Part 2 out of 7
reflected even there the general expression of mingled astonishment,
incredulity, and resentment. Unmoved, however, he awaited, coolly
and impassively, the next words of the coroner.
"Mr. Scott," said Dr. Westlake, a touch of severity in his tone,
"this is a serious assertion to make regarding a man so widely known
as Mr. Mainwaring, and so universally considered above reproach in
his business transactions."
"I am aware of that fact, sir," replied Scott, calmly, "but reference
to the private letter-files of Mr. Mainwaring will prove the truth
of my assertion. I made this statement simply because the time and
place demanded it. You were endeavoring to ascertain the cause of
Mr. Mainwaring's perturbation on learning yesterday of the arrival
of Hobson. I have given what I consider the clue."
"How recently had this man Hobson extorted money from Mr. Mainwaring,
and in what amount?"
"The last money sent him was about three years ago, a sum of five
thousand dollars. Hobson wrote a most insolent letter of
acknowledgment, stating that, as this money would set him on his
feet for a time, he would not write again immediately, but assuring
Mr. Mainwaring that he would never be able to elude him, as the
writer would keep posted regarding his whereabouts, and might, some
time in the future, call upon him in person."
"Can you describe this man's appearance?"
"I cannot, having never met him."
"Will you describe the stranger who is reported to have called in
"He was tall, quite pale, with dark hair and moustache. He was
dressed in a tweed suit, somewhat travel-worn, and wore dark
"Did he state his errand?"
"Only that he wished to see Mr. Mainwaring on business of special
importance. He at first seemed rather insistent, but, on learning
that Mr. Mainwaring was out and that he would receive no business
calls for a day or two, he readily consented to defer his interview
"Did he leave his name or address?"
"His card bore the name of J. Henry Carruthers, of London. He gave
his present address as the Arlington House."
"You noticed nothing unusual in his appearance?"
"The only thing that struck me as rather peculiar was that Mr.
Carruthers seemed well informed regarding events expected to take
place here, while his name was wholly unfamiliar to Mr. Mainwaring."
At this point a pencilled note was handed by the coroner to Mr.
Whitney, who immediately summoned George Hardy and hastily
despatched him on some errand.
"Mr. Scott," resumed the coroner, "were you in Mr. Mainwaring's
private library at any time during last evening?"
"I was not. I spent the entire evening in my own room."
"When did you again see Mr. Mainwaring?"
"Not until after eleven o'clock. I had come down for a smoke in
the grounds outside and met Mr. Mainwaring in the lower hall on
the way to his rooms. He asked me to come to his library before
retiring, as he wished to give some final directions for the next
day. About half an hour later I went to the library door, but
hearing loud and angry talk within, I waited in the hall some
fifteen or twenty minutes until I knew Mr. Mainwaring was alone.
I then entered, received his instructions, and went directly to
my room for the night."
"Were you able to recognize the voices or hear any of the
"I was. I recognized the voice of the housekeeper, Mrs. LaGrange;
but feeling that I was hearing what was not intended for me, I
walked back into the main hall and remained there until Mrs.
LaGrange came out."
"You saw her leave the library?"
"Yes, sir; I passed her in the corridor."
"She saw you, of course?"
"She seemed scarcely conscious of my presence until we had passed;
she then turned and watched me as I entered the library."
"What was the nature of the conversation which you heard?"
"I only heard what Mrs. LaGrange said. She evidently was very
angry with Mr. Mainwaring."
"Can you repeat her words as you heard them?"
"Not entirely. She accused Mr. Mainwaring of dishonesty, saying
that he had defrauded his only brother, and had ignored and robbed
his own son to put a stranger in his place. The last words I heard
were, 'You are in my power, and you know it only too well; and I
will make you and your high-born, purse-proud family rue this day's
Harry Scott, with the proof of his employer's crimes in his
possession, repeated these words with an indifference and
impassiveness that seemed unnatural, while the smouldering fire in
his eyes gleamed fitfully, as though he knew some secret of which
the others little dreamed.
But, if spoken indifferently, the words were not received with
indifference. The reporters bent to their task with renewed ardor,
since it promised developments so rich and racy. Ralph Mainwaring's
face was dark with suppressed wrath; Mr. Thornton seemed hardly
able to restrain himself; while the attorney grew pale with
excitement and anger. Mrs. LaGrange alone remained unmoved, as much
so as the witness himself, her eyes half closed and a cynical smile
playing about her lips as she listened to the repetition of her own
"Did Mr. Mainwaring make no reply?" inquired the coroner.
"He did, but it was inaudible to me."
"You went into the library as soon as he was alone?"
"At what hour was this?"
"A few minutes past twelve."
"Was that the last time you saw Mr. Mainwaring living?"
"Can you state whether any one was in his rooms after you left?"
"Mr. Scott, by your own statement, you must have been in Mr.
Mainwaring's library within an hour preceding his death;
consequently, I would like you to give every detail of that
"I am perfectly willing, sir, but there are few to give. The
interview occupied possibly ten minutes. Mr. Mainwaring appeared
very weary, and, after giving directions regarding any personal
mail or telegrams which might be received, stated that he wished
me to consider myself his guest on the following day and join in
the festivities of the occasion. I thanked him, and, wishing him
"In which room were you?"
"We were both in the library. When I first entered, Mr. Mainwaring
was walking back and forth, his hands folded behind him, as was
usually his habit when thinking deeply, but he immediately seated
himself and gave me my instructions. The tower-room was dimly
lighted and the curtains were drawn quite closely together at the
"Did you hear any unusual sound after reaching your room?"
"Not at that time. I was aroused about three o'clock this morning
by what I thought was a stealthy step in the grounds in the rear of
the house, but I listened for a moment and heard nothing more."
"That will do for the present, Mr. Scott. You will probably be
recalled later," said the coroner, watching the secretary rather
curiously. Then he added, in a different tone,-
"The next witness is Mrs. LaGrange."
There was a perceptible stir throughout the crowd as, with a
movement of inimitable grace, Mrs. LaGrange stepped forward, darting
a swift glance of such venomous hatred towards Scott, as he again
seated himself beside Miss Carleton, that the latter, with a woman's
quick intuition, instantly grasped the situation and watched the
proceedings with new interest and closer attention. As Mrs. LaGrange
took her place and began answering the questions addressed to her,
the eager listeners pressed still more closely in their efforts to
catch every word, feeling instinctively that some startling
developments would be forthcoming; but no one was prepared for the
shock that followed when, in response to the request to state her
full name, the reply came, in clear tones, with unequivocal
"Eleanor Houghton Mainwaring."
For an instant an almost painful silence ensued, until Dr. Westlake
"Will you state your relation to the deceased?"
"I was the lawfully wedded, but unacknowledged, wife of Hugh
Mainwaring," was the calm reply.
"Please state when and where your marriage took place," said the
coroner, watching the witness narrowly.
"We were married privately in London, about three months before Mr.
Mainwaring came to this country."
"How long ago was that?"
"A little more than twenty-three years."
"You say that you were privately married, and that in all these
years Mr. Mainwaring never acknowledged you as his wife?"
"Yes. I was at that time a widow, and, owing to certain unpleasant
circumstances attending the last months of my former husband's life,
Mr. Mainwaring insisted that our marriage be strictly private. I
acceded to his wishes, and we were married as quietly as possible.
At the end of three months he deserted me, and for four years I did
not even know where he had gone. During that time, however, I
learned that my husband, who had been fearful of soiling his proud
name by having it publicly joined with mine, was, in the sight of
the law, a common criminal. I finally traced him to America, and
five years after he deserted me I had the pleasure of confronting
him with the facts which I had obtained. With passionate
protestations of renewed love and fair promises of an honorable
married life, he sought to purchase my silence, and, fool that I
was! I yielded. He claimed that he could not at once acknowledge
me as his wife, because he was already known as an unmarried man,
but in the near future we would repeat the marriage ceremony and I
should be the honored mistress of his heart and home. I believed
him and waited. Meantime, our child was born, and then a new role
had to be adopted. Had he not known that he was in my power, I
would then have been thrust out homeless with my babe, but he dared
not do that. Instead, I was brought to Fair Oaks dressed in widow's
garb, as a distant relative of his who was to be his housekeeper.
So, for my son's sake, hoping he would some day receive his rights,
I have lived a double life, regarded as a servant where I should
have been mistress, and holding that poor position only because it
was within my power to put the master of the house in a felon's
"Can you produce the certificate of this marriage?" inquired the
coroner, regarding the witness with a searching glance as she
paused in her recital.
"Unfortunately," she replied, in a tone ringing with scorn and
defiance, "I cannot produce our marriage certificate, as my husband
kept that in his possession, and frequently threatened to destroy
it. If it is in existence, it will be found in his safe; but I can
produce a witness who was present at our marriage, and who himself
signed the certificate."
"State the name of this witness."
"Richard Hobson, of London."
"You are then acquainted with this Hobson?" the coroner inquired,
at the same time making an entry in the memorandum he held.
