The London evening papers were full of the name of Westwood, and the pleasant little country town of Brackenhurst was during the afternoon overrun with representatives of the Press, the majority of whom were, to the amazement of the legitimate inhabitants, far more anxious to obtain some items relating to the personal history—the more personal the better—of Claude Westwood, than to become acquainted with the local estimate of the character of his brother. The people of the neighbourhood could not understand how it was possible that the world should regard the reappearance of a distinguished explorer after an absence of eight years with much greater interest than the murder of a provincial banker—even supposing that Mr. Westwood was murdered, which was to place the incident of his death in the most favourable light—from the standpoint of those newspapers that live by sensational headlines.

The next morning every newspaper worthy of the name had a leading article upon the Westwoods, and pointed out how the tragic elements associated with the death of one of the brothers were intensified by the fact that if he had only lived for a few hours longer, he would have heard of the safety of his distinguished brother, to whom he was deeply attached. While almost every newspaper contained half a column telling the story—so far as it was known—of the supposed murder of Richard Westwood, a far greater space was devoted to the story of the escape of Claude Westwood from the savages of the Upper Zambesi, who had killed every member of his expedition and had kept him in captivity for eight years.

The people of Brackenhurst could not understand such a lapse of judgment on the part of the chief newspaper editors: they were, of course, very proud of the fact that Claude Westwood was a Brackenshireman, but they were far prouder of the distinction of being associated with the locality of a murder about which every one in the country was talking.

Cyril Mowbray found himself suddenly advanced to a position of unlooked-for prominence, owing to the amount of information he was able to give to the newspaper men regarding the scene during the run on the bank, and the scene in the drawingroom at the Court, when the man who called himself Standish had entered, demanding the money which he had lodged the previous year in Westwoods' bank. Only once before had Cyril found himself in a position of equal prominence, and that was when he had been finally sent down at Oxford for participating in a prank of such a character as caused the name of his college to appear in every newspaper for close upon a week under the heading of “The University Scandal.” Before the expiration of that week Cyril's name was in the mouth of every undergraduate, and he felt, for the remainder of the week, all the gratification which is the result (sometimes) of a sudden accession to a position of prominence after a long period of comparative obscurity.

But his sister Agnes was completely prostrated by what had now happened—by the gladness of hearing that her lover was safe—that her long years of watching and waiting had not been in vain, and by the grief of knowing that her gladness could not be shared by Dick Westwood. It seemed to her that her hour of grief had swallowed up her hour of joy. She could not look forward to the delight of meeting Claude once again without feeling that her triumph—the triumph of her constancy—was robbed of more than half its pleasure, since it could not be shared by poor Dick. A week ago the news that her lover was safe would have thrilled her with delight; but now it seemed to her a barren joy even to anticipate his return: she knew that he would never recover from the blow of his brother's death—she knew that all the love she might lavish upon him would not diminish the bitterness of the thoughts that would be his when he returned to the Court and found it desolate.

She read with but the smallest amount of interest the newspaper articles that eulogised Claude Westwood and his achievements. She seemed to have but an impersonal connection with the discoveries that he had made—suggestions of their magnitude appeared almost daily in the newspapers; and the fact that an enterprising publishing firm in England had sent out a special emissary to meet him at Zanzibar with an offer of £25,000 for his book—it was taken as a matter of course that he would write a book—interested her no more than did the information that an American lecture bureau had cabled to their English agent to make arrangements with him for a series of lectures—it was assumed that he would give a course of lectures with limelight views—in the States, his remuneration to be on a scale such as only a prima donna had ever dreamt of, and that only in her most avaricious moments. She even remained unmoved by the philosophical reflection indulged in by several leader writers, to the effect that, after all, it would seem that the perils surrounding an ordinary English gentleman were greater than those encompassing the most intrepid of explorers in the most dangerous sphere of exploration in the world.

The foundation for this philosophy was, of course, the coincidence of the news being published confirmatory of the safety of one of the Westwoods on the same page that contained the melancholy story of what was soon termed the Brackenshire Tragedy.

