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 What's Bred In the Bone 26 Alerter l'administrateur Recommander à un ami Lien de l'article 

What's Bred In the Bone
by
Grant Allen







CHAPTER XXXIX.

A GLEAM OF LIGHT.





Next day but one, the Companion of St. Michael and St. George came
in to Craighton with evil tidings. He had heard in the village that
Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve was ill--very seriously ill. The judge
had come home from the Holkers' the other evening much upset by
the arrival of Gwendoline's telegram.

"Though why on earth should that upset him," Mr. Clifford continued,
screwing up his small face with a very wise air, "is more than
I can conceive; for I'm sure the Gildersleeves angled hard enough
in their time to catch young Kelmscott, by hook or by crook, for
their gawky daughter; and now that young Kelmscott telegraphs over
to say he's coming home post haste to marry her, Miss Gwendoline
faints away, if you please, as she reads the news, and the judge
himself goes upstairs as soon as he gets home, and takes to his
bed incontinently. But there, the ways of the world are really
inscrutable! What reconciles me to life, every day I grow older, is
that it's so amusing--so intensely amusing! You never know what's
going to turn up next; and what you least expect is what most often
happens."

Elma, however, received his news with a very grave face.

"Is he really ill, do you think, papa?" she asked, somewhat anxiously;
"or is he only--well--only frightened?"

Mr. Clifford stared at her with a blank leathery face of self-satisfied
incomprehension.

"Frightened!" he repeated solemnly; "Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve
frightened! And of Granville Kelmscott, too! That's true wit, Elma;
the juxtaposition of the incongruous. Why, what on earth has the
man got to be frightened of, I should like to know? ... No, no;
he's really ill; very seriously ill. Humphreys says the case is a
most peculiar one, and he's telegraphed up to town for a specialist
to come down this afternoon and consult with him."

And indeed, Sir Gilbert was really very ill. This unexpected shock
had wholly unmanned him. To say the truth, the judge had begun to
look upon Guy Waring as practically lost, and upon the matter of
Montague Nevitt's death as closed for ever. Waring, no doubt, had
gone to Africa--under a false name--and proceeded to the diamond
fields direct, where he had probably been killed in a lucky quarrel
with some brother digger, or stuck through with an assegai by some
enterprising Zulu; and nobody had even taken the trouble to mention
it.

It's so easy for a man to get lost in the crowd in the Dark Continent!
Why, there was Granville Kelmscott, even--a young fellow of means,
and the heir of Tilgate, about whom Gwendoline was always moaning
and groaning, poor girl, and wouldn't be comforted--there was
Granville Kelmscott gone out to Africa, and, hi, presto, disappeared
into space without a vapour or a trace, like a conjurer's shilling. It
was all very queer; but, then, queer things are the way in Africa.

To be sure, Sir Gilbert had his qualms of conscience, too, over
having thus sent off Guy Waring, as he believed, to his grave in
Cape Colony. He was not at heart a bad man, though he was pushing,
and selfish, and self-seeking, and to a certain extent even--of
late--unscrupulous. He had his bad half-hours every now and again
with his own moral consciousness. But he had learnt to stifle his
doubts and to keep down his terrors. After all, he had told Guy no
more than the truth; and if Guy in his panic-terror chose to run
away and get killed in South Africa, that was no fault of HIS--he'd
only tried to warn the fellow of an impending danger. All's well
that ends well; and, to-day, Guy Waring was lost or dead, while he
himself was a judge, and a knight to boot, with all trace of his
crime destroyed for ever.

So he said to himself, rejoicing, the very day Granville Kelmscott's
telegram arrived. But now that he stood face to face again with that
pressing terror, his thoughts on the matter were very different.
Strange to say, his first idea was this: what a disgraceful shame
of that fellow Waring to come to life again thus suddenly on
purpose to annoy him! He was really angry, nay, more, indignant.
Such shuffling was inexcusable. If Waring meant to give himself
up and stand his trial like a man, why the dickens didn't he do it
immediately after the--well, the accident? What did he mean by going
off for eighteen months undiscovered, and leaving one to build up
fresh plans in life, like this--and then coming home on a sudden
just on purpose to upset them? It was simply disgraceful. Sir
Gilbert felt injured; this man Waring was wronging him. Eighteen
months before he was keenly aware that he was unjustly casting a vile
and hideous suspicion on an innocent person. But in the intervening
period his moral sense had got largely blunted. Familiarity with
the hateful plot had warped his ideas about it. Their places were
reversed. Sir Gilbert was really aggrieved now that Guy Waring should
turn up again, and should venture to vindicate his deeply-wronged
character.