"Naturally, as he was at one time my husband's attorney."
"He called at Fair Oaks yesterday, did he not?"
"Do you know whether he called more than once?"
"He came a second time, in the evening, accompanied by his clerk."
"Was his object at either time to secure an interview with Mr.
"He called to see me on private business."
"Had he any intention of meeting Mr. Mainwaring later?"
"I know nothing regarding his intentions."
"Mrs. LaGrange," said the coroner, after a pause, "you were in Mr.
Mainwaring's library between the hours of eleven and twelve last
night, were you not?"
Her face darkened with anger at his form of address. "I was in
my husband's library at that hour," she replied.
"How long were you there?"
"I cannot state exactly," she answered, indifferently; "perhaps
half an hour."
"Did Mr. Scott repeat correctly your words to Mr. Mainwaring?"
"I have no doubt that he did. His memory on the subject is much
better than mine."
"What was the meaning of your threat to Mr. Mainwaring, that you
would make him and his friends regret the day's proceedings?"
"He understood my meaning. He knew that I could set aside the
will, and could ruin him by exposing his duplicity and fraud."
"What reply did he make?"
"He answered me, as usual, with sneers; but I saw that he felt
somewhat apprehensive. I wished to give him a little time to
reflect upon a proposition I had made, and I left the library,
intending to return later; but," she added, slowly and
significantly, "I was superseded by another visitor."
"Explain your meaning," said the coroner, briefly.
"My husband's private secretary entered the library directly after
I left. Some thirty minutes later I passed down the corridor
towards the library, and was startled to hear Mr. Mainwaring, in
loud and excited tones, denouncing some one as a liar and an
impostor. The reply was low, in a voice trembling with rage, but
I caught the words, 'You are a liar and a thief! If you had your
deserts, you would be in a felon's cell to-night, or transported
to the wilds of Australia!' There was much more in the same tone,
but so low I could not distinguish the words, and, thinking Mr.
Mainwaring was likely to be occupied for some time, I immediately
retired to my room."
"Was the voice of the second speaker familiar to you?" inquired
Dr. Westlake, in the breathless silence that followed this statement.
A half smile, both cunning and cruel, played around the lips of the
witness, as she answered, with peculiar emphasis and with a ring
of triumph in her tone,-
"The voice was somewhat disguised, but it was distinctly recognizable
as that of Mr. Scott, the private secretary."
To Scott himself, these words came with stunning force, not so much
for the accusation which they conveyed, as that her recital of those
words spoken within the library seemed but the repetition of words
which had rung in his brain the preceding night, as, alone in his
room, he had, in imagination, confronted his employer with the proof
of his guilt which that afternoon's search had brought to light.
His fancy had vividly portrayed the scene in which he would arraign
Hugh Mainwaring as a thief, and would himself, in turn, be denounced
as an impostor until he should have established his claims by the
indubitable evidence now in his possession. Such a scene bad in
reality been enacted, - those very words had been spoken, - and,
for an instant, it seemed to Scott as though he had been,
unconsciously, one of the actors.
The general wonder and consternation with which he was now regarded
by the crowd quickly recalled him, however, to the present
situation, and awakened within him a sudden, fierce resentment,
though he remained outwardly calm.
"At that time," continued the coroner, "were you of the opinion
that it was Mr. Scott whom you heard thus addressing Mr.
"Yes, I had every reason to believe it was he, and I have now
additional reasons for the same belief."
"Are these additional reasons founded on your own personal
knowledge, or on the information of others?"
"Upon information received from various members of the household."
"Did you see Mr. Scott leave the library?"
"I did not."
"Can you state about what time you heard this conversation?"
"I went immediately to my room, and there found that it lacked only
ten minutes of one."
"Did you hear any unusual sound afterwards?"
"I did not. I heard no one in the halls; and Mr. Mainwaring's
apartments were so remote from the general sleeping-rooms that no
sound from there, unless very loud, could have reached the other
occupants of the house."
Further questions failed to develop any evidence of importance, and
the witness was temporarily dismissed. Glancing at his watch, the
"It is nearly time to adjourn, but if Mr. Hardy has returned we
will first hear what he has to report."
As the valet again came forward, Dr. Westlake asked, "Were you able
to learn anything concerning the strangers who were here yesterday?"
"Not very much, sir," was the reply. "I went to the Arlington first
and inquired for Mr. J. Henry Carruthers, and they told me there
was no such person registered there; but they said a man answering
that description, tall and wearing dark glasses, came into the
hotel last evening and took dinner and sat for an hour or so in the
office reading the evening papers. He went out some time between
seven and eight o'clock, and they had seen nothing more of him."
"Was Richard Hobson at the Arlington?"
"No, sir; but I went to the Riverside, and found R. Hobson
registered there. They said he came in in the forenoon and ordered
a carriage for Fair Oaks. He came back to lunch, but kept his room
all the afternoon. He had a man with him in his room most of the
afternoon, but he took no meals there. After dinner Hobson went
out, and nobody knew when he came back; but he was there to
breakfast, and took the first train to the city. I made some
inquiries at the depot, and the agent said there was a tall man,
in a gray ulster and with dark glasses, who took the 3.10 train
this morning to the city, but he didn't notice him particularly.
That was all I could learn."
As the hour was late, the inquest was then adjourned until ten
o'clock the next morning. Every one connected with the household
at Fair Oaks was expected to remain on the premises that night; and,
dinner over, the gentlemen, including Mr. Whitney, locked themselves
within the large library to discuss the inevitable contest that
would arise over the estate and to devise how, with the least
possible delay, to secure possession of the property.
Later in the evening Harry Scott came down from his room for a
brief stroll through the grounds. A bitter smile crossed his face
as he noticed the brightly illumined library and heard the eager,
excited tones within, remembering the dimly-lighted room above with
its silent occupant, unloved, unmourned, unthought of, in marked
contrast to the preceding night, when Hugh Mainwaring lavished upon
his guests such royal entertainment and was the recipient of their
congratulations and their professions of esteem and regard.
As he paced slowly up and down the avenues, his thoughts were not
of the present, but of the past and future. At the earliest
opportunity that day he had returned to the city, ostensibly, to
attend to some telegraphic despatches, but his main errand had been
to consult with an eminent lawyer whom he knew by reputation, and
in whom both Hugh Mainwaring and Mr. Whitney, in numerous legal
contests, had found a powerful and bitter opponent. To him Scott
had intrusted his own case, giving him the fullest details, and
leaving in his possession for safe keeping the proofs which were
soon to play so important a part; and Mr. Sutherland, the attorney
retained by Scott, had been present at the inquest, apparently
as a disinterested spectator, but, in reality, one of the most
intensely interested of them all.
THE WEAVING OF THE WEB
Ten o'clock found an eager crowd assembled in and about the large
library at Fair Oaks, drawn by reports of the sensational features
developed on the preceding day. The members of the household
occupied nearly the same positions as on the preceding afternoon,
with the exception of the secretary, who had entered the room a
little in advance of the others and had seated himself near the
Notwithstanding the glances of doubt and distrust which Scott
encountered, and his own consciousness that suspicion against
himself would deepen as all the facts in the case became known,
he was as impassive as ever. Even Mr. Whitney was wholly at a
loss to account for the change in the bearing of the secretary.
He was no longer the employee, but carried himself with a proud
independence, as though conscious of some mysterious vantage-ground.
On the other side of the coroner, but conveniently near Scott, was
Mr. Sutherland, while in the rear, commanding a good view of both
gentlemen, as well as of nearly every face in the room, sat Mr.
Merrick, though to a stranger his manner would have implied the
utmost indifference to the proceedings.
The first witness called for by the coroner was Johnson, the butler.
For the first five or ten minutes his testimony was little more
than a corroboration of that given by the valet on the preceding
day, of the discovery of the death of Hugh Mainwaring.
"You say," said the coroner, "that at Mr. Whitney's request you
remained in the upper hall, near the library and within call?"
"Will you state how long a time you should think elapsed between
the alarm given by Hardy and the appearance of the entire household,
including both the guests and the servants?"
"Well, sir, Hardy gave the alarm a little after seven. The servants
were already up and crowded around there immediately, and I should
say that every one, including the ladies, was out within twenty
minutes, or thirty at the latest, with the exception of Mrs. LaGrange
and her son."
"At what time did the latter appear?"
"It must have been considerably after eight o'clock, sir, when she
came to the library in response to a message from Mr. Whitney."
"And her son?"
"I did not see Mr. Walter LaGrange at all during the forenoon, sir."
"How was that?" inquired Dr. Westlake, rather quickly. "Was he not
at Fair Oaks?"
"I cannot say, sir. I did not see him until luncheon."
"When did you last see Mr. Mainwaring?"
"A little after eleven o'clock night before last, - Wednesday night,
sir. I was in the hall as he passed upstairs to his rooms, and I
heard him ask Mr. Scott to come to his library."
