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Chapter 27 THE SILENT WITNESS

  • Approaching footsteps were heard, but they were the steps of men moving slowl_nd unsteadily, as though carrying some heavy burden. An instant later, si_en, bearing a casket beneath whose weight they staggered, entered the court- room and, making their way through the spell-bound crowd, deposited thei_urden near the witness stand. Immediately following were two men, one of who_as 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, no_earing the full uniform of a Scotland Yard official. Bringing up the rear wa_n undertaker, who, amid the breathless silence which ensued, proceeded t_pen the casket. This done, Mr. Sutherland rose and addressed the judge, hi_ow tones for the first time vibrating with suppressed feeling.
  • "Your honor, I request that William H. Whitney be first called upon t_dentify the witness."
  • Controlling his agitation by a visible effort, Mr. Whitney approached th_asket, but his eyes no sooner rested on the form and features within than hi_orced composure gave way. With a groan he exclaimed,
  • "My God, it is Hugh Mainwaring!" and bending over the casket, he covered hi_ace 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 tremendou_ressure. Mr. Sutherland raised a warning hand to check the tide of nervou_xcitement which threatened to sweep over the entire crowd, but it was o_ittle avail. Piercing screams followed; women fainted and were borne from th_oom, and the faces of strong men blanched to a deathly pallor as they gaze_t one another in mute consternation and bewilderment. For a few moments th_reatest 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 o_bout the eighth of July last, came to his death from the effect of a gunsho_ound?"
  • "I supposed then, and up until the present time, that it was he; ther_ertainly was a most wonderful resemblance which I am unable to explain o_ccount for, but this, beyond all question, is Hugh Mainwaring."
  • "Will you state what proof of identification you can give in this instanc_hat was not present in the other?"
  • "Hugh Mainwaring had over the right temple a slight birthmark, a red lin_xtending upward into the hair, not always equally distinct, but alway_isible to one who had once observed it, and in this instance quit_oticeable. I saw no trace of this mark on the face of the murdered man; bu_s the face was somewhat blackened by powder about the right temple, _ttributed its absence to that fact, and in the excitement which followed _hought little of it. On the day of the funeral I also noted certain lines i_he face which seemed unfamiliar, but realizing that death often makes th_eatures of those whom we know best to seem strange to us, I thought n_urther of the matter. Now, however, looking upon this face, I am able t_ecall several differences, unnoticed then, but all of which go to prove tha_his 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 no_ame forward with an expression of mingled incredulity and dread, but upo_eaching 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 oversprea_is 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 mor_o himself than to the attorney; "it is Hugh Mainwaring; that was th_istinguishing 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 betwee_hem'?"
  • Ralph Mainwaring turned from the casket and faced Mr. Sutherland, but his eye_ad the strained, far-away look of one gazing into the distance, unconsciou_f objects near him.
  • "It was the mark," he said, speaking with an effort, "by which, when we wer_oys, 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. Whitne_prang to his assistance and led him to his chair, but in those few moments h_ad aged twenty years.
  • A number of those most intimately acquainted with Hugh Mainwaring were the_alled upon, all of whom identified the dead man as their late friend an_ssociate. These preliminaries over, Mr. Sutherland arose.
  • "Your honor and gentlemen of the jury, before proceeding with the testimony t_e introduced, I have a brief statement to make. Soon after the commencemen_f this action, we came into possession of indisputable evidence that Hug_ainwaring, the supposed victim of the Fair Oaks tragedy, was still living, and that of whatever crime, if crime there were associated with that fearfu_vent, he was not the victim but the perpetrator. We determined at all hazard_o secure him, first as a witness in this case, our subsequent action to b_ecided by later developments. Through our special detective we succeeded i_ocating him, but he, upon finding himself cornered, supposing he was to b_rrested for the murder of his brother, attempted suicide by shooting. Th_ombined skill of the best surgeons obtainable, though unable to save him, ye_rolonged 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; _tatement not only setting forth the facts relating to the will in question, but embracing also the details of the Fair Oaks tragedy and mystery. Thi_tatement, 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 caske_nd, 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 _ave 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 o_reachery 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 tha_ed to crime.
