Part 6 out of 6
noise, we won't trouble to iron you. But you'd better say as little
as possible about the charget just now, for whatever you say may
be used in evidence at the trial against you."
Guy turned to Cyril with an appealing look. "Cyril," he, cried,
"what does all this mean? Is Nevitt dead? It's the very first word
I've ever heard about it."
Cyril's heart gave a bound of wild relief at those words. The moment
Guy said it his brother knew he spoke the simple truth.
"Why, Guy," he answered, with a fierce burst of joy, "then you're
not a murderer after all? You're innocent! You're innocent! And
for eighteen months all England has thought you guilty; and I've
lived under the burden of being universally considered a murderer's
Guy looked him back in the face with those truthful grey eyes of
"Cyril," he said solemnly, "I'm as innocent of this charge as you
or Granville Kelmscott here. I never even heard one whisper of it
before. I don't know what it means. I don't know who they want. Till
this moment I thought Montague Nevitt was still alive in England."
And as he said it, Granville Kelmscott, too, saw he was speaking
the truth. Impossible as he found it in his own mind to reconcile
those strange words with all that Guy had said to him in the wilds
of Namaqua land, he couldn't look him in the face without seeing
at a glance how profound and unexpected was this sudden surprise
to him. He was right in saying, "I'm as innocent of this charge as
you or Granville Kelmscott."
But the inspector only smiled a cynical smile, and answered calmly--
"That's for the jury to decide. We shall hear more of this then.
You'll be tried at the assizes. Meanwhile, the less said, the
For many days, meanwhile, Sir Gilbert had hovered between life
and death, and Elma had watched his illness daily with profound
and absorbing interest. For in her deep, intuitive way she felt
certain to herself that their one chance now lay in Sir Gilbert's
own sense of remorse and repentance. She didn't yet know, to be
sure--what Sir Gilbert himself knew--that if he recovered he would,
in all probability, have to sit in trial on another man for the
crime he had himself committed. But she did feel this,--that Sir
Gilbert would surely never stand by and let an innocent man die
for his own transgression.
IF he recovered, that was to say. But perhaps he would not recover.
Perhaps his life would flicker out by degrees in the midst of his
delirium, and he would go to his grave unconfessed and unforgiven!
Perhaps even, for his wife's and daughter's sake, he would shrink
from revealing what Elma felt to be the truth, and would rest
content to die, leaving Guy Waring to clear himself at the trial,
as best he might, from this hateful accusation.
It would be unjust. It would be criminal. Yet Sir Gilbert might do
Elma had a bad time, therefore, during all those long days,
even before Guy returned to England. She knew his life hung by a
slender thread, which Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve might cut short at
any moment. But her anxiety was as nothing compared to Sir Gilbert's
own. That unhappy man, a moral coward at heart, in spite of all
his blustering, lay writhing in his own room now, very ill, and
longing to be worse, longing to die, as the easiest way out of
this impossible difficulty. For his wife's sake, for Gwendoline's
sake, it was better he should die; and if only he could, he would
have left Guy Waring to his fate contentedly. His anger against
Guy burnt so bright now at last that he would have sacrificed him
willingly, provided he was not there himself to see and know it.
What did the man mean by living on to vex him? Over and over again
the unhappy judge wished himself dead, and prayed to be taken. But
that powerful frame, though severely broken by the shock, seemed
hardly able to yield up its life merely because its owner was
anxious to part with it.
After a fortnight's severe illness, hovering all the time between
hope and fear, the doctor came one day, and looked at him hard.
"How is he?" Lady Gildersleeve asked, seeing him hold his breath
To her great surprise the doctor answered, "Better; against all
hope, better." And indeed Sir Gilbert was once more convalescent.
A week or two abroad, it was said, would restore him completely.
Then Elma had another terrible source of doubt. Would the doctors
order Sir Gilbert abroad so long that he would be out of England
when the trial took place? If so, he might miss many pricks of
remorse. She must take some active steps to arouse his conscience.
Sir Gilbert, himself, now recovering fast, fought hard, as well he
might, for such leave of absence. He was quite unfit, he said, to
return to his judicial work so soon. Though he had said nothing
about it in public before (this was the tenor of his talk) he was
a man of profound but restrained feelings, and he had felt, he would
admit, the absence of Gwendoline's lover--especially when combined
with the tragic death of Colonel Kelmscott, the father, and the
memory of the unpleasantness that had once subsisted, through the
Colonel's blind obstinacy, between the two houses. This sudden news
of the young man's return had given him a nervous shock of which
few would have believed him capable. "You wouldn't think to look
at me," Sir Gilbert said plaintively, smoothing down his bedclothes
with those elephantine hands of his, "I was the sort of man to be
knocked down in this way;" and the great specialist from London,
gazing at him with a smile, admitted to himself that he certainly
would not have thought it.
"Oh, nonsense, my dear sir," the specialist answered, however, to
all his appeals. "This is the merest passing turn, I assure you.
I couldn't conscientiously say you'd be unfit for duty by the time
the assizes come round again. It's clear to me, on the contrary, with
a physique like yours, you'll pull yourself together in something
less than no time with a week or so at Spa. Before you're due in
England to take up harness again you'll be walking miles at a stretch
over those heathery hills there. Convalescence, with a man like
you, is a rapid process. In a fortnight from to-day, I'll venture
to guarantee, you'll be in a fit condition to swim the Channel on
your back, or to take one of your famous fifty-mile tramps across
the bogs of Dartmoor. I'll give you a tonic that'll set your nerves
all right at once. You'll come back from Spa as fresh as a daisy."
