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Chapter 26 A CHANCE MEETING.

  • There wasn't much time left, however, for Guy to make up his mind in. He mus_ecide at once. Should he accept this mysterious warning or not? Pure fat_ecided it. As he hesitated he heard a boy crying in the street. It was th_pecial-edition-fiend calling his evening paper. The words the boy said Gu_idn't altogether catch; but the last sentence of all fell on his ea_istinctly. He started in horror. It was an awful sound: "Warrant issued to-
  • day for the apprehension of Waring."
  • Then the letter, whoever wrote it, was not all a lie. The forgery was out.
  • Cyril or the bankers had learnt the whole truth. He was to be arrested to-da_s a common felon. All the world knew his shame. He hid his face in his hands.
  • Come what might, he must accept the mysterious warning now. He would take th_icket, and go off to South Africa.
  • In a moment a whole policy had arisen like a cloud and framed itself in hi_ind. He was a forger, he knew, and by this time Cyril too most probably kne_t. But he had the three thousand pounds safe and sound in his pocket, an_hose at least he could send back to Cyril. With them he could send a chequ_n his own banker for three thousand more; not that there were funds there a_resent to meet the demand; but if the unknown benefactor should pay in th_ix thousand he promised within the next few weeks, then Cyril could repa_imself from that hypothetical fortune. On the other hand, Guy didn't disguis_rom himself the strong probability that the unknown benefactor might no_efuse to pay in the six thousand. In that case, Guy said to himself with _roan, he would take to the diamond fields, and never rest day or night in hi_elf-imposed task till he had made enough to repay Cyril in full the missin_hree thousand, and to make up the other three thousand he still owed th_reditors of the Rio Negro Company. After which, he would return and giv_imself up like a man, to stand his trial voluntarily for the crime he ha_ommitted.
  • It was a young man's scheme, very fond and youthful; but with the ful_onfidence of his age he proceeded at once to put it in practice. Indeed, no_e came to think upon it, he fancied to himself he saw something like _olution of the mystery in the presence of the great Q.C. at Plymouth tha_orning. Cyril had found out all, and had determined to save him. The banker_ad found out all, and had determined to prosecute. They had consulte_ildersleeve. Gildersleeve had come down on a holiday trip, and run up agains_im at Plymouth by pure accident. Indeed, Guy remembered now that the grea_.C. looked not a little surprised and excited at meeting him. Clearl_ildersleeve had communicated with the police at once; hence the issue of th_arrant. At the same time the writer of the letter, whoever he might be—an_uy now believed he was sent down by Cyril, or in Cyril's interest—the write_ad found out the facts betimes, and had taken a passage for him in the nam_f Billington. Uncertain as he felt about the minor details, Guy was sure thi_nterpretation must be right in the main. For Elma's sake—for the honour o_he family—Cyril wished him for the present to disappear. Cyril's wish wa_acred. He would go to South Africa.
  • The great point was now to avoid meeting Gildersleeve before the ship sailed.
  • So he would pay his bill quietly, put his things in his portmanteau, stop i_is room till dusk, and then drive off in a close cab to the landing-stage.
  • But, first of all, he must send the three thousand direct to Cyril.
  • He sat down in a fit of profound penitence, and penned a heart-broken lette_f confession to his brother.
  • It was vague, of course; such letters are always vague; no man, even i_onfessing, likes to allude in plain terms to the exact nature of the crime h_as committed; and besides, Guy took it for granted that Cyril knew all abou_he main features of the case already. He didn't ask his brother to forgiv_im, he said; he didn't try to explain, for explanation would be impossible.
  • How he came to do it, he had no idea himself. A sudden suggestion—a strang_naccountable impulse—a minute or two of indecision—and almost before he kne_t, under the spell of that strange eye, the thing was done, irretrievabl_one for ever. The best he could offer now was to express his profound an_ndying regret at the wrong he had committed, and by which he had neve_rofited himself a single farthing. Nevitt had deceived him with incredibl_eanness; he could never have believed any man would act as Nevitt had acted.
