Chapter XXVIII. Mistaken Identity.
 

To Cyril Waring himself, the arrest at Dover came as an immense surprise; rather a surprise, indeed, than a shock just at first, for he could only treat it as a mistaken identity. The man the police wanted was Guy, not himself; and that Guy should have done it was clearly incredible.

As he landed from the Ostend packet, recalled to England unexpectedly by the announcement that the Rio Negro Diamond Mines had gone with a crash--and no doubt involved Guy in the common ruin--Cyril was astonished to find himself greeted on the Admiralty Pier by a policeman, who tapped him on the shoulder with the casual remark, "I think your name's Waring."

Cyril answered at once, "Yes, my name's Waring."

It didn't occur to him at the moment that the man meant to arrest him.

"Then you're wanted," the minion of authority answered, seizing his arm rather gruffly. "We've got a warrant out to-day against you, my friend. You'd better come along with me quietly to the station."

"A warrant!" Cyril repeated, amazed, shaking off the man's hand. "There must be some mistake somewhere."

The policeman smiled. "Oh yes," he answered briskly, with some humour in his tone. "There's always a mistake, of course, in all these arrests. You never get a hold of the right man just at first. It's sure to be a case of his twin brother. But there ain't no mistake this time, don't you fear. I knowed you at once, when I see you, by your photograph. Though we were looking out for you, to be sure, going the other way. But it's you all right. There ain't a doubt about that. Warrant in the name of Guy Waring, gentleman; wanted for the wilful murder of a man unknown, said to be one McGregor, alias Montague Nevitt, on the 27th instant, at Mambury, in Devonshire."

Cyril gave a sudden start at the conjunction of names, which naturally increased his captor's suspicions. "But there is a mistake, though," he said angrily, "even on your own showing. You've got the wrong man. It's not I that am wanted. My name's Cyril Waring, and Guy is my brother's. Though Guy can't have murdered Mr. Nevitt, either, if it comes to that; they were most intimate friends. However, that's neither here nor there. I'm Cyril, not Guy; I'm not your prisoner."

"Oh yes, you are, though," the officer answered, holding his arm very tight, and calling mutely for assistance by a glance at the other policemen. "I've got your photograph in my pocket right enough. Here's the man we've orders to arrest at once. I suppose you won't deny, now, that's your living image."

Cyril glanced at the photograph with another start of surprise. Sure enough, it was Guy; his last new cabinet portrait. The police must be acting under some gross misapprehension.

"That man's my brother," he said confidently, brushing the photograph aside. "I can't understand it at all. This is extremely odd. It's impossible my brother can even be suspected of committing murder."

The policeman smiled cynically. "Well, it ain't impossible your brother's brother can be suspected, anyhow," he said, with a quiet air of superior knowledge. "The good old double trick's been tried on once too often. If I was you, I wouldn't say too much. Whatever you say may be used as evidence at the trial against you. You just come along quietly to the station with me--take his other arm, Jim, that's right: no violence please, prisoner--and we'll pretty soon find out whether you're the man we've got orders to arrest, or his twin brother." And he winked at his ally. He was proud of having effected the catch of the season.

"But I am his twin brother," Cyril said, half struggling still to release himself. "You can't take me up on that warrant, I tell you. It's not my name. I'm not the man you've orders to look for."

"Oh, that's all right," the constable answered as before, with an incredulous smile. "Don't you go trying to obstruct the police in the exercise of their duty. If I can't take you up on the warrant as it stands, well, anyhow, I can arrest you on suspicion all the same, for looking so precious like the photograph of the man as is wanted. Twin brothers ain't got any call, don't you know, to sit, turn about, for one another's photographs. It hinders the administration of justice; that's where it is. And remember, whatever you choose to say may be used as evidence at the trial against you."

Thus adjured, Cyril yielded at last to force majeure and walked arm in arm between the two policemen, followed by a large and admiring crowd, to the nearest station.

But the matter was far less easily arranged than at first imagined. An innocent man who knows his own innocence, taken up in mistake for a brother whom he believes to be equally incapable of the crime with which he is charged, naturally expects to find no difficulty at all in proving his identity and escaping from custody on a false charge of murder. But the result of a hasty examination at the station soon effectually removed this little delusion. His own admission that the photograph was a portrait of Guy, and his resemblance to it in every leading particular, made the authorities decide on the first blush of the thing this was really the man Scotland Yard was in search of. He was trying to escape them on the ridiculous pretext that he was in point of fact his own twin brother. The inspector declined to let him go for the night. He wasn't going to repeat the mistake that was made in the Lefroy case, he said very decidedly. He would send the suspected person under escort to Tavistock.

So to Tavistock Cyril went, uncertain as yet what all this could mean, and ignorant of the crime with which he was charged, if indeed any crime had been really committed. All the way down, an endless string of questions suggested themselves one by one to his excited mind. Was Nevitt really dead? And if so, who had killed him? Was it suicide to escape from the monetary embarrassments brought about by the failure of the Rio Negro Diamond Mines, or was it accident or mischance? Or was it in fact a murder? And in any case--strangest of all--where was Guy? Why didn't Guy come forward and court inquiry? For as yet, of course, Cyril hadn't received his brother's letter, with the incriminating pocket-book and the three thousand pounds; nor indeed, for several days after, as things turned out, was there even a possibility of his ever receiving it.

