feel that it is nothing with which we are directly concerned;
and I believe, in fact I know, that it will be for your interest, Mr.
Scott, if you say nothing regarding whatever knowledge you may have
of the past."

Mr. Whitney, watching the effect of his words, suddenly saw an
expression totally unlike anything he had ever seen on the face of
the secretary, and yet strangely familiar.

Scott turned and faced him, with eyes cold and cynical and that
seemed to pierce him through and through, remarking, in tones of
quiet irony, "I am greatly obliged for your advice, Mr. Whitney,
regarding my interests, but it is not needed.  Furthermore, I think
all your thought and attention will be required to look after the
interests of Ralph Mainwaring," and without waiting for reply, he
stepped through one of the low, old-fashioned windows opening upon
the veranda and disappeared, leaving the attorney alone.

"By George, but that was cool!" ejaculated the latter.  "And that
look; where have I seen it?  I believe that Ralph Mainwaring is
more than half right after all, and there is something back of all
this!"

So absorbed was he in his own reflections as to be wholly unaware
of the presence of the detective in the hall, near the doorway,
where he had paused long enough to witness the parting between
Scott and the attorney, and who now passed quietly up-stairs,
remarking to himself, "Whitney is pretty sharp, but he's more than
got his match there.  That young fellow is too deep for him or any
of the rest of 'em, and he's likely to come out where they least
expect to find him."

Half an hour later, Mr. Merrick, stepping from the private library
into the upper southern hall, heard the sound of voices, which,
from his familiarity with the rooms, he knew must proceed from Mrs.
LaGrange's parlor.  He cautiously descended the stairs to the
lowest landing, in which was a deep window.  The shutters were
tightly closed, and, concealing himself behind the heavy curtains,
he awaited developments.  He was now directly opposite the door of
the parlor, and through the partially open transom he could hear
the imperious tones of Mrs. LaGrange and the soft, insinuating
accents of Hobson.  For a while he was unable to distinguish a
word, but the variations in Hobson's tones indicated that he was
not seated, but walking back and forth, while Mrs. LaGrange's voice
betrayed intense excitement and gradually grew louder.

"You are not altogether invulnerable," Merrick heard her say,
angrily.  "You were an accessory in that affair, and you cannot
deny it?"

Hobson evidently had paused near the door, as his reply was
distinctly audible.  "You have not an atom of proof; as you well
know; and even if you had, our acquaintance, my dear madam, has been
too long and of too intimate a nature for you to care to attempt
any of your little tricks with me.  You play a deep game, my lady,
but I hold the winning hand yet."

"If you are dastardly enough to threaten me, I am not such a coward
as to fear you.  I have played my cards better than you know," she
answered, defiantly.

"My dear lady," Hobson replied, and the door-knob turned slightly
under his hand, "those little speeches sound very well, but we both
understand each other perfectly.  You want my services in this case;
you must have them; and I am willing to render them; but it is
useless for you to dictate terms to me.  I will undertake the case
in accordance with your wishes, but only upon the conditions
mentioned."

The reply was inaudible, but was evidently satisfactory to Hobson,
for, as he opened the door, there was a leer of triumph on his face.
He glanced suspiciously about the hall, and, on reaching the door,
turned to Mrs. LaGrange, who had accompanied him, saying, in his
smoothest tones,-

"I shall be out again in two or three days.  Should you wish to see
me before that time, you can telephone to my office or send me word."

She bowed silently and he took his departure, but as she returned
to her room, she exclaimed, fiercely, "Craven!  Let me but once get
my rights secured, and he will find whether I stand in fear of him!"

Having taken leave of Mrs. LaGrange, Hobson carefully avoided the
front part of the house and grounds, taking instead the gravelled
walk leading through the grove towards the lake in the rear and out
upon the side street.  As he was hurrying along this rather secluded
avenue, he was suddenly confronted by Scott.  Although strangers to
each other, Hobson instantly conjectured that this must be the
secretary who had betrayed such familiarity with the correspondence
which had passed between himself and Hugh Mainwaring, and that it
might be to his own interest to form the acquaintance of the young
man.

Quick as thought he drew from his pocket a card, and, pausing
suddenly in his rapid walk, said, with a profound bow,-

"I beg pardon; I cannot be mistaken; have I not the pleasure of
addressing Mr. Scott?"

"That is my name," replied the secretary, coldly.

"I beg you will accept this card; and allow me to suggest that you
may find it conducive to your interests to call upon me at the
address named, if you will take the trouble to do so."

Scott glanced from the card to the speaker, regarding the latter
with close scrutiny.  "You seem very solicitous of the interests of
a stranger, as it is not to be presumed that you have any ulterior
motive in making this suggestion."

Hobson appeared to ignore the sarcasm.  "It is barely possible," he
continued, in his most ingratiating tones, "that I may be in
possession of facts which it would be to your advantage to learn."

"In case you are, I suppose, of course, you would impart them to me
simply out of pure disinterestedness, without a thought of pecuniary
compensation?"

Hobson winced and glanced nervously about him.  "I must hasten," he
said; "I cannot stop for explanations; but you will find me in my
office at two o'clock to-morrow, if you care to call.  Meantime,
my young friend, I am not perhaps as mercenary as you think, and I
may be able to be of great assistance to you," and with a final bow,
the man hastily disappeared around a turn of the winding walk.

Scott proceeded in the opposite direction in a deep study.  "Is it
possible," he soliloquized, "that that creature is on my track and
has any proposition to make to me?  Or, is he afraid that I know his
secret, and that I may deprive him of his hold upon the Mainwarings?
More likely it is the latter.  A week ago I was looking for that
man, and would probably have endeavored to make terms with him,
though it would have involved an immense amount of risk, for a
cast-iron contract wouldn't hold him, and his testimony would be
worth little or nothing, one way or the other."  Scott glanced
again at the address on the card.  "Not a very desirable locality!
It probably suits him and his business, though: I believe, I will
give the scoundrel a call and see what I can draw out of him."

Dinner was announced as Scott returned to the house, and a number
of circumstances combined to render the meal far pleasanter and
more social than any since the death of the master of Fair Oaks.
Mr. Merrick was nowhere to be found, and the slight restraint
imposed by his presence was removed.  Mrs. LaGrange and her son
were also absent, preferring to take their meals privately in
an adjoining room which Hugh Mainwaring had often used as a
breakfast-room.  The silence and frigidity which had lately
reigned at the table seemed to have given place to almost universal
sociability, though Ralph Mainwaring's face still wore a sullen
scowl.

As Mr. Whitney met the secretary, his sensitive face flushed at the
remembrance of their late interview, and he watched the young man
with evident curiosity.  Scott was conscious, however, of an
increased friendliness towards himself on the part of most of the
guests, but feeling that it was likely to prove of short duration,
he remained noncommittal and indifferent.  As they left the table,
Miss Carleton rallied him on his appearance.

"Mr. Scott, you are a mystery!"

"Why so, Miss Carleton, if you please?" he asked, quickly.

"Just now, when everybody's spirits are relaxing after that horrible
inquest, you look more serious and glum than I have ever seen you.
I threw myself into the breach this afternoon to rescue you from the
enemy's grounds, whither you had been carried by the sensational
statements of Mrs. LaGrange and the coachman and chambermaid, and I
have not even seen you smile once since.  Perhaps," she added,
archly, "you didn't care to be rescued by a woman, but would have
preferred to make your own way out."

"No," said Scott, smiling very brightly now; "I'll not be so
ungrateful as to say that, though I believe I am generally able to
fight my own battles; but I will confess I was somewhat disappointed
this afternoon when you gave your testimony."

"How could that be?" she inquired, greatly surprised.

"Up to that time I had flattered myself that I had one friend who
had faith in me, even though circumstances conspired against me.  I
discovered, then, that it was no confidence in me, but only a
knowledge of some of the facts, that kept her from turning against
me like the rest."

Scott spoke in serio-comic tones, and Miss Carleton looked keenly
in his face to see if he were jesting.

"No; you are mistaken, Mr. Scott," she said, slowly, after a pause.
"My confidence in you would have been just as strong if I had known
nothing of the facts."

"Thank you; I am very glad to hear that," he answered.  Then added,
gently, "Would it be strong enough to stand a far heavier strain
than that, if it were necessary?"

His tones were serious now, and she regarded him inquiringly for a
moment before speaking; then seeing young Mainwaring approaching
with his sister and Miss Thornton, she replied, in low tones,-

"I have no idea to what you refer, Mr. Scott, and I begin to think
you are indeed a 'mystery'; but you can be assured of this much: I
would never, under any circumstances, believe you capable of
anything false or dishonorable."

Scott's eyes expressed his gratification at these words, and he
would then have withdrawn, but neither Miss Carleton nor young
Mainwaring gave him an opportunity to do so without seeming
discourteous.  Both drew him into conversation and found him
exceedingly entertaining, though reserved concerning himself.
Isabel Mainwaring still held herself aloof and took little part in
the conversation, but to make amends for this Miss Thornton bestowed
some of her most winning smiles upon the handsome young secretary,
her large, infantile blue eyes regarding him with wondering
curiosity.

After a pleasant evening, Scott excused himself and retired to his
room; but an hour or two later there was a knock at his door, and
on opening it he saw young Mainwaring in smoking-cap and jacket.

"I say, Scott, won't you come out and have a smoke?  I've got some
fine cigars, and it's too pretty a night to stay in one's room;
come out on my balcony and we'll have a bit of a talk and smoke."

Scott readily consented, and the two young men proceeded to the
balcony upon which Mainwaring's room opened, where the latter had
already placed two reclining chairs and a small table containing
a box of his favorite Havanas.

For a few moments they puffed in silence, looking out into the
starlit night with its beauty of dim outline and mysterious shadow.
Mainwaring was the first to speak.

"I say, Scott, I'm awfully ashamed of the way that some of us, my
family in particular, have treated you within the last day or two.
It was confoundedly shabby, and I beg your pardon for my share in
it, anyhow."

"Don't waste any regrets over that matter," Scott answered,
indifferently; "I never gave it any thought, and it is not worth
mentioning."

"I do regret it, though, more than I can tell, and I haven't any
excuse for myself; only things did look so deucedly queer there
for a while, don't you know?"

"Well," said Scott, pleasantly, "we are not out of the woods yet,
and there is no telling what developments may arise.  Things might
'look queer' again, you know."

"That's all right.  I know a gentleman when I see him, unless I
happen to lose my head, and that doesn't occur very often.  Now
it's different with the governor.  He's got so confoundedly wrought
up over that will, don't you know, that he can't think of anything
else, and there's no reason in him."

"As I understand it," remarked Scott, "Mr. Mainwaring expects to
win the property in any case, either for you or for himself."

"Yes; and naturally you might think that the loss of the will
wouldn't amount to much, one way or the other; but it's like this:
the governor and I are very different; I know we've got plenty of
ducats, and that's enough for me, but not for him; he is ambitious.
It has always galled him that we were not in the direct line of
descent from the main branch of the Mainwarings; and it has been
his one great ambition since the death of old Ralph Mainwaring,
Hugh's father, a few years before I was born, to win into his own
family the old Mainwaring estate.  He had an idea that Hugh would
never marry, and gave me his name, hoping that I would be made
his heir.  Should the governor succeed in this scheme of his, he
will immediately buy back the Mainwaring estate, although he knows
I don't care a rap for the whole thing, and we will then have the
honor, as he considers it, of perpetuating the old family line.
On the other hand, if the property goes to the nearest heirs, it
will be divided between him and his younger brother.  Uncle Harold
has no more ambition than I have, and though he is at present a
bachelor, that is no guarantee that he will remain one; and, anyhow,
it isn't likely that there will be much of his share left when he
gets through with it.  So you see how much importance the governor
attached to that will."

"I understand," said Scott, as his companion paused.  Then he added,
musingly, "Your uncle's name seems to be rather unusual among the
Mainwarings; I do not recall your having mentioned it before."

"What, Harold?  On the contrary, it is the great name in our family,
especially in the main line.  I would have been given that name if
the governor had not been looking out for Hugh Mainwaring's money.
There was a direct line of Harolds down to my great-grandfather.
He gave the name to his eldest son, but he died, and the next one,
Ralph, Hugh's father, took up the line.  Guy, my grandfather, was
the youngest."

"One would almost have thought that Hugh Mainwaring would have borne
the name of Harold," commented Scott.

Young Mainwaring smoked for a moment in silence, then said, in lower
tones, "Old Uncle Ralph had a son by that name."

"Indeed!  Had Hugh Mainwaring a brother?" Scott asked in surprise.

"Yes, there was a brother, but he died a great many years ago.
There is quite a story connected with his name, but I don't know
many of the particulars, for the governor seldom alludes to it.  I
know, however, that Harold was the elder son, but that Uncle Ralph
disinherited him for marrying against his wishes, and afterwards
died of grief over the affair, and soon after his father's death
Harold was lost at sea."

"You say he married; did he leave any children?"

"No, I believe he had no children; but even if he had, they would have
been disinherited also.  Uncle Ralph was severe; he would not even
allow Harold's name to be mentioned; and Hugh also must have turned
against his brother, for I have heard that he never spoke of him or
allowed any allusion to be made to him."

"Well," said Scott, after a pause, "I believe Hugh Mainwaring's life
was far from happy."

"You are right there.  I'll never forget the last words he ever
spoke to me as I took leave of him that night.  They were to the
effect that he hoped when I should have reached his age, I would be
able to look back over a happier past than his had been.  It is my
opinion, too, that that woman was the cause of his unhappiness, and
I believe she is at the bottom of all this trouble."

Their conversation had drifted to the mystery then surrounding them,
and for more than an hour they dwelt on that subject, advancing many
surmises, some strangely improbable, but none of which seemed to
bring them any nearer a solution of the problem.

"My first visit to this country has proved an eventful one," said
young Mainwaring, as, at a late hour, they finally separated for the
night, "and I don't know yet how it may terminate; but there's one
thing I shall look back upon with pleasure, and that is my meeting
with you; and I hope that from this time or we will be friends; and
that this friendship, begun to-night, will be renewed in old England
many a time."

"Are you not rather rash," Scott inquired, slowly, "considering how
little we know of each other, the circumstances under which we have
met, and the uncertainty of what the future may reveal?"

"No; I'm peculiar.  When I like a fellow, I like him; and I've been
studying you pretty closely.  I don't think we need either of us be
troubled about the future; but I'm your friend, Scott, and, whatever
happens, I'll stand by you."

"So be it, then, Hugh," replied the secretary, clasping the hand of
the young Englishman and, for the first time, calling him by name.
"I thank you, and I hope you will never go back on that."




CHAPTER XI

SKIRMISHING


On the following morning the gentlemen at Fair Oaks were astir at
an unusually early hour, and immediately after breakfast held a brief
conference.  It was decided to offer a heavy reward for the
apprehension of the murderer of Hugh Mainwaring, while a lesser
reward was to be offered for information leading to identification
and arrest of the guilty party.  Preparations were also to be made
for the funeral, which would take place the next day, and which, in
accordance with the wishes of Ralph Mainwaring, was to be strictly
private.

Their conference at an end, Ralph Mainwaring ordered the carriage to
take himself, Mr. Whitney, and the secretary to the depot.

"I believe I will ride down with you," said Mr. Merrick.

"Certainly; plenty of room.  Going to the city?"

"Yes; but not with you gentlemen.  We will part company at the
depot and I will take another car."

"How are you getting on, Mr. Merrick?" inquired Mr. Thorton.

"As well as can be expected, all things considered," was the
non-committal reply.

"Going to be a slow case, I'm afraid," commented Ralph Mainwaring,
shaking his head in a doubtful way, while Mr. Thornton added
jokingly,-

"We've got some mighty fine fellows over home there at the Yard; if
you should want any help, Mr. Merrick, I'll cable for one of them."

"Thank you, sir," said the detective, with quiet dignity; "I don't
anticipate that I shall want any assistance; and if I should, I will
hardly need import it from Scotland Yard."

"Ha, ha! That all depends, you know, on what your man is.  If the
rascal happens to have any English blood in him, it will take a
Scotland Yard chap to run him down."

"On the principle, I suppose, of 'set a rogue to catch a rogue,'"
Merrick replied, smiling.

He had scarcely finished speaking when Hardy suddenly entered the
room.

"Beg pardon, sir," he said, addressing Ralph Mainwaring; "but the
coachman is gone!  We've looked everywhere for him, but he's nowhere
about the place."

"When did he go?" asked Mr. Whitney, quickly.

"Nobody knows, sir.  Joe, the stable-boy, says he hasn't been around
at all this morning."

"Bring the boy here," said Mr. Mainwaring.

There was instantly recalled to every one present the memory of
Brown's insolent manner at the inquest, together with his confused
and false statements.  In a few moments Hardy returned with the
stable-boy, an unkempt, ignorant lad of about fourteen, but with a
face old and shrewd beyond his years.

"Are you one of the servants here?" Mr. Mainwaring inquired.

"I works here, ef that's wot yer mean; but I don't call myself
nobody's servant."

"How did it happen that you were not at the inquest?" he demanded.

"Didn't got no invite," was the reply, accompanied by a grin, while
Hardy explained that the boy did not belong to the place, but had
been hired by the coachman to come nights and mornings and attend
to the stable work.

"What do you know about this Brown?" inquired Mr. Mainwaring,
addressing the boy.

"Wal, I guess he's ben a-goin' it at a putty lively gait lately."

"You mean he was fast?"

"I guess that's about the size of it."

"When did you see him last?"

"Hain't seen nothin' of him sence las' night, an' then he was sorter
crusty an' didn't say much.  I come down this mornin' an' went to
work,--he allus left the stable key where I could get it,--but I
ham' t seen nor heard nothin' o' him.  Me'n him," with an emphatic
nod towards Hardy, "went up to his room, but he warn't there, nor
hadn't ben there all night."

"Why do you think he was fast?"

"Wal, from all I've hearn about him I guess he's ben goin' with a
kinder hard set lately.  I've seen some putty tough-lookin' subs
hangin' 'round the stables.  There was a lot of 'em waitin' for him
Wednesday night."

"Wednesday night!" ejaculated Mr. Whitney.  "At what time?  and who
were they?"

"I dunno who they was, but they was hangin' 'round about eight
o'clock waitin' for him to go with 'em.  An' then he's had lots of
money lately."

"How do you know this?"

"I've hearn him a-jinglin' it in his room; an' night afore las' I
clim' up-stairs and peeked in, an' he had a whole pile of gold
pieces 'bout that high," measuring with his hands; "but he see me,
an' he said he'd gimme a whalin' ef he catched me at it agin."

"Did you watch him last night?" asked Mr. Mainwaring.

"Yas; he acted so kinder queer that I waited 'round to see what he
was goin' to do.  After 'twas still an' he thought I'd gone, he come
down an' started off towards the side street.  Jes' fer fun I
follered him; an' when he got to the lake he stopped and looked all
'round, as ef to make sure there warn't nobody to see him, an' then
he takes somethin', I couldn't see what, out from under his coat an'
chucks it quick into the lake, an' then he started on a run down
towards the street."

"Couldn't you see what he threw?"

"No, I couldn't see what 'twas; but it struck the water awful heavy."

"Is that all you know about the affair?"

"Yas, that's all."

"Wait a moment," said Mr. Merrick, as the boy turned to leave the
room.  "Can you tell how many, or what kind of looking men were with
Brown on Wednesday night?"

"There was three of 'em.  One was a big feller with kinder squint
eyes, the other two was ornery lookin' fellers; one of 'em was dark
like a furriner, an' t'other one had sorter yeller hair."

"How long were they there?"

"About half' n hour, I guess.  They was all gone 'fore nine o'clock."

"Did you hear anything that was said?"

"I hearn 'em talkin' somethin' about the boss."

"Mr. Mainwaring?"

"Yas.  He'd made a kick about somethin' or 'nuther that afternoon,
an' Brown he was cussin' mad, an' then when they went away I hearn
one of 'em say somethin' about 'makin' a good job of it.'"

"How was this, Hardy?" inquired Mr. Whitney.  "Had there been any
words Wednesday between Mr. Mainwaring and the coachman?"

"Yes, sir; I had forgotten it; but now I remember that when he came
back that afternoon, he found some fault with the coachman, and
Brown was very insolent, and then Mr. Mainwaring threatened to
discharge him."

"'Pon my soul! I should say here was something worth looking into,"
said Mr. Thornton, as the boy left the room, accompanied by Hardy.

"A great pity that we could not have had his testimony at the
inquest," commented the attorney.  "We might then have cornered
Brown; but I was not aware that there was such a person employed on
the place."

Meanwhile, a carriage ordered by telephone from the Arlington had
already arrived at Fair Oaks.

"Well," said Ralph Mainwaring, "the carriage is waiting.  We had
better proceed to the depot; we can talk of this latest development
on our way."

"You will excuse me, gentlemen," said Mr. Merrick, quietly, "I have
changed my mind, and will postpone my trip to the city."

"Struck a new trail, eh?" queried Ralph Mainwaring, with a peculiar
expression, as he paused to light a cigar.

"On the contrary, sir, only following up an old one," and, with a
somewhat ambiguous smile, the detective withdrew.

The coachman's sudden disappearance, together with the facts learned
from the stable-boy, formed the subject of discussion for the next
half-hour between Ralph Mainwaring and the attorney, Scott listening
with a thoughtful face, although taking little part in the
conversation.  Upon their arrival at the offices of Mainwaring &
Co. they were given a cordial greeting by Mr. Elliott and Mr.
Chittenden, after which they passed on to the elegant private
offices of Hugh Mainwaring.  Mr. Whitney was visibly affected as
he entered the familiar rooms, and to each one was forcibly
recalled the memory of their meeting a few days before.  A brief
silence followed, and then in subdued tones they began to discuss
the business which had now brought them there.

At about two o'clock that afternoon, Scott found himself entering
an ancient and dilapidated looking block in a rather disreputable
part of the city.  He had fulfilled his appointment with Mr.
Sutherland, and after an hour's conversation both gentlemen appeared
very sanguine regarding the case under consideration.  As Scott was
taking leave, he produced Hobson's card and related the particulars
of their incidental meeting at Fair Oaks, and Hobson's urgent
invitation to call upon him at his office.

Mr. Sutherland laughed.  "About what I expected," he said.  "It was
evident from his remarks at the inquest that some one--probably
Mrs. LaGrange--had posted him concerning you, and he is afraid you
are on to his secret."

"I had questioned if it were that, or whether possibly he might be
on to mine."

"Not at all probable," said the attorney, after a moment's
reflection.  "If he really understood your position, he would be
far too cunning to allow you to get sight of him.  You have the
scoundrel completely in your power."

"Yes, as much as he is in anybody's power; but it is doubtful if
any one can hold so slippery a rascal as he.  I believe I will give
him a call, however."

"It would do no harm, taking care, of course, that you give him no
information."

"Oh, certainly," said Scott, with a smile, as he paused for an
instant in the doorway; "my object will be to get, not give,
information."

"His object will probably be the same," was Mr. Sutherland's parting
shot, as he turned with a laugh to his desk.

Scott, having ascended a narrow, crooked stairway, found himself in
a long, dark hall, poorly ventilated, and whose filthy condition was
only too apparent even in the dim light.  Far in the rear he saw a
door bearing the words, "R. Hobson, Attorney."  As he pushed open
the door, a boy of about seventeen, who, with a cigarette in his
mouth and his feet on a table, sat reading a novel, instantly assumed
the perpendicular and, wheeling about, faced Scott with one of the
most villainous countenances the latter had ever seen.  Something in
Scott's appearance seemed to surprise him, for he stared impudently
without speaking.  After silently studying the face before him for
an instant, Scott inquired for Mr. Hobson.

"He is in, sir, but he is engaged at present with a client," said
the boy, in tones which closely resembled Hobson's.  "I will take
in your card, sir."

The boy disappeared with the card into an adjoining room, returning
a moment later with the most obsequious manners and the announcement
that Mr. Hobson would be at liberty in a few moments.  Scott rightly
judged that this ceremony was merely enacted for effect, and contented
himself with looking about the small, poorly furnished room, while
the office boy opposite regarded him with an undisguised curiosity,
which betrayed that this client--if such he could be regarded--
differed greatly from the usual class.  Young and untaught though
he were, he had learned to read the faces about him, and that of
his employer was to him as an open book, and the expression which
flashed into Hobson's eyes as they fell upon Scott's card indicated
plainly to the office boy that in this instance the usual conditions
were reversed, and the attorney stood in fear of his visitor.

A few moments later the door of the next room opened noiselessly
and Hobson, attired in a red dressing-gown and wearing his most
ingratiating smile, silently beckoned Scott to enter.  With a quick
glance the latter took in every detail of the second apartment.  It
was somewhat larger than the first, but the furnishing was meagre
and shabby in the extreme, and, with the exception of a small set
of shelves containing a few dilapidated volumes, there were no
visible signs of an attorney's office.

Hobson did not speak until he had carefully closed the door, then
he said, in low tones,-

"As our conversation is likely to be of a confidential nature, you
would perhaps desire greater privacy than can be secured here.  Step
this way."

He opened the door into a room so dark and so thick with stale
tobacco smoke that at first Scott could discern nothing clearly.

"My den!" said Hobson, with a magnificent flourish, and Scott stepped
within, feeling, he afterwards said, as though he were being ushered
by Mephistopheles into the infernal regions, and this impression was
not lessened by the first objects which he was able to distinguish,
--a pair of skulls grinning at him through the smoky atmosphere.
As his eyes became accustomed to the dim light he noted that the
room was extremely small, with only one window, which opened upon
the blank wall of an adjoining building, and with no furniture, save
an enormous, high-top desk and two chairs.  One of the latter Hobson
placed near the window for his visitor, and then busied himself for
a moment at the desk in hastily concealing what to Scott looked like
some paraphernalia of the black arts.  Upon the top of the desk were
the two skulls which had first attracted Scott's attention, and
which he now regarded rather curiously.  Hobson, following his
glance, said, by way of explanation,-

"Rather peculiar ornaments, I dare say, you consider those, Mr.
Scott; but I am greatly interested in phrenology and devote much of
my leisure time to its study.  It is not only amusing, you know, but
it is of great assistance in reading and understanding my fellow-men,
and enables me to adapt myself to my clients, so to speak."

Having satisfactorily arranged his belongings, Hobson locked the
door, and, seating himself behind his desk, appeared ready for
business.

"Well, my young friend," he began, "I rather expected you, for I
flatter myself that I understand enough of human nature to know that
there are very few who will pass by an opportunity of learning
something for the advancement of their own interests or the
betterment of their own condition in life."

"That may be perfectly natural," Scott replied; "but you flatter
yourself altogether too much if you think that I have come here
with any expectation that you can advance my interests or better
my condition."

"That remains to be seen.  Much also depends upon yourself, for I
take it that a young man of your calibre is not without ambition."

Hobson paused, regarding his visitor with sharp scrutiny, but
receiving no reply, continued, "I might add, that to a young man
with ambitious designs such as yours, I would probably be able to
render great assistance."

"I am not aware of any unusual ambition on my part."

"Oh, no, nothing unusual.  You simply had no intention of remaining
Hugh Mainwaring's secretary any longer than was necessary.  That
was perfectly natural, perfectly laudable, my young friend, and I
admire the shrewdness and foresight with which you set about to
accomplish your designs.  At the same time, I believe I am in a
position to give you just the information and advice you need in
order to insure your success."

Both men had the same object in view.  Each wished to ascertain what
the other knew concerning himself.  Scott, unable to determine
whether Hobson had spoken at random or with an inkling of the facts,
answered, coldly,-

"I do not know to what you refer, or on what grounds you base the
inference which you seem to have drawn."

"No?  Then you will allow me to remark, Mr. Scott, that such
familiarity as yours with a portion of Hugh Mainwaring's private
correspondence, extending back over a period of fifteen or more
years, taking into consideration the facts that you cannot be much
more than twenty-five years of age, and have only been about two
years in Mr. Mainwaring's employ, would indicate that you had sought
to acquaint yourself with some facts connected with your employer's
early life with the express purpose of using the same to your own
advantage."

"You must see the inconsistency of such a supposition, when you
consider that I have been in possession of these facts for some
time--it is unnecessary to state how long--and have made no use
of them whatever."

"Possibly," said Hobson, with emphasis, "your knowledge of the
facts may not have been definite enough to warrant your use of them."

His voice and manner unconsciously betrayed the importance which he
attached to Scott's reply.  The latter detected this, and answered
evasively,-

"It is sufficiently definite for any own personal satisfaction in
any event."

Hobson shook his head.  "It is useless to evade the point.  You had
an object in looking up that correspondence; you intended to make
a good thing out of the facts you got hold of; and, if your
information is sufficiently complete, you can make a good thing out
of them yet."

"If I have not attempted anything of that kind in the past, would
I be likely to try it at this late day?" Scott asked, with the air
of one who is open to any available suggestion.

Hobson at once assumed a confidential manner, and, moving a little
nearer his visitor, replied, in a low tone,-

"Look here, Mr. Scott, that's just why I wanted to meet you.  You
see I knew more about you than you think.  I've taken an unusual
interest in you, too; and, seeing the little game you were playing,
and knowing that I held the trump card myself, I naturally would
like to take a hand and help you out at the same time.  Now, the
point is just this, Mr. Scott: What do you really know concerning
the transaction referred to in that correspondence?  I suppose
you are familiar with all the letters that passed on both sides?"

"Perfectly so."

"Certainly.  But you will acknowledge, Mr. Scott, that those letters
were expressed in very guarded terms, and, with the exception of
possibly one or two, gave no hint of the nature of that transaction.
Remember," he added, impressively, "I have an exact copy of the
correspondence on both sides, and no one could ever assume any
statement or admissions that were not there."

"I presumed that, of course," said Scott, calmly.

"Now, my young friend, let us get down to the actual knowledge which
you have of the facts.  You are, I suppose, aware that there was a
missing will involved in the case?"

"I am; and that one or two of your letters purported to show that
the missing will was destroyed by Hugh Mainwaring."

"Did I make any such allegation?"

"Not directly; but your allusions and references would be clear to
any one having a knowledge of the English statutes."

Hobson started, and inquired quickly, "Are you familiar with English
law?"

"I made myself familiar with your citations and references in this
case."

"I see; you have indeed made a study of the case.  Well, Mr. Scott,
permit me to say that I accused Hugh Mainwaring of nothing which he
had not previously confessed to me himself.  Have you any knowledge
concerning that will,--its terms or conditions, or the names of the
testator or beneficiaries?"

"There was nothing in the correspondence to give any clue to those
particulars.  I could only gather that Hugh Mainwaring had defrauded
others and enriched himself by destroying this will."

Hobson looked relieved.  "Without doubt, he did; but allow me to
call your attention to one point, Mr. Scott.  You see how little
actual knowledge you have of this affair.  There are others--Mrs.
LaGrange, for instance, and the mysterious individual whom she heard
conversing with Mr. Mainwaring on the night of the murder,--all of
whom know as much or more than you; and while this meagre knowledge
of the case might perhaps have been sufficient to bring to bear upon
Mainwaring himself, personally, it would have little or no weight
with those with whom we would now have to deal.  You know nothing
of the terms of the will, or of the persons named as beneficiaries,
whom, consequently, Hugh Mainwaring defrauded.  You have no proof
that he destroyed the will.  In fact, my dear young friend, you
could produce no proof that such a document ever existed at all!"

"Do I understand you, then, that those letters, Mr. Mainwaring's
included, would not be regarded as proof?" Scott asked, with
well-feigned surprise.

"Not of themselves with these people; I know them too well."
Hobson shook his head decidedly, then continued, in oracular
tones, "Remember, I am only speaking of your chances with them.
Mainwaring's letters were very guarded, mine scarcely less so.
They would have no weight whatever with men like Ralph Mainwaring or
William Thornton.  They might even charge you with forging the whole
thing.  The point is just this, Mr. Scott: in order to be able to
get anything from these parties you must have complete data, absolute
proof of every statement you are to make; and such data and proofs
are in the possession of no one but myself.  So you see I am the
only one who can assist you in this matter."

"And what compensation would you demand for 'assisting' me?"

"We will not put it that way, Mr. Scott," Hobson replied, his small,
malignant eyes gleaming with delight at the ease with which his
prey was falling into his clutches.  "It is like this: Ralph
Mainwaring and Thornton are prejudiced against me; I might not be
able to work them as successfully as I could wish, but you and I
could work together very smoothly.  I could remain invisible, as it
were, and give you the benefit of the information I possess and of
my experience and advice, and you could then successfully manipulate
the wires which would bring in the ducats for both of us.  What do
you say, my young friend?"

"Do you think that either Ralph Mainwaring or Mr. Thornton would
care enough for any secrets you might be able to disclose to pay
you hush money?"

"I object to the term of 'hush money.'  I am merely trying to get
what was due me from Hugh Mainwaring.  As he never paid me in full,
his heirs must.  Yes, I could work them after they return to
England and set up in style on the old Mainwaring estate.  They
would be rather sensitive about the family reputation then."

"Where are the beneficiaries of that will that was destroyed?" Scott
suddenly inquired.

Hobson looked sharply at him.  "Dead, long ago.  Why do you ask?"

"I was thinking that if they or their heirs were living, it would
be better to go to them with this information.  They would probably
pay a good price for it."

"You're right, they would," Hobson replied, approvingly; "but they
are all dead."

"Were there no heirs left?"

"None whatever, more's the pity.  However, I've got a good hold on
these English chaps and will make them hand over the sovereigns yet."

The contempt which Scott had hitherto concealed as Hobson unfolded
his plans was now plainly visible on his face as he rose from his
chair.

"Don't hasten, my young friend," said Hobson, eagerly.  "Sit down,
sit down; we have not laid our plans yet."

"No, nor will we," was the reply.  "If you think to make a cat's-paw
of me in any of your dirty, contemptible pieces of work, you are
mistaken.  If you think that I came here with any intention of
listening for one moment to any of your vile propositions, you are
mistaken.  I came here simply to satisfy myself on one point.  My
errand is accomplished, and I will remain no longer."

Hobson had sprung to his feet and now faced Scott, barring the way
to the door, while fear, anger, defiance, and hate passed in rapid
succession across his evil countenance, making his appearance more
demon-like than ever.

"You lie!" he exclaimed, in a hoarse whisper.  "I have not given
you one word of information!"

"No," Scott interrupted, "you have given me no information, and you
could give me none, for the reason that I know more concerning this
whole affair than you do.  I also have knowledge of certain other
matters regarding one Richard Hobson, alias Dick Carroll, and his
London adventures."

Hobson's face had become a livid hue, and Scott detected a sudden
movement of his right hand towards his desk.

"None of that!" he cried, warningly, at the same time springing
quickly upon him with two well-aimed blows, one of which knocked a
revolver from Hobson's hand, while the other deposited him in a heap
upon the floor.  While the latter was recovering from the effect of
the stunning blow he had received, Scott picked up the revolver and,
having examined it, slipped it into his pocket, saying,-

"I will keep this for a while as a souvenir of our interview.  It
may be needed as evidence later."

Hobson crawled to his feet and stood cowering abjectly before Scott,
rage written on every lineament of his face, but not daring to give
it expression.

"Who in the devil are you, anyway?" he growled.

"That is none of your business whatever," Scott replied, seizing
him by the collar and dragging him to the door.  "The only thing for
you to do is to unlock that door as expeditiously as possible,
asking no questions and making no comments."

With trembling fingers the wretch complied, and Scott, still
retaining his hold upon his collar, reached the door of the outer
room, where, with a final shake, he released him.

"Wait a moment," Hobson whispered, eagerly, half-paralyzed with fear,
while his eyes gleamed with malign hatred.  "You've got no hold on
me by anything I've said, and you've no proof of that Carroll
business, either."

Scott looked at him an instant with silent contempt.  "You cowardly
scoundrel! all I have to say to you at present is, be careful how
you interfere with me!  I'm only sorry I soiled my hands with you,
but I'll do it again if necessary; and the next time you will fare
worse!" and, opening the door, he passed quickly through the outer
room, conscious of the amazed stare of the office boy, who had
overheard his last words.  Hobson did not attempt to follow him, but
paced up and down his room, trembling with fear and rage combined,
and vainly striving to imagine who his visitor might be.  At last
he sat down to his desk and began to write rapidly, muttering to
himself,-

"I half believe--only that he's too young--that he is some hound
over here trying to scent out the whole thing.  But," he added, with
an oath, "whoever he is, if he crosses my track he'll be likely to
follow Hugh Mainwaring before long, that's all!"



CHAPTER XII

X-RAYS


On the morning following Scott's interview with Hobson, he awoke at
an early hour, vaguely conscious of some disturbing influence,
though unable to tell what had awakened him.  He lay for a moment
recalling the events of the preceding day, then suddenly remembered
that this was the day fixed for the funeral of Hugh Mainwaring.
None of the servants were astir about the house, but Scott soon
became conscious of the sound of stealthy movements and subdued
voices coming through the open window, and, rising, he looked out.
At first he could see nothing unusual.  It was just sunrise, and the
river, at a little distance shimmering in the golden light, held
him entranced by its beauty.  Then a slight rustling in the
shrubbery near the lake attracted his attention.  The golden shafts
of sunlight had not yet reached that small body of water, and it
lay smooth and unbroken as the surface of a mirror, so clear at
that hour that one could easily look into its depths.  Suddenly a
light boat shot out from the side nearest the grove, breaking the
smooth surface into a thousand rippling waves of light.  In the boat
were two men, one of whom Scott instantly recognized as the
detective; the other, who was rowing and had his back towards the
house, seemed to be a stranger.  Some one concealed in the shrubbery
called to the boatmen, whereupon they rowed across in that direction,
stopping a few yards from shore.  Here they rested a few moments
till the surface was again smooth, when, both men having carefully
peered into the depths of the little lake, the detective proceeded
to let down a drag into the water.

"By George!" Scott ejaculated, "the sly old fox is improving the
opportunity, while every one is asleep, to drag the lake in search
of whatever the coachman threw in there.  All right, my dear sir,
go ahead!  But I'm somewhat interested in this affair myself, and
I don't intend that you shall monopolize all the facts in the case."

Keeping an eye on the boat, he dressed quickly and, letting himself
out at the front entrance, he hastened down the walk through the
grove to the edge of the lake, keeping himself concealed among the
trees.  The boat was moving slowly back and forth, and was now in
such a position that Scott could see the face of the man rowing,
who proved to be, as he had thought, a stranger.  On the other side,
seated under the flowering shrubs and trees bordering the lake, was
Joe, the stable-boy, watching proceedings with intense interest.
With a smile, the young secretary followed his example, seating
himself at the foot of an ancient elm whose branches drooped nearly
to the ground.

"All right, Mr. Detective!" he said, "I can stay as long as you.
If you fail to make a success of your work this morning no one will
be the wiser, but in case you find anything I propose to know
something about it myself."

The sun was now shining brightly, but the hour was yet so early that
there was little danger of any one else appearing on the scene,
especially as it was Sunday morning.

For nearly an hour Mr. Merrick and his companion rowed slowly back
and forth in constantly widening circles, meeting with no success
and saying little.  Suddenly, while Scott was watching the face of
the stranger, wondering who he might be, he heard a low exclamation
and saw that the drag had fastened itself upon some object at the
bottom of the lake.  He watched eagerly as they drew it to the
surface, and could scarcely restrain a cry of astonishment as he
saw what it was, but before either of the men could secure it, it
had slipped and fallen again into the water.  With language more
forcible than elegant, the drag was again lowered, and the boat
once more began its slow trailing.

This time they had not so long to wait for success.  The drag was
brought to the surface, but carrying in its clutches an entirely
different object, and one with which the young secretary was totally
unfamiliar,--a somewhat rusty revolver.

Mr. Merrick's back was now towards Scott, but the latter saw him
take something from his pocket which he seemed to compare with the
revolver, at the same time remarking to the stranger, who was
watching with an appearance of great interest,

"A pretty good find, Jim, pretty good!  However, we'll have another
try for that box, whatever it is.  It may amount to something or it
may not, but it will do no harm to make a trial."

Having let down the drag once more, he glanced at the house, then at
his watch, saying, "No signs of any one astir; we're all right for
another hour yet."

After a few more turns, Scott saw them suddenly pulling in the
ropes, and once more the box appeared, rusty and covered with slime,
but still familiar.  He at once sprang to his feet and sauntered
carelessly down the walk, humming a tune and watching the occupants
of the boat with an air of mild curiosity.  The stranger was the
first to see him, and with an expression of evident disgust gave
Merrick warning of his approach.  If the detective felt any
annoyance he did not betray it as he turned and nodded to Scott in
the most nonchalant manner possible, as though dragging the lake
were an every-day occurrence.

"You've been fishing, I see," said Scott, pleasantly.  "How did you
make out?"

"Well, I've made this find which you see here," answered Mr. Merrick,
as the boat headed for shore.  "I don't know yet what it is, but it
has not lain long in the water, and it may be worth looking into."

Scott made no reply until the detective had sprung ashore; then, as
the latter proceeded to examine the box, leaving his companion to
take care of the boat and drag, he said, in a low tone,-

"That is likely to prove an important discovery, Mr. Merrick."

"You are familiar with it then?" queried the latter.

"I have seen it in Mr. Mainwaring's safe.  That was the box in which
he kept the old jewels that were stolen on the night of the murder."

Mr. Merrick whistled softly and studied the box anew.  "Well, there
are no jewels in it now, but we will open it.  There is no one up
yet to let us into the house, so suppose we go to the stables; we'll
be safe there from intrusion."

They proceeded to the stables, and, arriving there, Scott was puzzled
to see Merrick's companion at work and evidently perfectly at home.

"We are going to use your room a while, Matthews," said Merrick,
carelessly.  Then, noting the surprise on Scott's face, he added,
"This is Matthews, the new coachman, Mr. Scott.  I thought you knew
of his coming."

"At your service, sir," said Matthews, respectfully lifting his cap
in response to Scott's greeting, while the latter inquired, as he
and the detective passed up-stairs together,-

"When did he come?"

"Yesterday afternoon.  He applied for the position, and, as he
happened to be an acquaintance of mine, Mr. Mainwaring hired him
upon my recommendation.  Now," as he locked the door of the room
they had entered, "we will open this box as quickly as possible.
I suppose there is no key to be found, and, if there were, the
lock is too rusty to work."

With the aid of a file and chisel the box was soon opened.  The
satin linings were somewhat water-soaked and discolored, and the
box appeared to be empty, but on opening an inner compartment there
were exposed to view a pair of oddly shaped keys and a blood-stained
handkerchief, the latter firmly knotted as though it had been used
to bandage a wound of some kind.

"Ah!" said the detective, with peculiar emphasis, examining the
handkerchief, which was of fine linen, with the initials "H. M."
embroidered in one corner.  "Did Mr. Mainwaring carry a handkerchief
of that style?"

"Yes; he carried that, or one precisely like it, the last day of
his life."

"Very good!" was the only reply, as the detective carefully folded
and pocketed the article with an air that indicated that he wished
to say no more about it.  "And these keys, do you recognize them?"

"They were Mr. Mainwaring's private keys to his library and the
southern hall."

"The ones the valet said were missing?"

"The same."

Mr. Merrick, after studying them curiously for a moment, consigned
them to his pocket also, and then began a careful inspection of the
interior of the box.  Scott watched him in silence, thinking
meanwhile of the old document which he had found hidden away in its
depths, and inwardly rejoicing that it had not been left to be
discovered by the detective.  Nothing in Mr. Merrick's manner or
expression betrayed the nature of his thoughts, and, so long as he
chose to remain silent, Scott refrained from questioning him.

At length he closed the box, saying, indifferently, "Well, I don't
know as there is any reason why I should detain you any longer, Mr.
Scott.  We have satisfied ourselves as to the contents of the box,
and you have identified the articles.  For the present, however, I
would prefer that you say nothing of this."

"Certainly, Mr. Merrick.  The discovery, whatever its import, is
your secret, and I shall make no mention of it whatever."

"I don't know that it is of any special importance," said the
detective, carelessly, as they prepared to descend the stairs; "but
it only confirms the opinion that I have had all along."

"Don't you think that this tends to show that the murder and robbery
were connected, notwithstanding Mr. Whitney's theories to the
contrary?" Scott inquired, as they were about to separate.

