"The central figure in the coroner's court that day was undoubtedly the Ear_f Brockelsby in deep black, which contrasted strongly with his flori_omplexion and fair hair. Sir Marmaduke Ingersoll, his solicitor, was wit_im, and he had already performed the painful duty of identifying the decease_s his brother. This had been an exceedingly painful duty owing to th_erribly mutilated state of the body and face; but the clothes and variou_rinkets he wore, including a signet ring, had fortunately not tempted th_rutal assassin, and it was through them chiefly that Lord Brockelsby was abl_o swear to the identity of his brother.
"The various employés at the hotel gave evidence as to the discovery of th_ody, and the medical officer gave his opinion as to the immediate cause o_eath. Deceased had evidently been struck at the back of the head with a poke_r heavy stick, the murderer then venting his blind fury upon the body b_attering in the face and bruising it in a way that certainly suggested th_ork of a maniac.
"Then the Earl of Brockelsby was called, and was requested by the coroner t_tate when he had last seen his brother alive.
"'The morning before his death,' replied his lordship, 'he came up t_irmingham by an early train, and I drove up from Brockelsby to see him. I go_o the hotel at eleven o'clock and stayed with him for about an hour.'
"'And that is the last you saw of the deceased?'
"'That is the last I saw of him,' replied Lord Brockelsby.
"He seemed to hesitate for a moment or two as if in thought whether he shoul_peak or not, and then to suddenly make up his mind to speak, for he added: '_tayed in town the whole of that day, and only drove back to Brockelsby lat_n the evening. I had some business to transact, and put up at the Grand, as _sually do, and dined with some friends.'
"'Would you tell us at what time you returned to Brockelsby Castle?'
"'I think it must have been about eleven o'clock. It is a seven-mile driv_rom here.'
"'I believe,' said the coroner after a slight pause, during which th_ttention of all the spectators was riveted upon the handsome figure of th_oung man as he stood in the witness-box, the very personification of a high- bred gentleman, 'I believe that I am right in stating that there was a_nfortunate legal dispute between your lordship and your brother?'
"'That is so.'
"The coroner stroked his chin thoughtfully for a moment or two, then he added:
"'In the event of the deceased's claim to the joint title and revenues of D_enneville being held good in the courts of law, there would be a grea_mportance, would there not, attached to his marriage, which was to have take_lace on the 15th?'
"'In that event, there certainly would be.'
"'Is the jury to understand, then, that you and the deceased parted o_micable terms after your interview with him in the morning?'
"The Earl of Brockelsby hesitated again for a minute or two, while the crow_nd the jury hung breathless on his lips.
"'There was no enmity between us,' he replied at last.
"'From which we may gather that there may have been—shall I say—a sligh_isagreement at that interview?'
"'My brother had unfortunately been misled by the misrepresentations o_erhaps the too optimistic views of his lawyer. He had been dragged int_itigation on the strength of an old family document which he had never seen, which, moreover, is antiquated, and, owing to certain wording in it, invalid.
I thought that it would be kinder and more considerate if I were to let m_rother judge of the document for himself. I knew that when he had seen it h_ould be convinced of the absolutely futile basis of his claim, and that i_ould be a terrible disappointment to him. That is the reason why I wished t_ee him myself about it, rather than to do it through the more formal—perhap_ore correct—medium of our respective lawyers. I placed the facts before hi_ith, on my part, a perfectly amicable spirit.'
"The young Earl of Brockelsby had made this somewhat lengthy, perfectl_oluntary explanation of the state of affairs in a calm, quiet voice, wit_uch dignity and perfect simplicity, but the coroner did not seem impressed b_t, for he asked very drily:
"'Did you part good friends?'
"'On my side absolutely so.'
"'But not on his?' insisted the coroner.
"'I think he felt naturally annoyed that he had been so ill-advised by hi_olicitors.'
"'And you made no attempt later on in the day to adjust any ill-feeling tha_ay have existed between you and him?' asked the coroner, marking wit_trange, earnest emphasis every word he uttered.
"'If you mean did I go and see my brother again that day—no, I did not.'
"'And your lordship can give us no further information which might throw som_ight upon the mystery which surrounds the Hon. Robert de Genneville's death?'
still persisted the coroner.
"'I am sorry to say I cannot,' replied the Earl of Brockelsby with fir_ecision.
"The coroner still looked puzzled and thoughtful. It seemed at first as if h_ished to press his point further; every one felt that some deep import ha_ain behind his examination of the witness, and all were on tenter-hooks as t_hat the next evidence might bring forth. The Earl of Brockelsby had waited _inute or two, then, at a sign from the coroner, had left the witness-box i_rder to have a talk with his solicitor.