Next morning, however, when Cyril was examined before the Tavistock magistrates, he began to realize the whole strength of the case against him. The proceedings were purely formal, as the lawyers said; yet they were quite enough to make Cyril's cheek turn pale with horror. One witness after another came forward and swore to him. The station-master at Mambury gave evidence that he had made inquiries on the platform after Nevitt by name; the inn-keeper deposed as to his excited behaviour when he called at the Talbot Arms, and his recognition of McGregor as the person he was in search of; the boy of whom Guy had inquired at the gate unhesitatingly set down the conversation to Cyril. None of them had the faintest doubt in his own mind--each swore--that the prisoner before the magistrates was the self-same person who went over to Mambury on that fatal day, and who followed Montague Nevitt down the path by the river.

As Cyril listened, one terrible fact dawned clearer and clearer upon his brain. Every fragment of evidence they piled up against himself made the case against Guy look blacker and blacker.

The magistrates accepted the proofs thus tendered, and Cyril, as yet unassisted by professional advice, was remanded accordingly till next morning.

Just as he was about to leave the Sessions House in a tumult of horror, fear, and suspense, somebody close by tapped him on the shoulder gravely, after a few whispered words with the chairman and the magistrates. Cyril turned round, and saw a burly man with very large hands, whom he remembered to have had pointed out to him in London, and, strange to say, by Montague Nevitt himself--as the eminent Q.C., Mr. Gilbert Gildersleeve.

The great advocate was pale, but very sincere and earnest. Cyril noticed his manner was completely changed. It was clear some overmastering idea possessed his soul.

"Mr. Waring," he said, looking him full in the face, "I see you're unrepresented. This is a case in which I take a very deep interest. My conduct's unprofessional, I know--point-blank against all our recognised etiquette--but perhaps you'll excuse it. Will you allow me to undertake your defence in this matter?"

Cyril turned round to him with truly heartfelt thanks. It was a great relief to him, alone and in doubt, and much wondering about Guy, to hear a friendly word from whatever quarter.

And Cyril knew he was safe in Gilbert Gildersleeve's hands: the greatest criminal lawyer of the day in England might surely be trusted to set right such a mere little error of mistaken identity. Though for Guy--whenever Guy gave himself up to the police--Cyril felt the position was far more dangerous. He couldn't believe, indeed, that Guy was guilty; yet the circumstances, he could no longer conceal from himself, looked terribly black against him.

"You're too good," he cried, taking the lawyer's hand in his with very fervent gratitude. "How can I thank you enough? I'm deeply obliged to you."

"Not at all," Gilbert Gildersleeve answered, with very blanched lips. He was ashamed of his duplicity. "You've nothing to thank me for. This case is a simple one, and I'd like to see you out of it. I've met your brother; and the moment I saw you I knew you weren't he, though you're very like him. I should know you two apart wherever I saw you."

"That's curious," Cyril cried, "for very few people know us from one another, except the most intimate friends."

The Q.C. looked at him with a very penetrating glance. "I had occasion to see your brother not long since," he answered slowly, "and his features and expression fastened themselves indelibly on my mind's eye. I should know you from him at a glance. This case, as you say, is one of mistaken identity. That's just why I'm so anxious to help you well through it."

And indeed, Gilbert Gildersleeve, profoundly agitated as he was, saw in the accident a marvellous chance for himself to secure a diversion of police attention from the real murderer. The fact was, he had passed twenty-four hours of supreme misery. As soon as he learned from common report that "the murderer was caught, and was being brought to Tavistock," he took it for granted at first that Guy hadn't gone to Africa at all, but had left by rail for the East, and been arrested elsewhere. That belief filled him full of excruciating terrors. For Gilbert Gildersleeve, accidental manslaughterer as he was, was not by any means a depraved or wholly heartless person. Big, blustering, and gruff, he was yet in essence an honest, kind-hearted, unemotional Englishman. His one desire now was to save his wife and daughter from further misery; and if he could only save them, he was ready to sacrifice for the moment, to a certain extent, Guy Waring's reputation. But if Guy Waring himself had stood before him in the dock, he must have stepped forward to confess. The strain would have been too great for him. He couldn't have allowed an innocent man to be hanged in his place. Come what might, in that case he must let his wife and daughter go, and save the innocent by acknowledging himself guilty. So, when he looked at the prisoner, it gave him a shock of joy to see that fortune had once more befriended him. Thank Heaven, thank Heaven, it wasn't the man they wanted at all. This was the other brother of the two--Cyril, the painter, not Guy, the journalist.

In a moment the acute and experienced criminal hand recognised that this chance told unconsciously in his own favour. Like every other suspected person, he wanted time, and time would be taken up in proving an alibi for Cyril, as well as showing by concurrent proof that he was not his brother. Meanwhile, suspicion would fix itself still more firmly upon Guy, whose flight would give colour to the charges brought against him by the authorities.

So the great Q.C. determined to take up Cyril Waring's case as a labour of love, and didn't doubt he would succeed in finally proving it.