"Possibly," replied the other, gravely.  Then added, with a smile,
"Mr. Whitney has his own preconceived ideas of the case and tries
to adapt the circumstances to suit them, when, in reality, one must
first ascertain whatever facts are available and adjust his theories
accordingly."

They parted company at the door of the stables, but Scott had not
reached the house when the detective, with a peculiar smile,
returned to the room up-stairs, and once more opening the box, drew
forth from underneath the satin linings a folded paper, yellow with
age and covered with closely written lines; which he read with great
interest, after which he remained absorbed in thought until aroused
by the entrance of his friend, the coachman.

Several hours later Scott stood alone beside the casket of the
murdered man.  The head had been turned slightly to one side and a
spray of white blossoms, dropped with seeming carelessness within
the casket, concealed all traces of the ghastly wound, their snowy
petals scarcely whiter than the marble features of the dead.

It lacked more than an hour of the time set for the funeral.  None
of the few invited friends would arrive for some time yet.  The
gentlemen of the house were still in the hands of their valets, and
the ladies engrossed with the details of their elegant mourning
costumes.  Scott, knowing he would be secure from interruption, had
chosen this opportunity to take his farewell look at the face of his
employer, desiring to be alone with his own thoughts beside the dead.

With strangely commingled emotions he gazed upon the face, so
familiar, and yet upon which the death angel had already traced many
unfamiliar lines, and as he realized the utter loneliness of the
rich man, both in life and in death, a wave of intense pity swept
across heart and brain, well-nigh obliterating all sense of personal
wrong and injury.

"Unhappy man!" he murmured.  "Unloved in life, unmourned in death!
Not one of those whom you sought to enrich will look upon you to-day
with one-half the sorrow or the pity with which I do, whom you have
wronged and defrauded from the day of my birth!  But I forgive you
the wrong you have done me.  It was slight compared with the far
greater wrong you did another,--your brother--your only brother!
A wrong which no sums of money, however vast, could ever repair.
What would I not give if I could once have stood by his side, even
as I stand by yours to-day, and looked once upon his face,--the
face of your brother and of the father whom, because of your guilt,
I have never seen or known, of whom I have not even a memory!
Living, I could never have forgiven you; but here, to-day, in pity
for your loveless life and out of the great love I bear that father
in his far-away ocean grave,--in his name and in my own,--I
forgive you, his brother, even that wrong!"

As Scott left the room, he passed Mr. Whitney in the hall, who,
seeing in his face traces of recent emotion, looked after him with
great surprise.

"That young man is a mystery!" he soliloquized.  "A mystery!  I
confess I cannot understand him."

A little later the master of Fair Oaks passed for the last time
down the winding, oak-lined avenue, followed by the guests of the
place and by a small concourse of friends, whose sorrow, though
unexpressed by outward signs of mourning, was, in reality, the more
sincere.

Mrs. LaGrange, who, as housekeeper, had remained at Fair Oaks,
seemed, as the last carriage disappeared from view, to be on the
verge of collapse from nervous prostration.  No one knew the mental
excitement or the terrible nervous strain which she had undergone
during those last few days.  Many at the funeral had noted her
extreme pallor, but no one dreamed of the tremendous will power
by which she had maintained her customary haughty bearing.  When
all had gone, she rose and attempted to go to her room, but in the
hall she staggered helplessly and, with a low moan, sank unconscious
to the floor.  The screams of the chambermaid, who had seen her
fall, summoned to her assistance the other servants, who carried
her to her room, where she slowly regained consciousness, opening
her eyes with an expression of terror, then closing them again with
a shudder.  Suddenly she seemed to recall her surroundings; with a
great effort she rallied and dismissed the servants, with the
exception of the chambermaid, saying, "It was nothing, only a little
faintness caused by the heat.  The room was insufferably close.  Say
nothing of this to the others when they return."

With Katie's assistance, she exchanged her heavy dress for a light
wrapper of creamy silk, and soon seemed herself again except for
her unusual pallor.

"That will do, Katie; I shall not need you further.  By the way,
did Walter go with the others, or did he remain at home?"

"Mr. Walter is in his room, ma'am; and I heard Hardy say that he
was packing up his clothes and things."

Mrs. LaGrange betrayed no surprise, no emotion of any kind.  "Say
to him that I would like to see him in my room at once."

The girl disappeared, leaving Mrs. LaGrange to her own reflections,
which seemed anything but pleasant.  The look of terror returned
to her face; she clinched her hands until the jewels cut deeply into
the white fingers; then, springing to her feet, she paced the room
wildly until she heard the footsteps of her son approaching, when
she instantly assumed her usual composure.

Walter LaGrange had left Fair Oaks immediately at the close of the
inquest, and had not returned except to be present at the funeral,
and even there his sullen appearance had caused general remark.
Very little love had ever existed between mother and son, for neither
had a nature capable of deep affection, but never until now had there
been any open rupture between them.  Though closely resembling each
other, he lacked her ability to plan and execute, and had hitherto
been content to follow her counsels.  But, as he now entered his
mother's room, a glance revealed to her that her authority and
influence over him were past.

"You sent for me, I believe.  What do you want?" he asked, as she
looked at him without speaking.

"Do you consider your conduct becoming towards a mother who is
risking everything for you and your interests?"

"Oh, my interests be hanged," he exclaimed, petulantly.  "I don't
see that you've accomplished much for my interests with all your
scheming.  A week ago I could hold up my head with any of the
fellows.  I was supposed to be a relative of Hugh Mainwaring's,
with good prospects, and that I would come in for a good round
sum whenever the old fellow made his will,--just as I did.  Now
that's gone, and everything's gone; I haven't even a name left!"

"Walter LaGrange, what do you mean?  Do you dare insinuate to your
own mother--"

"Why don't you call me Walter Mainwaring?" he sneered.  "As to
insinuations, I have to hear plenty of 'em.  Last night I was
black-balled at one of the clubs where my name had been presented
for membership, and a lot of the fellows have cut me dead."

"Walter, listen to me.  You are Hugh Mainwaring's son and I was
his wife.  I will yet compel people to recognize us as such; but
you must--"

"Tell me one thing," he demanded, interrupting her.  "If I was Hugh
Mainwaring's son, why have I not borne his name?  Why did he not
recognize me as such?  I'll claim no man for my father who would
not acknowledge me as his son."

Then, before she could reply, he added, "If you were the wife of
Hugh Mainwaring, what was the meaning of your proposal of marriage
to him less than three months ago?"

She grew deathly pale; but he, seeming to enjoy the situation,
repeated, sneeringly, "Less than three months ago, the night on
which he gave you the necklace which you commissioned me to sell
the other day!  You urged your suit with a vengeance, too, I
remember, for you threatened to ruin him if he did not come to
your terms.

"I only laughed then, for I thought 'twas another scheme of yours
to get a tighter hold on the old man's purse-strings.  It's nothing
to me what your object was, but in view of the fact that I happened
to overhear that little episode, it might be just as well not to
try to tell me that I am Hugh Mainwaring's son.  You will naturally
see that I am not likely to be interested in helping carry out that
little farce!"

Still controlling herself by a tremendous will power, the wretched
woman made one more desperate effort.  In low tones she replied,-

"You show your base ingratitude by thus insulting your mother and
running the risk of betraying her to listening servants by your
talk.  Of course, this is all a farce, as you say, but it must be
carried through.  You and I were distantly related to Hugh
Mainwaring, but what chance would we have against these people with
no more of a claim than ours?  I am compelled to assert that I was
his wife and that you are his son in order to win any recognition
in the eyes of the law."

For an instant her son regarded her with an expression of mingled
surprise and incredulity, then the sneer returned, and, turning to
leave the room, he answered, carelessly,-

"You can tell your little story to other people, and when you have
won a fortune on it, why, I'll be around for my share, as, whatever
my doubts in other directions, I have not the slightest doubt that
you are my mother, and therefore bound to support me.  But, for the
present, if you please, I'll go by the old name of LaGrange.  It's
a name that suits me very well yet, even though," and a strange look
flashed at her from his dark eyes, "even though it may be only a
borrowed one," and the door closed, for the last time, between
mother and son.

A low moan escaped from the lips of the unhappy woman.  "My son--
the only living being of my flesh and blood--even he has turned
against me!"  Too proud to recall him, however, she sank exhausted
upon a couch, and, burying her face in her hands, wept bitterly for
the first and only time in her remembrance.

Meanwhile, the guests of Fair Oaks, having returned from the funeral,
had assembled in the large library below, and were engaged in
animated discussion regarding the disposition to be made of the
property.  Ralph Mainwaring and Mr. Thornton, with pencils and paper,
were computing stocks and bonds, and estimating how much of a margin
would be left after the purchase of the old Mainwaring estate, which
they had heard could be bought at a comparatively low figure, the
present owner being somewhat embarrassed financially; while Mrs.
Mainwaring was making a careful inventory of the furniture, paintings,
and bric-a-brac at Fair Oaks, with a view of ascertaining whether
there were any articles which she would care to retain for their
future home.

Mr. Whitney, who, as a bachelor and an intimate friend of Hugh
Mainwaring's, as well as his legal adviser, had perhaps more than
any one else enjoyed the hospitality of his beautiful suburban home,
found the conversation extremely distasteful, and, having furnished
whatever information was desired, excused himself and left the room.
As he sauntered out upon the broad veranda, he was surprised to see
Miss Carleton, who had made her escape through one of the long
windows, and who looked decidedly bored.

"It's perfectly beastly!  Don't you think so?" she exclaimed,
looking frankly into his face, as if sure of sympathy.

She had so nearly expressed his own feelings that he flushed
slightly, as he replied, with a smile, "It looks rather peculiar to
an outsider, but I suppose it is only natural."

"It is natural for them," she replied, with emphasis.

"I did not intend to be personal; I meant human nature generally."

"I have too much respect for human nature generally to believe it
as selfish and as mercenary as that.  I have learned one lesson,
however.  I will never leave my property to my friends, hoping by
so doing to be held in loving remembrance.  It would be the surest
way to make them forget me."

"Has your experience of the last few days made you so cynical as
that?" the attorney inquired, again smiling into the bright, fair
face beside him.

"It is not cynicism, Mr. Whitney; it is the plain truth.  I have
always known that the Mainwarings as a family were mercenary; but I
confess I had no idea, until within the last few days, that they
were capable of such beastly ingratitude."

"Do you mean to say that it is a trait of the entire Mainwaring
family, or only of this branch in particular?" he inquired, somewhat
amused.

"All the Mainwarings are noted for their worship of the golden god,"
she replied, with a low musical laugh; "but Ralph Mainwaring's love
of money is almost a monomania.  He has planned and schemed to get
that old piece of English property into his hands for years and
years, in fact, ever since it was willed to Hugh Mainwaring at the
time his brother was disinherited, and the name he gave to his son
was the first stone laid to pave the way to this coveted fortune."

"I see.  Pardon me, Miss Carleton; but you just now alluded to Hugh
Mainwaring's brother.  I remember some mention was made at the
inquest of a brother, but I supposed it must be an error.  Had he
really a brother?"

"Ah, yes, an elder brother; and he must have been less avaricious
than the rest of them, as he sacrificed a fortune for love.  It was
quite a little romance, you know.  He and his brother Hugh were
both in love with the same lady.  The father did not approve, and
gave his sons their choice between love without a fortune or a
fortune without love.  Hugh Mainwaring chose the latter, but Harold,
the elder, was true to his lady, and was consequently disinherited."

"Poor Hugh Mainwaring!" commented the attorney; "he made his choice
for life of a fortune without love, and a sad life it was, too!"

Miss Carleton glanced up with quick sympathy.  "Yes, it seemed to
me his life must have been rather lonely and sad."

There was a pause, and she added, "And did he never speak to you,
his intimate friend, of his brother?"

"Never."

"Strange!  Perhaps he was like the others, after all, and thought
of nothing but money."

"No, I cannot believe that of Hugh Mainwaring," the attorney replied,
loyally; then added, "What became of the brother, Miss Carleton?"

"He was lost at sea.  He had started for Africa, to make a fortune
for himself, but the boat was wrecked in a storm and every one on
board was lost."

"And his family, what of them?" queried the attorney.

"He had no children, and no one ever knew what became of his wife.
The Mainwarings are a very prosaic family; that is the only bit of
romance in their history; but I always enjoyed that, except that
it ended so sadly, and I always admired Harold Mainwaring.  I would
like to meet such a man as he."

"Why, I should say there was a romance in progress at present in
the Mainwaring family," said Mr. Whitney, smiling.

"What! Hugh and Edith Thornton?" She laughed again, a wonderfully
musical, rippling laugh, the attorney thought.  "Oh, there is no
more romance there than there is in that marble," and she pointed
to a beautiful Cupid and Psyche embracing each other in the centre
of a mass of brilliant geraniums and coleas.  "They have been
engaged ever since their days of long dresses and highchairs, -
another of Ralph Mainwaring's schemes!  You know Edith is Hugh's
cousin, an only child, and her father is immensely rich! Oh, no; if
I ever have a romance of my own, it must spring right up
spontaneously, and grow in spite of all opposition.  Not one of the
sort that has been fostered in a hot-house until its life is nearly
stifled out of it."

Mr. Whitney glanced in admiration at the fair English face beside
him glowing with physical and intellectual beauty.  Then a moment
later, as they passed down the long hall in response to the summons
to dinner, and he caught a glimpse, in one of the mirrors, of a
tolerably good-looking, professional gentleman of nearly forty, he
wondered why he suddenly felt so much older than ever before.

Miss Carleton was seated beside him at dinner, while nearly opposite
was Harry Scott, conversing with young Mainwaring.  He was quietly
but elegantly dressed, and his fine physique and noble bearing, as
well as the striking beauty of his dark face, seemed more marked
than usual.  Mr. Whitney watched the young secretary narrowly.
Something in the play of his features seemed half familiar, and yet
gave him a strange sense of pain, but why, he could not determine.

"Mr. Whitney," said Miss Carleton, in a low tone, "did you ever
observe a resemblance at times between Mr. Scott and your friend,
Mr. Hugh Mainwaring?"

The attorney looked up in surprise.  "Why, no, Miss Carleton, I
would not think a resemblance possible.  Mr. Scott is much darker
and his features are altogether different."

"Oh, I did not refer to any resemblance of feature or complexion,
but his manner, and sometimes his expression, strikes me as very
similar.  I suppose because he was associated with him so much,
you know."

Mr. Whitney's eyes again wandered to the face of the secretary.  He
started involuntarily.  "By George!" he ejaculated, mentally, "Hugh
Mainwaring, as sure as I live!  Not a feature like him, but the same
expression.  What does it mean?  Can it be simply from association?"

In a state of great bewilderment he endeavored still to entertain
Miss Carleton, though it is to be feared she found him rather
absent-minded.  He was passing out of the dining-room in a brown
study when some one touched his arm.  He turned and saw Merrick.

"When you are at liberty, come out to the grove," the latter said,
briefly, and was gone before the attorney could more than bow in
reply.




CHAPTER XIII

THEORIES, WISE AND OTHERWISE


Half an hour later, having excused himself to Miss Carleton, Mr.
Whitney hastened to the grove, where he found the detective
sauntering up and down the winding walk, his hands behind him in a
reflective mood, absorbed in thought and in the enjoyment of a fine
cigar.  He nodded pleasantly as the attorney approached.

"Going to be at liberty for some time?" he inquired, at the same
time extending his cigar-case.

"Yes, for any length of time you please; it's a relief to get away
from those egotists."

"H'm!" said Merrick, as he returned the cigar-case to his pocket
after the attorney had helped himself; "I didn't think that you
looked particularly anxious to be relieved of your company when I
saw you.  I really felt considerable delicacy about speaking as I
did."

"Oh, to the deuce with your nonsense!" the attorney replied, his
cheek flushing as he lighted his cigar.  "If you had listened to
the twaddle that I have all day, you would be glad to talk to almost
any one for a change."

"In that event, perhaps you won't mind talking to me for a while.
Well, suppose we go down to the stables, to the coachman's room; he
is probably with his best girl by this time, and we will be safe
from interruption or eavesdroppers."

"That suits me all right so long as Ralph Mainwaring doesn't think
of looking for me there.  That man makes me exceedingly weary!"

"Anxious to secure the property according to the terms of that will,
I suppose."

"Anxious!  He is perfectly insane on the subject; he can't talk of
anything else, and he'll move heaven and earth to accomplish it,
too, if necessary."

"Don't anticipate any difficulty, do you?"

"None whatever, unless from that woman; there's no knowing to what
she may resort.  It will only be necessary to prove that the will,
if not in existence at the death of the testator, was fraudulently
destroyed prior thereto, and I think we have a pretty clear case.
By George, Merrick!" suddenly exclaimed the attorney in a different
tone, as he paused on the way to the stables.  "I hadn't thought of
it before, but there's one thing ought to be done; we should have
this lake dragged at once."

Merrick raised his eyebrows in mute inquiry.

"To find whatever Brown threw in there, you know; it might furnish
us with an almighty important clue."

"H'm! might be a good idea," Merrick remarked, thoughtfully.

"Of course it would!  I tell you, Merrick, I was cut out for a
detective myself, and I'm pretty good for an amateur, now."

"Haven't a doubt of it," was the quiet response, and the pair resumed
their walk.  Both were soon comfortably seated in the coachman's
room, their chairs tilted at just the right angle before a large
double window, facing the sunset.  Both smoked in silence for a few
moments, each waiting for the other to speak.

"Well, my friend, what do you know?" inquired the detective, while
he watched the delicate spirals of blue smoke as they diffused
themselves in the golden haze of the sunlight.

"Just what I was about to ask you," said his companion.

"Oh, time enough for that later.  You have been looking into this
case, and, as you are a born detective, I naturally would like to
compare notes with you."

Mr. Whitney glanced sharply at the detective, as though suspicious
of some sarcasm lurking in those words, but the serious face of
the latter reassured him, and he replied,-

"Well, I've not had much experience in that line, but I've made
quite a study of character, and can tell pretty correctly what a
person of such and such evident characteristics will do under such
and such conditions.  As I have already stated to you, I know, both
from observation and from hints dropped by Hugh Mainwaring, that if
ever a dangerous woman existed,--artful, designing, absolutely
devoid of the first principles of truth, honor, or virtue,--that
woman is Mrs. LaGrange.  I know that Mainwaring stood in fear of
her to a certain extent, and that she was constantly seeking, by
threats, to compel him to either marry her or secure the property
to her and her son and I also know that he was anxious to have the
will drawn in favor of his namesake as quickly and as secretly as
possible.

"Now, knowing all these circumstances, what is more reasonable than
to suppose that she, learning in some way of his intentions, would
resort to desperate measures to thwart them?  Her first impulse
would be to destroy the will; then to make one final effort to
bring him, by threats, to her terms, and, failing in that, her fury
would know no bounds.  Now, what does she do?  Sends for Hobson, the
one man whom Hugh Mainwaring feared, who knew his secret and stood
ready to betray it.  Between them the plot was formed.  They have
another interview in the evening, to which Hobson brings one of his
coadjutors, the two coming by different ways like the vile
conspirators they were, and in all probability, when Hugh Mainwaring
bade his guests good-night, every detail of his death was planned
and ready to be carried into execution in the event of his refusing
to comply with that woman's demands made by herself, personally,
and later, through Hobson.  We know, from the darkey's testimony,
that Hobson and his companion appeared in the doorway together; that
the man suddenly vanished--probably concealing himself in the
shrubbery--as Hobson went back into the house; that a few moments
later, the latter reappeared with Mrs. LaGrange; and the darkey
tells me that he, supposing all was right, slunk away in the bushes
and left them standing there.  We know that the valet, going up-
stairs a while after, found Mrs. LaGrange in the private library,
and at the same time detected the smell of burning paper.  You
found the burnt fragments of the will in the grate in the tower-room.

"Now, to my mind, it is perfectly clear that Mrs. LaGrange and
Hobson proceeded together to the library and tower-room, where they
first destroyed the will, and where she secreted him to await the
result of her interview with Mainwaring, at the same time providing
him with the private keys by which he could effect his escape, and
with Hugh Mainwaring's own revolver with which the terrible deed was
done.  Later, finding that Mainwaring would not accede to her
demands, I believe she left that room knowing to a certainty what
his fate would be in case Hobson could not succeed in making terms
with him, and I believe her object in coming down the corridor
afterwards was simply to ascertain that her plans were being carried
into execution.  Now there is my theory of this whole affair; what
do you think of it?"

"Very ingeniously put together!  What about the jewels?  Do you
think Hobson took them?"

"No.  I think Mrs. LaGrange got possession of them in some way.  She
has no means of her own to hire that scoundrel, yet the darkey heard
her promise to pay him liberally, and you see her very first attempt
to pay him was by the sale of some of those jewels.  I'll acknowledge
I'm not prepared to say how or when she secured them."

"Could she open the safe?"

"That I cannot say.  Mainwaring told me, some months ego, that he
found her one day attempting to open it, and he immediately changed
the combination.  Whether she had discovered the new combination, I
am unable to say; but she is a deep woman, and usually finds some way
of accomplishing her designs."

"Brown, the coachman, seems to have no place in this theory of
yours."

"Well, of course we none of us thought of him in connection with
this affair until since his sudden disappearance yesterday, but I
am inclined to think that he is to be regarded in the light of an
accessory after the fact.  I think it very probable that Mrs.
LaGrange has employed him since the murder to assist her in
concealing evidences of the crime, and that is why I suggested
dragging the lake in search of what may be hidden there; but,
according to his own story, he was in the city that night until
some time after the murder was committed."

"Yes, according to his own story, but in reality he did not go to
the city at all that night.  More than that, he was seen in this
vicinity about midnight with a couple of suspicious looking
characters."

"By George!  when did you learn that?"

"I knew it when Brown gave his testimony at the inquest."

"The deuce you did!  and then let the rascal give you the slip,
after all!"

"Don't give yourself any anxiety on that score; I can produce Brown
any hour he's wanted.  One of my subordinates has his eye on him
day and night.  At last reports, he and Brown were occupying the
same room in a third-class lodging house; I'll wager they're having
a game of cards together this evening."

"Well, well!  you have stolen a march on us.  But, if I may ask, why
don't you bag your game?"

"I am using him as a decoy for larger game.  Whatever Brown is mixed
up in, he is only a tool in the hands of older and shrewder rascals."

Before the attorney could say anything further, Merrick rose abruptly
and stepped to a table near by, returning with a package.

"What do you think of that?" he asked, removing the wrappings and
holding up the rusty, metallic box.

"Great heavens!" ejaculated Mr. Whitney, springing forward excitedly.
"Why, man alive, you don't mean to say that you have found the jewels!"

"No such good fortune as that yet," the detective answered quietly,
"only the empty casket;" and having opened the box, he handed it to
the attorney.

"Where did you find this?" the latter inquired.

"Fished it out of the lake."

"Ah-h!  I should like to know when."

"While you were snoring this morning."

"Great Scott!  They'll catch a weasel asleep when they find you
napping!  But, by George! this rather confirms my theory about that
woman getting possession of the jewels and hiring Brown to help her,
doesn't it?"

Without replying, Merrick handed over the revolver which had been
brought to light that morning.

"Where did you get this rusty thing?  Was it in the lake, also?"

The detective nodded affirmatively, and Mr. Whitney examined the
weapon in some perplexity.

"Well, I must say," he remarked at length, "I don't see what
connection this has with the case.  The shooting was done with
Hugh Mainwaring's own revolver; that was settled at the inquest--"

"Pardon me!  It was only 'settled' that the revolver found lying
beside him was his own."

The attorney stared as Merrick continued, at the same time producing
from his pocket the revolver in question, "This, as you are
doubtless aware, is a Smith and Wesson, 32 calibre, while that,"
pointing to the rusty weapon in Mr. Whitney's hands, "is an old
Colt's revolver, a 38.  On the morning of the murder, after you and
the coroner had gone, I found the bullet for which we had searched
unsuccessfully, and from that hour to this I have known, what before
I had suspected, that this dainty little weapon of Mr. Mainwaring's
played no part in the shooting.  Here is the bullet, you can see for
yourself."

Mr. Whitney gazed in silent astonishment as the detective compared
the bullet with the two weapons, showing conclusively that it could
never have been discharged from the familiar 32-calibre revolver.

"Well, I'll be blessed if I can see what in the dickens that
revolver of Mainwaring's had to do with the affair, anyway!"

"Very easily explained when you once take into consideration the
fact that the whole thing was an elaborately arranged plan, on the
part of the murderer, to give the affair an appearance of suicide.
One glance at the murdered man convinced me that the wound had
never been produced by the weapon lying at his side.  That clue
led to others, and when I left that room with you, to attend the
inquest, I knew that Hugh Mainwaring had been shot with a 38-calibre
revolver, in his library, near the centre of the room, and that the
body had afterwards been so arranged in the tower-room as to give
the appearance of his having deliberately shot himself beside his
desk and with his own revolver."

"By George!  I believe you're right," said the attorney; "and I
recall now your statement that day, that the shooting had occurred
in the library; I wondered then what reason you had for such an
opinion."

"A small stain on the library carpet and the bullet told me that
much.  Another thing, which at first puzzled me, was the marked
absence of blood-stains.  There was a small pool of blood underneath
the head, a slight stain on the carpet in the adjoining room, but
none on the clothing or elsewhere.  The solution to this I found
on further investigation.  The wound had been firmly and skillfully
bandaged by an expert hand, the imprint of the bandage being
plainly visible in the hair on the temples.  Here is the proof that
I was correct," and Merrick held up to the attorney's astonished
view the stained and knotted handkerchief.  "This, with the private
keys belonging to Mr. Mainwaring's library, was in that box at the
bottom of the lake.  Do you consider Mrs. LaGrange or Hobson capable
of planning and carrying out an affair so adroitly as that?"

"You've got me floored," the attorney answered, gazing at the proofs
before him.  "Hobson I know nothing about; but that woman I believe
could scheme to beat the very devil himself; and yet, Merrick, when
you think of it, it must have taken time--considerable time--to
plan a thing like that."

"Or else," Merrick suggested, "it was the performance of an expert
criminal; no bungling, no work of a green hand."

Mr. Whitney started slightly, but the detective continued.  "Another
point: Hobson, as you say, was the one man whom Hugh Mainwaring
feared and who evidently had some hold upon him; would he then have
dared denounce him as a liar and an impostor?  Would not his use of
such terms imply that he was addressing one whom he considered a
stranger and unacquainted with the facts in the case?"

"I see," the attorney replied quickly; "you have in mind Hobson's
accomplice, the tall man with dark glasses."

Merrick smiled.  "You are then inclined to the opinion that J. Henry
Carruthers, who called in the afternoon, is identical with the
so-called Jack Carroll who accompanied Hobson in the evening?"

"Certainly that is a reasonable supposition.  The descriptions of
the two men agree remarkably, and the darkey was positive, both in
his testimony at the inquest and in conversation with me, that they
were one and the same person."

"Their general appearance seems to have been much the same, but
their conduct and actions were totally unlike.  Carruthers acted
fearlessly, with no attempt at concealment; while, if you will stop
to think of it, of all the witnesses who tried to give a description
of Carroll, not one had seen his face.  He always remained in the
background, as much concealed as possible."

"I don't deny that you are correct," the attorney said musingly;
"and they may have been two distinct individuals, Carroll evidently
being the guilty party; but even in that event, in my opinion, he
was only carrying out with a skillful hand the plans already arranged
by that woman and Hobson."

"Whatever part Carroll took in the affair, he was undoubtedly
Hobson's agent; and you will find that Hobson and Mrs. LaGrange have
been more intimately associated and for a much longer time than you
suspect," and Merrick repeated what he had overheard of the interview
in Mrs. LaGrange's parlor, just after the close of the inquest.

Mr. Whitney listened with deep interest.  "Well, well!  And you
heard her accuse him of being an accessory?  Of course she referred
to the murder.  By George!  I should have wanted them arrested on
the spot!"

After a slight pause, he continued.  "There's one thing, Merrick,
in the conduct of Carruthers which I don't understand.  Why, after
telling the secretary that he would remain at the Arlington for the
next two or three days, should he return to the city the next morning
on the 3.10 train?"

"He seems to have been an impulsive man, who acted on the spur of
the moment," Merrick answered; "but the strangest part of that is,
that he did not return to the city at all.  He bought a ticket for
New York, but the conductor informs me there was no such man on
board; while the north-bound train, which pulls out about five
minutes later, had a passenger answering exactly to his description.
The conductor on the latter train also informed me that, just as
they were pulling out of the station, a man, tall and dark, rather
good-looking, he should judge, though he could not see his face, and
wearing a long, light overcoat, sprang aboard, decidedly winded, as
though from running, and immediately steered for the darkest corner
of the smoking-car, where he sat with his hat well drawn down over
his face."

"Carroll again, by George!" exclaimed the attorney.

"Here is a problem for you to solve," Merrick continued, pointing
to the revolver and box lying side by side.  "You think Brown threw
those in the lake.  Who was the man that Brown saw standing beside
the lake just before three o'clock in the morning, and what was he
doing?  He was tall and dark, and wore a long coat or ulster.  Was
that Carroll or Carruthers?  Did he throw anything into the lake?
And if so, what?"

Mr. Whitney gazed dubiously at the detective for a moment, then
began to whistle softly, while he slowly shook his head.

"No, Merrick; you've got me there!  I never have had enough
experience in this line that I could go into the detail work.  I
have to be guided by the main points in the case.  Then, again, I
gave Brown's testimony very little thought, as I considered him
unreliable and irresponsible."

"Well, to come back to the 'main points,' then: what reasons have
you for connecting Mrs. LaGrange and Hobson with this affair that
might not apply equally well in the cases of certain other people?"

"What reason?  Why, man alive! there is every reason to consider
Mrs. LaGrange the instigator of the whole affair.  In the first
place, her one object and aim for the past seventeen or eighteen
years has been to get hold of Hugh Mainwaring's property, to secure
for herself and her son what she calls their 'rights'--"

"That is the point," Merrick interrupted.  "You consider her guilty
because she would be interested in securing a hold upon the property,
although she, personally, has no claim whatever.  Has it never
occurred to you that there might be others more deeply interested
than she, inasmuch as they have valid claims, being the rightful
heirs?"

"I never thought of such a possibility," said the astonished
attorney; "and I don't know that I understand now to whom you refer."

"I have learned from various reliable sources," the detective
replied, "that Ralph Mainwaring has a younger brother, Harold, who
is as much of a money-lover as himself, though too indolent to take
the same measures for acquiring it.  He is a reckless, unprincipled
fellow, and having about run through his own property, I understand,
he has had great expectations regarding this American estate,
depending upon his share of the same to retrieve his wasted fortune.
I learned yesterday, by cable, that since the departure of Ralph
Mainwaring and his family for this country, his brother has been
missing, and it is supposed, among his associates in London, that
he took the next steamer for America, intending to assert his own
claims."

"And you think--" the attorney interrupted, breathlessly; but
Merrick shook his head and continued,-

"I have also, in the course of my investigations, incidentally
discovered Hugh Mainwaring's secret, and, consequently, Hobson's
secret, only that I know the real facts in the case, which Hobson
does not know.  You, as Mainwaring's friend, will not care to
learn the details, and I shall not speak of them now, but I will
say this much: there are probably in existence to-day, and perhaps
not very far distant, heirs to this property, having a claim
preceding not only that of Ralph Mainwaring or his son, but of
Hugh Mainwaring himself."

There was silence for a few moments as the detective paused, Mr.
Whitney's surprise rendering him speechless; at last he said,-

"Well, you are a truthful fellow, Merrick, and you never jump at
conclusions, so I know your statements can be relied upon; but I'll
be blessed if I understand how or when you have gathered all this
information together.  I suppose it would be useless to ask your
deductions from all this, but I wish you would answer one or two
questions.  Do you think that this Harold Mainwaring, or those
possible heirs you mention, would put in an appearance personally,
or that they would work through agents and emissaries?"

"Depends altogether upon circumstances.  Harold Mainwaring would not
be likely to appear on the scene unless he were pretty effectually
disguised.  As to the others,--if they were to assert their claim,
--it would be difficult to say just what course they might take.
I have made these statements merely to give you a hint of the
possibilities involved in the case.  It is now getting rather late,
but I will give you one or two pointers to ruminate upon.  Don't
think that Hobson will run any risks or put himself to any personal
inconvenience for Mrs. LaGrange.  He is working first and foremost
for Richard Hobson, after that for whoever will pay him best.
Another thing, don't ever for a moment imagine that Hugh Mainwaring's
private secretary is looking for a job.  It's my opinion he'll give
you fellows one of the hardest jobs you ever tackled; and, unless
I'm greatly mistaken, he's got brains enough and backing enough to
carry through whatever he undertakes."

"Say!  I don't know as I exactly catch your meaning; but that's one
thing I wanted to ask you.  What do you think of that young man,
anyway?  I can't make him out."

"I noticed that you had not assigned him any place in that theory
of yours."

"No; he's been a mystery to me, a perfect mystery; but this evening
a new idea has occurred to me, and I would like your judgment on it.
Has he ever reminded you of any one?  That is, can you recall any
one whom he resembles?"

"Well, I should say there was a marked resemblance.  I've often
wondered where your eyes were that you had not seen it."

"You have noticed it, then?  Well, so have I; but it has puzzled me,
for, though the look was familiar, I was unable to recall whose it
was until to-night.  Now that I have recalled it, that, taken in
connection with some other things I have observed, has led me to
wonder whether it were possible that he is a son of Hugh
Mainwaring's, of whose existence no one in this country has ever
known."

"Hugh Mainwaring!  I don't understand you."

"Why, you just acknowledged you had noticed the resemblance between
them!"

"I beg your pardon; but you must recollect that I have never seen
Hugh Mainwaring living, and have little idea how he looked."

"By George!  that's a fact.  Well, then, who in the dickens do you
think he resembles?"

The coachman's step was heard at that instant on the stairs, and
Merrick's reply was necessarily brief.

"Laying aside expression, take feature for feature, and you have
the face of Mrs. LaGrange."




CHAPTER XIV

THE EXIT OF SCOTT, THE SECRETARY


One of the first duties which the secretary was called upon to
perform, during his brief stay at Fair Oaks, was to make a copy of
the lost will.  He still retained in his possession the stenographic
notes of the original document as it had been dictated by Hugh
Mainwaring on that last morning of his life, and it was but the
work of an hour or two to again transcribe them in his clear
chirography.

Engaged in this work, he was seated at the large desk in the
tower-room, which had that morning been opened for use for the first
time since the death of its owner.  He wrote rapidly, and the
document was nearly completed when Mr. Whitney and Ralph Mainwaring
together entered the adjoining room.

"Egad!" he heard the latter exclaim, angrily, "if that blasted
scoundrel thinks he has any hold on me, or that he can keep me on
the rack as he did Hugh, he'll find he has made the biggest mistake
of his life.  It is nothing but a blackmailing scheme, and I've more
than half a mind to sift the whole matter to the bottom and land
that beggarly impostor where he belongs."

"I hardly know just what to advise under the circumstances," Mr.
Whitney answered, quietly, "for I, naturally, have some personal
feeling in this matter, and I am forced to believe, Mr. Mainwaring,
that there is something back of all this which neither you nor I
would care to have given publicity.  But, laying aside that
consideration, I am of the opinion that it might not be to your
interest to push this matter too closely."

"On what grounds, sir, do you base your opinion?" Mr. Mainwaring
demanded.

The attorney's reply, however, was lost upon Scott, whose attention
had been suddenly arrested by the imprint of a peculiar signature
across one corner of the blotter upon which he was drying his work,
now completed.  Instantly, oblivious to everything else, he
carefully examined the blotter.  It was a large one, fastened to
the top of the desk, and had been in use but a comparatively short
time.  It bore traces both of Hugh Mainwaring's writing and of
his own, but this name, standing out boldly on one corner, was
utterly unlike either.  Nor did it resemble any of the signatures
attached to the will on that memorable day when the desk with its
paraphernalia had been last used.

Considerably perplexed, Scott suddenly recalled a small pocket
mirror which he had seen in the desk.  This he speedily found, and,
having placed it at the right angle, leaned over to get a view of
the name as it had been originally written.  As he did so, he
caught sight of some faint lines above the signature which he had
not observed, but which were plainly visible in the mirror.  It was
well for the secretary that he was alone, for, as he read the
signature with the words outlined above, he was spellbound.  For a
moment he seemed almost paralyzed, unable to move.  His brain
whirled, and, when he at last sank back in his chair, his face was
blanched and he felt giddy and faint from the discovery which he
had made.  Gradually he became conscious of his surroundings.  Again
he heard, as in a dream, the conversation in the adjoining room.
The attorney was speaking.

"I do not at present feel at liberty to give the source of my
information, but I can assure you it is perfectly reliable, and my
informant would never have made such an assertion unless he had ample
authority to back it up."

"I don't care a rap for your information or its source," the other
interrupted, impatiently.  "The whole thing is simply preposterous.
The estate descended regularly to Hugh Mainwaring, and from him to
our own family as next of kin.  You can see for yourself that to
talk of any other claimants having prior rights is an utter
absurdity."

"Had not Hugh Mainwaring an elder brother?"

"He had; but you must be aware that he died a great many years ago."

"But had that elder brother no issue?"

"None living," Mr. Mainwaring replied, coldly.  Then added, in the
same tone, "Even had there been, that fact would have no bearing on
this case, Mr. Whitney.  The entire estate was transferred to Hugh
Mainwaring by legal process before the death of his brother, he and
his heirs having been forever disinherited, so that it is the same
as though he had never existed."

While he was speaking, the secretary entered the library, his pallor
and unusual expression attracting Mr. Whitney's attention.  In
response to a glance of inquiry from the latter, however, he merely
said,-

"The copy is completed.  You will find it on the desk," and passed
from the library into the hall.

Still wondering at his appearance, Mr. Whitney proceeded to the
tower-room, and a moment later both gentlemen were absorbed in the
perusal of the duplicate of the lost will; but afterwards the
attorney recalled that, on taking the document from the desk, he
had noticed that the large blotter covering the top had been removed
and replaced by a new one.

There was no perceptible change in Scott's appearance during the
remainder of the day, except that he seemed more than usually
thoughtful, sometimes to the verge of abstraction, but, in reality,
his mind was so preoccupied with endless doubts and surmises
regarding his recent discovery that he found it exceedingly difficult
to concentrate his attention upon the work required of him.  That
afternoon, however, while engaged in looking through some important
documents belonging to Hugh Mainwaring, kept at the city offices,
a cablegram was handed him, addressed to himself personally, from
Barton & Barton, a well-known legal firm in London.  The despatch
itself caused him little surprise, as he had been in correspondence
with this firm for more than a year; but the contents of the message
were altogether unexpected, and left him in a state of bewilderment.
It read,-

"Have you met J. Henry Carruthers, of London, supposed to have
sailed ten days since, or can you give us his whereabouts?"

Fortunately, Scott was alone, Ralph Mainwaring and the attorney
being in the private offices, and he had plenty of opportunity to
recover from his surprise.  For half an hour he revolved the
matter in his thoughts, wondering whether this had any bearing
upon the question which for the last few hours he had been trying
to solve.  A little later he sent the following reply:

"Person mentioned seen on 7th instant.  No trace since.  You have
my letter of 8th instant.  Cable instructions."

As the Mainwaring carriage appeared at the offices at four o'clock,
to convey the gentlemen to Fair Oaks, Mr. Whitney was surprised to
find the secretary still engaged at his desk.

"If you will excuse me," the latter said, pleasantly, "I will not
go out to Fair Oaks this evening.  I have some unfinished work here,
and I will remain in the city to-night."

Upon entering the offices the next day, however, the attorney found
the following note addressed to himself:

"Mr. WHITNEY.

"DEAR SIR,-I regret to be compelled to inform you that you will
have to look for another assistant, as important business calls
me away for an indefinite period.  Do not give yourself any
trouble concerning the salary which you kindly offered me.  I am
not in need of it, and have only been too glad to render you the
little assistance within my power, knowing, as I do, that you have
no easy case on your hands.

"Trusting we shall meet in the future, I am, with great esteem,
                     "Very truly yours,
                                                    "H. SCOTT.

As Mr. Whitney read and reread this note, the words of the detective
regarding the private secretary were recalled to his mind, and he
muttered,-

"Yes, Merrick was right.  It is very evident the young man is not
'looking for a job'; but I'll be blessed if I know what to think
of him!"

Upon Mr. Whitney's return to Fair Oaks, he found the guests assembled
on the veranda, overlooking the river, Mr. Merrick, who had just
returned from a few days' absence, being also included in the company.
There were many exclamations of surprise and considerable comment
when Mr. Whitney told of the sudden disappearance of the secretary.

"Now, that is too bad!" cried Edith Thornton.  "He was so
interesting, and we were all beginning to like him so much."

"I don't know that any of us were so charmed with him as one might
be led to suppose from your remark, Edith," said Isabel Mainwaring,
with a disdainful glance towards the attorney, who had seated
himself beside Miss Carleton; "but here, almost any one will answer
for a diversion, and he was really quite entertaining."

"It is not to be expected that you would see or appreciate his good
points," said her brother, with half a sneer; "but Scott is a fine
fellow and a gentleman, and I shall miss him awfully."

Miss Carleton remained silent; but for some reason, unexplainable
to herself, she was conscious of a vague sense of disappointment and
injury.  She would not admit to herself that she was troubled because
Scott had gone, it was the manner of his departure.  Surely, after
the friendship and confidence she had shown him, he might at least
have sent some word of farewell, instead of leaving as he had,
apparently without a thought of her.  However, she chatted graciously
with Mr. Whitney, though, all the while, a proud, dark face with
strangely beautiful eyes persistently forced itself before her mental
vision, nearly obliterating the smiling face of the attorney.

Meanwhile, Ralph Mainwaring was giving the detective his views on
the subject.

"I, for one, am not sorry that he has followed the example of the
coachman and taken himself off.  It is my opinion," he continued,
in impressive tones, "that we will yet find he had reasons for
leaving in this manner."

"Undoubtedly!" Merrick replied, with equal emphasis.

"Now, that's just where you're wrong, governor," said young
Mainwaring.  "Scott is as good as gold.  There is no sneak about
him, either; and if he had reasons for leaving as he has, they were
nothing to his discredit; you can stake your last shilling on that!"

"Oh, I know he has pulled the wool over your eyes," said his father;
"but he has never tried his smooth games on me; he knows I can see
through him.  I detest him.  One of your typical American swells!
Just what one would expect to find in a country where a common clerk
is allowed to associate with gentlemen!"

"But, begging your pardon, Mr. Mainwaring," the detective interposed,
quietly, "Mr. Scott is not an American.  He has lived less than two
years in this country."

A chorus of exclamations followed this statement.

"Not an American!  Then he must be an Englishman," cried Miss
Carleton, her sparkling eyes unconsciously betraying her pleasure at
the discovery.

"Merrick, are you sure of that?" inquired Mr. Whitney, in
astonishment.

"Certainly, or I would never have made the assertion I did."

Ralph Mainwaring suddenly turned the conversation.  "How about that
will business, Mr. Whitney?  When will that come off?"

"The petition was filed this afternoon, and will be granted a
hearing some time next week; I have not yet learned the day."

"And then will you gentlemen be ready to start for home?" Mrs.
Mainwaring inquired, a touch of impatience in her voice.

"Well, by my soul!  I should say not," laughed Mr. Thornton, before
her husband could reply.  "It will probably take a number of months,
my dear madam, to settle up this estate, even if there should be no
contest; and if the case is contested, it may drag on for years, eh,
Mr. Whitney?"

"That will depend upon circumstances.  A contest would, of course,
delay the case, perhaps for several months; but I am not aware of
any contestants with sufficient means for continuing it the length
of time you mention."

"Mercy me!" exclaimed Mrs. Mainwaring, addressing her husband; "do
you and Hugh intend to remain here all that time?"

"Our stay will probably be somewhat indefinite," he replied,
evasively; "but that is no reason why you and the young ladies need
remain against your will."

"Indeed!  Why could you not have said as much before?  Neither
Isabel nor I care to remain here a day longer than is necessary;
we have simply been awaiting your pleasure.  Wilson, bring me the
morning papers; I want to see what boats are expected.  We will
take the first steamer home.  Mr. Thornton, will you and the young
ladies accompany us, or do you prefer to remain in exile a while
longer?"