  • "My brother, Harold Scott Mainwaring, and I were twins, so marvelously alik_n form and feature that our parents often had difficulty to distinguis_etween us, but utterly unlike in disposition, except that we both possessed _iery temper and an indomitable will. He was the soul of honor, generous to _ault, 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, stil_ess for its votaries. I was ambitious; I loved wealth for the power which i_estowed; I would sacrifice anything for the attainment of that power, an_ven my boyish years were tainted with secret envy of my brother, an envy tha_rew with my growth, till, as we reached years of maturity, the consciousnes_hat he, my senior by only a few hours, was yet to take precedence over me—t_ossess all that I coveted—became a thorn in my side whose rankling presence _ever for a single waking hour forgot; it embittered my enjoyment of th_resent, my hopes and plans for the future.
  • "But of this deadly undercurrent flowing far beneath the surface neither h_or others dreamed, till, one day, a woman's face—cold, cruel, false, bu_eautiful, bewitchingly, entrancingly beautiful,—came between us, and fro_hat hour all semblance of friendship was at an end. With me it was a_nfatuation; with him it was love, a love ready to make any sacrifice for it_dol. So when our father threatened to disinherit and disown either or both o_s, and the false, fickle heart of a woman was laid in the balances agains_he ancestral estates, I saw my opportunity for seizing the long covete_rize. We each made his choice; my brother sold his birthright for a mess o_ottage; his rights were transferred to me, and my ambition was at las_ratified.
  • "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 th_ill by which he had disinherited his elder son, and restoring him again t_is full right and title to the estate. This was not unexpected to me. Thoug_o words on the subject had passed between us and my brother's name was neve_entioned, I had realized for more than a year that my father was graduall_elenting towards the son who had ever been his favorite, and on the last da_hat he was able to leave his room, I had come upon him unaware in the ol_icture gallery, standing before the portrait of his elder son, silent an_tern, but with the tears coursing down his pallid cheeks. When, therefore, o_he night preceding his death, my father demanded that an attorney b_ummoned, my feelings can be imagined. Just as the prize which I had so lon_egarded as mine was almost within my grasp, should I permit it to elude m_or the gratification of a dying man's whim? Never! In my rage I could hav_hrottled him then and there without a qualm; fear of the law alone held m_ack. I tried to dissuade him, but it was useless. I then bribed the servan_ent to bring the attorney to report that he was out of town, and when tha_roved of no avail, I sent for Richard Hobson, a penniless shyster, whose lac_f means and lack of principle I believed would render him an easy tool in m_ands. He came; I was waiting to receive him, and we entered into compact, _ittle dreaming I was setting loose on my track a veritable hell-hound! Th_ill was drawn and executed, Hobson and one Alexander McPherson, an old frien_f my father's, signing as witnesses. Within twenty-four hours of it_xecution, Richard Hobson was richer by several hundred pounds, and the wil_as in my possession. Two days later, I had a false telegram sent to ou_lace, summoning McPherson to his home in Scotland. He left at once, before m_ather's burial, and his death, which occurred a few weeks later, removed th_ast obstacle in the way of carrying my plans into execution. My brother a_hat 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 som_ay—though by what means I could not imagine—get some knowledge of the wil_nd 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 t_merica.
  • "Concerning the years that followed, it is needless to go into detail; the_rought me wealth, influence, power, all that I had craved, but little o_appiness. Even when there came tidings of my brother's death at sea, and _elt that at last my title to the estate was secure, I had little enjoyment i_ts 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 som_nkling of my secret, and through this knowledge, slight as it was, gaine_nough of a hold over me that life was becoming an intolerable burden. Throug_ll these years, however, I kept the will in my possession. Even after hearin_f the death of my brother, a cowardly, half-superstitious dread kept me fro_estroying it, though doubtless I would have done so soon after making my ow_ill had I not been prevented by circumstances unforeseen, which I will no_tate.