To Spa, accordingly, Sir Gilbert went; and from Spa came trembling
letters now and again between Gwendoline and Elma. Gwendoline was
very anxious papa should get well soon, she said, for she wanted
to be home before the Cape steamer arrived. "You know why, Elma."
But Sir Gilbert didn't return before Guy's arrival in England, for
all that. The papers continued to give bulletins of his health,
and to speculate on the probability of his returning in time to do
the Western Circuit. Elma remained in a fever of doubt and anxiety.
To her, much depended now on the question of Sir Gilbert's presence
or absence. For if he was indeed to try the case, she felt certain
to herself, it must work upon his remorse and compel confession.
Meanwhile, preparations went on in England for Guy's approaching
trial. The magistrates committed; the grand jury, of course, found
a true bill; all England rang with the strange news that the man Guy
Waring, the murderer of Mr. Montague Nevitt some eighteen months
before, had returned at last of his own free will, and had given
himself up to take his trial. Gildersleeve was to be the judge,
they said; or if he were too ill, Atkins. Atkins was as sure as a
gun to hang him, people thought--that was Atkins's way--and, besides,
the evidence against the man, though in a sense circumstantial,
was so absolutely overwhelming that acquittal seemed impossible.
Five to two was freely offered on Change that they'd hang him.
The case was down for first hearing at the assizes. The night
before the trial Elma Clifford, who had hurried to Devonshire with
her mother to see and hear all--she couldn't help it, she said;
she felt she MUST be present--Elma Clifford looked at the evening
paper with a sickening sense of suspense and anxiety. A paragraph
caught her eye: "We understand that, after all, Mr. Justice
Gildersleeve still finds himself too unwell to return to England for
the Western Assizes, and his place will, therefore, most probably
be taken by Mr. Justice Atkins. The calendar is a heavy one, and
includes the interesting case of Mr. Guy Waring, charged with the
wilful murder of Montague Nevitt, at Mambury, in Devonshire."
Elma laid down the paper with a swimming head. Too ill to return.
She wasn't at all surprised at it. It was almost more than
human nature could stand, for a man to sit as judge over another
to investigate the details of the crime he had himself committed.
But the suggestion of his absence ruined her peace of mind. She
couldn't sleep that night. She felt sure now there was no hope
left. Guy would almost certainly be convicted of murder.
Next morning she took her seat in court, with her mother and Cyril,
as soon as the assize hall was opened to the public. But her cheek
was very pale, and her eyes were weary. Places had been assigned
them by the courtesy of the authorities, as persons interested in
the case; and Elma looked eagerly towards the door in the corner,
by which, as the usher told her, the judge was to enter. There was
a long interval, and the usual unseemly turmoil of laughing and
talking went on among the spectators in the well below. Some of
them had opera-glasses and stared about them freely. Others quizzed
the counsel, the officers, and the witnesses. Then a hush came
over them, and the door opened. Cyril was merely aware of the
usual formalities and of a judicial wig making its way, with slow
dignity, to the vacant bench. But Elma leaned forward in a tumult
of feeling. Her face all at once turned scarlet with excitement.
"What's the matter, darling?" her mother asked, in a sympathetic
tone, noticing that something had profoundly stirred her.
And Elma answered with bated breath, in almost inarticulate tones,
"Don't you see? Don't you see, mother? Just look at the judge! It's
himself! It's Sir Gilbert!"
And so indeed it was. Against all hope, he had come over. At the
very last moment a telegram had been handed to the convalescent at
"Fallen from my horse. A nasty tumble. Sustained severe internal
injuries. Impossible to go the Western Circuit, Relieve me if you
can. Wire reply,--ATKINS."
Sir Gilbert, as he received it, had just come in from a long ride
across the wild moors that stretch away from Spa towards Han, and
looked the picture of health, robust and fresh and ruddy. He glowed
with bodily vigour; no suspense could kill him. Refusal under such
circumstances was clearly impossible. He saw he must go, or resign
his post at once. So, with an agitated heart, he wired acquiescence,
took the next train to--Brussels and Calais, and caught the Dover
boat just in time for acceptance. And now he was there to try Guy
Waring for the murder of the man he himself had killed in The Tangle
When Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve left Spa, he left with a ruddy glow
of recovered health on his bronzed red cheek; for in spite of anxiety
and repentance and doubt, the man's iron frame would somehow still
assert itself. When he took his seat on the bench in court that
morning, he looked so haggard and ill with fatigue and remorse
that even Elma Clifford herself pitied him. A hushed whisper ran
round among the spectators below that the judge wasn't fit to try
the case before him. And indeed he wasn't. For it was his own trial,
not Guy Waring's, he was really presiding over.
He sat down in his place, a ghastly picture of pallid despair. The
red colour had faded altogether from his wan, white cheeks. His eyes
were dreamy and bloodshot with long vigil. His big hands trembled
like a woman's as he opened his note-book. His mouth twitched
nervously. So utter a collapse, in such a man as he was, seemed
nothing short of pitiable to every spectator.
Counsel for the Crown stared him steadily in the face. Counsel for
the Crown--Forbes-Ewing, Q.C.--was an old forensic enemy, who had
fought many a hard battle against Gildersleeve, with scant interchange
of courtesy, when both were members of the junior Bar together; but
now Sir Gilbert's look moved even HIM to pity. "I think, my lord,"
the Q.C. suggested with a sympathetic simper, "your lordship's too
ill to open the court to-day. Perhaps the proceedings had better
be adjourned for the present."
"No, no," the judge answered, almost testily, shaking his sleeve
with impatience. "I'll have no putting off for trifles in the court
where I sit. There's a capital case to come on this morning. When
a man's neck's at stake--when a matter of life and death's at issue--I
don't like to keep any one longer in suspense than I absolutely
need. Delay would be cruel."