"Well," replied that gentleman, smiling genially, "speaking for
myself, I would more than half like to stay and see this thing
through; but the ladies are in the majority, and I will abide by
their decision.  How is it, Edith?  I suppose, as the novelists
say, you will be 'torn by conflicting emotions.'"

"You horrid old papa!  Of course, if auntie is going back, I shall
go with her.  What do you say, Winifred?"

"I have very little choice, one way or the other," Miss Carleton
replied, more quietly than was usual for her; "whatever you and
Uncle William decide, will suit me."

"Ab, here are the papers!" said Mrs. Mainwaring, adjusting her
eye-glasses.  "These dreadful American dailies!" she exclaimed, as
she scanned the pages; "one never knows where to find anything.  Ah,
here it is, and just what we want!  The 'Campania' sails Thursday,
at three o'clock.  That will suit us exactly."

"To-morrow! so soon!" exclaimed two or three voices.

"Certainly," she replied, rising.  "I shall have the maids begin
packing at once; and, Mr. Thornton, I shall instruct Wilson to
attend directly to your luggage, for you would never think of it
until within an hour of sailing."

Her departure seemed the signal for the breaking up of the little
company.  Mr. Whitney lingered a few moments at Miss Carleton's
side, with a few murmured words of regret that she was to leave so
soon, to which she listened courteously, though making little
response.  After he had gone she remained standing where he had
left her, gazing dreamily out on the river and the distant bluffs.
Merrick, slowly sauntering up and down the veranda, had observed
the whole scene, and now watched the fair young face with a
suggestion of a smile in his kindly eyes.

"H'm!" he soliloquized; "Whitney is a bigger fool than I've given
him credit for if he thinks he stands any show in that direction.
If I'm not mistaken, I know which way the wind blows, and it's
dollars to doughnuts she'll lose that far-away expression of hers
before she's been aboard the 'Campania' many hours.  I'd like to be
aboard myself and watch the transformation scene."

The attorney's voice here broke in upon his cogitations.

"I say, Merrick, that was a regular bomb you threw at Mainwaring
with regard to young Scott!  How did you discover he was an
Englishman?"

"I very easily ascertained that he was not an American; that he was
of English descent followed as a matter of course.  I am not sure
whether he is of English birth."

"You seem to be keeping an eye on him."

"It is my business just now to be posted regarding every one
associated with this place.  I've been keeping an eye on you for
the last thirty minutes."

The attorney colored, and hastily reverted to the original topic of
conversation.  "Have you seen anything of him since he left us?"

"Since his resignation of the salary as well as the position of
private 'secretary'?" queried the detective, half to himself, with
a tone of amusement, which Mr. Whitney failed to comprehend.  "Yes;
I met him to-day at the Murray Hill."

"At the Murray Hill!  Is he stopping there?"

"He evidently was this morning.  So was I.  Possibly we were both
'stopping' on the same business; I cannot say."

The detective's face was a study, as was also the attorney's.

"I supposed," said the latter, after a short pause, "from the tenor
of his note, that he intended to leave the city at once."

"Possibly he does," replied the other, enigmatically, and, having
consulted his watch, turned abruptly in another direction.

"Say, what will you do about him?  Shall you watch him?"  Mr.
Whitney called after the vanishing figure.

Merrick looked back over his shoulder with a peculiar smile.  "I
shall not lose track of him," he said, slowly; "he is too
interesting."




CHAPTER XV

MUTUAL SURPRISES


The Mainwaring party was among the latest arrivals at the pier on
the following day, owing to the dilatoriness of Mr. Thornton, Mrs.
Mainwaring's efforts to the contrary notwithstanding.  At the last
moment he appeared, serenely and smilingly unconscious of that
lady's frowns of displeasure, to the infinite amusement of his
daughter, who whispered to Miss Carleton,-

"Poor papa!  See how auntie glares at him, and he does not even
know it."

But even Mrs. Mainwaring's facial muscles relaxed slightly at the
sight of the beautiful ocean greyhound lying in the harbor, her
flags waving and streamers fluttering in the breeze, awaiting only
the captain's orders to start on her homeward course.

The decks were crowded with humanity, for the most part laughing
and chatting gayly and singing bits of song, though here and there
were sad, tear-stained faces, where long farewells, some of them
perhaps the last farewells, were being spoken.

"Thank heaven, there'll be no tears shed on this occasion!" said
Isabel Mainwaring; "unless," she added, with a glance of scorn
towards Miss Carleton's escort, "Mr. Whitney should contribute a
few.  I detest such vulgar demonstrations in public!"

The attorney certainly did not look very cheerful, and even Miss
Carleton's sunny face was somewhat overcast, though why, it would
seem difficult to determine, since she seemed to have no regrets
at leaving America.

"Mercy me!" ejaculated Mrs. Mainwaring, "what a dreadful crowd!  It
is far worse than when we came over.  Hugh, I wonder if your father
examined the ship's list.  I particularly requested him to do so.
I wished to ascertain whether there would be any friends of ours on
board.  One does not care to make acquaintances promiscuously, you
know."

"I don't think the governor investigated the subject very
thoroughly," young Mainwaring replied, with a laugh.  "I noticed
when we registered there were three or four pages of names preceding
ours, and I don't think he gave the matter much attention.  If I had
time I would look it up for you, mother, but we must go ashore in
a few moments."

"If I am not mistaken, my dear lady," said Mr. Thornton, who had
overheard the conversation, "you will have little time or inclination
for looking up acquaintances on this trip."

"May I ask why?" Mrs. Mainwaring demanded.

"I think," he replied, maliciously, "that you and Isabel will be too
much occupied in cultivating the acquaintance of mal de mer to care
for your best friends."

"How's that, Thornton?  Think it will be rough?" inquired Ralph
Mainwaring.

"The captain tells me the wind is freshening every moment, and we'll
have a decidedly choppy sea before night.  I'm thinking we'll have a
nasty trip."

"In that case, perhaps mamma and I will not be the only victims,"
said Isabel Mainwaring.

"I fear not," responded Mr. Thornton.  "Were it not or my inherent
chivalry, I should turn back; but I cannot leave you ladies to meet
your fate alone."

Amid the general confusion of leave-taking, Mr. Whitney turned
towards Miss Carleton, saying in a low tone, as he took her hand,-

"I have received cordial invitations both from yourself and Mr.
Thornton to visit your home, and I feel assured of a welcome should
I accept your courtesy; but, pardon me, Miss Carleton, if, after so
brief an acquaintance as ours, I inquire whether I might ever hope
for a welcome from you other than that of a friend?"

The beautiful brown eyes met his own frankly, but all the laughter
and sunshine had gone out of them.  They were serious and had almost
a look of pain.

"I am sorry, Mr. Whitney," she said, simply; "but it would be very
unjust if I led you to hope that I could ever regard you other than
as an esteemed friend."

"Pardon me for troubling you," he said, gently.  "Believe me always
your friend, and forget that I ever asked for more than friendship,"
and, releasing her hand, he passed on to the others.

The final adieus were spoken; Ralph Mainwaring and his son,
accompanied by the attorney, went ashore; and Miss Carleton, not
caring just then to meet the curious glances of her companions,
walked slowly towards the forward part of the deck.  She had gone
but a few steps, however, when she caught sight of the familiar
figure of Mr. Merrick at a little distance, in conversation with a
tall, slender man, with dark, piercing eyes.  He was speaking
rapidly in low tones, but his usually non-committal face wore an
expression of unmistakable satisfaction.  Suddenly he turned and
walked swiftly in Miss Carleton's direction.  Their eyes met, and
in response to her glance of recognition he quickly crossed to
where she was standing.

"I have but a few seconds left, Miss Carleton," he said, a genial
smile lighting up his face; "but I am glad of an opportunity to
wish you a pleasant trip.  Are you a good sailor?"

"I hardly know," she answered.  "I have had so little experience on
the sea.  Why?  Shall we have a stormy passage, do you think?"

"Nothing dangerous; a little rough, perhaps; but with congenial
company, such as I trust you will find," and his eyes gleamed with
kindly merriment, "you will hardly mind that.  Good-by, Miss
Carleton; bon voyage; and if I can ever in any way serve you as a
friend, do not fail to command me," and before she could reply he
had vanished in the crowd.  She looked in vain for any trace of
him; then turning to glance at his companion of a moment before,
discovered that he had disappeared also.

A moment later the great ocean liner glided majestically out from
the harbor amid prolonged cheers and a final flutter of farewells;
but she was well out upon the tossing waves ere Miss Carleton turned
from watching the receding shore to join her friends, as yet having
found no solution of the problem perplexing her, nor even the
meaning which she felt must be concealed in the words of the
detective.

They had not been out many hours before it became evident that Mr.
Thornton's unfavorable predictions regarding their journey were
likely to be fulfilled.  The sea was decidedly "choppy" and the
motion of the boat anything but exhilarating.

When the hour for dinner arrived, Mr. Thornton, his daughter, and
Miss Carleton were the only members of their party to venture forth
to the dining-saloon, the others preferring to have a light repast
served in their own apartments.  The captain, having discovered in
Mr. Thornton an old-time friend, had ordered seats for him and his
party at his own table, and the young ladies, finding their appetites
rather an uncertain quantity, had plenty of opportunity for observing
their fellow-passengers, particularly an Anglomaniac of the most
pronounced type, in the person of a callow youth seated opposite
them, whose monocle, exaggerated collar, and affected drawl afforded
them considerable amusement.

"Winifred," said Miss Thornton, as they were leaving the
dining-saloon, "do you see that young Englishman at the farther
table?"

Her cousin glanced carelessly in the direction indicated, noting the
fine, athletic figure seated, back towards them, at some distance,
attired in heavy English tweed.

"Yes.  What of him?"

"Nothing in particular; only the sight of him is such a relief, you
know, after that wretched caricature at our table."

"Poor little harmless dudelet!" mused Winifred, with a smile; "his
self-complacency will be short-lived whenever he meets Isabel.  She
will simply annihilate him with one of those glances of hers!"

At Miss Carleton's suggestion, they went on deck; but Edith grew so
rapidly ill that her cousin assisted her below to their own elegant
suite of apartments, which adjoined, on one side, those occupied by
Mrs. Mainwaring and her daughter, while on the other was comfortable
state-room belonging to Mrs. Hogarth.

Finding Mrs. Mainwaring and Isabel already reduced to a state of
abject helplessness which required the attendance of both maids as
well as of the stewardess, Miss Carleton left Edith in Mrs. Hogarth's
care, and, wrapping herself warmly, again went on deck.  The wind was
increasing and she found the decks nearly deserted, but the solitude
and the storm suited her mood just then, and, wrapping her rug
closely about her, she seated herself in a comparatively sheltered
place, alone with her own thoughts.

As she recalled the parting interview with Mr. Whitney, another face
seemed to flash before her vision, and a half-formed query, which
had been persistently haunting her for the last few hours, now took
definite shape and demanded a reply.  What would have been the result
if that other, instead of leaving without one word of farewell, had
asked for the hope of something better and deeper than friendship?
What would her answer have been?  Even in the friendly shadow of the
deepening twilight she shrank from facing the truth gradually forcing
itself upon her.

A solitary figure pacing the deck aroused her from her revery.  As
he approached she recognized the young Englishman of whom Edith had
spoken.  Dressed in warm jacket, with cap well pulled down over his
eyes and hands clasped behind him, he strode the rolling deck with
step as firm and free as though walking the streets of his native
city.  She watched him with admiration, till something in his
carriage reminded her of the young secretary at Fair Oaks, and in
the sudden thrill of pleasure produced by that reminder there was
revealed to her inner consciousness a confirmation of the truth she
sought to evade.

She watched the retreating figure with flashing eyes and burning
cheeks.  "It is not true!" she exclaimed, to herself, passionately.
"I do not care for him!  It was only a fancy, a foolish infatuation,
of which, thank heaven, neither he nor any one else shall ever know."

But the monarch who had taken possession of her heart, call him by
what name she chose, was not to be so easily dethroned.

Meanwhile, the young English stranger passed and repassed, unconscious
of the figure in the shadow, unconscious of the aversion with which
one of his countrywomen regarded him because of his resemblance to
another.  He, too, was vainly seeking the solution of problems which
baffled him at every turn, and waging an ineffectual warfare against
the invisible but potent sovereign--Love.

All that night the storm raged with increasing fury, and morning
found the entire Mainwaring party "on the retired list," as Miss
Carleton expressed it.  She herself was the last to succumb, but
finally forced to an ignominious surrender, she submitted to the
inevitable with as good grace as possible, only stipulating that
she be left entirely to herself.

Towards night the storm abated slightly, and, weary of her own
thoughts, which had been anything but agreeable, and bored by the
society of her companions in misery, she wrapped her rug warmly
about her and ventured out on deck.  The air, laden with salt
spray, seemed invigorating, and without much difficulty she found
her way to her sheltered corner of the preceding evening.  She had
been seated but a few moments, however, when the young Englishman
made his appearance, as preoccupied and unconscious of his
surroundings and as free from any symptoms of discomfort as when
she had last seen him.  The sight of him was the signal for the
return of the thoughts which had that day kept her company.  She
cast a wrathful glance upon the unconscious young stranger just
then passing, his perfect health and evident good humor under
existing circumstances adding to her sense of injury and
exasperation.  She grew ill, and determined to return at once to
her apartments, but found her progress against the gale slower and
more difficult than she had anticipated.  Dizzy and faint, she had
just reached the stairs when a sudden lurch threw her violently to
one side; she staggered helplessly and would have fallen, but at
that instant a strong arm was thrown about her and she felt herself
lifted bodily.  With a sigh of relief she turned her head towards
her rescuer, supposing him one of the officers of the ship, only to
discover, to her horror, that she was in the arms of the young
Englishman.  His face was in the shadow, but the light falling on
her own face revealed her features, and at that instant she heard a
smothered exclamation,-

"Great heavens!  can it be possible?"

Something in the tone startled her and she listened, hoping he would
speak again.  He did not; but she noted the tenderness with which
she was borne down the stairs and put in care of the stewardess.
Again she listened eagerly for his voice, but his words were brief
and in an altered tone.

During the succeeding twenty-four hours in which Miss Carleton tossed
in misery, one thought was uppermost in her mind,--to discover, if
possible, the identity of the stranger who had come to her assistance.
The only information obtainable, however, was that he was evidently
a gentleman of wealth, travelling alone, and apparently with no
acquaintance on board with the exception of a young English officer.
She determined, at the earliest possible moment, to meet her
mysterious rescuer and thank him for his kindness, but was unable
to carry her plan into immediate execution.  Meantime, she learned
that he had twice inquired for her.

On Sunday afternoon, their fourth day out, the storm had ceased and
the weather was gradually clearing, and Miss Carleton, somewhat pale
but quite herself again, came out for a promenade.  She found quite
a number of passengers on deck, but for some time she looked in vain
for her unknown friend.  At last, after several brisk turns, she
saw him standing at a little distance, talking with the tall,
dark-eyed man whom she had seen in conversation with Mr. Merrick.
The younger man's cap was thrown back, revealing to Miss Carleton
the fine profile, almost classical in its beauty, of the secretary
at Fair Oaks.  For a moment her pulse throbbed wildly.  She felt a
thrill of pleasure, not unmingled with a twinge of the resentment
which she had been nursing for the last few days.  Then she walked
calmly in his direction, saying to herself, -

"At least, I will thank him for his kindness.  I am no love-lorn
peasant maid wearing my heart upon my sleeve!"

She had nearly reached his side, though he was unaware of her
presence, when the young English officer approached from the other
side and, slapping him familiarly upon the shoulder, exclaimed,-

"Well, Mainwaring, my boy, you've kept your sea-legs well on this
trip."

The tall, dark-eyed man withdrew, and Miss Carleton, utterly
bewildered, turned and slowly retraced her steps.  Mainwaring!  What
did it mean?  She heard the name distinctly, and he had taken it as
a matter of course, replying pleasantly and quietly, as though he
had known no other name.  The mystery which she had thought to solve
had only deepened tenfold.  She was aroused by the cheery voice of
the captain.

"Well, well, Miss Carleton, glad to see you out!  I congratulate
you on your speedy recovery.  How are the ladies?  and how is my
old friend Thornton?"

They took a few turns up and down, chatting pleasantly, till Miss
Carleton, looking into the face overflowing with kindliness and
good humor, said,-

"Captain, I have a great favor to ask of you."

"Granted, my dear young lady, to the half of my kingdom!"

"May I have your permission to examine the list of cabin passengers?"

The captain elevated his shaggy eyebrows and his eyes twinkled with
merriment.  "Ah!  anxious to learn if some particular friend is on
board, I suppose.  Some one was inquiring of me the other night
regarding your identity."

"Indeed!" said Miss Carleton, a world of inquiry in her eyes.

"Yes; Mr. Mainwaring, the gentleman conversing with Lieutenant Cohen
over there.  He and I both went to your assistance the other evening,
but, much to my regret, he was quicker than I.  He remarked to me
after he came back on deck that he had supposed you were a stranger,
but that your face looked familiar.  He asked your name, and whether
you were with Mr. Thornton and his daughter, stating that he had met
you.  Correct, I presume?"

"Quite so," said Miss Carleton, quietly.

"And now about that passenger list, Miss Carleton; you have my
permission to examine it, and I will accompany you myself."

She thanked him.  "Are you acquainted with Mr. Mainwaring?" she
inquired, carelessly.

"Never met him until this trip.  On first learning his name, I
supposed him to be a member of your party, as he is evidently a
gentleman; but I soon learned that he was alone."

A few moments later the register was opened for Miss Carleton's
inspection, but she did not have to search long.  Half-way down the
first page she found, in the familiar writing of the secretary, the
name which she sought--"Harold Scott Mainwaring."



CHAPTER XVI

MUTUAL EXPLANATIONS

Thanking the captain for his courtesy, Miss Carleton returned to
her accustomed seat on deck, and, since one is never more alone
than when surrounded by a crowd of utter strangers, she felt at
liberty to pursue her own thoughts without interruption.

She could scarcely credit what her own ears had heard or her eyes
had seen.  Harold Scott Mainwaring!  What could it mean?  Could it
be possible that the secretary, having familiarized himself with
the family history of the Mainwarings, was now masquerading under
an assumed name for some object of his own?  But she dismissed
this idea at once.  She had assured him at Fair Oaks that she
believed him incapable of anything false or dishonorable, and she
would abide by that belief until convinced otherwise.  But if this
were indeed his name, what had been his object in assuming the role
of Scott, the secretary?  Which was genuine and which assumed?  Who
could tell?  As if in answer to her thoughts, she saw the subject
of them approaching.  He was alone and looking in her direction,
and on reading the recognition in her glance, his own face lighted
with a smile that banished the last shade of resentment and
suspicion from her mind, albeit there was a question in her eyes
which prepared him in a measure for her first words.  With a smile
as bright as those with which she had been accustomed to greet him
at Fair Oaks, she extended her hand, saying, slowly,-

"Mr. Mainwaring, this is indeed a surprise!"  She watched him
closely, but there was not the quiver of an eyelash, only a slow,
inscrutable smile, as he replied,-

"Miss Carleton, I will add to that, and say that this is the
pleasantest surprise of my life."

She blushed at the implied meaning of his words, and he added,-

"I have not seen you on deck until to-day."

"Not last Friday evening?" she inquired, archly.  His smile deepened.
"I did not know that it was you at that time until after I had
started below.  Did you recognize me?"

"I thought I recognized your voice; and I have often wished to thank
you for your kindness, but this is my first opportunity, as I have
not been out since until to-day."

"Please do not mention it.  Had I dreamed who it was thus braving
the storm, I would have offered my assistance earlier.  I have not
yet recovered from my surprise on discovering the identity of my
fellow-passenger that evening."

"Indeed!" laughed Miss Carleton; "my presence here is very easily
explained.  It is simply the result of one of Mrs. Mainwaring's
numerous whims, as she suddenly decided upon an immediate return to
England.  I think, however, that the surprise was mutual."

"Accordingly, I suppose that mutual explanations should follow,"
he answered, lightly.  Then added, more seriously, "Miss Carleton,
I am aware that there is much in my conduct that must seem
inexplicable to you.  In a few weeks everything will have been
made clear, in the natural course of events; but, if you would be
at all interested to hear, I would greatly prefer that you should
have a perfect understanding of the situation before the facts
become generally known."

"I should greatly appreciate such a mark of confidence," she replied.

"If agreeable to you, Miss Carleton, let us pass around to the other
side; it is less crowded there.  My friend and I have two chairs,
and, as he has gone to his state-room to do some writing, we shall
be in no danger of interruption."

When comfortably seated, the young man said, "It is a strange story
which I have to tell, but I will try not to tax your patience too
severely.  One week ago this afternoon, Miss Carleton, in passing
through the hall at Fair Oaks, I accidentally overheard a portion
of your conversation with Mr. Whitney, as you related to him the
story of the unfortunate love and death of my father, Harold Scott
Mainwaring."

Miss Carleton started violently, but said nothing, and, after a
slight pause, the speaker continued,-

"My earliest recollections are of a home in Australia, with
foster-parents, whose name it is unnecessary to mention, but whose
care and love for me seem, as I now look back, to have equalled that
bestowed by natural parents upon their own child.  Not until I had
reached the age of fifteen years did I ever hear of my own father.
I then learned that he had given me, at birth, into the keeping
of my foster-parents, with instructions that, unless he himself
should call for me, I was not even to know of his existence until
within five or six years of my majority.  I learned, further, that
his action in thus placing me in the hands of others had been
solely on account of deep trouble and sorrow, of which he wished me
to know nothing until I had reached the years of manhood.  When
giving me into their keeping he had also given them a small packet,
containing a sealed letter, which was to be read by me on my
twenty-first birthday, if he had not himself claimed me before that
time.  I was told that, while I was too young to retain any
remembrance of him, he frequently visited me and manifested the
greatest devotion to his child, but as I grew older he remained
away, writing occasionally to my foster-father.

"In the last letter received from him, when I was about five years
of age, he stated that he was going to Africa to make a fortune for
his son.  Nothing further was heard from him until there came tidings
of his death at sea, in the manner which you recently related.

"Of all this I, of course, knew nothing until ten years later, but
what was told me at that time made a deep impression upon me.  Of my
mother I could learn absolutely nothing; but for my father, of whom
I had no personal knowledge, and concerning whom there seemed so
much that was mysterious, I felt a love and reverence almost akin to
adoration, and I longed for the day to come when I could read the
letter he had left for me and learn the whole secret of that sad
life.

"My twenty-first birthday arrived, and the mysterious little packet
was placed in my hands.  It contained a few valuable keepsakes and
my father's letter, written out of the bitter anguish of a broken
heart.  He told the story of his disinheritance, with which you are
familiar; but the loss of the property he cared little for in
comparison with the loss of his father's love; but even that was as
nothing to the sorrow which followed swiftly and which broke his
heart.  He stated that, because of this great sorrow, he had placed
me in the hands of trusted friends that I should be banished from
the false-hearted woman who had borne me and who believed me dead,
as it was his wish that neither of us should ever know of the
existence of the other."

Harold Mainwaring paused for a moment, and Miss Carleton, who had
been listening with great interest, exclaimed, -

"And is it possible, Mr. Mainwaring, that, in all these years, you
have had no knowledge concerning your mother?"

"It is a fact, Miss Carleton, that I do not even know her name, or
whether or not she is living.  I only hope and pray that I may
never knowingly meet her, for her heart and life must be--pardon
the expression--as false and as black as hell itself."

There was a look on his face which Miss Carleton had never seen.
Gradually, however, his features softened, and he continued,-

"In accordance with my father's wish, expressed in the letter, that
I should complete my studies in England, I sailed for that country
within a few weeks of my twenty-first birthday; and while there I
learned that part of my story which is of more especial interest to
all parties concerned at the present time.

"I had been but a few months in England when I felt a great desire
to visit, incognito, the old Mainwaring estate.  Accordingly, under
the name by which you have known me, I arrived at the estate, only
to learn that the home of my father's boyhood, and of the Mainwarings
for several generations, had passed into the hands of strangers.
My grandfather had died within two years of my father's marriage,
and the younger son had sold the estate and gone to America.
Incidentally, I was directed to an old servant of my grandfather's,
who yet remained on the place and who could give me its whole
history.  That servant, Miss Carleton, was old James Wilson, the
father of John Wilson, Ralph Mainwaring's present valet."

"Ah!" ejaculated Miss Carleton, her face lighting with pleasure; "I
have seen the trusty old fellow hundreds of times, you know.  Indeed,
he could give you the history of all the Mainwarings for the last
three hundred years."

"He gave me one very important bit of history," Harold Mainwaring
replied, with a smile.  "He told me that old Ralph Mainwaring, after
the departure of his son for Australia, failed rapidly.  He was
slowly but surely dying of a broken heart, and, though he never
mentioned the name of his elder son, it was evident that he regretted
his own harshness and severity towards him.

"On the night before his death he suddenly gave orders for an
attorney to be summoned, and was so insistent in his demand, that,
when it was ascertained that his old solicitor, Alfred Barton, the
father of the present firm of Barton & Barton, had been called out
of the city, a young lawyer, Richard Hobson by name, who had formerly
been an articled clerk in Barton's office, was called in in his
stead.  A little before the hour of midnight, in the presence of his
son, Hugh Mainwaring, Richard Hobson, the attorney, and Alexander
McPherson, an old and trusted Scotch friend, Ralph Mainwaring caused
to be drawn and executed a will, completely revoking and setting
aside the process of law by which Harold Scott Mainwaring had been
disinherited, and restoring to him his full rights as the elder son,
McPherson and the attorney signing the will as witnesses."

Miss Carleton's eyes dilated and her breath came and went swiftly,
but she spoke no word save a single, quick exclamation.

"James Wilson, the servant, was also present, but in an obscure
corner, and his presence seems to have been unnoticed.  The next
morning, at five o'clock, Ralph Mainwaring passed away, happy in
the thought that he had at last made reparation for his injustice
to his elder son.  Within two months the old Scotchman died, and
Richard Hobson was then the sole surviving witness of the last will
and testament of Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring.

"This was all the direct information I could obtain from Wilson,
but from other sources I learned that Hugh Mainwaring was never the
same after his father's death.  He grew stern and taciturn, and
would allow no mention of his brother's name, and within two years
he had disposed of the estate and left England forever; while a few
years later tidings were received of the death of Harold Scott
Mainwaring at sea.  I also learned that about this time Richard
Hobson suddenly rose from the position of a penniless pettifogger
to that of an affluent attorney, though he was engaged in
questionable speculations far more than in the practice of law.

"I visited the chambers of Barton & Barton, and learned through
them that everything had been adjusted in accordance with the terms
of the will in their possession, which disinherited the elder son;
but Hugh Mainwaring's action in disposing of the estate had excited
considerable comment.

"Having pledged them to secrecy, I disclosed my identity and
related to them the story of the old servant.  To my surprise, they
were inclined to give the story credence; and, acting upon their
advice, I obtained all possible information regarding Hugh
Mainwaring, and, when my studies were completed, sailed for America,
with the express determination to secure proof in verification of
the facts which I had already gathered, and to establish my claim
as the legal heir of the Mainwaring estate.  I was not without means
to do this, as my father had accumulated considerable property
during the few years he lived in Australia, and my foster-parents
are people of wealth.

"You will understand now, Miss Carleton, why I took the position of
private secretary to Hugh Mainwaring.  You will realize how eagerly
I studied the correspondence between him and Richard Hobson, from
which I learned that the latter was extorting large sums of money
as the price of his silence regarding some fraudulent transaction,
presumably the destruction of the will; and perhaps you can imagine
my feelings on discovering, one day, among Hugh Mainwaring's private
papers, a memorandum to the effect that the will had never been
destroyed, but was still in existence and in his possession.  I
knew that to make any demand upon him for the document would be
worse than useless, as he would never admit my claim.  I must find
it for myself.  I searched for that will as for hidden treasure, and,
Miss Carleton, I found it!"

"Oh!" she exclaimed, unable to repress her emotion, "I am so glad!
Do tell me how and when!"

"I found it on the last day of Hugh Mainwaring's life, within two
hours after he had signed his own last will and testament."

"What a strange coincidence!"

"It was strange; and it was my discovery on that day which formed
the subject of my thoughts on the following night, the night of the
murder, and which kept me pacing my room until three o'clock in
the morning."

"Did Mr. Mainwaring know of your discovery?"

"No; I had no opportunity to see him that evening until too late,
even if I had chosen to broach the subject to him at that time."

"Might he not have discovered in some way that you had found the
will?"

"I think not.  Why do you inquire?"

"It only occurred to me if it might not be possible that he had
reason to think his secret had at last been discovered, and, rather
than face the consequences, committed suicide; but it seems
improbable.  But to think that you are the son of the one whom I
have always considered the noblest of all the Mainwarings, and that
you, and not Hugh, are the rightful heir to the old Mainwaring
estate!  I am more than glad, and Hugh will be glad also.  He will
not begrudge you one shilling or have one unkind thought towards
you, though I cannot say the same for his father."

"Hugh is a noble-hearted fellow," said Harold, warmly.  "He has
promised me his friendship, and I believe he will stand by it."

He spoke briefly of his plans; of his business in London for a few
days; and, when the will should have been probated in the English
court, of his return to America to establish his claim there.

"Mr. Mainwaring," said Miss Carleton, after a pause, "I am
inexpressibly glad to learn what you have told me, and you have my
sincerest wishes for your immediate success.  I appreciate, more
than I can tell, your confidence in permitting me to be the first
to know of your good fortune.  May I be the first to congratulate
you?"

He took the proffered hand; but, looking into the beautiful eyes
sparkling with happiness, his own face grew serious, as he replied,-

"I thank you for your congratulations and your good wishes, Miss
Carleton, but I sometimes question whether my discovery, on that
particular day, of the will--the last link in the chain of
evidence against Hugh Mainwaring--was a matter for congratulation."

"How is that?" she inquired, quickly.

"Do you not see that when all these facts become known, they may be
used by my enemies to direct suspicion against me as the possible
murderer of Hugh Mainwaring?"

"Who would think of such a thing?" she exclaimed, indignantly.

"Ralph Mainwaring will," was his prompt reply.

"He might try to incite the suspicions of others against you, but he
would know in his own heart that his insinuations were unfounded."

"I have no fear of him," said Harold, with a smile; "I only mentioned
it to show that I do not anticipate upon my return to America that
my pathway will be strewn with roses."

He paused a moment, then added, "I had this in mind, Miss Carleton,
when I asked you once whether your confidence in me were strong
enough to stand a heavy strain, if necessary."

She blushed slightly at the reminder, and a look of quick
comprehension flashed across her face, as, for an instant, she
dropped her eyes before his earnest gaze.  When she again looked
up the luminous eyes met his own unwaveringly, as she replied, in
firm, low tones,-

"I will believe in you and trust you to the fullest extent, whatever
happens."

"I thank you more than I can express," he answered, gravely; "for,
believe me, Miss Carleton, I value your confidence and friendship
far above any and every other."

"I did not suppose you needed any assurance of my friendship; though,
after your sudden departure from Fair Oaks, I felt somewhat doubtful
whether you cared for it."

He did not reply at once, and when he did, it was evident he was
repressing some strong emotion.  "I feel that there is an explanation
due you for my manner of leaving Fair Oaks.  I am aware that it had
the appearance of rudeness, but I can only say that it was from
necessity and not from choice.  There is something more which I hope
some day to tell you, Miss Carleton, but, until I can speak as I
wish to speak, it is best to remain silent; meanwhile, I will trust
to your friendship to pardon whatever in my conduct may seem abrupt
or inexplicable."

The conversation was terminated at this point by the appearance of
Lieutenant Cohen, whom Harold Mainwaring introduced as an old
classmate, and presently all three adjourned to the dining-saloon.

To Harold Mainwaring and Miss Carleton the remainder of the voyage
passed swiftly and pleasantly, and the friendship begun at Fair Oaks
deepened with each succeeding day.  Though no word of love passed
between them, and though Miss Carleton sometimes detected on the
part of her companion a studied avoidance of personal subjects, yet,
while wondering slightly at his self-imposed silence, she often
read in his dark eyes a language more eloquent than words, and was
content to wait.

It was his desire that the other members of her party should still
remain in ignorance of his real identity; and, as the greater part
of the voyage proved somewhat rough, he had little difficulty in
preserving his secret.  Mr. Thornton and daughter soon made their
appearance and greeted the quondam secretary with unaffected
cordiality, but Mr. Thornton was too deeply engrossed in renewing
acquaintance with one or two old friends to pay much attention to
the younger man, while Edith felt in duty bound to devote herself
to the entertainment of Mrs. Mainwaring and Isabel, a task which
Miss Carleton was not at all disposed to share.  Not until the last
few hours of the trip, when fair weather had become an established
fact and land had been sighted, did Mrs. Mainwaring and her daughter
appear on deck, and in the general excitement Harold Mainwaring
escaped their observation.

The parting between himself and Miss Carleton was necessarily brief.
She gave him her address, saying,-

"I would be delighted if you could consider yourself our guest while
in London, and I hope at least that I may see you often before your
return."

"I thank you, Miss Carleton," he replied.  "If present circumstances
would admit of it, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to
accept your invitation, but under existing conditions it is, of
course, impracticable.  I cannot now say how long I will remain in
London, but I wish to make my stay as brief as possible, and to that
end shall devote almost my entire time to business; but," he added,
with a peculiar smile, "I shall not repeat the offence committed at
Fair Oaks.  You may rest assured I shall not return to America
without seeing you, and I hope at that time to be able to speak
more definitely regarding my future."

There was that in his eyes as he spoke that suffused the fair
English face with lovely color and caused a tender, wistful smile
to linger about the sweet mouth long after he had left her side.

He was one of the first to land, and Miss Carleton, watching from
the deck, saw, almost as soon as he had reached the pier, a
fine-looking gentleman in the prime of life step quickly out from,
the crowd, and, grasping him cordially by the hand, enter at once
into earnest conversation.  Harold Mainwaring turned towards the
steamer for a parting salute, and, as both gentlemen raised their
hats, she recognized in the new-comer, Alfred Barton, the junior
member of the firm of Barton & Barton.  She watched them until
they disappeared in the crowd, then, turning to rejoin her
companions, she noted, standing at a little distance, the slender,
dark-eyed individual whom she had observed on previous occasions,
also watching the scene with a smile of quiet satisfaction, much
like that which Mr. Merrick's face had worn at the beginning of the
voyage.




CHAPTER XVII

LOVE FINDS A WAY

Less than three weeks later, Harold Mainwaring entered Miss
Carleton's private drawing-room in Mr. Thornton's London home.
Soon after her arrival in the city she had received from him a
brief note of apology, stating that unexpected business of the
greatest importance would render it impossible for him to call as
early as he had anticipated; hence this was their first meeting
since the leave-taking on board the "Campania."

As Miss Carleton stepped forward with cordial smile and hand
extended to welcome her visitor, she was shocked at the change in
his appearance.  He was pale, almost haggard, and deep lines about
the mouth and eyes told of some intense mental strain.  She gave
a low cry of astonishment, for it seemed as though years, instead
of only a few weeks, had intervened since she had seen that face.

"Mr. Mainwaring, you have been ill!" she exclaimed.

"No, Miss Carleton," he replied, his face lighting with a rare
smile; "I have been perfectly well, but loss of sleep and constant
care and anxiety have told rather severely on me.  Nothing more
serious, I assure you."

"Anxiety!" she repeated, at the same time motioning him to a seat
by her side.  "Surely you do not anticipate any difficulty in
establishing your claim?"

"No difficulty so far as its validity is concerned.  My attorneys
assure me there can be no question as to that with such irrefutable
proofs in my possession, but some unlooked-for complications have
arisen, and we have had to prepare ourselves to meet them.  But I
did not call to burden you with my perplexities, Miss Carleton.
Tell me of yourself.  I trust you have been well since I last saw
you."

"Yes, I am usually well," said Miss Carleton, who thought she
detected on the part of her visitor an avoidance of any details
concerning himself; "but I have been rather bored of late."  Then,
in answer to his look of inquiry, she continued, "Of course, on
account of Hugh Mainwaring's death, we have been living very
quietly since our return, but, notwithstanding that fact, society
has been paying due homage to the prospective increase of fortune
and added social position of the Mainwarings.  I am not particularly
fond of society in the ordinary sense of the word, you know, and I
have found it exceedingly tiresome."

"From reports, I should judge 'society' to be very fond of yourself,"
he remarked, with a smile.

"After its own fashion," she replied, smiling in return; "but it
becomes very monotonous.  It is the same old round, you know, only
that just now it bows a little lower than formerly, while it mingles
condolences and congratulations in the most absurd manner.  One
hears, 'Such a dreadful affair!  so shocking, don't you know!' and
'Such delightful fortune!  I quite envy you, my dear!' all in the
same breath.  I am only awaiting what society will say when the real
facts become known."

Harold Mainwaring made no reply, but a strange pallor overspread
his already pale face, at which Miss Carleton wondered.

"I have thought very often of you during these past weeks," she
continued, "and felt quite impatient to learn how you were
progressing, and your note was so brief, you know.  It left so much
unsaid.  I fear you forget how interested I am in all that concerns
yourself."

"No," he replied, slowly, "I do not forget; and I appreciate your
interest in me even though I may not seem to,--even though I am
forced, as you say, to leave so much unsaid which I had hoped to
say."

Something in his manner, more than in what he said, thrilled her
with a vague, undefinable sense of impending evil, and, during the
slight pause which followed, she dreaded his next words, lest they
should in some way confirm her apprehensions.  He said nothing
further, however, and when she spoke it was with an assumed
lightness and cheerfulness which she was far from feeling.

"I hoped to have the pleasure of meeting you often ere this, and
my uncle and cousin would have been so glad to welcome you to
their home during your stay in London, but they have just gone out
of town for a few days."

"Ordinarily, Miss Carleton," he replied, quietly, "I should be
pleased to meet them, but on the present occasion, as I sail,
to-morrow, I naturally care to see no one but yourself."

"To-morrow!" she exclaimed, while her own cheek suddenly paled.
"Do you return so soon?"

"Yes," he replied, observing her emotion, and speaking rapidly to
conceal his own feelings; "my business is at last completed.  I
have been detained longer than I expected, and I found the
situation more complex than I anticipated, but I shall return well
equipped for the battle."

"And you will win, I am sure.  Tell me something regarding your
plans," she added, with a wistful smile that touched her companion
for more than he cared to betray.

"Mr. Alfred Barton goes with me to America," he said, speaking
cheerfully; "and we have already cabled instructions to Mr.
Sutherland, my New York attorney, regarding the initiatory steps.
Mr. Barton and myself will be accompanied by James Wilson, the old
servant who witnessed the execution of the will,"--Miss Carleton's
eyes brightened,--"and also by a thoroughly competent, first-class
Scotland Yard officer."

She gave a low exclamation.  "I see what a powerful witness old
Wilson will make; but the detective, what will you do with him?"

"We are going to investigate the murder of Hugh Mainwaring," he
said, calmly.

"Why, surely, you cannot mean--" she hesitated.  "You do not think
that suspicion will be directed against any of the guests at Fair
Oaks, do you?"

"My dear Miss Carleton, I cannot say at present.  Perhaps," he added,
slowly, looking steadily into her eyes, "perhaps, when all is over,
suspicion will be directed against myself so unmistakably that public
opinion will pronounce me guilty."

"I cannot believe that," she cried; "and even were it so,--should
the whole world pronounce you guilty,--I would still believe you
innocent; and I think," she added, quickly, "that is your object in
employing a detective: by finding the real murderer, you will
establish your own entire innocence."

"May God grant it!" he replied, with a fervor she could not
understand.  "I thank you, Miss Carleton, for your kind words; I
shall never forget them; and, however the battle goes, I can feel
there is one, at least, whose friendship and confidence are mine,
can I not?"

"Most assuredly, Mr. Mainwaring.  But why do you speak as though
there were a possibility of defeat or failure?  I am so confident
that you will win, after the story of your life that you have given
me, that I am all impatience to learn the outcome of the contest,
just as having read one chapter in some thrilling romance I am eager
for the next."

He smiled at her comparison.  "Real life, as well as romance,
sometimes contains startling surprises, Miss Carleton.  The next
chapter might prove less pleasant."

She looked keenly into his face for a moment, and her manner became
as serious as his own.

"There must be something," she said, "of which you have not told me;
if so, I will not ask your confidence until you choose to bestow it,
nor do I trust you, personally, any the less.  It only seemed to me,
with your prospects of success, and the great wealth and enviable
position so soon to become yours, there could be no unpleasant
anticipations for the future."

A bitter smile crossed his face, as he inquired in low, tense tones,
"Of what avail are wealth and position to one who finds an
insurmountable barrier placed between himself and all that he holds
most precious on earth?"

"I fear I do not understand you," she replied.  "I cannot imagine
any barriers surrounding you; and did they exist, my judgment of
you would be that you would find some way to surmount or destroy
them."

"There are some barriers, some fetters," he said, gently, "against
which humanity, even at its best, is powerless."

"Yes," she answered, a touch of sadness in her voice; "and there are
sometimes sorrows and troubles in which even the closest and warmest
friendship is powerless to aid or comfort."

"Don't allow yourself to think that of your friendship for me," he
said, quickly.  "Assured of your confidence and sympathy, I shall
be ten times stronger to face whatever the future may bring.  If I
succeed in what I am about to undertake, I shall one day tell you
all that your friendship has been worth to me.  If I fail, the
thought that you believe in me and trust me, while it will not be
all that I could wish, may be all that I can ask."

"And if you should fail," she queried, slowly, "would you give me
no opportunity to show you, and others, my confidence in you, even
then?"

"My dear Miss Carleton," he replied, in tones tremulous with
suppressed feeling, "much as I appreciate your kindness, I would
never, now or at any future time, willingly mar your life or your
happiness by asking you to share any burden which might be laid
upon me.  I would at least leave you to go your way in peace, while
I went mine."

"And I?" she asked, reproachfully.  "Would it contribute to my
happiness, do you think, to remember the sorrow and suffering which
I was not allowed to share?"

"Could you not forget?"

"Never!"

The young man sprang to his feet abruptly, his face working with
emotion, and took two or three turns about the room.  At last he
paused, directly in front of her, and, folding his arms, stood
looking down into the beautiful eyes that met his own so
unflinchingly.  He was outwardly calm, but the smouldering fire
which seemed to gleam in his dark eyes told of intense mental
excitement.

"Miss Carleton," he said, slowly, in low tones, but yet which
vibrated through her whole being, "you are almost cruel in your
kindness; you will yet make a coward of me!"

"I have no fear of that," she answered, quietly.

"Yes, a coward!  Instead of remaining silent as I intended, and
keeping my trouble within my own breast, you will compel me in
self-defence to say that which will only give you pain to hear,
thereby adding to my own suffering."

"Perhaps you misjudge," she replied, and her voice had a ring of
pathos in it; "any word of explanation--no matter what--would be
less hard for me to endure than this suspense."

"God knows I would make full explanation if I could, but I cannot,
and I fear there is nothing I can say that will not add to your
suspense.  Miss Carleton, you must need no words from me to tell
you that I love you.  I have loved you almost from the first day
of our meeting, and whatever life may have in store for me, you,
and you alone, will have my love.  But, loving you as I do, could
I have looked forward to the present time, could I for one moment
have foreseen what was awaiting me, believe me, you should never
have known by word or look, or any other sign, of my love."

He paused a moment, then continued.  "If that were all, I might
have borne it; I could have locked my love forever within my own
heart, and suffered in silence; but the fact that you have given me
some reason to believe that you were not wholly indifferent to me,
--the thought that I might in time have won your love,--makes the
possibilities of the future a thousand times harder to bear.  It is
harder to forego the joys of Paradise when once you have had a
glimpse within!  It was to this I alluded when I spoke of the
insurmountable barrier placed between myself and all that I hold
holiest and best on earth!"

"But I do not understand!" she cried, her lovely color deepening
and her eyes glowing with a new light, until Harold Mainwaring
confessed to himself that never had he seen her so beautiful.  "What
barrier could ever exist between you and me?"