The man was as good as dead. Well, and he ought to have stopped so;
or else he ought never to have died at all. He ought to have kept
himself continually in evidence. But to go away for eighteen months,
unknown and unheard of, till one's sense of security had had time
to re-establish itself, and then to turn up again like this without
one minute's warning--oh, it was infamous, scandalous. The fellow
must be devoid of all consideration for others. Sir Gilbert wiped
his clammy brow with those ample hands. What on earth was he to do
for his wife, and for Gwendoline?

And Gwendoline was so happy, too, over Granville Kelmscott's return!
How could he endure that Granville Kelmscott's return should be
the signal for discovering her father's sin and shame to her! If
only he could have married her off before it all came out! Or if
only he could die before the man was tried!--Tried! Sir Gilbert's
eyes started from his head with horror. What was that Elma Clifford
suggested the other night? Why--if the man was arrested, he would
be arrested at Plymouth, the moment he landed, and would be tried
for murder at the Western Assizes. And it was he himself, Sir
Gilbert Gildersleeve, who was that term to take the Western Circuit.

He would be called upon to sit on the bench himself, and try Guy
Waring for the murder he had himself committed!

No wonder that thought sent him ill to bed at once. He lay and
tossed all night long in speechless agony and terror. It was an
appalling night. Next morning he was found delirious with fever.

When the news reached Elma, she saw its full and fatal significance.
Cyril had stopped on for three days at the Holkers', and he came
over in the course of the morning to take a walk across the fields
with her. Elma was profoundly excited, Cyril could hardly see why.

"This is a terrible thing," she said, "about Sir Gilbert's illness.
What I'm afraid of now is that he may die before your brother
returns. The shock must have been awful for him; mamma noticed it
every bit as much as I did; and so did Miss Ewes. They both said
at once, 'This blow will kill him!' And they both knew why, Cyril,
as well as I did. It's the Ewes' intuition. We've all of us got it,
and we all of us say, at once and unanimously--it was Sir Gilbert
Gildersleeve."

"But suppose he DID die," Cyril asked, still sceptical, as he
always was when Elma got upon her instinctive consciousness; "what
difference would that make? If Guy's innocent, as I suppose in some
way he must be, from the tone of his telegram, he'll be acquitted
whether Sir Gilbert's alive or not. And if he's guilty--"

He broke off suddenly with an awful pause; the other alternative
was too terrible to contemplate.

"But he's NOT guilty," Elma answered with confidence. "I know it
more surely now than ever. And the difficulty's this. Nobody knows
the real truth, I feel certain, except Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve.
And if Sir Gilbert dies unconfessed, the truth dies with him. And
then--" She paused a moment. "I'm half afraid," she went on with a
doubtful sigh, "your brother's been too precipitate in coming home
to face it."

"But, Elma," Cyril cried, "I can't bear to say it--yet one must
face the facts--how on earth can he be innocent, when I tell you
again and again he wrote to me himself saying he really did it?"

"You never showed me that letter," Elma answered, with a faint
undercurrent of reproach in her tone.

"How could I?" Cyril replied. "Even to YOU, Elma, there are some
things a man can hardly bear to speak about."

"I have more faith than you, Cyril," Elma answered. "I've never given
up believing in Guy all the time. I believe in him still--because
I know he's your brother."

There was a short pause, during which neither spoke. They walked
along together, looking at each other's faces with half downcast
eyes, but with the not unpleasant sense of mute companionship and
sympathy in a great sorrow. At last Elma spoke again.

"There was one thing in Guy's telegram," she said, "I didn't quite
understand. 'Coming home immediately to repay everything.' What
did he mean by that? What has that got to do with Mr. Nevitt's
disappearance?"

"Oh, that was quite another matter," Cyril answered, blushing deep
with shame, for he couldn't bear to let Elma know Guy was a forger
as well as a murderer. "That was something purely personal between
us two. He--he owed me money."

Elma's keen eyes read him through at a glance.

"But he said it all in one sentence," she objected, "as if the two
went naturally together. Coming home immediately to repay everything
and stand my trial. Cyril, Cyril, you've held something back. I
believe there's some fearful mistake here somewhere."

"You think so?" Cyril answered, feeling more and more uncomfortable.

"I'm sure of it," Elma replied, with a thrill, reading his thoughts
still deeper. "Oh, Cyril"--she seized his arm with a convulsive
grip--"for Heaven's sake, go and get it; let me see that letter!"

"I have it here," Cyril answered, pulling it out with some shame
from Montague Nevitt's pocket-book, which he wouldn't destroy, and
dared not leave about for prying eyes to light upon. "I've carried
it day and night, ever since, about with me."

Elma seized it from his hands, and sat down upon a stile, and read
it through with profound attention.