As he spoke he lifted his eyes--and caught Elma Clifford's. The
judge let his own drop again in speechless agony. Elma's never
flinched. Neither gave a sign; but Elma knew, as, well as Sir
Gilbert knew himself, it was his own life and death the judge was
thinking of, and not Guy Waring's.
"As you will, my lord," counsel for the Crown responded demurely.
"It was your lordship's convenience we all had at heart, rather
than the prisoner's."
"Eh! What's that?" the judge said sharply, with a suspicious frown.
Then he recovered himself with a start. For a moment he had half
fancied that fellow, Forbes-Ewing, meant SOMETHING by what he
said--meant to poke innuendoes at him. But, after all, it was a
mere polite form. How frightened we all are, to be sure, when we
know we're on our trial!
The opening formalities were soon got over, and then, amid a
deep hush of breathless lips, Guy Waring, of Staple Inn, Holborn,
gentleman, was put upon his trial for the wilful murder of Montague
Nevitt, eighteen months before, at Mambury in Devon.
Guy, standing in the dock, looked puzzled and distracted rather
than alarmed or terrified. His cheek was pale, to be sure, and his
eyes were weary; but as Elma glanced from him hastily to the judge
on the bench she had no hesitation in settling in her own mind
which of the two looked most at that moment like a detected murderer
before the faces of his accusers. Guy was calm and self-contained.
Sir Gilbert's mute agony was terrible to behold. Yet, strange to
say, no one else in court save Elma seemed to note it as she did.
People saw the judge was ill, but that was all. Perhaps his wig
and robes helped to hide the effect of conscious guilt--nobody
suspects a judge of murder; perhaps all eyes were more intent on
Be that as it might, counsel for the Crown opened with a statement
of what they meant to prove, set forth in the familiar forensic
fashion. They didn't pretend the evidence against the accused
was absolutely conclusive or overwhelming in character. It was
inferential only, but not circumstantial--inferential in such a
cumulative and convincing way as could leave no moral doubt on any
intelligent mind as to the guilt of the prisoner. They would show
that a clbse intimacy had long existed between the prisoner Waring
and the deceased gentleman, Mr. Montague Nevitt. Witnesses would
be called who would prove to the court that just before the murder
this intimacy, owing to circumstances which could not fully be
cleared up, had passed suddenly into intense enmity and open hatred.
The landlord of the inn at Mambury, and other persons to be called,
would speak to the fact that prisoner had followed his victim in hot
blood into Devonshire, and had tracked him to the retreat where he
was passing his holiday alone and incognito--had tracked him with
every expression of indignant anger, and had uttered plain threats
of personal violence towards him.
Nor was that all. It would be shown that on the afternoon of
Waring's visit to Mambury, Mr. Nevitt, who possessed an intense
love of nature in her wildest and most romantic moods--it's always
counsel's cue, for the prosecution, to set the victim's character
in the most amiable light, and so win the sympathy of the jury
as against the accused--Mr. Nevitt, that close student of natural
beauty, had strolled by himself down a certain woodland path,
known as The Tangle, which led through the loneliest and leafiest
quarter of Mambury Chase, along the tumbling stream described as
the Mam-water. Ten minutes after he had passed the gate, a material
witness would show them, the prisoner Waring presented himself, and
pointedly asked whether his victim had already gone down the path
before him. He was told that that was so. Thereupon the prisoner
opened the gate, and followed excitedly. What happened next no
living eye but the prisoner's ever saw. Montague Nevitt was not
destined to issue from that wood alive. Two days later his breathless
body was found, all stiff and stark, hidden among the brown bracken
at the bottom of the dell, where the murderer no doubt had thrust it
away out of his sight on that fatal afternoon in fear and trembling.
Half-way through the opening speech Sir Gilbert's heart beat fast
and hard. He had never heard Forbes-Ewing open a case so well.
The man would be hanged! He felt sure of it! He could see it! For
a while the judge almost gloated over that prospect of release.
What was Guy's life to him now, by the side of his wife's and
Gwendoline's happiness? But as counsel uttered the words, "What
happened next no living eye but the prisoner's ever saw," he looked
hard at Guy. Not a quiver of remorse or of guilty knowledge passed
over the young man's face. But Elma Clifford, for her part, looked
at the judge on the bench. Their eyes met once more. Again Sir
Gilbert's fell. Oh, heavens! how terrible! Even for Gwendoline's
sake he could never stand this appalling suspense. But perhaps after
all the prosecution might fail. There was still a chance left that
the jury might acquit him.
So, torn by conflicting emotions, he sat there still, stiff and
motionless in his seat as an Egyptian statue.
Then counsel went on to deal in greater detail with the question of
motive. There were two motives the prosecution proposed to allege:
first, the known enmity of recent date between the two parties, believed
to have reference to some business dispute; and, secondly--here
counsel dropped his voice to a very low key--he was sorry to suggest
it; but the evidence bore it out--mere vulgar love of gain--the
commonplace thirst after filthy lucre. They would bring witnesses
to show that when Mr. Montague Nevitt was last seen alive, he was
in possession of a pocket-book containing a very large large sum in
Bank of England notes of high value; from the moment of his death
that pocket-book had disappeared, and nobody knew what had since
become of it. It was not upon the body when the body was found. And
all their efforts to trace the missing notes, whose numbers were
not known, had been unhappily unsuccessful.