"Did there seem to be any coldness or unpleasantness between them?"
"No, sir; they both appeared the same as usual."
"Did any strangers call at Fair Oaks Wednesday aside from those
"Will you describe the strangers who were here, stating when they
called and any particulars you are able to give?"
"The man giving his name as R. Hobson called between eleven and
twelve, Wednesday morning. He was tall, with thin features, small,
dark eyes, and a very soft voice. He came in a carriage, inquired
for Mrs. LaGrange, and seemed in considerable haste. He stayed
about an hour. The gentleman who called about four in the afternoon
also came in a carriage and inquired for Mr. Mainwaring, saying he
had been directed to Fair Oaks at the city offices of Mainwaring &
Co. On learning that Mr. Mainwaring was out, he asked for the
secretary; and I took his card to Mr. Scott, who gave directions
to have him shown up into the library. I do not know when he left.
He was tall, with black hair and moustache and dark glasses."
"Mr. Hobson's call occasioned considerable comment at luncheon, did
"Did you observe that it had any effect on Mr. Mainwaring?"
"Well, sir, I thought he appeared considerably annoyed, and after
luncheon he asked me whether Mr. Hobson had inquired for him."
"Did you admit Hobson when he called in the evening?"
"I did not, sir. I merely met him at the door and directed him to
the south side entrance."
"At Mrs. LaGrange's request?"
"Yes, sir; in accordance with her instructions."
"Did she give any reason for such instructions?"
"Merely that his former call had caused so much remark she wished
to receive him privately."
"Was he alone when he called the second time?"
"Can you describe the person who accompanied him?"
"No, sir. The man stood so far in the shadow that I could only see
the outlines of his form. I should say he was about the same height
as Mr. Hobson, but considerably heavier."
"Do you know at what hour they left?"
Further questions failing to elicit any facts bearing upon the
situation, the butler was dismissed, and Brown, the coachman, took
his place. The latter was far less taciturn than the butler,
seeming rather eager to impart some piece of information which he
evidently considered of special importance.
After a few preliminary questions, the coroner said,-
"At what time, and from whom, did you first hear of Mr. Mainwaring's
"About half-past seven, yesterday morning, sir. I was a-taking
care of the horses, sir, when Uncle Mose - he's the gardener, sir
- he comes past the stable on his way to the tool-house, and he
tells me that Mr. Mainwaring had been murdered in the night, right
in his own rooms, and then he tells me-"
"How long had you been up and at work in the stables?"
"Before I heard of the murder? Well, about an hour, I should say.
I generally gets up at six."
"Had you been to the house that morning?"
"No, sir; but I went right up there after seeing Uncle Mose, and I
was in the kitchen telling what I had seen the night before, when
the butler he comes down and said as how Mr. Ralph Mainwaring wanted
me, and that I had better keep my mouth shut till I was asked to
tell what I knew."
"Where were you last Wednesday night?" asked the coroner, rather
Brown looked surprised, but answered readily, "I was out with some
friends of mine. We all went down to the city together that night
and stayed out pretty late, and it seems a mighty good thing we
"Why so?" asked the coroner.
"Well, sir," said Brown, deliberately, glad of an opportunity to
tell his story and evidently determined to make the most of it, "as
I said, we stayed out that night later than we meant to, and I didn't
waste no time getting home after I left the depot. So, when I got
to Fair Oaks, I thought I'd take the shortest cut, and so I come in
by the south gate, off from the side street, and took the path
around the lake to get to the stables."
"What lake do you mean?" interrupted the coroner.
"The small lake back of the grove in the south part of the grounds.
Well, I was hurrying along through that grove, and all of a sudden
I seen a man standing on the edge of the lake with his back towards
me. He was very tall, and wore an ulster that came nearly to his
feet, and he looked so queer that I stepped out of the path and
behind some big trees to watch him. I hadn't no more than done so,
when he stooped and picked up something, and come right up the path
towards me. The moon was shining, had been up about two hours, I
should say, but his back was to the light and I couldn't see his
face, nor I didn't want him to see me. After he'd got by I stepped
out to watch him and see if he went towards the house, but he
didn't; he took the path I had just left and walked very fast to
the south gate and went out onto the side street."
"In which direction did he then go?" asked the coroner.
"He went up onto the main avenue and turned towards the town."
"Can you describe his appearance?"
"Only that he was tall and had very black hair; but his face was in
the shadow, so I couldn't tell how he looked."
"What did he pick up from the ground?"
"I couldn't see very plain, but it looked like a small, square box
done up in paper."
"You did not try to call any one?"
"No, sir. The man didn't go near the house, and I didn't think
much about it until Uncle Mose told me yesterday morning that the
night before he seen - "
"Never mind what he saw; we will let him tell his own story. Was
that all you saw?"
"No, sir; it wasn't," replied Brown, with a quick side glance
towards Mrs. LaGrange, who occupied the same position as on the
preceding day. "I was going along towards the stables, thinking
about that man, and all of a sudden I noticed there was a bright
light in one of the rooms up-stairs. The curtains wasn't drawn,
and I thought I'd see whose room it was, so I walked up towards the
house carefully, and I saw Mr. Mainwaring's secretary. He looked
awfully pale and haggard, and was walking up and down the room kind
of excited like. Just then I happened to step on the gravelled walk
and he heard me, for he started and looked kind of frightened and
listened a moment, and then he stepped up quick and extinguished the
light, and I was afraid he'd see me then from the window, so I
hurried off. But I thought 'twas mighty queer-"
"Mr. Scott was dressed, was he?" interrupted the coroner.
"Yes, sir," Brown answered, sullenly.
"Did you go directly to your room?"
"What time was this?"
"I heard the clock strike three just after I got in."
"You saw or heard nothing more?"
"You knew nothing of what had occurred at the house until the
gardener told you in the morning?"
"N - yes - no, sir," Brown stammered, with another glance towards
Mrs. LaGrange, who was watching him closely.
"What did you say?" demanded the coroner.
"I said I didn't know what had happened till Uncle Mose told me,"
Brown answered, doggedly.
"That will do," said the coroner, watching the witness narrowly as
he resumed his place among the servants.
During the latter part of Brown's testimony, quick, telegraphic
glances had been exchanged between Scott and Mr. Sutherland, and
one or two slips of paper, unobserved by any one but Merrick, had
passed from one to the other.
Scott was well aware that the statements made by the coachman had
deepened suspicion against himself. He paid little attention to
the crowd, however, but noted particularly the faces of the guests
at Fair Oaks. Ralph Mainwaring's, dark with anger; that of the
genial Mr. Thornton coldly averted; young Mainwaring's supercilious
stare, and his sister's expression of contemptuous disdain; and as
he studied their features his own grew immobile as marble. Suddenly
his glance encountered Miss Carleton's face and was held for a
moment as though under a spell. There was no weak sentimentality
there, no pity or sympathy, - he would have scorned either, - but
the perfect confidence shining in her eyes called forth a quick
response from his own, though not a muscle stirred about the
sternly-set mouth. She saw and understood, and, as her eyes fell,
a smile, inexplicable and mysterious, flashed for an instant across
her face and was gone.
"John Wilson," announced the coroner, after a slight pause.
A middle-aged man, rather dull in appearance, except for a pair of
keenly observant eyes, stepped forward with slow precision.
"You are Mr. Ralph Mainwaring's valet, I believe?" said the coroner.
"That I am, sir," was the reply.
"Have you been for some time in his employ?"
The man peered sharply at Dr. Westlake from under his heavy brows,
and replied, with great deliberation, "Nigh onto thirty years, sir."
Then, noting the surprise in his interlocutor's face, he added, with
dignity, "The Wilsons, sir, have served the Mainwarings for three
generations. My father, sir, was valet to the father of the dead
Hugh Mainwaring, the Honorable Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring, sir."
A smile played over the features of young Mainwaring at these words,
but Scott started involuntarily, and, after studying Wilson's face
intently for a moment, hastily pencilled a few words on a slip of
paper which he handed to Mr. Sutherland, and both watched the
witness with special interest.
His testimony differed little from that given by Hardy and by the
butler. He stated, however, that, after accompanying Mr. Ralph
Mainwaring to the scene of the murder, the latter sent him to summon
Mr. Scott; but on his way to the young gentleman's room he saw Mr.
Whitney in advance of him, who called the secretary and immediately
returned with him to the library.
"Was Mr. Scott already up when Mr. Whitney called him?" the coroner
"He was up and dressed, sir," was the reply.
Wilson also corroborated the butler's statement that Walter LaGrange
was not seen about the premises until luncheon, and stated, in
addition, that the horse belonging to young LaGrange was missing
from the stables until nearly noon. Having mingled very little with
the servants at Fair Oaks, he had but slight knowledge concerning the
occurrences of the day preceding the murder. His testimony was
therefore very brief.
"Katie O'Brien, chambermaid," was next called; and in response a
young Irish woman quietly took her place before the coroner. She
answered the questions addressed her as briefly as possible, but
with deliberation, as though each word had been carefully weighed.