For an instant he looked at her in silence, an agony of love and
longing in his eyes; then drawing himself up to his full height,
he said, slowly,-

"Not until I can stand before you free and clear from the faintest
shadow of the murder of Hugh Mainwaring, will I ever ask for that
most precious gift of your love!"

Her face blanched at the mere possibility suggested by his words.
"But you are innocent!" she cried in swift protest, "and you could
prove it, even were suspicion directed against you for a time."

"Even admitting that I were, the taint of suspicion is sometimes as
lasting as the stain of crime itself."

She arose and stood proudly facing him.  "Do you think I would fear
suspicion?  To hear from your own lips that you love me and that
you are innocent would be enough for me; I would defy the whole
world!"

He did not at once reply, and when he spoke it was slowly and
reluctantly, as though each word were wrung from him by torture.

"My dear Miss Carleton, even to you I cannot say that I am innocent."

There was a moment's pause, during which she gazed at him,
speechless with astonishment; a moment of intense agony to Harold
Mainwaring, as he watched whether her faith in him would waver.
But she gave no sign, though she scanned his face, as the condemned
criminal scans the document handed him as the fateful day approaches,
to ascertain whether it contains his pardon or his death sentence.

"Understand me," he said at last, gently, unable longer to endure
the terrible silence, "I do not admit that I am in any way guilty,
but until I am fully acquitted of any share in or knowledge of the
death of Hugh Mainwaring, I can make neither denial nor admission,
one way or the other."

"But you still love me?" she inquired, calmly.

"Miss Carleton,--Winifred,--how can you ask?  You are, and always
will be to me, the one, only woman upon earth."

"That is sufficient," she answered, with a strange, bright smile;
"my faith in you is perfect, and faith and love can wait."

"Wait, my love! until when?" he cried.

"If needful, until Eternity's sunlight dispels Earth's shadows!
Eternity holds ample compensation for all of Earth's waiting."

"But, my darling," he said, half protesting, while he folded her to
his breast, "you know not the risk you may be running; I cannot
accept the sacrifice that may be involved."

"My decision is taken, and it is irrevocable," she answered, with
an arch smile; then added, "There can be no barriers between us,
Harold, for Love will find a way!"




CHAPTER XVIII

AN UNFORESEEN FOE


Though nearly six weeks had elapsed since the death of the master
of Fair Oaks, and as yet no light had been shed on that mysterious
event, the interest of the public mind in the affair had in no wise
abated during this brief interim.  On the contrary, its curiosity
had been so whetted by the partial revelations of the inquest, that
it had eagerly followed each step of the legal proceedings leading
towards the inevitable contest over the property, ready to hail
with delight the appearance of the Mainwaring skeleton when it
should step forth from its long hiding to disclose the secrets of
the past.

As early as possible, a petition, setting forth the terms and
conditions of the last will and testament of Hugh Mainwaring, and
praying for letters of administration in accordance therewith to be
issued to William H. Whitney, the executor named in said will, had
been filed in the district court.  A few days thereafter, the
petition of Eleanor Houghton Mainwaring, for letters to be issued
to Richard Hobson, was also filed.  The hearing in the application
for letters of administration occupied several days; very little
evidence was adduced, however, which had not already been given at
the inquest, and in due time an order was issued by the court,
appointing Mr. Whitney administrator of the estate, with instructions
that the same be adjusted according to the terms of the lost will.
From this order, Eleanor Houghton Mainwaring, through her attorney,
Hobson, had appealed, and the contest had at last begun.

For greater convenience during the legal proceedings, Ralph
Mainwaring had closed the suburban residence, dismissing what
servants were no longer needed, though still retaining the new
coachman, and had removed to Hugh Mainwaring's city residence,
where he and his son made themselves perfectly at home, dining
with Mr. Whitney at his club.  Mrs. LaGrange, having been
compelled to resign her position at Fair Oaks, had also removed
to the city and taken apartments in a convenient hotel until the
termination of her suit.

The afternoon of the second day since the opening of the case was
drawing to a close; the testimony on the appellant's side had been
taken, and it was expected that the respondent would be heard on the
following day, when an event transpired which completely overthrew
all proceedings had thus far, and which promised the waiting public
developments as startling as could be desired.

This event was none other than the filing in the district court of
a document purporting to be the last will and testament of the father
of the deceased Hugh Mainwaring, by the terms of which the Mainwaring
estate, as it then existed, together with the bulk of his other
property, passed to Harold Scott Mainwaring, an elder son who had
been previously disinherited, but was by this will restored to his
full rights.  With this document, worn and yellow with age, was filed
a petition, setting forth the claims of one Harold Scott Mainwaring,
the lawful, living, and only son of the said Harold Scott Mainwaring
named in the will, but since deceased, and sole heir of the
Mainwaring estate, and praying for letters of administration to be
issued to George D. Sutherland, attorney for the said lawful heir.

The court adjourned amid intense excitement, just as the newsboys
were crying the headlines of the evening papers,-

"A New Heir to the Mainwaring Property!  Discovery of Will secreted
more than Twenty-five Years!  Millions wrongfully withheld from the
Rightful Owner!"

Strangely enough, the two most interested in this unexpected turn
of affairs were among the latest to learn the surprising news.
Ralph Mainwaring, having felt slightly indisposed, and knowing that
his side would not come up for hearing until the following day, had
made himself as comfortable as possible in the elegant apartments
which he had appropriated to his own use, while his son had left
the court-room at an early hour to devote the remainder of the
afternoon to letter-writing.

The latter glanced up from his writing and nodded pleasantly, as
Mr. Whitney, pale with excitement, was ushered by the butler into
the library.

"Mr. Mainwaring, is your father in?" the attorney inquired, hastily.

"I believe so," replied the young man, smiling broadly; "the last I
knew, the governor was luxuriating in his rooms up-stairs; I think
you will find him there now.  How's the case coming on, sir?" he
added, as the attorney turned quickly towards the hall.  "Anything
new developed?"

"Yes; decidedly new!" Mr. Whitney answered, rather brusquely; "you
had better join us up-stairs!" and he disappeared.

The young man's face grew suddenly serious, and, springing from his
chair, he swiftly followed the retreating figure of the attorney,
arriving just in time to hear the latter exclaim, in reply to some
question from his father,-

"Well, sir, the storm has burst!"

Ralph Mainwaring was, as his son had said, "luxuriating" in a superb
reclining chair, his eyes half closed, enjoying a fine Havana, but
the attorney's words seemed to produce the effect of an electric
shock.

"The deuce, sir!  what do you mean?" he demanded, instantly assuming
an upright position.

"I simply mean that what I have expected and dreaded all along has
at last come to pass."

"Then, since it was not unexpected, it is to be presumed that you
were at least prepared for it!  That shyster and his designing
client must, at the last moment, have exerted their inventive
faculties to a remarkable degree!"

"On the contrary," said the attorney, quietly ignoring the other's
sarcasm, and handing copies of the evening papers to father and
son, "I am satisfied that neither Hobson nor his client has any part
in the developments of this afternoon."

A brief silence followed, during which the attorney watched the two
men before him, noting the strange contrast between them, never
until that moment so apparent.  Young Mainwaring's boyish face grew
pale as he read, and he occasionally glanced at Mr. Whitney, as
though seeking in his face either confirmation or contradiction of
the report, but he remained calm and self-possessed, preserving his
gentlemanly bearing to the close of the interview.  The face of the
elder man, however, rapidly assumed an almost apoplectic hue, the
veins standing out from his temples like whip-cords, and when he
spoke his voice trembled with rage.  He was the first to break the
silence, as, with an oath, he flung the papers upon the floor,
exclaiming,-

"It is a lie from beginning to end!  The most preposterous
fabrication of falsehood that could be devised!  The 'will,' as it
is called, is nothing but a rank forgery, and the man who dares
assert any claim to the estate is a damned impostor, and I'll tell
him so to his face!"

"I examined the document very carefully, Mr. Mainwaring," said the
attorney, "and I shall have to admit that it certainly had every
appearance of genuineness; if it is a forgery, it is an exceedingly
clever one."

"Do you mean to tell me that you believe, for one moment, in this
balderdash?" demanded Ralph Mainwaring, at the same time rising and
striding about the room in his wrath.  "The utter absurdity of the
thing, that such a will ever existed, in the first place, and then
that it would be secreted all these years only to be 'discovered'
just at this critical moment!  It is the most transparent invention
I ever heard of, and it is a disgrace to your American courts that
the thing was not quashed at once!"

"That could not very well be done," said Mr. Whitney, with a quiet
smile; "and as the matter now stands, the only course left open for
us is to prepare ourselves for a thorough investigation of the case."

"Investigation be damned!" interrupted the other, but, before he
could proceed further, he was in turn interrupted by young
Mainwaring.

"I say, governor, you'd best cool down a bit and listen to what Mr.
Whitney has to say; if this thing is a forgery, we surely can prove
it so; and if it isn't, why, all the bluster in the world won't help
it, you know."

His father faced him with a look of withering contempt.  "'If' it
is a forgery!  I tell you there are no 'ifs' about it.  I suppose,
though, you are just fool enough that, if any man made a pretence
of a claim to the estate, you would simply hand it over to him,
and thank him for taking it off your hands!"

"That's just where you are wrong, governor.  I would fight him, fair
and square, and he would have to prove a better claim than mine
before he could win.  But the point is this, don't you know, you can
fight better with your head cool and your plans well laid beforehand."

"The young man is right," said Mr. Whitney, quickly; "there is every
indication that our opponent, whoever or whatever he may be, is well
prepared for contesting the case.  I understand he has plenty of
evidence on his side and the best of legal counsel."

"Evidence, I suppose," interposed Ralph Mainwaring, with a sneer,
"in support of a document that never existed, and a man that never
lived on the face of the earth; for Harold Mainwaring never had a
living son.  Have you seen this remarkable individual?"

"I believe no one in this country has seen him as yet, sir.  He is
expected to arrive on the 'Umbria,' which I understand is due the
early part of next week."

The face of the other showed slight surprise at this statement, but,
before he could speak, the young man inquired,-

"I say, Mr. Whitney, what sort of a man is this attorney, Sutherland?
Is he another Hobson?"

Mr. Whitney shook his head significantly.  "Mr. Sutherland is one of
the ablest men in his profession.  I consider him a fine jurist, an
eloquent pleader, and a perfect gentleman.  I had some conversation
with him after court adjourned, and while he, of course, stated no
details, he gave me to understand that his client had a strong case.
He also informed me that Barton & Barton, of London, had been
retained in the case, and that his client would be accompanied to
this country by the junior member of the firm, Alfred Barton."

"By Jove, that looks bad for us!" ejaculated young Mainwaring,
while his father exclaimed, impatiently,-

"Barton & Barton?  Impossible!  that is mere bombast!  Why, man,
the Bartons, father and sons, have been the family solicitors of
the Mainwarings for the past fifty years.  The old firm of Barton
& Sons had charge of the settlement of the estate when it passed
into Hugh Mainwaring's possession at the death of his father."

"So I had understood," said the attorney; "I have heard Mr.
Mainwaring himself speak of them."

"And," continued the other, "only a few days before sailing for
America, I called at their chambers in London and told them of
Hugh's intentions regarding my son and received their
congratulations.  Now, sir, do you mean to tell me, in the face
of all this, that Barton & Barton are retained by this mushroom
claimant, whoever he is?  Pooh! preposterous!"

Mr. Whitney shook his head slowly.  "Mr. Sutherland is not the man
to make any misstatements or allow himself to be misinformed.  All
I have to say is, if those attorneys are retained in the case, it
certainly looks as though our opponent must have some tenable
ground in support of his claim.  I am inclined to think they will
make us a hard fight, but I am confident that we will win in the
end.  The main point is this: we must be prepared to meet them on
whatever ground they may take, and, after hearing their side and
the proof they set up, we can easily determine our line of defence."

"To the deuce with your line of defence!  I tell you, Whitney, there
is just one point to be maintained, and, by my soul, it shall be
maintained at any cost!" and the speaker emphasized his words by
bringing his clinched hand down upon a table beside him with
terrific force "that point is this: Harold Scott Mainwaring never
had a living, lawful son; no such person exists, or ever has
existed on the face of the earth, and I can prove what I say."

"Have you absolute proof of that?" Mr. Whitney inquired, quickly.

"I have," replied Ralph Mainwaring, triumphantly, while his cold,
calculating gray eyes glittered like burnished steel.  "If any man
thinks I have been asleep for the past twenty-one years, he is
deucedly mistaken.  Mr. Whitney, since the day of that boy's birth,"
pointing to his son, "I have had but one fixed resolve, which has
been paramount to everything else, to which everything else has
had to subserve,--the Mainwaring estate with its millions should
one day be his.  Not a day has passed in which this was not
uppermost in my mind; not a day in which I have not scanned the
horizon in every direction to detect the least shadow likely to
intervene between me and the attainment of the dearest object of
my life.  When the news of Harold Mainwaring's death reached
England, in order to guard against the possibility of a claim ever
being asserted in that direction, I set myself at once to the task
of finding for a certainty whether or not he had left any issue.
I never rested day or night until, after infinite labor and pains,
I had secured the certificate of the attendant physician to the
effect that the only child of Harold Mainwaring died within an
hour from its birth."

"Have you that certificate now?" inquired the attorney.

"Not here; it is among my private papers at home."

"Cable for it at once; with the death of Harold Mainwaring's child
fully established, the will would cut no figure, one way or another."

"That will," said Ralph Mainwaring, fiercely, turning upon Mr.
Whitney with an expression which the latter had never seen, "let me
tell you, will cut no figure one way or another in any event.  That
will, remember, is a forgery; and, if necessary, I will prove it so,
if it takes my last shilling and the last drop of my heart's blood
to do it; do you understand?"

The attorney understood, and was more than ever convinced in his ow
 mind that the old will filed that day was genuine.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Mrs. LaGrange sat alone in
her apartments, awaiting the coming of Richard Hobson.  It was
considerably past the hour which he had set and daylight was slowly
merging into dusk, yet enough light still remained to show the
changes which the last few weeks had wrought in her face.  Her
features looked pinched and drawn, and a strange pallor had replaced
the rich coloring of the olive skin, while her dark eyes, cold and
brilliant as ever, had the look of some wild creature suddenly
brought to bay.  She shuddered now, as, from her window, she saw the
cringing form of Hobson approaching the building.

"To think," she exclaimed to herself, passionately, "that that
creature is the only one to whom I can go for counsel or advice!  I
loathe the very sight of him; fool that I was ever to place myself
within his power!  I thought I could use him as a tool like the
rest; but it is like playing with edged tools; yet I dare not let
him go."

A moment later, she heard a stealthy, cat-like tread in the corridor
outside, followed by a low, peculiar tap at the door, and Hobson
entered.

She crossed the room slowly, keeping her face in the shadow, and,
motioning him to a chair, seated herself opposite, watching him
narrowly.

"You are late," she said, coldly, in response to his greeting.

"Admitted, my lady," he replied, in his usual unctuous tones, "but
I naturally wished to ascertain all the facts possible regarding
this new deal, and, seeing Whitney nosing about on the trail, I
decided to remain within ear-shot and pick up what information I
could second-hand."

"What did you learn?"

"Nothing very definite, and yet enough, perhaps, to give us our
cue until further developments.  My dear lady, what do you think of
this new turn of affairs?"

"The whole thing is simply preposterous; a piece of the most
consummate audacity I ever dreamed of!"

"Ha!  I thought it would strike you as particularly nervy.  It is
the most daring bit of invention I have seen for some time; and it
must be a pretty cleverly concocted scheme and pretty well backed
with the ducats also, for I learned to-night that the 'heir,'"
laying special emphasis on the word, "has secured the services of
Barton & Barton, and those birds are too old to be caught with
chaff; besides, you know as well as I the part that firm has taken
in the Mainwaring affairs."

"Barton & Barton?  Incredible!  The case is hopeless then for Ralph
Mainwaring: he is a fool if he expects to win."

"Just what I was leading up to.  Whitney is no match even for this
man, Sutherland, and he will be a mere child in the hands of the
Bartons.  Now, the question is, where do we come in?  As you say,
Ralph Mainwaring's case is hopeless, unless--" and he looked
significantly at his client.

"I do not think I quite catch the drift of your meaning," she answered,
slowly.

"Has it not occurred to you that there are not two people in existence
who can so quickly tear to shreds the scheme of this impostor as
you and I?  There is not a human being living outside of myself who
knows the real facts concerning that will; and who could give such
effective and convincing testimony regarding Harold Mainwaring's
son as yourself?"

"Admitting all this, what do you propose?"

"When Ralph Mainwaring has staked his highest card and finds that
the game is irrevocably lost, what will he not give at the last
critical moment for assistance such as we can then furnish him?"

"And which course would you pursue in that event?" she asked, a
tinge of irony in her tone.  "Would you deny that such a will ever
existed in face of whatever evidence may be brought forward in its
support?  or would you admit being a party to the destruction of
the will?"

"My dear madam, I am perfectly capable of conducting this affair
to our mutual satisfaction and without running my head into any trap,
as you so pleasantly suggest.  And right here allow me to say that
it would be just as well for you not to make those insinuations
which you are so fond of throwing out at random.  As I said before,
no living person outside of myself, including even yourself, knows
the facts regarding that will.  You have your own surmises, but they
are only surmises, and you had best keep them to yourself as you
know enough of me by this time to know it will be to your interest
to accept my suggestions and fall in line with my plans."

Her face was in the shadow, and he did not see the scornful curl of
her lip or her peculiar expression, as she remarked coldly,-

"You are only wasting words and time in your efforts to intimidate
me.  You have not yet made any suggestions or outlined any plans.
I have asked you what you propose to do."

"I have not time to go into details, but, briefly stated, I propose,
when the right opportunity presents itself, to prove, first, that
this document filed to-day is a forgery.  If I can show conclusively
that the original will was accidentally lost, or intentionally
destroyed, or if I happen to have the original in my possession,
--under any of these conditions I gain my first point.  Then, through
your testimony, I shall demonstrate unequivocally a still more
important point, that this so-called heir is a gross impostor, that
no such individual exists."

"And for this, you expect--what?"

"For this I shall demand a handsome remuneration, to be divided, of
course, between yourself and myself, and Ralph Mainwaring will only
too gladly give the half of his kingdom for such services."

"And your testimony would have so much weight with Ralph Mainwaring
and the Bartons, and with every one else who has any knowledge of
your London history!"

Hobson winced visibly, but before he could reply she continued:

"You are talking the most arrant foolishness.  You know that those
men would not allow your testimony in court; they would very quickly
procure evidence to show that your word, even under oath, is
worthless; that you are a liar, a perjurer and a--"

"Not so fast, not so fast, my lady.  If past histories are to be
raked up, I know of one which embraces a much wider area than London
alone; Melbourne, for instance, and Paris and Vienna, to say nothing
of more recent events!"

"Do your worst, and I will do mine!" she replied, defiantly.  "That
is nothing to the point, however.  What I have to say is this: You
are a fool if you think that you or I can ever extort money from
Ralph Mainwaring.  He would give no credence whatever to anything
that you might say, and if once my identity were revealed to him,
he would go through fire and blood rather than that one shilling of
his should ever become mine."

"And what do you propose to do?" he asked, sullenly.  "Do you
intend to give up the game?"

"Give up?  Never!  I would give my life first!  I will yet have my
revenge on the Mainwarings, one and all; and I will repay them
double for all the insult and ignominy they have heaped upon me."

"That is to the point; but how will you accomplish it?" said Hobson,
in a more conciliatory tone, for each feared the other, and he
thoroughly understood the spirit of his client.  "Let us be
reasonable about this; you and I have too much at stake and too
many interests in common for us to quarrel like children."

"If I were differently situated, I can assure you we would then have
very few interests in common," she replied, bitterly.

"Well, supposing you were, what would you do in this case?" he
inquired, softly, apparently taking no notice of her remark, but
in reality making a mental note of it for future reckoning.

"Defeat Ralph Mainwaring, by all means; if necessary, produce
testimony to show that this will is genuine.  If he spends his last
shilling to fight the case, so much the better.  Then, when the
case is settled and this so-called heir is master of the situation,
or supposes himself so, bring suit to show that he is an impostor,
and assert my own claim as the nearest living heir."

Hobson whistled softly.  "A plan worthy of your ambition, my lady,
but hardly feasible.  It is one thing to assert a claim, and
another to be able to establish it.  Through your over-ambition
you would lose in the end, for, should you succeed in dispossessing
this stranger, Ralph Mainwaring would surely come forward with his
claim, and you would be beaten."

"When I lay down arms to a Mainwaring, I will lay down my life also,"
she answered, proudly.

"You think so, perhaps; but let me tell you the best course for you
to pursue is to make terms, either with Ralph Mainwaring, as I
first suggested, or else with this new-comer--should he prove
victorious--by threatening to expose his whole scheme."

Mrs. LaGrange made no reply, and Hobson, rising to take leave, saw
her face for the first time and paused, surprised at its strange
expression.

"Well?" he said, with a look of inquiry.

"My thoughts were wandering just then," she said, with a faint
smile, and her tone was so changed the voice scarcely seemed her
own.  "I was wishing, just for the moment, that this stranger,
whoever he may be, was in reality the one he claims to be.  I
would need no attorney to make terms with him then!"

"You forget; he would be a Mainwaring!"

"Yes; but he would be the only Mainwaring and the only human being
I could ever have loved, and I would have loved him better than
my own life."

"Love!" repeated Hobson, with a sneer.  "Who would ever have
thought to hear that word from your lips!  But how about your son,
Walter; do you not love him?"

"Him!" she exclaimed, passionately; "the price I paid hoping to
win Hugh Mainwaring!  I am proud of him as my own flesh and blood,
but love him?  Never!"

"But you have not yet told me what you think of my last suggestion,"
he said, tentatively, watching her closely.  Her manner changed
instantly; rising with all her accustomed hauteur and turning from
him with a gesture of dismissal, she replied,-

"Come to me later, when I shall have measured lances with our new
opponent, and you shall have your answer."

He would have spoken, but her dismissal was final, and with
darkening face he left the room.




CHAPTER XIX

MUTUAL RECOGNITIONS


The sudden turn of affairs in the Mainwaring case excited no small
amount of comment, and for the next ensuing days speculation was
rife concerning the recently discovered will, but more particularly
regarding the new and unknown claimant.  At the clubs and elsewhere
it formed the principal topic of conversation, and Ralph Mainwaring
was loud in his denunciations of the one as a forgery, and of the
other as an impostor.  To all such remarks, however, as well as to
the questions of the curious, Mr. Sutherland had but one reply,
accompanied by a slow, quiet smile; that on the day set for the
hearing, he would not only prove the validity of the will, but
would also establish, beyond all doubt or question, the identity
of the claimant.

As a result, public curiosity was so thoroughly aroused, that upon
the arrival of the "Umbria," an unusual crowd of reporters was
assembled at the pier, notwithstanding a pouring rain, and the
gang-plank had no sooner been thrown down than a number of the
more ambitious rushed on board, eager to be the first in gaining
some bit of information or personal description.  Their efforts,
however, were unsuccessful, as the individuals whom they most
desired to meet remained in their state-rooms and declined to be
interviewed.  Not until the crowd had about dispersed and the
patience of a few of the more persistent was nearly exhausted, was
their zeal rewarded by the sight of a party of four Englishmen, who
hastily left the boat, completely enveloped in heavy mackintoshes,
and, taking a closed carriage which was awaiting them, were driven
rapidly to the Waldorf Hotel.

At the hotel the party still remained inaccessible to all visitors,
with the exception of Mr. Sutherland, who spent much of his time
in their apartments.  It was ascertained that the party consisted
of two gentlemen, one of whom was accompanied by a valet, the
other--presumably the attorney--by a clerk, but all efforts
towards gaining any more definite information prove absolutely
futile.  The arrival by the next steamer of another stranger, an
elderly gentleman, who immediately joined the party at the Waldoff,
after having registered under an evident alias, only served to
deepen the mystery.

Upon the arrival of the day set for the hearing of the proof in
support of the ancient will, the court-room was, at an early hour,
packed to its utmost capacity.  Occupying a prominent place were
Ralph Mainwaring and his son, accompanied by Mr. Whitney, the
sensitive face of the attorney more eager and alert than ever!
At some distance from them, but seated rather conspicuously where
she could command a good view of all that occurred, was Mrs.
LaGrange, while in a remote corner of the court-room, partially
concealed by the crowd, was Richard Hobson.

Within a few moments preceding the appointed hour, Mr. Sutherland
appeared.  His entrance caused a sudden hush of expectation
throughout the crowd and all eyes were immediately turned in his
direction.  Accompanying him was a gentleman whose bearing commanded
universal admiration, and whom the Mainwarings instantly recognized
as the English barrister whose connection with the case they had
deemed so incredible.  But a still deeper surprise awaited them.
Immediately following the attorneys was a young man whose features
and carriage were familiar, not only to the Mainwarings, but to
scores of spectators as well, as those of the private secretary of
the deceased Hugh Mainwaring, whose testimony at the inquest had
created so much of a sensation, and whose sudden disappearance
thereafter had caused considerable comment.  There was a ripple of
excitement through the court-room, and the Mainwarings, father, and
son, watched the young man with strangely varying emotions, neither
as yet fully comprehending the real significance of his presence
there.

"The secretary!" exclaimed Mr. Whitney, in a low tone.  "Can it be
possible that he is concerned in this?"

"He is probably the hired tool by means of which this has been
brought about.  I might have known as much!" replied the elder man,
his old hatred and wrath reviving with greater intensity than ever,
but before he could proceed further his glance fell on the
secretary's companion.

He was a tall, elderly gentleman, with snow-white hair and beard,
but with form erect and vigorous, and with piercing eyes which met
those of Ralph Mainwaring with a flash, not of recognition alone,
but of disdain and defiance that seemed to challenge him to do his
utmost.

With a muttered oath, the latter half rose from his chair, but at
that instant his attention was arrested by the two men bringing up
the rear; one, small and of uncertain age, the other, older even
than he appeared, and bearing the unmistakable air of an English
servant.  As Ralph Mainwaring recognized James Wilson, the last
relic of the old Mainwaring household, he suddenly grew pale and
sank back into his chair, silent, watchful, and determined; while
his son and the attorney, quick to note the change in his appearance,
made neither inquiries nor comments, but each drew his own
conclusion.

There was one other to whom the white-haired gentleman did not seem
an utter stranger.  Mrs. LaGrange from her post of observation had
watched the entering party with visible signs of excitement.  Her
lips curled in a mocking smile as she caught sight of the secretary,
but glancing from him to his companion, she involuntarily recoiled
in terror, yet gazed like one fascinated, unable to remove her eyes
from his face.  Suddenly the piercing eyes met her own, their look
of astonishment quickly changing to scorn.  She flushed, then paled,
but her eyes never faltered, flashing back mocking defiance to his
anger and scorn for scorn.

Meanwhile, the quondam secretary, seated between the attorneys on
the one hand and his elderly companion on the other, seemed alike
unconscious of the many curious glances cast in his direction and
of the dark looks of Ralph Mainwaring now fastened on him.  At a
little distance was the old servant, his immovable features expressing
the utmost indifference to his surroundings, looking neither to the
right hand nor to the left.

Not so with the remaining member of the party, the so-called "clerk"!
Seated beside the English barrister, his eye seemed to sweep the
entire court-room with a glance that omitted no details, not even
the cringing form of Hobson, who quailed and seemed to be trying to
shrink still further into concealment as he felt himself included
in the search-light of that gaze.  But no one saw the slip of paper
which, a moment later, was handed to Alfred Barton, and by him
passed to Mr. Sutherland.  There was a hurried filling out of blanks
lying among the papers on the table, a messenger was despatched, two
or three men edged themselves into the crowd in Hobson's vicinity,
--and that was all!

Promptly at the time appointed the case was called.  There was
perfect silence throughout the court-room as Mr. Sutherland arose,
holding in one hand the ancient will, and with breathless attention
the crowd listened for the opening words of what was to prove one
of the fiercest and most bitter contests on record, and of whose
final termination even the participants themselves little dreamed.

After a few preliminaries, Mr. Sutherland said, addressing the court,-

"Before proceeding farther, your honor, I will give orders for the
subpoena, as a witness in this case, of one Richard Hobson, alias
Dick Carroll."

Then turning towards the crowd in the rear of the courtroom, he added,
"Let the papers be served at once."

There was a stir of excitement and a sudden craning of necks in the
direction indicated by the attorney's glance, where three men had
sprung forward in obedience to his orders.

Hobson, at the first mention of his name, had glanced quickly about
him as though seeking some means of escape, but on hearing the
alias--the name he had supposed unknown in America--he paused for
an instant, seemingly half paralyzed with terror.  But the sight of
the approaching sheriff broke the spell, and he made a sudden lunge
through the crowd in the direction of an open window.  His progress
was speedily checked by one of the deputies, however, and after a
short, ineffectual struggle he sullenly submitted.

"Bring the witness forward," said Mr. Sutherland, with his calm,
slow smile; "we may call upon him before long, and he would probably
prefer a seat convenient to the witness stand."

As he was seated opposite and facing the English party, it was noted
that the face of the old servant lighted up with a look of
recognition, and he watched the new-comer with evident interest.
Hobson, having carefully avoided the eyes of both Alfred Barton and
the private secretary, soon became aware of Wilson's scrutiny, and
after regarding him fixedly for a moment seemed suddenly to recognize
him in turn, and also to realize at the same time the import of his
presence there, which, apparently, did not tend to lessen his
agitation.

Slowly Mr. Sutherland unfolded the document he held, yellow with
age, the edges of its folds so frayed and tattered as to render the
writing in some places almost illegible.  Slowly, in deep, resonant
tones, he read the opening words of the old will; words of unusual
solemnity, which caused a hush to fall over the crowded court-room:

"In the name of God; Amen.  Know all men, that I, Ralph Maxwell
Mainwaring, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, but now
upon my death-bed, soon to appear in the presence of my Maker, do
make and publish this, my last will and testament; hereby revoking
and setting aside any and every will at any time heretofore made
by me."

Then followed, in quaint phraseology, the terms of the will; by
which the full right and title of the first-born son, under the
English law, were conveyed to Harold Scott Mainwaring, and all legal
processes theretofore entered into, depriving him of such rights,
were forever annulled; restoring to the said Harold Scott Mainwaring,
as his rightful inheritance, the entire family estate, including
other valuable property; the said property at his death to pass to
his eldest living son, or in case of his dying without issue, to
revert to his brother Hugh, were the latter living, if not, to the
nearest living heirs of the Mainwarings; but on no account was any
portion of the estate or property to pass to the wife of Harold
Scott Mainwaring, should she survive him.

As the reading of the will progressed, Hobson's feelings, too deep
and genuine at that moment for disguise, were plainly mirrored in
his face.  Having for years believed the old will destroyed, as he
now listened to the words dictated to himself upon that memorable
night, so long ago, it was little wonder that to his cowardly soul
it seemed like a voice from the dead, and that astonishment, fear,
and dread were depicted on his features, merging into actual terror
as the attorney at last pronounced the names of the witnesses,
Alexander McPherson and Richard Hobson.

For a few seconds his brain reeled, and he saw only the face of the
dying man as it looked that night,--stern and pale, but with dark,
piercing eyes, deep-set, within whose depths still gleamed the
embers of a smouldering fire which now seemed burning into his
inmost soul.  Trembling from head to foot, Hobson, with a mighty
effort, regained his scattered faculties and again became conscious
of his surroundings, only to find the eyes of the secretary fixed
upon his face, and, as he shrank from their burning gaze, the truth
flashed suddenly upon him.

"The face of old Mainwaring himself!" he muttered in horror; then
added, with an oath, "Fool that I was not to have known it sooner!
That woman lied!"




CHAPTER XX

OPENING FIRE


The first witness called to the stand by Mr. Sutherland was James
Wilson.  There were many present who noted the resemblance between
him and his son, John Wilson, who had given testimony at the
inquest, though unaware of the relationship between them.

"Mr. Wilson," said the attorney, after the usual preliminaries, "I
understand you were for a number of years in the employ of Ralph
Maxwell Mainwaring, the testator whose name is affixed to this will;
is that so?"

"Yes, sir," was the reply, while the attention of the crowd was at
once riveted upon the witness.

"Will you state how long you were in his employ, and in what
capacity?"

"I was his valet, sir, from his twenty-fifth year until the day of
his death, a little above thirty-five years, sir; and during his
last illness, of about three months, I was with him constantly,
you might say, sir."

"Do you recognize the document just read in your hearing as anything
which you have heard before?"

"That I do, sir."

"State when and under what circumstances you have previously heard
it."

"At the death-bed of Mr. Ralph Mainwaring, sir, twenty-five years
ago the seventeenth of last November.  I was present at the making
of that will, sir, the night before Mr. Mainwaring died.  I heard
him give those words to the lawyer, and then heard them read to
him before the will was signed."

"By whom was it drawn?"

"By Richard Hobson, sir; the man sitting there," pointing to the
shrinking figure of Hobson.

"Do you positively identify that man as the writer of this will?"

"That I do, sir," with marked emphasis; "when one once sets eyes
on the likes o' him, he's not likely to forget him soon."

"Was Richard Hobson the attorney of Mr. Mainwaring?"

"Ah, no, sir," with evident scorn; "his attorney was Mr. Alfred
Barton, the father, sir, of this gentleman," indicating the English
barrister, while the interest of the crowd deepened.

"How, then, was this man employed to draw the will?"

"Mr. Barton was out of town, sir; and as Mr. Mainwaring was dying
and naught would satisfy him but to have a lawyer, they brought Mr.
Barton's clerk."

"State the circumstances under which this will was drawn; was Mr.
Mainwaring influenced by any one to make it?"

"He was influenced by none but his own conscience, sir.  You see,
sir, three or four years before, he was very angry with his elder
son, and cut him off without a shilling and gave everything to Mr.
Hugh.  But it broke his heart to do it, for Mr. Harold was his
favorite, as indeed he was everybody's, though he never mentioned
his name again until the night he made the will.  Well, sir, all
that day we knew he was dying, and he knew it, and he was restless
till late at night, when of a sudden he tells us to get his lawyer.
Mr. Hugh tried to put him off, and told us his mind was wandering;
but 'twas no use; and the carriage was sent for Mr. Barton, and
when word was brought back that he was out of town, it was sent
again and brought back his clerk.  Everything was all ready, and
he was propped up in bed by pillows, his eyes burning as though there
was fire in them.  He repeated those words while the lawyer wrote
them down, and then had them read to him, and at fifteen minutes
of twelve o'clock the will was signed and sealed."

"You were present during the drawing up of the will?"

"Yes, sir, I was present through it all, but not where the others
saw me.  When the lawyer came, Mr. Hugh told me to leave the room;
but as I was going his father called me back and bade me stay,
and I was standing at the foot of the bed, hidden by the curtains
of the canopy, so none but the old gentleman saw me."

"Who else was present?"

"Mr. Mainwaring's old friend, Sandy McPherson, Mr. Hugh, and the
lawyer."

"No one else?  Were there no physicians present?"

"There were physicians in the house, sir, but not in the room."

"How long did Mr. Mainwaring live afterwards?"

"He died at five o'clock the next morning, sir; his strength went
fast after that was done, but he rested easy and seemed satisfied."

"What was done with the will?"

"Mr. Hobson took it away with him that night."

"Have you ever seen it since?"

"No, sir."

"Mr. Wilson," said the attorney, showing the witness the will, "can
you swear to these signatures as being the same which you saw affixed
to the will upon that night?"

Wilson studied the document attentively for a moment.  "Yes, sir,
that is Mr. Mainwaring's writing, only a bit unsteady, for his hand
trembled.  McPherson's writing I know, and you mark that blot after
his name?  I remember his fussing that night because he had blotted
the paper."

"And the third name, is that the signature of this man, Richard
Hobson?"

"I know naught about that man's writing," the old fellow replied,
with a shrewd look; "but you will mind that the name is the same
writing as the will itself, and he wrote that and signed his name
to it, for I saw him."

"And you have neither seen that will, nor heard it read until this
morning?"

"No, sir."

"You have remembered it all these years?"

"Maybe not word for word, sir, but I have kept the sense of it in
my mind."

"Are you positive that this is the will drawn up on the night of
which you speak?"

"That I am, sir."

"Did you ever speak to any one of this will?"

"To none but my son, sir.  Mr. Hugh Mainwaring was that sort of a
man, I could not speak to him about it, or ask about his brother.
I asked to be allowed to stay about the old place in hopes that some
day Mr. Harold would come back to have a look at his old home, and
I could tell him of it, for I thought things had not gone right
altogether.  Then we heard of his death, and I thought it was too
late; I could do no good by speaking, and I held my tongue until
the young gentleman came."

Wilson was then dismissed and Hobson was next called to the stand.
More even than the reading of the old will, the truth which had
dawned upon Hobson's mind as he met the piercing gaze of the
secretary, had convinced him that the position which he had intended
to assume, adverse to the new claimant and as an ally of Ralph
Mainwaring's, was neither politic nor safe.  His views on that
subject had undergone a decided change, and, with his usual
weathervane proclivities, he was now preparing to take a totally
different stand and strive to ingratiate himself into the favor of
the new heir, at the same time leaving, if possible, a few loop-holes
through which he could retreat, should some veering wind change his
course in another direction.

"Mr. Hobson," said the attorney, somewhat abruptly, when the
necessary preliminaries were over, "did you on the night of November
17, 18-, act as attorney for Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring, in the drawing
up, at his request, of his last will and testament?"

"I believe so, sir," was the guarded answer.

"Did you or did you not?" Mr. Sutherland persisted.

"I did, sir."

"Have you, during all these years, had any knowledge that the will
you drew under the circumstances already mentioned was still in
existence?"

After a slight pause, the witness replied, "I had no positive
knowledge to that effect."

"Did you believe the will to be in existence?"

Hobson reflected a moment, then replied, cautiously, "I was led to
suppose that the will did not exist."

"You remember the form, terms, and conditions of the document drawn
by yourself on that occasion?"

"I do, perfectly," he replied, with more assurance.

"State whether the will read in your hearing this morning is
identical with the one drawn by yourself."

Hobson now saw the drift of the attorney's questions, but it was too
late.

"As near as I can recollect," he stammered, but a word from Mr.
Sutherland recalled him.

"You just said you remembered perfectly."

"I believe they are identical in form."

"Mr. Hobson," said the attorney, spreading out the document before
the witness, but still retaining his hold upon it, "will you state
to the court whether that is your writing, and whether the last name,
that of the second witness, is your signature."

With great precision, Hobson adjusted a pair of eye-glasses and
proceeded to scrutinize the writing closely.  "Well," he remarked,
at length, very deliberately, "I do not deny that to be my writing,
nor am I prepared to positively affirm that it is such.  The fact
is, my chirography varies so much from time to time that I often
find it difficult for me to verify my own signatures."

"Here are some papers which may assist the gentleman, and may be of
some use to the court," said a deep voice with rich, musical
inflections, but slightly tinged with sarcasm, and the English
attorney handed a small package to Mr. Sutherland.  "They contain,"
he added, "some specimens of the witness's chirography of about the
same date as the will."

"The writing in both cases is identical," said Mr. Sutherland, as,
having examined the papers, he showed them to Hobson, but a glance
at their contents seemed rather to confuse the witness than
otherwise, for he remained silent.

"Do you acknowledge these letters to be of your writing?" inquired
the attorney.

"I do, sir; and I have no doubt but that the other is my writing
also."

"You acknowledge this, then, as the will which you wrote at the
dictation of Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring the night before his death?"

"I believe it is, sir."

"Mr. Hobson, why was this will not make public following Mr.
Mainwaring's death and burial?"

"On the day after his death, I gave it into the keeping of his son,
Hugh Mainwaring, at his own request, and he afterwards gave me to
understand that it was lost."

"And you were paid for keeping silent as to the existence of such
a will, were you not?"

"I may have been," the witness replied, with a calmness born of
desperation.

"That is sufficient for the present."

A few moments followed in which the attorneys consulted together,
while comments in tones of subdued excitement and expectancy were
exchanged among the crowd.  Ralph Mainwaring had sat with darkening
face throughout the testimony thus far; now he remarked to Mr.
Whitney, with a bitter sneer,-

"Fine witnesses!  A beggarly shyster whose oath is worthless, and
an imbecile old servant, who could be bought for a half-crown!"

Young Mainwaring turned upon his father a look of indignant surprise.
"Governor," he said, "it would not be well for you if either old
James Wilson or his son heard that remark of yours!"

"It will be well for you to attend to your own business and keep
your mouth shut!" responded his father, angrily.

Beneath the calm exterior which the young man preserved, the old
Mainwaring blood was now fast rising, but he made no reply, for at
that instant Mr. Sutherland announced the name of the next witness:

"Harold Scott Mainwaring!"

There was a sudden hush throughout the court-room, broken an instant
later by a low murmur of mingled astonishment, incredulity, and
wonder as the private secretary rose and walked towards the witness
stand.  A few comments reached his ears, but he seemed unconscious
of them, and, having taken his place, turned towards the audience a
face cold and impassive, inscrutable to his enemies, who could read
nothing of the conflicting emotions beneath that calm, immobile
surface.

He saw the crowd of upturned faces--incredulous, wondering, curious;
he caught the mocking smile of Mrs. LaGrange and Ralph Mainwaring's
dark, sinister sneer; but he took little note of these.  Like an
arrow speeding to the mark, his glance sought the face of young Hugh
Mainwaring.  Their eyes met, and in that brief moment there was
recalled to each a starlit night on one of the balconies at Fair
Oaks, and the parting words of young Mainwaring to the secretary,
"I'm your friend, Scott, and whatever happens, I'll stand by you."

With swift intuition each read the other's thought, and, although
there was no outward sign, Harold Mainwaring knew from that instant
that there would be no retraction of that pledge.

The slight ripple of excitement died away while the witness was
sworn, and the crowd listened with interest even to the preliminary
interrogatories.

"Where were you born?" asked the attorney.

"In Melbourne, Australia," was the reply, while deep silence awaited
Mr. Sutherland's next question.

"Mr. Mainwaring, I believe you are familiar with the will just read,
are you not?"

"I am."

"Please state when, and under what conditions, you gained your
knowledge of this will."

"I first learned that such a will had existed and knew its general
terms, between five and six years since, through information given
me by James Wilson.  From data found a little over a year ago among
the personal letters of the deceased Hugh Mainwaring, I ascertained
that the will was still in existence, and on the 7th of July last
I discovered the document itself and became personally familiar with
its contents."

At the mention of the name of Hugh Mainwaring and of the date so
eventful in the recent history of Fair Oaks, the interest of the
crowd deepened.

"Did you discover the document accidentally, or after special search
for it?"

"As the result of a systematic search for more than a year."

"Please state whether you took any steps leading to the discovery
of this will during the four or five years immediately following
your first knowledge of it; and if so, what?"

"As I first learned of the will soon after entering Oxford, my
studies necessarily occupied the greater part of my time for the
next three or four years; but I lost no opportunity for gaining all
possible information relating not only to the Mainwaring estate,
but more particularly to Hugh Mainwaring and his coadjutor, Richard
Hobson.  Among other facts, I learned that immediately after the
settlement of the estate, Hugh Mainwaring had disposed of the same
and left England for America, while about the same time Richard
Hobson suddenly rose from a penniless pettifogger to a position of
affluence.

"As soon as my studies were completed, I sailed for America, with
the avowed determination of securing further evidence regarding the
will, and of establishing my claim to the property fraudulently
withheld from my father and from myself.  In the securing of the
necessary evidence I succeeded beyond my expectations.  As Hugh
Mainwaring's private secretary, I gained access to the files of
his personal letters, and soon was familiar with the entire
correspondence between himself and Richard Hobson, from which I
learned that the latter was demanding and receiving large sums of
money as the price of his silence regarding some past fraudulent
transaction.  The nature of that transaction, I ascertained in
this marginal note, in Hugh Mainwaring's handwriting, upon one of
Hobson's letters which happened to be more insolent in its tone
than the rest.  With the permission of the court I will read it:

"'He insinuates that I destroyed the will; I only gave him to
understand that it was lost.  Little he dreams it is still in my
possession and will be, until such time as I, too, have to make
final disposition of my estate!  Why I did not destroy it, or why
I do not, now that the property is rightfully mine, I cannot say,
except that I dare not!  "Thus conscience does make cowards of us
all?"'