Guy listened to all this impeachment in a dazed, dreamy way. He
hardly knew what it meant. It appalled and chilled him. The web of
circumstances was too thick for him to break. He couldn't understand
it himself. And what was far worse, he could give no active
assistance to his own lawyers on the question of the notes--which
might be very important evidence against him--without further
prejudicing his case by confessing the forgery. At all hazards, he
was determined to keep that quiet now. Cyril had never spoken to
a soul of that episode, and to speak of it, as things stood, would
have been certain death to him. I would be to supply the one missing
link of motive which the prosecution needed to complete their chain
of cumulative evidence.
It was some comfort to him to think, however, that the secret was
safe in Cyril's keeping. Cyril had all the remaining notes, still
unchanged, in his possession; and the prosecution, knowing nothing
of the forgery, or its sequel, had no clue at all as to where they
But as for Sir Gilbert, he listened still with ever-deepening
horror. His mind swayed to and fro between hope and remorse. They
were making the man guilty, and Gwendoline would be saved! They
were making the man guilty, and a gross wrong would be perpetrated!
Great drops of sweat stood colder than ever on his burning brow.
He couldn't have believed Forbes-Ewing could have done it so well.
He was weaving a close web round an innocent man with consummate
forensic skill and cunning.
The case went on to its second stage. Witnesses were called, and Guy
listened to them dreamily. All of them bore out counsel's opening
statement. Every man in court felt the evidence was going very
hard against the prisoner. They'd caught the right man, that was
clear--so the spectators opined. They'd proved it to the hilt. This
fellow would swing for it.
At last the landlord of the Talbot Arms at Mambury shuffled slowly
into the witness-box. He was a heavy, dull man, and he gave evidence
as to Nevitt's stay under an assumed name--which counsel explained
suggestively by the deceased gentleman's profound love of retirement
--and as to Guy's angry remarks and evident indignation. But the
most sensational part of all his evidence was that which related
to the pocket-book Montague Nevitt was carrying at the time of his
death, containing notes, he should say, for several hundred-pounds,
"or it murt be thousands--and yet, again, it mustn't," which had
totally disappeared since the day of the murder. Diligent search
had been made for the pocket-book everywhere by the landlord and
the police, but it had vanished into space, "leaving not a wrack
behind," as junior counsel for the prosecution poetically phrased
At the words Cyril mechanically dived his hand into his pocket, as
he had done a hundred times a day before, during these last eighteen
months, to assure himself that that most incriminating and unwelcome
object was still safely ensconced in its usual resting-place. Yes,
there it was sure enough, as snug as ever! He sighed, and pulled
his hand out again nervously, with a little jerk. Something came
with it, that fell on the floor with a jingle by his neighbour's
feet. Cyril turned crimson, then deadly pale. He snatched at the
object; but his neighbour picked it up and examined it cursorily.
Its flap had burst open with the force of the fall, and on the
inside the finder read with astonishment, in very plain letters,
the very name of the murdered man, "Montague Nevitt."
Cyril held out his hand to recover it impatiently. But the finder
was too much taken back at his strange discovery to part with it
so readily. It was full of money-Bank of England notes; and through
the transparent paper of the outermost among them the finder could
dimly read the words, "One hundred."
He rose in his place, and held the pocket-book aloft in his hand
with a triumphant gesture. Cyril tried in vain to clutch at it. The
witness turned round sharply, disturbed by this incident. "What's
that?" the judge exclaimed, puckering his brows in disapprobation,
and looking angrily towards the disturber.
"If you please, my lord," the innkeeper answered, letting his jaw
drop slowly in almost speechless amazement, "that's the thing I
was a-talking of: that's Mr. Nevitt's pocket-book."
"Hand it up," the judge said shortly, gazing hard with all his eyes
at the mute evidence so tendered.
The finder handed it up without note or comment.
Sir Gilbert turned the book over in blank surprise. He was dumfoundered
himself. For a minute or two he examined it carefully, inside and
out. Yes; there was no mistake. It was really what they called it.
"Montague Nevitt" was written in plain letters on the leather flap;
within lay half-a-dozen engraved visiting-cards, a Foreign Office
passport in Nevitt's name, and thirty Bank of England notes for
one hundred pounds apiece. This was, indeed, a mystery!
"Where did it come from?" the judge asked, drawing a painfully
deep breath, and handing it across to the jury.
And the finder answered, "If you please, my lord, the gentleman
next to me pulled it out of his pocket."
"Who is he?" the judge inquired, with a sinking heart, for he
himself knew perfectly well who was the unhappy possessor.
And a thrill of horror ran round the crowded court as Forbes-Ewing
answered, in a very distinct voice, "Mr. Cyril Waring, my lord,
the brother of the prisoner."
SIR GILBERT'S TEMPTATION.
Cyril felt all was up. Elma glanced at him trembling. This was
horrible, inconceivable, inexplicable, fatal. The very stars in
their courses seem to fight against Guy. Blind chance checkmated
them. No hope was left now, save in Gilbert Gildersleeve's own
sense of justice.
But Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve sat there, transfixed with horror. No
answering gleam now shot through his dull, glazed eye. For he alone
knew that whatever made the case against the prisoner look worse,
made his own position each moment more awful and more intolerable.
Through the rest of the case, Cyril sat in his place like a stone
figure. Counsel for the Crown generously abstained from putting
him into the witness-box to give testimony against his brother. Or
rather, they thought the facts themselves, as they had just come
out in court, more telling for the jury than any formal evidence.