And this melancholy story did not lose anything of its tragic aspect when it came to be investigated before the usual tribunals. But however interesting as well as profitable it might be to give at length an account of the questions put to the witnesses at the inquest, and the answers given by them to the solicitors engaged in the investigation, such interest and profit must be foregone in this place. A reader will have to be content with the information of the bare fact that the coroner's jury returned a verdict of “Wilful Murder” against the man who had, under the name of Carton Standish, lodged some hundreds of pounds the previous year in the Westwoods' bank, and who, according to the evidence of Cyril, corroborated by the footman, had threatened Mr. Westwood with a revolver.

Cyril described the incidents of the entire interview that Standish had with Mr. Westwood, up to the point of his throwing the revolver out of the window. He was not, of course, prepared to say that the revolver which was found at Mr. Westwood's hand (deposed to by the under-gardener) was the same weapon, but he said that it seemed to him to be the same. He had not seen the man pick up the revolver from the grass where it had fallen. The man had left the house, not by the window, by which he had entered, but by the hall door. In reply to a question put to him Cyril said that if the revolver had been left on the grass it might have been picked up by any one aware of the fact that it was there. Neither he nor Mr. Westwood had picked it up. They had not walked together in the direction of the Italian garden, but through the park, which was on the other side of the house. They had not discussed the incident of the man's entering the drawing-room, except for a few minutes, nor did it seem to occur to Mr. Westwood that he might be in jeopardy were he to walk through the grounds. He appeared to disregard the man's threats.

The surgeon who had examined the body gave a horribly technical description of the wound made by the bullet, and said he had no hesitation in swearing that the revolver was fired from a distance of at least twenty feet from the deceased. He had a wide experience of bullet wounds, but it did not need a wide experience to enable a surgeon to pronounce an opinion as to whether or not a wound had been produced by a point-blank discharge of a weapon, whether revolver or rifle.

Major Borrowdaile and the police sergeant gave some evidence regarding the arrest of Standish, and the butler, who was the first to enter the drawingroom in the morning, stated that he had found the French window open. He fancied that his master had gone out for a stroll before breakfast. He also said that he had heard in the early part of the night the sound of several shots; but he had taken it for granted that a party were shooting rabbits in the warren, In any case the sound of a shot at night in the park or the shrubberies would not cause alarm among the servants: they would take it for granted that a keeper had fired at one of the wild-cats or perhaps at a night-hawk, or some creature of the woods inimical to the young pheasants.

This was considered sufficient evidence by the coroner's jury, and the man was handed over, to be formally committed by the bench of magistrates.

The Summer Assizes were held within a fortnight, and then, in addition to the evidence previously given, a gunmaker from Midleigh swore that the revolver was purchased from him by the prisoner on the forenoon of the day when he had appeared at Westwood Court. Against such evidence the statement of the landlord of the Three Swans Inn at Brackenhurst, to the effect that he had admitted the prisoner to the inn at a few minutes past midnight—the only direct evidence brought forward for the defence—was of no avail. The landlord, on being cross-examined, admitted that his clock was not invariably to be depended on: on the night in question he took it for granted that it was a quarter of an hour fast. He would not swear that it was not customary to set it back on the very day of the week corresponding to that preceding the discovery of the dead body of Mr. Westwood. He also declined to swear that the next day the clock was not found to be accurate.

The judge upon this occasion was not the one whose anxiety to sentence men and women to be hanged is so great that he has now and again practically insisted on a jury returning a verdict of guilty against prisoners who, on being reprieved by the Home Secretary, were eventually found to be entirely innocent of the crime laid to their charge. Nor was he the one whose unfortunate infirmity of deafness prevents his hearing more than a word or two of the evidence. He was not even the one whose inability to perceive the difference between immorality and criminality is notorious. He was the one whose ingenuity is made apparent by his suggestion of certain possibilities which have never occurred to the counsel engaged in a case.

