Chapter XXIX. Woman's Intuition
 

Next morning, Cyril Waring appeared once more in the Sessions House for the preliminary investigation on the charge of murder. As he entered, a momentary hush pervaded the room; then, suddenly, from a seat beneath, a woman's voice burst forth, quite low, yet loud enough to be heard by all the magistrates on the bench.

"Why, mother," it said, in a very tremulous tone, "it isn't Guy himself at all; don't you see it's Cyril?"

The words were so involuntarily spoken, and in such hushed awe and amaze, that even the magistrates themselves, hard Devonshire squires, didn't turn their heads to rebuke the speaker. As for Cyril, he had no need to look towards a blushing face in the body of the court to know that the voice was Elma Clifford's.

She sat there looking lovelier than he had ever before seen her. Cyril's glance caught hers. They didn't need to speak. He saw at once in her eye that Elma at least knew instinctively he was innocent.

Next moment Gilbert Gildersleeve stood up to state his defence, and gazed at her steadily. As he rose in his place, Elma's eye met his. Gilbert Gildersleeve's fell. He didn't know why, but in that second of time the great blustering man felt certain in his heart that Elma Clifford suspected him.

Elma Clifford, for her part, knew still more than that. With the swift intuition she inherited from her long line of Oriental ancestry, she said to herself at once, in categorical terms, "It was that man that did it. I know it was he. And he sees I know it. And he knows I'm right. And he's afraid of me accordingly." But an intuition, however valuable to its possessor, is not yet admitted as evidence in English courts. Elma also knew it was no use in the world for her to get up in her place and say so openly.

The great Q.C. put his case in a nutshell. "Our client," he contended, "was not the man against whom the warrant in this case had been duly issued; he was not the man named Guy Waring; he was not the man whom the witnesses deposed to having seen at Mambury; he was not the man who had loitered with evil intent around the skirts of Dartmoor; in short," the great Q.C. observed, with demonstrative eye-glass, "it was a very clear case of mistaken identity. It would take them time, no doubt, to prove the conclusive alibi they intended to establish; for the gentleman now charged before them, he would hope to show hereafter, was Mr. Cyril Waring, the distinguished painter, twin brother to Mr. Guy Waring, the journalist, against whom warrant was issued; and he was away in Belgium during the whole precise time when Mr. Guy Waring--as to whose guilt or innocence he would make no definite assertion--was prowling round Dartmoor on the trail of McGregor, alias Montague Nevitt. Therefore, they would consent to an indefinite remand till evidence to that effect was duly forthcoming. Meanwhile--" and here Gilbert Gildersleeve's eyes fell upon Elma once more with a quiet forensic smile--he would call one witness, on the spur of the moment, whom he hadn't thought till that very morning of calling, but whom the magistrates would allow to be a very important one--a lady from Chetwood--Miss Elma Clifford.

Elma, taken aback, stood up in the box and gave her evidence timidly. It amounted to no more than the simple fact that the person before the magistrates was Cyril, not Guy; that the two brothers were extremely like; but that she had reason to know them easily apart, having been associated in a most painful accident in a tunnel with the brother, the present Mr. Cyril Waring. What she said gave only a presumption of mistaken identity, but didn't at all invalidate the positive identification of all the people who had seen the supposed murderer. However, from Gilbert Gildersleeve's point of view, this delay was doubly valuable. In the first place, it gave him time to prove his alibi for Cyril and bring witnesses from Belgium; and, in the second place, it succeeded in still further fastening public suspicion on Guy, and narrowing the question for the police to the simple issue whether or not they had really caught the brother who was seen at Mambury on the day of the murder.

The law's delays were as marvellous as is their wont. It was a full fortnight before the barrister was able to prove his point by bringing over witnesses at considerable expense from Belgium and elsewhere, and by the aid of a few intimate friends in London, who could speak with certainty as to the difference between the two brothers. At the end of a fortnight, however, he did sufficiently prove it by tracing Cyril in detail from England to the Ardennes and back again to Dover, as well as by showing exactly how Guy had been employed in London and elsewhere on every day or night of the intervening period. The magistrates at last released Cyril, convinced by his arguments; and on the very same day, the coroner's inquest on Montague Nevitt's body, after adjourning time upon time to await the clearing up of this initial difficulty, returned a verdict of wilful murder against Guy Waring.

That evening, in town, the most completely mystified person of all was a certain cashier of the London and West County Bank, in Lombard Street, who read in his St. James's this complete proof that Cyril had been in Belgium through all those days when he himself distinctly remembered cashing over the counter for him a cheque for no less a sum than six thousand pounds to "self or bearer." Had the brothers, then, been deliberately and nefariously engaged in a deep-laid scheme--the cashier asked himself, much puzzled--to confuse one another's identity with great care beforehand, with a distinct view to the projected murder? For as yet, of course, nobody on earth except Guy Waring himself on the waters of Biscay knew or suspected anything at all about the forgery.

Elma Clifford and her mother, meanwhile, had stopped on at Tavistock till Cyril was released from his close confinement. Elma never meant to marry him, of course--to that prime determination she still remained firm as a rock under all conditions--but in such straits as those, why, naturally she couldn't bear to be far away from him. So she remained at Tavistock quietly till the inquiry was over.