At the end she handed it back and tears stood in her eyes. "Cyril,"
she said, half laughing hysterically and half crying as she spoke,
"you've been doing that poor fellow a deep injustice. Oh, don't
you see--don't you see it? That isn't the letter of a man who has
committed a murder. It's the letter of a man who has unwittingly and
unwillingly done you some personal wrong, and is eager to repair
it. My darling, my darling, you've misread it altogether. It
isn't about Montague Nevitt's death at all; it's about nothing an
earth but some private money matter. More than that, when it was
written, Guy didn't yet know Mr. Nevitt was dead. He didn't know
he was suspected. He didn't know anything. I wonder you don't see!
I wish to Heaven you'd shown me that letter months ago! Sir Gilbert
fastened suspicion on the wrong man; and this letter has made you
accept it too easily. Guy went to Africa--that's as plain as words
can put it--to make money of his own to repay what he owed you. And
it's this, the purely personal and unimportant charge, he's coming
home to give himself up upon."

A light seemed to burst on Cyril's mind as she spoke. For the very
first time, he felt a gleam of hope. Elma was right, after all,
he believed. Guy was wholly innocent of the greater crime; and his
heart-broken letter had only meant to deal with the question of
the forgery.

But Cyril had heard of the murder first, and had had that most in
his mind when the letter reached him; so he interpreted it at once
as referring to the capital charge, and never dreamt for a moment
of its real narrower meaning.

That evening, when the messenger came back from "kind inquiries" at
Woodlands, Elma asked, with hushed awe, how Sir Gilbert was going
on.

"Very poorly, miss," the servant answered. "The doctor says he's
sunk dreadful low; and the butler thinks he has something on his
mind he can't get out in his wanderings. He's in a terrible bad
way. They wouldn't be astonished if he don't live to morning."

So Elma went to bed that night trembling most for the result of
Sir Gilbert's illness.






CHAPTER XL.

THE BOLT FALLS.





All the way home on that long journey from Cape Town, as the two
half-brothers lounged on deck together in their canvas chairs,
Granville Kelmscott was wholly at a loss to understand what seemed
to him Guy Waring's unaccountable and almost incredible levity. The
man's conduct didn't in the least resemble that of a person who is
returning to give himself up on a charge of wilful murder. On the
contrary, Guy showed no signs of remorse or mental agony in any way;
he seemed rather elated, instead, at the pleasing thought that he
was going home, with his diamonds all turned at the Cape into solid
coin, to make his peace once more with his brother Cyril.

To be sure, at times he did casually allude to some expected
unpleasantness when he arrived in England; yet he treated it,
Granville noticed, as though hanging were at worst but a temporary
inconvenience. Granville wondered whether, after all, he could
have some complete and crushing answer to that appalling charge; on
any other supposition, his spirits and his talk were really little
short of what one might expect from a madman.

And indeed, now and again, Granville did really begin to suspect
that something had gone wrong somewhere with Guy Waring's intellect.
The more he thought over it, the more likely did this seem, for
Guy talked on with the greatest composure about his plans for the
future "when this difficulty was cleared up," as though a trial
for murder were a most ordinary occurrence--an accident that might
happen to any gentleman any day. And, if so, was it possible that
Guy had gone wrong in his head BEFORE the affray with Montague
Nevitt? That seemed likely enough; for when Granville remembered
Guy's invariable gentleness and kindness to himself, his devotion
in sickness and in the trials of the desert, his obvious aversion
to do harm to any one, and, above all, his heartfelt objection
to shedding human blood, Granville was constrained to believe his
newly found half-brother, if ever he committed the murder at all,
must have committed it while in a state of unsound mind, deserving
rather of pity than of moral reprehension. He comforted himself,
indeed, with this consoling idea--he could never believe a Kelmscott
of Tilgate, when clothed and in his right mind, could be guilty
of such a detestable and motiveless crime as the wilful murder of
Montague Nevitt.

Strangely enough, moreover, the subject that seemed most to occupy
Guy Waring's mind, on the voyage home, was not his forthcoming trial
on a capital charge, but the future distribution of the Tilgate
property. Was he essentially a money-grubber, Granville wondered
to himself, as he had thought him at first in the diamond fields
in Barolong land? Was he incapable of thinking about anything but
filthy lucre? No; that was clearly not the true solution of the
problem, for, whenever Guy spoke to him about the subject, it was
generally to say one and the self-same thing--

"In this matter, I feel I can speak for Cyril as I speak for myself.
Neither of us would wish to deprive you now of what you've always
been brought up to consider as your own. Neither of us would wish
to dispossess Lady Emily. The most we would desire is this--to have
our position openly acknowledged and settled before the world. We
should like it to be known we were the lawful sons of a brave man
and an honest woman. And if you wish voluntarily to share with us
some part of our father's estate, we'll be willing to enter into
a reasonable arrangement by which yon yourself can retain Tilgate
Park and the mass of the property that immediately appertains to
it. I'm sure Cyril would no more wish to be grasping in this matter
than I am; and after all that you and I have gone through together,
Granville, I don't think yon need doubt the sincerity of my feelings
towards you."

