Part 5 out of 7
"Mr. Mainwaring's old friend, Sandy McPherson, Mr. Hugh, and the
"No one else? Were there no physicians present?"
"There were physicians in the house, sir, but not in the room."
"How long did Mr. Mainwaring live afterwards?"
"He died at five o'clock the next morning, sir; his strength went
fast after that was done, but he rested easy and seemed satisfied."
"What was done with the will?"
"Mr. Hobson took it away with him that night."
"Have you ever seen it since?"
"Mr. Wilson," said the attorney, showing the witness the will, "can
you swear to these signatures as being the same which you saw affixed
to the will upon that night?"
Wilson studied the document attentively for a moment. "Yes, sir,
that is Mr. Mainwaring's writing, only a bit unsteady, for his hand
trembled. McPherson's writing I know, and you mark that blot after
his name? I remember his fussing that night because he had blotted
"And the third name, is that the signature of this man, Richard
"I know naught about that man's writing," the old fellow replied,
with a shrewd look; "but you will mind that the name is the same
writing as the will itself, and he wrote that and signed his name
to it, for I saw him."
"And you have neither seen that will, nor heard it read until this
"You have remembered it all these years?"
"Maybe not word for word, sir, but I have kept the sense of it in
"Are you positive that this is the will drawn up on the night of
which you speak?"
"That I am, sir."
"Did you ever speak to any one of this will?"
"To none but my son, sir. Mr. Hugh Mainwaring was that sort of a
man, I could not speak to him about it, or ask about his brother.
I asked to be allowed to stay about the old place in hopes that some
day Mr. Harold would come back to have a look at his old home, and
I could tell him of it, for I thought things had not gone right
altogether. Then we heard of his death, and I thought it was too
late; I could do no good by speaking, and I held my tongue until
the young gentleman came."
Wilson was then dismissed and Hobson was next called to the stand.
More even than the reading of the old will, the truth which had
dawned upon Hobson's mind as he met the piercing gaze of the
secretary, had convinced him that the position which he had intended
to assume, adverse to the new claimant and as an ally of Ralph
Mainwaring's, was neither politic nor safe. His views on that
subject had undergone a decided change, and, with his usual
weathervane proclivities, he was now preparing to take a totally
different stand and strive to ingratiate himself into the favor of
the new heir, at the same time leaving, if possible, a few loop-holes
through which he could retreat, should some veering wind change his
course in another direction.
"Mr. Hobson," said the attorney, somewhat abruptly, when the
necessary preliminaries were over, "did you on the night of November
17, 18-, act as attorney for Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring, in the drawing
up, at his request, of his last will and testament?"
"I believe so, sir," was the guarded answer.
"Did you or did you not?" Mr. Sutherland persisted.
"I did, sir."
"Have you, during all these years, had any knowledge that the will
you drew under the circumstances already mentioned was still in
After a slight pause, the witness replied, "I had no positive
knowledge to that effect."
"Did you believe the will to be in existence?"
Hobson reflected a moment, then replied, cautiously, "I was led to
suppose that the will did not exist."
"You remember the form, terms, and conditions of the document drawn
by yourself on that occasion?"
"I do, perfectly," he replied, with more assurance.
"State whether the will read in your hearing this morning is
identical with the one drawn by yourself."
Hobson now saw the drift of the attorney's questions, but it was too
"As near as I can recollect," he stammered, but a word from Mr.
Sutherland recalled him.
"You just said you remembered perfectly."
"I believe they are identical in form."
"Mr. Hobson," said the attorney, spreading out the document before
the witness, but still retaining his hold upon it, "will you state
to the court whether that is your writing, and whether the last name,
that of the second witness, is your signature."
With great precision, Hobson adjusted a pair of eyeglasses and
proceeded to scrutinize the writing closely. "Well," he remarked,
at length, very deliberately, "I do not deny that to be my writing,
nor am I prepared to positively affirm that it is such. The fact
is, my chirography varies so much from time to time that I often
find it difficult for me to verify my own signatures."
"Here are some papers which may assist the gentleman, and may be of
some use to the court," said a deep voice with rich, musical
inflections, but slightly tinged with sarcasm, and the English
attorney handed a small package to Mr. Sutherland. "They contain,"
he added, "some specimens of the witness's chirography of about the
same date as the will."
"The writing in both cases is identical," said Mr. Sutherland, as,
having examined the papers, he showed them to Hobson, but a glance
at their contents seemed rather to confuse the witness than
otherwise, for he remained silent.
"Do you acknowledge these letters to be of your writing?" inquired
"I do, sir; and I have no doubt but that the other is my writing
"You acknowledge this, then, as the will which you wrote at the
dictation of Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring the night before his death?"
"I believe it is, sir."
"Mr. Hobson, why was this will not make public following Mr.
Mainwaring's death and burial?"
"On the day after his death, I gave it into the keeping of his son,
Hugh Mainwaring, at his own request, and he afterwards gave me to
understand that it was lost."
"And you were paid for keeping silent as to the existence of such
a will, were you not?"
"I may have been," the witness replied, with a calmness born of
"That is sufficient for the present."
A few moments followed in which the attorneys consulted together,
while comments in tones of subdued excitement and expectancy were
exchanged among the crowd. Ralph Mainwaring had sat with darkening
face throughout the testimony thus far; now he remarked to Mr.
Whitney, with a bitter sneer,-
"Fine witnesses! A beggarly shyster whose oath is worthless, and
an imbecile old servant, who could be bought for a half-crown!"
Young Mainwaring turned upon his father a look of indignant surprise.
"Governor," he said, "it would not be well for you if either old
James Wilson or his son heard that remark of yours!"
"It will be well for you to attend to your own business and keep
your mouth shut!" responded his father, angrily.
Beneath the calm exterior which the young man preserved, the old
Mainwaring blood was now fast rising, but he made no reply, for at
that instant Mr. Sutherland announced the name of the next witness:
"Harold Scott Mainwaring!"
There was a sudden hush throughout the court-room, broken an instant
later by a low murmur of mingled astonishment, incredulity, and
wonder as the private secretary rose and walked towards the witness
stand. A few comments reached his ears, but he seemed unconscious
of them, and, having taken his place, turned towards the audience a
face cold and impassive, inscrutable to his enemies, who could read
nothing of the conflicting emotions beneath that calm, immobile
He saw the crowd of upturned faces - incredulous, wondering, curious;
he caught the mocking smile of Mrs. LaGrange and Ralph Mainwaring's
dark, sinister sneer; but he took little note of these. Like an
arrow speeding to the mark, his glance sought the face of young Hugh
Mainwaring. Their eyes met, and in that brief moment there was
recalled to each a starlit night on one of the balconies at Fair
Oaks, and the parting words of young Mainwaring to the secretary,
"I'm your friend, Scott, and whatever happens, I'll stand by you."
With swift intuition each read the other's thought, and, although
there was no outward sign, Harold Mainwaring knew from that instant
that there would be no retraction of that pledge.
The slight ripple of excitement died away while the witness was
sworn, and the crowd listened with interest even to the preliminary
"Where were you born?" asked the attorney.
"In Melbourne, Australia," was the reply, while deep silence awaited
Mr. Sutherland's next question.
"Mr. Mainwaring, I believe you are familiar with the will just read,
are you not?"
"Please state when, and under what conditions, you gained your
knowledge of this will."
"I first learned that such a will had existed and knew its general
terms, between five and six years since, through information given
me by James Wilson. From data found a little over a year ago among
the personal letters of the deceased Hugh Mainwaring, I ascertained
that the will was still in existence, and on the 7th of July last
I discovered the document itself and became personally familiar with
At the mention of the name of Hugh Mainwaring and of the date so
eventful in the recent history of Fair Oaks, the interest of the
"Did you discover the document accidentally, or after special search
"As the result of a systematic search for more than a year."
"Please state whether you took any steps leading to the discovery
of this will during the four or five years immediately following
your first knowledge of it; and if so, what?"
"As I first learned of the will soon after entering Oxford, my
studies necessarily occupied the greater part of my time for the
next three or four years; but I lost no opportunity for gaining all
possible information relating not only to the Mainwaring estate,
but more particularly to Hugh Mainwaring and his coadjutor, Richard
Hobson. Among other facts, I learned that immediately after the
settlement of the estate, Hugh Mainwaring had disposed of the same
and left England for America, while about the same time Richard
Hobson suddenly rose from a penniless pettifogger to a position of
"As soon as my studies were completed, I sailed for America, with
the avowed determination of securing further evidence regarding the
will, and of establishing my claim to the property fraudulently
withheld from my father and from myself. In the securing of the
necessary evidence I succeeded beyond my expectations. As Hugh
Mainwaring's private secretary, I gained access to the files of
his personal letters, and soon was familiar with the entire
correspondence between himself and Richard Hobson, from which I
learned that the latter demanding and receiving large sums of
money as the price of his silence regarding some past fraudulent
transaction. The nature of that transaction, I ascertained in
this marginal note, in Hugh Mainwaring's handwriting, upon one of
Hobson's letters which happened to be more insolent in its tone
than the rest. With the permission of the court I will read it:
"'He insinuates that I destroyed the will; I only gave him to
understand that it was lost. Little he dreams it is still in my
possession and will be, until such time as I, too, have to make
final disposition of my estate! Why I did not destroy it, or why
I do not, now that the property is rightfully mine, I cannot say,
except that I dare not! "Thus conscience does make cowards of us
"With the discovery of these words," concluded the witness, "began
my search for the will itself."