"With the discovery of these words," concluded the witness, "began
my search for the will itself."

"From the discovery of this letter which led you to believe the will
was still in existence, you prosecuted your search for the document
until the 7th of last July?"

"Yes, sir, whenever an opportunity for search was offered."

"Where did you finally find the will?"

"In the safe, in Mr. Mainwaring's private apartments at Fair Oaks."

"On July 7 last?"

"Yes, sir."

"That was the day on which you, acting as Hugh Mainwaring's secretary,
had drawn, at his dictation, his last will and testament, was it not?"

"It was."

"Mr. Mainwaring," said the attorney, deliberately, his eye quick to
read the faces about him, "is there in your mind any connection
between that event and your discovery of this will?"

"Only the most indirect," was the reply, given with equal
deliberation.  "The fact that Hugh Mainwaring was making final
disposition of his property naturally spurred me on to increased
action, since, in making final adjustment of his papers, he would
be more than likely to destroy the old will.  This incentive,
together with the fact that opportunity was given me for a more
thorough search than I had been able to make prior to that time,
combined to bring about the discovery of the will."

"Please state the time and circumstances of your finding it."

"I found it late in the afternoon, while Mr. Mainwaring and his
guests had gone for a long drive.  I determined to leave no place
unexplored where it could possibly be concealed; after about an
hour's search I found it."

"What did you then do with it?"

"I retained it in my possession, and at the earliest opportunity
secreted it within my own room."

"It was in your possession during the following evening and night?"

"It was."

"Mr. Mainwaring," said Mr. Sutherland, with marked emphasis, "please
state whether you mentioned to Hugh Mainwaring the discovery of the
will, or had any conversation with him relating thereto."

"I made no mention of the matter to him whatever.  Except for a few
moments, immediately upon his return, I did not see him alone until
about midnight, when he appeared fatigued, and I would not introduce
the subject at a time so inopportune."

After a slight pause, Mr. Sutherland continued.  "You claim to be
the lawful son of the Harold Scott Mainwaring mentioned in this will,
and as such the lawful heir, under its terms and conditions, of the
Mainwaring property?"

"I do."

"Has it not been generally understood among those supposed to have
knowledge of the facts in the case that Harold Scott Mainwaring, at
the time of his death, had no living child?"

"That has been the general understanding."

"Will you explain how the fact of your existence has been kept
concealed all these years?"

The silence following the attorney's question was so deep as to be
oppressive until broken by the answer of the witness, clear, cold,
and penetrating to the remotest corner of the crowded room.

"Within an hour from my birth, a dead child was substituted in my
place, and I was secretly given by my father into the keeping of
trusted friends, with instructions that until I had nearly attained
my majority I was not even to know of his existence, or of the
relationship existing between us."

"Mr. Mainwaring," said the attorney, "are you willing to state the
reasons for such an extraordinary proceeding on his part?"

For the first time the impassive bearing and the calm, even tones
of the witness gave way; the smouldering fire in his dark eyes burst
forth, as with impassioned utterance and voice vibrating with emotion,
he replied,-

"It was done because of sorrow, more bitter than death, in his own
heart and home, of which he wished me to know nothing until I had
reached the years of manhood and could understand the nature of his
wrongs; it was done that I should be forever barred from all
association with, or knowledge of, the base, false-hearted woman who
bore his name only to dishonor it,--who, though she had given me
birth, yet believed me dead,--that I might live as ignorant of her
existence as she of mine; it was done because of his love for his
only child, a love for which I would to-day gladly suffer dishonor
and even death, if I could but avenge his wrongs!"

Only Harold Mainwaring's attorneys understood the spirit which
prompted his words, but they carried his audience with him in a
sudden wave of sympathy, and as he paused, men applauded and women
sobbed, while the judge vainly rapped for order.

One figure alone remained motionless, spellbound.  Amid the general
excitement, Mrs. LaGrange sat as though turned to stone, her hands
clasped so tightly that the jewels cut deeply into the delicate
flesh, every vestige of color fled from her face, her lips ashen,
her eyes fixed upon the witness, yet seemingly seeing nothing.
Gradually, as she became conscious of her surroundings and of the
curious glances cast in her direction, she partially recovered
herself, though her eyes never left the face of the witness.

"Mr. Mainwaring," continued the attorney, when order had been
restored, "when and how did you first learn that you were the son
of Harold Scott Mainwaring?"

"My first knowledge regarding my own father I received at the age of
fifteen from my foster-parents, who told me of the manner in which
I had been given to them and of the death of my father a few years
later; but the full particulars I did not learn until my twenty-first
birthday, when I received a letter written by my father soon after
my birth, and intrusted to the keeping of my foster-parents until I
should have attained my majority.  In that letter he gave me the
story of his life, of his marriage and consequent disinheritance,
and of the yet greater sorrow which followed shortly, which led him
to voluntarily exile himself from his beloved England, and which
finally led to his sacrifice of the love and companionship of his
only child."

As Harold Mainwaring paused, Mr. Sutherland remarked, "I, myself,
have seen the letter to which the witness refers, but I consider it
of too personal a nature and too private in character to submit for
examination.  I will say, however, that both my honored colleague,
Mr. Barton, and myself have compared it with other letters and
documents known to have been written by Harold Scott Mainwaring, the
elder son of Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring, and have found the writing
in all cases identically the same.  There is yet one more question
which may have a bearing later upon this case, which I will ask the
witness.  Mr. Mainwaring, have you, during this time, received any
clue regarding the identity of your mother, or is that still unknown
to you?"

With great deliberation, the witness replied, "Until within the past
three or four days, I have known absolutely nothing regarding even
the name of the woman whom my father made his wife, or whether she
were still in existence.  I have recently learned, however, that she
is living, and," he added, more slowly, "I know that she is present
in this court-room."

It was afterwards recalled that, as the witness resumed his seat, a
curious sound, something between a gasp and a sob was heard, but
amid the tremendous sensation produced by his last statement it passed
unnoticed.

With very little delay, Mr. Sutherland announced the name of the last
witness,-

"Frederick Mainwaring Scott!"

Again the silence deepened as the white-haired gentleman, with great
dignity, took his place upon the stand.  His heavy, sonorous tones
rang out over the court-room, while from time to time the piercing
eyes beneath the beetling, snow-white brows sought the face of Ralph
Mainwaring with their silent but unmistakable challenge.  At the
first sound of his voice, Mrs. LaGrange's agitation increased
perceptibly; her expression changed to abject terror, yet she seemed
unable to move or to withdraw her gaze from his face.

To the question, "Where were you born?" the witness replied, "I was
born in London, but for the past forty-five years have been a
resident of Melbourne, Australia."

"Are you not connected with the Mainwaring family?"

"Distantly.  The Scott and Mainwaring families have intermarried for
many years, but I have waived all claims of relationship for nearly
half a century."

"Were you acquainted with the Harold Scott Mainwaring mentioned in
this will?"

"Intimately acquainted with him, as we were associated together in
business during his entire stay in Australia."

"In what business were you engaged?"

"In the sheep business, principally; we were also interested in the
mines."

"For how long a time were you associated together?"

"Six years, or thereabouts."

"Mr. Scott, you are the foster-father of Harold Scott Mainwaring
who has just preceded you upon the witness stand, are you not?"

"I am, and have been from the day of his birth."

"Will you state the circumstances under which you became his
foster-parent?"

"Harold Scott Mainwaring, the elder son of Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring,
came to Australia within a year after the marriage for which he was
disinherited.  His reason for leaving England was not, as many have
supposed, on account of his father's severity, but because of the
discovery of his wife's infidelity after all that he had sacrificed
for her.  He brought her to Australia in the vain hope that, removed
from other influences--the influence of his own brother, in
particular,--she would yet prove true to him.  Within the following
year, his son was born; but before that event he had fully learned
the character of the woman he had married, and he determined that no
child of his should be disgraced by any knowledge of its mother, or
contaminated by association with her.  To my wife and myself he
confided his plans, and, as we had no children of our own, he pledged
us to the adoption of his child while yet unborn.  An old and trusted
nurse in our family was also taken into the secret, but not the
physician employed on that occasion, as he was a man of no principle
and already in league with the false wife against her husband.  When
the child was born, Mrs. Mainwaring was very ill and the babe received
comparatively little notice from the attendant physician.  A dead
child, born but a few hours earlier, was therefore easily substituted
for the living child of Harold Mainwaring, while the latter was
secretly conveyed to my own home.

"A few weeks later, the child was privately christened in a small
church on the outskirts of Melbourne and the event duly recorded
upon the church records.  He was given his father's name in full,
Harold Scott Mainwaring, but until his twenty-first birthday was
known among our acquaintances as Harry Scott, the same name by
which he has been known in your city while acting as private
secretary to Hugh Mainwaring."

"Are you familiar with the letter written by Harold Mainwaring to
his son?"

"Perfectly so; he gave it into my keeping on the day of the
christening, to be given to his son when he should have reached
his majority, if he himself had not, before that time, claimed
him as his child."

"You can then vouch for its genuineness?"

"I can."

"How long a time elapsed between the birth of this child and the
death of Harold Mainwaring, the father?"

"About five years.  He left his wife soon after the birth of this
child and spent the greater part of his time at the mines.  He
finally decided to go to the gold fields of Africa, and a few
months after his departure, we received tidings of the wreck of
the vessel in which he sailed, with the particulars of his death
at sea."

"Mr. Scott, did you ever hear of the existence of this will?"

"Not until the boy, Harold, learned of it, soon after he entered
Oxford."

"Do you know how he first heard of it?"

"He heard of it from Wilson, one of the old servants on the
Mainwaring estate, who recognized in him a resemblance to Ralph
Maxwell Mainwaring, and, learning of his identity, told him the
history of the will."

"You have been kept informed of his search for the will and of
its final discovery?"

"From the first; and though the boy has a good bit of money in his
own name, I will back him in getting his rights to the very last
pound in my possession, and that," he added, while his dark eyes
flashed ominously, "will outlast the bank-roll of any that can go
against him."

"Have you any further direct evidence which you can produce in
support of the identity of the claimant?"

"I have," the witness replied, and having taken from his pocket a
large memorandum book and extracted therefrom a paper, he continued,
with great deliberation, -

"I have here a certified copy of the record of the christening, at
the church of St. Bartholomew, on June 24, 18-, of Harold Scott
Mainwaring, the first-born son of Harold Scott and Eleanor Houghton
Mainwaring."

A piercing shriek suddenly rang out through the hushed court-room,
and the crowd, turning involuntarily at the familiar name of
Eleanor Houghton Mainwaring towards the seat occupied by Mrs.
LaGrange, saw that wretched woman sink, with a low, despairing moan,
unconscious to the floor.  As several sprang to the assistance of
the unfortunate woman, Mr. Scott, turning swiftly towards the
judge, exclaimed,-

"There, your honor, is a most unwilling witness, but one who has
very effectively confirmed my testimony!"

The greatest confusion followed, several women having fainted from
nervous excitement, and, as it was then nearly noon, the court
adjourned until the afternoon session.




CHAPTER XXI

THE LAST THROW


There being no further testimony in the case, but little time was
occupied by Mr. Sutherland at the afternoon session.  Briefly and
forcibly he summarized the evidence already adduced, emphasizing
the strongest points and closing with numerous citations bearing
upon the case taken from recent decisions of the highest legal
authorities.

Several days would be required for consideration of the case pending
the decision of the court, and as the crowd surged out into the
corridors and diffused itself through the various exits, there was
much speculation as to what that decision would be and what would be
the action taken by the opponents.  Among the clubmen who had made
the acquaintance of Ralph Mainwaring, heavy bets were offered that
he would contest the case before the will was even admitted to
probate.

"He is a fool if he does," said one; "the young fellow has the best
show."

"He'll not give up, however," was the reply; "he's got too much of
the bull-dog about him; nothing will make him break his hold till
he has spent his last shilling."

"Well, he'll spend it for nothing, that's all!" said another.  "I'll
wager you a dinner for the whole club that the young fellow will
beat him.  Anybody that knows Sutherland, knows he hasn't played his
trump card yet; and you may rest assured that English lawyer isn't
over here as a figure-head!"

Ralph Mainwaring, passing hastily from the court-room, accompanied
by Mr. Whitney, overheard the last remark.  His only reply, however,
was a look of scorn flashed at the speaker, but the sardonic smile
which lingered about his closely compressed lips betokened on his
part no anticipations of defeat, but rather the reverse.  Even Mr.
Whitney wondered at his silence, but young Mainwaring, leisurely
following in the rear, knew it to be only the calm which presages
the coming storm.

His father, followed by the attorney, stepped quickly into the
Mainwaring carriage and beckoned impatiently for him to follow, but
the younger man coolly declined the invitation.

"No, thank you, governor.  I'm going for a bit of a stroll; I'll
join you and Mr. Whitney at dinner."

As the carriage rolled away he stood for a few moments lost in
thought.  His father's words to him that morning had stung his
pride and aroused in him a spirit of independence altogether new,
which had made him the more keen in observing his father's
expressions and movements, and in drawing his own deductions
therefrom.  He had formed some theories of his own, and as he now
stood in the soft, autumnal sunshine, he resolved to put them to
the test.

Turning suddenly in an opposite direction from that which he had
at first taken, he found himself confronted by Harold Mainwaring
and his party as they descended the court-house steps to the
carriages in waiting.

Instantly the young men clasped hands, and the frank, blue eyes
gazed into the piercing dark ones, with a friendliness of whose
sincerity there could be no doubt.

"Egad, old fellow!" he exclaimed, in low tones, "I'm glad to see
you, though you have taken us rather by surprise.  I'll not take
back a word of the promise I made you, nor of what I've said about
you, either."

"I did not think you would, Hugh," Harold replied, grasping the
proffered hand heartily; "I had a great deal of faith in you and in
your word.  I only regretted that I could not explain matters at the
time; it seemed like taking advantage of you and your friendship,
though I warned you that the future might make some unexpected
revelations."

"Well, I don't regret anything.  I always said you had good blood
in you, don't you know," Hugh continued, with a boyish laugh, then
added, a little huskily, "I'll say this much, and I mean it.  I
would rather give up what I supposed was mine to you than to
anybody else that know of."

"Thank you, Hugh; I appreciate that, I assure you.  Come around to
the Waldorf, I would like to have a talk with you."

"Indeed I will.  Of course, I suppose it would be of no use to ask
you up to the house; I couldn't expect you to come, but I'll see
you as soon as I can," and with another handclasp the young men
parted.

On arriving at the Waldorf, a note was handed to Harold Mainwaring,
with the information that the bearer had been waiting nearly an hour,
as there was an answer expected.  He well knew the writing; it was
the same as that of the little missive given him on the first day
of the inquest, and with darkening face he opened it and read the
following lines:

"I must see you at once, and I beg of you to come to my apartments
this afternoon at five o'clock, without fail.  In the name of mercy,
do not deny me this one favor.  I can tell you something important
for you to know, of which you little dream.
                                    "ELEANOR HOUGHTON MAINWARING."

After brief consultation with his attorneys, an answer was sent to
the effect that he would call in compliance with the request, and a
little later he started upon his strange errand.

With what wildly conflicting emotions Mrs. LaGrange in her apartments
awaited his coming may perhaps be more easily imagined than
portrayed.  She had not recovered from the morning's shock, but was
nerving herself for the coming ordeal; preparing to make her final,
desperate throw in the game of life.  Success now, in this last
venture, would mean everything to her, while failure would leave her
nothing, only blank despair.  Pride, the dominant passion of her
life, struggled with a newly awakened love; doubt and dread and fear
battled with hope, but even in the unequal contest, hope would not
be vanquished.

Shortly before the hour appointed, Richard Hobson's card was handed
her with the information that he must see her without delay.  She
understood the nature of his errand; she knew his coming was
inevitable; her only desire was to postpone the meeting with him
until after the interview with Harold Mainwaring, but on no account
would she have him know of her appointment with the latter.  She
tore the bit of pasteboard in two.

"Tell him to call to-morrow," she said to the messenger; but he soon
returned, with another card on which was written,-

"Important!  must see you to-day."

It was nearly five.  Quickly, with fingers trembling from her
anxiety lest he delay too long, she wrote,-

"Call at eight o'clock this evening; I can see no one earlier."

As she gave the card to the messenger, she glanced again at the
little French clock on the mantel.

"Three hours," she murmured; "three hours in which to decide my fate!
If I succeed, I can bid defiance to that craven when he shall come
to-night; if not--" she shuddered and walked over to the window,
where she watched eagerly till she saw the cringing figure going
hastily down the street.

He had but just disappeared around the corner of the block when a
closed carriage was driven rapidly to the hotel, and a moment later
Harold Scott Mainwaring was announced.

Her heart throbbed wildly as she turned to meet him, then suddenly
stopped, seeming a dead weight in her breast, as her eyes met his.

For a moment neither spoke; once her lips moved, but no sound came
from them.  Before that face, hard and impassive as granite, and as
cold, the impulse which she had felt to throw herself at his feet
and plead for mercy and for love died within her; her tongue seemed
paralyzed, powerless to utter a word, and the words she would have
spoken fled from her brain.

With swift observation he noted the terrible change which the last
weeks, and especially the last few hours, had wrought in the wretched
woman before him, and the suffering, evidenced by her deathly pallor,
her trembling agitation, and the look of dumb, almost hopeless
pleading in her eyes, appealed to him far more than any words could
have done.

He was the first to speak, and though there was no softening of the
stern features, yet his tones were gentle, almost pitying, as he
said,-

"I have come as you requested.  Why did you send for me?  What have
you to say?"

At the sound of his voice she seemed somewhat reassured, and
advancing a few steps towards him, she repeated his words,-

"Why did I send for you?  Why should I not send for you?  Think
you a mother would have no desire to see her own son after long
years of cruel separation from him?"

"There is no need to call up the past," he said, more coldly; "the
separation to which you refer was, under existing circumstances,
the best for all concerned.  It undoubtedly caused suffering, but
you were not the sufferer; there could be no great depth of
maternal love where there was neither love nor loyalty as a wife."

Her dark eyes grew tender and luminous as she fixed them upon his
face, while she beckoned him to a seat and seated herself near and
facing him.

"You forget," she replied, in the low, rich tones he had so often
heard at Fair Oaks; "you forget that a mother's love is instinctive,
born within her with the birth of her child, while a wife's love
must be won.  I must recall the past to you, and you must listen;
'twas for this I sent for you, that you, knowing the past, might
know that, however deeply I may have sinned, I have been far more
deeply sinned against."

"Not as regards my father," he interposed, quickly, as she paused
to note the effect of her words; "he sacrificed fortune, home,
friends, everything for you, and you rewarded his love and devotion
only with the basest infidelity."

"That your father loved me, I admit," she continued, in the same
low, musical tones, scarcely heeding his words; "but, as I said a
moment ago, a wife's love must be won, and he failed to win my
love."

"Was his treacherous brother so much more successful then in that
direction than he?" Harold questioned, sternly.  "Within six months
after your marriage to my father, you admitted that you married him
only that you might have Hugh Mainwaring for your lover."

She neither flushed nor quailed under the burning indignation of his
gaze, but her eyes were fastened upon him intently as the eyes of
the charmer upon his victim.

"Half truths are ever harder to refute than falsehood," she replied,
softly.  "I said that once under great provocation, but if I sought
to make Hugh Mainwaring my lover, it was not that I loved him, but
through revenge for his having trifled with me only to deceive and
desert me.  Before I married your father, both he and his brother
were among my most ardent admirers.  The younger brother seemed to
me far more congenial, and had he possessed one-half the chivalry
and devotion which the elder brother afterwards manifested, he
would have completely won my love.  The rivalry between the two
brothers led to bitter estrangement, which soon became known to
their father, who lost no time in ascertaining its cause.  His anger
on learning the facts in the case was extreme; he wrote me an
insulting letter, and threatened to disown either or both of his
sons unless they discontinued their attentions to a 'disreputable
adventuress,' as he chose to style me.  Hugh Mainwaring at once
deserted me, without even a word of explanation or of farewell, and,
as if that were not enough, on more than one occasion he openly
insulted me in the presence of his father, on the streets of London.
I realized then for the first time that I cared for him, coward that
he was, though I did not love him as he thought,--had I loved him,
I would have killed him, then and there.  Mad with chagrin and rage,
I married your father, partly for the position he could give me--
for I did not believe that he, the elder son and his father's
favorite, would be disowned--and partly to show his brother and
their father that I still held, as I supposed, the winning hand.
On my wedding-day I vowed that I would yet bring Hugh Mainwaring to
my feet as my lover, and when, shortly afterwards, your father was
disinherited in his favor, my desire for revenge was only
intensified.  I redoubled my efforts to win him, and I found it no
difficult task; he was even more willing to play the lover to his
brother's wife than to the penniless girl whom he had known, with
no possessions but her beauty and wit.  At first, our meetings
were clandestine; but we soon grew reckless, and in one or two
instances I openly boasted of my conquest, hoping thereby to arouse
his father's displeasure against him also.  But in that I reckoned
wrong.  He disinherited and disowned his son for having honorably
married a woman whom he considered below him in station, but for
an open affaire d'amour with that son's wife, he had not even a
word of censure.

"Your father discovered the situation and decided upon a life in
Australia.  If he had then shown me some consideration, the future
might have been vastly different; but he grew morose and taciturn,
and I, accustomed to gay society and the admiration of crowds, was
left to mope alone in a strange country, with no companionship
whatever.  What wonder that I hungered for the old life, or that a
casual admiring glance, or a few words even of flattery, were like
cold water to one perishing with thirst!  Then new hope came into
my lonely life, and I spent months in dreamy, happy anticipations
of the future love and companionship of my child.  But even that
boon was denied me.  It was hard enough, believing, as I did, that
my child had died, but to find that I was robbed of that which would
have been not only my joy and happiness, but my salvation from the
life which followed!"  She paused, apparently unable to proceed,
and buried her eyes in a dainty handkerchief, while Harold
Mainwaring watched her, the hard lines deepening about his mouth.

"After that," she resumed, in trembling tones, "all hope was gone.
Your father deserted me soon afterwards, leaving me nearly penniless,
and a few years later I returned to England."

"To find Hugh Mainwaring?" he queried.

"Not at the first," she answered, but her eyes fell before the
cynicism of his glance.  "I had no thought of him then, but I learned
through Richard Hobson, whom I met in London at that time, of the
will which had been made in my husband's favor, but which he told me
had been destroyed by Hugh Mainwaring.  He said nothing of the clause
forbidding that any of the property should pass to me, and I
immediately sailed for America in search of Hugh Mainwaring,
believing that, with my knowledge of the will, I, as his brother's
widow, could get some hold upon him by which I could compel him
either to share the property with me or to marry me."

"Then you were not married to Hugh Mainwaring in England, as you
testified at the inquest?"

"No," she replied, passionately; "I was never married to him.  I
have made many men my dupes and slaves, but he was the one man who
made a dupe of me, and I hating him all the time!"

"And Walter!" he exclaimed, "you stated that he was the son of Hugh
Mainwaring."

"He is Hugh Mainwaring's son and mine," she answered, with bitter
emphasis; "that was another of my schemes which failed.  I found I
had little hold upon Hugh Mainwaring, while he had the same power
over me as in the days before I had learned to despise him.  When
Walter was born, I hoped he would then fulfil his promises of
marriage; but instead, he would have turned me adrift had I not
threatened that I would then disclose everything which I knew
concerning the will.  He sneered at me, but offered me a place as
servant in his home, and support and education for his child on
condition that the relationship should never be known, and that I
would remain silent regarding the will.  I could do nothing then
but accept his conditions, but they were galling,--too galling at
last to be longer endured!"

"How is it that you and Walter bear the name of LaGrange?" he asked.

She hesitated a moment, then replied: "I married a man by that name
soon after leaving Australia."

"Before or after the tidings of my father's death?" he questioned,
sternly.

"We heard the news of his death soon after our marriage, but he had
deserted me years before, so it made little difference.  I met
Captain LaGrange in Sydney, and we sailed together for Paris and
were married there, but we soon grew tired of each other.  I left
him in about two years and went to Vienna, and from there returned
to England.  In some way, Hugh Mainwaring learned of the marriage,
and when I came to Fair Oaks, he insisted on my taking that name
for myself and child."

She spoke wearily and with an air of dejection, for it was plainly
evident that Harold Mainwaring was not to be deceived by
misstatements, however plausible, nor were his sympathies to be
aroused by simulated grief.  A few moments of silence followed,
while she watched him intently, her face again falling into the
pinched and haggard outlines which he had observed on entering the
room.

When he at last spoke, his voice was calm, without a trace of anger
or bitterness.

"Mrs. LaGrange, I have been informed that in the days  before you
ruined my father's life you were an actress in a second-class London
playhouse, and I see you have not yet lost some little tricks of the
stage; but we are not now before the footlights, and it will be much
better to lay aside everything pertaining to them.  Nothing that you
have said has awakened my pity or touched my sympathies for you; in
fact, what you have told me has only steeled my heart against you
because of its utter falsity.  It is unnecessary to go over the
ground again, but if you could not reciprocate the love and devotion
bestowed upon you by my father, you should never have accepted it;
but accepting it as you did, you were bound by every consideration
to be true and loyal to that love and to him.  Instead, from
beginning to end, you have been false to him, false to his memory,
false to your own wifehood and motherhood, false to yourself!  I
have not come here to reproach you, however.  I will only say that
I do not believe the capacity--the capability even--of love exists,
or has ever existed, within you.  But," he continued, in gentler
tones, "the capacity for suffering does exist, and I can see without
any simulation on your part that you have suffered."

Before the look of pity which now for the first time softened the
stern features, she broke down, and genuine tears coursed down her
pallid cheeks as she cried, "Suffered!  what have I not suffered!
I am homeless, penniless, degraded, an outcast!  There is no hope,
no help for me unless you will help me.  I know what you must think
of me, how even you, my son, must despise me, but as a drowning man
catches at a straw, I sent for you, hoping that you would in mercy
pity me and help me."

"Do you wish me to help you pecuniarily?  I will willingly do that."

"Pecuniarily!" she exclaimed, almost in scorn.  "Cannot you
understand what I need most?  It is pity, sympathy, love!  I want
the love and support of my first-born son, and I am willing to beg
for it," and, rising from her chair, she threw herself upon her
knees beside him, "only be my son, forget the past and let me be to
you, as I am, your mother!  No, let me be!" she exclaimed, as he
would have raised her from her kneeling posture.  "I have no son
but you, for Walter, like his father, has deserted me, with taunts
and sneers.  I can help you, too," she added, eagerly, but in low
tones, "help you in a way of which you little dream.  Do you know
what Ralph Mainwaring will attempt next?  He will try to implicate
you in the murder of Hugh Mainwaring!"

"That will be no more than you yourself attempted at the inquest,"
he answered.

"Ah, but his motive is different; in my case it was but the resort
of a weak woman to divert suspicion from herself; but he will seek
to fasten this crime upon you to defeat you, to crush and ruin you,
because he fears you as his opponent, and it is within my power to
clear you from any charges he may bring against you."

Her voice sank nearly to a whisper, her eyes were dilated, and she
was trembling with excitement.

He watched her intently for a moment, then spoke in a tone of calm
command.  "Tell me how you could help me.  What do you know of that
affair?"

"Listen, and I will tell you," and leaning towards him, she whispered
a few words in his ears.

Only a few words, but Harold Mainwaring started as from a shock,
while his face grew as pale as her own, and it was with difficulty
he could control his voice, as he demanded in quick, excited tones,-

"Do you know what you are saying?  Are you speaking the truth?"

"Yes, before Heaven, it is the truth, and the horror of it has
haunted me day and night; the thought of it has driven me nearly
mad, but I dared not breathe it to any living human being."

"You have told no one else what you have just told me?"

"No, I dared not."

He asked a few more questions which she answered, and from her
manner he was convinced that she spoke the truth.  Then he sat for
a moment silent, his head bowed, his eyes covered, lost in thought,
while strangely commingled emotions surged within his breast.

At last she broke the silence.  "It will help you--what I have
told you--will it not?"

"It is of inestimable value to me," he answered, but instead of
exultation, there was a strange sadness in his voice.

"You will let me help you, and you will be a son to me, will you
not?"

He looked at her with an expression of mingled pity and bitterness,
and then, without replying, lifted her gently but firmly and
reseated her, while he himself remained standing at a little
distance.  She watched him anxiously.

"Harold," at last she ventured, "think what I have suffered, and
do not refuse my one prayer."

"I can see that you have suffered," he answered, gently; "and, as I
have told you, I will help you pecuniarily and will befriend you,
only do not ask me that which I cannot give."

"I ask nothing more," she exclaimed, passionately, rising to her
feet, "than that you be a son to me, and I will accept nothing less."

"I am sorry to hear you say that," he replied, "for you are only
unnecessarily depriving yourself of many benefits that might be
yours.  I would provide a home for you where you would be unknown,
and means that you could spend the remainder of your life in
comfort."

"What would I care for any home or wealth that you might provide
for me," she demanded, angrily, "if you yourself would not
acknowledge me as your mother!  I will accept nothing from you
under such conditions."

"Then we may as well end this conference," he replied, calmly, "for
I hold my father in too deep love and reverence ever to permit of
my applying to you the sacred name of 'Mother.'"

Her eyes flashed at the mention of his father, and she was about to
speak, but he lifted his hand warningly.  "Hush!" he commanded; "not
one word shall you speak against him in my presence!  Before I go,
I will give you an opportunity to reconsider your declaration of a
moment ago."

"I will not reconsider it.  You are like every Mainwaring that I
have ever known, in that you think money and shelter, such as you
might fling at some superannuated servant, will take the place of
the true position and honor that are my due."

"Do you then, finally and once for all, refuse any and all offers
of assistance from me?" he asked.

"I do," she replied, proudly; "I will not accept charity from a
Mainwaring,--not even from you!"

"Very well; if that is your decision, I bid you adieu," and before
she could reply, he was gone.

He passed swiftly down the corridor, his head bowed slightly,
looking neither to the right hand nor to the left, but his step had
an elasticity it had not possessed in weeks, and any one passing
near him would have heard the single exclamation, "Thank God!"

Upon reaching his carriage, he spoke quickly to the driver, "To
the Waldorf at once!" and was borne away by the impatient steeds
even more swiftly than he had come.

Meanwhile, within the room which he had just left, the wretched
woman, whose falseness and pride had wrought her own undoing, stood
listening to the retreating footsteps; she heard them die away in
the distance, heard the carriage-wheels roll rapidly down the avenue,
then sank upon a low couch with a cry of despair.

"All is over," she moaned, "and I have failed.  I could not force
him to my terms, and I would never yield to his.  I will take
charity from no one, least of all from him.  I will be first, or
nothing!" and she shivered faintly.

After a time she arose, and ringing for her maid, ordered a light
repast brought to her room, as she would not go down to dinner;
"And," she concluded, "you can have the evening to yourself: I
expect callers, and will not need you."

An hour later, Richard Hobson crept along the corridor and tapped
for admittance.  There was no answer, and cautiously pushing open
the door, he entered unbidden, but started back in horror at the
sight which met his eyes.  The electric lights had not been turned
on, but a few tall wax tapers, in a pair of candelabra upon the
mantel, were burning, and in the dim, weird light, Mrs. LaGrange,
still elegantly attired for her interview with Harold Mainwaring,
lay upon the low couch near the grate, her features scarcely paler
than a few hours before, but now rigid in death.  Upon the table
beside her, the supper ordered by the maid stood untasted, while
on the same table a small vial bearing the label of one of the
deadliest of poisons, but empty, told the story.  Underneath the
vial was a slip of paper, on which was written,-

"I have staked my highest card--and lost!  The game is done."

Terror-stricken, Hobson glanced about him, then pausing only long
enough to clutch some of the gleaming jewels from the inanimate
form, he stealthily withdrew, and, skulking unobserved along the
corridors, passed out into the darkness and was gone.




CHAPTER XXII

SECESSION IN THE RANKS


When Ralph Mainwaring and Mr. Whitney arrived at the club they found
young Mainwaring already awaiting them at their private table, but
it was far from a social group which sat down to dinner that evening.
The elder Mainwaring still preserved an ominous silence, and in his
dark, glowering face few would have recognized the urbane guest whom
Hugh Mainwaring had introduced to his small coterie of friends less
than three months before.  The younger man, though holding a
desultory conversation with the attorney, yet looked decidedly
bored, while from time to time he regarded his father with a cynical
expression entirely new to his hitherto ingenuous face.  Mr. Whitney,
always keenly alert to his surroundings, became quickly conscious
of a sudden lack of harmony between father and son, and feeling
himself in rather a delicate position, carefully refrained in his
remarks from touching upon any but the most neutral ground.

A couple of hours later, as the three with a box of cigars were
gathered around an open fire in Ralph Mainwaring's apartments, it
was noticeable that young Mainwaring was unusually silent.  In a
few moments, however, his father's long pent-up wrath burst forth.

Addressing the attorney in no very pleasant tone, he demanded, "Well,
sir, what do you now propose to do about this matter?"

"It is to be a fight, then, is it?" Mr. Whitney asked with a smile,
knocking the ashes from his cigar.

"Yes, by my soul, and a fight to the finish.  Understand, I will
have no time lost.  This farce has got to be quashed at once, and
the sooner the better, so you may enter protest and file an
application for hearing, or whatever your mode of procedure is in
this country, at the earliest possible moment.  Meanwhile, I'll
secure the best legal talent that money can get to help you.  I've
a longer purse than that old Australian sheep-herder thinks, and
when the time for contest comes, I'll meet him on his own ground."

"If you are going to employ additional counsel," interposed Mr.
Whitney, "allow me to suggest the name of P. B. Hunnewell, of this
city; he is one of the ablest attorneys in the United States,
particularly in matters of this kind.  His fees are somewhat
exorbitant, but money is no object with you in this case."

"None whatever," the other interrupted, impatiently; "we will retain
this Hunnewell upon your recommendation, but in the morning I shall
 cable for Upham & Blackwell, of London.  They rank right in the
same line with Barton & Barton; they have conducted considerable
business for me, and I am satisfied," he added, with peculiar
emphasis, "they could not be tampered with or bought at any price.
I shall also cable for Graham, the expert on chirography and on all
kinds of forgeries, and we will have his decision upon that will.
I am going, first of all, understand, to have that document proven
a forgery.  That done, the whole fabrication of this cunning impostor
falls to the ground, and then, when I have him completely floored
in that direction, he will find that I have only just begun with him."

"How is that?" questioned the attorney.  "You surely do not intend
to dispute his identity after the unmistakable proofs submitted?"

"I care nothing about his identity," Mainwaring retorted, with a
sneer.  "Whether he is the son of Harold Mainwaring or of Frederick
Scott, matters little; both were renegades and outcasts from their
homes.  No, sir," and there was a ring of exultation in his tone,
while his steel-gray eyes glittered, "I have a surprise in store
for the young man; when he gets through with this contest, he will
find himself under arrest as the murderer of Hugh Mainwaring."

Young Mainwaring rose suddenly and began pacing the room, while
Mr. Whitney exclaimed,-

"Mr. Mainwaring, you astonish me!  I certainly fail to see how you
can connect the young man with that terrible affair."

"What else could be expected of a man who acknowledges that for
years he has been dogging the steps of Hugh Mainwaring and acting
the part of a spy, not only in his private offices, but even in
his own home, stooping to any means, no matter how contemptible,
to further his nefarious designs?  Would such a man, when his
schemes were finally matured, have any scruples about taking the
life of the one who stood in the way of their fulfilment?"

"But, sir," protested the attorney, "such a deed would be wholly
unnecessary.  Admitting all that you have said regarding the means
employed by him, would it not be much more reasonable to suppose
that he would attempt to bring his man to terms either through a
personal interview or by bringing suit against him, rather than
by resorting to brutal crime?"

"And supposing he did have a personal interview for the purpose of
setting forth his claims, do you think that Hugh Mainwaring would
be bamboozled by any of his cheap trickery?  No, sir, not for one
moment.  He would simply pronounce the whole thing a sham.  Well,
sir, if you will recall some of the testimony at the inquest, you
will see that is precisely what occurred.  Hugh Mainwaring, within
twenty or thirty minutes preceding his death, was heard to denounce
some one as a 'liar' and an 'impostor.'  An 'impostor,' mark you!
Very applicable to the case we are now supposing.  And in the
altercation which followed, the other party called him a 'thief,'
and made some allusion--I do not recall the exact words--to his
being 'transported to the wilds of Australia.'  Now, sir, there is
no doubt in the mind of any sane man that those words were spoken
by the murderer of Hugh Mainwaring, and I think now we have a
pretty good clue to his identity."

"But the young man stated emphatically this morning that he made
no mention of the will to Hugh Mainwaring."

"To the devil with his statements!  There is evidence enough against
him that he will be ruined when I get through with him.  He has
dared to try to thwart me in the plans of a lifetime, and I'll make
it the worst piece of business he ever undertook.  Understand, I
want you to institute proceedings against him at once!"

"Governor," said young Mainwaring, quietly, before Mr. Whitney could
respond to this tirade, "in whose name will these proceedings be
instituted, yours or mine?"

"Well," replied his father, with a sneer, "I don't know that it
makes any particular difference to you in whose name it is done,
so long as it is for your benefit."

"Begging your pardon, sir, I believe it does make considerable
difference.  And I will say right here that I will have no
proceedings entered, either in my name or for my benefit, for two
reasons: first, Harold Scott Mainwaring is no impostor; we had
abundant proof to-day that, under the terms of that will, he is the
sole claimant to the property; and second, you know, sir, as well
as I, that years ago, your own servant, John Wilson, told you that
such a will had existed, and there is every ground for believing
that this document is genuine.  I just begin to understand your
little game, governor, and, by Jove!  I will not be a party to it."

Up to this point, astonishment at his son's audacity seemed to have
bereft Ralph Mainwaring of the power of speech, but now he demanded
in thunderous tones, while his face grew purple with rage, "What do
you mean, sir, by daring to address such language to me?  You
impudent upstart!  let me tell you that you had best attend to your
own business!"

"This is the second time you have told me that today," said the
young man, calmly, though the hot blood was fast rising; "allow me
to inform you, governor, with all due respect, that henceforth I
will attend to my own business, and will not trouble you to attend
to it for me.  If you had any just or tenable grounds for the
proceedings you are about to institute, I would have nothing to say;
but, begging your pardon, you have none whatever; it is simply a
piece of dirty work with which I will have nothing to do."

"You ungrateful dog!  This is your return for my care and
forethought for you, is it?  Do you retract every word which you
have said, or I'll cut you off without a penny," and with a fearful
oath he swung himself around in his chair with such violence as to
overturn the small onyx table upon which the cigars were standing,
shattering it to fragments.

The young man paused directly in front of his father.  "I retract
nothing," he said, quietly but firmly.  "You are at liberty to
follow the example of old Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring if you wish, but
you may regret it later, as he did."

"And do you think Edith Thornton will marry a penniless beggar, a
pauper?  Or do you propose to live upon her fortune?"

"No; I will not touch a penny of her fortune," he replied, his cheek
flushing; "and I am not quite a pauper, for I have the money left
me by Uncle Tom years ago; and if Edith is the girl to be turned
from me under the circumstances, why, the sooner I find it out the
better."

"A paltry twenty thousand pounds!  a fine fortune!" sneered his
father, ignoring his last remark.

"Many a fortune has been made from a much smaller start; but it is
useless to waste words further.  You understand my position, and that
is enough.  Mr. Whitney," he continued, addressing the attorney,
"according to the terms of Hugh Mainwaring's will, I, and not my
father, am heir to the property, and therefore the one to contest
the claim of Harold Mainwaring if it is contested at all.  I wish to
state to you here and now, distinctly, that I will not contest the
case, nor will I authorize any one to do so for me; and now,
gentlemen, I bid you both good-evening!" and he quietly left the
room.

"Zounds!" exclaimed the elder man, as the door closed upon his son,
"I didn't suppose the boy had so much spirit!  I've often wished he
and Isabel could change places, because she was so much more like
myself and what I would like a son to be."

"He has the Mainwaring blood all right," replied the attorney, with
more inward admiration for the young man than he dared to express.

"Not if he will throw away a fortune in this manner; it is probably
some boyish whim, however and the young fool will look at it in a
different light to-morrow."

"I think not, Mr. Mainwaring," said the attorney, quietly; "he is
enough like Hugh Mainwaring, and like yourself, that when he decides
upon a certain line of action, he will not be easily turned aside.
You may rest assured that he will have nothing whatever to do with
this contest, and that if you wish to carry on the fight, you will
have to do so under your own colors."

"I'll do it, too," he replied, fiercely; "I'll enter proceedings in
my own name, as the nearest heir after Hugh Mainwaring."

"In that case, your brother must be notified, as he will be entitled
to share the estate with you; that may cause us some little delay,
but--"

"Curse it all!" the other interrupted, angrily; "I had not thought
of that; he will have to come in for a share; confound that boy's
foolishness!  I'll get hold of him tomorrow morning and see if I
cannot talk some reason into him," and Ralph Mainwaring relapsed
into sullen silence.  It was a new experience for him to meet with
opposition in his own family, least of all from his son, and he felt
the first step must be to quell it, though decidedly at loss just
how to proceed.

A little later, Mr. Whitney, finding his client disinclined to
further conversation, after making an appointment for the next
morning, excused himself and took his departure for his own
apartments at the club.

As he passed down the stairway into the spacious hall, what was his
surprise to see Mr. Merrick comfortably ensconced in a large leather
chair, reading the evening papers.

The two men shook hands warmly, and together passed out into the
cool, starlit night.

"When did you arrive, Merrick?  and from what point of the compass?"
inquired the attorney.

"Got in on the 9.30 train," the detective replied, seeming not to
have heard the second question; "learned you were at Mainwaring's,
so I stopped in, but told the butler not to disturb you, as I was
in no hurry."

"I noticed you were looking over the evening papers, did you read
the account of this morning's proceedings in court?"

"I did."

"What do you think of them?"

"I am not in the least surprised."

"Not surprised!" echoed the attorney.  "Do you mean to say that the
reappearance of the missing secretary as the heir to the Mainwaring
estate is no surprise to you?"

"None whatever," Merrick replied, with the most exasperating
coolness, adding, as he noted the other's incredulous smile, "you
may recall a hint given you at Fair Oaks, one evening, of the
possible existence of claimants, perhaps not far distant, whose
rights superseded those of Hugh Mainwaring himself."

Mr. Whitney started involuntarily as the detective's words of a few
weeks before were thus recalled, then looking his companion squarely
in the face, he exclaimed, half playfully, half indignantly, "I
don't suppose you will go so far as to claim any familiarity with
that old will which has just been resurrected."

"Well," said Merrick, deliberately stopping to relight his cigar, "I
was aware that there was such a will in existence, or at least that
it had existed up to the time of Hugh Mainwaring's death, and I
supposed all along that it was in the possession of Harold Scott
Mainwaring, otherwise known as Harry Scott, secretary."

"By George!  when and how did you get hold of all this?" questioned
the attorney, in a tone of bewilderment.

"I was pretty well conversant with the facts in the case a few days
before the young man took passage for England, in the 'Campania.'"

"The 'Campania!' Heavens and earth, man!  Do you mean to say that
he went over on the same boat with Miss--with the ladies from
Fair Oaks?"

"Certainly; and I don't think," Merrick continued, watching the
attorney shrewdly, "that Miss--the ladies from Fair Oaks--objected
to him as a fellow-traveller, either."

Mr. Whitney changed the subject.  "Then you know that will to be
genuine, do you?"

"H'm!  am I on the witness stand?"

"No; but I think I ought to subpoena you to keep the other side
from getting your testimony; you might make a troublesome witness
against us."

"My testimony might be worth much or little; I am not giving it to
either side at present."

"Well, I would not have it go out, of course; but for my part, I am
inclined, to believe not only that the will is genuine, but also
that Ralph Mainwaring knows that it is."

"He will fight it all the same."

