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Chapter 27 MR. WRAYTHWAITE OF WRAYE

  • Had the Mayor of Highmarket, lying there sullen and suspicious, only know_hat was taking place close to him at that very moment, only known what ha_een happening in his immediate vicinity during the afternoon and evening, h_ight have taken some course of action which would have prevented what wa_hortly to come. But he knew nothing—except that he was angry, and full o_oubts, and cursed everything and everybody that had led to this evil turn i_is fortunes, and was especially full of vindictiveness towards the man an_oman in the next room, who, as he felt sure, were trying to take advantage o_is present helplessness. And meanwhile, not far away, things were goin_n—and they had been going on all that day since noon.
  • Brereton, going away from Highmarket Town Hall after the dramatic discharge o_otherstone, was suddenly accosted by a smart-looking young man whom, at firs_lance, he knew to be in some way connected with the law.
  • "Mr. Gifford Brereton?" inquired this stranger. "I have a note for you, sir."
  • Brereton took the note and stepped aside into a quiet corner: the young ma_ollowed and stood near. To Brereton's surprise he found himself looking at _etter in the handwriting of a London solicitor who had two or three time_avoured him with a brief. He hastily glanced through its contents:—
  • > "The Duke's Head Hotel"
  • > _Norcaster._
  • >
  • > "Dear Mr. Brereton,—
  • >
  • > "I have just arrived at this place on business which is closely connecte_ith that which you have in hand. I shall be much obliged if you join me her_t once, bringing with you the daughter of your client Harborough—it i_mportant that she should accompany you. The bearer will have a car i_eadiness for you.
  • >
  • > Yours sincerely, > "H. C. Carfax."
  • Brereton put the note in his pocket and turned to the messenger.
  • "Mr. Carfax wishes me to return with you to Norcaster," he remarked. "H_entions a car."
  • "Here, Mr. Brereton—round the corner—a good one, that will run us there i_wenty minutes," replied the messenger.
  • "There's a call to make first," said Brereton. He went round the corner wit_is companion and recognized in the chauffeur who waited there a man who ha_nce or twice driven him from Norcaster of late. "Ah!" he said, "I daresay yo_now where Mrs. Northrop lives in this town—up near the foot of the Shawl? Yo_o?—run us up there, then. Are you one of Mr. Carfax's clerks?" he asked whe_e and the messenger had got into the car. "Have you come down with him fro_ondon?"
  • "No, sir—I am a clerk at Willerby & Hargreaves' in Norcaster," replied th_essenger. "Carfax and Spillington are our London agents. Mr. Carfax and som_ther gentlemen came down from town first thing this morning, and Mr. Carfa_ot me to bring you that note."
  • "You don't know what he wants to see me about?" asked Brereton, who wa_lready curious to the point of eagerness.
  • "Well, sir, I have a pretty good idea," answered the clerk, with a smile, "bu_ think Mr. Carfax would rather tell you everything himself. We shall soon b_here, Mr. Brereton—if the young lady doesn't keep us."
  • Brereton ran into Northrop's house and carried Avice off with scant ceremony.
  • "This, of course, has something to do with your father's case," he said, as h_ed her down to the car. "It may be—but no, we won't anticipate! Only—I'_ertain things are going to right themselves. Now then!" he called to th_river as they joined the clerk. "Get along to Norcaster as fast as you can."
  • Within half an hour the car stopped at the old-fashioned gateway of the Duke'_ead in Norcaster market-place, and the clerk immediately led his tw_ompanions into the hotel and upstairs to a private sitting-room, at the doo_f which he knocked. A voice bade him enter; he threw the door open an_nnounced the visitors.
  • "Miss Harborough—Mr. Brereton, Mr. Carfax," he said.
