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That Mainwaring Affair by Maynard Barbour

Part 7 out of 7

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"I, Hugh Mainwaring, freely and voluntarily and under no duress or
compulsion, make this, my dying statement, not only as a relief to
the mental anguish I have endured for the past few months, but also
in the hope that I may thereby, in my last hours, help in some
degree to right the wrong which my life of treachery and cowardice
has wrought. To do this, I must go back over twenty-five years of
crime, and beyond that to the inordinate greed and ambition that
led to crime.

"My brother, Harold Scott Mainwaring, and I were twins, so
marvelously alike in form and feature that our parents often had
difficulty to distinguish between us, but utterly unlike in
disposition, except that we both possessed a fiery temper and an
indomitable will. He was the soul of honor, generous to a fault,
loyal-hearted and brave, and he exacted honor and loyalty from
others. He had no petty ambitions; he cared little for wealth for
its own sake, still less for its votaries. I was ambitious; I
loved wealth for the power which it bestowed; I would sacrifice
anything for the attainment of that power, and even my boyish
years were tainted with secret envy of my brother, an envy that
grew with my growth, till, as we reached years of maturity, the
consciousness that he, my senior by only a few hours, was yet to
take precedence over me - to possess all that I coveted - became
a thorn in my side whose rankling presence I never for a single
waking hour forgot; it embittered my enjoyment of the present,
my hopes and plans for the future.

"But of this deadly undercurrent flowing far beneath the surface
neither he nor others dreamed, till, one day, a woman's face - cold,
cruel, false, but beautiful, bewitchingly, entrancingly beautiful,
- came between us, and from that hour all semblance of friendship
was at an end. With me it was an infatuation; with him it was love,
a love ready to make any sacrifice for its idol. So when our father
threatened to disinherit and disown either or both of us, and the
false, fickle heart of a woman was laid in the balances against the
ancestral estates, I saw my opportunity for seizing the long coveted
prize. We each made his choice; my brother sold his birthright for
a mess of pottage; his rights were transferred to me, and my
ambition was at last gratified.

"Between three and four years later, on the night of November
seventeenth, within a few hours preceding his death, my father made
a will, revoking the will by which he had disinherited his elder
son, and restoring him again to his full right and title to the
estate. This was not unexpected to me. Though no words on the
subject had passed between us and my brother's name was never
mentioned, I had realized for more than a year that my father was
gradually relenting towards the son who had ever been his favorite,
and on the last day that he was able to leave his room, I had come
upon him unaware in the old picture gallery, standing before the
portrait of his elder son, silent and stern, but with the tears
coursing down his pallid cheeks. When, therefore, on the night
preceding his death, my father demanded that an attorney be
summoned, my feelings can be imagined. Just as the prize which I
had so long regarded as mine was almost within my grasp, should I
permit it to elude me for the gratification of a dying man's whim?
Never! In my rage I could have throttled him then and there without
a qualm; fear of the law alone held me back. I tried to dissuade
him, but it was useless. I then bribed the servant sent to bring
the attorney to report that he was out of town, and when that
proved of no avail, I sent for Richard Hobson, a penniless shyster,
whose lack of means and lack of principle I believed would render
him an easy tool in my hands. He came; I was waiting to receive
him, and we entered into compact, I little dreaming I was setting
loose on my track a veritable hell-hound! The will was drawn and
executed, Hobson and one Alexander McPherson, an old friend of my
father's, signing as witnesses. Within twenty-four hours of its
execution, Richard Hobson was richer by several hundred pounds, and
the will was in my possession. Two days later, I had a false
telegram sent to our place, summoning McPherson to his home in
Scotland. He left at once, before my father's burial, and his death,
which occurred a few weeks later, removed the last obstacle in the
way of carrying my plans into execution. My brother at that time
was in Australia, but in what part of the country I did not know,
nor did I try to ascertain. My constant fear was that he might in
some way - though by what means I could not imagine - get some
knowledge of the will and return to set up a claim to the estate.
As soon as possible, therefore, notwithstanding the protests of
my attorneys, I sold the estate and came to America.

