That Mainwaring Affair

Contents:
Author: Anna Maynard Barbour

Chapter XVI Mutual Explanations

Thanking the captain for his courtesy, Miss Carleton returned to her accustomed seat on deck, and, since one is never more alone than when surrounded by a crowd of utter strangers, she felt at liberty to pursue her own thoughts without interruption.

She could scarcely credit what her own ears had heard or her eyes had seen. Harold Scott Mainwaring! What could it mean? Could it be possible that the secretary, having familiarized himself with the family history of the Mainwarings, was now masquerading under an assumed name for some object of his own? But she dismissed this idea at once. She had assured him at Fair Oaks that she believed him incapable of anything false or dishonorable, and she would abide by that belief until convinced otherwise. But if this were indeed his name, what had been his object in assuming the role of Scott, the secretary? Which was genuine and which assumed? Who could tell? As if in answer to her thoughts, she saw the subject of them approaching. He was alone and looking in her direction, and on reading the recognition in her glance, his own face lighted with a smile that banished the last shade of resentment and suspicion from her mind, albeit there was a question in her eyes which prepared him in a measure for her first words. With a smile as bright as those with which she had been accustomed to greet him at Fair Oaks, she extended her band, saying, slowly,-

"Mr. Mainwaring, this is indeed a surprise!" She watched him closely, but there was not the quiver of an eyelash, only a slow, inscrutable smile, as he replied,-

"Miss Carleton, I will add to that, and say that this is the pleasantest surprise of my life."

She blushed at the implied meaning of his words, and he added,-

"I have not seen you on deck until to-day."

"Not last Friday evening?" she inquired, archly. His smile deepened. "I did not know that it was you at that time until after I had started below. Did you recognize me?"

"I thought I recognized your voice; and I have often wished to thank you for your kindness, but this is my first opportunity, as I have not been out since until to-day."

"Please do not mention it. Had I dreamed who it was thus braving the storm, I would have offered my assistance earlier. I have not yet recovered from my surprise on discovering the identity of my fellow-passenger that evening."

"Indeed!" laughed Miss Carleton; "my presence here is very easily explained. It is simply the result of one of Mrs. Mainwaring’s numerous whims, as she suddenly decided upon an immediate return to England. I think, however, that the surprise was mutual."

"Accordingly, I suppose that mutual explanations should follow," he answered, lightly. Then added, more seriously, "Miss Carleton, I am aware that there is much in my conduct that must seem inexplicable to you. In a few weeks everything will have been made clear, in the natural course of events; but, if you would be at all interested to hear, I would greatly prefer that you should have a perfect understanding of the situation before the facts become generally known."

"I should greatly appreciate such a mark of confidence," she replied.

"If agreeable to you, Miss Carleton, let us pass around to the other side; it is less crowded there. My friend and I have two chairs, and, as he has gone to his state-room to do some writing, we shall be in no danger of interruption."

When comfortably seated, the young man said, "It is a strange story which I have to tell, but I will try not to tax your patience too severely. One week ago this afternoon, Miss Carleton, in passing through the hall at Fair Oaks, I accidentally overheard a portion of your conversation with Mr. Whitney, as you related to him the story of the unfortunate love and death of my father, Harold Scott Mainwaring."

Miss Carleton started violently, but said nothing, and, after a slight pause, the speaker continued,-

"My earliest recollections are of a home in Australia, with foster-parents, whose name it is unnecessary to mention, but whose care and love for me seem, as I now look back, to have equalled that bestowed by natural parents upon their own child. Not until I had reached the age of fifteen years did I ever hear of my own father. I then learned that he had given me, at birth, into the keeping of my foster-parents, with instructions that, unless he himself should call for me, I was not even to know of his existence until within five or six years of my majority. I learned, further, that his action in thus placing me in the hands of others had been solely on account of deep trouble and sorrow, of which he wished me to know nothing until I had reached the years of manhood. When giving me into their keeping he had also given them a small packet, containing a sealed letter, which was to be read by me on my twenty-first birthday, if he had not himself claimed me before that time. I was told that, while I was too young to retain any remembrance of him, he frequently visited me and manifested the greatest devotion to his child, but as I grew older he remained away, writing occasionally to my foster-father.

"In the last letter received from him, when I was about five years of age, he stated that he was going to Africa to make a fortune for his son. Nothing further was heard from him until there came tidings of his death at sea, in the manner which you recently related.