"From the discovery of this letter which led you to believe the will
was still in existence, you prosecuted your search for the document
until the 7th of last July?"
"Yes, sir, whenever an opportunity for search was offered."
"Where did you finally find the will?"
"In the safe, in Mr. Mainwaring's private apartments at Fair Oaks."
"On July 7 last?"
"That was the day on which you, acting as Hugh Mainwaring's secretary,
had drawn, at his dictation, his last will and testament, was it not?"
"Mr. Mainwaring," said the attorney, deliberately, his eye quick to
read the faces about him, "is there in your mind any connection
between that event and your discovery of this will?"
"Only the most indirect," was the reply, given with equal
deliberation. "The fact that Hugh Mainwaring was making final
disposition of his property naturally spurred me on to increased
action, since, in making final adjustment of his papers, he would
be more than likely to destroy the old will. This incentive,
together with the fact that opportunity was given me for a more
thorough search than I had been able to make prior to that time,
combined to bring about the discovery of the will."
"Please state the time and circumstances of your finding it."
"I found it late in the afternoon, while Mr. Mainwaring and his
guests had gone for a long drive. I determined to leave no place
unexplored where it could possibly be concealed; after about an
hour's search I found it."
"What did you then do with it?"
"I retained it in my possession, and at the earliest opportunity
secreted it within my own room."
"It was in your possession during the following evening and night?"
"Mr. Mainwaring," said Mr. Sutherland, with marked emphasis, "please
state whether you mentioned to Hugh Mainwaring the discovery of the
will, or had any conversation with him relating thereto."
"I made no mention of the matter to him whatever. Except for a few
moments, immediately upon his return, I did not see him alone until
about midnight, when he appeared fatigued, and I would not introduce
the subject at a time so inopportune."
After a slight pause, Mr. Sutherland continued. "You claim to be
the lawful son of the Harold Scott Mainwaring mentioned in this will,
and as such the lawful heir, under its terms and conditions, of the
"Has it not been generally understood among those supposed to have
knowledge of the facts in the case that Harold Scott Mainwaring, at
the time of his death, had no living child?"
"That has been the general understanding."
"Will you explain how the fact of your existence has been kept
concealed all these years?"
The silence following the attorney's question was so deep as to be
oppressive until broken by the answer of the witness, clear, cold,
and penetrating to the remotest corner of the crowded room.
"Within an hour from my birth, a dead child was substituted in my
place, and I was secretly given by my father into the keeping of
trusted friends, with instructions that until I had nearly attained
my majority I was not even to know of his existence, or of the
relationship existing between us."
"Mr. Mainwaring," said the attorney, "are you willing to state the
reasons for such an extraordinary proceeding on his part?"
For the first time the impassive bearing and the calm, even tones
of the witness gave way; the smouldering fire in his dark eyes burst
forth, as with impassioned utterance and voice vibrating with emotion,
"It was done because of sorrow, more bitter than death, in his own
heart and home, of which he wished me to know nothing until I had
reached the years of manhood and could understand the nature of his
wrongs; it was done that I should be forever barred from all
association with, or knowledge of, the base, false-hearted woman who
bore his name only to dishonor it, - who, though she had given me;
birth, yet believed me dead, - that I might live as ignorant of her
existence as she of mine; it was done because of his love for his
only child, a love for which I would to-day gladly suffer dishonor
and even death, if I could but avenge his wrongs!"
Only Harold Mainwaring's attorneys understood the spirit which
prompted his words, but they carried his audience with him in a
sudden wave of sympathy, and as he paused, men applauded and women
sobbed, while the judge vainly rapped for order.
One figure alone remained motionless, spellbound. Amid the general
excitement, Mrs. LaGrange sat as though turned to stone, her hands
clasped so tightly that the jewels cut deeply into the delicate
flesh, every vestige of color fled from her face, her lips ashen,
her eyes fixed upon the witness, yet seemingly seeing nothing.
Gradually, as she became conscious of her surroundings and of the
curious glances cast in her direction, she partially recovered
herself, though her eyes never left the face of the witness.
"Mr. Mainwaring," continued the attorney, when order had been
restored, "when and how did you first learn that you were the son
of Harold Scott Mainwaring?"
"My first knowledge regarding my own father I received at the age of
fifteen from my foster-parents, who told me of the manner in which
I had been given to them and of the death of my father a few years
later; but the full particulars I did not learn until my twenty-first
birthday, when I received a letter written by my father soon after
my birth, and intrusted to the keeping of my foster-parents until I
should have attained my majority. In that letter he gave me the
story of his life, of his marriage and consequent disinheritance,
and of the yet greater sorrow which followed shortly, which led him
to voluntarily exile himself from his beloved England, and which
finally led to his sacrifice of the love and companionship of his
As Harold Mainwaring paused, Mr. Sutherland remarked, "I, myself,
have seen the letter to which the witness refers, but I consider it
of too personal a nature and too private in character to submit for
examination. I will say, however, that both my honored colleague,
Mr. Barton, and myself have compared it with other letters and
documents known to have been written by Harold Scott Mainwaring, the
elder son of Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring, and have found the writing
in all cases identically the same. There is yet one more question
which may have a bearing later upon this case, which I will ask the
witness. Mr. Mainwaring, have you, during this time, received any
clue regarding the identity of your mother, or is that still unknown
With great deliberation, the witness replied, "Until within the past
three or four days, I have known absolutely nothing regarding even
the name of the woman whom my father made his wife, or whether she
were still in existence. I have recently learned, however, that she
is living, and," he added, more slowly, "I know that she is present
in this court-room."
It was afterwards recalled that, as the witness resumed his seat, a
curious sound, something between a gasp and a sob was heard, but
amid the tremendous sensation produced by his last statement it passed
With very little delay, Mr. Sutherland announced the name of the last
"Frederick Mainwaring Scott!"
Again the silence deepened as the white-haired gentleman, with great
dignity, took his place upon the stand. His heavy, sonorous tones
rang out over the court-room, while from time to time the piercing
eyes beneath the beetling, snow-white brows sought the face of Ralph
Mainwaring with their silent but unmistakable challenge. At the
first sound of his voice, Mrs. LaGrange's agitation increased
perceptibly; her expression changed to abject terror, yet she seemed
unable to move or to withdraw her gaze from his face.
To the question, "Where were you born?" the witness replied, "I was
born in London, but for the past forty-five years have been a
resident of Melbourne, Australia."
"Are you not connected with the Mainwaring family?"
"Distantly. The Scott and Mainwaring families have intermarried for
many years, but I have waived all claims of relationship for nearly
half a century."
"Were you acquainted with the Harold Scott Mainwaring mentioned in
"Intimately acquainted with him, as we were associated together in
business during his entire stay in Australia."
"In what business were you engaged?"
"In the sheep business, principally; we were also interested in the
"For how long a time were you associated together?"
"Six years, or thereabouts."
"Mr. Scott, you are the foster-father of Harold Scott Mainwaring
who has just preceded you upon the witness stand, are you not?"
"I am, and have been from the day of his birth."
"Will you state the circumstances under which you became his
"Harold Scott Mainwaring, the elder son of Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring,
came to Australia within a year after the marriage for which he was
disinherited. His reason for leaving England was not, as many have
supposed, on account of his father's severity, but because of the
discovery of his wife's infidelity after all that he had sacrificed
for her. He brought her to Australia in the vain hope that, removed
from other influences - the influence of his own brother, in
particular, - she would yet prove true to him. Within the following
year, his son was born; but before that event he had fully learned
the character of the woman he had married, and he determined that no
child of his should be disgraced by any knowledge of its mother, or
contaminated by association with her. To my wife and myself he
confided his plans, and, as we had no children of our own, he pledged
us to the adoption of his child while yet unborn. An old and trusted
nurse in our family was also taken into the secret, but not the
physician employed on that occasion, as he was a man of no principle
and already in league with the false wife against her husband. When
the child was born, Mrs. Mainwaring was very ill and the babe received
comparatively little notice from the attendant physician. A dead
child, born but a few hours earlier, was therefore easily substituted
for the living child of Harold Mainwaring, while the latter was
secretly conveyed to my own home.
"A few weeks later, the child was privately christened in a small
church on the outskirts of Melbourne and the event duly recorded
upon the church records. He was given his father's name in full,
Harold Scott Mainwaring, but until his twenty-first birthday was
known among our acquaintances as Harry Scott, the same name by
which he has been known in your city while acting as private
secretary to Hugh Mainwaring."
"Are you familiar with the letter written by Harold Mainwaring to
"Perfectly so; he gave it into my keeping on the day of the
christening, to be given to his son when he should have reached
his majority, if he himself had not, before that time, claimed
him as his child."
"You can then vouch for its genuineness?"
"How long a time elapsed between the birth of this child and the
death of Harold Mainwaring, the father?"
"About five years. He left his wife soon after the birth of this
child and spent the greater part of his time at the mines. He
finally decided to go to the gold fields of Africa, and a few
months after his departure, we received tidings of the wreck of
the vessel in which he sailed, with the particulars of his death
"Mr. Scott, did you ever hear of the existence of this will?"
"Not until the boy, Harold, learned of it, soon after he entered
"Do you know how he first heard of it?"