"Concerning the years that followed, it is needless to go into
detail; they brought me wealth, influence, power, all that I had
craved, but little of happiness. Even when there came tidings of
my brother's death at sea, and I felt that at last my title to
the estate was secure, I had little enjoyment in its possession.
Richard Hobson had already begun his black-mailing schemes, his
demands growing more frequent and exorbitant with each succeeding
year. Through him, also, the woman who had wrecked my brother's
life received some inkling of my secret, and through this knowledge,
slight as it was, gained enough of a hold over me that life was
becoming an intolerable burden. Through all these years, however,
I kept the will in my possession. Even after hearing of the death
of my brother, a cowardly, half-superstitious dread kept me from
destroying it, though doubtless I would have done so soon after
making my own will had I not been prevented by circumstances
unforeseen, which I will now state.

"The events which I am about to relate are stamped upon my brain
as though by fire; they have haunted me day and night for the past
five months. On the seventh of July last, I made and executed my
will in favor of my namesake, Hugh Mainwaring, and on the following
day - his birthday and mine - he was to be declared my heir. It
was past eleven o'clock on the night of that day when I retired to
my private library, and it was fully an hour later when, having
dismissed my secretary, I finally found myself alone, as I supposed,
for the night. My thoughts were far from pleasant. I had just had
a stormy interview with my housekeeper, Mrs. LaGrange, who had
tried, as on previous occasions, to coerce me by threats into a
private marriage and a public recognition of her as my wife and of
her child and mine; and, in addition, the occurrences of the day
had been of a nature to recall the past, and events which I usually
sought to bury in oblivion were passing before my mental vision
despite my efforts to banish them. Suddenly a voice which seemed
like an echo of the past recalled me to the present. Somewhat
startled, I turned quickly, confronting a man who had entered
unperceived from the tower-room. He was my own height and size,
with curling black hair and heavy mustache, but I was unable to
distinguish his features as he remained standing partly in the
shadow. Before I could recover from my surprise, he again spoke,
his voice still vaguely familiar.

"'The master of Fair Oaks' - the words were spoken with stinging
emphasis - 'seems depressed on the eve of his festal day, the day
on which he is to name the heir and successor to his vast estates!'

"I remembered that a stranger had called that day during my absence,
who, my secretary had informed me, bad shown a surprising familiarity
with my private plans.

"'I think,' I replied, coldly, 'that you favored me with a call
this afternoon, but whatever your business then or now, you will
have to defer it for a few days. I do not know how you gained
admittance to these apartments at this hour, but I will see that
you are escorted from them without delay,' and as I spoke I rose
to ring for a servant.

"He anticipated my intention, however, and with the agility of a
panther sprang noiselessly across the room, intercepting me, at
the same time raising a large, English bull-dog revolver, which
he levelled at me.

"'Not so fast, not so fast,' he said, softly; 'you can afford to
wait a little; I have waited for years!'

"I stood as though rooted to the spot, gazing at him with a sort
of fascination. As he emerged into the light there was something
almost familiar in his features, and yet something horribly
incongruous and unreal. His eyes glowed like living fire; his soft,
low tones reminded me of nothing so much as the purring of a tiger;
while the smile that played about his lips was more terrible than
anything I had ever seen on human face. It was ten times more
fearful than the muzzle of the revolver confronting me, and seemed
to freeze the very blood in my veins.

"'You take a base advantage; I am unarmed," I sneered.

"'I knew too well with whom I had to deal to come unarmed,' he
replied; 'though this,' and he lowered the revolver, 'this is not
the sort of weapon you would employ, - a thrust in the dark, a stab
in the back, that is your style, coward!"

"'I demand an explanation of this,' I said.

"He folded his arms, still retaining his hold upon the weapon, as
he answered, 'Explanations will follow in due time; but surely, on
the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of such a life as yours,
congratulations are first in order. Allow me to congratulate you,
Hugh Mainwaring, upon the success which has attended and crowned
the past twenty-five years of your life! upon the rich harvest
you have reaped during all these years; the amassed wealth, the
gratified ambitions, the almost illimitable power, the adulation
and homage, - all so precious to your sordid soul, and for which
you have bartered honor, happiness, character, all, in short, that
life is worth. Standing, as you do to-night, at the fiftieth
milestone on life's journey, I congratulate you upon your
recollections of the past, and upon your anticipations for the
future, as you descend to an unhonored and unloved old age!'