"Of all this I, of course, knew nothing until ten years later, but what was told me at that time made a deep impression upon me. Of my mother I could learn absolutely nothing; but for my father, of whom I had no personal knowledge, and concerning whom there seemed so much that was mysterious, I felt a love and reverence almost akin to adoration, and I longed for the day to come when I could read the letter he had left for me and learn the whole secret of that sad life.

"My twenty-first birthday arrived, and the mysterious little packet was placed in my hands. It contained a few valuable keepsakes and my father’s letter, written out of the bitter anguish of a broken heart. He told the story of his disinheritance, with which you are familiar; but the loss of the property he cared little for in comparison with the loss of his father’s love; but even that was as nothing to the sorrow which followed swiftly and which broke his heart. He stated that, because of this great sorrow, he had placed me in the hands of trusted friends that I should be banished from the false-hearted woman who had borne me and who believed me dead, as it was his wish that neither of us should ever know of the existence of the other."

Harold Mainwaring paused for a moment, and Miss Carleton, who had been listening with great interest, exclaimed, -

"And is it possible, Mr. Mainwaring, that, in all these years, you have had no knowledge concerning your mother?"

"It is a fact, Miss Carleton, that I do not even know her name, or whether or not she is living. I only hope and pray that I may never knowingly meet her, for her heart and life must be - pardon the expression - as false and as black as hell itself."

There was a look on his face which Miss Carleton had never seen. Gradually, however, his features softened, and he continued,-

"In accordance with my father’s wish, expressed in the letter, that I should complete my studies in England, I sailed for that country within a few weeks of my twenty-first birthday; and while there I learned that part of my story which is of more especial interest to all parties concerned at the present time.

"I had been but a few months in England when I felt a great desire to visit, incognito, the old Mainwaring estate. Accordingly, under the name by which you have known me, I arrived at the estate, only to learn that the home of my father’s boyhood, and of the Mainwarings for several generations, had passed into the hands of strangers. My grandfather had died within two years of my father’s marriage, and the younger son had sold the estate and gone to America. Incidentally, I was directed to an old servant of my grandfather’s, who yet remained on the place and who could give me its whole history. That servant, Miss Carleton, was old James Wilson, the father of John Wilson, Ralph Mainwaring’s present valet."

"Ah!" ejaculated Miss Carleton, her face lighting with pleasure; "I have seen the trusty old fellow hundreds of times, you know. Indeed, he could give you the history of all the Mainwarings for the last three hundred years."

"He gave me one very important bit of history," Harold Mainwaring replied, with a smile. "He told me that old Ralph Mainwaring, after the departure of his son for Australia, failed rapidly. He was slowly but surely dying of a broken heart, and, though he never mentioned the name of his elder son, it was evident that he regretted his own harshness and severity towards him.

"On the night before his death he suddenly gave orders for an attorney to be summoned, and was so insistent in his demand, that, when it was ascertained that his old solicitor, Alfred Barton, the father of the present firm of Barton & Barton, had been called out of the city, a young lawyer, Richard Hobson by name, who had formerly been an articled clerk in Barton’s office, was called in in his stead. A little before the hour of midnight, in the presence of his son, Hugh Mainwaring, Richard Hobson, the attorney, and Alexander McPherson, an old and trusted Scotch friend, Ralph Mainwaring caused to be drawn and executed a will, completely revoking and setting aside the process of law by which Harold Scott Mainwaring had been disinherited, and restoring to him his full rights as the elder son, McPherson and the attorney signing the will as witnesses."

Miss Carleton’s eyes dilated and her breath came and went swiftly, but she spoke no word save a single, quick exclamation.

"James Wilson, the servant, was also present, but in an obscure corner, and his presence seems to have been unnoticed. The next morning, at five o’clock, Ralph Mainwaring passed away, happy in the thought that he had at last made reparation for his injustice to his elder son. Within two months the old Scotchman died, and Richard Hobson was then the sole surviving witness of the last will and testament of Ralph Maxwell Mainwaring.

"This was all the direct information I could obtain from Wilson, but from other sources I learned that Hugh Mainwaring was never the same after his father’s death. He grew stern and taciturn, and would allow no mention of his brother’s name, and within two years he had disposed of the estate and left England forever; while a few years later tidings were received of the death of Harold Scott Mainwaring at sea. I also learned that about this time Richard Hobson suddenly rose from the position of a penniless pettifogger to that of an affluent attorney, though he was engaged in questionable speculations far more than in the practice of law.