"Did you have charge of the private rooms of Mr. Mainwaring?"
"You took care of his rooms as usual Wednesday?"
"Did you see Mr. Mainwaring during the day or evening?"
"I met him once or twice in the halls."
"When did you last see him?"
"About two o'clock Wednesday afternoon."
"State how you first heard of his death."
"I was working in the halls up-stairs about seven that morning and
heard running back and forth, as if there was trouble. I went out
into the front hall and met the butler, and he told me Mr. Mainwaring
had been murdered."
"Did you go in to see him at that time?"
"Yes, sir, for a moment."
"Did you notice anything unusual in his rooms?"
"I didn't notice anything unusual in Mr. Mainwaring's rooms."
"Did you in any room?"
"In what one?"
"In Mr. Scott's room, a little later."
"State what you observed."
"A few minutes after I left the library I saw Mr. Scott come out of
his room and go away with Mr. Whitney, and I thought I would go in
and do up the room. So I went in, but the bed was just as I had
made it up the day before. It hadn't been slept in nor touched.
Then things was strewn around considerable, and the top drawer of
his dressing-case was kept locked all the forenoon until he went to
"When did he go to the city?"
"Did you see Mr. Scott the day or evening preceding Mr. Mainwaring's
"No, sir; but I know he was locked in Mr. Mainwaring's library all
the afternoon, after the folks had gone out driving."
"How do you know the library was locked?"
"I was sweeping in the corridor, and I heard him unlock the door
when the butler came up with some gentleman's card."
"Did you see the gentleman who came up-stairs later?"
"Did you see Walter LaGrange at any time during yesterday forenoon?"
The witness colored slightly, but replied, "I think I met him once
or twice; I don't remember just when."
"He was away from home part of the time, was he not?"
"I don't know where he was."
Nothing further of importance could be learned from the witness,
and, as it was then past twelve, a short recess was taken until
Scott took his place at the table with the guests, seemingly alike
indifferent to cold aversion or angry frowns. He was conscious that
Miss Carleton was watching him, her manner indicating the same frank
friendliness she had shown him on the preceding day, and in response
to a signal from her, as they rose from the table, he followed her
into one of the drawing-rooms, joining her in a large alcove window,
where she motioned him to a seat on a low divan by her side.
"You have made a bitter enemy in Mrs. LaGrange," she said, archly;
"and she has marshalled her forces against you."
"Do you think so?" he asked, with an amused smile.
"Certainly. She displayed her tactics this morning. I am positive
that much of the testimony was given in accordance with her orders."
"For the most part, however, the witnesses stated facts," Scott
replied, watching her closely.
"Yes; but facts may be so misrepresented as to give an impression
quite the reverse of the truth."
"That is so. And a misrepresentation having a foundation of truth
is the hardest to fight. But," he added, in a lighter tone, "all
this testimony against me does not seem to have produced the same
impression upon you that it has upon the others. Your suspicions
do not seem, as yet, to have been very thoroughly aroused."
"Perhaps my suspicions are as dormant as your own apprehensions.
I fail to detect the slightest anxiety on your part as to the
outcome of this, one way or another."
"No," he replied, after a pause; "I feel no anxiety, only resentment
that circumstances have conspired against me just at this time, and
contempt for people who will be led by appearances rather than their
"People sometimes use very little judgment where their own personal
interests are concerned."
"In that case," said Scott, as they rose to return to the library,
where the others had already preceded them, "I suppose the word of
one unprincipled woman and of three or four ignorant servants will
be allowed to outweigh mine."
They had reached the library and Miss Carleton made no reply, but
Scott again saw the same inscrutable little smile play over her
features, and wondered at its meaning.
Upon resuming the examination, the first witness called for was
Mary Catron, the second cook, a woman about thirty-five years of
age, with an honest face, but one indicative of a fiery temper.
Her testimony was brief, but given with a directness that was
amusing. When questioned of the occurrences of the day preceding
the murder, she replied,-
"I know nothing of what went on except from the gossip of the rest.
My place was in the kitchen, and I had too much to do that day to
be loitering round in the halls, leaning on a broom-handle, and
listening at keyholes," and she cast a glance of scathing contempt
in the direction of the chambermaid.
"Did this 'gossip' that you speak of have any bearing on what has
since occurred?" the coroner inquired.
"Well, sir, it might and it mightn't. 'Twas mostly about the will
that Mr. Mainwaring was making; and as how them that got little
was angry that they didn't get more, and them as got much was
growling at not getting the whole."
"How did the servants gain any knowledge of this will?"
"That's more than I can say, sir, except as I knows the nature of
Upon further questioning, the witness stated that on the night of
the murder, between the hours of two and three, she was aroused by
a sound like the closing of an outside door, but on going to one
of the basement windows to listen, she heard nothing further and
concluded she had been mistaken.
"Did you see the coachman at that time?" she was asked.
"A few minutes later I looked out again and I see him gaping and
grinning at the house and jabbering to himself like an idiot, and
I was minded to send him about his business if he hadn't a-took
himself off when he did."
"He was perfectly sober, was he not?"
"Sober for aught that I know; but, to my thinking, he's that daft
that he's noways responsible for aught that he says."
"Were you up-stairs soon after the alarm was given?" asked the
coroner, when she had told of hearing from the butler the news of
"Yes, sir; I went up as soon as ever I heard what had happened."
"Who was in the library at that time?"
"Nobody but some of the servants, sir. I met Mr. Whitney just as
I came out."
"Did you meet any one else?"
"I met no one, but I saw the housekeeper coming out of her son's
room. She didn't see me; but she was telling him to get ready
quick to go somewheres, and I heard her say to hurry, for every
minute was precious."
Louis Picot, the head cook, could give no information whatever.
When the alarm was given, he had rushed, with the other servants,
to the scene of the murder, and in his imperfect English,
accompanied by expressive French gestures, he tried to convey his
horror and grief at the situation, but that was all.
The two maids who attended the English ladies were next called upon;
but their testimony was mainly corroborative of that given by the
chambermaid, except that Sarah Whitely, Miss Carleton's maid,
stated, in addition, that she had seen Mr. Walter LaGrange leave
his mother's room in great haste and go down-stairs, and a little
later, from one of the upper windows, saw him riding away from
the stables in the direction of the south gate.
But one servant remained, "Uncle Mose," as he was familiarly called,
the old colored man having charge of the grounds at Fair Oaks. His
snow-white hair and bent form gave him a venerable appearance; but
he was still active, and the shrewd old face showed both humor and
pathos as he proceeded with his story. He had been a slave in his
younger days, and still designated his late employer by the old term
"mars'r." He was a well-known character to many present, including
Dr. Westlake, who knew that in this instance questions would have
to be abandoned and the witness allowed to tell his story in his
"Well, Uncle Mose, you have been employed at Fair Oaks for a long
time, haven't you?"
"Moah dan twenty yeahs, sah, I'se had charge ob dese y'er grounds;
an' mars'r Mainwaring, he t'ought nobody but ole Mose cud take cyah
ob 'em, sah."
"You were about the grounds as usual Wednesday, were you not?"
"I was 'bout de grounds all day, sah, 'case dere was a pow'ful lot
to do a-gittin' ready for de big doins dere was goin' to be on
"Did you see either of the strangers who called that day?"
"I'se a-comm' to dat d'rectly, sah. You see, sah, I wants to say
right heah, befo' I goes any furder, dat I don' know noffin 'cept
what tuk place under my own obserbation. I don' feel called upon
to 'spress no 'pinions 'bout nobody. I jes' wants to state a few
recurrences dat I noted at de time, speshally 'bout dem strangers
as was heah in pertickeler. Well, sah, de fust man, he come heah
in de mawnin'. De Inglish gentlemens, dey had been a-walkin' in
de grounds and jes' done gone roun' de corner oh de house to go
to mars'r Mainwaring's liberry, when dis man he comes up de av'nue
in a kerridge, an' de fust ting I heah 'im a-cussin' de driver.
Den he gets out and looks roun' kind o' quick, jes' like de possum
in de kohn, as ef he was 'fraid somebody done see 'im. I was fixin'
de roses on de front poach, an' I looked at 'im pow'ful sharp, an'
when de dooh opened he jumped in quick, as ef he was glad to get
out o' sight. Well, sah, I didn't like de 'pearance ob dat man,
an' I jes' t'ought I'd get anoder look at 'im, but he stayed a
mighty long time, sah, an' bime'by I had to go to de tool-house,
an' when I gets back the kerridge was gone."
"Could you describe the man, Uncle Mose?" the coroner asked.
"No, sah, I don' know as I could 'scribe 'im perzacly; but I'd know
'im, no matter where I sot eyes on 'im, and I know'd 'im the nex'
time I see 'im. Well, sah, dat aft'noon, mars'r Mainwaring an' de
folks had gone out ridin', an' I was roun' kind o' permiscuous like,
an' I see anoder kerridge way down de av'nue by de front gate, an'
I waited, 'spectin' maybe I'd see dat man again. While I was waitin'
by de front dooh, all oh a sudden a man come roun' from de side, as
ef he come from mars'r Mainwaring's liberry, but he was anoder man."