"He heard of it from Wilson, one of the old servants on the
Mainwaring estate, who recognized in him a resemblance to Ralph
Maxwell Mainwaring, and, learning of his identity, told him the
history of the will."
"You have been kept informed of his search for the will and of
its final discovery?"
"From the first; and though the boy has a good bit of money in his
own name, I will back him in getting his rights to the very last
pound in my possession, and that," he added, while his dark eyes
flashed ominously, "will outlast the bank-roll of any that can go
"Have you any further direct evidence which you can produce in
support of the identity of the claimant?"
"I have," the witness replied, and having taken from his pocket a
large memorandum book and extracted therefrom a paper, he continued,
with great deliberation, -
"I have here a certified copy of the record of the christening, at
the church of St. Bartholomew, on June 24, 18-, of Harold Scott
Mainwaring, the first-born son of Harold Scott and Eleanor Houghton
A piercing shriek suddenly rang out through the hushed court-room,
and the crowd, turning involuntarily at the familiar name of
Eleanor Houghton Mainwaring towards the seat occupied by Mrs.
LaGrange, saw that wretched woman sink, with a low, despairing moan,
unconscious to the floor. As several sprang to the assistance of
the unfortunate woman, Mr. Scott, turning swiftly towards the
"There, your honor, is a most unwilling witness, but one who has
very effectively confirmed my testimony!"
The greatest confusion followed, several women having fainted from
nervous excitement, and, as it was then nearly noon, the court
adjourned until the afternoon session.
THE LAST THROW
There being no further testimony in the case, but little time was
occupied by Mr. Sutherland at the afternoon session. Briefly and
forcibly he summarized the evidence already adduced, emphasizing
the strongest points and closing with numerous citations bearing
upon the case taken from recent decisions of the highest legal
Several days would be required for consideration of the case pending
the decision of the court, and as the crowd surged out into the
corridors and diffused itself through the various exits, there was
much speculation as to what that decision would be and what would be
the action taken by the opponents. Among the clubmen who had made
the acquaintance of Ralph Mainwaring, heavy bets were offered that
he would contest the case before the will was even admitted to
"He is a fool if he does," said one; "the young fellow has the best
"He'll not give up, however," was the reply; "he's got too much of
the bull-dog about him; nothing will make him break his hold till
he has spent his last shilling."
"Well, he'll spend it for nothing, that's all!" said another. "I'll
wager you a dinner for the whole club that the young fellow will
beat him. Anybody that knows Sutherland, knows he hasn't played his
trump card yet; and you may rest assured that English lawyer isn't
over here as a figure-head!"
Ralph Mainwaring, passing hastily from the court-room, accompanied
by Mr. Whitney, overheard the last remark. His only reply, however,
was a look of scorn flashed at the speaker, but the sardonic smile
which lingered about his closely compressed lips betokened on his
part no anticipations of defeat, but rather the reverse. Even Mr.
Whitney wondered at his silence, but young Mainwaring, leisurely
following in the rear, knew it to be only the calm which presages
the coming storm.
His father, followed by the attorney, stepped quickly into the
Mainwaring carriage and beckoned impatiently for him to follow, but
the younger man coolly declined the invitation.
"No, thank you, governor. I'm going for a bit of a stroll; I'll
join you and Mr. Whitney at dinner."
As the carriage rolled away he stood for a few moments lost in
thought. His father's words to him that morning had stung his
pride and aroused in him a spirit of independence altogether new,
which had made him the more keen in observing his father's
expressions and movements, and in drawing his own deductions
therefrom. He had formed some theories of his own, and as he now
stood in the soft, autumnal sunshine, he resolved to put them to
Turning suddenly in an opposite direction from that which he had
at first taken, he found himself confronted by Harold Mainwaring
and his party as they descended the court-house steps to the
carriages in waiting.
Instantly the young men clasped hands, and the frank, blue eyes
gazed into the piercing dark ones, with a friendliness of whose
sincerity there could be no doubt.
"Egad, old fellow!" he exclaimed, in low tones, "I'm glad to see
you, though you have taken us rather by surprise. I'll not take
back a word of the promise I made you, nor of what I've said about
"I did not think you would, Hugh," Harold replied, grasping the
proffered hand heartily; "I had a great deal of faith in you and in
your word. I only regretted that I could not explain matters at the
time; it seemed like taking advantage of you and your friendship,
though I warned you that the future might make some unexpected
"Well, I don't regret anything. I always said you had good blood
in you, don't you know," Hugh continued, with a boyish laugh, then
added, a little huskily, "I'll say this much, and I mean it. I
would rather give up what I supposed was mine to you than to
anybody else that know of."
"Thank you, Hugh; I appreciate that, I assure you. Come around to
the Waldorf, I would like to have a talk with you."
"Indeed I will. Of course, I suppose it would be of no use to ask
you up to the house; I couldn't expect you to come, but I'll see
you as soon as I can," and with another handclasp the young men
On arriving at the Waldorf, a note was handed to Harold Mainwaring,
with the information that the bearer had been waiting nearly an hour,
as there was an answer expected. He well knew the writing; it was
the same as that of the little missive given him on the first day
of the inquest, and with darkening face he opened it and read the
"I must see you at once, and I beg of you to come to my apartments
this afternoon at five o'clock, without fail. In the name of mercy,
do not deny me this one favor. I can tell you something important
for you to know, of which you little dream.
"ELEANOR HOUGHTON MAINWARING."
After brief consultation with his attorneys, an answer was sent to
the effect that he would call in compliance with the request, and a
little later he started upon his strange errand.
With what wildly conflicting emotions Mrs. LaGrange in her apartments
awaited his coming may perhaps be more easily imagined than
portrayed. She had not recovered from the morning's shock, but was
nerving herself for the coming ordeal; preparing to make her final,
desperate throw in the game of life. Success now, in this last
venture, would mean everything to her, while failure would leave her
nothing, only blank despair. Pride, the dominant passion of her
life, struggled with a newly awakened love; doubt and dread and fear
battled with hope, but even in the unequal contest, hope would not
Shortly before the hour appointed, Richard Hobson's card was handed
her with the information that he must see her without delay. She
understood the nature of his errand; she knew his coming was
inevitable; her only desire was to postpone the meeting with him
until after the interview with Harold Mainwaring, but on no account
would she have him know of her appointment with the latter. She
tore the bit of pasteboard in two.
"Tell him to call to-morrow," she said to the messenger; but he soon
returned, with another card on which was written,-
"Important! must see you to-day."
It was nearly five. Quickly, with fingers trembling from her
anxiety lest he delay too long, she wrote,-
"Call at eight o'clock this evening; I can see no one earlier."
As she gave the card to the messenger, she glanced again at the
little French clock on the mantel.
"Three hours," she murmured; "three hours in which to decide my fate!
If I succeed, I can bid defiance to that craven when he shall come
to-night; if not - " she shuddered and walked over to the window,
where she watched eagerly till she saw the cringing figure going
hastily down the street.
He had but just disappeared around the corner of the block when a
closed carriage was driven rapidly to the hotel, and a moment later
Harold Scott Mainwaring was announced.
Her heart throbbed wildly as she turned to meet him, then suddenly
stopped, seeming a dead weight in her breast, as her eyes met his.
For a moment neither spoke; once her lips moved, but no sound came
from them. Before that face, hard and impassive as granite, and as
cold, the impulse which she had felt to throw herself at his feet
and plead for mercy and for love died within her; her tongue seemed
paralyzed, powerless to utter a word, and the words she would have
spoken fled from her brain.
With swift observation he noted the terrible change which the last
weeks, and especially the last few hours, had wrought in the wretched
woman before him, and the suffering, evidenced by her deathly pallor,
her trembling agitation, and the look of dumb, almost hopeless
pleading in her eyes, appealed to him far more than any words could
He was the first to speak, and though there was no softening of the
stern features, yet his tones were gentle, almost pitying, as he
"I have come as you requested. Why did you send for me? What have
you to say?"
At the sound of his voice she seemed somewhat reassured, and
advancing a few steps towards him, she repeated his words,-
"Why did I send for you? Why should I not send for you? Think
you a mother would have no desire to see her own son after long
years of cruel separation from him?"
"There is no need to call up the past," he said, more coldly; "the
separation to which you refer was, under existing circumstances,
the best for all concerned. It undoubtedly caused suffering, but
you were not the sufferer; there could be no great depth of
maternal love where there was neither love nor loyalty as a wife."
Her dark eyes grew tender and luminous as she fixed them upon his
face, while she beckoned him to a seat and seated herself near and
"You forget," she replied, in the low, rich tones he had so often
heard at Fair Oaks; "you forget that a mother's love is instinctive,
born within her with the birth of her child, while a wife's love
must be won. I must recall the past to you, and you must listen;
'twas for this I sent for you, that you, knowing the past, might
know that, however deeply I may have sinned, I have been far more
deeply sinned against."
"Not as regards my father," he interposed, quickly, as she paused
to note the effect of her words; "he sacrificed fortune, home,
friends, everything for you, and you rewarded his love and devotion
only with the basest infidelity."
"That your father loved me, I admit," she continued, in the same
low, musical tones, scarcely heeding his words; "but, as I said a
moment ago, a wife's love must be won, and he failed to win my
"Was his treacherous brother so much more successful then in that
direction than he?" Harold questioned, sternly. "Within six months
after your marriage to my father, you admitted that you married him
only that you might have Hugh Mainwaring for your lover."