  • "The events which I am about to relate are stamped upon my brain as though b_ire; they have haunted me day and night for the past five months. On th_eventh 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 b_eclared my heir. It was past eleven o'clock on the night of that day when _etired to my private library, and it was fully an hour later when, havin_ismissed my secretary, I finally found myself alone, as I supposed, for th_ight. My thoughts were far from pleasant. I had just had a stormy intervie_ith my housekeeper, Mrs. LaGrange, who had tried, as on previous occasions, to coerce me by threats into a private marriage and a public recognition o_er as my wife and of her child and mine; and, in addition, the occurrences o_he day had been of a nature to recall the past, and events which I usuall_ought to bury in oblivion were passing before my mental vision despite m_fforts to banish them. Suddenly a voice which seemed like an echo of the pas_ecalled me to the present. Somewhat startled, I turned quickly, confronting _an who had entered unperceived from the tower-room. He was my own height an_ize, with curling black hair and heavy mustache, but I was unable t_istinguish his features as he remained standing partly in the shadow. Befor_ could recover from my surprise, he again spoke, his voice still vaguel_amiliar.
  • "'The master of Fair Oaks'—the words were spoken with stinging emphasis—'seem_epressed on the eve of his festal day, the day on which he is to name th_eir and successor to his vast estates!'
  • "I remembered that a stranger had called that day during my absence, who, m_ecretary had informed me, bad shown a surprising familiarity with my privat_lans.
  • "'I think,' I replied, coldly, 'that you favored me with a call thi_fternoon, but whatever your business then or now, you will have to defer i_or a few days. I do not know how you gained admittance to these apartments a_his hour, but I will see that you are escorted from them without delay,' an_s I spoke I rose to ring for a servant.
  • "He anticipated my intention, however, and with the agility of a panthe_prang noiselessly across the room, intercepting me, at the same time raisin_ large, English bull-dog revolver, which he levelled at me.
  • "'Not so fast, not so fast,' he said, softly; 'you can afford to wait _ittle; I have waited for years!'
  • "I stood as though rooted to the spot, gazing at him with a sort o_ascination. As he emerged into the light there was something almost familia_n his features, and yet something horribly incongruous and unreal. His eye_lowed like living fire; his soft, low tones reminded me of nothing so much a_he purring of a tiger; while the smile that played about his lips was mor_errible than anything I had ever seen on human face. It was ten times mor_earful than the muzzle of the revolver confronting me, and seemed to freez_he 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 weapo_ou would employ,—a thrust in the dark, a stab in the back, that is you_tyle, 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 fiftiet_nniversary of such a life as yours, congratulations are first in order. Allo_e to congratulate you, Hugh Mainwaring, upon the success which has attende_nd crowned the past twenty-five years of your life! upon the rich harvest yo_ave reaped during all these years; the amassed wealth, the gratifie_mbitions, the almost illimitable power, the adulation and homage,—all s_recious to your sordid soul, and for which you have bartered honor, happiness, character, all, in short, that life is worth. Standing, as you d_o-night, at the fiftieth milestone on life's journey, I congratulate you upo_our recollections of the past, and upon your anticipations for the future, a_ou descend to an unhonored and unloved old age!'
  • "Every word was heaped with scorn, and, as I looked into the burning eye_ixed upon mine and watched the sardonic smile hovering about his lips, _ondered whether he were some Mephistopheles—some fiend incarnate—sent t_orture me, or whether he were really flesh and blood.
  • "The mocking smile now left his face, but his eyes held me speechless as h_ontinued,—
  • "'No wonder that memories of bygone years haunted your thoughts to-night!
  • Memories, perhaps, of a father whose dying will you disregarded; of a brothe_hom you twice defrauded,—once of the honor and sanctity of his home, then, a_f that were not enough, of his birthright,—his heritage from generations o_ur race—'
  • "'Stop!' I cried, stung to anger by his accusations and startled by th_trange 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 tha_ou state who or what you are, and your business here!'
  • "'That is quickly stated, Hugh Mainwaring,' he answered, in tones which mad_y heart beat with a strange dread; 'I am Harold Scott Mainwaring! I am her_o 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 dyin_ather, of which you have defrauded me for twenty-five years!"
  • "'You are a liar and an impostor!' I cried, enraged at the sound of m_rother's name, and for the instant believing the man to be some emissary o_obson's who had used it to work upon my feelings.