"Didn't he look at all like the first man?" inquired the coroner.
"No, sah; he looked altogedder diff'rent; but I don' know as I could
state whar'in de differensiashun consisted, sah. Dis man was berry
good lookin' 'ceptin' his eyes, an' dem yoh cudn' see, 'case he had
on cull'ed glasses. Mebbe his eyes was pow'ful weak, er mebbe he
didn't want nobody to see 'em; but I 'spicioned dem glasses d'rectly,
sah, an' I watched 'im. He goes down to de kerridge an' takes out
a coat an' says sump' in to de driver, an' de kerridge goes away
tow'ds de town, an' he walks off de oder way. Bime'by I see 'im
gwine back again on de oder side ob de street-"
"Was he alone?" interrupted the coroner.
"Yes, sah; an' I done kep' my eye on 'im, an' he didn' go on to de
town, but tuhned down de fust side street. Well, sah, I didn' see
no moah ob 'im den; but dat ebenin' I'd ben a-workin' roun' de
house, sprinklin' de grass and gettin' ready foh de nex' day, when
I happens to pass by de side dooh, an' I sees dem two men comm'
"What time was this, Uncle Mose?" the coroner asked, quickly.
"Well, sah," said the old man, reflectively, "my mem'ry is a little
derelictious on dat p'int, but I knows 'twas gettin' putty late."
"Are you sure these were the same two men you had seen earlier in
"Yes, sah; 'case I stepped in de bushes to watch 'em. Dey talked
togedder berry low, an' den one man goes back into de house, an' I
seen 'im plain in de hall light, an' he was de fust man; an' while
I was a-watchin' 'im, de oder man he disappeahed an' I cudn' see
'im nowhar, but I know'd he was de man dat came in de aft'noon,
'case he look jes' like 'im, an' toted a coat on his arm. Well,
sah, I t'inks it a berry cur'is sarcumstance, an' I was jes' comm'
to de preclushun dat I'd mention it to some ob de fambly, when de
fust man, he come to de dooh wid de housekeeper. I was in de
shadder and dey didn' see me, but I heah 'im say, kind o' soft
like, 'Remember, my deah lady, dis is a biz'ness contract; I does
my part, an' I 'spects my pay.' An' she says, 'Oh, yes, yoh shall
hab yohr money widout fail.' An' I says to myse'f, 'Mose, yoh ole
fool, what you stan'in' heah foh? Dat ain't nuffin dat consarns
yoh nohow,' an' I goes home, an' dat's all I know, sah. But I'se
ben pow'ful sorry eber sence dat I didn' let mars'r Mainwaring
know 'bout it, 'case I has my 'spicions," and the old darkey shook
his head, while the tears coursed down his furrowed cheeks.
"How did you hear of Mr. Mainwaring's death?" asked the coroner.
"De coachman, he done tole me, sah."
"Why, the coachman stated that you told him what had occurred."
"No, sah; he done tole me; I'd come up to de place pow'ful ahly
dat mawnin' 'case dere was to be such big doings dat day, an' I
was gwine to de tool-house foh sump'in, an' I see mars'r Walter
ridin' away from de stables pow' ful fas' on his hoss-"
"Do you mean Walter LaGrange?"
"Yes, sah; an' de coachman he came out an' I ax 'im whar de young
man was gwine dat ahly, an' he say mars'r Mainwaring ben killed, an'
mars'r Walter had to go to town as fas' as his hoss cud take 'im."
"Do you know when he returned?"
"He came back, sah, befo' berry long, an' den he went away agin and
didn't come back till mos' noon."
When the old darkey had been dismissed the coachman was recalled.
"What did you mean by stating that you first heard of Mr.
Mainwaring's death from the gardener, when the reverse was the
"I don't know," he replied, carelessly; "I s'pose I got mixed. I
remember talking with him about it, and I thought he told me."
"You had forgotten the interview with Walter LaGrange, I presume."
Brown made no answer.
"Why did you not mention that?"
"I wasn't asked to," he replied in insolent tones; "you said nothing
to me about Mr. LaGrange."
"You are expected to state in full every occurrence having any
bearing on the situation. You may give the particulars of that
"There's nothing to tell more than Uncle Mose told. I was working
in the stables as usual, and Mr. LaGrange came in in a big hurry
and ordered me to saddle his horse as quick as I could, that Mr.
Mainwaring had been murdered, and he'd got to go to town."
"At what time was this?"
"About half-past seven, I should say."
"Did he state his errand?"
"When did he return?"
"I saw his horse standing in the yard outside the stables about half
an hour after, and then 'twas gone, and I didn't see it again till
Walter LaGrange was next called. He stated that he had spent the
greater part of the day preceding the murder away from Fair Oaks;
he had not been at home to luncheon or dinner, and consequently knew
nothing of the strangers seen on the place that day. He had returned
about half-past ten that evening, and remembered seeing Mr.
Mainwaring and his guests seated on the veranda, but he had gone
directly to his room without meeting any one. The first intimation
which he had received of any unusual occurrence the next morning
was when his mother entered his room and told him that Mr. Mainwaring
had either been murdered or had committed suicide, no one knew which.
"Was that her only object in coming to your room?"
"No, sir; she wanted me to do an errand for her."
"Will you state the nature of this errand?"
"It was only to deliver a note."
"To Mr. Hobson," the young man answered weakly, while his mother
frowned, the first sign of emotion of any kind which she had
betrayed that day.
"Did you deliver the note?"
"Then, under your mother's orders, you went to the city on your
second trip, did you not?"
"Were you successful in finding Mr. Hobson there?"
"Yes, sir," the witness answered sullenly.
"You had other business in the city aside from meeting him, had you
Between the coroner's persistence and his mother's visible signs of
displeasure, Walter LaGrange was fast losing his temper.
"If you know so much about this business, I don't see the use of
your questioning me," he retorted angrily. "It's no affair of mine
anyway; I had nothing to do with it, nor I won't be mixed up in it;
and if you want any information you'd better ask mother for it; it's
her business and none of mine."
After a few more questions, which the witness answered sullenly and
in monosyllables, he was dismissed.
"Mr. Higgenbotham," announced the coroner. The greatest surprise
was manifested on every side as the senior member of a well-known
firm of jewellers stepped forward; the same gentleman who had
accompanied Mr. Whitney on his return from the city on the preceding
"Mr. Higgenbotham," said the coroner, "I believe you are able to
furnish some testimony which will be pertinent at this time."
"Yes, Dr. Westlake," responded the other, in deep, musical tones,
"I think possibly I can render you a little assistance in your
"Mr. Higgenbotham, do you recognize the young gentleman who has just
given his testimony?"
"I do, sir," said the witness, adjusting a pair of eyeglasses and
gazing steadily at Walter LaGrange. "I recall his features
"You were personally acquainted with the late Hugh Mainwaring, I
"Yes, sir, intimately acquainted with him."
"You are, I believe, familiar with the Mainwaring jewels which are
now missing?" continued the coroner.
Walter LaGrange looked uncomfortable and his mother's cheek paled.
"I am, sir; having had them repeatedly left in my possession for
safe keeping during their owner's absence from home; and I have
also a complete list of them, with a detailed description of every
"Very well, Mr. Higgenbotham, will you now please state when, and
under what circumstances, you saw this young gentleman?"
"I was seated in my private office yesterday morning, when my head
clerk came in and asked me to step out into the salesrooms for a
moment, as he said a young man was there trying to sell some very
fine jewels, and, from his youth and his ignorance of their value,
he feared something was wrong. I went out immediately and saw this
young gentleman, who handed me for inspection a superb diamond
brooch and an elegant necklace of diamonds and pearls. I instantly
recognized the gems as pieces from the old Mainwaring collection of
jewels. Simultaneously there occurred to my mind the report of the
murder of Hugh Mainwaring, which I had heard but a short time before,
although then I knew nothing of the robbery. Naturally, my
suspicions were awakened. I questioned the young man closely,
however, and he stated that his home was at Fair Oaks, and that his
mother was a distant relative of Mr. Mainwaring's; that the jewels
were hers, and she wished to dispose of them for ready cash to meet
an emergency. His story was so plausible that I thought possibly
my suspicions had been somewhat hasty and premature. Still, I
declined to purchase the jewels; and when he left the store I
ordered one of our private detectives to follow him and report to
me. In the course of an hour the detective returned and reported
that the young man had sold the jewels to a pawnbroker for less
than one-fourth their actual value. About half an hour later I
heard the news of the robbery at Fair Oaks, and that the family
jewels were missing; and knowing that Mr. Whitney was here, I
immediately telephoned to him the facts which I have just stated.
He came in to the city at once, and we proceeded to the pawnshop,
where he also identified the jewels."