She neither flushed nor quailed under the burning indignation of his
gaze, but her eyes were fastened upon him intently as the eyes of
the charmer upon his victim.
"Half truths are ever harder to refute than falsehood," she replied,
softly. "I said that once under great provocation, but if I sought
to make Hugh Mainwaring my lover, it was not that I loved him, but
through revenge for his having trifled with me only to deceive and
desert me. Before I married your father, both he and his brother
were among my most ardent admirers. The younger brother seemed to
me far more congenial, and had he possessed one-half the chivalry
and devotion which the elder brother afterwards manifested, he
would have completely won my love. The rivalry between the two
brothers led to bitter estrangement, which soon became known to
their father, who lost no time in ascertaining its cause. His anger
on learning the facts in the case was extreme; he wrote me an
insulting letter, and threatened to disown either or both of his
sons unless they discontinued their attentions to a 'disreputable
adventuress,' as he chose to style me. Hugh Mainwaring at once
deserted me, without even a word of explanation or of farewell, and,
as if that were not enough, on more than one occasion he openly
insulted me in the presence of his father, on the streets of London.
I realized then for the first time that I cared for him, coward that
he was, though I did not love him as he thought, - had I loved him,
I would have killed him, then and there. Mad with chagrin and rage,
I married your father, partly for the position he could give me -
for I did not believe that he, the elder son and his father's
favorite, would be disowned - and partly to show his brother and
their father that I still held, as I supposed, the winning hand.
On my wedding-day I vowed that I would yet bring Hugh Mainwaring to
my feet as my lover, and when, shortly afterwards, your father was
disinherited in his favor, my desire for revenge was only
intensified. I redoubled my efforts to win him, and I found it no
difficult task; he was even more willing to play the lover to his
brother's wife than to the penniless girl whom he had known, with
no possessions but her beauty and wit. At first, our meetings
were clandestine; but we soon grew reckless, and in one or two
instances I openly boasted of my conquest, hoping thereby to arouse
his father's displeasure against him also. But in that I reckoned
wrong. He disinherited and disowned his son for having honorably
married a woman whom he considered below him in station, but for
an open affaire d'amour with that son's wife, he had not even a
word of censure.
"Your father discovered the situation and decided upon a life in
Australia. If he had then shown me some consideration, the future
might have been vastly different; but he grew morose and taciturn,
and I, accustomed to gay society and the admiration of crowds, was
left to mope alone in a strange country, with no companionship
whatever. What wonder that I hungered for the old life, or that a
casual admiring glance, or a few words even of flattery, were like
cold water to one perishing with thirst! Then new hope came into
my lonely life, and I spent months in dreamy, happy anticipations
of the future love and companionship of my child. But even that
boon was denied me. It was hard enough, believing, as I did, that
my child had died, but to find that I was robbed of that which would
have been not only my joy and happiness, but my salvation from the
life which followed!" She paused, apparently unable to proceed,
and buried her eyes in a dainty handkerchief, while Harold
Mainwaring watched her, the hard lines deepening about his mouth.
"After that," she resumed, in trembling tones, "all hope was gone.
Your father deserted me soon afterwards, leaving me nearly penniless,
and a flew years later I returned to England."
"To find Hugh Mainwaring?" he queried.
"Not at the first," she answered, but her eyes fell before the
cynicism of his glance. "I had no thought of him then, but I learned
through Richard Hobson, whom I met in London at that time, of the
will which had been made in my husband's favor, but which he told me
had been destroyed by Hugh Mainwaring. He said nothing of the clause
forbidding that any of the property should pass to me, and I
immediately sailed for America in search of Hugh Mainwaring,
believing that, with my knowledge of the will, I, as his brother's
widow, could get some hold upon him by which I could compel him
either to share the property with me or to marry me."
"Then you were not married to Hugh Mainwaring in England, as you
testified at the inquest?"
"No," she replied, passionately; "I was never married to him. I
have made many men my dupes and slaves, but he was the one man who
made a dupe of me, and I hating him all the time!"
"And Walter!" he exclaimed, "you stated that he was the son of Hugh
"He is Hugh Mainwaring's son and mine," she answered, with bitter
emphasis; "that was another of my schemes which failed. I found I
had little hold upon Hugh Mainwaring, while he had the same power
over me as in the days before I had learned to despise him. When
Walter was born, I hoped he would then fulfil his promises of
marriage; but instead, he would have turned me adrift had I not
threatened that I would then disclose everything which I knew
concerning the will. He sneered at me, but offered me a place as
servant in his home, and support and education for his child on
condition that the relationship should never be known, and that I
would remain silent regarding the will. I could do nothing then
but accept his conditions, but they were galling, - too galling at
last to be longer endured!"
"How is it that you and Walter bear the name of LaGrange?" he asked.
She hesitated a moment, then replied: "I married a man by that name
soon after leaving Australia."
"Before or after the tidings of my father's death?" he questioned,
"We heard the news of his death soon after our marriage, but he had
deserted me years before, so it made little difference. I met
Captain LaGrange in Sydney, and we sailed together for Paris and
were married there, but we soon grew tired of each other. I left
him in about two years and went to Vienna, and from there returned
to England. In some way, Hugh Mainwaring learned of the marriage,
and when I came to Fair Oaks, he insisted on my taking that name
for myself and child."
She spoke wearily and with an air of dejection, for it was plainly
evident that Harold Mainwaring was not to be deceived by
misstatements, however plausible, nor were his sympathies to be
aroused by simulated grief. A few moments of silence followed,
while she watched him intently, her face again falling into the
pinched and haggard outlines which he had observed on entering the
When he at last spoke, his voice was calm, without a trace of anger
"Mrs. LaGrange, I have been informed that in the days before you
ruined my father's life you were an actress in a second-class London
playhouse, and I see you have not yet lost some little tricks of the
stage; but we are not now before the footlights, and it will be much
better to lay aside everything pertaining to them. Nothing that you
have said has awakened my pity or touched my sympathies for you; in
fact, what you have told me has only steeled my heart against you
because of its utter falsity. It is unnecessary to go over the
ground again, but if you could not reciprocate the love and devotion
bestowed upon you by my father, you should never have accepted it;
but accepting it as you did, you were bound by every consideration
to be true and loyal to that love and to him. Instead, from
beginning to end, you have been false to him, false to his memory,
false to your own wifehood and motherhood, false to yourself! I
have not come here to reproach you, however. I will only say that
I do not believe the capacity - the capability even - of love exists,
or has ever existed, within you. But," he continued, in gentler
tones, "the capacity for suffering does exist, and I can see without
any simulation on your part that you have suffered."
Before the look of pity which now for the first time softened the
stern features, she broke down, and genuine tears coursed down her
pallid cheeks as she cried, "Suffered! what have I not suffered!
I am homeless, penniless, degraded, an outcast! There is no hope,
no help for me unless you will help me. I know what you must think
of me, how even you, my son, must despise me, but as a drowning man
catches at a straw, I sent for you, hoping that you would in mercy
pity me and help me."
"Do you wish me to help you pecuniarily? I will willingly do that."
"Pecuniarily!" she exclaimed, almost in scorn. "Cannot you
understand what I need most? It is pity, sympathy, love! I want
the love and support of my first-born son, and I am willing to beg
for it," and, rising from her chair, she threw herself upon her
knees beside him, "only be my son, forget the past and let me be to
you, as I am, your mother! No, let me be!" she exclaimed, as he
would have raised her from her kneeling posture. "I have no son
but you, for Walter, like his father, has deserted me, with taunts
and sneers. I can help you, too," she added, eagerly, but in low
tones, "help you in a way of which you little dream. Do you know
what Ralph Mainwaring will attempt next? He will try to implicate
you in the murder of Hugh Mainwaring!"
"That will be no more than you yourself attempted at the inquest,"
"Ah, but his motive is different; in my case it was but the resort
of a weak woman to divert suspicion from herself; but he will seek
to fasten this crime upon you to defeat you, to crush and ruin you,
because he fears you as his opponent, and it is within my power to
clear you from any charges he may bring against you."
Her voice sank nearly to a whisper, her eyes were dilated, and she
was trembling with excitement.
He watched her intently for a moment, then spoke in a tone of calm
command. "Tell me how you could help me. What do you know of that
"Listen, and I will tell you," and leaning towards him, she whispered
a few words in his ears.
Only a few words, but Harold Mainwaring started as from a shock,
while his face grew as pale as her own, and it was with difficulty
he could control his voice, as he demanded in quick, excited tones,-
"Do you know what you are saying? Are you speaking the truth?"
"Yes, before Heaven, it is the truth, and the horror of it has
haunted me day and night; the thought of it has driven me nearly
mad, but I dared not breathe it to any living human being."
"You have told no one else what you have just told me?"
"No, I dared not."
He asked a few more questions which she answered, and from her
manner he was convinced that she spoke the truth. Then he sat for
a moment silent, his head bowed, his eyes covered, lost in thought,
while strangely commingled emotions surged within his breast.
At last she broke the silence. "It will help you - what I have
told you - will it not?"
"It is of inestimable value to me," he answered, but instead of
exultation, there was a strange sadness in his voice.
"You will let me help you, and you will be a son to me, will you
He looked at her with an expression of mingled pity and bitterness,
and then, without replying, lifted her gently but firmly and
reseated her, while he himself remained standing at a little
distance. She watched him anxiously.
