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That Mainwaring Affair By A. Maynard Barbour Characters: 17447

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

When Ralph Mainwaring and Mr. Whitney arrived at the club they found young Mainwaring already awaiting them at their private table, but it was far from a social group which sat down to dinner that evening. The elder Mainwaring still preserved an ominous silence, and in his dark, glowering face few would have recognized the urbane guest whom Hugh Mainwaring had introduced to his small coterie of friends less than three months before. The younger man, though holding a desultory conversation with the attorney, yet looked decidedly bored, while from time to time he regarded his father with a cynical expression entirely new to his hitherto ingenuous face. Mr. Whitney, always keenly alert to his surroundings, became quickly conscious of a sudden lack of harmony between father and son, and feeling himself in rather a delicate position, carefully refrained in his remarks from touching upon any but the most neutral ground.

A couple of hours later, as the three with a box of cigars were gathered around an open fire in Ralph Mainwaring's apartments, it was noticeable that young Mainwaring was unusually silent. In a few moments, however, his father's long pent-up wrath burst forth.

Addressing the attorney in no very pleasant tone, he demanded, "Well, sir, what do you now propose to do about this matter?"

"It is to be a fight, then, is it?" Mr. Whitney asked with a smile, knocking the ashes from his cigar.

"Yes, by my soul, and a fight to the finish. Understand, I will have no time lost. This farce has got to be quashed at once, and the sooner the better, so you may enter protest and file an application for hearing, or whatever your mode of procedure is in this country, at the earliest possible moment. Meanwhile, I'll secure the best legal talent that money can get to help you. I've a longer purse than that old Australian sheep-herder thinks, and when the time for contest comes, I'll meet him on his own ground."

"If you are going to employ additional counsel," interposed Mr. Whitney, "allow me to suggest the name of P. B. Hunnewell, of this city; he is one of the ablest attorneys in the United States, particularly in matters of this kind. His fees are somewhat exorbitant, but money is no object with you in this case."

"None whatever," the other interrupted, impatiently; "we will retain this Hunnewell upon your recommendation, but in the morning I shall cable for Upham & Blackwell, of London. They rank right in the

same line with Barton & Barton; they have conducted considerable business for me, and I am satisfied," he added, with peculiar emphasis, "they could not be tampered with or bought at any price. I shall also cable for Graham, the expert on chirography and on all kinds of forgeries, and we will have his decision upon that will. I am going, first of all, understand, to have that document proven a forgery. That done, the whole fabrication of this cunning impostor falls to the ground, and then, when I have him completely floored in that direction, he will find that I have only just begun with him."

"How is that?" questioned the attorney. "You surely do not intend to dispute his identity after the unmistakable proofs submitted?"

"I care nothing about his identity," Mainwaring retorted, with a sneer. "Whether he is the son of Harold Mainwaring or of Frederick Scott, matters little; both were renegades and outcasts from their homes. No, sir," and there was a ring of exultation in his tone, while his steel-gray eyes glittered, "I have a surprise in store for the young man; when he gets through with this contest, he will find himself under arrest as the murderer of Hugh Mainwaring."

Young Mainwaring rose suddenly and began pacing the room, while Mr. Whitney exclaimed,-

"Mr. Mainwaring, you astonish me! I certainly fail to see how you can connect the young man with that terrible affair."

"What else could be expected of a man who acknowledges that for years he has been dogging the steps of Hugh Mainwaring and acting the part of a spy, not only in his private offices, but even in his own home, stooping to any means, no matter how contemptible, to further his nefarious designs? Would such a man, when his schemes were finally matured, have any scruples about taking the life of the one who stood in the way of their fulfilment?"

"But, sir," protested the attorney, "such a deed would be wholly unnecessary. Admitting all that you have said regarding the means employed by him, would it not be much more reasonable to suppose that he would attempt to bring his man to terms either through a personal interview or by bringing suit against him, rather than by resorting to brutal crime?"

"And supposing he did have a personal interview for the purpose of setting forth his claims, do you think that Hugh Mainwaring would be bamboozled by any of his cheap trickery? No, sir, not for one moment. He would simply pronounce the whole thing a sham. Well, sir, if you will recall some of the testimony at the inquest, you will see that is precisely what occurred. Hugh Mainwaring, within twenty or thirty minutes preceding his death, was heard to denounce some one as a 'liar' and an 'impostor.' An 'impostor,' mark you! Very applicable to the case we are now supposing. And in the altercation which followed, the other party called him a 'thief,' and made some allusion-I do not recall the exact words-to his being 'transported to the wilds of Australia.' Now, sir, there is no doubt in the mind of any sane man that those words were spoken by the murderer of Hugh Mainwaring, and I think now we have a pretty good clue to his identity."

"But the young man stated emphatically this morning that he made no mention of the will to Hugh Mainwaring."