Mr. Higgenbotham paused for a moment, producing a package from an
inner pocket, which he proceeded to open.
"We secured a loan of the jewels for a few days," he continued,
advancing towards the coroner. "Here they are, and here is a copy
of the list of which I spoke. By comparing these gems with the
description of those which I have checked on the list, you will
see that they are identical."
He placed the open casket on the table. There was a moment's
silence, broken by subdued exclamations of admiration as Dr.
Westlake lifted the gems from their resting-place.
"You are correct," he said; "the description is complete. There is
no doubt that these are a part of the collection. I see you have
marked the value of these two items as seven thousand dollars."
"Yes; that is a moderate valuation. And were the prices of the
other articles carried out, you would see that, with the exception
of a few very small pieces, these have the least value of the entire
lot. I believe I can be of no further service."
Mrs. LaGrange was next recalled.
"Have you anything to say in reference to the testimony just given?"
the coroner inquired.
"I have this much to say," she replied, haughtily, "that I could
have given you the history of those jewels, including, perhaps,
some facts of which even Mr. Higgenbotham and Mr. Whitney are in
ignorance, and thus have spared you the infinite pains you have
taken to make public the straits to which I was reduced, because
of my position here, when in need of a little ready money. I could
have informed you that they were originally a part of the old
Mainwaring collection of gems, until they were given me by my
"It hardly seems consistent that a man who treated his wife in the
manner in which you claim to have been treated would bestow upon
her gifts of such value as these," the coroner remarked with
"They were of little value to him," she answered, with scorn; "as
you have been informed, they were the poorest which he possessed.
Besides, there were times when I could persuade him to almost
anything, - anything but to acknowledge his lawful wife and his
"Was the money which you were forced to raise by the sale of these
jewels to be paid to Hobson?"
"In accordance with the terms of your contract with him, made a
few hours preceding the death of Mr. Mainwaring?"
"Yes," she replied, defiantly. "And as you probably would ask the
nature of that contract, I will save you the trouble. Knowing that
my son and I were likely to be defrauded of our rights in the same
manner in which Hugh Mainwaring had defrauded others, I engaged Mr.
Hobson as my attorney, as he, better than any one else, knew the
facts in the case. When I learned yesterday morning of my husband's
death, I realized that I would have immediate need of his services,
and accordingly sent him word to that effect. He demanded a large
cash payment at once. The result of this demand Mr. Higgenbotham
has already told you."
"How was Hobson to secure for you your rights from Hugh Mainwaring?"
"That was left entirely to his own discretion."
"Will you describe the appearance of Mr. Hobson's clerk?"
"Unfortunately, I am unable to do so. He was merely brought as a
witness to our contract. I knew that he was present, but he
remained in the shadow, and I took no notice of him whatever."
"Your contract, then, was a verbal one?"
Upon being closely questioned, Mrs. LaGrange reiterated her
assertions of the preceding day, laying particular stress upon the
alleged interview between Hugh Mainwaring and his secretary, after
which she was dismissed, and Harry Scott was recalled.
"Mr. Scott," said the coroner, "what were the relations existing
between Mr. Mainwaring and yourself up to the time of his death?"
Scott flushed slightly as he replied, "Those ordinarily existing
between employer and employed, except that I believe Mr. Mainwaring
accorded me more than usual consideration, and I, while duly
appreciative of his kindness, yet took especial pains never to
exceed the bounds of an employee."
"Were there ever any unpleasant words passed between you?"
"Was your last interview with Mr. Mainwaring of a friendly nature?"
"What have you to say in reference to the testimony given to the
effect that your voice was heard and recognized in angry
conversation with Mr. Mainwaring at nearly one o'clock?"
"I have to say that it is false, and without foundation."
"Do you mean to say that the statement of the witness was wholly
"I do not deny that such an interview, as alleged by the witness,
may have taken place, for that is something concerning which I have
no knowledge whatever; but I do deny that she heard my voice, or
that I was in the library at that time, or at any time after about
twenty minutes past twelve."
"Was that the time at which you went to your room?"
"Very near that time, as my interview with Mr. Mainwaring could not
have exceeded ten minutes."
"At what time did you retire?"
"I sat up very late that night, for my mind was so occupied with
some personal matters that I felt no inclination for sleep. I
lighted a cigar and became so absorbed in my own thoughts that I
was totally unaware of the lapse of time, until I was aroused by
what I thought was a stealthy step outside. I then became conscious,
for the first time, that I was very weary, both physically and
mentally, and I also discovered that it was nearly three o'clock.
Astonished to find it so late, and exhausted by hours of protracted
thought, I threw myself as I was upon a low couch, where I slept
soundly until awakened in the morning."
Further questions failed to reveal any discrepancy in his statement,
and he was dismissed.
The testimony of Ralph Mainwaring and of his son added nothing of
interest or importance. Mr. Thornton testified to his incidental
meeting with Hobson and to the reputation which the man had borne in
London. When he had resumed his seat the coroner remarked,-
"As a matter of form, I will have to call upon the ladies, though
it is not expected they will be able to furnish any information
throwing light on this mysterious case."
It was, as he had said, little more than a ceremony and occupied
but a few moments. Miss Carleton was the last one called upon. She
stated that it was nearly eleven o'clock when she reached her room,
but added that she did not retire immediately, as her cousin, Miss
Thornton, had come in, and they had chatted together for more than
an hour; that while so engaged, she heard Mr. Scott come up-stairs
and enter his room, which adjoined hers, and lock the door for the
"At what hour was this?" inquired the coroner.
"It could not have been more than twenty minutes after twelve, as
it was twenty-five minutes after twelve when my cousin went to her
room, and this was about five minutes earlier."
"Can you state whether or not he left his room within the next
"I know that he did not," she replied. "I can testify that he
remained in his room until after one o'clock. After my cousin left
I discovered that the moon was just rising, and the view across the
Hudson being extremely beautiful, as well as novel to me, I
extinguished the light in my room and sat down by the open window
to enjoy it. I heard Mr. Scott stepping quietly about his room for
a few moments; then all was still. I sat for some time admiring the
scenery, until I was aroused by hearing him pacing back and forth
like a person in deep thought. I then found it was much later than
I supposed, - nearly one o' clock, - and I immediately retired; but
so long as I was awake I could hear him walking in his room."
As Miss Carleton finished her testimony it was evident that the
tide of general opinion had turned somewhat in favor of the young
secretary, but the latter quietly ignored the friendly glances cast
in his direction.
It was generally supposed that all testimony in the case had now
been heard. Considerable surprise was, therefore, manifested when
the coroner nodded to Mr. Whitney, who, in turn, beckoned to some one
in the hall. In response the butler appeared, ushering in a tall
man, with cadaverous features and small, dark eyes, which peered
restlessly about him.
"Richard Hobson," announced the coroner.
"At your service, sir," said the man, advancing with a cringing gait
and fawning, apologetic smile.
"Mr. Hobson," said the coroner, after a few preliminaries, "I
understand you were somewhat acquainted with the late Hugh
"Well, yes, sir, somewhat," the other replied in soft, insinuating
tones, but with peculiar emphasis on the word used by Dr. Westlake.
"Indeed, I might say, without exaggeration, that I was probably
better acquainted with that estimable gentleman than was any one
in this country."
"When did you last see Mr. Mainwaring?"
"I have not seen him to speak with him for fully twenty-three years."
"You have corresponded with, him, however, in that time?"
The witness showed no surprise.
"We exchanged a few letters while I was in England. I have neither
heard from him nor written to him since coming to this country."
"When did you last see him, regardless of whether you spoke to him
"Probably within the last two or three weeks. I have occasionally
met him on the street."
"Did Mr. Mainwaring see you at any of these times?"
"If he did, he did not recognize me."
"Did you see him when you called at Fair Oaks, Wednesday, - either
morning or evening?"
"I did not."
"Mr. Hobson, will you describe the man who accompanied you when
you called in the evening, Wednesday?"
"I could give you a general description. He was a large man, about
my own height, but heavier, and rather good looking, on the whole.
But I am not good on details, such as complexion, color of hair, and
so on; and then, you know, those little things are very easily
"What was his name?"
Mr. Hobson smiled blandly. "The name by which I know him is John
Carroll, but I have no idea as to his real name. He is a very
eccentric character, many-sided as it were, and I never know which
side will come uppermost."
"He is your clerk and in your employ, is he not?"
"Agent, I think, would be a preferable term. He is in my employ,
he transacts certain business for me, but he does it in his own way,
and comes and goes at his own discretion."
"Where is he at present?"
"I have no idea, sir."
"Did he leave for the city that night, or did he remain with you at
the Riverside Hotel?"
"He was not with me at the hotel except for a few hours. I have not
the slightest idea from whence he came to see me, when he went away,
or in what direction he went. He was in haste to be excused as soon
as our joint business was done, and I have not seen him since."
"Did he have on dark glasses that day?"