"I visited the chambers of Barton & Barton, and learned through them that everything had been adjusted in accordance with the terms of the will in their possession, which disinherited the elder son; but Hugh Mainwaring’s action in disposing of the estate had excited considerable comment.

"Having pledged them to secrecy, I disclosed my identity and related to them the story of the old servant. To my surprise, they were inclined to give the story credence; and, acting upon their advice, I obtained all possible information regarding Hugh Mainwaring, and, when my studies were completed, sailed for America, with the express determination to secure proof in verification of the facts which I had already gathered, and to establish my claim as the legal heir of the Mainwaring estate. I was not without means to do this, as my father had accumulated considerable property during the few years he lived in Australia, and my foster-parents are people of wealth.

"You will understand now, Miss Carleton, why I took the position of private secretary to Hugh Mainwaring. You will realize how eagerly I studied the correspondence between him and Richard Hobson, from which I learned that the latter was extorting large sums of money as the price of his silence regarding some fraudulent transaction, presumably the destruction of the will; and perhaps you can imagine my feelings on discovering, one day, among Hugh Mainwaring’s private papers, a memorandum to the effect that the will had never been destroyed, but was still in existence and in his possession. I knew that to make any demand upon him for the document would be worse than useless, as he would never admit my claim. I must find it for myself. I searched for that will as for hidden treasure, and, Miss Carleton, I found it!"

"Oh!" she exclaimed, unable to repress her emotion, "I am so glad! Do tell me how and when!"

"I found it on the last day of Hugh Mainwaring’s life, within two hours after he had signed his own last will and testament."

"What a strange coincidence!"

"It was strange; and it was my discovery on that day which formed the subject of my thoughts on the following night, the night of the murder, and which kept me pacing my room until three o’clock in the morning."

"Did Mr. Mainwaring know of your discovery?"

"No; I had no opportunity to see him that evening until too late, even if I had chosen to broach the subject to him at that time."

"Might he not have discovered in some way that you had found the will?"

"I think not. Why do you inquire?"

"It only occurred to me if it might not be possible that he had reason to think his secret had at last been discovered, and, rather than face the consequences, committed suicide; but it seems improbable. But to think that you are the son of the one whom I have always considered the noblest of all the Mainwarings, and that you, and not Hugh, are the rightful heir to the old Mainwaring estate! I am more than glad, and Hugh will be glad also. He will not begrudge you one shilling or have one unkind thought towards you, though I cannot say the same for his father."

"Hugh is a noble-hearted fellow," said Harold, warmly. "He has promised me his friendship, and I believe he will stand by it."

He spoke briefly of his plans; of his business in London for a few days; and, when the will should have been probated in the English court, of his return to America to establish his claim there.

"Mr. Mainwaring," said Miss Carleton, after a pause, "I am inexpressibly glad to learn what you have told me, and you have my sincerest wishes for your immediate success. I appreciate, more than I can tell, your confidence in permitting me to be the first to know of your good fortune. May I be the first to congratulate you?"

He took the proffered hand; but, looking into the beautiful eyes sparkling with happiness, his own face grew serious, as he replied,-

"I thank you for your congratulations and your good wishes, Miss Carleton, but I sometimes question whether my discovery, on that particular day, of the will - the last link in the chain of evidence against Hugh Mainwaring - was a matter for congratulation."

"How is that?" she inquired, quickly.

"Do you not see that when all these facts become known, they may be used by my enemies to direct suspicion against me as the possible murderer of Hugh Mainwaring?"

"Who would think of such a thing?" she exclaimed, indignantly.

"Ralph Mainwaring will," was his prompt reply.

"He might try to incite the suspicions of others against you, but he would know in his own heart that his insinuations were unfounded."

"I have no fear of him," said Harold, with a smile; "I only mentioned it to show that I do not anticipate upon my return to America that my pathway will be strewn with roses."

He paused a moment, then added, "I had this in mind, Miss Carleton, when I asked you once whether your confidence in me were strong enough to stand a heavy strain, if necessary."

She blushed slightly at the reminder, and a look of quick comprehension flashed across her face, as, for an instant, she dropped her eyes before his earnest gaze. When she again looked up the luminous eyes met his own unwaveringly, as she replied, in firm, low tones,-

"I will believe in you and trust you to the fullest extent, whatever happens."