  • "Drawing himself up to his full height, his eyes blazing, he answered in lo_ones, 'Dare you apply those epithets to me, usurper that you are? You are _iar and a thief, and if you had your deserts you would be in a felon's cel_o-night, or transported to the wilds of Australia! I an impostor? See an_udge for yourself!' and with a sudden, swift movement the black curling hai_nd mustache were dashed to the floor, and he stood before me the exac_ounterpart of myself. Stunned by the transformation, I gazed at hi_peechless; it was like looking in a mirror, feature for feature identicall_he same! For a few seconds my brain seemed to reel from the shock, but hi_ones 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, _ompromise 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 _ould be legally entitled even had you any claim, and I am willing, not as a_cknowledgment of any valid claim on your part, but as a concession on my ow_art, to give you a liberal share in the estate, or to pay you any reasonabl_um which you may require—
  • "He stopped me with an intolerant gesture. 'Do not attempt any palliation o_he past with me,' he said, sternly; 'it is worse than useless; and do no_hink that you can make any compromises with me or purchase my silence wit_our ill-gotten wealth. That may have served your purpose in the past wit_our associate and coadjutor, Richard Hobson, the man who holds in hi_ercenary grasp the flimsy reputation which is all that is left to you, o_ith 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 yo_annot buy my silence. I come to you as no beggar! I am a richer man to-da_han you, but for the sake of generations past, as well as of generations ye_o come, I will have my own. The estate which was once my forefathers shall b_y son's, and his sons' after him!'
  • "As I listened, my whole soul rose against him in bitter hatred, the ol_atred of my youth. 'I defy you,' I' cried, hotly, 'to produce one atom o_roof in support of your claim or of your charges against me! The estate i_ine, and I will make you rue the day that you dare dispute my right and titl_o it!'
  • "His eyes flashed with scorn as he replied, 'You lie, Hugh Mainwaring! You_ife for the past twenty-five years has been nothing but a lie, and the da_ust closed has witnessed the final act in this farce of yours. That I hav_lready undone, and just as surely I will undo the work of the past years. An_et me assure you I have no lack of proof with which to verify either my ow_laim or any assertion I have made, or may yet make, against you. I have proo_hat on the night preceding my father's death he made a will restoring to m_y full rights, which you have fraudulently withheld all these years; an_hrough my son, whom you have known for the past eighteen months as you_rivate secretary, I have proof that that will is still in existence, o_tself an irrefutable witness against you!'
  • "With the mention of my secretary the truth flashed upon me. I realized I wa_ompletely in his power, and with a sense of my own impotency my rage an_atred increased. Forgetful of the weapon in his hand and almost blind wit_ury, I sprang towards him, intending to throttle him—to strangle him—until h_hould plead for mercy. Instantly he raised the revolver in warning, but no_efore I had seized his wrist, turning the weapon from myself. A brie_truggle followed, in which I soon found my strength was no match for his.
  • Growing desperate, I summoned all my strength for one tremendous effort, a_he same time holding his wrist in a vice-like grip, forcing his hand highe_nd turning the revolver more and more in his direction. Suddenly there was _lash,—a sharp report,—and he fell heavily to the floor, dragging me down upo_im.
  • "For an instant I was too much stunned and bewildered to realize what ha_appened, but a glance at my opponent revealed the situation. He la_otionless where he had fallen, and a ghastly wound over the right eye tol_he terrible story. Dazed with horror, I placed my hand over his heart, bu_here was no motion, no life,—he was dead! The awful truth forced itself upo_e. Mad and blind with rage, I had turned the weapon upon him and it ha_ischarged,—whether by some sudden movement of his hand, or by the accidenta_ressure of my own fingers upon the trigger, God alone knows, I do not! On_act I could not then, nor ever can, forget; it was my hand that gave th_eapon its deadly aim, however blindly or unwittingly, and the blood of m_rother whom I had wronged and defrauded now lay at my door.
  • "The agony of remorse that followed was something beyond description, beyon_ny suffering of which I had ever dreamed; but suddenly a thought flashed upo_e 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 terribl_cene should be revealed, not alone in the approaching morning light, but i_he light of past events which, if the last words spoken by those lips no_ealed in death were true, could no longer be kept secret, what would be th_orld's verdict?" Murder! fratricide! and I? Great God! of what avail would b_ny plea of mine in the face of such damning evidence?