"Not when I saw him, but that was only in my room at the hotel, and
for a few moments in this house; he would have no need for them at
"Did he not accompany you from the hotel to Fair Oaks?"
"No, sir; we met here by prearrangement."
"When do you expect to see your agent again?"
"Whenever he has any business reports to make," Hobson replied,
with an exasperating smile; "but I have no idea when that will be.
He has other commissions to execute; he is in the employ of others
besides myself, and transacts some business on his own account also."
"I understand, Mr. Hobson, that you have repeatedly extorted money
from Mr. Mainwaring by threatening to disclose facts in your
possession regarding some questionable transaction."
"No, sir; my action could not be termed extortion or blackmail
within the meaning of the law, though to any one conversant with Mr.
Mainwaring's private correspondence it may have had that appearance.
I was, however, merely making an effort to collect what was legally
due me. Mr. Mainwaring, before leaving England, had voluntarily
bound himself to pay me a certain sum upon the condition that I
would not reveal certain transactions of considerably more than
questionable character. I kept my part of the contract, but he
failed in his. I wrote him, therefore, threatening, unless he
fulfilled his share of the agreement, to institute proceedings
against him, which would naturally involve a disclosure of his secret.
He never paid me in full and the secret is still mine," he paused,
then added slowly, "to keep or to sell, as will pay me best."
"Was Hugh Mainwaring ever married?" the coroner asked, abruptly.
"I believe he was not generally considered a married man, sir."
"Was there ever any private marriage?"
Hobson smiled enigmatically. "You already have the word of the
lady herself, sir; that should be sufficient. I cannot reveal any
of Hugh Mainwaring's secrets, - unless I am well paid for it!"
Hobson was dismissed without further questions, and the examination
being now at an end, the coroner's jury retired to the room in the
rear of the library. Very few left the house, for all felt that
little time would be required for the finding of a verdict, and
comment and opinion were freely exchanged.
"Well," said Mr. Sutherland, turning towards the secretary with a
smile, "they did not learn one fact from that last witness, for I
doubt whether one of the few statements he did make had an iota of
truth in it. By the way, Mr. Scott, it's a very fortunate thing
that you've got the proofs you have. It would be a risky piece of
work to depend on that man's word for proof; he is as slippery as
an eel. With those proofs, however, there is no doubt but that
you've got a strong case."
"It will be hard to convince Ralph Mainwaring of that fact."
"Yes, he looks as though he would hold on to his opinions pretty
"Not so tenaciously as he would grasp any money coming within his
At a little distance, Mr. Whitney was engaged in conversation with
"I never thought he could be in any way connected with it," he was
saying. "In the first place, there was no motive, there could be
none; then, again, I believe he is altogether above suspicion. I
know that Mr. Mainwaring had the most implicit confidence in him."
"Well," said Mr. Thornton, "for my part, I'm heartily glad if there
is nothing in it. I always liked the young fellow."
"That's just where I don't agree with you; I don't like him," Ralph
Mainwaring replied in a surly tone. "He may be all right so far as
this matter is concerned; I don't say yet that he is or isn't; but
I do say that to defame a man's character after he's dead, in the
manner he has, is simply outrageous, and, you may depend upon it,
there's some personal spite back of it."
"Oh, well, as to Hugh's character, I don't think you or I are going
to fret ourselves about that," laughed Mr. Thornton. "He probably
sowed his wild oats with the rest of us, and there may have been
some reason for his leaving England as he did."
"I don't believe it," Ralph Mainwaring retorted, angrily; but before
he could say more, the doors opened and the coroner's jury filed
into the room. There was instant silence, and a moment later the
verdict had been announced. It was what every one had expected, and
yet there was not one but experienced a feeling of disappointment
"We find that the deceased, Hugh Mainwaring, came to his death by
the discharge of a revolver in the hands of some person or persons
to us unknown."
BEHIND THE SCENES
The crowd dispersed rapidly, passing down the oak-lined avenue in
twos and threes, engaged in animated discussion of the details of
the inquest, while each one advanced some theory of his own
regarding the murder. Mr. Sutherland had taken his departure after
making an appointment with Scott for the following day, and the
latter now stood in one of the deep bow-windows engrossed with his
own thoughts. Suspicion had been partially diverted from himself,
but only partially, as he well knew, to return like a tidal wave,
deepened and intensified by personal animosity, whenever the facts
he had thus far so carefully concealed should become known. He gave
little thought to this, however, except as it influenced him in
planning his course of action for the next few days.
He was aroused from his revery by the sound of approaching steps,
and, turning, met Mr. Whitney.
"Ah, Mr. Scott, I was just looking for you. I thought possibly you
had slipped back to the city with the crowd. I wanted to say, Mr.
Scott, that, if it will be agreeable to you, I wish you would remain
at Fair Oaks for the next few days, or weeks, as the case may be.
Mr. Ralph Mainwaring has retained my services to aid in securing
his title to the estate, and the will having been destroyed,
complications are likely to arise, so that it may take some time to
get matters adjusted. Much of the business will, of necessity, have
to be transacted here, as all of Mr. Mainwaring's private papers are
here, and if you will stay and help us out I will see, of course,
that your salary goes right on as usual."
An excuse fur remaining at Fair Oaks was what Scott particularly
desired, but he replied indifferently, "If it will accommodate you,
Mr. Whitney, I can remain for a few days."
"Very well. I cannot say just how long we may need you, though I
anticipate a long contest."
"Against Mrs. LaGrange?"
"Yes; though she has, in my opinion, no legal right whatever, yet
she will make a hard fight, and with that trickster Hobson to help
her with his chicanery, it is liable to take some time to beat them"
"You expect to win in the end, however?"
"Certainly; there is no doubt but that Ralph Mainwaring will win the
case. He will get the property either for his son or for himself.
We are first going to try to have the will upheld in the courts.
Failing in that, the property will, of course, be divided between
the nearest heirs, Ralph Mainwaring and a younger bachelor brother;
in which event, the whole thing will, in all probability, finally
revert to his son Hugh."
"Mr. Whitney, what is your opinion of Mrs. LaGrange's story of a
The attorney shook his head decidedly. "One of her clever lies; but
if she ever undertakes to tell that little romance in court, I'll
tear it all to shreds. She never was married to Hugh Mainwaring;
but," he added, slowly, "I may as well tell you that Walter was his
son. Mr. Mainwaring the same as admitted that to me once; but I
am certain that, aside from that fact, that woman had some terrible
hold on him, though what I never knew. By the way, Mr. Scott, do
you know anything of the particulars of that transaction to which
those letters referred and to which Hobson alluded to-day?"
Mr. Whitney looked keenly at the young man. "You obtained your
knowledge originally from other sources than Mr. Mainwaring's
correspondence, did you not?"
"I thought so. Do you know, Mr. Scott, I would denounce the whole
thing as a lie, a scheme of that adventuress, or that impostor,
Hobson, or both, by which they hope to gain some hold on the heirs,
were it not that, from your manner, I have been convinced that you
have some personal knowledge of the facts in the case, - that you
know far more than you have yet told."
Mr. Whitney paused, watching the young secretary closely, but there
was no reply, and, with all his penetration, the attorney could read
nothing in the immobile face before him. He continued,-
"Whatever that transaction may have been, I wish to know nothing
about it. I was much attached to Mr. Mainwaring and respected him
highly, and I want to respect his memory; and I will tell you
frankly what I most dread in this coming contest. I expect nothing
else but that either that woman or Hobson will drag the affair out
from its hiding-place, and will hold it up for the public to gloat
over, as it always does. I hate to see a man's reputation blackened
in that way, especially when that man was my friend and his own
lips are sealed in death."
"It is a pity," said Scott, slowly; "but if one wishes to leave
behind him an untarnished reputation, he must back it up, while
living, with an unblemished character."
"Well," said the attorney, tentatively, after another pause, "Mr.
Mainwaring's character, whatever it may have been before we were
associated with him, certainly had no effect upon your life or mine,
hence I feel that it is nothing with which we are directly concerned;
and I believe, in fact I know, that it will be for your interest, Mr.
Scott, if you say nothing regarding whatever knowledge you may have
of the past."
Mr. Whitney, watching the effect of his words, suddenly saw an
expression totally unlike anything he had ever seen on the face of
the secretary, and yet strangely familiar.
Scott turned and faced him, with eyes cold and cynical and that
seemed to pierce him through and through, remarking, in tones of
quiet irony, "I am greatly obliged for your advice, Mr. Whitney,
regarding my interests, but it is not needed. Furthermore, I think
all your thought and attention will be required to look after the
interests of Ralph Mainwaring," and without waiting for reply, he
stepped through one of the low, old-fashioned windows opening upon
the veranda and disappeared, leaving the attorney alone.