"Every word was heaped with scorn, and, as I looked into the burning
eyes fixed upon mine and watched the sardonic smile hovering about
his lips, I wondered whether he were some Mephistopheles - some
fiend incarnate - sent to torture me, or whether he were really
flesh and blood.

"The mocking smile now left his face, but his eyes held me speechless
as he continued,-

"'No wonder that memories of bygone years haunted your thoughts
to-night! Memories, perhaps, of a father whose dying will you
disregarded; of a brother whom you twice defrauded, - once of the
honor and sanctity of his home, then, as if that were not enough,
of his birthright, - his heritage from generations of our race -'

"'Stop!' I cried, stung to anger by his accusations and startled
by the strange words, 'our race,' which seemed to fall so familiarly
from his lips. 'Stop! are you mad?" Do you know what you are
saying? Once more I demand that you state who or what you are, and
your business here!'

"'That is quickly stated, Hugh Mainwaring,' he answered, in tones
which made my heart beat with a strange dread; 'I am Harold Scott
Mainwaring! I am here to claim no brotherhood or kinship with you,
but to claim and to have my own, the birthright restored to me by
the last will and testament of a dying father, of which you have
defrauded me for twenty-five years!"

"'You are a liar and an impostor!' I cried, enraged at the sound of
my brother's name, and for the instant believing the man to be some
emissary of Hobson's who had used it to work upon my feelings.

"Drawing himself up to his full height, his eyes blazing, he answered
in low tones, 'Dare you apply those epithets to me, usurper that you
are? You are a liar and a thief, and if you had your deserts you
would be in a felon's cell to-night, or transported to the wilds of
Australia! I an impostor? See and judge for yourself!' and with a
sudden, swift movement the black curling hair and mustache were
dashed to the floor, and he stood before me the exact counterpart
of myself. Stunned by the transformation, I gazed at him speechless;
it was like looking in a mirror, feature for feature identically the
same! For a few seconds my brain seemed to reel from the shock, but
his tones recalled me to myself.

"'Ah!' he said, with mocking emphasis, 'who is the impostor now?'

"My first thought was of self-vindication, and to effect, if
possible, a compromise with him. 'I am no impostor or usurper,' I
said, 'because, believing you dead, I have used that to which in
the event of your death I would be legally entitled even had you
any claim, and I am willing, not as an acknowledgment of any valid
claim on your part, but as a concession on my own part, to give you
a liberal share in the estate, or to pay you any reasonable sum
which you may require-

"He stopped me with an intolerant gesture. 'Do not attempt any
palliation of the past with me,' he said, sternly; 'it is worse
than useless; and do not think that you can make any compromises
with me or purchase my silence with your ill-gotten wealth. That
may have served your purpose in the past with your associate and
coadjutor, Richard Hobson, the man who holds in his mercenary
grasp the flimsy reputation which is all that is left to you, or
with the woman - cruel as the grave and false as hell - who once
wrecked my life, and now, with the son that you dare not
acknowledge, rules your home, but you cannot buy my silence. I
come to you as no beggar! I am a richer man to-day than you, but
for the sake of generations past, as well as of generations yet to
come, I will have my own. The estate which was once my forefathers
shall be my son's, and his sons' after him!'

"As I listened, my whole soul rose against him in bitter hatred,
the old hatred of my youth. 'I defy you,' I' cried, hotly, 'to
produce one atom of proof in support of your claim or of your
charges against me! The estate is mine, and I will make you rue
the day that you dare dispute my right and title to it!'

"His eyes flashed with scorn as he replied, 'You lie, Hugh
Mainwaring! Your life for the past twenty-five years has been
nothing but a lie, and the day just closed has witnessed the final
act in this farce of yours. That I have already undone, and just
as surely I will undo the work of the past years. And let me assure
you I have no lack of proof with which to verify either my own
claim or any assertion I have made, or may yet make, against you.
I have proof that on the night preceding my father's death he made
a will restoring to me my full rights, which you have fraudulently
withheld all these years; and through my son, whom you have known
for the past eighteen months as your private secretary, I have proof
that that will is still in existence, of itself an irrefutable
witness against you!'

