Two on a Tower
Next morning Viviette received a visit from Mr. Cecil himself. He informed her that the
box spoken of by the servant had arrived quite unexpectedly just after the departure of his
clerk on the previous evening. There had not been sufficient time for him to thoroughly
examine it as yet, but he had seen enough to enable him to state that it contained letters,
dated memoranda in Sir Blount's handwriting, notes referring to events which had
happened later than his supposed death, and other irrefragable proofs that the account in
the newspapers was correct as to the main fact--the comparatively recent date of Sir
She looked up, and spoke with the irresponsible helplessness of a child.
'On reviewing the circumstances, I cannot think how I could have allowed myself to
believe the first tidings!' she said.
'Everybody else believed them, and why should you not have done so?' said the lawyer.
'How came the will to be permitted to be proved, as there could, after all, have been no
complete evidence?' she asked. 'If I had been the executrix I would not have attempted it!
As I was not, I know very little about how the business was pushed through. In a very
unseemly way, I think.'
'Well, no,' said Mr. Cecil, feeling himself morally called upon to defend legal procedure
from such imputations. 'It was done in the usual way in all cases where the proof of death
is only presumptive. The evidence, such as it was, was laid before the court by the
applicants, your husband's cousins; and the servants who had been with him deposed to
his death with a particularity that was deemed sufficient. Their error was, not that
somebody died--for somebody did die at the time affirmed--but that they mistook one
person for another; the person who died being not Sir Blount Constantine. The court was
of opinion that the evidence led up to a reasonable inference that the deceased was
actually Sir Blount, and probate was granted on the strength of it. As there was a doubt
about the exact day of the month, the applicants were allowed to swear that he died on or
after the date last given of his existence--which, in spite of their error then, has really
come true, now, of course.'
'They little think what they have done to me by being so ready to swear!' she murmured.
Mr. Cecil, supposing her to allude only to the pecuniary straits in which she had been
prematurely placed by the will taking effect a year before its due time, said, 'True. It has
been to your ladyship's loss, and to their gain. But they will make ample restitution, no
doubt: and all will be wound up satisfactorily.'
Lady Constantine was far from explaining that this was not her meaning; and, after some
further conversation of a purely technical nature, Mr. Cecil left her presence.