"To the devil with his statements! There is evidence enough against him that he will be ruined when I get through with him. He has dared to try to thwart me in the plans of a lifetime, and I'll make it the worst piece of business he ever undertook. Understand, I want you to institute proceedings against him at once!"

"Governor," said young Mainwaring, quietly, before Mr. Whitney could respond to this tirade, "in whose name will these proceedings be instituted, yours or mine?"

"Well," replied his father, with a sneer, "I don't know that it makes any particular difference to you in whose name it is done, so long as it is for your benefit."

"Begging your pardon, sir, I believe it does make considerable difference. And I will say right here that I will have no proceedings entered, either in my name or for my benefit, for two reasons: first, Harold Scott Mainwaring is no impostor; we had abundant proof to-day that, under the terms of that will, he is the sole claimant to the property; and second, you know, sir, as well as I, that years ago, your own servant, John Wilson, told you that such a will had existed, and there is every ground for believing that this document is genuine. I just begin to understand your little game, governor, and, by Jove! I will not be a party to it."

Up to this point, astonishment at his son's audacity seemed to have bereft Ralph Mainwaring of the power of speech, but now he demanded in thunderous tones, while his face grew purple with rage, "What do you mean, sir, by daring to address such language to me? You impudent upstart! let me tell you that you had best attend to your own business!"

"This is the second time you have told me that today," said the young man, calmly, though the hot blood was fast rising; "allow me to inform you, governor, with all due respect, that henceforth I will attend to my own business, and will not trouble you to attend to it for me. If you had any just or tenable grounds for the proceedings you are about to institute, I would have nothing to say; but, begging your pardon, you have none whatever; it is simply a piece of dirty work with which I will have nothing to do."

"You ungrateful dog! This is your return for my care and forethought for you, is it? Do you retract every word which you have said, or I'll cut you off without a penny," and with a fearful oath he swung himself around in his chair with such violence as to overturn the small onyx table upon which the cigars were standing, shattering it to fragments.

The young man paused directly in front of his father. "I retract nothing," he said, quietly but firmly. "You are at liberty to follow the example of old Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring if you wish, but you may regret it later, as he did."

"And do you think Edith Thornton will marry a penniless beggar, a pauper? Or do you propose to live upon her fortune?"

"No; I will not touch a penny of her fortune," he replied, his cheek flushing; "and I am not

quite a pauper, for I have the money left me by Uncle Tom years ago; and if Edith is the girl to be turned from me under the circumstances, why, the sooner I find it out the better."

"A paltry twenty thousand pounds! a fine fortune!" sneered his father, ignoring his last remark.

"Many a fortune has been made from a much smaller start; but it is useless to waste words further. You understand my position, and that is enough. Mr. Whitney," he continued, addressing the attorney, "according to the terms of Hugh Mainwaring's will, I, and not my father, am heir to the property, and therefore the one to contest the claim of Harold Mainwaring if it is contested at all. I wish to state to you here and now, distinctly, that I will not contest the case, nor will I authorize any one to do so for me; and now, gentlemen, I bid you both good-evening!" and he quietly left the room.

"Zounds!" exclaimed the elder man, as the door closed upon his son, "I didn't suppose the boy had so much spirit! I've often wished he and Isabel could change places, because she was so much more like myself and what I would like a son to be."

"He has the Mainwaring blood all right," replied the attorney, with more inward admiration for the young man than he dared to express.

"Not if he will throw away a fortune in this manner; it is probably some boyish whim, however and the young fool will look at it in a different light to-morrow."

"I think not, Mr. Mainwaring," said the attorney, quietly; "he is enough like Hugh Mainwaring, and like yourself, that when he decides upon a certain line of action, he will not be easily turned aside. You may rest assured that he will have nothing whatever to do with this contest, and that if you wish to carry on the fight, you will have to do so under your own colors."

"I'll do it, too," he replied, fiercely; "I'll enter proceedings in my own name, as the nearest heir after Hugh Mainwaring."

"In that case, your brother must be notified, as he will be entitled to share the estate with you; that may cause us some little delay, but-"

"Curse it all!" the other interrupted, angrily; "I had not thought of that; he will have to come in for a share; confound that boy's foolishness! I'll get hold of him tomorrow morning and see if I cannot talk some reason into him," and Ralph Mainwaring relapsed into sullen silence. It was a new experience for him to meet with opposition in his own family, least of all from his son, and he felt the first step must be to quell it, though decidedly at loss just how to proceed.

A little later, Mr. Whitney, finding his client disinclined to further conversation, after making an appointment for the next morning, excused himself and took his departure for his own apartments at the club.

As he passed down the stairway into the spacious hall, what was his surprise to see Mr. Merrick comfortably ensconced in a large leather chair, reading the evening papers.

The two men shook hands warmly, and together passed out into the cool, starlit night.