When it seemed to be quite certain that Standish would be found guilty, the judge began to perplex the minds of the jurymen by suggestions of his own. He pointed out that the prisoner had had but one object in threatening Mr. Westwood—namely, to recover the money that he had lodged in Westwoods' bank; and this being so, what motive would he have for murdering Mr. Westwood until he had applied to the bank and had had his money refused to him?

So far from his having a motive in killing Mr.

Westwood, and then placing the weapon so close to his hand as to suggest that he had committed suicide, he had the very best reason for preventing the spread of the report that the proprietor of the bank had committed suicide, for it would be perfectly plain to any one that the spread of such a report would cause it to be taken for granted that the affairs of the bank were in a shaky condition, and the bank might stop payment in self-defence; in which case the prisoner must have known that his money would be in serious jeopardy.

He then went on to point out how no evidence had been brought forward to prove that the prisoner had ever regained possession of the revolver after he had thrown it out of the window, so that it was open for any one who might have found the weapon, to use it with deadly effect against Mr. Westwood, or, for that matter, against some one else. Finally, he ventured to point out how it was scarcely within the bounds of possibility that the murder could have been committed by any one except the prisoner. He trusted, however, that the jury would give the amplest consideration to the points upon which he had dwelt.

The result of this summing up was that it took the jury two hours and a half instead of five minutes to find the prisoner guilty. It only took the judge five minutes to sentence him, however; but those persons who had been looking forward to so exciting an incident as an execution, with a black flag hoisted outside the gaol to stimulate the imagination in regard to the horror that was being enacted within, were disappointed, for the Home Secretary commuted the capital sentence to one of penal servitude for life.

The man's character had not been an unblemished one. Fifteen years before he had suffered eighteen months' imprisonment for fraud in connection with the floating of a company—a transaction into which it seems scarcely possible for fraud to enter—but since his return he appeared to have supported himself honorably at Midleigh. He had worked himself up to a position of trust at the great Midleigh brewery, and it was said that in addition to the few hundreds which remained to his credit in Westwoods' bank, he had saved some thousands of pounds. It appeared, however, that what he had said in Dick Westwood's drawing-room about having a wife and child, was untrue, for certainly no no one claiming to be his wife had come forward during the trial.

Thus, within three weeks of the tragedy at the Court, the people of Brackenhurst had begun to talk of other matters—during a fortnight no other topic was possible in the town. After Mr. Westwood's death there was no run on the bank: but even if there had been, plenty of gold would have been forthcoming to meet all demands. It was then that the people began to discuss the probability of Mr. Westwood's having died a wealthy man, and the likelihood of his having made a will. They feared that Claude Westwood would not find himself better provided for than he had been at his father's death; for they took it for granted that his brother would have made his will on the assumption—the very reasonable assumption—that he was no longer alive.

It did not take long to satisfy the curiosity of the neighbourhood on all these points. Richard Westwood's lawyer produced in due course a will which the former had made the year before, and it became plain from this document that the testator was a wealthy man—that is to say, wealthy from the standpoint of Brackenshire; though, of course, in the estimation of Lancashire or Chicago the sums which he bequeathed represented a competency only one degree removed from absolute penury. Something like two hundred thousand pounds were distributed in the will, but the distribution was made on the simplest principle. After a few legacies of an unimportant character to some cousins, his clerks and servants. Richard Westwood left all his property in trust for his brother Claude, should the said Claude be found to be alive within five years from the date of the will. But should no proof be forthcoming that he was alive within that period, everything was to go to Agnes Louise Mowbray, of The Knoll, for her absolute use.

People opened their eyes when they became acquainted with the provisions of the will. So many years had passed since the departure of Claude Westwood, it was quite forgotten, except by a few persons, that there was a woman awaiting his return.

There were some people, however, who said that the character of Richard Westwood's will proved that he had been in love with Miss Mowbray. They never failed to add that they had suspected it all along.

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