  • "I rushed to the tower-room, and hastily opening my safe, took from a privat_rawer therein a key and with trembling fingers fitted it into the lock of _arge metallic box which contained the family jewels, and which for more tha_wenty-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 m_esperation I now determined to destroy it. My very haste and eagernes_elayed 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 finger_arefully back and forth through the narrow receptacle where it had lain, an_mong the satin linings of the various compartments, but in vain; the will wa_one! My brother had spoken the truth, and the will was doubtless in th_ossession of his son, who, under its terms, was now himself heir to th_state. The room grew dim and the walls themselves seemed to whirl swiftl_bout me as, with great difficulty, I groped my way back to the library, wher_ stood gazing at that strange counterpart of myself, till, under the growin_orror of the situation, it seemed to my benumbed senses as though I were som_isembodied spirit hovering above his own corpse. The horrible illusion wa_ike a nightmare; I could not throw it off, and I would then and there hav_one stark, staring mad, but that there came to me out of that awful chaos o_ancies a suggestion which seemed like an inspiration. 'It is Hug_ainwaring,' I said to myself, 'Hugh Mainwaring died to-night!'
  • "My fevered brain grew cool, my pulse steady, and my nerves firm as _roceeded at once to act upon the idea. Kneeling beside the dead man, _xamined the wound. The bullet had entered above the right eye and passe_ownward, coming out at the base of the brain; from both wounds the blood wa_lowing in a slow, sluggish stream. Drawing a large handkerchief from m_ocket, I bound it tightly about the head over both wounds, knotting i_irmly; then carrying the body into the tower-room, I made sure that all door_ere 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 no_leasant to perform, I went about it as calmly and methodically as though i_ere some ordinary business transaction. As expeditiously as possible _emoved the dead man's clothing and my own, which I then exchanged, dressin_he lifeless form in the clothes I had worn on the preceding day, even to th_ressing-gown which I had put on upon retiring to my apartments, while _onned his somewhat travel-worn suit of tweed. Having completed this gruesom_ask, I left the body in much the same position in which it had originall_allen, lying slightly upon the right side, the right arm extended on th_loor, and, to give the appearance of suicide, I placed my own revolver—firs_mptying one of the chambers—near his right hand. On going to my desk for th_evolver, I discovered the explanation of my brother's words when he said tha_e had already undone my work of the preceding day, the final act of the farc_ had carried out. In the terrible excitement of those moments his meanin_scaped my mind; now it was clear. My own will, executed with such care, an_hich early in the evening I had left upon my desk, was gone. That he ha_estroyed it in his wrath and scorn I had abundant proof a little later, upo_ncidentally finding in the small grate in that room the partially burne_ragments of the document, which I left to tell their own tale.
  • "Having satisfactorily disposed of Hugh Mainwaring (as the dead man now seeme_o my over-wrought imagination), I made preparation for my immediat_eparture. This occupied little time. There was fortunately some cash in th_afe, which I took; all drafts and papers of that nature I left,—they were o_alue only to Hugh Mainwaring, and he was dead! As the cash would b_nadequate, however, for my needs, I decided after considerable deliberatio_o take the family jewels, though not without apprehension that they migh_ead to my detection, as they finally did. These I put in a small box covere_ith ordinary wrapping-paper to attract as little attention as possible,' and, having completed my preparations, I removed the bandage from the dead man'_ead and threw it with the private keys to my library into the metallic bo_hich had held the jewels. Then donning the black wig and mustache which m_isitor had thrown aside on disclosing his identity, together with a lon_lster which he had left in the tower-room, I took one farewell look at th_amiliar apartments and their silent occupant and stole noiselessly out int_he night. I remained on the premises only long enough to visit the small lak_n the rear of the house, into which I threw the metallic box and it_ontents, then, following the walk through the grove to the side street, _eft Fair Oaks, as I well knew, forever. While yet on the grounds I met my ow_oachman, but he failed to recognize me in my disguise. My plans were alread_ormed. I had come to the conclusion that my late visitor and the caller o_he preceding afternoon, whose card bore the name of J. Henry Carruthers, wer_ne and the same. My secretary had stated that Carruthers had come out fro_he 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 depo_ust as two trains were about to pull out; the suburban train which woul_eave in three minutes for the city, and the north-bound express, due to leav_ive minutes later. I bought a ticket for New York, then passing around th_ear of the suburban train, quietly boarded the express, and before th_iscovery of that night's fearful tragedy I was speeding towards the grea_est.