"With the mention of my secretary the truth flashed upon me. I
realized I was completely in his power, and with a sense of my
own impotency my rage and hatred increased. Forgetful of the weapon
in his hand and almost blind with fury, I sprang towards him,
intending to throttle him - to strangle him - until he should plead
for mercy. Instantly he raised the revolver in warning, but not
before I had seized his wrist, turning the weapon from myself. A
brief struggle followed, in which I soon found my strength was no
match for his. Growing desperate, I summoned all my strength for
one tremendous effort, at the same time holding his wrist in a
vice-like grip, forcing his hand higher and turning the revolver
more and more in his direction. Suddenly there was a flash, - a
sharp report, - and he fell heavily to the floor, dragging me down
upon him.

"For an instant I was too much stunned and bewildered to realize
what had happened, but a glance at my opponent revealed the
situation. He lay motionless where he had fallen, and a ghastly
wound over the right eye told the terrible story. Dazed with
horror, I placed my hand over his heart, but there was no motion,
no life, - he was dead! The awful truth forced itself upon me.
Mad and blind with rage, I had turned the weapon upon him and it had
discharged, - whether by some sudden movement of his hand, or by
the accidental pressure of my own fingers upon the trigger, God
alone knows, I do not! One fact I could not then, nor ever can,
forget; it was my hand that gave the weapon its deadly aim, however
blindly or unwittingly, and the blood of my brother whom I had
wronged and defrauded now lay at my door.

"The agony of remorse that followed was something beyond description,
beyond any suffering of which I had ever dreamed; but suddenly a
thought flashed upon me which added new horror, causing me to spring
to my feet cold with terror, while great beads of perspiration
gathered on my brow. When that terrible scene should be revealed,
not alone in the approaching morning light, but in the light of past
events which, if the last words spoken by those lips now sealed in
death were true, could no longer be kept secret, what would be the
world's verdict?" Murder! fratricide! and I? Great God! of what
avail would be any plea of mine in the face of such damning evidence?

"I rushed to the tower-room, and hastily opening my safe, took from
a private drawer therein a key and with trembling fingers fitted it
into the lock of a large metallic box which contained the family
jewels, and which for more than twenty-five years had held the old
will executed by my father on his death-bed. I had seen it there
less than forty-eight hours before, and in my desperation I now
determined to destroy it. My very haste and eagerness delayed me,
but at last the cover flew back, revealing the gleaming jewels,
but - the will was not there! Unable to believe my own eyes, I
drew my fingers carefully back and forth through the narrow
receptacle where it had lain, and among the satin linings of the
various compartments, but in vain; the will was gone! My brother
had spoken the truth, and the will was doubtless in the possession
of his son, who, under its terms, was now himself heir to the
estate. The room grew dim and the walls themselves seemed to whirl
swiftly about me as, with great difficulty, I groped my way back to
the library, where I stood gazing at that strange counterpart of
myself, till, under the growing horror of the situation, it seemed
to my benumbed senses as though I were some disembodied spirit
hovering above his own corpse. The horrible illusion was like a
nightmare; I could not throw it off, and I would then and there
have gone stark, staring mad, but that there came to me out of that
awful chaos of fancies a suggestion which seemed like an inspiration.
'It is Hugh Mainwaring,' I said to myself, 'Hugh Mainwaring died