The only other witness of importance was, therefore, the lad who
had sat on the gate by the entrance to The Tangle. As he scrambled
into the box Sir Gilbert's anxiety grew visibly deeper and more
acute than ever. For the boy was the one person who had seen him
at Mambury on the day of the murder; and on the boy depended his
sole chance of being recognised. At Tavistock, eighteen months
before, Sir Gilbert had left the cross-examination of this witness
in the hands of a junior, and the boy hadn't noticed him, sitting
down among the Bar with gown and wig on. But to-day, it was impossible
the boy shouldn't see him; and if the boy should recognise him--why,
then, Heaven help him.
The lad gave his evidence-in-chief with great care and deliberateness.
He swore positively to Guy, and wasn't for a moment to be shaken in
cross-examination. He admitted he had been mistaken at Tavistock,
and confused the prisoner with Cyril--when he saw one of them
apart--but now that he saw 'em both together before his eyes at
once, why, he could take his solemn oath as sure as fate upon him.
Guy's counsel failed utterly to elicit anything of importance,
except--and here Sir Gilbert's face grew whiter than ever--except
that another gentleman whom the lad didn't know had asked at the
gate about the path, and gone round the other way as if to meet
"What sort of a gentleman?" the cross-examiner inquired, clutching
at this last straw as a mere chance diversion.
"Well, a vurry big zart o' a gentleman," witness answered, unabashed.
"A vine vigger o' a man. Jest such another as thik 'un with the
As he spoke he stared hard at the judge, a good scrutinizing stare.
Sir Gilbert quailed, and glanced instinctively, first at the boy,
and then at Elma. Not a spark of intelligence shone in the lad's
stolid eyes. But Elma's were fixed upon him with a serpentine glare
of awful fascination. "Thou art the man," they seemed to say to him
mutely. Sir Gilbert, in his awe, was afraid to look at them. They
made him wild with terror, yet they somehow fixed him. Try as he would
to keep his own from meeting them, they attracted him irresistibly.
A ripple, of faint laughter ran lightly through the court at the
undisguised frankness of the boy's reply. The judge repressed it
"Oh, he was just such another one as his lordship, was he?" counsel
repeated, pressing the lad hard. "Now, are you quite sure you
remember all the people you saw that day? Are you quite sure the
other man who asked about passers-by wasn't--for example--the judge
himself who's sitting here?"
Sir Gilbert glanced up with a quick, suspicious air. It was only
a shot at random--the common advocate's trick in trying to confuse
a witness over questions of identity; but to Sir Gilbert, under the
circumstances, it was inexpressibly distressing. "Well, it murt
'a been he," the lad answered, putting his head on one side, and
surveying the judge closely with prolonged attention. "Thik un 'ad
just such another pair o' 'ands as his lordship do 'ave. It murt
'a been his lordship 'urself as is zitting there."
"This goes quite beyond the bounds of decency," Sir Gilbert murmured
faintly, with a vain endeavour to hold his hands on the desk in an
unconcerned attitude. "Have the kindness, Mr. Walters, to spare
the Bench. Attend to your examination. Observations of that sort
are wholly uncalled for."
But the boy, once started, was not so easily repressed. "Why, it
was his lordship," he went on, scanning the judge still harder. "I
do mind his vurry voice. It was 'im, no doubt about it. I've zeed
a zight o' people, since I zeed 'im that day, but I do mind his
voice, and I do mind his 'ands, and I do mind his ve-ace the zame
as if it wur yesterday. Now I come to look, blessed if it wasn't
Guy's counsel smiled a triumphant smile. He had carried his point.
He had confused the witness. This showed how little reliance could
be placed upon the boy's evidence as to personal identity! He'd
identify anybody who happened to be suggested to him! But Sir
Gilbert's face grew yet more deadly pale. For he saw at a glance
this was no accident or mistake; the boy really remembered him!
And Elma's steadfast eyes looked him through and through, with that
irresistible appeal, still more earnestly than ever.
Sir Gilbert breathed again. He had been recognised to no purpose.
Even this positive identification fell flat upon everybody.
At last the examination and cross-examination were finished, and
Guy's counsel began his hopeless task of unravelling this tangled
mass of suggestion and coincidence. He had no witnesses to call;
the very nature of the case precluded that. All he could do was
to cavil over details, to point out possible alternatives, to lay
stress upon the absence of direct evidence, and to ask that the jury
should give the prisoner the benefit of the doubt, if any doubt at
all existed in their minds as to his guilt or innocence. Counsel
had meant when he first undertook the case to lay great stress also
on the presumed absence of motive; but, after the fatal accident
which resulted in the disclosure of Montague Nevitt's pocket-book,
any argument on that score would have been worse than useless.
Counsel elected rather to pass the episode by in discreet silence,
and to risk everything on the uncertainty of the actual encounter.
At last he sat down, wiping his brow in despair, after what he felt
himself to be a most feeble performance.
Then Sir Gilbert began, and in a very tremulous and failing voice
summed briefly up the whole of the evidence.
Men who remember Gildersleeve's old blustering manner stood aghast
at the timidity with which the famous lawyer delivered himself on
this, the first capital charge ever brought before him. He reminded
the jury, in very solemn and almost warning tones, that where a
human life was at stake, mere presumptive evidence should always
carry very little weight with it. And the evidence here was all
purely presumptive. The prosecution had shown nothing more than
a physical possibility that the prisoner at the bar might have
committed the murder. There was evidence of animus, it was true;
but that evidence was weak; there was partial identification; but
that identification lay open to the serious objection that all the
persons who now swore to Guy Waring's personality had sworn just
as surely and confidently before to his brother Cyril's. On the
whole, the judge summed up strongly in Guy's favour. He wiped his
clammy brow and looked appealingly at the bar. As the jury would
hope for justice themselves, let them remember to mete out nothing
but strict justice to the accused person who now stood trembling
in the dock before them.