  • "But go where I might, from that hour to this, I have never been free fro_gonizing remorse, nor have I been able for one moment to banish from m_emory 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 m_emorse ten times deeper. In going through the pockets of the suit I wore _ound a letter from my brother, addressed to his son, written in my ow_ibrary and at my own desk while he awaited my coming. He seemed to have had _ort of presentiment that his interview with me might end in some such traged_s it did, and took that opportunity to inform his son regarding both his pas_ork and his plans for the future. What was my astonishment to find that hi_on was, at that time, as totally unaware of his father's existence as was I _ew hours before of the existence of a brother!
  • "From this letter I learned that the son had been given away at birth, and wa_o 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 escape_n some miraculous manner; that reaching Africa at last, he disclosed hi_dentity to no one, but devoted all his energies to acquiring a fortune fo_is son. He succeeded even beyond his anticipations, and when nearly twent_ears had elapsed, sailed for his old Australian home, to find his son.
  • Arriving there, he learned that his son, while pursuing his studies i_ngland, had obtained information of the will made in his father's favor, an_earning facts which led him to believe that the will was still in existenc_nd in the possession of his father's younger brother, had, with the advice o_is London attorneys, gone to America, and was then in his uncle's employ fo_he purpose of securing proof regarding the will, and, if possible, possessio_f the will itself. Upon learning these facts, my brother had immediatel_roceeded to London and to Barton & Barton, his son's attorneys, who, upon hi_rrival there, informed him of his son's success up to that time, and als_otified him that his brother was about to celebrate his approaching fiftiet_irthday by naming the son of Ralph Mainwaring as his heir, Ralph Mainwarin_nd family having just sailed to America for that purpose. My brother the_ook the first steamer for America, arriving only two days later than Ralp_ainwaring. Though unable to obtain an interview with me at once, as he ha_ntended, he had succeeded in catching sight of me, in order to assure himsel_hat the marked resemblance between us still existed, and, to emphasize tha_esemblance, he then shaved and had his hair cut in the same style in which _ore mine, so as to render the likeness the more striking and indisputabl_hen he should announce himself to me.
  • "His existence and return he wished kept secret from his son until th_uccessful consummation of his plans, but he wrote the letter as a_xplanation in case there should be any unforeseen termination. The letter wa_verflowing with a father's love and pride; his allusion to the difficult_ith which he had restrained his feelings when he found himself face to fac_ith his son on the afternoon of his call, being especially touching. Th_erusal of that letter added a hundred-fold to my own grief and remorse. _ared 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 a_uickly as possible.
  • "Through New York papers I learned from time to time of the murder of Hug_ainwaring, the lost will, the discovery of the old will, and the appearanc_f the rightful heir. From that source, also, I learned that Merrick, th_etective, was shadowing the murderer, who was generally supposed to be a ma_y the name of Carruthers. I had one advantage of Merrick. I knew him—my ol_riend Whitney having often pointed him out to me—while he did not know th_an he sought. Many a time in my wanderings I have seen him, and, knowing wel_he game he was after, eluded him, only to fall at last into the snare of on_hom I did not know. The man searching for the murderer of Hugh Mainwarin_ncountered another, trailing the murderer of Harold Scott Mainwaring, and _uddenly found my time had come! A coward then, as always, I tried to shoo_yself. In the darkness I held the muzzle of my brother's revolver to my ow_emple; instantly there flashed before me his face when I had killed him! _rew sick, my hand trembled and dropped; then, as my pursuers came nearer, _imed 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 sligh_eparation for my sin; to aid, as I said before, in righting the wrong wrough_y my past life.
  • "And now, in these my last moments, I do solemnly affirm and aver that on th_ight preceding his death, my father executed a will restoring to my elde_rother his full right and title, which will I have for more than twenty-fiv_ears last past wrongfully and fraudulently withheld and concealed; and tha_y brother being now dead, killed by my own hand, though unwittingly an_nintentionally, his son, Harold Scott Mainwaring, is the rightful and sol_eir to the entire Mainwaring estate.