"By George, but that was cool!" ejaculated the latter. "And that
look; where have I seen it? I believe that Ralph Mainwaring is
more than half right after all, and there is something back of all
So absorbed was he in his own reflections as to be wholly unaware
of the presence of the detective in the hall, near the doorway,
where he had paused long enough to witness the parting between
Scott and the attorney, and who now passed quietly up-stairs,
remarking to himself, "Whitney is pretty sharp, but he's more than
got his match there. That young fellow is too deep for him or any
of the rest of 'em, and he's likely to come out where they least
expect to find him."
Half an hour later, Mr. Merrick, stepping from the private library
into the upper southern hall, heard the sound of voices, which,
from his familiarity with the rooms, he knew must proceed from Mrs.
LaGrange's parlor. He cautiously descended the stairs to the
lowest landing, in which was a deep window. The shutters were
tightly closed, and, concealing himself behind the heavy curtains,
he awaited developments. He was now directly opposite the door of
the parlor, and through the partially open transom he could hear
the imperious tones of Mrs. LaGrange and the soft, insinuating
accents of Hobson. For a while he was unable to distinguish a
word, but the variations in Hobson's tones indicated that he was
not seated, but walking back and forth, while Mrs. LaGrange's voice
betrayed intense excitement and gradually grew louder.
"You are not altogether invulnerable," Merrick heard her say,
angrily. "You were an accessory in that affair, and you cannot
Hobson evidently had paused near the door, as his reply was
distinctly audible. "You have not an atom of proof; as you well
know; and even if you had, our acquaintance, my dear madam, has been
too long and of too intimate a nature for you to care to attempt
any of your little tricks with me. You play a deep game, my lady,
but I hold the winning hand yet."
"If you are dastardly enough to threaten me, I am not such a coward
as to fear you. I have played my cards better than you know," she
"My dear lady," Hobson replied, and the door-knob turned slightly
under his hand, "those little speeches sound very well, but we both
understand each other perfectly. You want my services in this case;
you must have them; and I am willing to render them; but it is
useless for you to dictate terms to me. I will undertake the case
in accordance with your wishes, but only upon the conditions
The reply was inaudible, but was evidently satisfactory to Hobson,
for, as he opened the door, there was a leer of triumph on his face.
He glanced suspiciously about the hall, and, on reaching the door,
turned to Mrs. LaGrange, who had accompanied him, saying, in his
"I shall be out again in two or three days. Should you wish to see
me before that time, you can telephone to my office or send me word."
She bowed silently and he took his departure, but as she returned
to her room, she exclaimed, fiercely, "Craven! Let me but once get
my rights secured, and he will find whether I stand in fear of him!"
Having taken leave of Mrs. LaGrange, Hobson carefully avoided the
front part of the house and grounds, taking instead the gravelled
walk leading through the grove towards the lake in the rear and out
upon the side street. As he was hurrying along this rather secluded
avenue, he was suddenly confronted by Scott. Although strangers to
each other, Hobson instantly conjectured that this must be the
secretary who had betrayed such familiarity with the correspondence
which had passed between himself and Hugh Mainwaring, and that it
might be to his own interest to form the acquaintance of the young
Quick as thought he drew from his pocket a card, and, pausing
suddenly in his rapid walk, said, with a profound bow,-
"I beg pardon; I cannot be mistaken; have I not the pleasure of
addressing Mr. Scott?"
"That is my name," replied the secretary, coldly.
"I beg you will accept this card; and allow me to suggest that you
may find it conducive to your interests to call upon me at the
address named, if you will take the trouble to do so."
Scott glanced from the card to the speaker, regarding the latter
with close scrutiny. "You seem very solicitous of the interests of
a stranger, as it is not to be presumed that you have any ulterior
motive in making this suggestion."
Hobson appeared to ignore the sarcasm. "It is barely possible," he
continued, in his most ingratiating tones, "that I may be in
possession of facts which it would be to your advantage to learn."
"In case you are, I suppose, of course, you would impart them to me
simply out of pure disinterestedness, without a thought of pecuniary
Hobson winced and glanced nervously about him. "I must hasten," he
said; "I cannot stop for explanations; but you will find me in my
office at two o'clock to-morrow, if you care to call. Meantime,
my young friend, I am not perhaps as mercenary as you think, and I
may be able to be of great assistance to you," and with a final bow,
the man hastily disappeared around a turn of the winding walk.
Scott proceeded in the opposite direction in a deep study. "Is it
possible," he soliloquized, "that that creature is on my track and
has any proposition to make to me? Or, is he afraid that I know his
secret, and that I may deprive him of his hold upon the Mainwarings?
More likely it is the latter. A week ago I was looking for that
man, and would probably have endeavored to make terms with him,
though it would have involved an immense amount of risk, for a
cast-iron contract wouldn't hold him, and his testimony would be
worth little or nothing, one way or the other." Scott glanced
again at the address on the card. "Not a very desirable locality!
It probably suits him and his business, though: I believe, I will
give the scoundrel a call and see what I can draw out of him."
Dinner was announced as Scott returned to the house, and a number
of circumstances combined to render the meal far pleasanter and
more social than any since the death of the master of Fair Oaks.
Mr. Merrick was nowhere to be found, and the slight restraint
imposed by his presence was removed. Mrs. LaGrange and her son
were also absent, preferring to take their meals privately in
an adjoining room which Hugh Mainwaring had often used as a
breakfast-room. The silence and frigidity which had lately
reigned at the table seemed to have given place to almost universal
sociability, though Ralph Mainwaring's face still wore a sullen
As Mr. Whitney met the secretary, his sensitive face flushed at the
remembrance of their late interview, and he watched the young man
with evident curiosity. Scott was conscious, however, of an
increased friendliness towards himself on the part of most of the
guests, but feeling that it was likely to prove of short duration,
he remained noncommittal and indifferent. As they left the table,
Miss Carleton rallied him on his appearance.
"Mr. Scott, you are a mystery!"
"Why so, Miss Carleton, if you please?" he asked, quickly.
"Just now, when everybody's spirits are relaxing after that horrible
inquest, you look more serious and glum than I have ever seen you.
I threw myself into the breach this afternoon to rescue you from the
enemy's grounds, whither you had been carried by the sensational
statements of Mrs. LaGrange and the coachman and chambermaid, and I
have not even seen you smile once since. Perhaps," she added,
archly, "you didn't care to be rescued by a woman, but would have
preferred to make your own way out."
"No," said Scott, smiling very brightly now; "I'll not be so
ungrateful as to say that, though I believe I am generally able to
fight my own battles; but I will confess I was somewhat disappointed
this afternoon when you gave your testimony."
"How could that be?" she inquired, greatly surprised.
"Up to that time I had flattered myself that I had one friend who
had faith in me, even though circumstances conspired against me. I
discovered, then, that it was no confidence in me, but only a
knowledge of some of the facts, that kept her from turning against
me like the rest."
Scott spoke in serio-comic tones, and Miss Carleton looked keenly
in his face to see if he were jesting.
"No; you are mistaken, Mr. Scott," she said, slowly, after a pause.
"My confidence in you would have been just as strong if I had known
nothing of the facts."
"Thank you; I am very glad to hear that," he answered. Then added,
gently, "Would, it be strong enough to stand a far heavier strain
than that, if it were necessary?"
His tones were serious now, and she regarded him inquiringly for a
moment before speaking; then seeing young Mainwaring approaching
with his sister and Miss Thornton, she replied, in low tones,-
"I have no idea to what you refer, Mr. Scott, and I begin to think
you are indeed a 'mystery;' but you can be assured of this much: I
would never, under any circumstances, believe you capable of
anything false or dishonorable."
Scott's eyes expressed his gratification at these words, and he
would then have withdrawn, but neither Miss Carleton nor young
Mainwaring gave him an opportunity to do so without seeming
discourteous. Both drew him into conversation and found him
exceedingly entertaining, though reserved concerning himself.
Isabel Mainwaring still held herself aloof and took little part in
the conversation, but to make amends for this Miss Thornton bestowed
some of her most winning smiles upon the handsome young secretary,
her large, infantile blue eyes regarding him with wondering
After a pleasant evening, Scott excused himself and retired to his
room; but an hour or two later there was a knock at his door, and
on opening it he saw young Mainwaring in smoking-cap and jacket.
"I say, Scott, won't you come out and have a smoke? I've got some
fine cigars, and it's too pretty a night to stay in one's room;
come out on my balcony and we'll have a bit of a talk and smoke."
Scott readily consented, and the two young men proceeded to the
balcony upon which Mainwaring's room opened, where the latter had
already placed two reclining chairs and a small table containing
a box of his favorite Havanas.
For a few moments they puffed in silence, looking out into the
starlit night with its beauty of dim outline and mysterious shadow.
Mainwaring was the first to speak.
"I say, Scott, I'm awfully ashamed of the way that some of us, my
family in particular, have treated you within the last day or two.
It was confoundedly shabby, and I beg your pardon for my share in
"Don't waste any regrets over that matter," Scott answered,
indifferently; "I never gave it any thought, and it is not worth
"I do regret it, though, more than I can tell, and I haven't any
excuse for myself; only things did look so deucedly queer there