"My fevered brain grew cool, my pulse steady, and my nerves firm
as I proceeded at once to act upon the idea. Kneeling beside the
dead man, I examined the wound. The bullet had entered above the
right eye and passed downward, coming out at the base of the brain;
from both wounds the blood was flowing in a slow, sluggish stream.
Drawing a large handkerchief from my pocket, I bound it tightly
about the head over both wounds, knotting it firmly; then carrying
the body into the tower-room, I made sure that all doors were
locked, and proceeded to put into execution the plan so suddenly
formed. By this time I was myself, and, though the task before me
was neither easy nor pleasant to perform, I went about it as
calmly and methodically as though it were some ordinary business
transaction. As expeditiously as possible I removed the dead man's
clothing and my own, which I then exchanged, dressing the lifeless
form in the clothes I had worn on the preceding day, even to the
dressing-gown which I had put on upon retiring to my apartments,
while I donned his somewhat travel-worn suit of tweed. Having
completed this gruesome task, I left the body in much the same
position in which it had originally fallen, lying slightly upon
the right side, the right arm extended on the floor, and, to give
the appearance of suicide, I placed my own revolver - first
emptying one of the chambers - near his right hand. On going to
my desk for the revolver, I discovered the explanation of my
brother's words when he said that he had already undone my work
of the preceding day, the final act of the farce I had carried
out. In the terrible excitement of those moments his meaning
escaped my mind; now it was clear. My own will, executed with
such care, and which early in the evening I had left upon my desk,
was gone. That he had destroyed it in his wrath and scorn I had
abundant proof a little later, upon incidentally finding in the
small grate in that room the partially burned fragments of the
document, which I left to tell their own tale.

"Having satisfactorily disposed of Hugh Mainwaring (as the dead
man now seemed to my over-wrought imagination), I made preparation
for my immediate departure. This occupied little time. There was
fortunately some cash in the safe, which I took; all drafts and
papers of that nature I left, - they were of value only to Hugh
Mainwaring, and he was dead! As the cash would be inadequate,
however, for my needs, I decided after considerable deliberation
to take the family jewels, though not without apprehension that
they might lead to my detection, as they finally did. These I put
in a small box covered with ordinary wrapping-paper to attract as
little attention as possible,' and, having completed my preparations,
I removed the bandage from the dead man's head and threw it with the
private keys to my library into the metallic box which had held the
jewels. Then donning the black wig and mustache which my visitor
had thrown aside on disclosing his identity, together with a long
ulster which he had left in the tower-room, I took one farewell
look at the familiar apartments and their silent occupant and stole
noiselessly out into the night. I remained on the premises only
long enough to visit the small lake in the rear of the house, into
which I threw the metallic box and its contents, then, following
the walk through the grove to the side street, I left Fair Oaks, as
I well knew, forever. While yet on the grounds I met my own
coachman, but he failed to recognize me in my disguise. My plans
were already formed. I had come to the conclusion that my late
visitor and the caller of the preceding afternoon, whose card bore
the name of J. Henry Carruthers, were one and the same. My secretary
had stated that Carruthers had come out from the city that day, so
my appearance at the depot, dressed in his own disguise, would
probably attract no attention. I was fortunate enough to reach the
depot just as two trains were about to pull out; the suburban train
which would leave in three minutes for the city, and the north-bound
express, due to leave five minutes later. I bought a ticket for New
York, then passing around the rear of the suburban train, quietly
boarded the express, and before the discovery of that night's
fearful tragedy I was speeding towards the great West.

"But go where I might, from that hour to this, I have never been
free from agonizing remorse, nor have I been able for one moment
to banish from my memory the sight of that face, - the face of my
brother, killed by my own hand, and a discovery which I made
within the first few hours of my flight made my remorse ten times
deeper. In going through the pockets of the suit I wore I found
a letter from my brother, addressed to his son, written in my own
library and at my own desk while he awaited my coming. He seemed
to have had a sort of presentiment that his interview with me might
end in some such tragedy as it did, and took that opportunity to
inform his son regarding both his past work and his plans for the
future. What was my astonishment to find that his son was, at
that time, as totally unaware of his father's existence as was I
a few hours before of the existence of a brother!