All the court stood astonished. Could this be Gildersleeve? Atkins
would never have summed up like that. Atkins would have gone in
point-blank for hanging him. And everybody thought Gildersleeve
would hang with the best. Nobody had suspected him till then of
any womanly weakness about capital punishment. There was a solemn
hush as the judge ended. Then everybody saw the unhappy man was
seriously ill. Great streams of sweat trickled slowly down his brow.
His eyes stared in front of him. His mouth twitched horribly. He
looked like a person on the point of apoplexy. The prisoner at the
bar gazed hard at him and pitied him.
"He's dying himself, and he wants to go out with a clear conscience
at last," some one suggested in a low voice at the barristers'
table. The explanation served. It was whispered round the court
in a hushed undertone that the judge to-day was on his very last
legs, and had summed up accordingly. Late in life, he had learned
to show mercy, as he hoped for it.
There was a deadly pause. The jury retired to consider their
verdict. Two men remained behind in court, waiting breathless for
their return. Two lives hung at issue in the balance while the jury
deliberated. Elma Clifford, glancing with a terrified eye from
one to the other, could hardly help pitying the guiltiest most.
His look of mute suffering was so inexpressibly pathetic.
The twelve good men and true were gone for a full half-hour. Why,
nobody knew. The case was as plain as a pikestaff, gossipers said
in court. If he had been caught red-handed, he'd have been hanged
without remorse. It was only the eighteen months and the South
African episode that could make the jury hesitate for one moment
about hanging him.
At last, a sound, a thrill, a movement by the door. Every eye
was strained forward. The jury trooped back again. They took their
places in silence. Sir Gilbert scanned their faces with an agonized
look. It was a moment of ghastly and painful suspense. He was
waiting for their verdict--on himself, and Guy Waring.
Only two people in court doubted for one moment what the verdict
would be. And those two were the pair who stood there on their trial.
Sir Gilbert couldn't believe the jury would convict an innocent
man of the crime he himself had half unwittingly committed. Guy
Waring couldn't believe the jury would convict an innocent man of
the crime he had never been guilty of. So those two doubted. To
all the rest the verdict was a foregone conclusion.
Nevertheless, dead silence reigned everywhere in the court as the
clerk of arraigns put the solemn question, "Gentlemen, do you find
the prisoner at the bar guilty or not guilty?"
And the foreman, clearing his throat huskily, answered in a very
tremulous tone, "We find him guilty of wilful murder."
There was a long, deep pause. Every one looked at the prisoner.
Guy Waring stood like one stunned by the immensity of the blow. It
was an awful moment. He knew he was innocent; but he knew now the
English law would hang him.
One pair of eyes in the court, however, was not fixed on Guy. Elma
Clifford, at that final and supreme moment, gazed hard with all
her soul at Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve. Her glance went through him.
She sat like an embodied conscience before him. The judge rose
slowly, his eyes riveted on hers. He was trembling with remorse,
and deadlier pale than ever. An awful lividness stole over his
face. His lips were contorted. His eyebrows quivered horribly. Still
gazing straight at Elma, he essayed to speak. Twice he opened his
parched lips. Then his voice failed him.
"I cannot accept that finding," he said at last, in a very solemn
tone, battling hard for speech against some internal enemy. "I
cannot accept it. Clerk, you will enter a verdict of not guilty."
A deep hum of surprise ran round the expectant court. Every mouth
opened wide, and drew a long hushed breath. Senior counsel for the
Crown jumped to his feet astonished. "But why, my lord?" he asked
tartly, thus baulked of his success. "On what ground does your
lordship decide to override the plain verdict of the jury?"
The pause that followed was inexpressibly terrible. Guy Waring
waited for the answer in an agony of suspense. He knew what it
meant now. With a rush it all occurred to him. He knew who was the
murderer. But he hoped for nothing. Sir Gilbert faltered: Elma
Clifford's eyes were upon him still, compelling him. "Because,"
he said at last, with a still more evident and physical effort,
pumping the words out slowly, "I am here to administer justice,
and justice I will administer.... This man is innocent. It was I
myself who killed Montague Nevitt that day at Mambury."
At those awful words, uttered in a tone so solemn that no one
could doubt either their truth or their sincerity, a cold thrill
ran responsive through the packed crowd of auditors. The silence
was profound. In its midst, a boy's voice burst forth all at once,
directed, as it seemed, to the counsel for the Crown, "I said it
was him," the voice cried, in a triumphant tone. "I knowed 'um!
I knowed 'um! Thik there's the man that axed me the way down the
dell the marnin' o' the murder."
The judge turned towards the boy with a ghastly smile of enforced
recognition. "You say the truth, my lad," he answered, without
any attempt at concealment. "It was I who asked you. It was I who
killed him. I went round by the far gate after hearing he was there,
and, cutting across the wood, I met Montague Nevitt in the path
by The Tangle. I went there to meet him; I went there to confront
him; but not of malice prepense to murder him. I wanted to question
him about a family matter. Why I needed to question him no one
henceforth shall ever know. That secret, thank Heaven, rests now
in Montague Nevitt's grave. But when I did question him, he answered
me back with so foul an aspersion upon a lady who was very near
and dear to me"--the judge paused a moment; he was fighting hard
for breath; something within was evidently choking him. Then he went
on more excitedly--"an aspersion upon a lady whom I love more than
life--an insult that no man could stand--an unspeakable foulness;
and I sprang at him, the cur, in the white heat of my anger, not
meaning or dreaming to hurt him seriously. I caught him by the throat."
The judge held up his hands before the whole court appealingly.
"Look at those hands, gentlemen," he cried, turning them about.