"I thank you more than I can express," he answered, gravely; "for, believe me, Miss Carleton, I value your confidence and friendship far above any and every other."

"I did not suppose you needed any assurance of my friendship; though, after your sudden departure from Fair Oaks, I felt somewhat doubtful whether you cared for it."

He did not reply at once, and when he did, it was evident he was repressing some strong emotion. "I feel that there is an explanation due you for my manner of leaving Fair Oaks. I am aware that it had the appearance of rudeness, but I can only say that it was from necessity and not from choice. There is something more which I hope some day to tell you, Miss Carleton, but, until I can speak as I wish to speak, it is best to remain silent; meanwhile, I will trust to your friendship to pardon whatever in my conduct may seem abrupt or inexplicable."

The conversation was terminated at this point by the appearance of Lieutenant Cohen, whom Harold Mainwaring introduced as an old classmate, and presently all three adjourned to the dining-saloon.

To Harold Mainwaring and Miss Carleton the remainder of the voyage passed swiftly and pleasantly, and the friendship begun at Fair Oaks deepened with each succeeding day. Though no word of love passed between them, and though Miss Carleton sometimes detected on the part of her companion a studied avoidance of personal subjects, yet, while wondering slightly at his self-imposed silence, she often read in his dark eyes a language more eloquent than words, and was content to wait.

It was his desire that the other members of her party should still remain in ignorance of his real identity; and, as the greater part of the voyage proved somewhat rough, he had little difficulty in preserving his secret. Mr. Thornton and daughter soon made their appearance and greeted the quondam secretary with unaffected cordiality, but Mr. Thornton was too deeply engrossed in renewing acquaintance with one or two old friends to pay much attention to the younger man, while Edith felt in duty bound to devote herself to the entertainment of Mrs. Mainwaring and Isabel, a task which Miss Carleton was not at all disposed to share. Not until the last few hours of the trip, when fair weather had become an established fact and land had been sighted, did Mrs. Mainwaring and her daughter appear on deck, and in the general excitement Harold Mainwaring escaped their observation.

The parting between himself and Miss Carleton was necessarily brief. She gave him her address, saying,-

"I would be delighted if you could consider yourself our guest while in London, and I hope at least that I may see you often before your return."

"I thank you, Miss Carleton," he replied. "If present circumstances would admit of it, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to accept your invitation, but under existing conditions it is, of course, impracticable. I cannot now say how long I will remain in London, but I wish to make my stay as brief as possible, and to that end shall devote almost my entire time to business; but," he added, with a peculiar smile, "I shall not repeat the offence committed at Fair Oaks. You may rest assured I shall not return to America without seeing you, and I hope at that time to be able to speak more definitely regarding my future."

There was that in his eyes as he spoke that suffused the fair English face with lovely color and caused a tender, wistful smile to linger about the sweet mouth long after he had left her side.

He was one of the first to land, and Miss Carleton, watching from the deck, saw, almost as soon as he had reached the pier, a fine-looking gentleman in the prime of life step quickly out from, the crowd, and, grasping him cordially by the hand, enter at once into earnest conversation. Harold Mainwaring turned towards the steamer for a parting salute, and, as both gentlemen raised their hats, she recognized in the new-comer, Alfred Barton, the junior member of the firm of Barton & Barton. She watched them until they disappeared in the crowd, then, turning to rejoin her companions, she noted, standing at a little distance, the slender, dark-eyed individual whom she had observed on previous occasions, also watching the scene with a smile of quiet satisfaction, much like that which Mr. Merrick’s face had worn at the beginning of the Voyage.

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Chicago: Anna Maynard Barbour, "Chapter XVI Mutual Explanations," That Mainwaring Affair in That Mainwaring Affair (New York: The Century Co., 1918), Original Sources, accessed September 21, 2018, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CMS7HYHXY8U7X5W.

MLA: Barbour, Anna Maynard. "Chapter XVI Mutual Explanations." That Mainwaring Affair, in That Mainwaring Affair, New York, The Century Co., 1918, Original Sources. 21 Sep. 2018. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CMS7HYHXY8U7X5W.

Harvard: Barbour, AM, 'Chapter XVI Mutual Explanations' in That Mainwaring Affair. cited in 1918, That Mainwaring Affair, The Century Co., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 21 September 2018, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=CMS7HYHXY8U7X5W.