"From this letter I learned that the son had been given away at
birth, and was to know nothing of his true parentage until he had
reached years of maturity; that he himself had been shipwrecked, as
reported years ago, but had escaped in some miraculous manner; that
reaching Africa at last, he disclosed his identity to no one, but
devoted all his energies to acquiring a fortune for his son. He
succeeded even beyond his anticipations, and when nearly twenty
years had elapsed, sailed for his old Australian home, to find his
son. Arriving there, he learned that his son, while pursuing his
studies in England, had obtained information of the will made in
his father's favor, and learning facts which led him to believe that
the will was still in existence and in the possession of his father's
younger brother, had, with the advice of his London attorneys, gone
to America, and was then in his uncle's employ for the purpose of
securing proof regarding the will, and, if possible, possession of
the will itself. Upon learning these facts, my brother had
immediately proceeded to London and to Barton & Barton, his son's
attorneys, who, upon his arrival there, informed him of his son's
success up to that time, and also notified him that his brother was
about to celebrate his approaching fiftieth birthday by naming the
son of Ralph Mainwaring as his heir, Ralph Mainwaring and family
having just sailed to America for that purpose. My brother then
took the first steamer for America, arriving only two days later
than Ralph Mainwaring. Though unable to obtain an interview with
me at once, as he had intended, he had succeeded in catching sight
of me, in order to assure himself that the marked resemblance
between us still existed, and, to emphasize that resemblance, he
then shaved and had his hair cut in the same style in which I wore
mine, so as to render the likeness the more striking and
indisputable when he should announce himself to me.

"His existence and return he wished kept secret from his son until
the successful consummation of his plans, but he wrote the letter
as an explanation in case there should be any unforeseen
termination. The letter was overflowing with a father's love and
pride; his allusion to the difficulty with which he had restrained
his feelings when he found himself face to face with his son on the
afternoon of his call, being especially touching. The perusal of
that letter added a hundred-fold to my own grief and remorse. I
dared not run the risk of disclosing myself by sending it to my
brother's son, but I have preserved it carefully for him, and desire
it to be given him as quickly as possible.

"Through New York papers I learned from time to time of the murder
of Hugh Mainwaring, the lost will, the discovery of the old will,
and the appearance of the rightful heir. From that source, also, I
learned that Merrick, the detective, was shadowing the murderer,
who was generally supposed to be a man by the name of Carruthers.
I had one advantage of Merrick. I knew him - my old friend Whitney
having often pointed him out to me - while he did not know the man
he sought. Many a time in my wanderings I have seen him, and,
knowing well the game he was after, eluded him, only to fall at
last into the snare of one whom I did not know. The man searching
for the murderer of Hugh Mainwaring encountered another, trailing
the murderer of Harold Scott Mainwaring, and I suddenly found my
time had come! A coward then, as always, I tried to shoot myself.
In the darkness I held the muzzle of my brother's revolver to my
own temple; instantly there flashed before me his face when I had
killed him! I grew sick, my hand trembled and dropped; then, as
my pursuers came nearer, I aimed for my heart and fired! This is
the result. Death was not instantaneous, as I had hoped; instead,
I was given this opportunity to make some slight reparation for my
sin; to aid, as I said before, in righting the wrong wrought by my
past life.

"And now, in these my last moments, I do solemnly affirm and aver
that on the night preceding his death, my father executed a will
restoring to my elder brother his full right and title, which will
I have for more than twenty-five years last past wrongfully and
fraudulently withheld and concealed; and that my brother being now
dead, killed by my own hand, though unwittingly and unintentionally,
his son, Harold Scott Mainwaring, is the rightful and sole heir
to the entire Mainwaring estate.

"Signed by Hugh Mainwaring in the presence of the following
witnesses: William J. Barton, M. D. Montague, Joseph P. Sturgiss,
M.D., M. J. Wheating, M.D., Daniel McCabe and C. D. Merrick."

At the conclusion of this statement, there was shown in evidence
the rusty metallic box-dragged from the lake - with the keys and
the knotted, blood-stained handkerchief found therein. This was
followed by brief testimony by Harold Scott Mainwaring and the
old servant, James Wilson, but the proceedings following the
reading of the statement were little more than mere form. There
was little attempt at cross-examination, and when the time came for
the argument by counsel for contestant, Mr. Whitney, who had been
deeply affected by the confession of his old friend, declined to

All eyes were fastened upon Mr. Sutherland as he arose, as was
supposed, for the closing argument. For a moment his eyes scanned
the faces of the jurors, man by man, then addressing the judge, he
said slowly, in clear, resonant tones,-

"Your honor, I submit the case without argument."

In less than forty-five minutes from the conclusion of the statement
the jury retired, but no one moved from his place in the crowded
court-room, for all felt that little time would be required for their
decision. In ten minutes they returned, and, amid the silence that
followed, the foreman announced the verdict, "for the proponent,
Harold Scott Mainwaring."