  • "Signed by Hugh Mainwaring in the presence of the following witnesses: Willia_. 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 rust_etallic box-dragged from the lake—with the keys and the knotted, blood- stained handkerchief found therein. This was followed by brief testimony b_arold Scott Mainwaring and the old servant, James Wilson, but the proceeding_ollowing the reading of the statement were little more than mere form. Ther_as little attempt at cross-examination, and when the time came for th_rgument by counsel for contestant, Mr. Whitney, who had been deeply affecte_y the confession of his old friend, declined to speak.
  • All eyes were fastened upon Mr. Sutherland as he arose, as was supposed, fo_he 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, resonan_ones,—
  • "Your honor, I submit the case without argument."
  • In less than forty-five minutes from the conclusion of the statement the jur_etired, but no one moved from his place in the crowded court-room, for al_elt that little time would be required for their decision. In ten minute_hey returned, and, amid the silence that followed, the foreman announced th_erdict, "for the proponent, Harold Scott Mainwaring."
  • Cheers burst forth from all parts of the room, and the walls rang wit_pplause, which was only checked by a sudden, simultaneous movement of severa_en towards the contestant. With the announcement of the verdict, Ralp_ainwaring had risen to his feet, as though in protest. For an instant h_tood 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, wh_ad rushed to the assistance of the stricken man.
  • A few moments later the lifeless remains of Hugh Mainwaring were carried fro_he court-room, while, in another direction, the unconscious form of Ralp_ainwaring was borne by tender, pitying hands, among them those of the victo_imself, and the contest of Mainwaring versus Mainwaring was ended.
  • The bright sunlight of a December afternoon, ten days after the close of th_rial, crowned with a shining halo the heads of Harold Scott Mainwaring an_is wife as they stood together in the tower-room at Fair Oaks. But a fe_ours had elapsed since they had repeated the words of the beautiful marriag_ervice which had made them husband and wife. Their wedding had been, o_ecessity, a quiet one, only their own party and a few of their America_riends being present, for the ocean-liner, then lying in the harbor, bu_hich in a few hours was to bear them homeward, would carry also the bodies o_he Mainwaring brothers and of Ralph Mainwaring to their last resting place.
  • Here, amid the very surroundings where it was written, Harold Mainwaring ha_ust read to his wife his father's letter, penned a few hours before hi_eath. For a few moments neither spoke, then Winifred said brokenly, throug_ast falling tears,—
  • "How he loved you, Harold!"
  • "Yes," he replied, sadly; "and what would I not give for one hour in which t_ssure 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 _ave had no opportunity to show him my appreciation of his love or my love fo_im in return."
  • "Don't think he does not know it," she said, earnestly. "I believe that he no_nows your love for him far more perfectly than you know his."
  • He kissed her tenderly, then drawing from his pocket a memorandum-book, too_herefrom 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. I_nswer to her look of inquiry, Harold said,—
  • "I discovered that impress on the blotter on this desk one morning about te_ays after the tragedy, and at once recognized it as my father's writing. In _lash I understood the situation; my father himself had returned, had been i_hese rooms, and had had an interview with his brother! I knew of the marke_esemblance between them, and at once questioned, How had that intervie_nded? Who was the murdered man? Who was the murderer? That was the cause o_y trip to England to try to find some light on this subject. I need no word_o tell you the agony of suspense that I endured for the next few weeks, an_ou will understand now why I would not—even to yourself—declare my innocenc_f the murder of Hugh Mainwaring. I would have bourne any ignominy an_ishonor, even death itself, rather than that a breath of suspicion shoul_ave been directed against my father's name."
  • "My hero!" she exclaimed, smiling through her tears; then asked, "When and ho_id 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 t_he day of the funeral, she was ignorant of the truth, but on that day sh_etected the difference, which none of the others saw. She knew and recognize_y father."
  • Standing at last on the western veranda, they took their farewell of Fai_aks.
  • "Beautiful Fair Oaks!" Winifred murmured; "once I loved you; but you coul_ever be our home; you hold memories far too bitter!"
  • "Yes," Harold replied, gravely, "it is darkened by crime and stained wit_nnocent 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 ar_losely within his own, "I take with me to England, to my father's home an_ine."
  • Together they left the majestic arched portals, and going down the oak-line_venue, through the dim twilight of the great boughs interlocked above thei_eads, passed on, out into the sunlight, with never a fear for shadows tha_ight come; each strong and confident in the love that united them "for bette_or worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, … till death u_o part."