"How could I ever know how hard and how strong they were? I only
seemed to touch him. I just pushed him from my path. He fell at
once at my feet--dead, dead unexpectedly. Remember how it all came
about. The medical evidence showed his heart was weak, and he died
in the scuffle. How was I to know all that? I only knew this--he
fell dead before me."
With a face of speechless awe, he paused and wiped his brow. Not
a soul in court moved or breathed above a whisper. It was evident
the judge was in a paroxysm of contrition. His face was drawn up.
His whole frame quivered visibly. Even Elma pitied him.
"And then I did a grievous wrong," the judge continued once
more, his voice now very thick and growing rapidly thicker. "I did
a grievous wrong, for which here to-day, before all this court,
I humbly ask Guy Waring's pardon. I had killed Montague Nevitt,
unintentionally, unwittingly, accidentally almost, in a moment
of anger, never knowing I was killing him. And if he had been a
stronger or a healthier man, what little I did to him would never
have killed him. I didn't mean to murder him. For that my remorse
is far less poignant. But what I did after was far worse than the
murder. I behaved like a sneak--I behaved like a coward. I saw
suspicion was aroused against the prisoner, Guy Waring. And what did
I do then? Instead of coming forward like a man, as I ought, and
saying 'I did it,' and standing my trial on the charge of manslaughter,
I did my best to throw further suspicion on an innocent person.
I made the case look blacker and worse for Guy Waring. I don't
condone my own crime. I did it for my wife's sake and my daughter's,
I admit--but I regret it now bitterly--and am I not atoning for it?
With a great humiliation, am I not amply atoning for it? I wrote
an unsigned letter warning Waring at once to fly the country, as
a warrant was out against him. Waring foolishly took my advice,
and fled forthwith. From that day to this"--he gazed round him
appealingly--"oh, friends, I have never known one happy moment."
Guy gazed at him from the dock, where he still stood guarded by two
strong policemen, and felt a fresh light break suddenly in upon
him. Their positions now were almost reversed. It was he who was
the accuser, and Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve, the judge in that court,
who stood charged to-day on his own confession with causing the
death of Montague Nevitt.
"Then it was YOU" Guy said slowly, breaking the pause at last, "who
sent me that anonymous letter at Plymouth?"
"It was I," the judge answered, in an almost inaudible, gurgling
tone. "It was I who so wronged you. Can you ever forgive me for
Guy gazed at him fixedly. He himself had suffered much. Cyril and Elma
had suffered still more. But the judge, he felt sure, had suffered
most of all of them. In this moment of relief, this moment of
vindication, this moment of triumph, he could afford to be generous.
"Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve, I forgive you," he answered slowly.
The judge gazed around him with a vacant stare. "I feel cold,"
he said, shivering; "very cold, very faint, too. But I've made all
right HERE," and he held out a document. "I wrote this paper in
my room last night--in case of accident--confessing everything.
I brought it down here, signed and witnessed, unread, intending
to read it out if the verdict went against me--I mean, against
Waring.... But I feel too weak now to read anything further.... I'm
so cold, so cold. Take the paper, Forbes-Ewing. It's all in your
line. You'll know what to do with it." He could hardly utter a word,
breath failed him so fast. "This thing has killed me," he went on,
mumbling. "I deserved it. I deserved it."
"How about the prisoner?" the authority from the gaol asked, as
the judge collapsed rather than sat down on the bench again.
Those words roused Sir Gilbert to full consciousness once more.
The judge rose again, solemnly, in all the majesty of his ermine.
"The prisoner is discharged," he said, in a loud, clear voice. "I
am here to do justice--justice against myself. I enter a verdict
of not guilty." Then he turned to the polices "I am your prisoner,"
he went on, in a broken, rambling way. "I give myself in charge
for the manslaughter of Montague Nevitt. Manslaughter, not murder.
Though I don't even admit myself, indeed, it was anything. more
than justifiable homicide."
He sank back again once more, and murmured three times in his seat,
as if to himself, "Justifiable homicide! Justifiable homicide!
Somebody rose in court as he sank, and moved quickly towards him.
The judge recognised him at once.
"Granville Kelmscott," he said; in a weary voice, "help me out of
this. I am very, very ill. You're a friend. I'm dying. Give me your
arm! Assist me!"
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.
Granville helped him on his arm into the judge's room amid profound
silence. All the court was deeply stirred. A few personal friends
hurried after him eagerly. Among them were the Warings, and Mrs.
Clifford, and Elma.
The judge staggered to a seat, and held Granville's hand long
and silently in his. Then his eye caught Elma's. He turned to her
gratefully. "Thank you, young lady," he said, in a very thick voice.
"You were extremely good. I forget your name. But you helped me
There was such a pathetic ring in those significant words, "I
forget your name," that every eye about stood dimmed with moisture.
Remorse had clearly blotted out all else now from Sir Gilbert
Gildersleeve's powerful brain save the solitary memory of his great
"Something's upon his mind still," Elma cried, looking hard at
him. "He's dying! he's dying! But he wants to say something else
before he dies, I'm certain. ... Mr. Kelmscott, it's to you. Oh,
Cyril, stand back! Mother, leave them alone! I'm sure from his
eye he wants to say something to Mr. Kelmscott."
They all fell back reverently. They stood in the presence of death
and of a mighty sorrow. Sir Gilbert still held Granville's hand
fast bound in his own. "It'll kill her," he muttered. "It'll kill
her! I'm sure it'll kill her! She'll never get over the thought
that her father was--was the cause of Montague Nevitt's death. And
you'll never care to marry a girl of whom people will say, either
justly or unjustly, 'She's a murderers daughter'.... And that will
kill her, too. For, Kelmscott, she loved you!"