On the evening of his release Elma met him at the hotel. Her mother had gone out on purpose to leave them alone. Elma took Cyril's hand in hers with a profound trembling. She felt the moment for reserve had long gone past.

"Cyril," she said, boldly calling him by his Christian name, because she could call him only as she always thought of him, "I knew from the first you didn't do it. And just because I know you didn't, I know Guy didn't either, though everything looks now so very black against him. I can trust you, and I can trust him. All through, I've never had a doubt one moment of either of you."

Cyril held her hand in his, and raised it tenderly to his lips. Elma looked at him, half surprised. Only her hand, how strange of him. Cyril read the unspoken thought, as she would have read it herself, and answered quickly, "Never, Elma, now, till Guy has cleared himself of this deadly accusation. I couldn't bear to ask you to accept a man who every one else would call a murderer's brother."

Elma gazed at him steadfastly. Tears stood in her eyes. Her voice trembled; but she was very firm.

"We must clear you and him of this dreadful charge," she said slowly. "I know we must do that, Cyril. Guy didn't kill him. Guy's wholly incapable of it. But where is Guy now? That's what I don't understand. We must clear that all up. Though, even when it's cleared up, I can only love you. As I told you that day at Chetwood--and I mean it still--whatever comes to us two, I can never, never marry you."

"Not even if I clear this all up?" Cyril asked, with a wistful look.

"Not even if you clear this all up," Elma answered seriously. "The difficulty's on my side, don't you see, not on yours at all. So far as you're concerned, Cyril, clear this up or leave it just where it is, I'd marry you to-morrow. I'd marry you at once, and proud to do it, if only to show the world openly I trust you both. I half faltered just once as you stood there in court, whether I wouldn't say yes to you, for nothing else but that--to let everybody see how implicitly I trusted you."

"But I couldn't allow it," Cyril answered, all aglow. "As things stand now, Elma, our positions are reversed. While this cloud still hangs so black over Guy, I couldn't find it in my conscience to ask you to marry me."

He gazed at her steadily. They were both too profoundly stirred for tears or emotions. A quiet despair gleamed in the eyes of each. Cyril could never marry her till he had cleared up this mystery. Elma could never marry him, even if it were all cleared up, with that terrible taint of madness, as she thought it, hanging threateningly for ever over her and her family.

She paused for a minute or two, with her hand locked in his. Then she said once more, very low, "No, Guy didn't do it. But why did he run away? That baffles me quite. That's the one point of it all that makes it so strange and so terribly mysterious."

"Elma," Cyril answered, with a cold thrill, "I believe in Guy; I think I know myself, and I think I know him, well enough to say that such a thing as murder is impossible for either of us. He's weak at times, I admit, and his will was powerless before the magnetic force of Montague Nevitt's. But when I try to face that inscrutable mystery of why, if he's innocent, he has run away from this charge, I confess my faith begins to falter and tremble. He must have seen it in the papers. He must have seen I was accused. What can he mean by leaving me to bear it in his stead without ever coming forward to help me fairly out of it?"

Elma looked up at him with another of her sudden flashes of superb intuition. "He can't have seen it in the papers," she said. "That gives us some clue. If he'd seen it, he must have come forward to help you. But, Cyril, my faith never falters at all. And I tell you why. Not only do I know Guy didn't do it, but I know who did it. The man who murdered Montague Nevitt is--why shouldn't I tell you?--Mr. Gilbert Gildersleeve!"

Cyril started back astonished. "Oh, Elma, why do you think so?" he cried in amazement. "What possible reason can you have for saying so?"

"None," Elma answered, with a calmly resigned air. "I only know it; I know it from his eyes. I looked in them once and read it like a book. But of course that's nothing. What we must do now is to try and find out the facts. I looked in his eyes and I saw it at a glance. And I saw he saw it. He knows I've discovered him."

Cyril half drew away from her with a faint sense of alarm. "Elma," he said slowly, "I believe in Guy; but really and truly I can't quite believe that. You make your intuition tell you far too much. In your natural anxiety to screen my brother, you've fixed the guilt, without proof, upon another innocent man. I'm sure Mr. Gildersleeve's as incapable as Guy of any such action."

"And I'm sure of it, too," Elma answered, with the instinctive certainty of feminine conviction. "But still I know, for all that, he did it. Perhaps it was all done in a moment of haste. But at least he did it. And nothing on earth that anybody could say will ever make me believe he didn't."

When Mrs. Clifford came back to the hotel an hour later, she scanned her daughter's face with a keen glance of inquiry.

"Well, he says he won't ask you again," she murmured, laying Elma's head on her shoulder, "till this case is cleared up, and Guy is proved innocent."

"Yes," Elma answered, nestling close and looking red as a rose. "He knows very well Guy didn't do it, but he wants all the rest of the world to acknowledge it also."

"And you know who did it?" Mrs, Clifford said, with a tentative air.

"Yes, mother. Do you?"

"Of course I do, darling. But it'll never be proved against him, you may be sure. I saw it at a glance. It's Mr. Gilbert Gildersleeve."