"When did you arrive, Merrick? and from what point of the compass?" inquired the attorney.

"Got in on the 9.30 train," the detective replied, seeming not to have heard the second question; "learned you were at Mainwaring's, so I stopped in, but told the butler not to disturb you, as I was in no hurry."

"I noticed you were looking over the evening papers, did you read the account of this morning's proceedings in court?"

"I did."

"What do you think of them?"

"I am not in the least surprised."

"Not surprised!" echoed the attorney. "Do you mean to say that the reappearance of the missing secretary as the heir to the Mainwaring estate is no surprise to you?"

"None whatever," Merrick replied, with the most exasperating coolness, adding, as he noted the other's incredulous smile, "you may recall a hint given you at Fair Oaks, one evening, of the possible existence of claimants, perhaps not far distant, whose rights superseded those of Hugh Mainwaring himself."

Mr. Whitney started involuntarily as the detective's words of a few weeks before were thus recalled, then looking his companion squarely in the face, he exclaimed, half playfully, half indignantly, "I don't suppose you will go so far as to claim any familiarity with that old will which has just been resurrected."

"Well," said Merrick, deliberately stopping to relight his cigar, "I was aware that there was such a will in existence, or at least that it had existed up to the time of Hugh Mainwaring's death, and I supposed all along that it was in the possession of Harold Scott Mainwaring, otherwise known as Harry Scott, secretary."

"By George! when and how did you get hold of all this?" questioned the attorney, in a tone of bewilderment.

"I was pretty well conversant with the facts in the case a few days before the young man took passage for England, in the 'Campania.'"

"The 'Campania!' Heavens and earth, man! Do you mean to say that he went over on the same boat with Miss-with the ladies from Fair Oaks?"

"Certainly; and I don't think," Merrick continued, watching the attorney shrewdly, "that Miss-the ladies from Fair Oaks-objected to him as a fellow-traveller, either."

Mr. Whitney changed the subject. "Then you know that will to be genuine, do you?"

"H'm! am I on the witness stand?"

"No; but I think I ought to subpoena you to keep the other side from getting your testimony; you might make a troublesome witness against us."

"My testimony might be worth much or little; I am not giving it to either side at present."

"Well, I would not have it go out, of course; but for my part, I am inclined, to believe not only that the will is genuine, but also that Ralph Mainwaring knows that it is."

"He will fight it all the same."

"Yes, but on rather different grounds from what he first anticipated," and Mr. Whitney gave Merrick an account of young Mainwaring's defection. "In my private opinion," concluded the attorney, "Ralph Mainwaring is a fool, for he has got a pretty hard combination to go against; they've evidently got a strong case, splendid legal talent, and plenty of money to back it all. However, I'm making a good thing out of it."

"Yes," said Merrick, enigmatically, "Barton & Barton are undoubtedly men of great ability in their professions but that 'clerk' of theirs who has come over with the party," with peculiar emphasis, "is the smartest man in the whole crowd!"

"The clerk! why I thought he seemed rather an insignificant sort of a fellow; what do you know about him?"

For reply the detective only gave a short, unpleasant laugh, and, touching his cap, turned abruptly down another street.

"Hold on!" cried the attorney; "you haven't told me anything about yourself yet. What have you been doing? and how long are you going to be in town?"

"A day or two, perhaps, possibly a week; I cannot say."

"How are you getting on?"

But the detective was lost in thought and apparently did not hear the question. "I suppose you read of the arrest of Brown, the coachman?" he remarked, abstractedly, after a moment's silence.

"The coachman? No! you don't say that he was really concerned in that affair?" the attorney exclaimed, excitedly.

"What affair, the Mainwaring murder? I don't know that I have said that he was concerned in that," Merrick answered, suddenly coming to himself and evidently enjoying the attorney's expression of blank perplexity; "he was mixed up in a shooting affair, however, which occurred about that time, and by holding him in custody we hope to get on to the principals. Oh," he added, carelessly, anticipating another inquiry from Mr. Whitney, "I'm getting there all right, if that is what you want to know; but I won't have somebody else dogging my tracks and then claiming the game by and by."

"Man alive! what in the dickens are you driving at? You are in one of your moods to-night."

"Perhaps so," Merrick replied, indifferently, then added quickly, "There is a sensation of some sort in there; see the crowd of reporters!"

They were standing on a street corner, near a large hotel, and glancing through the windows in the direction indicated by the detective, Mr. Whitney saw, as he had said, a crowd of reporters in the office and lobbies, some writing, some talking excitedly, and others coming and going. Just then one who was leaving the building passed them, and Merrick stopped him.

"What is going on? What's the excitement?"

"Suicide!" the young man replied, hastily. "That woman who was mixed up in the Mainwaring case has suicided by poison."

The attorney and the detective exchanged startled glances, then both entered the hotel.

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