"Harold," at last she ventured, "think what I have suffered, and
do not refuse my one prayer."
"I can see that you have suffered," he answered, gently; "and, as I
have told you, I will help you pecuniarily and will befriend you,
only do not ask me that which I cannot give."
"I ask nothing more," she exclaimed, passionately, rising to her
feet, "than that you be a son to me, and I will accept nothing less."
"I am sorry to hear you say that," he replied, "for you are only
unnecessarily depriving yourself of many benefits that might be
yours. I would provide a home for you where you would be unknown,
and means that you could spend the remainder of your life in
"What would I care for any home or wealth that you might provide
for me," she demanded, angrily, "if you yourself would not
acknowledge me as your mother! I will accept nothing from you
under such conditions."
"Then we may as well end this conference," he replied, calmly, "for
I hold my father in too deep love and reverence ever to permit of
my applying to you the sacred name of 'Mother.'"
Her eyes flashed at the mention of his father, and she was about to
speak, but he lifted his hand warningly. "Hush!" he commanded; "not
one word shall you speak against him in my presence! Before I go,
I will give you an opportunity to reconsider your declaration of a
"I will not reconsider it. You are like every Mainwaring that I
have ever known, in that you think money and shelter, such as you
might fling at some superannuated servant, will take the place of
the true position and honor that are my due."
"Do you then, finally and once for all, refuse any and all offers
of assistance from me?" he asked.
"I do," she replied, proudly; "I will not accept charity from a
Mainwaring, - not even from you!"
"Very well; if that is your decision, I bid you adieu," and before
she could reply, he was gone.
He passed swiftly down the corridor, his head bowed slightly,
looking neither to the right hand nor to the left, but his step had
an elasticity it had not possessed in weeks, and any one passing
near him would have heard the single exclamation, "Thank God!"
Upon reaching his carriage, he spoke quickly to the driver, "To
the Waldorf at once!" and was borne away by the impatient steeds
even more swiftly than he had come.
Meanwhile, within the room which he had just left, the wretched
woman, whose falseness and pride had wrought her own undoing, stood
listening to the retreating footsteps; she heard them die away in
the distance, heard the carriage-wheels roll rapidly down the avenue,
then sank upon a low couch with a cry of despair.
"All is over," she moaned, "and I have failed. I could not force
him to my terms, and I would never yield to his. I will take
charity from no one, least of all from him. I will be first, or
nothing!" and she shivered faintly.
After a tune she arose, and ringing for her maid, ordered a light
repast brought to her room, as she would not go down to dinner;
"And," she concluded, "you can have the evening to yourself: I
expect callers, and will not need you."
An hour later, Richard Hobson crept along the corridor and tapped
for admittance. There was no answer, and cautiously pushing open
the door, he entered unbidden, but started back in horror at the
sight which met his eyes. The electric lights had not been turned
on, but a few tall wax tapers, in a pair of candelabra upon the
mantel, were burning, and in the dim, weird light, Mrs. LaGrange,
still elegantly attired for her interview with Harold Mainwaring,
lay upon the low couch near the grate, her features scarcely paler
than a few hours before, but now rigid in death. Upon the table
beside her, the supper ordered by the maid stood untasted, while
on the same table a small vial bearing the label of one of the
deadliest of poisons, but empty, told the story. Underneath the
vial was a slip of paper, on which was written,-
"I have staked my highest card - and lost! The game is done."
Terror-stricken, Hobson glanced about him, then pausing only long
enough to clutch some of the gleaming jewels from the inanimate
form, he stealthily withdrew, and, skulking unobserved along the
corridors, passed out into the darkness and was gone.
SECESSION IN THE RANKS
When Ralph Mainwaring and Mr. Whitney arrived at the club they found
young Mainwaring already awaiting them at their private table, but
it was far from a social group which sat down to dinner that evening.
The elder Mainwaring still preserved an ominous silence, and in his
dark, glowering face few would have recognized the urbane guest whom
Hugh Mainwaring had introduced to his small coterie of friends less
than three months before. The younger man, though holding a
desultory conversation with the attorney, yet looked decidedly
bored, while from time to time he regarded his father with a cynical
expression entirely new to his hitherto ingenuous face. Mr. Whitney,
always keenly alert to his surroundings, became quickly conscious
of a sudden lack of harmony between father and son, and feeling
himself in rather a delicate position, carefully refrained in his
remarks from touching upon any but the most neutral ground.
A couple of hours later, as the three with a box of cigars were
gathered around an open fire in Ralph Mainwaring's apartments, it
was noticeable that young Mainwaring was unusually silent. In a
few moments, however, his father's long pent-up wrath burst forth.
Addressing the attorney in no very pleasant tone, he demanded, "Well,
sir, what do you now propose to do about this matter?"
"It is to be a fight, then, is it?" Mr. Whitney asked with a smile,
knocking the ashes from his cigar.
"Yes, by my soul, and a fight to the finish. Understand, I will
have no time lost. This farce has got to be quashed at once, and
the sooner the better, so you may enter protest and file an
application for hearing, or whatever your mode of procedure is in
this country, at the earliest possible moment. Meanwhile, I'll
secure the best legal talent that money can get to help you. I've
a longer purse than that old Australian sheep-herder thinks, and
when the time for contest comes, I'll meet him on his own ground."
"If you are going to employ additional counsel," interposed Mr.
Whitney, "allow me to suggest the name of P. B. Hunnewell, of this
city; he is one of the ablest attorneys in the United States,
particularly in matters of this kind. His fees are somewhat
exorbitant, but money is no object with you in this case."
"None whatever," the other interrupted, impatiently; "we will retain
this Hunnewell upon your recommendation, but in the morning I shall
cable for Upham & Blackwell, of London. They rank right in the
same line with Barton & Barton; they have conducted considerable
business for me, and I am satisfied," he added, with peculiar
emphasis, "they could not be tampered with or bought at any price.
I shall also cable for Graham, the expert on chirography and on all
kinds of forgeries, and we will have his decision upon that will.
I am going, first of all, understand, to have that document proven
a forgery. That done, the whole fabrication of this cunning impostor
falls to the ground, and then, when I have him completely floored
in that direction, he will find that I have only just begun with him."
"How is that?" questioned the attorney. "You surely do not intend
to dispute his identity after the unmistakable proofs submitted?"
"I care nothing about his identity," Mainwaring retorted, with a
sneer. "Whether he is the son of Harold Mainwaring or of Frederick
Scott, matters little; both were renegades and outcasts from their
homes. No, sir," and there was a ring of exultation in his tone,
while his steel-gray eyes glittered, "I have a surprise in store
for the young man; when he gets through with this contest, he will
find himself under arrest as the murderer of Hugh Mainwaring."
Young Mainwaring rose suddenly and began pacing the room, while
Mr. Whitney exclaimed,-
"Mr. Mainwaring, you astonish me! I certainly fail to see how you
can connect the young man with that terrible affair."
"What else could be expected of a man who acknowledges that for
years he has been dogging the steps of Hugh Mainwaring and acting
the part of a spy, not only in his private offices, but even in
his own home, stooping to any means, no matter how contemptible,
to further his nefarious designs? Would such a man, when his
schemes were finally matured, have any scruples about taking the
life of the one who stood in the way of their fulfilment?"
"But, sir," protested the attorney, "such a deed would be wholly
unnecessary. Admitting all that you have said regarding the means
employed by him, would it not be much more reasonable to suppose
that he would attempt to bring his man to terms either through a
personal interview or by bringing suit against him, rather than
by resorting to brutal crime?"
"And supposing he did have a personal interview for the purpose of
setting forth his claims, do you think that Hugh Mainwaring would
be bamboozled by any of his cheap trickery? No, sir, not for one
moment. He would simply pronounce the whole thing a sham. Well,
sir, if you will recall some of the testimony at the inquest, you
will see that is precisely what occurred. Hugh Mainwaring, within
twenty or thirty minutes preceding his death, was heard to denounce
some one as a 'liar' and an 'impostor.' An 'impostor,' mark you!
Very applicable to the case we are now supposing. And in the
altercation which followed, the other party called him a 'thief,'
and made some allusion - I do not recall the exact words - to his
being 'transported to the wilds of Australia.' Now, sir, there is
no doubt in the mind of any sane man that those words were spoken
by the murderer of Hugh Mainwaring, and I think now we have a
pretty good clue to his identity."
"But the young man stated emphatically this morning that he made
no mention of the will to Hugh Mainwaring."
"To the devil with his statements! There is evidence enough against
him that he will be ruined when I get through with him. He has
dared to try to thwart me in the plans of a lifetime, and I'll make
it the worst piece of business he ever undertook. Understand, I
want you to institute proceedings against him at once!"
"Governor," said young Mainwaring, quietly, before Mr. Whitney could
respond to this tirade, "in whose name will these proceedings be
instituted, yours or mine?"
"Well," replied his father, with a sneer, "I don't know that it
makes any particular difference to you in whose name it is done,
so long as it is for your benefit."
"Begging your pardon, sir, I believe it does make considerable
difference. And I will say right here that I will have no
proceedings entered, either in my name or for my benefit, for two
reasons: first, Harold Scott Mainwaring is no impostor; we had
abundant proof to-day that, under the terms of that will, he is the
sole claimant to the property; and second, you know, sir, as well
as I, that years ago, your own servant, John Wilson, told you that
such a will had existed, and there is every ground for believing
that this document is genuine. I just begin to understand your
little game, governor, and, by Jove! I will not be a party to it."