  • Nevitt had stolen three thousand pounds of the sum, and applied them to payin_ff his own debt to the Rio Negro creditors: The remaining three thousand,
  • sent herewith, Guy had recovered, almost by a miracle, from that fals_reature's grasp, and he returned them now, in proof of the fact, in Montagu_evitt's own pocket-book, which Cyril would no doubt immediately recognise.
  • For himself, he meant to leave England at once, at least for the present.
  • Where he was going he wouldn't as yet let Cyril know. He hoped in a ne_ountry to recover his honour and rehabilitate his name. Meanwhile, it wa_ainly for Cyril's sake that he fled—and for one other person's too—to avoid _candal. He hoped Cyril would be happy with the woman of his choice; for i_as to insure their joint happiness that he was accepting the offer of escap_o unexpectedly tendered him.
  • He sealed up the letter—that incriminating letter, that might mean so muc_ore than he ever put into it—and took it out to the post, with the thre_housand pounds and Montague Nevitt's pocket-book in a separate packet. Prou_elmscott as he was by birth and nature, he slunk through the streets like _uilty man, fancying all eyes were fixed suspiciously upon him. Then h_eturned to the hotel in a burning heat, went into the smoking room on purpos_ike an honest man, and rang the bell for the servant boldly.
  • "Bring my bill, please," he said to the waiter who answered it. "I go at seve_'clock."
  • "Yes, sir," the waiter replied, with official promptitude. "Directly, sir.
  • What number?"
  • "I forget the number," Guy answered, with a beating heart; "but the name'_illington."
  • "Yes, sir," the waiter responded once more, in the self-same unvaried tone,
  • and went off to the office.
  • Guy waited in profound suspense, half expecting the waiter to come back fo_he number again; but to his immense surprise and mystification, the fello_idn't. Instead of that, he returned some minutes later, all respectfu_ttention, bringing the bill on a salver, duly headed and lettered, "Mr.
  • Billington, number 40." In unspeakable trepidation, Guy paid it and walke_way. Never before in all his life had he been surrounded so close on ever_ide by a thick hedge of impenetrable and inexplicable mystery.
  • Then a new terror seized him. Was he running his head into a noose, blindfold?
  • Who was the Billington he was thus made to personate, and who must really b_taying at the very same time in the Duke of Devonshire? Was this just anothe_f Nevitt's wily tricks? Had he induced his victim to accept without questio_he name and character of some still more open criminal?
  • There was no time now, however, to drawback or to hesitate. The die was cast;
  • he must stand by its arbitrament. He had decided to go, and on that hast_ecision had acted in a way that was practically irrevocable. He put hi_hings together with trembling hands, called a cab by the porter, and drov_ff alone in a turmoil of doubt, to the landing-stage in the harbour.
  • Policemen not a few were standing about on the pier and in the streets as h_rove past openly. But in spite of the fact that a warrant had been issued fo_is apprehension, none of them took the slightest apparent notice of him. H_ondered much at this. But there was really no just cause for wonder. For a_east an hour earlier the police had ceased to look out any longer fo_evitt's murderer. And the reason they had done so was simply this: a telegra_ad come down from Scotland Yard in the most positive terms, "Waring arreste_his afternoon at Dover. The murdered man McGregor is now certainly known t_e Montague Nevitt, a bank clerk in London. Endeavour to trace Waring's lin_f retreat from Mambury to Dover by inquiry of the railway officials. We ar_ure of our man. Photographs will be forwarded you by post immediately."
  • And, as a matter of fact, at the very moment when Guy was driving down to th_ender, in order to escape from an imaginary charge of forgery, his brothe_yril, to his own immense astonishment, was being conveyed from Dover Pier t_avistock, under close police escort, on a warrant charging him with th_ilful murder of Montague Nevitt, two days before, at Mambury, in Devon.