  • Brereton glanced sharply at the men who stood in the room, evidently expectan_f his and his companion's arrival. Carfax, a short, middle-aged man, quic_nd bustling in manner, he, of course, knew: the others were strangers. Two o_hem Brereton instantly set down as detectives; there were all the marks an_igns of the craft upon them. They stood in a window, whispering together, an_t them Brereton gave but a glance. But at the fourth man, who stood on th_earthrug, he looked long and hard. And his thoughts immediately turned to th_ight on which he and Avice had visited the old woman who lived in the lonel_ouse on the moors and to what she had said about a tall man who had me_arborough in her presence—a tall, bearded man. For the man who stood ther_efore him, looking at Avice with an interested, somewhat wistful smile, was _all, bearded man—a man past middle age, who looked as if he had seen a goo_eal of the far-off places of the world.
  • Carfax had hurried forward, shaken hands with Brereton, and turned to Avic_hile Brereton was making this rapid inspection.
  • "So here you are, Brereton—and this young lady, I suppose, is Mis_arborough?" he said, drawing a chair forward. "Glad you've come—and I daresa_ou're wondering why you've been sent for? Well—all in good time, bu_irst—this gentleman is Mr. John Wraythwaite."
  • The big man started forward, shook hands hastily with Brereton, and turne_ore leisurely to Avice.
  • "My dear young lady!" he said. "I—I—the fact is, I'm an old friend of you_ather's, and—and it will be very soon now that he's all right—and all tha_ort of thing, you know! You don't know me, of course."
  • Avice looked up at the big, bearded figure and from it to Brereton.
  • "No!" she said. "But—I think it was you who sent that money to Mr. Brereton."
  • "Ah! you're anticipating, young lady!" exclaimed Carfax. "Yes—we've a lot o_alking to do. And we'd better all sit down and do it comfortably. On_oment," he continued, and turned away to the two men in the window, who, after a few words with him, left the room. "Now then—we'll do our first par_f the business, Brereton!" he went on, as they all took seats at a table nea_he fire. "You, of course, don't know who this gentleman is?"
  • "Not at all," replied Brereton.
  • "Very good!" continued Carfax, rubbing his hands as if in enjoyment of th_ituation. "Then you've some interesting facts to hear about him. To begi_ith, he's the man who, when your client, this young lady's father, is brough_p at these coming Assizes, will prove a complete _alibi_ on his behalf. I_ther words, he's the man with whom Harborough was in company during th_vening and the greater part of the night on which Kitely was murdered."
  • "I thought so," said Brereton. He looked reflectively at Mr. Wraythwaite. "Bu_hy did you not come forward at once?" he asked.
  • "My advice—my advice!" exclaimed Carfax hastily. "I'm going to explain th_easons. Now, you won't understand, Brereton, but Miss Harborough, I think, will know what I mean, or she'll have some idea, when I say that thi_entleman is now—now, mind you!—Mr. Wraythwaite of Wraye."
  • Avice looked up quickly with evident comprehension, and the solicitor nodded.
  • "You see—she knows," he went on, turning to Brereton. "At least, that convey_omething to her. But it doesn't to you. Well, my dear sir, if you were _ative of these parts it would. Wraye is one of the oldest and most histori_states between here and the Tweed—everybody knows Wraye. And everybody know_oo that there has been quite a romance about Wraye for some time—since th_ast Wraythwaite died, in fact. That Wraythwaite was a confirmed old bachelor.
  • He lived to a great age—he outlived all his brothers and sisters, of whom he'_ad several. He left quite a tribe of nephews and nieces, who were distribute_ll over the world. Needless to say, there was vast bother and trouble.
  • Finally, one of the nephews made a strong claim to the estate, as being th_ldest known heir. And he was until recently in good trim for establishing hi_laim, when my client here arrived on the scene. For he is the eldes_ephew—he is the rightful heir—and I am thankful to say that—only within thi_ast day or two—his claim has been definitely recognized and established, an_ll without litigation. Everything," continued Carfax, again rubbing his hand_ith great satisfaction, "everything is now all right, and Mr. Wraythwaite o_raye will take his proper and rightful place amongst his own people."
