Chapter XL. The Bolt Falls.
 

All the way home on that long journey from Cape Town, as the two half-brothers lounged on deck together in their canvas chairs, Granville Kelmscott was wholly at a loss to understand what seemed to him Guy Waring's unaccountable and almost incredible levity. The man's conduct didn't in the least resemble that of a person who is returning to give himself up on a charge of wilful murder. On the contrary, Guy showed no signs of remorse or mental agony in any way; he seemed rather elated, instead, at the pleasing thought that he was going home, with his diamonds all turned at the Cape into solid coin, to make his peace once more with his brother Cyril.

To be sure, at times he did casually allude to some expected unpleasantness when he arrived in England; yet he treated it, Granville noticed, as though hanging were at worst but a temporary inconvenience. Granville wondered whether, after all, he could have some complete and crushing answer to that appalling charge; on any other supposition, his spirits and his talk were really little short of what one might expect from a madman.

And indeed, now and again, Granville did really begin to suspect that something had gone wrong somewhere with Guy Waring's intellect. The more he thought over it, the more likely did this seem, for Guy talked on with the greatest composure about his plans for the future "when this difficulty was cleared up," as though a trial for murder were a most ordinary occurrence--an accident that might happen to any gentleman any day. And, if so, was it possible that Guy had gone wrong in his head before the affray with Montague Nevitt? That seemed likely enough; for when Granville remembered Guy's invariable gentleness and kindness to himself, his devotion in sickness and in the trials of the desert, his obvious aversion to do harm to any one, and, above all, his heartfelt objection to shedding human blood, Granville was constrained to believe his newly found half-brother, if ever he committed the murder at all, must have committed it while in a state of unsound mind, deserving rather of pity than of moral reprehension. He comforted himself, indeed, with this consoling idea--he could never believe a Kelmscott of Tilgate, when clothed and in his right mind, could be guilty of such a detestable and motiveless crime as the wilful murder of Montague Nevitt.

Strangely enough, moreover, the subject that seemed most to occupy Guy Waring's mind, on the voyage home, was not his forthcoming trial on a capital charge, but the future distribution of the Tilgate property. Was he essentially a money-grubber, Granville wondered to himself, as he had thought him at first in the diamond fields in Barolong land? Was he incapable of thinking about anything but filthy lucre? No; that was clearly not the true solution of the problem, for, whenever Guy spoke to him about the subject, it was generally to say one and the self-same thing--

"In this matter, I feel I can speak for Cyril as I speak for myself. Neither of us would wish to deprive you now of what you've always been brought up to consider as your own. Neither of us would wish to dispossess Lady Emily. The most we would desire is this--to have our position openly acknowledged and settled before the world. We should like it to be known we were the lawful sons of a brave man and an honest woman. And if you wish voluntarily to share with us some part of our father's estate, we'll be willing to enter into a reasonable arrangement by which yon yourself can retain Tilgate Park and the mass of the property that immediately appertains to it. I'm sure Cyril would no more wish to be grasping in this matter than I am; and after all that you and I have gone through together, Granville, I don't think yon need doubt the sincerity of my feelings towards you."

He spoke so sensibly, he spoke so manfully, he spoke so kindly always, with a bright gleam in those tender eyes, that Granville hardly knew what to make of his evident confidence. Surely a man couldn't be mad who could speak like that; and yet, whenever he alluded in any way to his return to England, it was always as though he ignored the gravity and heinousness of the charge brought against him. It was as though murder was an accident, for which one was hardly responsible. Granville couldn't make him out at all; the fellow was an enigma to him. There was so much that was good in him; and yet, there must be so much that was bad as well. He was such a delicate, considerate, self-effacing gentleman--and yet, if one could believe what he himself more than once as good as admitted, he was a criminal, a felon, an open murderer.

Still, even so, Granville couldn't turn his back upon the brother who had seen him so bravely across the terrors of Namaqua land. He thought of how he had misjudged him once before, and how much he had repented it. Whether Guy was a murderer or not, Granville felt, the man he had saved, at least, could never forsake him.

The night before their arrival at Plymouth, Guy was in unusually high spirits. His mirth was contagious. Everybody on board was delighted at the prospect of reaching land, but Guy was more delighted and more sanguine than anybody. He was sure in his own mind this difficulty must have blown over long before now; Cyril must have explained; Nevitt must have confessed; everything must have been set right, and his own good name satisfactorily rehabilitated. For more than eighteen months he had heard nothing from England. To-morrow he would see Cyril, and account for everything. He had money to set all right--his hard-earned money, got at the risk of his own life in the dreary deserts of Barolong land. All would yet be well, and Cyril would marry, and Elma Clifford would be the mistress of nearly half the Tilgate property.