Cheers burst forth from all parts of the room, and the walls rang
with applause, which was only checked by a sudden, simultaneous
movement of several men towards the contestant. With the
announcement of the verdict, Ralph Mainwaring had risen to his feet,
as though in protest. For an instant he stood gasping helplessly,
but unable to utter a word; then, with a loud groan, he sank
backward and would have fallen to the floor but for his attorneys,
who had rushed to the assistance of the stricken man.

A few moments later the lifeless remains of Hugh Mainwaring were
carried from the court-room, while, in another direction, the
unconscious form of Ralph Mainwaring was borne by tender, pitying
hands, among them those of the victor himself, and the contest of
Mainwaring versus Mainwaring was ended.

* * * * * * * * *

The bright sunlight of a December afternoon, ten days after the
close of the trial, crowned with a shining halo the heads of
Harold Scott Mainwaring and his wife as they stood together in the
tower-room at Fair Oaks. But a few hours had elapsed since they
had repeated the words of the beautiful marriage service which had
made them husband and wife. Their wedding had been, of necessity,
a quiet one, only their own party and a few of their American
friends being present, for the ocean-liner, then lying in the
harbor, but which in a few hours was to bear them homeward, would
carry also the bodies of the Mainwaring brothers and of Ralph
Mainwaring to their last resting place.

Here, amid the very surroundings where it was written, Harold
Mainwaring had just read to his wife his father's letter, penned a
few hours before his death. For a few moments neither spoke, then
Winifred said brokenly, through fast falling tears,-

"How he loved you, Harold!"

"Yes," he replied, sadly; "and what would I not give for one hour
in which to assure him of my love! I would gladly have endured any
suffering for his sake, but in the few moments that we stood face
to face we met as strangers, and I have had no opportunity to show
him my appreciation of his love or my love for him in return."

"Don't think he does not know it," she said, earnestly. "I believe
that he now knows your love for him far more perfectly than you
know his."

He kissed her tenderly, then drawing from his pocket a
memorandum-book, took therefrom a piece of blotter having upon it
the impress of some writing. Placing it upon the desk beside the
letter, he held a small mirror against it, and Winifred, looking
in the mirror, read,
"Your affectionate father,

Then glancing at the signature to the letter, she saw they were
identical. In answer to her look of inquiry, Harold said,-

"I discovered that impress on the blotter on this desk one morning
about ten days after the tragedy, and at once recognized it as my
father's writing. In a flash I understood the situation; my father
himself had returned, had been in these rooms, and had had an
interview with his brother! I knew of the marked resemblance between
them, and at once questioned, How had that interview ended? Who was
the murdered man? Who was the murderer? That was the cause of my
trip to England to try to find some light on this subject. I need
no words to tell you the agony of suspense that I endured for the
next few weeks, and you will understand now why I would not - even
to yourself - declare my innocence of the murder of Hugh Mainwaring.
I would have bourne any ignominy and dishonor, even death itself,
rather than that a breath of suspicion should have been directed
against my father's name."

"My hero!" she exclaimed, smiling through her tears; then asked,
"When and how did you learn the real facts?"

"Almost immediately upon my return to this country, and from Mrs.
LaGrange," and he told her briefly of his last interview with that
unhappy woman. "Up to the day of the funeral, she was ignorant of
the truth, but on that day she detected the difference, which none
of the others saw. She knew and recognized my father."

Standing at last on the western veranda, they took their farewell
of Fair Oaks.

"Beautiful Fair Oaks!" Winifred murmured; "once I loved you; but
you could never be our home; you hold memories far too bitter!"

"Yes," Harold replied, gravely, "it is darkened by crime and stained
with innocent blood. The only bright feature to redeem it," he
added with a smile, "is the memory of the love I found there, but
that," and he drew her arm closely within his own, "I take with me
to England, to my father's home and mine."

Together they left the majestic arched portals, and going down the
oak-lined avenue, through the dim twilight of the great boughs
interlocked above their heads, passed on, out into the sunlight,
with never a fear for shadows that might come; each strong and
confident in the love that united them "for better for worse, for
richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, . . . till death us
do part."

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