  • "I'm exceedingly glad to hear it," said Brereton, with a smile at the big man, who continued to watch Avice as if his thoughts were with her rather than wit_is solicitor's story. "But—you'll understand that I'd like to know how al_his affects my client?"
  • "Ye—yes!" said Mr. Wraythwaite, hastily. "Tell Mr. Brereton, Carfax—never min_e and my affairs—get on to poor Harborough."
  • "Your affair and Harborough's are inextricably mixed, my dear sir," retorte_arfax, good-humouredly. "I'm coming to the mingling of them. Well," h_ontinued, addressing himself again to Brereton. "This is how things are—o_ere. I must tell you that the eldest brother of the late Squire of Wray_arried John Harborough's aunt—secretly. They had not been married long befor_he husband emigrated. He went off to Australia, leaving his wife behind unti_e had established himself—there had been differences between him and hi_amily, and he was straitened in means. In his absence our friend here wa_orn—and at the same time, sad to say, his mother died. The child was brough_p by Harborough's mother—Mr. Wraythwaite and Harborough are foster-brothers.
  • It remained in the care of Harborough's mother—who kept the secret of th_arriage—until it was seven years old. Then, opportunity occurring, it wa_aken to its father in Australia. The father, Matthew Wraythwaite, made a bi_ortune in Australia, sheep-farming. He never married again, and the fortune, of course, came at his death to his only son—our friend. Now, he had been tol_f the secret marriage of his father, but, being possessed of an ample fortun_imself, he concerned himself little about the rest of the old family.
  • However, a year or so ago, happening to read in the newspapers about the deat_f the old Squire, his uncle, and the difficulty of definitely deciding th_eal heirship, he came over to England. But he had no papers relating to hi_ather's marriage, and he did not know where it had taken place. At that tim_e had not consulted me—in fact, he had consulted no one. If he had consulte_e," continued Carfax, with a knowing wink at Brereton, "we should have pu_im right in a few hours. But he kept off lawyers—and he sought out the onl_an he could remember—his foster-brother, Harborough. And by Harborough'_dvice, they met secretly. Harborough did not know where that marriage ha_aken place—he had to make inquiries all over this district—he had to searc_egisters. Now and then, my client—not my client then, of course—came to se_arborough; when he did so, he and Harborough met in quiet places. And on th_ight on which that man Kitely was murdered," concluded the solicitor,
  • "Harborough was with my client from nine o'clock until half-past four in th_orning, when he parted with him near Hexendale railway station. Mr.
  • Wraythwaite will swear that."
  • "And fortunately, we have some corroboration," observed Brereton, with _lance at Avice, "for whether Mr. Wraythwaite knows it or not, his meetin_ith Harborough on the moors that particular night was witnessed."
  • "Capital—capital!" exclaimed Carfax. "By a credible—and creditable—witness?"
  • "An old woman of exceptional character," answered Brereton, "except that sh_ndulges herself in a little night-poaching now and then."
  • "Ah, well, we needn't tell that when she goes into the witness-box," sai_arfax. "But that's most satisfactory. My dear young lady!" he added, turnin_o Avice, "your father will be released like—like one o'clock! And then, _hink," he went on bustling round on the new Squire of Wraye, "then, my dear, I think Mr. Wraythwaite here——"
  • "Leave that to me, Carfax," interrupted Mr. Wraythwaite, with a nod at Avice.
  • "I'll tell this young lady all about that myself. In the meantime——"
  • "Ah, just so!" responded Carfax. "In the meantime, we have something not s_nteresting or pleasing, but extremely important, to tell Mr. Brereton.
  • Brereton—how are things going? Has any fresh light been thrown on the Kitel_urder? Nothing really certain and definite you say? Very well, my dea_ir—then you will allow me to throw some light on it!"
  • So saying, Carfax rose from his chair, quitted the room—and within anothe_inute returned, solemnly escorting the two detectives.