"Yes, but on rather different grounds from what he first anticipated,"
and Mr. Whitney gave Merrick an account of young Mainwaring's
defection.  "In my private opinion," concluded the attorney, "Ralph
Mainwaring is a fool, for he has got a pretty hard combination to go
against; they've evidently got a strong case, splendid legal talent,
and plenty of money to back it all.  However, I'm making a good
thing out of it."

"Yes," said Merrick, enigmatically, "Barton & Barton are undoubtedly
men of great ability in their professions but that 'clerk' of theirs
who has come over with the party," with peculiar emphasis, "is the
smartest man in the whole crowd!"

"The clerk!  why I thought he seemed rather an insignificant sort
of a fellow; what do you know about him?"

For reply the detective only gave a short, unpleasant laugh, and,
touching his cap, turned abruptly down another street.

"Hold on!" cried the attorney; "you haven't told me anything about
yourself yet.  What have you been doing? and how long are you going
to be in town?"

"A day or two, perhaps, possibly a week; I cannot say."

"How are you getting on?"

But the detective was lost in thought and apparently did not hear
the question.  "I suppose you read of the arrest of Brown, the
coachman?" he remarked, abstractedly, after a moment's silence.

"The coachman?  No!  you don't say that he was really concerned in
that affair?" the attorney exclaimed, excitedly.

"What affair, the Mainwaring murder?  I don't know that I have
said that he was concerned in that," Merrick answered, suddenly
coming to himself and evidently enjoying the attorney's expression
of blank perplexity; "he was mixed up in a shooting affair, however,
which occurred about that time, and by holding him in custody we
hope to get on to the principals.  Oh," he added, carelessly,
anticipating another inquiry from Mr. Whitney, "I'm getting there
all right, if that is what you want to know; but I won't have
somebody else dogging my tracks and then claiming the game by and by."

"Man alive!  what in the dickens are you driving at?  You are in one
of your moods to-night."

"Perhaps so," Merrick replied, indifferently, then added quickly,
"There is a sensation of some sort in there; see the crowd of
reporters!"

They were standing on a street corner, near a large hotel, and
glancing through the windows in the direction indicated by the
detective, Mr. Whitney saw, as he had said, a crowd of reporters in
the office and lobbies, some writing, some talking excitedly, and
others coming and going.  Just then one who was leaving the building
passed them, and Merrick stopped him.

"What is going on?  What's the excitement?"

"Suicide!" the young man replied, hastily.  "That woman who was
mixed up in the Mainwaring case has suicided by poison."

The attorney and the detective exchanged startled glances, then
both entered the hotel.





CHAPTER XXIII

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM


An hour later, the attorney and the detective reappeared, and,
threading their way through the crowd still lingering about the
hotel, walked rapidly down the street, arm in arm, conversing in
low tones.

"A case of suicide, undoubtedly," said the attorney "and scarcely to
be wondered at, taking all the circumstances into consideration.
Do you know, I am now more than ever inclined to the belief that
she was in some way connected with Hugh Mainwaring's death, and
that, after such a revelation of her character as was made in court
this morning, she feared further disclosures."

Mr. Whitney glanced at his companion, but the latter seemed
engrossed with his own thoughts and made no reply.

"I never was so completely floored in my life," the attorney
continued, "as when it came out that Harold Mainwaring was her son;
and I yet fail to see the necessity for introducing that feature
into the testimony.  I should have thought that would have been
passed over in silence."

"As near as I can judge from reading of the case," Merrick replied,
"it seems to have been done with a purpose.  His attorneys were
leading up to that very point in such a manner that, when the climax
was reached, she would involuntarily betray herself--as she did--
thus confirming in the strongest manner the testimony already given."

"I believe you may be right," said the attorney, musingly, "though
it had not occurred to me."

After a short pause, Merrick continued: "When I was first called to
Fair Oaks, I suspected some relationship between that woman and the
secretary, as he was then called; there was a marked resemblance
between them; both had the same peculiar olive skin, while their
features and carriage were almost identical."

"Yes, I recall your mentioning the likeness to me, and at the same
time I was puzzled by the resemblance between him and Hugh
Mainwaring.  Well, I always said he was a mystery, and no wonder!"

They had reached the club-house by this time, and, as Merrick
declined Mr. Whitney's invitation to enter, both men remained
outside for a few moments.  Once again, the attorney endeavored to
sound the detective regarding his work and the progress he was
making, but the latter suddenly became strangely uncommunicative.

"My client is going to charge Harold Mainwaring with the murder,"
said the attorney at last.

Merrick laughed scornfully, and for the second time that evening
wheeled abruptly and turned down a side street, leaving Mr. Whitney
standing upon the club-house steps, watching the rapidly retreating
figure with mingled vexation and amusement.

"Something has upset Merrick," he soliloquized, as he finally turned
towards the entrance; "who can he imagine is 'dogging' his tracks,
as he terms it?  These detectives seem about as jealous of their
reputation as we lawyers are supposed to be.  Ralph Mainwaring is
going to engage 'the best legal talent that money can get'!  H'm!
when he comes to settle, he may find that my 'legal talent' will
come just as high as the best of them."

Could Mr. Whitney have been present at a conference held that
evening in one of the private parlors of the Waldorf, he might have
had a better understanding of the cause of Merrick's perturbation.

Immediately upon returning to the hotel, Harold Mainwaring had
communicated to the English attorney and to Mr. Scott the particulars
of his interview with Mrs. LaGrange.  Mr. Scott at once expressed
his satisfaction at the outcome, in that she had rejected all offers
of assistance except upon her own terms.

"That is best, that is best just as it is," he said, emphatically;
"you do not want to be hampered with any obligations she might
impose upon you, and as forever recognizing or acknowledging any
relationship, it is not to be thought of for one moment.  Your course
was right, perfectly right.  But what was the statement of such
importance which she was to make?"

"That is just what I am coming to," the young man replied; and
drawing his chair closer to those of his companions, he repeated in
low tones the secret intrusted to him by Mrs. LaGrange.  The faces of
the two men were a study as he ended his recital.

"Are you confident that she spoke the truth?" questioned Mr. Barton
eagerly.

"I am positive that she did; she seemed like one terror-stricken,
and said that the horror of it had haunted her day and night."

"There could be no reason in this instance for doubting her,"
commented Mr. Scott, thoughtfully; "she would have no motive for
making such a statement if it were not true."

"My dear Mainwaring!" exclaimed the attorney, "it is what I have
suspected ever since you gave me the details of the affair; you
remember what I told you before we left London!"

"Certainly; but it seemed to me then too improbable."

"The improbable is, sometimes, what we must look for in cases like
this," he replied; "McCabe should be put on to this immediately,
and we must call Sutherland.  I will summon him, myself, at once,"
and he left the room.

The foster-father and son, left for a few moments to themselves,
had little to say, but sat looking into each other's faces with eyes
full of meaning, each understanding what was in the other's heart.
At last, as they heard returning footsteps, the elder man spoke,-

"It was a good thing you went there, my boy; come what may, you will
never regret it."

"Never!" the other replied with emphasis.

It seemed but a few moments ere hurried steps were heard along the
corridor, followed by a light, familiar knock, and Mr. Sutherland
entered.

"I recognized your voice at the 'phone, Mr. Barton," said the
attorney, after greetings had been exchanged, "and something in its
tone, aside from the general import of your message, led me to
believe that the call was of special importance, therefore I lost
no time in coming here."

"You were correct," replied the English barrister; "we have made a
most important discovery, bearing not only upon the case in hand,
but also upon the Mainwaring murder case."

"Ah-h!" responded the attorney with evident interest; then drawing
his chair near the group seated about the open fire, he asked, with
a swift glance about the room, "But where is your 'clerk,' Mr.
Barton?  Should he not be present?"

"My 'clerk!'" replied Mr. Barton, with peculiar emphasis, and plainly
appreciating the humor of the inquiry; "my 'clerk' is, I believe, at
present engaged in most assiduously cultivating the acquaintance of
Ralph Mainwaring's coachman."

Then, as Mr. Sutherland elevated his eyebrows in mute inquiry, he
continued,-

"The coachman, I have understood, is a recent acquisition, taken, I
believe, upon the recommendation of this Merrick; and while he seems
eminently satisfactory as a coachman, I have my doubts as to whether
he will prove quite so satisfactory to his superior officer upon his
return."

"Ah, I see!" ejaculated the other; "he is what might be denominated
a 'sub.'"

"Yes; and so exceedingly verdant that McCabe thought it worth while
to make his acquaintance.  But now to present business!"

Again the strange story was repeated, Mr. Sutherland listening with
grave attention, which deepened as the recital proceeded, until, at
its completion, he could scarcely restrain his enthusiasm; exultation
was plainly written on his face, but there was a peculiar gentleness
in his manner as he first approached his young client, saying in a
low tone, as he cordially grasped his hand,-

"I realize, Mr. Mainwaring, all that this means to you, and I am
sure you will understand me when I say that I congratulate you."

Harold Mainwaring bowed silently, and Mr. Sutherland, turning
towards the English barrister, exclaimed, "This explains everything!
This will make our case absolutely incontrovertible; but, first,
we must secure that man at all hazards and at any cost just as
quickly as possible; think what a witness he will make!"

"Just what I had in mind" was the response, "and McCabe is the man
to locate him if he is upon the face of the earth.  But we must
decide immediately upon our own course of action, for this will
necessitate certain changes in our plans, and we must act at once,
and, at the same time, with the utmost caution and secrecy."

Dinner was ordered and served in the privacy of their own apartments
that they might be entirely free from intrusion or interruptions
during their deliberations, and it was at a late hour when, their
consultation ended, they gathered about the open fire with their
cigars, awaiting, with much self-congratulation and cheerful talk,
the return of the absent McCabe.

"Confound it!" exclaimed Mr. Barton, presently, glancing at his
watch; "what in the deuce is keeping that fellow so late?"  If we
had not especially wanted him, he would have been here two hours ago."

"Perhaps," suggested Mr. Sutherland, "he may have found the coachman
more communicative than he anticipated."

"He has doubtless struck some clue which he is following," was the
reply; but at that instant there was a light tap at the door, and the
man generally known as the English barrister's "clerk" entered.

"Well, Mac," said Mr. Barton, cheerfully, "'speak of the devil'
--you know what follows!  What luck to-night?"

"Very fair, sir," said the man, quietly taking in the situation at
a glance, as he noted the eager, expectant faces of the four men,
and, dropping into a chair near the group, he instantly assumed an
attitude of close attention.

Ordinarily, McCabe was, as Mr. Whitney had remarked, rather an
insignificant-looking man.  He was below medium stature and somewhat
dull in appearance, owing to the fact that he seemed to take little
interest in his surroundings, while his face, when his eyes were
concealed, as was generally the case, by the heavily drooping lids
and long eyelashes, was absolutely expressionless.  When, however,
he raised his eyes and fixed them upon any one, the effect was much
the same as though a search-light suddenly flashed in one's face;
but this was only upon rare occasions, and few casual observers
would dream of the keen perceptive faculties hidden beneath that
quiet exterior.

"Tell us your story first, Mac," said Mr. Barton, after a moment's
silence, thoroughly understanding his man, "ours will keep for a
little bit."

"There's not much to tell, sir."

"How are you and the coachman coming on?"

"We'll not be very intimate after to-night, I'm thinking."

"How is that?" questioned the attorney, at the same time smiling
broadly at his companions.

"Well, sir, there'll be no call for it, for one thing, as I've got
all the points in the case I wanted; and for another, his chief
returned this evening, and, from the few words I overheard upon
his arrival, I don't think the coachman will feel over-confidential
the next time he sees me," and McCabe smiled grimly to himself.

"So Merrick is back!" interposed Mr. Sutherland, laughing.  "Did
you and he meet?"

"Meet, sir?  Ah, no, not much o' that!  I heard a step coming up
the stairs, and as I thought the room was hardly big enough for
three, I excused myself to Mr. Jim Matheson--alias Matthews, the
coachman--and made for the hall.  We passed each other at the head
of the stairs, and I cluttered down, making as much racket as I
could; then at the foot of the stairs I took off my boots and crept
upstairs again, more to hear the fellow's voice than anything else,
so I could recognize him afterwards."

"What did you hear?" inquired Mr. Barton, as McCabe paused to light
a cigar which Mr. Sutherland had handed him.

"I heard him say, 'Who was that I passed outside, Jim?'  'Only a
cross-country friend of mine,' says Jim.  'What friends are you
entertaining here in these quarters?' says he, kind o' sharp like.
'An' sure,' says Jim, 'it was only Dan McCoy, the clerk of the big
London lawyer who has come over with the young Mr. Mainwaring I've
heard you speak of, and a right clever fellow he is, too!' 'Clerk!'
he roars out, 'clerk, you blithering idiot!  he's no more clerk
than you are coachman, nor half so much, for you're fit for nothing
but to take care of horses all your days!  Do you want to know,'
says he, 'who you've been entertaining'?  That's no more nor less
than Dan McCabe, a Scotland Yard man they've brought over, nobody
knows what for, but whatever his game, he's made you play into his
hand! I didn't stay to hear more," McCabe concluded, "I got out."

"But how does this Merrick know you?" Mr. Barton inquired, as the
laughter caused by McCabe's recital subsided.

"He doesn't know me, he only knows of me," the man replied.  "I
found that out an hour or two later, when I met him in a crowd at
the Wellington Hotel;" the speaker glanced curiously in the
direction of Harold Mainwaring for an instant, and then continued,
"I knew him by his voice, but I spoke with him, and he had no idea
who I was."

"But how has he heard of you?" persisted Mr. Barton.

"There was an American detective--a friend of his--who came over
on the 'Campania' on the same trip with Mr. Mainwaring.  He was
following up a case in London, but he managed to keep his eye on
Mr. Mainwaring and kept this Merrick posted of all that he was doing.
It was because of some remarks of his that I got wind of, that I
determined from the first to get onto his game."

"Well, Mac," said Mr. Barton, tentatively, "are you ready to go to
work now?"

The keen eyes flashed for an instant in the attorney's face, then
the man answered quietly, "If you've nothing to tell me, I'm ready
to go to work on my own hook and in my own way; if you've anything
to say, I'll hear it."

Mr. Barton glanced at the others.  "We had better tell McCabe what
we have learned, and also just what our plans are."

The others bowed in assent, and the chairs were drawn closer together
while Mr. Barton, in low tones, told, as briefly and clearly as
possible, the discovery which they had made.  McCabe listened to the
attorney's story, but whether or not the secret were already guessed
by him, his face gave no sign.  When it was ended he glanced
curiously at Harold Mainwaring.

"Mrs. LaGrange told you this?"

"She did."

"At what time, if you please, sir?"

"At about half-past five."

"Are you aware, sir, that, with the exception of her maid, you are
probably the last person who saw Mrs. LaGrange living?"

"Saw her living!" Harold Mainwaring repeated, astonished, while Mr.
Barton demanded, "What do you mean, Mac?"

"I mean, sir," said McCabe, slowly, "that Mrs. LaGrange committed
suicide at about seven o'clock this evening, less than two hours
after Mr. Mainwaring saw her."

"When did you learn of this?"  "What do you know of the affair?"
questioned the attorneys quickly, while Harold Mainwaring, more
deeply shocked than he would have thought possible, listened to the
man's reply.

"I happened along by the Wellington about two hours ago, and saw
considerable stir around there.  I learned 'twas a case of suicide,
but thought nothing of it till I heard the woman's name, then I
dropped in and picked up the facts in the case," and he proceeded
to relate the details of the affair.

As Harold Mainwaring listened, he recalled the looks and words of
the wretched woman, her genuine misery, her falsehood and deceit,
her piteous pleadings, and the final rage and scorn with which she
had rejected his assistance even in the face of such desperation
and despair; and a sickening sense of horror stole over him,
rendering him almost oblivious to the conversation around him.

"'Twas there I saw this man Merrick," McCabe was saying in
conclusion.  "I heard him questioning the maid about Mr. Mainwaring's
interview with the woman; he evidently was onto that.  I saw the
girl myself shortly afterwards and gave her a hint and a bit of money
to keep her mouth shut about Mr. Mainwaring.  She seemed pretty
bright, and I think she will understand her business."

"Confound that meddlesome Yankee!  what was he prowling around
there for?" interrupted Mr. Scott, angrily.  "He has no business
prying into Harold Scott Mainwaring's affairs, and I'll have him
understand it; let him attend to his own duties, and I think, from
all reports, he will have his hands more than full then.  Mr.
Sutherland," he continued, addressing the attorney, "there's no
knowing what that beastly bungler who calls himself a detective
will do next; this thing is likely to be out in the morning papers
with the boy's name mixed up in it, and it must be stopped right
here.  His name must be kept out of this at any price, and you
probably can reach the New York press better than any one of us."

"You are right," said Mr. Sutherland, rising hastily and preparing
to leave; "our client wants no notoriety of that sort; and I will
make sure that nothing of the kind occurs.  I have a friend who has
unlimited influence with the newspaper men, and I will have him
attend to the matter at once, and see to it that everything of that
nature is suppressed."

"That is best," said Harold Mainwaring gravely, coming forward.  "I
would have rendered the woman any necessary assistance; I am willing
to do whatever is needful now, but, living or dead, her name shall
never be coupled with my father's name and mine."

"You understand, of course, that money is no object in this matter,"
added Mr. Scott.

"I understand perfectly, sir," said the attorney, courteously;
"everything will be attended to; and, Mr. Barton, you will kindly
confer with Mr. McCabe, and I will see you in the morning regarding
your final decision.  Good-night, gentlemen."

An hour later, McCabe took his departure.  Of his own theories or
plans he had said little more than that he was to leave the
Waldorf that night for another part of the city, but all details
for communication with him in case of necessity had been carefully
arranged.

"Your 'clerk' has been suddenly called to London on important
business," he said to Mr. Barton, with a quiet smile, adding, "You
may meet me occasionally, but it's not likely or best that you
recognize me, and when I have anything to report you will hear from
me," and with these words he was gone.

When at last Harold Mainwaring and his foster-father were again by
themselves, the latter, noting the younger man's abstraction, said,-

"This is naturally a great shock to you, my boy, but it is only what
might be expected after such a life as hers.  You have done nothing
for which to censure yourself; you have done all that could be done
under existing conditions, and more than was actually required of
you; so you need have no regrets over the affair."

"I understand that, sir; but the thought that I cannot banish from
my mind is, knowing so well her treachery and deceit, is it possible
that she herself had a hand in the murder, and finding at last that
there was no hope of gaining my friendship, did she fear the
developments which might follow from what she had told?"

The elder man shook his head thoughtfully.  "We cannot say, my boy;
the thought occurred to me almost instantaneously, for, without
doubt, she both hated and feared him; but time alone will tell."




CHAPTER XXIV

BETWEEN THE ACTS


For the ten days next ensuing the public craving for sensational
developments in the Mainwaring case seemed likely to be gratified
to an unusual degree.  To the exciting scenes of the court-room was
added the suicide of Mrs. LaGrange, immediately followed by news of
the discovery that Richard Hobson, the unwilling witness in the
previous day's proceedings, had absconded, leaving not the slightest
indication of even the direction in which he had vanished.  By many
the suicide of the one and the sudden disappearance of the other,
occurring simultaneously, were considered as prima facie evidence
that the two, so closely associated with each other, had been in
some way connected with the Fair Oaks tragedy.

From this phase of the affair, however, public attention was
speedily diverted by the report that proceedings to contest the old
will had been instituted, but in the name of Ralph Mainwaring and
his brother, Harold W. Mainwaring; his son, the sole heir under the
will of Hugh Mainwaring, having altogether withdrawn from the
contest.  This had caused an open rupture between father and son,
and the latter had established himself in a suite of apartments at
the Murray Hill.

Young Mainwaring's course occasioned great surprise; many commended
his wisdom, but few gave him credit for the genuine sense of honor
which had actuated him.

"A neat little stroke of diplomacy," said one club-man to another,
"and worthy of Hugh Mainwaring himself!  There is no show for him,
anyway, and it's much better policy to yield the point now, don't
you see, than to fight it out along with that pig-headed father of
his."

"He understands on which side his bread is buttered, and don't you
forget it, my dear boy," was the laughing rejoinder.  "It's always
best to stand in with the winning side; he won't lose anything in
the long run, and he knows it."

Such remarks occasionally reached young Mainwaring, making him
exceedingly indignant.

"You may say, once and for all," he said to a reporter who was
interviewing him in his apartments at the Murray Hill, "that in
withdrawing from this contest I am not currying favor with Harold
Scott Mainwaring.  He and I are the best of friends, but that fact
would not hinder me from giving him a fair and square fight if
there were the slightest doubt as to the validity of his claim.
But there isn't; he has proved his right, legally and morally, to
the property, and that's enough for me."

"But Mr. Ralph Mainwaring must have some tenable ground for
contesting his claim," said the reporter, tentatively, hoping to
get some of the inside facts of the case.

Young Mainwaring froze instantly.  "I have nothing whatever to say,
sir, regarding the governor's action in this matter; any information
you desire on that point you will have to obtain from him."

The next development in the Mainwaring case was a report to the
effect that the whereabouts of Harold W. Mainwaring could not be
ascertained, and it was generally supposed among his London
associates that he had followed his brother to America by the next
steamer.  As this report was supplemented by the further facts that
he was a man of no principle, heavily involved in debt, and deeply
incensed at Ralph Mainwaring's success in securing for his son the
American estate in which he himself had expected to share, public
speculation was immediately aroused in a new direction, and "that
Mainwaring affair" became the absorbing topic, not alone at the
clubs and other places of masculine rendezvous, but at all social
gatherings as well.

Regarding the principal actors in this drama, however, around whom
public interest really centred, little could be definitely
ascertained.  To many, who, on the following morning, read the
details of the suicide at the Wellington, it was a matter of no
small wonder that the name of Harold Scott Mainwaring was not once
mentioned in connection with that of the woman shown by the
preceding day's testimony to have been so closely related to him.
Perhaps no one was more surprised at this omission than Merrick
himself but if so, his only comment was made mentally.

"He's got the cinch on them all around, and he'll win, hands down!"

The inquest, held at an early hour, was merely a matter of form,
the evidence of intentional suicide being conclusive, and the
interment, a few hours later, was strictly private.  Excepting the
clergyman who read the burial service, there were present only the
two sons of the wretched woman.

It was their first meeting since learning of the strange relationship
existing between them, and Walter LaGrange, as he entered the
presence of the dead, cast a curious glance, half shrinking, half
defiant, at the calm, stern face of Harold Mainwaring, who had
preceded him.  His own face was haggard and drawn, and the hard,
rigid lines deepened as his glance fell for an instant on the casket
between them.  Then his eyes looked straight into those of Harold
Mainwaring with an expression almost imploring.

"Tell me," he demanded in low, hoarse tones, "is it true that I am
--what she once said and what report is now saying--the son of
Hugh Mainwaring?"

"It is true," the other replied, gravely.

"Then curse them both!" he exclaimed, while his hands clinched
involuntarily.  "What right had they to blight and ruin my life?
What right had they to live as they did, and let the stigma, the
shame, the curse of it all fall on me?  A few months since, I had
the honor and respect of my classmates and associates; to-day, not
one will recognize me, and for no fault of mine!"

"Hush!" interposed Harold Mainwaring; "I know the wrong which has
been done you,--they have wronged me, also, far more deeply than
you know,--but this is no time or place to recall it!"

The calmness and kindness of his tones seemed to soothe and control
his excited companion.

"I know they have wronged you," the latter replied; "but they have
not ruined you!  You have not only friends and wealth, but, more
than all, your father's name.  I," he added bitterly, "am a pauper,
and worse than a pauper, for I have not even a name!"

For a few moments Harold Mainwaring silently studied the haggard
young face confronting him, in which anger was slowly giving place
to dull, sullen despair; and his own heart was suddenly moved with
pity for the boy.

"Robbed of his birthright before he was born," reared in an
atmosphere of treachery and deceit calculated to foster and develop
the evil tendencies already inherited; yet, notwithstanding all, so
closely akin to himself.

"Walter," he said, gravely, at the same time extending his hand
across the casket, "I realize the truth of much that you have said,
but you need not allow this to ruin or blight your life.  Mark my
words, your future from this time forth is, to a great extent, in
your own hands; your life will be what you make it, and you alone.
See to it that it is not blighted by your own wrong-doing!  Be
yourself a man of honor, and I will assure you, you can depend upon
me to stand by you and to help you."  Walter LaGrange raised his
eyes in astonishment at these words, containing a pledge of probably
the first genuine friendship he had ever known in his young life.
He gave a look, searching, almost cynical, into Harold Mainwaring's
face; then reading nothing but sincerity, he took the proffered hand,
saying brokenly,-

"Do you really mean it?  I supposed that you, of all others, would
despise me; and it would be no great wonder if you did!"

"It will depend entirely upon yourself, Walter, whether or not I
despise you.  If I ever do, it will be the result of your own
unworthiness, not because of the wrong-doing of others."

There were signs in the boy's face of a brief struggle between the
old pride, inherited from his mother, and the self-respect which
Harold Mainwaring's words had but just awakened.

"If it were the other fellow," he said, slowly, "the one the old
man intended to make his heir, had made me such a proposition, I
would tell him to go to the devil; but, by George!  if you will
stand by me, it's all right, and I'll be man enough anyway that
you'll never regret it."

A few days later, Walter LaGrange, penniless and friendless, had
disappeared, whither his former associates neither knew nor cared.
In a large banking establishment in one of the principal western
cities,--a branch of the firm of Mainwaring & Co.,--a young man,
known as the ward of Harold Scott Mainwaring, was entered as an
employee, with prospect of advancement should he prove himself
worthy of responsibility and trust.  But of this, as of many other
events just then quietly transpiring behind the scenes, little or
nothing was known.

Meanwhile, as the days slipped rapidly away, the party at the
Waldorf was not idle.  There were conferences, numerous and
protracted, behind closed doors, telegrams and cablegrams in cipher
flashed hither and thither in multitudinous directions, while Mr.
Sutherland seemed fairly ubiquitous.  Much of his time, however,
was spent in the private parlors of the English party, with frequent
journeys to the court-house to ascertain the status of the case.
From one of these trips he returned one evening jubilant.

"Well," said he, settling himself comfortably, with a sigh of
relief, "the first point in the case is decided in our favor."

"That is a good omen," Mr. Barton replied cheerfully; "but may I
inquire to what you refer?"

"I have succeeded in getting the date for the hearing set for the
next term of court, which opens early in December."

"I am glad to hear it; a little time just now is of the utmost
importance to our interests.  Did you have any difficulty in
securing a postponement until the next term?"

"Whitney, of course, opposed it strongly.  He said his client
wanted the matter settled at the earliest possible moment; but I
told him that so long as Ralph Mainwaring persisted in butting
against a stone wall, just so long a speedy settlement was out of
the question; it was bound to be a hard fight, and would be carried
over into the next term in any event.  Then I had a private
interview with Judge Bingham, and, without giving particulars, told
him that new developments had arisen, and, with a little time in
which to procure certain evidence, we would have our opponents
completely floored,--they would not even have an inch of room left
to stand upon,--while under present conditions, Mainwaring, so long
as he had a shilling, would, if beaten, move for a new trial, or
appeal to a higher court,--anything to keep up the fight.  So he
will grant us till December, which, I am inclined to think, will be
ample time."

"It looks now," said Mr. Barton, producing a telegram, "as though
we might succeed in securing that evidence much sooner than we have
anticipated.  What do you think of that?" and he handed the despatch
to Mr. Sutherland.

The face of the latter brightened as he glanced rapidly over the
yellow sheet.

"The dickens!  McCabe has left the city!" he exclaimed.

Mr. Barton bowed.  "Which means," he said in reply, "that he has
evidently struck the scent; and when he once starts on the trail,
it is only a question of time--and usually not any great length
of time, either--before he runs his game to cover."

"Well," ejaculated Mr. Sutherland, rubbing his hands together
enthusiastically, "I, for one, want to be 'in at the death' on this,
for it will simply be the finest piece of work, the grandest
denouement, of any case that has ever come within my twenty years of
legal experience!"

Mr. Barton smiled.  "My brother is evidently of the same opinion
with yourself," he said.  "I received a cablegram from him to-day,
requesting me to inform him at once of the date set for the hearing,
as he stated he would not, for a kingdom, fail of being present at
the trial."

With the announcement that the case of Mainwaring versus Mainwaring
had been set for the opening of the December term of court, the
public paused to take breath and to wonder at this unlooked-for
delay, but preparations for the coming contest were continued with
unabated vigor on both sides.  Contrary to all expectations, Ralph
Mainwaring, so far from objecting to the postponement of the case,
took special pains to express his entire satisfaction with this
turn of affairs.

"It is an indication of conscious weakness on their part," he
remarked with great complacency, as he and Mr. Whitney were dining
at the club on the following day.  "They have evidently discovered
some flaw in their defence which it will take some time to repair.
I can afford to wait, however; my attorneys and experts will soon
be here, and while our side could easily have been in readiness in
a much shorter time, this, of course, will give us an opportunity
for still more elaborate preparation, so that we will gain an
immense advantage over them."

"I suppose, Mr. Mainwaring," said one of his listeners, giving a
quick side-glance at his companions, "I suppose that during this
interim a truce will be declared, and for the time being there will
be a cessation of hostilities between the parties in interest, will
there not?"

"Sir!" roared Ralph Mainwaring, transfixing the speaker with a
stare calculated to annihilate him.

"I beg pardon, sir, I intended no offence," continued the
irrepressible young American, ignoring the warning signals from his
associates; "it only occurred to me that with such an immense
advantage on your side you could afford to be magnanimous and treat
your opponent with some consideration."

"I am not accustomed to showing magnanimity or consideration to any
but my own equals," the other rejoined, with freezing dignity; "and
the fact that my 'opponent,' as you are pleased to designate him,
is, for the present, allowed liberty to go and come at his pleasure,
although under strict surveillance, is, in this instance, sufficient
consideration."

"Harold Scott Mainwaring under surveillance?  Incredible!" exclaimed
one of the party in a low tone, while the first speaker remarked, "I
certainly was unaware that the gentleman in question was to be
regarded in the light of a suspected criminal!"

"It is to be presumed," said Ralph Mainwaring, haughtily, stung by
the tinge of irony in the other's tone, "that there are a number of
points in this case of which people in general are as yet unaware,
but upon which they are likely to become enlightened in the near
future, when this person who has assumed such a variety of roles
will be disclosed in his true light,--not that of a suspected
criminal merely, but of a condemned criminal, convicted by a chain
of evidence every link of which has been forged by himself."

There was an ominous silence as Ralph Mainwaring rose from the
table, broken at last by an elderly gentleman seated at a little
distance, who, while apparently an interested listener, had taken
no part in the conversation.

"Begging your pardon, Mr. Mainwaring, I would judge the charges
which you would prefer against this young man to be unusually
serious; may I inquire their nature?"

The words were spoken with the utmost deliberation, but in the calm,
even tones there was an implied challenge, which was all that was
needed at that instant to fan Ralph Mainwaring's wrath into a flame.
Utterly disregarding a cautionary glance from Mr. Whitney, he turned
his monocle upon the speaker, glaring at him in contemptuous silence
for a moment.

"You have decidedly the advantage of me, sir, but allow me to say
that the person under discussion has not only, with unheard of
effrontery, publicly and unblushingly proclaimed himself as a
blackmailer and knave, capable of descending to any perfidy or
treachery for the purpose of favoring his own base schemes, but he
has also, in his inordinate greed and ambition, unwittingly proved
himself by his own statements and conduct to be a villain of the
deepest dye; and I will say, furthermore, that if Harold Scott
Mainwaring, as he styles himself, ends his days upon the gallows
in expiation of the foul murder of Hugh Mainwaring, he will have
only himself to thank, for his own words and deeds will have put
the noose about his neck."

Having thus expressed himself, Ralph Mainwaring, without waiting
for reply, left the room accompanied by Mr. Whitney.  The latter
made no comment until they were seated in the carriage and rolling
down the avenue; then he remarked, casually,-

"I was surprised, Mr. Mainwaring, that you failed to recognize the
gentleman who addressed you as you were leaving the table."

"His face was somewhat familiar; I have met him, but I cannot recall
when or where.  I considered his tone decidedly offensive, however,
and I proposed, whoever he might be, to give him to understand that
I would brook no interference.  Do you know him?"

"I have never met him, but I know of him," the attorney replied,
watching his client closely.  "He is the Honorable J. Ponsonby Roget,
Q. C., of London.  I supposed of course that you knew him."

"J. Ponsonby Roget, Queen's Counsel?  Egad! I have met him, but it
was years ago, and he has aged so that I did not recognize him.
Strange!" he added, visibly annoyed.  "What the deuce is he doing
in this country?"

"That is just what no one is able to say," replied the attorney,
slowly.  "He is stopping at the Waldorf, with our friends, the
English party, but whether as a guest or in a professional capacity,
no one has been able to ascertain."

"Zounds, man!  why did you not give me this information earlier?"

"For the good and sufficient reason, Mr. Mainwaring, that I did not
learn of the facts myself until within the last two hours.  My
attention was called to the gentleman as I entered the club.  I
assumed, of course, that you knew him, at least by sight, and when
he addressed you I supposed for the instant that you were
acquaintances."

"But how came he at the club?  None of the party from the Waldorf
were with him."

"He was there as the especial guest of Chief-Justice Parmalee, of
the Supreme Court, the gentleman on his left.  Judge Parmalee spent
much of his life in London, and the two are particular friends."

"Well, it's done, and can't be undone, and I don't know that I
regret it," Ralph Mainwaring remarked, sullenly.  "If he chooses to
identify himself with that side of the case he is at liberty to do
so, but he has my opinion of his client gratis."

Mr. Whitney made no reply, and the drive was concluded in silence.

Meanwhile, Ralph Mainwaring had no sooner left the club than a
chorus of exclamations, protests, and running comments arose on
all sides.

"Harold Scott Mainwaring the murderer of Hugh Mainwaring!  That is
carrying this farce beyond all bounds!"

"If he cannot get possession of the property in any other way, he
will send the new heir to the gallows, eh?"

"He will attempt it, too; he is desperate," said one.

"He may make it pretty serious for the young fellow," said another,
thoughtfully.  "You remember, by his own statements he was the last
person who saw Hugh Mainwaring alive; in fact, he was in his library
within a few moments preceding his death; and after all that has
been brought to light, it's not to be supposed that he had any great
affection for his uncle."

"What is this, gentlemen?" said a reporter, briskly, appearing on
the scene, note-book in hand.  "Any new developments in the
Mainwaring case?"

"Yes, a genuine sensation!" shouted two or three voices.

"Gentlemen, attention a moment!" said a commanding voice outside,
and an instant later a tall, well-known form entered.

"The ubiquitous Mr. Sutherland!" laughingly announced a jovial
young fellow, standing near the entrance.

"Sutherland, how is this?" demanded one of the elder gentlemen.
"Have you a private battery concealed about your person with
invisible wires distributed throughout the city, that you seem to
arrive at any and every spot just on the nick of time?"

"That is one of the secrets of the profession, Mr. Norton, not to
be revealed to the uninitiated," replied the attorney, while a
quick glance flashed between himself and the Queen's Counsel.

"There is one thing, gentlemen," he continued, with great dignity,
"to which I wish to call your attention, particularly you gentlemen
of the press.  I am aware of the nature of the 'sensation' of which
you made mention a moment ago, but I wish it distinctly understood
that it is to be given no publicity whatever.  The name of my client
is not to be bandied about before the public in connection with any
of Ralph Mainwaring's imputations or vilifications, for the reason
that they are wholly without foundation.  We are thoroughly
cognizant of that gentleman's intentions regarding our client, and
we will meet him on his own ground.  In the coming contest we will
not only establish beyond all shadow of doubt our client's sole
right and title to the Mainwaring estate, but we will, at the same
time, forever refute and silence any and every aspersion which Ralph
Mainwaring may seek to cast upon him.  Even were there any truth
in these insinuations, it would be time enough, when the charges
should be preferred against our client, to brazen them before the
public, but since they are only the product of spleen and malignity,
simply consign them to the odium and obloquy to which they are
entitled."

"That is right!" responded two or three voices, while the reporter
replied, courteously,-

"We will certainly respect your wishes, sir; but you see the public
is on the qui vive, so to speak, over this case, and it is our
business to get hold of every item which we can to add to the
interest.  You have checked us off on some rather interesting matter
already, I believe."

"Perhaps so," said Mr. Sutherland, quietly, "but I can promise you
that before long there will be developments in the case which will
give you boys all the interesting matter you will need for some
time, and they will be fact, not fabrication."

As the result of Mr. Sutherland's prompt action, the newspapers
contained no allusion to that evening's scene at the club; but even
his energy and caution were powerless to prevent the spread of the
affair from lip to lip.  Mentioned scarcely above a whisper, the
report rippled onward, the waves widening in all directions, with
various alterations and additions, till it was regarded as an open
secret in all circles of society.  It reached young Mainwaring in
his rather secluded bachelor quarters at the Murray Hill, and he
bowed his head in shame that a Mainwaring should stoop to so
disgraceful an exhibition of his venomous rage and hatred.  It
reached Harold Scott Mainwaring, and the smouldering fire in the
dark eyes gleamed afresh and the proud face grew rigid and stern.
Donning overcoat and hat, he left his apartments at the Waldorf;
and started forth in the direction of the club most frequented by
Ralph Mainwaring and Mr. Whitney.

He had gone but a short distance when he met young Mainwaring.  The
young men exchanged cordial greetings, and, at Harold's request, his
cousin retraced his steps to accompany him.

"Why are you making such a stranger of yourself, Hugh?  I have
scarcely seen you of late," said Harold, after a little general
conversation.

"Well, to be frank with you, old boy, I haven't been around so often
as I would like for two reasons; for one thing, I find people
generally are not inclined to regard our friendship in the same light
that we do.  You and I understand one another, and you don't suspect
me of any flunkeyism, or any ulterior motive, don't you know,--"

"I understand perfectly," said Harold, as his cousin paused, seeming
to find some difficulty in conveying his exact meaning; "and so
long as you and I do understand each other, what is the use of
paying any attention to outsiders?  Whether we were friends, or
refused to recognize one another, their small talk and gossip would
flow on forever, so why attempt to check it?"

"I believe you are right; but that isn't all of it, don't you know.
What I care most about is the governor's losing his head in the way
he has lately.  It is simply outrageous, the reports he has started
in circulation!"

Hugh paused and glanced anxiously into his cousin's face, but the
frank, brotherly kindness which he read there reassured him.

"My dear cousin," said Harold, warmly, "nothing that Ralph
Mainwaring can ever say or do shall make any difference between us.
There are but two contingencies in this connection that I regret."

"And those are what?" the younger man questioned eagerly.

"That he bears the name of Mainwaring, and that he is your father!"

"By Jove!  I'm with you on that," the other exclaimed heartily, "and
I hope you'll win every point in the game; but I've been awfully
cut up over what he has said and done recently.  I know that he
intends to carry his threats into execution, and I'm afraid he'll
make it deucedly unpleasant for you, don't you know."

They had reached the club-house, and Harold Mainwaring, as he paused
on the lowest step, smiled brightly into the boyish face, regarding
him with such solicitude.

"I understand his intentions as well as you, and know that it would
give him great delight to carry them into execution; but, my dear
boy, he will never have the opportunity to even make the attempt."

Young Mainwaring's face brightened.  "Why, are you prepared to head
him off in that direction?  By Jove!  I'm right glad to know it.
Well, I'll be around to the Waldorf in the course of a day or two
 No, much obliged, but I don't care to go into the club-rooms
to-night; in fact, I haven't been in there since the governor made
that after-dinner speech of his.  Good-night!"

As Harold Mainwaring sauntered carelessly through the club-rooms,
returning the greetings of the select circle of friends which he
had made, he was conscious of glances of interest and undisguised
curiosity from the many with whom he had no acquaintance.  No
allusion was made to the subject which he well knew was in their
minds, however, until, meeting Mr. Chittenden, the latter drew him
aside into an alcove.

"I say, my dear Mainwaring, are you aware that your esteemed kinsman
has you under strict surveillance?"

Mainwaring smiled, though his eyes flashed.  "I am aware that he
has made statements to that effect, although, thus far, his
'surveillance' has interfered in no way either with my duties or
pleasures, nor do I apprehend that it will."

"My dear fellow, it is simply preposterous!  The man must be insane."

"Is he here this evening?" Mainwaring inquired.

"No; to tell the truth, he has not found it so very congenial here
since that outbreak of his; he seldom is here now, excepting, of
course, at meals.  Mr. Whitney is here, however."

"I came here," Harold Mainwaring replied, "with the express purpose
of meeting one or the other, or both; on the whole, it will be
rather better to meet Mr. Whitney."

"No trouble, no unpleasant words, I hope?" said the elder man,
anxiously.

"Mr. Chittenden, when you knew me as Hugh Mainwaring's private
secretary, you knew me as a gentleman; I trust I shall never be
less."

"You are right, you are right, my boy, and I beg your pardon; but
young blood is apt to be hasty, you know."

A little later Harold Mainwaring strolled leisurely across the large
reading-room to a table where Mr. Whitney was seated.  The latter,
seeing him, rose to greet him, while his sensitive face flushed
with momentary excitement.

"Mr. Mainwaring, I am delighted to meet you.  I had hoped from the
friendly tone of that rather mysterious note of yours, upon your
somewhat abrupt departure, that we might meet again soon, and,
though it is under greatly altered circumstances, I am proud to
have the opportunity of congratulating you."

The younger man responded courteously, and for a few moments the
two chatted pleasantly upon subjects of general interest, while
many pairs of eyes looked on in silent astonishment, wondering what
this peculiar interview might portend.

At last, after a slight pause, Harold Mainwaring remarked, calmly,
"Mr. Whitney, I understand that, when the coming litigation is
terminated, your client intends to institute proceedings against me
of a far different nature,--criminal proceedings, in fact."

The attorney colored and started nervously, then replied in a low
tone, "Mr. Mainwaring, let us withdraw to one of the side rooms;
this is rather a public place for any conversation regarding those
matters."

"It is none too public for me, Mr. Whitney, as I have nothing
unpleasant to say towards yourself personally, and nothing which I
am not perfectly willing should be heard by any and every individual
in these rooms to-night.  You have not yet answered my inquiry, Mr.
Whitney."

The attorney paused for a moment, as though laboring under great
excitement, then he spoke in a tone vibrating with strong emotion,-

"Mr. Mainwaring, regarding my client's intentions, you have, in all
probability, been correctly informed.  I believe that he has made
statements at various times to that effect, and I am now so well
acquainted with him that I know there is no doubt but that he will
attempt to carry out what he has threatened.  But, Mr. Mainwaring, I
wish to say a word or two for myself.  In the coming litigation
over the estate, I, as Ralph Mainwaring's counsel, am bound to do
my part without any reference to my own personal opinions or
prejudices, and I expect to meet you and your counsel in an open
fight,--perhaps a bitter one.  But this much I have to say: Should
Ralph Mainwaring undertake to bring against you any action of the
character which he has threatened," here Mr. Whitney rose to his
feet and brought his hand down with a ringing blow upon the table
at his side, "he will have to employ other counsel than myself, for
I will have nothing whatever to do with such a case."

He paused a moment, then continued: "I do not claim to understand
you perfectly, Mr. Mainwaring.  I will confess you have always been
a mystery to me, and you are still.  There are depths about you that
I cannot fathom.  But I do believe in your honor, your integrity,
and your probity, and as for taking part in any action reflecting
upon your character, or incriminating you in any respect, I never
will!"

A roar of applause resounded through the club-rooms as he concluded.
When it had subsided, Harold Mainwaring replied,-

"Mr. Whitney, I thank you for this public expression of your
confidence in me.  The relations between us in the past have been
pleasant, and I trust they will continue so in the future.  As I
stated, however, I came here to-night with no unfriendly feeling
towards yourself, but to ask you to be the bearer of a message
from me to your client.  Ralph Mainwaring, not content with trying
by every means within his power to deprive me of my right and
title to the estate for years wrongfully withheld from my father
and from myself, now accuses me of being the murderer of Hugh
Mainwaring. I say to Ralph Mainwaring, for me, that, not through
what he terms my 'inordinate greed and ambition,' but through
God-given rights which no man can take from me, I will have my
own, and he is powerless to prevent it or to stand in my way.  But
say to him that I will never touch one farthing of this property
until I stand before the world free and acquitted of the most remote
shadow of the murder of Hugh Mainwaring; nor until the foul and
dastardly crime that stains Fair Oaks shall have been avenged!"

