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Chapter 32 A HIGH-BRED GENTLEMAN

  • "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.
  • "'No, sir.'
  • "'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."