Granville held the dying man's hand still more gently than ever.
"Sir Gilbert," he said, leaning over him with very tender eyes,
"no event on earth could ever possibly alter Gwendoline's love for
me, or my love for Gwendoline. I know you can't live. This shock
has been too much for you. But if it will make you die any the
happier now to know that Gwendoline and I will still be one, I give
you my sacred promise at this solemn moment, that as soon as she
likes I will marry Gwendoline." He paused for a second. "I don't
understand all this story just yet," he went on. "But of one
thing I'm certain. The sympathy of every soul in court to-day went
with you as you spoke out the truth so manfully. The sympathy of
all England will go with you to-morrow when they come to learn of
it.... Sir Gilbert, till this morning I never admired you, much as
I love Gwendoline. As you made that confession just now in court,
I declare, I admired you. With all the greater confidence now will
I marry your daughter."
They carried him to the judge's lodgings in the town, and laid
him there peaceably for the doctors to tend him. For a fortnight
the shadow of Gildersleeve still lingered on, growing feebler and
feebler in intellect every day. But the end was certain. It was
softening of the brain, and it proceeded rapidly. The horror of
that unspeakable trial had wholly unnerved him. The great, strong
man cried and sobbed like a baby. Lady Gildersleeve and Gwendoline
were with him all through. He seldom spoke. When he did, it was
generally to murmur those fixed words of exculpation, in a tremulous
undertone, "It was my hands that did it--these great, clumsy hands
of mine--not I--not I. I never, never meant it. It was an accident.
An accident. Justifiable homicide.... What I really regret is for
that poor fellow Waring."
And at the end of a fortnight he died, once smiling, with Gwendoline's
hand locked tight in his own, and Granville Kelmscott kneeling in
tears by his bedside.
The Kelmscott property was settled by arrangement. It never came
into court. With the aid of the family lawyers the three half-brothers
divided it amicably. Guy wouldn't hear of Granville's giving up
his claim to the house and park at Tilgate. Granville was to the
manner born, he said, and brought up to expect it; while Cyril and
he, mere waifs and strays in the world, would be much better off,
even so, with their third of the property each, than they ever
before in their lives could have counted upon. As for Cyril, he
was too happy in Guy's exculpation from the greater crime, and his
frank explanation of the lesser--under Nevitt's influence--to care
very much in his own heart what became of Tilgate.
The only one man who objected to this arrangement was Mr. Reginald
Clifford, C.M.G., of Craighton. The Companion of the Militant
Saints was strongly of opinion that Cyril Waring oughtn't to have
given up his prior claim to the family mansion, even for valuable
consideration elsewhere. Mr. Clifford drew himself up to the full
height of his spare figure, and caught in the tight skin of his
mummy-like face rather tighter than before, as he delivered himself
of this profound opinion. "A man should consult his own dignity,"
he said stiffly, and with great precision; "if he's born to assume
a position in the county, he should assume that position as a sacred
duty. He should remember that his wife and children--"
"But he hasn't got any wife, papa," Elma ventured to interpose,
with a bright little smile; so THAT can't count either way."
"He hasn't a wife AT PRESENT, to be sure; that's perfectly true,
my dear; no wife AT PRESENT; but he will probably now, in his
existing circumstances, soon obtain one. A Man of Property should
always marry. Mr. Waring will naturally desire to ally himself to
some family of Good Position in the county; and the lady's relations
would, of course, insist--"
"Well, it doesn't matter to us, papa," Elma answered maliciously;
"for, as far as we're concerned, you know; you've often said that
nothing on earth would ever induce you to give your consent."
The Gentleman of Good Position in the county gazed at his daughter
aghast with horror. "My dear child," he said, with positive alarm,
"your remarks are nothing short of Revolutionary. You must remember
that since then circumstances have altered. At that time, Mr.
Waring was a painter--"
"He's a painter still, I believe," Elma put in, parenthetically.
"The acquisition of property or county rank doesn't seem to have
had the very slightest effect one way or the other upon his drawing
or his colouring."
Her father disdained to take notice of such flippant remarks. "At
that time," he repeated solemnly, "Mr. Waring was a painter, a mere
ordinary painter; we know him now to be the heir and representative
of a great County Family. If he were to ask you to-day--"
"But he did ask me a long time ago, you know, papa," Elma put
in demurely. "And at that time, you remember, you objected to the
match; so of course, as in duty bound, I at once refused him."
"And what did your father say to that, Elma?" Cyril asked, with a
smile, as she narrated the whole circumstances to him some hours
"Oh, he only said, 'But he'll ask you again now, you may be sure,
my child.' And I replied very gravely, I didn't think you would.
And do you know, Cyril, I really don't think you will, either."
"Why not, Elma?"
"Because, you foolish boy, it isn't the least bit in the world
necessary. This has been, all through, a comedy of errors. Tragedy
enough intermixed; but still a comedy of errors. There never was
really any reason on earth why either of us shouldn't have married
the other. And the only thing I now regret myself is that I didn't
do as I first threatened, and marry you outright, just to show
my confidence in you and Guy, at the time when everybody else had
turned most against you."
"Well, suppose we make up for lost time now by saying Wednesday
fortnight," Cyril suggested, after a short pause, during which both
of them simultaneously had been otherwise occupied.
"Oh, Cyril, that's awfully quick! It could hardly be managed.
There's the dresses, and all that! And the bridesmaids to arrange
about! And the invitations to issue!... But still, sooner than
put you off any longer now--well, yes, my dear boy--I dare say we
could make it Wednesday fortnight."