He spoke so sensibly, he spoke so manfully, he spoke so kindly
always, with a bright gleam in those tender eyes, that Granville
hardly knew what to make of his evident confidence. Surely a
man couldn't be mad who could speak like that; and yet, whenever
he alluded in any way to his return to England, it was always as
though he ignored the gravity and heinousness of the charge brought
against him. It was as though murder was an accident, for which one
was hardly responsible. Granville couldn't make him out at all;
the fellow was an enigma to him. There was so much that was good
in him; and yet, there must be so much that was bad as well. He was
such a delicate, considerate, self-effacing gentleman--and yet,
if one could believe what he himself more than once as good as
admitted, he was a criminal, a felon, an open murderer.

Still, even so, Granville couldn't turn his back upon the brother
who had seen him so bravely across the terrors of Namaqua land. He
thought of how he had misjudged him once before, and how much he
had repented it. Whether Guy was a murderer or not, Granville felt,
the man he had saved, at least, could never forsake him.

The night before their arrival at Plymouth, Guy was in unusually
high spirits. His mirth was contagious. Everybody on board
was delighted at the prospect of reaching land, but Guy was more
delighted and more sanguine than anybody. He was sure in his own
mind this difficulty must have blown over long before now; Cyril must
have explained; Nevitt must have confessed; everything must have
been set right, and his own good name satisfactorily rehabilitated.
For more than eighteen months he had heard nothing from England.
To-morrow he would see Cyril, and account for everything. He had
money to set all right--his hard-earned money, got at the risk
of his own life in the dreary deserts of Barolong land. All would
yet be well, and Cyril would marry, and Elma Clifford would be the
mistress of nearly half the Tilgate property.

"It was all so different, Granville," he said to his friend
confidentially, as they paced the deck after supper, cigar in
mouth, "when you first went out, and we didn't know one another.
Then, I distrusted you, and you distrusted me. We didn't understand
one another's characters. But now we can settle it all as a family
affair. Men who have camped out together under the open sky on the
African veldt, who have run the gauntlet of Korannas and Barolong
and Namaqua, who have stood by one another in sickness and in
fight, needn't be afraid of disagreeing about their money matters
in England. Cyril will meet us to-morrow and talk it all over,
and I'm not the least troubled about the result, either for you or
for him. The same blood runs in all our veins alike. Whatever you
propose, he'll be ready to agree to. He's the very best fellow
that ever lived, and when he hears what I have to say about you,
he'll welcome you as a brother, and be as fond of you as I am."

Next morning early they reached Plymouth Harbour. As they entered
the mouth of the breakwater, the tender came alongside to convey
them ashore. Guy looked over the bulwarks and saw Cyril waiting
for him. In a fervour of delight at the sight of the green fields
and the soft hills of old England--the beautiful Hoe, and the solid
stone houses, and the familiar face turned up to welcome him--Guy
waved his handkerchief round and round his head in triumph; to
which demonstration Cyril, as he fancied, responded but coldly. A
chill fell upon his heart. This was bad, but still, after all, he
could hardly expect Cyril to know intuitively under what sinister
influence he had signed that fatal cheque. And yet he was disappointed.
His heart had jumped so hard at sight of Cyril, he could hardly
believe Cyril wasn't glad to see him.

As he stepped into the tender from the gangway, just ready to rush
up and shake Cyril's hand fervently, a resolute-looking man by the
side of the steps laid a very firm grip on his shoulder with an
air of authority.

"Guy Waring?" he said interrogatively.

And Guy, turning pale, answered without flinching--

"Yes, my name's Guy Waring."

"Then you're my prisoner," the man said, in a very firm voice. "I'm
an inspector of constabulary."

"On what charge?" Guy exclaimed, half taken aback at this promptitude.

"I have a warrant against you, sir," the inspector answered, "as
you are no doubt aware, for the wilful murder of Montague Nevitt,
on the 17th of August, year before last, at Mambury, in Devonshire."

The word's fell upon Guy's ears with all the suddenness and crushing
force of an unexpected thunderbolt.

"Wilful murder," he cried, taken aback by the charge. "Wilful
murder of Montague Nevitt at Mambury! Oh no, you can't mean that!
Montague Nevitt dead! Montague Nevitt murdered! And at Mambury,
too! There MUST be some mistake somewhere."

"No, there's no mistake at all, this time," the inspector said
quietly, slipping a pair of handcuffs unobstrusively into his pocket
as he spoke. "If you come along with me without any unnecessary

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
brother!"

Guy looked him back in the face with those truthful grey eyes of
his.

"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
sooner mended."

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