Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 19 MUTUAL RECOGNITIONS

  • The sudden turn of affairs in the Mainwaring case excited no small amount o_omment, and for the next ensuing days speculation was rife concerning th_ecently discovered will, but more particularly regarding the new and unknow_laimant. At the clubs and elsewhere it formed the principal topic o_onversation, and Ralph Mainwaring was loud in his denunciations of the one a_ forgery, and of the other as an impostor. To all such remarks, however, a_ell 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, h_ould 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 arriva_f the "Umbria," an unusual crowd of reporters was assembled at the pier,
  • notwithstanding a pouring rain, and the gang-plank had no sooner been throw_own than a number of the more ambitious rushed on board, eager to be th_irst in gaining some bit of information or personal description. Thei_fforts, however, were unsuccessful, as the individuals whom they most desire_o meet remained in their state-rooms and declined to be interviewed. No_ntil the crowd had about dispersed and the patience of a few of the mor_ersistent was nearly exhausted, was their zeal rewarded by the sight of _arty of four Englishmen, who hastily left the boat, completely enveloped i_eavy 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 th_xception 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 wa_ccompanied by a valet, the other—presumably the attorney—by a clerk, but al_fforts towards gaining any more definite information prove absolutely futile.
  • The arrival by the next steamer of another stranger, an elderly gentleman, wh_mmediately joined the party at the Waldoff, after having registered under a_vident alias, only served to deepen the mystery.
  • Upon the arrival of the day set for the hearing of the proof in support of th_ncient will, the court-room was, at an early hour, packed to its utmos_apacity. Occupying a prominent place were Ralph Mainwaring and his son,
  • accompanied by Mr. Whitney, the sensitive face of the attorney more eager an_lert than ever! At some distance from them, but seated rather conspicuousl_here 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 al_yes were immediately turned in his direction. Accompanying him was _entleman whose bearing commanded universal admiration, and whom th_ainwarings instantly recognized as the English barrister whose connectio_ith the case they had deemed so incredible. But a still deeper surpris_waited them. Immediately following the attorneys was a young man whos_eatures and carriage were familiar, not only to the Mainwarings, but t_cores of spectators as well, as those of the private secretary of th_eceased Hugh Mainwaring, whose testimony at the inquest had created so muc_f a sensation, and whose sudden disappearance thereafter had cause_onsiderable comment. There was a ripple of excitement through the court-room,
  • and the Mainwarings, father, and son, watched the young man with strangel_arying emotions, neither as yet fully comprehending the real significance o_is presence there.
  • "The secretary!" exclaimed Mr. Whitney, in a low tone. "Can it be possibl_hat 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 wrat_eviving with greater intensity than ever, but before he could proceed furthe_is glance fell on the secretary's companion.
  • He was a tall, elderly gentleman, with snow-white hair and beard, but wit_orm erect and vigorous, and with piercing eyes which met those of Ralp_ainwaring with a flash, not of recognition alone, but of disdain and defianc_hat seemed to challenge him to do his utmost.
  • With a muttered oath, the latter half rose from his chair, but at that instan_is attention was arrested by the two men bringing up the rear; one, small an_f uncertain age, the other, older even than he appeared, and bearing th_nmistakable air of an English servant. As Ralph Mainwaring recognized Jame_ilson, the last relic of the old Mainwaring household, he suddenly grew pal_nd sank back into his chair, silent, watchful, and determined; while his so_nd the attorney, quick to note the change in his appearance, made neithe_nquiries nor comments, but each drew his own conclusion.
  • There was one other to whom the white-haired gentleman did not seem an utte_tranger. Mrs. LaGrange from her post of observation had watched the enterin_arty with visible signs of excitement. Her lips curled in a mocking smile a_he caught sight of the secretary, but glancing from him to his companion, sh_nvoluntarily recoiled in terror, yet gazed like one fascinated, unable t_emove her eyes from his face. Suddenly the piercing eyes met her own, thei_ook of astonishment quickly changing to scorn. She flushed, then paled, bu_er eyes never faltered, flashing back mocking defiance to his anger and scor_or scorn.
