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The Old Man in the Corner

XXXII. A High-Bred Gentleman
"The central figure in the coroner's court that day was undoubtedly the Earl of
Brockelsby in deep black, which contrasted strongly with his florid complexion and fair
hair. Sir Marmaduke Ingersoll, his solicitor, was with him, and he had already performed
the painful duty of identifying the deceased as his brother. This had been an exceedingly
painful duty owing to the terribly mutilated state of the body and face; but the clothes and
various trinkets he wore, including a signet ring, had fortunately not tempted the brutal
assassin, and it was through them chiefly that Lord Brockelsby was able to swear to the
identity of his brother.
"The various employés at the hotel gave evidence as to the discovery of the body, and the
medical officer gave his opinion as to the immediate cause of death. Deceased had
evidently been struck at the back of the head with a poker or heavy stick, the murderer
then venting his blind fury upon the body by battering in the face and bruising it in a way
that certainly suggested the work of a maniac.
"Then the Earl of Brockelsby was called, and was requested by the coroner to state when
he had last seen his brother alive.
"'The morning before his death,' replied his lordship, 'he came up to Birmingham by an
early train, and I drove up from Brockelsby to see him. I got to the hotel at eleven o'clock
and stayed with him for about an hour.'
"'And that is the last you saw of the deceased?'
"'That is the last I saw of him,' replied Lord Brockelsby.
"He seemed to hesitate for a moment or two as if in thought whether he should speak or
not, and then to suddenly make up his mind to speak, for he added: 'I stayed in town the
whole of that day, and only drove back to Brockelsby late in the evening. I had some
business to transact, and put up at the Grand, as I usually do, and dined with some
friends.'
"'Would you tell us at what time you returned to Brockelsby Castle?'
"'I think it must have been about eleven o'clock. It is a seven-mile drive from here.'
"'I believe,' said the coroner after a slight pause, during which the attention of all the
spectators was riveted upon the handsome figure of the young man as he stood in the
witness-box, the very personification of a high-bred gentleman, 'I believe that I am right
in stating that there was an unfortunate legal dispute between your lordship and your
brother?'
"'That is so.'
 
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