Up to this point, astonishment at his son's audacity seemed to have
bereft Ralph Mainwaring of the power of speech, but now he demanded
in thunderous tones, while his face grew purple with rage, "What do
you mean, sir, by daring to address such language to me? You
impudent upstart! let me tell you that you had best attend to your
"This is the second time you have told me that today," said the
young man, calmly, though the hot blood was fast rising; "allow me
to inform you, governor, with all due respect, that henceforth I
will attend to my own business, and will not trouble you to attend
to it for me. If you had any just or tenable grounds for the
proceedings you are about to institute, I would have nothing to say;
but, begging your pardon, you have none whatever; it is simply a
piece of dirty work with which I will have nothing to do."
"You ungrateful dog! This is your return for my care and
forethought for you, is it? Do you retract every word which you
have said, or I'll cut you off without a penny," and with a fearful
oath he swung himself around in his chair with such violence as to
overturn the small onyx table upon which the cigars were standing,
shattering it to fragments.
The young man paused directly in front of his father. "I retract
nothing," he said, quietly but firmly. "You are at liberty to
follow the example of old Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring if you wish, but
you may regret it later, as he did."
"And do you think Edith Thornton will marry a penniless beggar, a
pauper? Or do you propose to live upon her fortune?"
"No; I will not touch a penny of her fortune," he replied, his cheek
flushing; "and I am not quite a pauper, for I have the money left
me by Uncle Tom years ago; and if Edith is the girl to be turned
from me under the circumstances, why, the sooner I find it out the
"A paltry twenty thousand pounds! a fine fortune!" sneered his
father, ignoring his last remark.
"Many a fortune has been made from a much smaller start; but it is
useless to waste words further. You understand my position, and that
is enough. Mr. Whitney," he continued, addressing the attorney,
"according to the terms of Hugh Mainwaring's will, I, and not my
father, am heir to the property, and therefore the one to contest
the claim of Harold Mainwaring if it is contested at all. I wish to
state to you here and now, distinctly, that I will not contest the
case, nor will I authorize any one to do so for me; and now,
gentlemen, I bid you both good-evening!" and he quietly left the
"Zounds!" exclaimed the elder man, as the door closed upon his son,
"I didn't suppose the boy had so much spirit! I've often wished he
and Isabel could change places, because she was so much more like
myself and what I would like a son to be."
"He has the Mainwaring blood all right," replied the attorney, with
more inward admiration for the young man than he dared to express.
"Not if he will throw away a fortune in this manner; it is probably
some boyish whim, however and the young fool will look at it in a
different light to-morrow."
"I think not, Mr. Mainwaring," said the attorney, quietly; "he is
enough like Hugh Mainwaring, and like yourself, that when he decides
upon a certain line of action, he will not be easily turned aside.
You may rest assured that he will have nothing whatever to do with
this contest, and that if you wish to carry on the fight, you will
have to do so under your own colors."
"I'll do it, too," he replied, fiercely; "I'll enter proceedings in
my own name, as the nearest heir after Hugh Mainwaring."
"In that case, your brother must be notified, as he will be entitled
to share the estate with you; that may cause us some little delay,
"Curse it all!" the other interrupted, angrily; "I had not thought
of that; he will have to come in for a share; confound that boy's
foolishness! I'll get hold of him tomorrow morning and see if I
cannot talk some reason into him," and Ralph Mainwaring relapsed
into sullen silence. It was a new experience for him to meet with
opposition in his own family, least of all from his son, and he felt
the first step must be to quell it, though decidedly at loss just
how to proceed.
A little later, Mr. Whitney, finding his client disinclined to
further conversation, after making an appointment for the next
morning, excused himself and took his departure for his own
apartments at the club.
As he passed down the stairway into the spacious hall, what was his
surprise to see Mr. Merrick comfortably ensconced in a large leather
chair, reading the evening papers.
The two men shook hands warmly, and together passed out into the
cool, starlit night.
"When did you arrive, Merrick? and from what point of the compass?"
inquired the attorney.
"Got in on the 9.30 train," the detective replied, seeming not to
have heard the second question; "learned you were at Mainwaring's,
so I stopped in, but told the butler not to disturb you, as I was
in no hurry."
"I noticed you were looking over the evening papers, did you read
the account of this morning's proceedings in court?"
"What do you think of them?"
"I am not in the least surprised."
"Not surprised!" echoed the attorney. "Do you mean to say that the
reappearance of the missing secretary as the heir to the Mainwaring
estate is no surprise to you?"
"None whatever," Merrick replied, with the most exasperating
coolness, adding, as he noted the other's incredulous smile, "you
may recall a hint given you at Fair Oaks, one evening, of the
possible existence of claimants, perhaps not far distant, whose
rights superseded those of Hugh Mainwaring himself."
Mr. Whitney started involuntarily as the detective's words of a few
weeks before were thus recalled, then looking his companion squarely
in the face, he exclaimed, half playfully, half indignantly, "I
don't suppose you will go so far as to claim any familiarity with
that old will which has just been resurrected."
"Well," said Merrick, deliberately stopping to relight his cigar, "I
was aware that there was such a will in existence, or at least that
it had existed up to the time of Hugh Mainwaring's death, and I
supposed all along that it was in the possession of Harold Scott
Mainwaring, otherwise known as Harry Scott, secretary."
"By George! when and how did you get hold of all this?" questioned
the attorney, in a tone of bewilderment.
"I was pretty well conversant with the facts in the case a few days
before the young man took passage for England, in the 'Campania.'"
"The 'Campania!' Heavens and earth, man! Do you mean to say that
he went over on the same boat with Miss - with the ladies from
"Certainly; and I don't think," Merrick continued, watching the
attorney shrewdly, "that Miss - the ladies from Fair Oaks - objected
to him as a fellow-traveller, either."
Mr. Whitney changed the subject. "Then you know that will to be
genuine, do you?"
"H'm! am I on the witness stand?"
"No; but I think I ought to subpoena you to keep the other side
from getting your testimony; you might make a troublesome witness
"My testimony might be worth much or little; I am not giving it to
either side at present."
"Well, I would not have it go out, of course; but for my part, I am
inclined, to believe not only that the will is genuine, but also
that Ralph Mainwaring knows that it is."
"He will fight it all the same."
"Yes, but on rather different grounds from what he first anticipated,"
and Mr. Whitney gave Merrick an account of young Mainwaring's
defection. "In my private opinion," concluded the attorney, "Ralph
Mainwaring is a fool, for he has got a pretty hard combination to go
against; they've evidently got a strong case, splendid legal talent,
and plenty of money to back it all. However, I'm making a good
thing out of it."
"Yes," said Merrick, enigmatically, "Barton & Barton are undoubtedly
men of great ability in their professions but that 'clerk' of theirs
who has come over with the party," with peculiar emphasis, "is the
smartest man in the whole crowd!"
"The clerk! why I thought he seemed rather an insignificant sort
of a fellow; what do you know about him?"
For reply the detective only gave a short, unpleasant laugh, and,
touching his cap, turned abruptly down another street.
"Hold on!" cried the attorney; "you haven't told me anything about
yourself yet. What have you been doing? and how long are you going
to be in town?"
"A day or two, perhaps, possibly a week; I cannot say."
"How are you getting on?"
But the detective was lost in thought and apparently did not hear
the question. "I suppose you read of the arrest of Brown, the
coachman?" he remarked, abstractedly, after a moment's silence.
"The coachman? No! you don't say that he was really concerned in
that affair?" the attorney exclaimed, excitedly.
"What affair, the Mainwaring murder? I don't know that I have
said that he was concerned in that," Merrick answered, suddenly
coming to himself and evidently enjoying the attorney's expression
of blank perplexity; "he was mixed up in a shooting affair, however,
which occurred about that time, and by holding him in custody we
hope to get on to the principals. Oh," he added, carelessly,
anticipating another inquiry from Mr. Whitney, "I'm getting there
all right, if that is what you want to know; but I won't have
somebody else dogging my tracks and then claiming the game by and by."
"Man alive! what in the dickens are you driving at? You are in one
of your moods to-night."
"Perhaps so," Merrick replied, indifferently, then added quickly,
"There is a sensation of some sort in there; see the crowd of
They were standing on a street corner, near a large hotel, and
glancing through the windows in the direction indicated by the
detective, Mr. Whitney saw, as he had said, a crowd of reporters in
the office and lobbies, some writing, some talking excitedly, and
others coming and going. Just then one who was leaving the building
passed them, and Merrick stopped him.
"What is going on? What's the excitement?"
"Suicide!" the young man replied, hastily. "That woman who was
mixed up in the Mainwaring case has suicided by poison."
The attorney and the detective exchanged startled glances, then
both entered the hotel.
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM
An hour later, the attorney and the detective reappeared, and,
threading their way through the crowd still lingering about the
hotel, walked rapidly down the street, arm in arm, conversing in
"A case of suicide, undoubtedly," said the attorney "and scarcely to
be wondered at, taking all the circumstances into consideration.
Do you know, I am now more than ever inclined to the belief that
she was in some way connected with Hugh Mainwaring's death, and
that, after such a revelation of her character as was made in court
this morning, she feared further disclosures."
Mr. Whitney glanced at his companion, but the latter seemed
engrossed with his own thoughts and made no reply.