Amid the prolonged applause that followed, Harold Mainwaring left
the building.




CHAPTER XXV

RUN TO COVER


A dull, cheerless day in the early part of December was merging
into a stormy night as the west-bound express over one of the
transcontinental railways, swiftly winding its way along the
tortuous course of a Rocky Mountain canyon, suddenly paused before
the long, low depot of a typical western mining city.  The arc
lights swinging to and fro shed only a ghastly radiance through the
dense fog, and grotesque shadows, dancing hither and thither to the
vibratory motion of the lights, seemed trying to contest supremacy
with the feeble rays.

The train had not come to a full stop when a man sprang lightly
from one of the car platforms, and, passing swiftly through the
waiting crowd, concealed himself in the friendly shelter of the
shadows, where he remained oblivious to the rain falling in
spiteful dashes, while he scanned the hurrying crowd surging in
various directions.  Not one of the crowd observed him; not one
escaped his observation.  Soon his attention was riveted upon a
tall man, closely muffled in fur coat and cap, who descended from
one of the rear coaches, and, after a quick, cautious glance about
him, passed the silent, motionless figure in the shadow and hastily
entered a carriage standing near.  The other, listening intently
for the instructions given the driver, caught the words, "545
Jefferson Street."

As the carriage rolled away, he emerged from the shadow and jotted
down the address in a small note-book, soliloquizing as he did so,-

"I have tracked him to his lair at last, and now, unless that
infernal hoodoo looms upon the scene, I can get in my work in good
shape.  I would have had my game weeks ago, but for his appearance,
confound him!"

He looked at his watch.  "Dinner first," he muttered, "the next
thing in order is to find the alias under which my gentleman is at
present travelling.  No one seems to know much about him in these
parts."

The dim light revealed a man below medium height, his form enveloped
in a heavy English mackintosh thrown carelessly about his shoulders,
which, as he made his notes, blew partially open, revealing an
immaculate shirt front and a brilliant diamond which scintillated
and sparkled in open defiance of the surrounding gloom.  A soft felt
hat well pulled down concealed his eyes and the upper part of his
face, leaving visible only a slightly aquiline nose and heavy, black
mustache, which gave his face something of a Jewish cast.  Replacing
his note-book in his pocket, he called a belated carriage, and
hastily gave orders to be taken to the Clifton House.

Arriving at the hotel, the stranger registered as "A. Rosenbaum,
Berlin," and, having secured one of the best rooms the house afforded,
repaired to the dining-room.  Dinner over, Mr. Rosenbaum betook
himself to a quiet corner of the office, which served also as a
reading-room, and soon was apparently absorbed in a number of Eastern
papers, both English and German, though a keen observer would have
noted that the papers were occasionally lowered sufficiently to give
the eyes--again concealed beneath the hat-brim--an opportunity for
reconnoitering the situation.  He was attired in a black suit of
faultless fit, and a superb ruby on his left hand gleamed and glowed
like living fire, rivalling in beauty the flashing diamond.  He
speedily became the subject of considerable speculation among the
various classes of men congregating in the hotel office, most of
them for an evening of social enjoyment, though a few seemed to have
gathered there for the purpose of conducting business negotiations.
Among the latter, after a time, was the tall man in fur coat and
cap, who appeared to be waiting for some one with whom he had an
appointment, as he shunned the crowd, selecting a seat near Mr.
Rosenbaum as the most quiet place available.  Having removed his
cap and thrown back the high collar of his fur coat, he appeared to
be a man of about fifty years of age, with iron-gray hair and a full,
heavy beard of the same shade.  He wore dark glasses, and, having
seated himself with his back towards the light, drew forth from his
pocket a number of voluminous type-written documents, and became
absorbed in a perusal of their contents.

Meanwhile, the proprietor of the Clifton House, feeling considerable
curiosity regarding his new guest, sauntered over in his direction.

"Well, Mr. Rosenbaum," he remarked, genially, "you have hit on
rather a stormy night for your introduction to our city, for I take
it you are a stranger here, are you not?"

The soft hat was raised slightly, revealing a rather stolid,
expressionless face, with dark eyes nearly concealed by long lashes.

"Not the most agreeable, certainly," he answered, with an expressive
shrug and a marked German accent, at the same time ignoring the
other's question.

"Your first impressions are not likely to be very pleasant, but if
you stop over a few days you will see we have a fine city.  Do you
remain here long?"

"I cannot say at present; depends entirely upon business, you
understand."

"I see.  What's your line?"

For reply the stranger handed the other a small card, on which was
engraved, "Rosenbaum Brothers, Diamond Brokers, Berlin," and bearing
on one corner his own name, "A. Rosenbaum."

"Diamond brokers, eh?  You don't say!" exclaimed the proprietor,
regarding the bit of pasteboard with visible respect.  "Must be quite
a business.  You represent this firm, I suppose; you are their
salesman?"

The stranger shook his head with a smile.  "We have no salesmen," he
answered, quietly.  "We have branch houses in Paris, London, and New
York, but we employ no travelling salesmen.  Any one can sell
diamonds; my business is to buy them," with marked emphasis on the
last words.

"Well," said his interlocutor, "you're not looking for 'em out here,
are you?"

"Why not here as well as anywhere?  So far as my experience goes,
it is nothing uncommon in this part of the country to run across
owners of fine stones who, for one reason or another, are very glad
to exchange the same for cash."

"Yes, I suppose so.  When a fellow gets down to bedrock, he'll put
up most anything to make a raise."

"There are many besides those who are down to bedrock, as you call
it, who are glad to make an exchange of that kind," said Mr.
Rosenbaum, speaking with deliberation and keeping an eye upon his
neighbor in the fur coat; "but their reasons, whatever they may be,
do not concern us; our business is simply to buy the gems wherever
we can find them and ask no questions."

By this time a fourth man was approaching in their direction,
evidently the individual for whom the man in the fur coat was
waiting, and Mr. Rosenbaum, thinking it time to put an end to the
conversation, rose and began to don his mackintosh.

"Surely you are not going out to-night!" said the proprietor; "better
stay indoors, and I'll make you acquainted with some of the boys."

"Much obliged, but an important engagement compels me to forego that
pleasure," said Mr. Rosenbaum, and, bidding his host good-evening, he
sallied forth, well aware that every word of their conversation had
been overheard by their silent neighbor, notwithstanding the
voluminous documents which seemed to engross his attention.

Passing out into the night, he found the storm fast abating.
Stopping at a news-stand, he inquired for a directory, which he
carefully studied for a few moments, then walked down the principal
thoroughfare until, coming to a side street, he turned and for a
number of blocks passed up one street and down another, plunging at
last into a dark alley.

Upon emerging therefrom a block away, the soft felt hat had given
place to a jaunty cap, while a pair of gold-rimmed eye-glasses
perched upon the aquiline nose gave the wearer a decidedly youthful
and debonnaire appearance.  Approaching a secluded house in a dimly
lighted location, he glanced sharply at the number, as though to
reassure himself, then running swiftly up the front steps, he
pulled the door-bell vigorously and awaited developments.  After
considerable delay the door was unlocked and partially opened by a
hatchet-faced woman, who peered cautiously out, her features lighted
by the uncertain rays of a candle which the draught momentarily
threatened to extinguish.

"Good-evening, madam," said the stranger, airily.  "Pardon such an
unseasonable call, but I wish to see Mr. Lovering, who, I understand,
has rooms here."

"There's no such person rooming here," she replied, sharply, her
manner indicating that this bit of information ended the interview,
but her interlocutor was not to be so easily dismissed.

"No such person!" he exclaimed, at the same time scrutinizing in
apparent perplexity a small card which he had produced.  "J. D.
Lovering, 545 Jefferson Street; isn't this 545, madam?"

"Yes," she answered, testily, "this is 545; but there's nobody here
by the name of Lovering."

The young man turned as if to go.  "Have you any roomers at present?"
he inquired, doubtfully.

"I have one, but his name is Mannering."

"Mannering," he repeated, thoughtfully, once more facing her; "I
wonder if I am not mistaken in the name?  Will you kindly describe
Mr. Mannering?"

The woman hesitated, eying him suspiciously.  "He ain't likely to
be the man you want," she said, slowly, "for he don't have no
callers, and he never goes anywhere, except out of the city once in
a while on business.  He's an oldish man, with dark hair and beard
streaked with gray, and he wears dark glasses."

"Ah, no," the young man interrupted hastily, "that is not the man at
all; the man I am looking for is rather young and a decided blond.
I am sorry to have troubled you, madam; I beg a thousand pardons,"
and with profuse apologies he bowed himself down the steps, to the
evident relief of the landlady.

As the door closed behind him, Mr. Rosenbaum paused a moment to
reconnoitre.  The house he had just left was the only habitable
building visible in the immediate vicinity, but a few rods farther
down the street was a small cabin, whose dilapidated appearance
indicated that it was unoccupied.  Approaching the cabin cautiously,
Mr. Rosenbaum tried the door; it offered but slight resistance, and,
entering, he found it, as he had surmised, empty and deserted.
Stationing himself near a window which overlooked No. 545, he
regarded the isolated dwelling with considerable interest.  It was
a two-story structure with a long extension in the rear, only one
story in height.  With the exception of a dim light in this rear
portion, the house was entirely dark, which led Mr. Rosenbaum to
the conclusion that the landlady's private apartments were in this
part of the building and remote from the room occupied by her lodger,
which he surmised to be the front room on the second floor, a side
window of which faced the cabin.

For more than an hour Mr. Rosenbaum remained at his post, and at
last had the satisfaction of seeing the tall figure in the fur coat
approaching down the dimly lighted street.  He ascended the steps
of 545, let himself in with a night-key, and a moment later the gas
in the upper front room was turned on, showing Mr. Rosenbaum's
surmise to be correct.  For an instant the flaring flame revealed
a pale face without the dark glasses, and with a full, dark beard
tinged with gray; then it was lowered and the window blinds were
closely drawn, precluding the possibility of further observation.
The face was like and yet unlike what Mr. Rosenbaum had expected
to see; he determined upon a nearer and better view, without the
dark glasses, before making any decisive move.

The following evening, as soon as it was dusk, found Mr. Rosenbaum
again at the window of the deserted cabin, keenly observant of No.
545.  A faint light burned in the rear of the lower floor, while in
the front room upstairs a fire was evidently burning in an open
grate, the rest of the house being in darkness.  Presently a man's
figure, tall and well formed, could be seen pacing up and down the
room, appearing, vanishing, and reappearing in the wavering
firelight.  For nearly an hour he continued his perambulation, his
hands clasped behind him as though absorbed in deep thought.  At
last, arousing himself from his revery, the man looked at his watch
and vanished, reappearing ten minutes later at the front door, in
the usual fur coat and cap, and, descending the steps, turned
towards town and proceeded leisurely down the street, Mr. Rosenbaum
following at some distance, but always keeping him in view and
gradually diminishing the distance between them as the thoroughfare
became more crowded, till they were nearly opposite each other.

Finally, the man paused before a restaurant and, turning, looked
carefully up and down the street.  For the first time he observed
Mr. Rosenbaum and seemed to regard him with close attention, but
the latter gentleman was absorbed in the contemplation of an
assortment of diamonds and various gems displayed in a jeweller's
window, directly opposite the restaurant.  In the mirrored back of
the show-case the restaurant was plainly visible, and Mr. Rosenbaum
noted with satisfaction the other's evident interest in himself,
and continued to study the contents of the show-case till the man
had entered the restaurant, seating himself at one of the
unoccupied tables.  Having observed his man well started on the
first course of dinner, Mr. Rosenbaum crossed the street slowly,
entered the restaurant and with a pre-occupied air seated himself
at the same table with Mr. Mannering.  After giving his order, he
proceeded to unfold the evening paper laid beside his plate, without
even a glance at his vis-a-vis.  His thoughts, however, were not
on the printed page, but upon the man opposite, whom he had followed
from city to city, hearing of him by various names and under various
guises; hitherto unable to obtain more than a fleeting glimpse of
him, but now brought face to face.

"Alias Henry J. Mannering at last!" he commented mentally, as he
refolded his paper; "you have led me a long chase, my man, but you
and I will now have our little game, and I will force you to show
your hand before it is over!"

Glancing casually across at his neighbor, he found the dark glasses
focused upon himself with such fixity that he responded with a
friendly nod, and, making some trivial remark, found Mr. Mannering
not at all averse to conversation.  A few commonplaces were exchanged
until the arrival of Mr. Rosenbaum's order, when the other remarked,-

"Evidently you do not find the cuisine of the Clifton House entirely
satisfactory."

"It is very good," Mr. Rosenbaum answered, indifferently, "but an
occasional change is agreeable.  By the way, sir, have I met you at
the Clifton?  I do not remember to have had that pleasure."

"We have not met," replied the other.  "I saw you there last evening,
however, as I happened in soon after your arrival."

"Ah, so?  I am very deficient in remembering faces."

Mr. Mannering hesitated a moment, then remarked with a smile, "I,
on the contrary, am quite observant of faces, and yours seems
somewhat familiar; have I not seen you elsewhere than here?"

Mr. Rosenbaum raised his eyebrows in amusement.  "It is very possible
you have, my dear sir; I travel constantly, and for aught that I
know you may have seen me in nearly every city on the globe.  May I
inquire your business, sir?  Do you also travel?"

"No," said Mr. Mannering, slowly, but apparently relieved by Mr.
Rosenbaum's answer, "I am not engaged in any particular line of
business at present.  I am interested in mining to a considerable
extent, and am out here just now looking after my properties.  How
do you find business in your line?"

Mr. Rosenbaum shook his head with a slight shrug.

"Nothing so far to make it worth my while to stay.  You see, sir,
for such a trade as ours we want only the finest gems that can be
bought; we have no use for ordinary stones, and that is all I have
seen here so far;" and, having thrown out his bait, he awaited
results.

A long pause followed, while Mr. Mannering toyed with his fork,
drawing numerous diagrams on the table-cloth.

"I think," he said at last, slowly, "that I could get you one or two
fine diamonds if you cared to buy and would give anything like their
true valuation."

"That would depend, of course, upon the quality of the diamonds;
really fine gems we are always ready to buy and to pay a good price
for."

"If I am any judge of diamonds, these are valuable stones," said Mr.
Mannering, "and the owner of them, who is a friend of mine, being
himself a connoisseur in that line, would not be likely to entertain
any false ideas regarding their value."

"And your friend wishes to sell them?"

"I am inclined to think that he might dispose of one or two for a
sufficient consideration, subject, however, to one condition,--that
no questions will be asked."

"That goes without saying, my dear sir; asking questions is not our
business.  We are simply looking for the finest stones that money
can buy, without regard to anything else.  Perhaps," added Mr.
Rosenbaum, tentatively, "we might arrange with your friend for a
meeting between the three of us."

"That would be impracticable," Mr. Mannering replied; "he is out of
the city; and furthermore I know he would not care to appear in the
transaction, but would prefer to have me conduct the negotiations.
I was going to suggest that if you were to remain here a few days,
I shall see my friend in a day or so, as I am going out to look
over some mining properties in which we are both interested, and I
could bring in some of the gems with me, and we might then see what
terms we could make."

"I can remain over, sir, if you can make it an object for me, and
if the stones prove satisfactory I have no doubt we can make terms.
Why, sir," Mr. Rosenbaum leaned across the table and his voice
assumed a confidential tone, "money would be no object with me if I
could get one or two particular gems that I want.  For instance, I
have one diamond that I would go to the ends of the earth and pay
a small fortune when I got there, if I could only find a perfect
match for it!" and he launched forth upon an enthusiastic description
of the stone, expatiating upon its enormous size, its wonderful
brilliancy and perfection, adding in conclusion, "and its workmanship
shows it to be at least two hundred years old!  Think of that, sir!
What would I not give to be able to match it!"

A peculiar expression flitted over his listener's face, not
unobserved by Mr. Rosenbaum.  He made no immediate response, however,
but when at last the two men separated, it was with the agreement
that they should dine together at the same café three days later,
when Mr. Mannering would have returned from his conference with his
friend, at which time, if the latter cared to dispose of his jewels,
they would be submitted for inspection.

Upon retiring to his room that night, Mr. Rosenbaum sat for some
time in deep abstraction, and when he finally turned off the gas,
he murmured,-

"He will produce the jewels all right, and may Heaven preserve us
both from the hoodoo!"

For the two days next ensuing, Mr. Rosenbaum watched closely the
arrivals in the city, but, notwithstanding his vigilance, there
slipped in unaware, on the evening of the second day, a quiet,
unassuming man, who went to the Windsor Hotel, registering there
as "A. J. Johnson, Chicago."  At a late hour, while Mr. Rosenbaum,
in the solitude of his own room, was perfecting his plans for the
following day, Mr. Johnson, who was making a tour of inspection
among the leading hotels, sauntered carelessly into the office of
the Clifton.  He seemed rather socially inclined, and soon was
engaged in conversation with the proprietor and a dozen of the
"boys," all of whom were informed that he was travelling through
the West on the lookout for "snaps" in the way of mining investments.
This announcement produced general good feeling, and there were not
wanting plenty who offered to take Mr. Johnson around the city on
the following day and introduce him to the leading mining men and
promoters.

"Much obliged, boys," said Mr. Johnson, "but there's no rush.  I
expect to meet some friends here in a few days, and till they come
I shall simply look around on the q. t., you understand, and make
some observations for myself.  And that reminds me, gentlemen," he
added, "do any of you happen to know a man by the name of Mannering,
who is interested in mines out here?"

"Mannering?" answered one of the group; "there's a man by that name
has been around here off and on for the last two or three months;
but I didn't know he was interested in mines to any extent, though
he seems to have plenty of money."

"I think that is the man I have in mind; will you describe him?"

"Well, he's tall, about middle age, rather gray, wears blue glasses,
and never has anything to say to anybody; a queer sort of fellow."

Mr. Johnson nodded, but before he could reply, another in the group
remarked, "Oh, that's the fellow you mean, is it?  I've seen him at
the Royal Café for the last six weeks, and in all that time he's
never exchanged a dozen words with anybody, till here, the other
night, that diamond Dutchman of yours," addressing the proprietor
of the Clifton, "came waltzing in there, and I'll be hanged if the
two didn't get as confidential over their dinner as two old women
over a cup of tea."

Mr. Johnson turned towards the proprietor with a quiet smile.  "The
'diamond Dutchman'!  Is he a guest of your house?"

"Mr. Rosenbaum?"

"Yes; do you know him?"

"Not by name, but I think I have seen the gentleman on my travels;
engaged in the jewelry business, isn't he, and carries his
advertisements on his shirt-front and fingers?"

"That's the man," the proprietor replied, amid a general laugh.
"Why?"  He's all right, isn't he?"

"All right for aught that I know, sir; I haven't the pleasure of
the gentleman's acquaintance, though possibly I may have if we both
remain here long enough," and he carelessly turned the subject of
conversation.

A little later, as Mr. Johnson left the Clifton, he soliloquized,
"Well, if I haven't exactly killed two birds with one stone, I think
I've snared two birds in one trap.  Since coming West I haven't
located one without seeing or hearing of the other; it's my belief
they're 'pals,' and if I can pull in the pair, so much the better."

The following evening found Mr. Johnson in the vicinity of the Royal
Café; having discovered a small newsstand opposite, he strolled in
thither, and, buying a couple of papers, seated himself in a quiet
corner, prepared to take observations.  He had not waited long when
Mr. Mannering made his appearance, and, after pausing a moment to
look up and down the street, entered the restaurant.  He had been
seated but a moment when Mr. Rosenbaum appeared, crossing the street,
having evidently left the jeweller's store, and also entered the
café.  The two men shook hands and immediately withdrew to one of
the private boxes.  Mr. Johnson had visited the Royal Café earlier
in the day and made himself familiar with its interior arrangement.
Knowing the box just taken to be No. 3, and that No. 4 directly
opposite was unoccupied, he at once proceeded across the street to
the restaurant.  Stopping at the cashier's desk, he said in a low
tone, "I expect some friends later, and don't wish to be disturbed
till they come; understand?"

The man nodded, and Mr. Johnson passed on noiselessly into No. 4.
Meanwhile, the occupants of No. 3 having received their orders,
dismissed the waiter, with the information that when they needed
his services they would ring for him.  Mr. Mannering was visibly
excited, so much so that his dinner remained almost untasted, and
the other, observing his evident agitation, pushed aside his own
plate and, folding his arms upon the table, inquired indifferently,-

"Well, my dear sir, what was your friend's decision?"

For reply, the other drew from his pocket a small case, which he
silently handed across the table.  Mr. Rosenbaum opened it,
disclosing, as he did so, a pair of diamonds of moderate size, but
of unusual brilliancy and perfectly matched.  He examined them
silently, scrutinizing them closely, while his face indicated
considerable dissatisfaction.

"What does your friend expect for these?" he asked at length.

"What will you give for them?" was the counter-question.

"I do not care to set a price on them, for I do not want them," he
replied, rather shortly.

"I think," said Mr. Mannering, "that my friend would dispose of
them at a reasonable figure, as he is at present in need of ready
cash with which to consummate an important mining negotiation."

After considerable fencing and parrying, Mr. Rosenbaum made an offer
for the gems, to which Mr. Mannering demurred.

"Show me a higher class of gems and I will offer you a better price,"
said Mr. Rosenbaum, finally seeming to grow impatient.  "Show me one
like this, for instance, and I will offer you a small fortune," and
opening a case which he had quickly drawn from his pocket, he took
from it an enormous diamond, beside whose dazzling brilliancy the
pair of gems under consideration seemed suddenly to grow dim and
lustreless.  He held it up and a thousand rays of prismatic light
flashed in as many different directions.

"What do you think of that, my dear sir?  When I can find a match
for that magnificent stone, we can fill an order which we have held
for more than twelve months from the royal house in Germany.  But
where will I find it?"

Twirling the gem carelessly between his thumb and finger, he watched
the face of his companion and saw it change to a deathly pallor.

"May I see that for one moment?" he asked, and his voice sounded
unnatural and constrained, while the hand which he extended across
the table trembled visibly.

"Most certainly, sir," Mr. Rosenbaum replied, and, in compliance
with the request, handed to Mr. Mannering the gem which the latter
had himself disposed of less than three months before in one of the
large Western cities.  Nothing could escape the piercing eyes now
fastened upon that face with its strange pallor, its swiftly
changing expression.  Unconscious of this scrutiny, Mr. Mannering
regarded the gem silently, then removed his glasses for a closer
inspection.  Having satisfied his curiosity, he returned the stone
to Mr. Rosenbaum, and as he did so, found the eyes of the latter
fixed not upon the gem, but upon his own face.  Something in their
glance seemed to disconcert him for an instant, but he quickly
recovered himself, and, replacing the colored glasses, remarked
with a forced composure,-

"That is a magnificent stone.  May I ask when and where you found
it?"

"I picked it up in one of your cities some three months ago, maybe,
more or less."

"You bought it in this country, then?  Why may you not expect to
match it here?"

"Simply on the theory, my dear sir, that the lightning never strikes
twice in the same place."

"Well, sir," said Mr. Mannering, calmly, "I will show you a stone so
perfect a match for that, you yourself could not distinguish between
the two."

"You have such a diamond!" Mr. Rosenbaum exclaimed; "why then are
you wasting time with these?" and he pushed the smaller diamonds
from him with a gesture of contempt.  "Why did you not produce it
in the first place?"

"Because," replied Mr. Mannering, his composure now fully restored,
"I do not propose to produce it until I know somewhere near what
you will give for it."

"My dear sir," Mr. Rosenbaum's tones became eager, "as I have already
told you, if I can match this stone," placing it on the table between
them, "I will pay you a small fortune; money would be no object; you
could have your own price."

Without further words, Mr. Mannering drew forth a small package,
which he carefully opened, and, taking therefrom an exact duplicate
of the wonderful gem, placed it upon the table beside the latter.

With a smile which the other did not see, Mr. Rosenbaum bent his
head to examine the stones; he had recognized his man in the brief
instant that their eyes had met, and now, within his grasp, lay, as
he well knew from the description which he carried, two of the finest
diamonds in the famous Mainwaring collection of jewels, stolen less
than six months before; his triumph was almost complete.

Meanwhile, Mr. Johnson, who had overheard much of their conversation,
was congratulating himself upon the near success of his own schemes,
when the officiousness of a waiter overthrew the plans of all parties
and produced the greatest confusion.  Catching sight of the gentleman
waiting in No. 4, he ignored the cashier's instructions and entered
the box to take his order.  Mr. Johnson's reply, low and brief though
it was, caught the quick ear of Mr. Rosenbaum, who muttered under his
breath,-

"The hoodoo!  confound him!"

At the same instant a draught lifted the curtain to NO. 3, revealing
to the astonished Mannering a view of Mr. Johnson's profile in the
opposite box.  His own face grew white as the table-cloth before
him; he reached wildly for the diamond, but both gems were gone, and
Rosenbaum confronted him with a most sinister expression.

"My diamond!" he gasped.

"The diamonds are safe," replied the other in a low tone, "and you,"
addressing Mannering by his true name, "the more quiet you are just
now the better."

The elder man's face grew livid with rage and fear, and, rising
suddenly to his feet, his tall form towered far above Rosenbaum.

"Wretch!" he hissed, with an oath, "you have betrayed me, curse you!"
and, dealing the smaller man a blow which floored him, he rushed from
the box.

In an instant Rosenbaum staggered to his feet, and, pausing only long
enough to make sure of the safety of the jewels, rushed from the café,
reaching the street just in time to see his man jump into a cab, which
whirled swiftly and started down the street at break-neck speed.  Two
cabmen, talking at a short distance, hurried to the scene, and,
calling one of them, Mr. Rosenbaum hastily took a second cab and
started in pursuit of the first, but not before he had caught a
glimpse of Mr. Johnson making active preparations to follow them
both.

"Hang that fellow!" he muttered, as he heard wheels behind him.
"This is the third time he has spoiled the game; but I've got the
winning hand, and he'll not beat me out of it!"

By this time the first cab, having turned a corner a short distance
ahead, was out of sight, but Rosenbaum, convinced from the direction
taken of its destination, and knowing a more direct route, shouted
to the driver what streets to follow, and to come out upon the alley
near No. 545 Jefferson Street.

"The old fellow will think I've lost the trail when he finds he's
not followed," he soliloquized, amid the joltings of the vehicle,
"and maybe it will throw the hoodoo off the track."

But Mr. Johnson had no intention of being thrown off.  He had seen
cab No. 2 a take a different course, and, having lost sight of No. 1,
decided that a bird in the hand would be worth two in the bush, and
that he would follow up the "pal."

As cab No. 2 approached Jefferson Street, Rosenbaum called to the
driver to slacken and drive on the dark side of the alley.  He jumped
out to reconnoitre; a cab was just stopping at No. 545, a tall figure
got out and hastily disappeared up the steps, while the cab whirled
rapidly away.

"Turn about, drive back quietly, and answer no questions," Rosenbaum
said, slipping a bill into the driver's hand, and then glided swiftly
through the shadow to No. 545.  His maneuvers were seen, however, by
Mr. Johnson, who immediately proceeded to follow his example.

Running quickly up the steps to No. 545, Rosenbaum produced a bunch
of skeleton keys, which he proceeded to try.  The first was useless,
the second ditto; he heard steps approaching; the third fitted the
lock, but, as it turned, a hand was laid upon his shoulder, a dark
lantern flashed in his face, and a voice said,-

"Your game is up, my man; you had better come with me as peaceably
as possible!"

For answer, the other turned quickly, and, without a word, lifted
the lapel of his coat, where a star gleamed brightly in the rays
of the lantern.

The band holding the lantern dropped suddenly, and its owner
ejaculated, "Heavens and earth!  what does this mean?  Who are you?"

"I am Dan McCabe, at your service," was the cool reply; then, as the
other remained speechless with astonishment, McCabe continued: "I've
no time to waste with you, Mr. Merrick; we may have a desperate piece
of work on hand; but if you'll come with me, I give you my word for
it that before this job is over you'll meet the biggest surprise of
your life."

Pushing open the door, McCabe noiselessly climbed the stairs,
beckoning Merrick to follow.  By the light of the dark lantern he
selected the door leading to the room occupied by Mannering, and,
after listening a moment, nodded significantly to Merrick.

"Is he there?" the latter whispered.

"He is there," said McCabe, grimly, "but not the man you are looking
for.  I'll tell you who is there," and he whispered in his ear.

Merrick staggered as if from a blow.  "Great God!" he exclaimed
aloud.

There was a sudden sound within as of some one frightened and moving
hastily.  McCabe again called the man by name, and demanded
admittance.  There was a moment's silence, and then McCabe, with
Merrick's aid, forced in the door, and as it yielded there came from
within the sharp report of a revolver, followed by a heavy groan.




CHAPTER XXVI

MAINWARING VS. MAINWARING


The case of Mainwaring versus Mainwaring had been set for the opening
of the December term of court, being the first case on the docket.
The intervening weeks, crowded with preparation for the coming
litigation, had passed, and now, on the eve of the contest, each side
having marshalled its forces, awaited the beginning of the fray, each
alike confident of victory and each alike little dreaming of the end.
From near and far was gathered an array of legal talent as well as of
expert testimony seldom equalled, all for the purpose of determining
the validity or invalidity of a bit of paper-yellow with age,
time-worn and musty which stood as an insurmountable barrier between
Ralph Mainwaring and the fulfilment of his long cherished project.

The Fair Oaks tragedy still remained as deep a mystery as on the
morning when, in all its horror of sickening detail, it had startled
and shocked the entire community.  No trace of the murderer had been
as yet reported, and even Mr. Whitney had been forced to acknowledge
in reply to numerous inquiries that he had of late received no
tidings whatever from Merrick, either of success or failure.

Since the announcement of Harold Mainwaring at the club that he
would not touch a farthing of the Mainwaring estate until not only
his own name should be cleared of the slightest imputation of murder,
but until the murder itself should be avenged, it had been rumored
that the party at the Waldorf was in possession of facts containing
the clue to the whole mystery.  Though this was mere conjecture, it
was plainly evident that whatever secrets that party held in its
possession were not likely to be divulged before their time.  The
party had been augmented by the arrival of the senior member of the
firm of Barton & Barton, while the register of the Waldorf showed at
that time numerous other arrivals from London, all of whom proved to
be individuals of a severely judicial appearance and on extremely
intimate terms with the original Waldorf party.  Of the business of
the former, however, or the movements of the latter, nothing definite
could be learned.  Despatches in cipher still flashed daily over the
wires, but their import remained a matter of the merest surmise to
the curious world outside.

Ralph Mainwaring, on the contrary, since the arrival of his London
attorneys, Upham and Blackwell, with Graham, the well-known
chirographical expert, had seized every opportunity for rendering
himself and them as conspicuous as possible, while his boasts of
their well-laid plans, the strong points in their case, and their
ultimate triumph, formed his theme on all occasions.  Mr. Whitney's
position at this time was not an enviable one, for Ralph Mainwaring,
having of late become dimly conscious of a lack of harmony between
himself and his New York attorney, took special delight in frequently
flouting his opinions and advice in the presence of the English
solicitors; but that gentleman, mindful of a rapidly growing account,
wisely pocketed his pride, and continued to serve his client with
the most urbane courtesy, soothing his wounded sensibilities with an
extra fee for every snub.

On the day prior to that set for the opening of the trial, among the
numerous equipages drawn up at one of the piers, awaiting an incoming
ocean-liner, was the Mainwaring carriage, containing, as usual, Ralph
Mainwaring, Upham and Blackwell, and Mr. Whitney.  The carriage and
its occupants formed the centre of attraction to a considerable
portion of the crowd, until attention was suddenly diverted by the
sight of a stylish turnout in the shape of an elegant trap and a pair
of superb bays driven tandem, which passed the Mainwaring carriage
and took its position at some distance nearer the pier.  Seated in
the trap were Harold Mainwaring and Hugh Mainwaring, junior.  Their
appearance together at that particular time and place excited no
little wonder and comment, especially when, the gangplank having
been thrown down, the young men left the turnout in care of a
policeman and walked rapidly towards the hurrying stream of
passengers, followed more slowly by Ralph Mainwaring and his party.

All was explained a few moments later, as that embodiment of
geniality, William Mainwaring Thornton, loomed up in the crowd, his
daughter upon one arm, upon the other Miss Carleton, and accompanied
by Mrs. Hogarth and the usual retinue of attendants.

"Looks like a family reunion, by George!" exclaimed one of the
on-lookers, as a general exchange of greetings ensued, but to a
close observer it was evident that between some members of the
different parties the relations were decidedly strained.  No so with
Mr. Thornton, however; his first greetings were for the young men.

"Well, well, Hugh, you contumacious young rascal! how are you?  I
hear you've kicked over the traces and set the governor and his
sovereigns at defiance!  Well, you've shown yourself a Mainwaring,
that's all I have to say!  Here is a young lady, however, who is
waiting to give you a piece of her mind; you'll have to settle with
her."

"Papa!" exclaimed Edith Thornton in faint protest, her fair face
suffused with blushes as she came forward to meet her lover, while
her father turned towards Harold Mainwaring.

"Well, my dear sir," he said, extending his hand with the utmost
cordiality, "I am glad to meet you in your own proper sphere at
last; I always thought you were far too good-looking for a secretary!
But, joking aside, my dear boy, let me assure you that as the son of
Harold Scott Mainwaring, one of the most royal fellows I ever knew,
I congratulate you and wish you success."

Deeply touched by Mr. Thornton's kindness and his allusion to his
father, the young man thanked him with considerable emotion.

"That is all right," the elder man responded heartily; "I was very
sorry not to have met you in London, but I heard the particulars of
your story from Winifred, and--well, I consider her a very
level-headed young woman, and I think you are to be congratulated
on that score also."

"No one is better aware of that fact than I," said the young man,
warmly, and passed on to meet the young ladies, while Mr. Thornton
turned to confront the frowning face of Ralph Mainwaring.

"Hello, Mainwaring!  What's the matter?  You look black as a
thunder-cloud!  Did you have something indigestible for luncheon?"

"Matter enough I should say," growled the other, unsuccessfully
trying to ignore Mr. Thornton's outstretched hand, "to find you
hobnobbing with that blackguard!"

Mr. Thornton glanced over his shoulder at the young people with a
comical look of perplexity.  "Well, you see how it is yourself,
Mainwaring: what is a fellow to do?  This is a house divided against
itself, as it were, and no matter what my personal sentiments
towards you might be, I find myself forced to maintain a position
of strict neutrality."

"Neutrality be damned!  you had better maintain better parental
government in your own family!"

"As you do in yours, for instance."

"You know very well," continued Ralph Mainwaring, flushing angrily,
"that if you had forbidden Edith marrying Hugh under present
conditions, he would have got down off his high horse very quickly."

"That is something I would never do," Mr. Thornton replied, calmly,
"for two reasons; first, I have never governed my daughter by direct
commands and prohibitions, and, second, I think just as much of Hugh
Mainwaring without his father's money as with it; more, if it is to
be accompanied with the conditions which you imposed."

"Then am I to understand," demanded the other, angrily, "that you
intend to go against me in this matter?"

"My dear Mainwaring," said Mr. Thornton, much as he would address a
petulant child, "this is all the merest nonsense.  I am not going
against you, for I have no part in this contest; my position is
necessarily neutral; but if you want my opinion of the whole matter,
I will tell you frankly that I think, for once in your life, you
have bitten off more than you can swallow, and you will find it so
before long."

"Perhaps it might be just as well to reserve your opinion till it
is called for," the other answered, shortly.

"All right," returned Mr. Thornton, with imperturbable good humor;
"but any time that you want to wager a thousand or so on the outcome
of this affair, remember the money is ready for you!"

The conversation changed, but Ralph Mainwaring was far more
chagrined and annoyed than he would have acknowledged.  Mr.
Thornton's words rang in his ears till they seemed an augury of
defeat, and, though outwardly as dogged and defiant as ever, he was
unable to banish them, or to throw off the strange sense of
depression which followed.

Meanwhile, amid the discordant elements surrounding them, Harold
Mainwaring and Winifred Carleton found little opportunity for any
but the most desultory conversation, but happily there was little
need for words between them.  Heart can speak to heart through the
subtle magnetism of a hand-clasp, or the swift flash from eye to
eye, conveying meanings for which words often prove inadequate.

"You wrote that you were confident of victory, and your looks bear
it out," she said, with a radiant smile; "but I would have come
just the same, even had there been no hope of success for you."

"I need no assurance of your faith and loyalty," he replied, gazing
tenderly into her luminous eyes, "but your coming will make my
triumph ten times sweeter."

"Of course you will spend the evening with, us at our hotel,--uncle
cabled for apartments at the Savoy,--and I am all impatience to
learn whatever you are at liberty to tell me concerning your case,
for there must have been some wonderful developments in your favor
soon after your arrival in this country, you have seemed so much more
hopeful; and do not let me forget, I have something to show you which
will interest you.  It is a written statement by Hugh Mainwaring
himself regarding this identical will that is causing all this
controversy."

"A statement of Hugh Mainwaring's!" Harold repeated in astonishment;
"how did it come into your possession?"

"That is the strangest part of it," she replied, hurriedly, for
they had now reached the carriages in waiting for them.  "I received
it through the mail, from America, a few days before I left London,
and from--you cannot imagine whom--Mr. Merrick, the detective.
How he ever knew my address, or how he should surmise that I was
particularly interested in you," she blushed very prettily with
these words, "is more than I can understand, however."

"I think I can explain that part of it," said Harold, with a smile;
"but how such a statement ever came into his hands is a mystery to
me.  I will see you this evening without fail," and, assisting Miss
Carleton into the carriage, he bade her au revoir, and hastened to
rejoin young Mainwaring.

That evening witnessed rather a novel reception in the private
parlors of the Savoy; both parties to the coming contest being
entertained by their mutual friends.  When Harold Mainwaring finally
succeeded in securing a tete-a-tete conversation with Miss Carleton,
she placed in his hands a small packet, saying,-

"You will find in this the statement of which I spoke to you, and
I wish you would also read the accompanying note, and explain how
the writer came to have so good an understanding of the situation."

With eager haste he drew forth a sheet of paper little less time-worn
and yellowed than the ancient will itself, upon which was written,
in the methodical business hand with which he was so familiar, a
brief statement to the effect that a certain accompanying document
described as the last will and testament of Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring
had been drawn and executed as such on the night preceding his
death, its intent and purpose being to reconvey to an elder son the
family estate, to which he had previously forfeited all right and
title; that efforts made to communicate with the beneficiary had
proved unavailing, as he had left the country and his place of
residence was unknown.  Then followed Hugh Mainwaring's signature.
At the bottom of the page, however, was a foot-note of much later
date, which put a different complexion on the foregoing, and which
read as follows:

"It has now been ascertained for a certainty that the beneficiary
mentioned in the accompanying will is no longer living.  I have,
therefore, a clear title to the estate, as it would revert to me at
his death.  The document itself is worthless, except as a possible
means of silencing that scoundrel, Hobson, should he attempt to
reveal anything of the past, as he has threatened to do, and for
this purpose I shall retain it in my possession until such time as
I make final adjustment of my affairs.
                                             "HUGH MAINWARING."

"Ah," said Harold Mainwaring, thoughtfully, as he suddenly recalled
the morning when he had discovered Merrick and his assistant dragging
the lake at Fair Oaks, "I think I understand how this paper came
into Merrick's possession.  It was evidently kept in the same
receptacle which held the will, but in my haste and excitement at
the discovery of the will I must have overlooked it.  The box in
which these papers were kept afterwards fell into Merrick's hands,
and he must have found this."

"That solves one riddle, here is the other," and Miss Carleton
handed her lover a small note, covered with a fine, delicate
chirography whose perfectly formed characters revealed a mind
accustomed to the study of minute details and appreciative of their
significance.  He opened it and read the following:

"MY DEAR MISS CARLETON:

"Pardon the liberty I take, but, thinking the enclosed bit of paper
might be of some possible assistance to one in whose success I
believe you are deeply interested, I send it herewith, as, for
obvious reasons, I deem this circuitous method of transmission
better than one more direct.

"As when taking leave of you on board the 'Campania,' so now, permit
me to assure you that if I can ever serve you as a friend, you have
but to command me.
                               "Most sincerely yours,
                                               "C. D. MERRICK."


A smile of amusement lighted Harold Mainwaring's face as, glancing
up from the note, his eyes met those of Miss Carleton's with their
expression of perplexed inquiry.

"This is easily explained," he said; "do you remember the tall,
slender man whom we observed on board the 'Campania' as being rather
unsocial and taciturn?"

"Yes, I remember he rather annoyed me, for I fancied he concentrated
considerably more thought and attention upon us than the
circumstances called for."

"Which shows you were more observing than I.  Such a thought never
entered my mind till I had been about ten days in London, when it
occurred to me that, considering the size of the town and the fact
that he and I were strangers, we met with astonishing frequency.  I
have since learned that he was a detective sent over to London on
an important case, and being an intimate friend of Merrick's, the
latter, who, I am informed, was shadowing me pretty closely at the
time, requested him to follow my movements and report to him, which
he evidently did, as I have since heard that Merrick had expressed
to one or two that he was not at all surprised by the developments
which followed my return to this country.  Consequently, it is not
to be wondered at if he has an inkling that you may be somewhat
interested in this case."

"But what could have been Mr. Merrick's object in shadowing you?"

"I cannot say.  It may have been only part of his professional
vigilance in letting nothing escape his observation; but from the
first I was conscious of his close espionage of my movements.  Now,
however, I am satisfied that he had none but friendly intentions,
and I appreciate his kindness, not only towards myself, but more
especially towards you."

"Will that statement be of any assistance to you, do you think?"

"I hardly think so under our present plans," he replied, after a
moment's reflection; "under recent developments our plans differ
so radically from what we first intended, that we will probably
have little use for any of the testimony which we had originally
prepared."

"But these recent developments which have so changed your plans
must certainly have been in your favor and have rendered your
success the more assured, have they not?"

"Not only more assured, but more speedy and complete.  To me, the
coming trial means far more than the settlement of the controversy
over the estate; it means the complete and final vindication of my
character, so that I can stand before you and before the world
acquitted of every charge which my enemies would have sought to
bring against me."

Her face grew radiant with sympathy.  "I well know what that means
to you, and I would be first to congratulate you on such a victory,
for your own sake; but I needed no public acquittal to convince me
of your innocence,--not even," she added, slowly, "when you yourself
for some reason, which I hope one day to understand, were unable to
assure me of it."

His dark eyes, glowing with suppressed feeling, met hers, the
intensity of their gaze thrilling her heart to its inmost depths.

"Do not think that I can ever forget that," he said in low tones
which seemed to vibrate through her whole being; "do not think that
through any triumphs or joys which the future may bring, I can ever
forget, for one moment, the faith and love which stood loyally by
me in my darkest hour,--the hour when the shadow of the crime,
which has forever darkened Fair Oaks, was closing about my very
soul!"

Startled at the sudden solemnity of his words and manner, she
remained silent, her eyes meeting his without a shade of doubt or
distrust, but full of wondering, tender inquiry, to which he
replied, while for an instant he laid his hand lightly and
caressingly on hers, "Only a few days longer, love, and I will tell
you all!"

On the morning of the following day a dense crowd awaited, at an
early hour, the opening of the December term of court; a crowd which
was steadily augmented till, when the case of Mainwaring versus
Mainwaring was called, every available seat was filled.  All
parties to the suit were promptly on hand, and amid a silence
almost oppressive, proponent and contestant, with their counsel
and witnesses, passed down the long aisle to their respective
places.