"It was all so different, Granville," he said to his friend confidentially, as they paced the deck after supper, cigar in mouth, "when you first went out, and we didn't know one another. Then, I distrusted you, and you distrusted me. We didn't understand one another's characters. But now we can settle it all as a family affair. Men who have camped out together under the open sky on the African veldt, who have run the gauntlet of Korannas and Barolong and Namaqua, who have stood by one another in sickness and in fight, needn't be afraid of disagreeing about their money matters in England. Cyril will meet us to-morrow and talk it all over, and I'm not the least troubled about the result, either for you or for him. The same blood runs in all our veins alike. Whatever you propose, he'll be ready to agree to. He's the very best fellow that ever lived, and when he hears what I have to say about you, he'll welcome you as a brother, and be as fond of you as I am."

Next morning early they reached Plymouth Harbour. As they entered the mouth of the breakwater, the tender came alongside to convey them ashore. Guy looked over the bulwarks and saw Cyril waiting for him. In a fervour of delight at the sight of the green fields and the soft hills of old England--the beautiful Hoe, and the solid stone houses, and the familiar face turned up to welcome him--Guy waved his handkerchief round and round his head in triumph; to which demonstration Cyril, as he fancied, responded but coldly. A chill fell upon his heart. This was bad, but still, after all, he could hardly expect Cyril to know intuitively under what sinister influence he had signed that fatal cheque. And yet he was disappointed. His heart had jumped so hard at sight of Cyril, he could hardly believe Cyril wasn't glad to see him.

As he stepped into the tender from the gangway, just ready to rush up and shake Cyril's hand fervently, a resolute-looking man by the side of the steps laid a very firm grip on his shoulder with an air of authority.

"Guy Waring?" he said interrogatively.

And Guy, turning pale, answered without flinching--

"Yes, my name's Guy Waring."

"Then you're my prisoner," the man said, in a very firm voice. "I'm an inspector of constabulary."

"On what charge?" Guy exclaimed, half taken aback at this promptitude.

"I have a warrant against you, sir," the inspector answered, "as you are no doubt aware, for the wilful murder of Montague Nevitt, on the 17th of August, year before last, at Mambury, in Devonshire."

The word's fell upon Guy's ears with all the suddenness and crushing force of an unexpected thunderbolt.

"Wilful murder," he cried, taken aback by the charge. "Wilful murder of Montague Nevitt at Mambury! Oh no, you can't mean that! Montague Nevitt dead! Montague Nevitt murdered! And at Mambury, too! There must be some mistake somewhere."

"No, there's no mistake at all, this time," the inspector said quietly, slipping a pair of handcuffs unobstrusively into his pocket as he spoke. "If you come along with me without any unnecessary noise, we won't trouble to iron you. But you'd better say as little as possible about the charget just now, for whatever you say may be used in evidence at the trial against you."

Guy turned to Cyril with an appealing look. "Cyril," he, cried, "what does all this mean? Is Nevitt dead? It's the very first word I've ever heard about it."

Cyril's heart gave a bound of wild relief at those words. The moment Guy said it his brother knew he spoke the simple truth.

"Why, Guy," he answered, with a fierce burst of joy, "then you're not a murderer after all? You're innocent! You're innocent! And for eighteen months all England has thought you guilty; and I've lived under the burden of being universally considered a murderer's brother!"

Guy looked him back in the face with those truthful grey eyes of his.

"Cyril," he said solemnly, "I'm as innocent of this charge as you or Granville Kelmscott here. I never even heard one whisper of it before. I don't know what it means. I don't know who they want. Till this moment I thought Montague Nevitt was still alive in England."

And as he said it, Granville Kelmscott, too, saw he was speaking the truth. Impossible as he found it in his own mind to reconcile those strange words with all that Guy had said to him in the wilds of Namaqua land, he couldn't look him in the face without seeing at a glance how profound and unexpected was this sudden surprise to him. He was right in saying, "I'm as innocent of this charge as you or Granville Kelmscott."

But the inspector only smiled a cynical smile, and answered calmly--

"That's for the jury to decide. We shall hear more of this then. You'll be tried at the assizes. Meanwhile, the less said, the sooner mended."