"I never was so completely floored in my life," the attorney
continued, "as when it came out that Harold Mainwaring was her son;
and I yet fail to see the necessity for introducing that feature
into the testimony. I should have thought that would have been
passed over in silence."
"As near as I can judge from reading of the case," Merrick replied,
"it seems to have been done with a purpose. His attorneys were
leading up to that very point in such a manner that, when the climax
was reached, she would involuntarily betray herself - as she did -
thus confirming in the strongest manner the testimony already given."
"I believe you may be right," said the attorney, musingly, "though
it had not occurred to me."
After a short pause, Merrick continued: "When I was first called to
Fair Oaks, I suspected some relationship between that woman and the
secretary, as he was then called; there was a marked resemblance
between them; both had the same peculiar olive skin, while their
features and carriage were almost identical."
"Yes, I recall your mentioning the likeness to me, and at the same
time I was puzzled by the resemblance between him and Hugh
Mainwaring. Well, I always said he was a mystery, and no wonder!"
They had reached the club-house by this time, and, as Merrick
declined Mr. Whitney's invitation to enter, both men remained
outside for a few moments. Once again, the attorney endeavored to
sound the detective regarding his work and the progress he was
making, but the latter suddenly became strangely uncommunicative.
"My client is going to charge Harold Mainwaring with the murder,"
said the attorney at last.
Merrick laughed scornfully, and for the second time that evening
wheeled abruptly and turned down a side street, leaving Mr. Whitney
standing upon the club-house steps, watching the rapidly retreating
figure with mingled vexation and amusement.
"Something has upset Merrick," he soliloquized, as he finally turned
towards the entrance; "who can he imagine is 'dogging' his tracks,
as he terms it? These detectives seem about as jealous of their
reputation as we lawyers are supposed to be. Ralph Mainwaring is
going to engage 'the best legal talent that money can get!' H'm!
when he comes to settle, he may find that my 'legal talent' will
come just as high as the best of them."
Could Mr. Whitney have been present at a conference held that
evening in one of the private parlors of the Waldorf, he might have
had a better understanding of the cause of Merrick's perturbation.
Immediately upon returning to the hotel, Harold Mainwaring had
communicated to the English attorney and to Mr. Scott the particulars
of his interview with Mrs. LaGrange. Mr. Scott at once expressed
his satisfaction at the outcome, in that she had rejected all offers
of assistance except upon her own terms.
"That is best, that is best just as it is," he said, emphatically;
"you do not want to be hampered with any obligations she might
impose upon you, and as for ever recognizing or acknowledging any
relationship, it is not to be thought of for one moment. Your course
was right, perfectly right. But what was the statement of such
importance which she was to make?"
"That is just what I am coming to," the young man replied; and
drawing his chair closer to those of his companions, he repeated in
low tones the secret intrusted to him by Mrs. LaGrange. The faces of
the two men were a study as he ended his recital.
"Are you confident that she spoke the truth?" questioned Mr. Barton
"I am positive that she did; she seemed like one terror-stricken,
and said that the horror of it had haunted her day and night."
"There could be no reason in this instance for doubting her,"
commented Mr. Scott, thoughtfully; "she would have no motive for
making such a statement if it were not true."
"My dear Mainwaring!" exclaimed the attorney, "it is what I have
suspected ever since you gave me the details of the affair; you
remember what I told you before we left London!"
"Certainly; but it seemed to me then too improbable."
"The improbable is, sometimes, what we must look for in cases like
this," he replied; "McCabe should be put on to this immediately,
and we must call Sutherland. I will summon him, myself, at once,"
and he left the room.
The foster-father and son, left for a few moments to themselves,
had little to say, but sat looking into each other's faces with eyes
full of meaning, each understanding what was in the other's heart.
At last, as they heard returning footsteps, the elder man spoke,-
"It was a good thing you went there, my boy; come what may, you will
never regret it."
"Never!" the other replied with emphasis.
It seemed but a few moments ere hurried steps were heard along the
corridor, followed by a light, familiar knock, and Mr. Sutherland
"I recognized your voice at the 'phone, Mr. Barton," said the
attorney, after greetings had been exchanged, "and something in its
tone, aside from the general import of your message, led me to
believe that the call was of special importance, therefore I lost
no time in coming here."
"You were correct," replied the English barrister; "we have made a
most important discovery, bearing not only upon the case in hand,
but also upon the Mainwaring murder case."
"Ah-h!" responded the attorney with evident interest; then drawing
his chair near the group seated about the open fire, he asked, with
a swift glance about the room, "But where is your 'clerk,' Mr.
Barton? Should he not be present?"
"My 'clerk!'" replied Mr. Barton, with peculiar emphasis, and plainly
appreciating the humor of the inquiry; "my 'clerk' is, I believe, at
present engaged in most assiduously cultivating the acquaintance of
Ralph Mainwaring's coachman."
Then, as Mr. Sutherland elevated his eyebrows in mute inquiry, he
"The coachman, I have understood, is a recent acquisition, taken, I
believe, upon the recommendation of this Merrick; and while he seems
eminently satisfactory as a coachman, I have my doubts as to whether
he will prove quite so satisfactory to his superior officer upon his
"Ah, I see!" ejaculated the other; "he is what might be denominated
"Yes; and so exceedingly verdant that McCabe thought it worth while
to make his acquaintance. But now to present business!"
Again the strange story was repeated, Mr. Sutherland listening with
grave attention, which deepened as the recital proceeded, until, at
its completion, he could scarcely restrain his enthusiasm; exultation
was plainly written on his face, but there was a peculiar gentleness
in his manner as he first approached his young client, saying in a
low tone, as he cordially grasped his hand,-
"I realize, Mr. Mainwaring, all that this means to you, and I am
sure you will understand me when I say that I congratulate you."
Harold Mainwaring bowed silently, and Mr. Sutherland, turning
towards the English barrister, exclaimed, "This explains everything!
This will make our case absolutely incontrovertible; but, first,
we must secure that man at all hazards and at any cost just as
quickly as possible; think what a witness he will make!"
"Just what I had in mind" was the response, "and McCabe is the man
to locate him if he is upon the face of the earth. But we must
decide immediately upon our own course of action, for this will
necessitate certain changes in our plans, and we must act at once,
and, at the same time, with the utmost caution and secrecy."
Dinner was ordered and served in the privacy of their own apartments
that they might be entirely free from intrusion or interruptions
during their deliberations, and it was at a late hour when, their
consultation ended, they gathered about the open fire with their
cigars, awaiting, with much self-congratulation and cheerful talk,
the return of the absent McCabe.
"Confound it!" exclaimed Mr. Barton, presently, glancing at his
watch; "what in the deuce is keeping that fellow so late?" If we
had not especially wanted him, he would have been here two hours ago."
"Perhaps," suggested Mr. Sutherland, "he may have found the coachman
more communicative than he anticipated."
"He has doubtless struck some clue which he is following," was the
reply; but at that instant there was a light tap at the door, and the
man generally known as the English barrister's "clerk" entered.
"Well, Mac," said Mr. Barton, cheerfully, "'speak of the devil'
- you know what follows! What luck to-night?"
"Very fair, sir," said the man, quietly taking in the situation at
a glance, as he noted the eager, expectant faces of the four men,
and, dropping into a chair near the group, he instantly assumed an
attitude of close attention.
Ordinarily, McCabe was, as Mr. Whitney had remarked, rather an
insignificant looking man. He was below medium stature and somewhat
dull in appearance, owing to the fact that he seemed to take little
interest in his surroundings, while his face, when his eyes were
concealed, as was generally the case, by the heavily drooping lids
and long eyelashes, was absolutely expressionless. When, however,
he raised his eyes and fixed them upon any one, the effect was much
the same as though a search-light suddenly flashed in one's face;
but this was only upon rare occasions, and few casual observers
would dream of the keen perceptive faculties hidden beneath that
"Tell us your story first, Mac," said Mr. Barton, after a moment's
silence, thoroughly understanding his man, "ours will keep for a
"There's not much to tell, sir."
"How are you and the coachman coming on?"
"We'll not be very intimate after to-night, I'm thinking."
"How is that?" questioned the attorney, at the same time smiling
broadly at his companions.
"Well, sir, there'll be no call for it, for one thing, as I've got
all the points in the case I wanted; and for another, his chief
returned this evening, and, from the few words I overheard upon
his arrival, I don't think the coachman will feel over-confidential
the next time he sees me," and McCabe smiled grimly to himself.
"So Merrick is back!" interposed Mr. Sutherland, laughing. "Did
you and he meet?"
"Meet, sir? Ah, no, not much o' that! I heard a step coming up
the stairs, and as I thought the room was hardly big enough for
three, I excused myself to Mr. Jim Matheson - alias Matthews, the
coachman - and made for the hall. We passed each other at the head
of the stairs, and I cluttered down, making as much racket as I
could; then at the foot of the stairs I took off my boots and crept
upstairs again, more to hear the fellow's voice than anything else,
so I could recognize him afterwards."
"What did you hear?" inquired Mr. Barton, as McCabe paused to light
a cigar which Mr. Sutherland had handed him.
"I heard him say, 'Who was that I passed outside, Jim?' 'Only a
cross-country friend of mine,' says Jim. 'What friends are you
entertaining here in these quarters?' says he, kind o' sharp like.
