What's Bred In the Bone
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."