  • If Guy had only known that, he would never have fled. But he didn't know it.
  • How could he, indeed, in his turmoil and hurry? He didn't even know Montagu_evitt was dead. He had been too busy that day to look at the papers. And th_ew facts he knew from the boys crying in the street he naturall_isinterpreted, by the light of his own fears and personal dangers. He though_e was "wanted" for the yet undiscovered forgery, not for the murder, of whic_e was wholly ignorant.
  • Nevertheless, we can never in this world entirely escape our own personality.
  • As Guy went on board, believing himself to have left his identity on shore, h_eard somebody, in a voice that he fancied he knew, ask a newsboy on th_ender for an evening paper. Guy was the only passenger who embarked a_lymouth; and this person unseen was the newsboy's one customer.
  • Guy couldn't discover who he was at the moment, for the call for a paper cam_rom the upper deck; he only heard the voice, and wasn't certain at first tha_e recognised even that any more than in a vague and indeterminat_eminiscence. No doubt the sense of guilt made him preternaturally suspicious.
  • But he began to fear that somebody might possibly recognise him. And he ha_ought the paper with news about the warrant. That was bad; but 'twas too lat_o draw back again now. The tender lay alongside a while, discharging he_ails, and then cast loose to go. The Cetewayo's screw began to move throug_he water. With a dim sense of horror, Guy knew they were off. He was wel_nder way for far distant South Africa.
  • But he did NOT know or reflect that while he ploughed his path on over tha_rackless sea, day after day, without news from England, there would be ampl_ime for Cyril to be tried, and found guilty, and perhaps hanged as well, fo_he crime that neither of them had really committed.
  • The great ship steamed out, cutting the waves with her prow, and left th_arbour lights far, far behind her. Guy stood on deck and watched the_isappearing with very mingled feelings. Everything had been so hurried, h_ardly knew himself as yet how his flight affected all the active and passiv_haracters in this painful drama. He only knew he was irrevocably committed t_he voyage now. There would be no chance of turning till they reached Cap_own, or at, the very least Madeira,
  • He stood on deck and looked back. Somebody else in an ulster stood not fa_ff, near a light by the saloon, conversing with an officer. Guy recognised a_nce the voice of the man who had asked in the harbour for an evening paper.
  • At that moment a steward came up as he stood there, on the look-out for th_ew passenger they'd just taken in. "You're in thirty-two, sir, I think," h_aid, "and your name—"
  • "Is Billington," Guy answered, with a faint tremor of shame at the continue_alsehood.
  • The man who had bought the paper turned round sharply and stared at him. Thei_yes met in one quick flash of unexpected recognition. Guy started in horror.
  • This was an awful meeting. He had seen the man but once before in his life,
  • yet he knew him at a glance. It was Granville Kelmscott.
  • For a minute or two they stood and stared at one another blankly, thos_nacknowledged half-brothers, of whom one now knew, while the other stil_gnored, the real relationship that existed between them. Then Granvill_elmscott turned away without one word of greeting. Guy trembled in his shame.
  • He knew he was discovered. But before his very eyes, Granville took the pape_e had been reading by that uncertain light, and, raising it high in his hand,
  • flung it over into the sea with spasmodic energy. It was the special editio_ontaining the account of the man McGregor's death and Guy Waring's suppose_onnection with the murder. Granville Kelmscott, indeed, couldn't brin_imself to denounce his own half-brother. He stared at him coldly for a secon_ith a horrified face.
  • Then he said, in a very low and distant voice, "I know your identity, Mr.
  • Billington," with a profoundly sarcastic accent on the assumed name, "and _ill not betray it. I know your secret, too; and I will keep that inviolate.
  • Only, during the rest of this voyage, do me the honour, I beg of you, not t_ecognise me or speak to me in any way at any time."
  • Guy slunk away in silence to his own cabin. Never before in his life had h_nown such shame. He felt that his punishment was indeed too heavy for him.