'An' sure,' says Jim, 'it was only Dan McCoy, the clerk of the big
London lawyer who has come over with the young Mr. Mainwaring I've
heard you speak of, and a right clever fellow he is, too!' 'Clerk!'
he roars out, 'clerk, you blithering idiot! he's no more clerk
than you are coachman, nor half so much, for you're fit for nothing
but to take care of horses all your days! Do you want to know,'
says he, 'who you've been entertaining?' That's no more nor less
than Dan McCabe, a Scotland Yard man they've brought over, nobody
knows what for, but whatever his game, he's made you play into his
hand! I didn't stay to hear more," McCabe concluded, "I got out."
"But how does this Merrick know you?" Mr. Barton inquired, as the
laughter caused by McCabe's recital subsided.
"He doesn't know me, he only knows of me," the man replied. "I
found that out an hour or two later, when I met him in a crowd at
the Wellington Hotel;" the speaker glanced curiously in the
direction of Harold Mainwaring for an instant, and then continued,
"I knew him by his voice, but I spoke with him, and he had no idea
who I was."
"But how has he heard of you?" persisted Mr. Barton.
"There was an American detective - a friend of his - who came over
on the 'Campania' on the same trip with Mr. Mainwaring. He was
following up a case in London, but he managed to keep his eye on
Mr. Mainwaring and kept this Merrick posted of all that he was doing.
It was because of some remarks of his that I got wind of, that I
determined from the first to get onto his game."
"Well, Mac," said Mr. Barton, tentatively, "are you ready to go to
The keen eyes flashed for an instant in the attorney's face, then
the man answered quietly, "If you've nothing to tell me, I'm ready
to go to work on my own hook and in my own way; if you've anything
to say, I'll hear it."
Mr. Barton glanced at the others. "We had better tell McCabe what
we have learned, and also just what our plans are."
The others bowed in assent, and the chairs were drawn closer together
while Mr. Barton, in low tones, told, as briefly and clearly as
possible, the discovery which they had made. McCabe listened to the
attorney's story, but whether or not the secret were already guessed
by him, his face gave no sign. When it was ended he glanced
curiously at Harold Mainwaring.
"Mrs. LaGrange told you this?"
"At what time, if you please, sir?"
"At about half-past five."
"Are you aware, sir, that, with the exception of her maid, you are
probably the last person who saw Mrs. LaGrange living?"
"Saw her living!" Harold Mainwaring repeated, astonished, while Mr.
Barton demanded, "What do you mean, Mac?"
"I mean, sir," said McCabe, slowly, "that Mrs. LaGrange committed
suicide at about seven o'clock this evening, less than two hours
after Mr. Mainwaring saw her."
"When did you learn of this?" "What do you know of the affair?"
questioned the attorneys quickly, while Harold Mainwaring, more
deeply shocked than he would have thought possible, listened to the
"I happened along by the Wellington about two hours ago, and saw
considerable stir around there. I learned 'twas a case of suicide,
but thought nothing of it till I heard the woman's name, then I
dropped in and picked up the facts in the case," and he proceeded
to relate the details of the affair.
As Harold Mainwaring listened, he recalled the looks and words of
the wretched woman, her genuine misery, her falsehood and deceit,
her piteous pleadings, and the final rage and scorn with which she
had rejected his assistance even in the face of such desperation
and despair; and a sickening sense of horror stole over him,
rendering him almost oblivious to the conversation around him.
"'Twas there I saw this man Merrick," McCabe was saying in
conclusion. "I heard him questioning the maid about Mr. Mainwaring's
interview with the woman; he evidently was onto that. I saw the
girl myself shortly afterwards and gave her a hint and a bit of money
to keep her mouth shut about Mr. Mainwaring. She seemed pretty
bright, and I think she will understand her business."
"Confound that meddlesome Yankee! what was he prowling around
there for?" interrupted Mr. Scott, angrily. "He has no business
prying into Harold Scott Mainwaring's affairs, and I'll have him
understand it; let him attend to his own duties, and I think, from
all reports, he will have his hands more than full then. Mr.
Sutherland," he continued, addressing the attorney, "there's no
knowing what that beastly bungler who calls himself a detective
will do next; this thing is likely to be out in the morning papers
with the boy's name mixed up in it, and it must be stopped right
here. His name must be kept out of this at any price, and you
probably can reach the New York press better than any one of us."
"You are right," said Mr. Sutherland, rising hastily and preparing
to leave; "our client wants no notoriety of that sort; and I will
make sure that nothing of the kind occurs. I have a friend who has
unlimited influence with the newspaper men, and I will have him
attend to the matter at once, and see to it that everything of that
nature is suppressed."
"That is best," said Harold Mainwaring gravely, coming forward. "I
would have rendered the woman any necessary assistance; I am willing
to do whatever is needful now, but, living or dead, her name shall
never be coupled with my father's name and mine."
"You understand, of course, that money is no object in this matter,"
added Mr. Scott.
"I understand perfectly, sir," said the attorney, courteously;
"everything will be attended to; and, Mr. Barton, you will kindly
confer with Mr. McCabe, and I will see you in the morning regarding
your final decision. Good-night, gentlemen."
An hour later, McCabe took his departure. Of his own theories or
plans he had said little more than that he was to leave the
Waldorf that night for another part of the city, but all details
for communication with him in case of necessity had been carefully
"Your 'clerk' has been suddenly called to London on important
business," he said to Mr. Barton, with a quiet smile, adding, "You
may meet me occasionally, but it's not likely or best that you
recognize me, and when I have anything to report you will hear from
me," and with these words he was gone.
When at last Harold Mainwaring and his foster-father were again by
themselves, the latter, noting the younger man's abstraction, said,-
"This is naturally a great shock to you, my boy, but it is only what
might be expected after such a life as hers. You have done nothing
for which to censure yourself; you have done all that could be done
under existing conditions, and more than was actually required of
you; so you need have no regrets over the affair."
"I understand that, sir; but the thought that I cannot banish from
my mind is, knowing so well her treachery and deceit, is it possible
that she herself had a hand in the murder, and finding at last that
there was no hope of gaining my friendship, did she fear the
developments which might follow from what she had told?"
The elder man shook his head thoughtfully. "We cannot say, my boy;
the thought occurred to me almost instantaneously, for, without
doubt, she both hated and feared him; but time alone will tell."
BETWEEN THE ACTS
For the ten days next ensuing the public craving for sensational
developments in the Mainwaring case seemed likely to be gratified
to an unusual degree. To the exciting scenes of the court-room was
added the suicide of Mrs. LaGrange, immediately followed by news of
the discovery that Richard Hobson, the unwilling witness in the
previous day's proceedings, had absconded, leaving not the slightest
indication of even the direction in which he had vanished. By many
the suicide of the one and the sudden disappearance of the other,
occurring simultaneously, were considered as prima facie evidence
that the two, so closely associated with each other, had been in
some way connected with the Fair Oaks tragedy.
From this phase of the affair, however, public attention was
speedily diverted by the report that proceedings to contest the old
will had been instituted, but in the name of Ralph Mainwaring and
his brother, Harold W. Mainwaring; his son, the sole heir under the
will of Hugh Mainwaring, having altogether withdrawn from the
contest. This had caused an open rupture between father and son,
and the latter had established himself in a suite of apartments at
the Murray Hill.
Young Mainwaring's course occasioned great surprise; many commended
his wisdom, but few gave him credit for the genuine sense of honor
which had actuated him.
"A neat little stroke of diplomacy," said one club-man to another,
"and worthy of Hugh Mainwaring himself! There is no show for him,
anyway, and it's much better policy to yield the point now, don't
you see, than to fight it out along with that pig-headed father of
"He understands on which side his bread is buttered, and don't you
forget it, my dear boy," was the laughing rejoinder. "It's always
best to stand in with the winning side; he won't lose anything in
the long run, and he knows it."
Such remarks occasionally reached young Mainwaring, making him
"You may say, once and for all," he said to a reporter who was
interviewing him in his apartments at the Murray Hill, "that in
withdrawing from this contest I am not currying favor with Harold
Scott Mainwaring. He and I are the best of friends, but that fact
would not hinder me from giving him a fair and square fight if
there were the slightest doubt as to the validity of his claim.
But there isn't; he has proved his right, legally and morally, to
the property, and that's enough for me."
"But Mr. Ralph Mainwaring must have some tenable ground for
contesting his claim," said the reporter, tentatively, hoping to
get some of the inside facts of the case.
Young Mainwaring froze instantly. "I have nothing whatever to say,
sir, regarding the governor's action in this matter; any information
you desire on that point you will have to obtain from him."
The next development in the Mainwaring case was a report to the
effect that the whereabouts of Harold W. Mainwaring could not be
ascertained, and it was generally supposed among his London
associates that he had followed his brother to America by the next
steamer. As this report was supplemented by the further facts that
he was a man of no principle, heavily involved in debt, and deeply
incensed at Ralph Mainwaring's success in securing for his son the
American estate in which he himself had expected to share, public
speculation was immediately aroused in a new direction, and "that
Mainwaring affair" became the absorbing topic, not alone at the
clubs and other places of masculine rendezvous, but at all social
gatherings as well.
Regarding the principal actors in this drama, however, around whom
public interest really centred, little could be definitely
ascertained. To many, who, on the following morning, read the
details of the suicide at the Wellington, it was a matter of no
small wonder that the name of Harold Scott Mainwaring was not once
mentioned in connection with that of the woman shown by the