Seldom had the, old court-room, in its long and varied history,
held so imposing an array of legal talent as was assemble that
morning within its walls.  The principal attorneys for the
contestant were Hunnewell & Whitney of New York, and the London
firm of Upham & Blackwell, while grouped about these were a number
of lesser luminaries, whose milder rays would sufficiently illumine
the minor points in the case.  But at a glance it was clearly
evident that the galaxy of legal lights opposing them contained
only stars of the first magnitude.  Most prominent among the latter
were Barton & Barton, of London, with Mr. Sutherland and his
life-long friend and coadjutor, M. D. Montague, with whom he had
never failed to take counsel in cases of special importance, all
men of superb physique and magnificent brains; while slightly in
the rear, as reinforcements, were the Hon. I. Ponsonby Roget, Q.C.,
another Q.C. whose name had not yet reached the public ear, and a
Boston jurist whose brilliant career had made his name famous
throughout the United States.

Prominent among the spectators were Mr. Scott and Mr. Thornton,
apparently on the best of terms, and watching proceedings with
demonstrations of the liveliest interest, while seated at a little
distance, less demonstrative, but no less interested, was young
Mainwaring, accompanied by Miss Thornton and Miss Carleton.

The first day was devoted to preliminaries, the greater part of
the time being consumed in the selection of a jury.  One after
another of those impaneled was examined, challenged by one side or
the other, and dismissed; not until the entire panel had been
exhausted and several special venires issued, was there found the
requisite number sufficiently unprejudiced to meet the requirements
of the situation.

The remainder of the day was occupied by counsel for contestant in
making the opening statement.  A review of the grounds upon which
the contest was based was first read by one of the assistant
attorneys, after which Mr. Whitney followed with a lengthy statement
which occupied nearly an hour.  He reviewed in detail the
circumstances of the case, beginning with the death of Hugh
Mainwaring, and laying special stress upon his irreproachable
reputation.  He stated that it would be shown to the jury that the
life of Hugh Mainwaring had been above suspicion, an irrefutable
argument against the charges of fraud and dishonesty which had been
brought against him by those who sought to establish the will in
contest.  It would also be shown that the said document was a
forgery, the result of a prearranged plan, devised by those who had
been lifelong enemies of Hugh Mainwaring and the contestant, to
defraud the latter of his rights, and to obtain possession of the
Mainwaring estate; and that the transparency of the device in
bringing the so-called will to light at that particular time and
under those particular circumstances was only too plainly evident.

Mr. Whitney was warming with his subject, but at this juncture he
was peremptorily called to order by Mr. Sutherland, who stated that
he objected to counsel making an argument to the jury, when he
should confine himself simply to an opening statement.  Mr. Whitney's
face flushed as a ripple of amusement ran through the courtroom, but
the objection was sustained, and, after a brief summary of what the
contestant proposed to show, he resumed his seat, and the court then
adjourned until the following morning.

The first testimony introduced on the following day was to establish
the unimpeachable honesty and integrity of the deceased Hugh
Mainwaring.  Both Mr. Elliot and Mr. Chittenden were called to the
stand, and their examination--particularly the cross-examination,
in which a number of damaging admissions were made--occupied nearly
the entire forenoon; the remainder of the day being devoted to the
testimony of witnesses from abroad, introduced to show that for
years a bitter estrangement had existed between Frederick Mainwaring
Scott, the alleged foster-father of the proponent, and the members
of the Mainwaring family,--the deceased Hugh Mainwaring and the
contestant in particular; and also to show the implacable anger of
Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring against his elder son and the extreme
improbability of his ever relenting in his favor.

Day after day dragged slowly on, still taken up with the examination
of witnesses for contestant; examinations too tedious and monotonous
for repetition, but full of interest to the crowds which came and
went, increasing daily, till, on the days devoted to the expert
testimony, galleries and aisles were packed to overflowing, while
throngs of eager listeners gathered in the corridors about the
various exits.

It soon became evident that Ralph Mainwaring's oft repeated
assertions concerning the elaborate preparation he had made for the
coming contest were no idle boast.  Nothing that human ingenuity
could devise had been left undone which could help to turn the
scale in his own favor.  The original will of Ralph Maxwell
Mainwaring, by which his elder son was disinherited, was produced
and read in court.  Both wills were photographed, and numerous
copies, minute in every detail, made, in order to show by comparison
the differences in their respective signatures.  Under powerful
microscopes it was discovered that several pauses had been made in
the signature of the later will.  Electric batteries were introduced
to show that the document had been steeped in coffee and tobacco
juice to give it the appearance of great age.  Interesting chemical
experiments were performed, by which a piece of new paper was made
to look stained and spotted as if mildewed and musty, while by the
use of tiny files and needles, the edges, having first been slightly
scalloped, were grated and the paper punctured, till it presented
a very similar aspect to the will itself as though worn through at
the creases and frayed and tattered with age.

But the accumulation of this overwhelming mass of expert testimony
failed to make the impression upon counsel for proponent which had
been anticipated by the other side.  Mr. Sutherland varied the
monotony of the direct examinations by frequent and pertinent
objections, while Barton & Barton took occasional notes, which were
afterwards passed to Sutherland and Montague, and by them used with
telling effect in the cross-examinations, but the faces of one and
all wore an expression inscrutable as that of the sphinx.

Only once was their equanimity disturbed by any ripple of agitation,
and then the incident was so little understood as to be soon
forgotten.  As the third day of the trial was drawing to a close, a
despatch in cipher was handed Mr. Sutherland, which when translated
seemed to produce a startling effect upon its readers.  Barton &
Barton exchanged glances and frowned heavily; Mr. Sutherland's
face for one brief moment showed genuine alarm, and Harold
Mainwaring, upon reading the slip of paper passed to him, grew pale.
A hurried consultation followed and Mr. Montague left the court-room.

On the following morning the papers announced that at 11 P.M. the
preceding night, the Victoria, the private car of the president of
one of the principal railway lines, with special engine attached,
had left for the West, evidently on business of great importance,
as everything on the road had been ordered side-tracked.  It was
stated that no particulars could be ascertained, however, regarding
either her passengers or her destination, the utmost secrecy being
maintained by those on board, including even the trainmen.  This
item, though attracting some attention, caused less comment than
did the fact that for the three days next ensuing, neither the
senior Mr. Barton nor Mr. Montague was present in court; but no one
suspected any connection between the two events, or dreamed that
the above gentlemen, with two of New York's most skilled surgeons,
were the occupants of the president's private car, then hastening
westward at almost lightning speed.

On the afternoon of the sixth day of the trial, as it became
apparent that the seemingly interminable evidence submitted by
contestant was nearly at an end, the eager impatience of the waiting
crowd could scarcely be restrained within the limits of order.  A
change was noticeable also in the demeanor of proponent and his
counsel.  For the two days preceding they had appeared as though
under some tension or suspense; now they seemed to exhibit almost
an indifference to the proceedings, as though the outcome of the
contest were already a settled fact, while a marked gravity
accompanied each word and gesture.

At last the contestant rested, and all eyes were fixed upon Mr.
Sutherland, as, after a brief pause, he rose to make, as was
supposed, his opening statement.  Instead of addressing the jury,
however, he turned towards Judge Bingham.

"Your honor," he began, in slow, measured tones, "it now lacks but
little more than an hour of the usual time for adjournment, and
after the constant strain which has been put upon our nerves for
the past six days, I feel that none of us, including yourself, your
honor, are in a sufficiently receptive mood to listen to the
testimony which the proponent has to offer.  In addition to this
is the fact that our most important witness is not present this
afternoon.  I would therefore ask for an adjournment to be taken
until ten o'clock next Monday morning, at which time I will
guarantee your honor and the gentlemen of the jury that the
intricate and elaborate web of fine-spun theories which has been
presented will be swept away in fewer hours than the days which
have been required for its construction."

There was an attempt at applause, which was speedily checked, and
without further delay the court adjourned.

As judge, jury, and counsel took their respective places on the
following Monday at the hour appointed, the scene presented by the
old court-room was one never before witnessed in its history.
Every available inch of standing room, both on the main floor and
in the galleries, was taken; throngs were congregated about the
doorways, those in the rear standing on chairs and benches that
they might obtain a view over the heads of their more fortunate
neighbors, while even the recesses formed by the enormous windows
were packed with humanity, two rows deep, the outer row embracing
the inner one in its desperate efforts to maintain its equilibrium.

The opposing sides presented a marked contrast in their appearance
that morning.  Ralph Mainwaring betrayed a nervous excitement very
unusual in one of his phlegmatic temperament; his face alternately
flushed and paled, and though much of the old defiant bravado
remained, yet he awaited the opening of proceedings with visible
impatience.  Nor was Mr. Whitney less excited, his manner revealing
both agitation and anxiety.  On the part of Harold Mainwaring and
his counsel, however, there was no agitation, no haste; every
movement was characterized by composure and deliberation, yet
something in their bearing--something subtle and indefinable but
nevertheless irresistible--impressed the sensibilities of the vast
audience much as the oppressive calm which precedes an electric
storm.  All felt that some great crisis was at hand, and it was
amid almost breathless silence that Mr. Sutherland arose to make
his opening statement.

"Gentlemen of the jury," he began, and the slow, resonant tones
penetrated to the farthest corner and out into the corridors where
hundreds were eagerly listening, "as a defence to the charges
sought to be established in your hearing, we propose to show, not
by fine-spun theories based upon electrical and chemical experiments,
nor brilliant sophistries deduced from microscopic observations,
but by the citation of stubborn and incontrovertible facts, that
this document (holding up the will), copies of which you now have
in your possession, is the last will and testament of Ralph Maxwell
Mainwaring, executed by him on the night preceding his death, and
as such entitled to stand; that this will, from the date of its
execution to the day of its discovery on the seventh of July last,
was wilfully and fraudulently withheld from publication, and its
existence kept secret by the deceased Hugh Mainwaring.  That the
proponent, Harold Scott Mainwaring, is the lawful and only son of
the beneficiary named therein, and as such the sole rightful and
lawful heir to and owner of the Mainwaring estate.  More than this,
we propose at the same time and by the same evidence to forever
disprove, confute, and silence any and every aspersion and
insinuation which has been brought against the character of the
proponent, Harold Scott Mainwaring; and in doing this, we shall at
last lift the veil which, for the past five months, has hung over
the Fair Oaks tragedy."

Mr. Sutherland paused to allow the tremendous excitement produced
by his words to subside; then turning, he addressed himself to the
judge.

"Your honor, I have to request permission of the court to depart in
a slight degree from the usual custom.  The witness for the defence
is in an adjoining room, ready to give testimony when summoned to
do so, but in this instance I have to ask that the name be withheld,
and that the witness himself be identified by the contestant and his
counsel."

The judge bowed in assent, and amid a silence so rigid and intense
as to be almost painful, at a signal from Mr. Sutherland, the doors
of an anteroom were swung noiselessly open and approaching footsteps
were heard.




CHAPTER XXVII

THE SILENT WITNESS


Approaching footsteps were heard, but they were the steps of men
moving slowly and unsteadily, as though carrying some heavy burden.
An instant later, six men, bearing a casket beneath whose weight
they staggered, entered the court-room and, making their way through
the spell-bound crowd, deposited their burden near the witness stand.
Immediately following were two men, one of whom was instantly
recognized as Merrick, the detective; the other as the man who, a
few months before, had been known as the English barrister's clerk,
now wearing the full uniform of a Scotland Yard official.  Bringing
up the rear was an undertaker, who, amid the breathless silence
which ensued, proceeded to open the casket.  This done, Mr.
Sutherland rose and addressed the judge, his low tones for the first
time vibrating with suppressed feeling.

"Your honor, I request that William H. Whitney be first called upon
to identify the witness."

Controlling his agitation by a visible effort, Mr. Whitney approached
the casket, but his eyes no sooner rested on the form and features
within than his forced composure gave way.  With a groan he exclaimed,

"My God, it is Hugh Mainwaring!" and bending over the casket, he
covered his face with his hands while he strove in vain to conceal
his emotion.

His words, ringing through the hushed court-room, seemed to break
the spell, and the over-wrought nerves of the people began to yield
under the tremendous pressure.  Mr. Sutherland raised a warning
hand to check the tide of nervous excitement which threatened to
sweep over the entire crowd, but it was of little avail.  Piercing
screams followed; women fainted and were borne from the room, and
the faces of strong men blanched to a deathly pallor as they gazed
at one another in mute consternation and bewilderment.  For a few
moments the greatest confusion reigned, but when at last order was
restored and Mr. Whitney had regained his composure, Mr. Sutherland
inquired,-

"Mr. Whitney, do you identify the dead man as Hugh Mainwaring?"

"I do."

"But did you not identify as Hugh Mainwaring the man who, at Fair
Oaks, on or about the eighth of July last, came to his death from
the effect of a gunshot wound?"

"I supposed then, and up until the present time, that it was he;
there certainly was a most wonderful resemblance which I am unable
to explain or account for, but this, beyond all question, is Hugh
Mainwaring."

"Will you state what proof of identification you can give in this
instance that was not present in the other?"

"Hugh Mainwaring had over the right temple a slight birthmark, a
red line extending upward into the hair, not always equally distinct,
but always visible to one who had once observed it, and in this
instance quite noticeable.  I saw no trace of this mark on the face
of the murdered man; but as the face was somewhat blackened by
powder about the right temple, I attributed its absence to that
fact, and in the excitement which followed I thought little of it.
On the day of the funeral I also noted certain lines in the face
which seemed unfamiliar, but realizing that death often makes the
features of those whom we know best to seem strange to us, I
thought no further of the matter.  Now, however, looking upon this
face, I am able to recall several differences, unnoticed then, but
all of which go to prove that this is Hugh Mainwaring."

Ralph Mainwaring was the next one summoned for identification.
During Mr. Whitney's examination his manner had betrayed intense
agitation, and he now came forward with an expression of mingled
incredulity and dread, but upon reaching the casket, he stood like
one petrified, unable to move or speak, while no one who saw him
could ever forget the look of horror which overspread his features.

"Mr. Mainwaring," said Mr. Sutherland at length, "do you know the
dead man?"

"It is he," answered Ralph Mainwaring in a low tone, apparently
speaking more to himself than to the attorney; "it is Hugh
Mainwaring; that was the distinguishing mark between them."

"Do you refer to the mark of which Mr. Whitney has just spoken?"

"Yes."

"What do you mean by designating it as 'the distinguishing mark
between them'?"

Ralph Mainwaring turned from the casket and faced Mr. Sutherland,
but his eyes had the strained, far-away look of one gazing into the
distance, unconscious of objects near him.

"It was the mark," he said, speaking with an effort, "by which, when
we were boys, he was distinguished from his twin brother."

"His twin brother, Harold Scott Mainwaring?" queried the attorney.

"Yes," the other answered, mechanically.

"Do you then identify this as Hugh Mainwaring?"

"Yes; and the other--he must have been--no, no, it could not be
--great God!" Ralph Mainwaring suddenly reeled and raised his hand
to his head.  Mr. Whitney sprang to his assistance and led him to
his chair, but in those few moments he had aged twenty years.

A number of those most intimately acquainted with Hugh Mainwaring
were then called upon, all of whom identified the dead man as their
late friend and associate.  These preliminaries over, Mr. Sutherland
arose.

"Your honor and gentlemen of the jury, before proceeding with the
testimony to be introduced, I have a brief statement to make.  Soon
after the commencement of this action, we came into possession of
indisputable evidence that Hugh Mainwaring, the supposed victim of
the Fair Oaks tragedy, was still living, and that of whatever crime,
if crime there were associated with that fearful event, he was not
the victim but the perpetrator.  We determined at all hazards to
secure him, first as a witness in this case, our subsequent action
to be decided by later developments.  Through our special detective
we succeeded in locating him, but he, upon finding himself cornered,
supposing he was to be arrested for the murder of his brother,
attempted suicide by shooting.  The combined skill of the best
surgeons obtainable, though unable to save him, yet prolonged life
for three days, long enough to enable two of our number, Mr. Barton
and Mr. Montague, to reach him in season to take his dying statement;
a statement not only setting forth the facts relating to the will
in question, but embracing also the details of the Fair Oaks tragedy
and mystery.  This statement, made by Hugh Mainwaring and attested
by numerous witnesses present, will now be read by Mr. Montague."

Amid an impressive silence, Mr. Montague stepped to the side of the
casket and, unfolding a document which he held, read the following:

"I, Hugh Mainwaring, freely and voluntarily and under no duress or
compulsion, make this, my dying statement, not only as a relief to
the mental anguish I have endured for the past few months, but also
in the hope that I may thereby, in my last hours, help in some
degree to right the wrong which my life of treachery and cowardice
has wrought.  To do this, I must go back over twenty-five years of
crime, and beyond that to the inordinate greed and ambition that
led to crime.

"My brother, Harold Scott Mainwaring, and I were twins, so
marvelously alike in form and feature that our parents often had
difficulty to distinguish between us, but utterly unlike in
disposition, except that we both possessed a fiery temper and an
indomitable will.  He was the soul of honor, generous to a fault,
loyal-hearted and brave, and he exacted honor and loyalty from
others.  He had no petty ambitions; he cared little for wealth for
its own sake, still less for its votaries.  I was ambitious; I
loved wealth for the power which it bestowed; I would sacrifice
anything for the attainment of that power, and even my boyish
years were tainted with secret envy of my brother, an envy that
grew with my growth, till, as we reached years of maturity, the
consciousness that he, my senior by only a few hours, was yet to
take precedence over me--to possess all that I coveted--became
a thorn in my side whose rankling presence I never for a single
waking hour forgot; it embittered my enjoyment of the present,
my hopes and plans for the future.

"But of this deadly undercurrent flowing far beneath the surface
neither he nor others dreamed, till, one day, a woman's face--cold,
cruel, false, but beautiful, bewitchingly, entrancingly beautiful,
--came between us, and from that hour all semblance of friendship
was at an end.  With me it was an infatuation; with him it was love,
a love ready to make any sacrifice for its idol.  So when our father
threatened to disinherit and disown either or both of us, and the
false, fickle heart of a woman was laid in the balances against the
ancestral estates, I saw my opportunity for seizing the long coveted
prize.  We each made his choice; my brother sold his birthright for
a mess of pottage; his rights were transferred to me, and my
ambition was at last gratified.

"Between three and four years later, on the night of November
seventeenth, within a few hours preceding his death, my father made
a will, revoking the will by which he had disinherited his elder
son, and restoring him again to his full right and title to the
estate.  This was not unexpected to me.  Though no words on the
subject had passed between us and my brother's name was never
mentioned, I had realized for more than a year that my father was
gradually relenting towards the son who had ever been his favorite,
and on the last day that he was able to leave his room, I had come
upon him unaware in the old picture gallery, standing before the
portrait of his elder son, silent and stern, but with the tears
coursing down his pallid cheeks.  When, therefore, on the night
preceding his death, my father demanded that an attorney be
summoned, my feelings can be imagined.  Just as the prize which I
had so long regarded as mine was almost within my grasp, should I
permit it to elude me for the gratification of a dying man's whim?
Never!  In my rage I could have throttled him then and there without
a qualm; fear of the law alone held me back.  I tried to dissuade
him, but it was useless.  I then bribed the servant sent to bring
the attorney to report that he was out of town, and when that
proved of no avail, I sent for Richard Hobson, a penniless shyster,
whose lack of means and lack of principle I believed would render
him an easy tool in my hands.  He came; I was waiting to receive
him, and we entered into compact, I little dreaming I was setting
loose on my track a veritable hell-hound!  The will was drawn and
executed, Hobson and one Alexander McPherson, an old friend of my
father's, signing as witnesses.  Within twenty-four hours of its
execution, Richard Hobson was richer by several hundred pounds, and
the will was in my possession.  Two days later, I had a false
telegram sent to our place, summoning McPherson to his home in
Scotland.  He left at once, before my father's burial, and his death,
which occurred a few weeks later, removed the last obstacle in the
way of carrying my plans into execution.  My brother at that time
was in Australia, but in what part of the country I did not know,
nor did I try to ascertain.  My constant fear was that he might in
some way--though by what means I could not imagine--get some
knowledge of the will and return to set up a claim to the estate.
As soon as possible, therefore, notwithstanding the protests of
my attorneys, I sold the estate and came to America.

"Concerning the years that followed, it is needless to go into
detail; they brought me wealth, influence, power, all that I had
craved, but little of happiness.  Even when there came tidings of
my brother's death at sea, and I felt that at last my title to
the estate was secure, I had little enjoyment in its possession.
Richard Hobson had already begun his black-mailing schemes, his
demands growing more frequent and exorbitant with each succeeding
year.  Through him, also, the woman who had wrecked my brother's
life received some inkling of my secret, and through this knowledge,
slight as it was, gained enough of a hold over me that life was
becoming an intolerable burden.  Through all these years, however,
I kept the will in my possession.  Even after hearing of the death
of my brother, a cowardly, half-superstitious dread kept me from
destroying it, though doubtless I would have done so soon after
making my own will had I not been prevented by circumstances
unforeseen, which I will now state.

"The events which I am about to relate are stamped upon my brain
as though by fire; they have haunted me day and night for the past
five months.  On the seventh of July last, I made and executed my
will in favor of my namesake, Hugh Mainwaring, and on the following
day--his birthday and mine--he was to be declared my heir.  It
was past eleven o'clock on the night of that day when I retired to
my private library, and it was fully an hour later when, having
dismissed my secretary, I finally found myself alone, as I supposed,
for the night.  My thoughts were far from pleasant.  I had just had
a stormy interview with my housekeeper, Mrs. LaGrange, who had
tried, as on previous occasions, to coerce me by threats into a
private marriage and a public recognition of her as my wife and of
her child and mine; and, in addition, the occurrences of the day
had been of a nature to recall the past, and events which I usually
sought to bury in oblivion were passing before my mental vision
despite my efforts to banish them.  Suddenly a voice which seemed
like an echo of the past recalled me to the present.  Somewhat
startled, I turned quickly, confronting a man who had entered
unperceived from the tower-room.  He was my own height and size,
with curling black hair and heavy mustache, but I was unable to
distinguish his features as he remained standing partly in the
shadow.  Before I could recover from my surprise, he again spoke,
his voice still vaguely familiar.

"'The master of Fair Oaks'--the words were spoken with stinging
emphasis--'seems depressed on the eve of his festal day, the day
on which he is to name the heir and successor to his vast estates!'

"I remembered that a stranger had called that day during my absence,
who, my secretary had informed me, bad shown a surprising familiarity
with my private plans.

"'I think,' I replied, coldly, 'that you favored me with a call
this afternoon, but whatever your business then or now, you will
have to defer it for a few days.  I do not know how you gained
admittance to these apartments at this hour, but I will see that
you are escorted from them without delay,' and as I spoke I rose
to ring for a servant.

"He anticipated my intention, however, and with the agility of a
panther sprang noiselessly across the room, intercepting me, at
the same time raising a large, English bull-dog revolver, which
he levelled at me.

"'Not so fast, not so fast,' he said, softly; 'you can afford to
wait a little; I have waited for years!'

"I stood as though rooted to the spot, gazing at him with a sort
of fascination.  As he emerged into the light there was something
almost familiar in his features, and yet something horribly
incongruous and unreal.  His eyes glowed like living fire; his soft,
low tones reminded me of nothing so much as the purring of a tiger;
while the smile that played about his lips was more terrible than
anything I had ever seen on human face.  It was ten times more
fearful than the muzzle of the revolver confronting me, and seemed
to freeze the very blood in my veins.

"'You take a base advantage; I am unarmed," I sneered.

"'I knew too well with whom I had to deal to come unarmed,' he
replied; 'though this,' and he lowered the revolver, 'this is not
the sort of weapon you would employ,--a thrust in the dark, a stab
in the back, that is your style, coward!'

"'I demand an explanation of this,' I said.

"He folded his arms, still retaining his hold upon the weapon, as
he answered, 'Explanations will follow in due time; but surely, on
the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of such a life as yours,
congratulations are first in order.  Allow me to congratulate you,
Hugh Mainwaring, upon the success which has attended and crowned
the past twenty-five years of your life!  upon the rich harvest
you have reaped during all these years; the amassed wealth, the
gratified ambitions, the almost illimitable power, the adulation
and homage,--all so precious to your sordid soul, and for which
you have bartered honor, happiness, character, all, in short, that
life is worth.  Standing, as you do to-night, at the fiftieth
milestone on life's journey, I congratulate you upon your
recollections of the past, and upon your anticipations for the
future, as you descend to an unhonored and unloved old age!'

"Every word was heaped with scorn, and, as I looked into the burning
eyes fixed upon mine and watched the sardonic smile hovering about
his lips, I wondered whether he were some Mephistopheles--some
fiend incarnate--sent to torture me, or whether he were really
flesh and blood.

"The mocking smile now left his face, but his eyes held me speechless
as he continued,-

"'No wonder that memories of bygone years haunted your thoughts
to-night!  Memories, perhaps, of a father whose dying will you
disregarded; of a brother whom you twice defrauded,--once of the
honor and sanctity of his home, then, as if that were not enough,
of his birthright,--his heritage from generations of our race--'

"'Stop!' I cried, stung to anger by his accusations and startled
by the strange words, 'our race,' which seemed to fall so familiarly
from his lips.  'Stop!  are you mad?"  Do you know what you are
saying?  Once more I demand that you state who or what you are, and
your business here!'

"'That is quickly stated, Hugh Mainwaring,' he answered, in tones
which made my heart beat with a strange dread; 'I am Harold Scott
Mainwaring!  I am here to claim no brotherhood or kinship with you,
but to claim and to have my own, the birthright restored to me by
the last will and testament of a dying father, of which you have
defrauded me for twenty-five years!"

"'You are a liar and an impostor!' I cried, enraged at the sound of
my brother's name, and for the instant believing the man to be some
emissary of Hobson's who had used it to work upon my feelings.

"Drawing himself up to his full height, his eyes blazing, he answered
in low tones, 'Dare you apply those epithets to me, usurper that you
are?  You are a liar and a thief, and if you had your deserts you
would be in a felon's cell to-night, or transported to the wilds of
Australia!  I an impostor?  See and judge for yourself!' and with a
sudden, swift movement the black curling hair and mustache were
dashed to the floor, and he stood before me the exact counterpart
of myself.  Stunned by the transformation, I gazed at him speechless;
it was like looking in a mirror, feature for feature identically the
same!  For a few seconds my brain seemed to reel from the shock, but
his tones recalled me to myself.

"'Ah!' he said, with mocking emphasis, 'who is the impostor now?'

"My first thought was of self-vindication, and to effect, if
possible, a compromise with him.  'I am no impostor or usurper,' I
said, 'because, believing you dead, I have used that to which in
the event of your death I would be legally entitled even had you
any claim, and I am willing, not as an acknowledgment of any valid
claim on your part, but as a concession on my own part, to give you
a liberal share in the estate, or to pay you any reasonable sum
which you may require--'

"He stopped me with an intolerant gesture.  'Do not attempt any
palliation of the past with me,' he said, sternly; 'it is worse
than useless; and do not think that you can make any compromises
with me or purchase my silence with your ill-gotten wealth.  That
may have served your purpose in the past with your associate and
coadjutor, Richard Hobson, the man who holds in his mercenary
grasp the flimsy reputation which is all that is left to you, or
with the woman--cruel as the grave and false as hell--who once
wrecked my life, and now, with the son that you dare not
acknowledge, rules your home, but you cannot buy my silence.  I
come to you as no beggar!  I am a richer man to-day than you, but
for the sake of generations past, as well as of generations yet to
come, I will have my own.  The estate which was once my forefathers
shall be my son's, and his sons' after him!'

"As I listened, my whole soul rose against him in bitter hatred,
the old hatred of my youth.  'I defy you,' I' cried, hotly, 'to
produce one atom of proof in support of your claim or of your
charges against me!  The estate is mine, and I will make you rue
the day that you dare dispute my right and title to it!'

"His eyes flashed with scorn as he replied, 'You lie, Hugh
Mainwaring!  Your life for the past twenty-five years has been
nothing but a lie, and the day just closed has witnessed the final
act in this farce of yours.  That I have already undone, and just
as surely I will undo the work of the past years.  And let me assure
you I have no lack of proof with which to verify either my own
claim or any assertion I have made, or may yet make, against you.
I have proof that on the night preceding my father's death he made
a will restoring to me my full rights, which you have fraudulently
withheld all these years; and through my son, whom you have known
for the past eighteen months as your private secretary, I have proof
that that will is still in existence, of itself an irrefutable
witness against you!'

"With the mention of my secretary the truth flashed upon me.  I
realized I was completely in his power, and with a sense of my
own impotency my rage and hatred increased.  Forgetful of the weapon
in his hand and almost blind with fury, I sprang towards him,
intending to throttle him--to strangle him--until he should plead
for mercy.  Instantly he raised the revolver in warning, but not
before I had seized his wrist, turning the weapon from myself.  A
brief struggle followed, in which I soon found my strength was no
match for his.  Growing desperate, I summoned all my strength for
one tremendous effort, at the same time holding his wrist in a
vice-like grip, forcing his hand higher and turning the revolver
more and more in his direction.  Suddenly there was a flash,--a
sharp report,--and he fell heavily to the floor, dragging me down
upon him.

"For an instant I was too much stunned and bewildered to realize
what had happened, but a glance at my opponent revealed the
situation.  He lay motionless where he had fallen, and a ghastly
wound over the right eye told the terrible story.  Dazed with
horror, I placed my hand over his heart, but there was no motion,
no life,--he was dead!  The awful truth forced itself upon me.
Mad and blind with rage, I had turned the weapon upon him and it had
discharged,--whether by some sudden movement of his hand, or by
the accidental pressure of my own fingers upon the trigger, God
alone knows, I do not!  One fact I could not then, nor ever can,
forget; it was my hand that gave the weapon its deadly aim, however
blindly or unwittingly, and the blood of my brother whom I had
wronged and defrauded now lay at my door.

"The agony of remorse that followed was something beyond description,
beyond any suffering of which I had ever dreamed; but suddenly a
thought flashed upon me which added new horror, causing me to spring
to my feet cold with terror, while great beads of perspiration
gathered on my brow.  When that terrible scene should be revealed,
not alone in the approaching morning light, but in the light of past
events which, if the last words spoken by those lips now sealed in
death were true, could no longer be kept secret, what would be the
world's verdict?  Murder! fratricide! and I?  Great God! of what
avail would be any plea of mine in the face of such damning evidence?

"I rushed to the tower-room, and hastily opening my safe, took from
a private drawer therein a key and with trembling fingers fitted it
into the lock of a large metallic box which contained the family
jewels, and which for more than twenty-five years had held the old
will executed by my father on his death-bed.  I had seen it there
less than forty-eight hours before, and in my desperation I now
determined to destroy it.  My very haste and eagerness delayed me,
but at last the cover flew back, revealing the gleaming jewels,
but--the will was not there!  Unable to believe my own eyes, I
drew my fingers carefully back and forth through the narrow
receptacle where it had lain, and among the satin linings of the
various compartments, but in vain; the will was gone!  My brother
had spoken the truth, and the will was doubtless in the possession
of his son, who, under its terms, was now himself heir to the
estate.  The room grew dim and the walls themselves seemed to whirl
swiftly about me as, with great difficulty, I groped my way back to
the library, where I stood gazing at that strange counterpart of
myself, till, under the growing horror of the situation, it seemed
to my benumbed senses as though I were some disembodied spirit
hovering above his own corpse.  The horrible illusion was like a
nightmare; I could not throw it off, and I would then and there
have gone stark, staring mad, but that there came to me out of that
awful chaos of fancies a suggestion which seemed like an inspiration.
'It is Hugh Mainwaring,' I said to myself, 'Hugh Mainwaring died
to-night!'

"My fevered brain grew cool, my pulse steady, and my nerves firm
as I proceeded at once to act upon the idea.  Kneeling beside the
dead man, I examined the wound.  The bullet had entered above the
right eye and passed downward, coming out at the base of the brain;
from both wounds the blood was flowing in a slow, sluggish stream.
Drawing a large handkerchief from my pocket, I bound it tightly
about the head over both wounds, knotting it firmly; then carrying
the body into the tower-room, I made sure that all doors were
locked, and proceeded to put into execution the plan so suddenly
formed.  By this time I was myself, and, though the task before me
was neither easy nor pleasant to perform, I went about it as
calmly and methodically as though it were some ordinary business
transaction.  As expeditiously as possible I removed the dead man's
clothing and my own, which I then exchanged, dressing the lifeless
form in the clothes I had worn on the preceding day, even to the
dressing-gown which I had put on upon retiring to my apartments,
while I donned his somewhat travel-worn suit of tweed.  Having
completed this gruesome task, I left the body in much the same
position in which it had originally fallen, lying slightly upon
the right side, the right arm extended on the floor, and, to give
the appearance of suicide, I placed my own revolver--first
emptying one of the chambers--near his right hand.  On going to
my desk for the revolver, I discovered the explanation of my
brother's words when he said that he had already undone my work
of the preceding day, the final act of the farce I had carried
out.  In the terrible excitement of those moments his meaning
escaped my mind; now it was clear.  My own will, executed with
such care, and which early in the evening I had left upon my desk,
was gone.  That he had destroyed it in his wrath and scorn I had
abundant proof a little later, upon incidentally finding in the
small grate in that room the partially burned fragments of the
document, which I left to tell their own tale.

"Having satisfactorily disposed of Hugh Mainwaring (as the dead
man now seemed to my over-wrought imagination), I made preparation
for my immediate departure.  This occupied little time.  There was
fortunately some cash in the safe, which I took; all drafts and
papers of that nature I left,--they were of value only to Hugh
Mainwaring, and he was dead!  As the cash would be inadequate,
however, for my needs, I decided after considerable deliberation
to take the family jewels, though not without apprehension that
they might lead to my detection, as they finally did.  These I put
in a small box covered with ordinary wrapping-paper to attract as
little attention as possible, and, having completed my preparations,
I removed the bandage from the dead man's head and threw it with the
private keys to my library into the metallic box which had held the
jewels.  Then donning the black wig and mustache which my visitor
had thrown aside on disclosing his identity, together with a long
ulster which he had left in the tower-room, I took one farewell
look at the familiar apartments and their silent occupant and stole
noiselessly out into the night.  I remained on the premises only
long enough to visit the small lake in the rear of the house, into
which I threw the metallic box and its contents, then, following
the walk through the grove to the side street, I left Fair Oaks, as
I well knew, forever.  While yet on the grounds I met my own
coachman, but he failed to recognize me in my disguise.  My plans
were already formed.  I had come to the conclusion that my late
visitor and the caller of the preceding afternoon, whose card bore
the name of J. Henry Carruthers, were one and the same.  My secretary
had stated that Carruthers had come out from the city that day, so
my appearance at the depot, dressed in his own disguise, would
probably attract no attention.  I was fortunate enough to reach the
depot just as two trains were about to pull out; the suburban train
which would leave in three minutes for the city, and the north-bound
express, due to leave five minutes later.  I bought a ticket for New
York, then passing around the rear of the suburban train, quietly
boarded the express, and before the discovery of that night's
fearful tragedy I was speeding towards the great West.

"But go where I might, from that hour to this, I have never been
free from agonizing remorse, nor have I been able for one moment
to banish from my memory the sight of that face,--the face of my
brother, killed by my own hand, and a discovery which I made
within the first few hours of my flight made my remorse ten times
deeper.  In going through the pockets of the suit I wore I found
a letter from my brother, addressed to his son, written in my own
library and at my own desk while he awaited my coming.  He seemed
to have had a sort of presentiment that his interview with me might
end in some such tragedy as it did, and took that opportunity to
inform his son regarding both his past work and his plans for the
future.  What was my astonishment to find that his son was, at
that time, as totally unaware of his father's existence as was I
a few hours before of the existence of a brother!

"From this letter I learned that the son had been given away at
birth, and was to know nothing of his true parentage until he had
reached years of maturity; that he himself had been shipwrecked, as
reported years ago, but had escaped in some miraculous manner; that
reaching Africa at last, he disclosed his identity to no one, but
devoted all his energies to acquiring a fortune for his son.  He
succeeded even beyond his anticipations, and when nearly twenty
years had elapsed, sailed for his old Australian home, to find his
son.  Arriving there, he learned that his son, while pursuing his
studies in England, had obtained information of the will made in
his father's favor, and learning facts which led him to believe that
the will was still in existence and in the possession of his father's
younger brother, had, with the advice of his London attorneys, gone
to America, and was then in his uncle's employ for the purpose of
securing proof regarding the will, and, if possible, possession of
the will itself.  Upon learning these facts, my brother had
immediately proceeded to London and to Barton & Barton, his son's
attorneys, who, upon his arrival there, informed him of his son's
success up to that time, and also notified him that his brother was
about to celebrate his approaching fiftieth birthday by naming the
son of Ralph Mainwaring as his heir, Ralph Mainwaring and family
having just sailed to America for that purpose.  My brother then
took the first steamer for America, arriving only two days later
than Ralph Mainwaring.  Though unable to obtain an interview with
me at once, as he had intended, he had succeeded in catching sight
of me, in order to assure himself that the marked resemblance
between us still existed, and, to emphasize that resemblance, he
then shaved and had his hair cut in the same style in which I wore
mine, so as to render the likeness the more striking and
indisputable when he should announce himself to me.

"His existence and return he wished kept secret from his son until
the successful consummation of his plans, but he wrote the letter
as an explanation in case there should be any unforeseen
termination.  The letter was overflowing with a father's love and
pride; his allusion to the difficulty with which he had restrained
his feelings when he found himself face to face with his son on the
afternoon of his call, being especially touching.  The perusal of
that letter added a hundred-fold to my own grief and remorse.  I
dared not run the risk of disclosing myself by sending it to my
brother's son, but I have preserved it carefully for him, and desire
it to be given him as quickly as possible.

"Through New York papers I learned from time to time of the murder
of Hugh Mainwaring, the lost will, the discovery of the old will,
and the appearance of the rightful heir.  From that source, also, I
learned that Merrick, the detective, was shadowing the murderer,
who was generally supposed to be a man by the name of Carruthers.
I had one advantage of Merrick.  I knew him--my old friend Whitney
having often pointed him out to me--while he did not know the man
he sought.  Many a time in my wanderings I have seen him, and,
knowing well the game he was after, eluded him, only to fall at
last into the snare of one whom I did not know.  The man searching
for the murderer of Hugh Mainwaring encountered another, trailing
the murderer of Harold Scott Mainwaring, and I suddenly found my
time had come!  A coward then, as always, I tried to shoot myself.
In the darkness I held the muzzle of my brother's revolver to my
own temple; instantly there flashed before me his face when I had
killed him!  I grew sick, my hand trembled and dropped; then, as
my pursuers came nearer, I aimed for my heart and fired!  This is
the result.  Death was not instantaneous, as I had hoped; instead,
I was given this opportunity to make some slight reparation for my
sin; to aid, as I said before, in righting the wrong wrought by my
past life.

"And now, in these my last moments, I do solemnly affirm and aver
that on the night preceding his death, my father executed a will
restoring to my elder brother his full right and title, which will
I have for more than twenty-five years last past wrongfully and
fraudulently withheld and concealed; and that my brother being now
dead, killed by my own hand, though unwittingly and unintentionally,
his son, Harold Scott Mainwaring, is the rightful and sole heir
to the entire Mainwaring estate.

"Signed by Hugh Mainwaring in the presence of the following
witnesses: William J. Barton, M. D. Montague, Joseph P. Sturgiss,
M.D., M. J. Wheating, M.D., Daniel McCabe and C. D. Merrick."

At the conclusion of this statement, there was shown in evidence
the rusty metallic box-dragged from the lake--with the keys and
the knotted, blood-stained handkerchief found therein.  This was
followed by brief testimony by Harold Scott Mainwaring and the
old servant, James Wilson, but the proceedings following the
reading of the statement were little more than mere form.  There
was little attempt at cross-examination, and when the time came for
the argument by counsel for contestant, Mr. Whitney, who had been
deeply affected by the confession of his old friend, declined to
speak.

All eyes were fastened upon Mr. Sutherland as he arose, as was
supposed, for the closing argument.  For a moment his eyes scanned
the faces of the jurors, man by man, then addressing the judge, he
said slowly, in clear, resonant tones,-

"Your honor, I submit the case without argument."

In less than forty-five minutes from the conclusion of the statement
the jury retired, but no one moved from his place in the crowded
court-room, for all felt that little time would be required for their
decision.  In ten minutes they returned, and, amid the silence that
followed, the foreman announced the verdict, "for the proponent,
Harold Scott Mainwaring."

Cheers burst forth from all parts of the room, and the walls rang
with applause, which was only checked by a sudden, simultaneous
movement of several men towards the contestant.  With the
announcement of the verdict, Ralph Mainwaring had risen to his feet,
as though in protest.  For an instant he stood gasping helplessly,
but unable to utter a word; then, with a loud groan, he sank
backward and would have fallen to the floor but for his attorneys,
who had rushed to the assistance of the stricken man.

A few moments later the lifeless remains of Hugh Mainwaring were
carried from the court-room, while, in another direction, the
unconscious form of Ralph Mainwaring was borne by tender, pitying
hands, among them those of the victor himself, and the contest of
Mainwaring versus Mainwaring was ended.

      *      *      *     *      *     *     *     *      *

The bright sunlight of a December afternoon, ten days after the
close of the trial, crowned with a shining halo the heads of
Harold Scott Mainwaring and his wife as they stood together in the
tower-room at Fair Oaks.  But a few hours had elapsed since they
had repeated the words of the beautiful marriage service which had
made them husband and wife.  Their wedding had been, of necessity,
a quiet one, only their own party and a few of their American
friends being present, for the ocean-liner, then lying in the
harbor, but which in a few hours was to bear them homeward, would
carry also the bodies of the Mainwaring brothers and of Ralph
Mainwaring to their last resting place.

Here, amid the very surroundings where it was written, Harold
Mainwaring had just read to his wife his father's letter, penned a
few hours before his death.  For a few moments neither spoke, then
Winifred said brokenly, through fast falling tears,-

"How he loved you, Harold!"

"Yes," he replied, sadly; "and what would I not give for one hour
in which to assure him of my love!  I would gladly have endured any
suffering for his sake, but in the few moments that we stood face
to face we met as strangers, and I have had no opportunity to show
him my appreciation of his love or my love for him in return."

"Don't think he does not know it," she said, earnestly.  "I believe
that he now knows your love for him far more perfectly than you
know his."

He kissed her tenderly, then drawing from his pocket a
memorandum-book, took therefrom a piece of blotter having upon it
the impress of some writing.  Placing it upon the desk beside the
letter, he held a small mirror against it, and Winifred, looking
in the mirror, read,
                    "Your affectionate father,
                                     "HAROLD SCOTT MAINWARING."

Then glancing at the signature to the letter, she saw they were
identical.  In answer to her look of inquiry, Harold said,-

"I discovered that impress on the blotter on this desk one morning
about ten days after the tragedy, and at once recognized it as my
father's writing.  In a flash I understood the situation; my father
himself had returned, had been in these rooms, and had had an
interview with his brother!  I knew of the marked resemblance between
them, and at once questioned, How had that interview ended?  Who was
the murdered man?  Who was the murderer?  That was the cause of my
trip to England to try to find some light on this subject.  I need
no words to tell you the agony of suspense that I endured for the
next few weeks, and you will understand now why I would not--even
to yourself--declare my innocence of the murder of Hugh Mainwaring.
I would have bourne any ignominy and dishonor, even death itself,
rather than that a breath of suspicion should have been directed
against my father's name."

"My hero!" she exclaimed, smiling through her tears; then asked,
"When and how did you learn the real facts?"

"Almost immediately upon my return to this country, and from Mrs.
LaGrange," and he told her briefly of his last interview with that
unhappy woman.  "Up to the day of the funeral, she was ignorant of
the truth, but on that day she detected the difference, which none
of the others saw.  She knew and recognized my father."

Standing at last on the western veranda, they took their farewell
of Fair Oaks.

"Beautiful Fair Oaks!" Winifred murmured; "once I loved you; but
you could never be our home; you hold memories far too bitter!"

"Yes," Harold replied, gravely, "it is darkened by crime and stained
with innocent blood.  The only bright feature to redeem it," he
added with a smile, "is the memory of the love I found there, but
that," and he drew her arm closely within his own, "I take with me
to England, to my father's home and mine."

Together they left the majestic arched portals, and going down the
oak-lined avenue, through the dim twilight of the great boughs
interlocked above their heads, passed on, out into the sunlight,
with never a fear for shadows that might come; each strong and
confident in the love that united them "for better for worse, for
richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, . . . till death us
do part."



THE END




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