"At first he paid no attention to the depositions of the cashier and hal_orter of the Castle Hotel, but gradually it seemed to strike him that curiou_tatements were being made by these witnesses, and a frown of anxious wonde_ettled between his brows, whilst his young face lost some of its florid hue.
"Mr. Tremlett, the cashier at the hotel, had been holding the attention of th_ourt. He stated that the Hon. Robert Ingram de Genneville had arrived at th_otel at eight o'clock on the morning of the 13th; he had the room which h_sually occupied when he came to the 'Castle,' namely, No. 21, and he went u_o it immediately on his arrival, ordering some breakfast to be brought up t_im.
"At eleven o'clock the Earl of Brockelsby called to see his brother an_emained with him until about twelve. In the afternoon deceased went out, an_eturned for his dinner at seven o'clock in company with a gentleman whom th_ashier knew well by sight, Mr. Timothy Beddingfield, the lawyer, of Paradis_treet. The gentlemen had their dinner downstairs, and after that they went u_o the Hon. Mr. de Genneville's room for coffee and cigars.
"'I could not say at what time Mr. Beddingfield left,' continued the cashier,
'but I rather fancy I saw him in the hall at about 9.15 p.m. He was wearing a_nverness cape over his dress clothes and a Glengarry cap. It was just at th_our when the visitors who had come down for the night from London wer_rriving thick and fast; the hall was very full, and there was a large part_f Americans monopolising most of our _personnel_ , so I could not swea_ositively whether I did see Mr. Beddingfield or not then, though I am quit_ure that it was Mr. Timothy Beddingfield who dined and spent the evening wit_he Hon. Mr. de Genneville, as I know him quite well by sight. At ten o'cloc_ am off duty, and the night porter remains alone in the hall.'
"Mr. Tremlett's evidence was corroborated in most respects by a waiter and b_he hall porter. They had both seen the deceased come in at seven o'clock i_ompany with a gentleman, and their description of the latter coincided wit_hat of the appearance of Mr. Timothy Beddingfield, whom, however, they di_ot actually know.
"At this point of the proceedings the foreman of the jury wished to know wh_r. Timothy Beddingfield's evidence had not been obtained, and was informed b_he detective-inspector in charge of the case that that gentleman ha_eemingly left Birmingham, but was expected home shortly. The corone_uggested an adjournment pending Mr. Beddingfield's appearance, but at th_arnest request of the detective he consented to hear the evidence of Pete_yrrell, the night porter at the Castle Hotel, who, if you remember the cas_t all, succeeded in creating the biggest sensation of any which had been mad_hrough this extraordinary and weirdly gruesome case.
"'It was the first time I had been on duty at "The Castle," he said, 'for _sed to be night porter at "Bright's," in Wolverhampton, but just after I ha_ome on duty at ten o'clock a gentleman came and asked if he could see th_on. Robert de Genneville. I said that I thought he was in, but would send u_nd see. The gentleman said: "It doesn't matter. Don't trouble; I know hi_oom. Twenty-one, isn't it?" And up he went before I could say another word.'
"'Did he give you any name?' asked the coroner.
"'What was he like?'
"'A young gentleman, sir, as far as I can remember, in an Inverness cape an_lengarry cap, but I could not see his face very well as he stood with hi_ack to the light, and the cap shaded his eyes, and he only spoke to me for _inute.'
"'Look all round you,' said the coroner quietly. 'Is there any one in thi_ourt at all like the gentleman you speak of?'
"An awed hush fell over the many spectators there present as Peter Tyrrell, the night porter of the Castle Hotel, turned his head towards the body of th_ourt and slowly scanned the many faces there present; for a moment he seeme_o hesitate—only for a moment though, then, as if vaguely conscious of th_errible importance his next words might have, he shook his head gravely an_aid:
"'I wouldn't like to swear.'
"The coroner tried to press him, but with true British stolidity he repeated:
'I wouldn't like to say.'
"'Well, then, what happened?' asked the coroner, who had perforce to abando_is point.
"'The gentleman went upstairs, sir, and about a quarter of an hour later h_ome down again, and I let him out. He was in a great hurry then, he threw m_ half-crown and said: "Good night."'
"'And though you saw him again then, you cannot tell us if you would know hi_gain?'
"Once more the hall porter's eyes wandered as if instinctively to a certai_ace in the court; once more he hesitated for many seconds which seemed lik_o many hours, during which a man's honour, a man's life, hung perhaps in th_alance.
"Then Peter Tyrrell repeated slowly: 'I wouldn't swear.'
"But coroner and jury alike, aye, and every spectator in that crowded court, had seen that the man's eyes had rested during that one moment of hesitatio_pon the face of the Earl of Brockelsby."