  • Meanwhile, the quondam secretary, seated between the attorneys on the one han_nd his elderly companion on the other, seemed alike unconscious of the man_urious glances cast in his direction and of the dark looks of Ralp_ainwaring now fastened on him. At a little distance was the old servant, hi_mmovable 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!" Seate_eside the English barrister, his eye seemed to sweep the entire court-roo_ith 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 concealmen_s he felt himself included in the search-light of that gaze. But no one sa_he slip of paper which, a moment later, was handed to Alfred Barton, and b_im passed to Mr. Sutherland. There was a hurried filling out of blanks lyin_mong the papers on the table, a messenger was despatched, two or three me_dged themselves into the crowd in Hobson's vicinity,—and that was all!
  • Promptly at the time appointed the case was called. There was perfect silenc_hroughout the court-room as Mr. Sutherland arose, holding in one hand th_ncient will, and with breathless attention the crowd listened for the openin_ords of what was to prove one of the fiercest and most bitter contests o_ecord, and of whose final termination even the participants themselves littl_reamed.
  • 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, "Le_he papers be served at once."
  • There was a stir of excitement and a sudden craning of necks in the directio_ndicated by the attorney's glance, where three men had sprung forward i_bedience to his orders.
  • Hobson, at the first mention of his name, had glanced quickly about him a_hough seeking some means of escape, but on hearing the alias—the name he ha_upposed unknown in America—he paused for an instant, seemingly half paralyze_ith terror. But the sight of the approaching sheriff broke the spell, and h_ade a sudden lunge through the crowd in the direction of an open window. Hi_rogress was speedily checked by one of the deputies, however, and after _hort, 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 sea_onvenient to the witness stand."
  • As he was seated opposite and facing the English party, it was noted that th_ace of the old servant lighted up with a look of recognition, and he watche_he new-comer with evident interest. Hobson, having carefully avoided the eye_f both Alfred Barton and the private secretary, soon became aware of Wilson'_crutiny, and after regarding him fixedly for a moment seemed suddenly t_ecognize him in turn, and also to realize at the same time the import of hi_resence there, which, apparently, did not tend to lessen his agitation.
  • Slowly Mr. Sutherland unfolded the document he held, yellow with age, th_dges of its folds so frayed and tattered as to render the writing in som_laces almost illegible. Slowly, in deep, resonant tones, he read the openin_ords of the old will; words of unusual solemnity, which caused a hush to fal_ver 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, soo_o appear in the presence of my Maker, do make and publish this, my last wil_nd testament; hereby revoking and setting aside any and every will at an_ime heretofore made by me."
  • Then followed, in quaint phraseology, the terms of the will; by which the ful_ight and title of the first-born son, under the English law, were conveyed t_arold Scott Mainwaring, and all legal processes theretofore entered into,
  • depriving him of such rights, were forever annulled; restoring to the sai_arold Scott Mainwaring, as his rightful inheritance, the entire famil_state, including other valuable property; the said property at his death t_ass to his eldest living son, or in case of his dying without issue, t_evert to his brother Hugh, were the latter living, if not, to the neares_iving heirs of the Mainwarings; but on no account was any portion of th_state or property to pass to the wife of Harold Scott Mainwaring, should sh_urvive him.
  • As the reading of the will progressed, Hobson's feelings, too deep and genuin_t that moment for disguise, were plainly mirrored in his face. Having fo_ears believed the old will destroyed, as he now listened to the word_ictated to himself upon that memorable night, so long ago, it was littl_onder that to his cowardly soul it seemed like a voice from the dead, an_hat astonishment, fear, and dread were depicted on his features, merging int_ctual 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 ma_s 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 whic_ow seemed burning into his inmost soul. Trembling from head to foot, Hobson,
  • with a mighty effort, regained his scattered faculties and again becam_onscious of his surroundings, only to find the eyes of the secretary fixe_pon his face, and, as he shrank from their burning gaze, the truth flashe_uddenly upon him.
  • "The face of old Mainwaring himself!" he muttered in horror; then added, wit_n oath, "Fool that I was not to have known it sooner! That woman lied!"