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HOME > Classical Novels > A Traitor in London > CHAPTER XII. A STORY OF THE PAST.
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The old man sprang up with the light of fury in his pale eyes and flung himself on Van Zwieten. For an instant he was more than a match for the big Dutchman.

"How dare you--I have no brother," he gasped. Then as suddenly this strength, born of anger, went out of him, and he became weak as a child. Van Zwieten picked him up like a baby and flung him roughly into a chair.

"Sit there," he said sternly. "I mean to know the whole of this story," and he busied himself lighting the lamp.

"There is--no--no story."

"There is, and, what\'s more, you will tell it to me."

"I won\'t," cried Mr. Scarse, shivering and forgetting his previous denial. "You can\'t force me to speak."

"I can--I will," said the Dutchman, grimly. Then, the lamp being lighted, he sat down in an armchair on the other side of the fireplace opposite to his host and produced a cigar. "Begin, please."

Scarse staggered to his feet--he was shaken by his own nerves and Van Zwieten\'s rough treatment--and moved slowly toward the door. The Dutchman rose and ran past him with a lightness and speed surprising in so heavy a man. He reached the door before Mr. Scarse did. The next moment it was locked and the key in Van Zwieten\'s pocket. "Go back to your seat, please," said Van Zwieten, politely.

"I won\'t--I am master here," cried the old man, his voice shrill with anger. "What do you mean by treating me like this? I\'ll call the police."

The Dutchman pulled out the key and held it toward Scarse. "As you please," he said with a sneer. "Call the police and I\'ll give you in charge."

"Give me in charge, you villain!--for what?"

"For murdering Gilbert Malet. Aha, my dear friend, you did not count on my knowing that, did you? You are quite unaware that I followed you from your cottage into the orchards, where you----"

"I did not--I did not!" wailed Scarse, shrinking back.

"No, you did not," retorted Van Zwieten, "but you were near the spot where Malet was killed, and near it about the time he was shot. You will find it difficult to refute my evidence if I am compelled to give it. On the whole, Mr. Stuart Scarse, I think you had better sit down and talk sensibly."

Scarse glared like an angry cat. But physically and morally the Dutchman was too much for him. With an attempt at dignity he returned to his seat.

"I am at a loss to understand this extraordinary behavior, Mr. Van Zwieten," he said, in his most stately manner, "and I deny the shameful accusation you have made. Perhaps you will be kind enough to apologize and leave my rooms."

"My dear friend, I shall do neither." Van Zwieten carefully lighted his cigar. "I am waiting to hear the story."

"What story?" asked the other, willfully misunderstanding.

"The story about your brother and his visit to Chippingholt--to murder our dear friend. I know some of it from your brother, but----"

"I have no brother, I tell you!"

"Oh, yes, I think so. A twin brother named--Robert--Robert Scarse."

"He is dead to me."

"Ah, that is quite another thing. He has come to life for the purpose of throwing some light on this mystery. Indeed, I think you had better tell me why he murdered Gilbert Malet."

"He did not murder him."

"Oh, yes, he did; and I should like to have details, please--his motive and all that."

"I refuse to give them to you."

Van Zwieten rose and buttoned his coat. "Very good," said he; "then I shall see a magistrate and tell him all I know."

"What do you know?"

"Sufficient to have Robert arrested for the murder, and you as his accomplice."

Mr. Scarse shivered again, and bit his lip. Then he seemed to make up his mind.

"Sit down. Don\'t be in a hurry. I will tell you all I can. Of course you will keep secret what I tell you."

"Of course! I never talk without good reason. So you have a twin brother?"

"Yes; Robert. He is--he--he is not in his right mind."

"So I should think from his talk and his extraordinary apparel. A black crape scarf is quite original. By the way, your daughter saw him to-day."

"Brenda?" cried Scarse, horrified. "Then she knows----"

"Nothing--except that Robert is wonderfully like you. I got him away before she could speak to him. This I did for your sake--and my own!"

"You wish to make quite sure of getting Brenda--to force me!"

"Not exactly that," smiled Van Zwieten, "since I know that you are already quite willing she should marry me. But I wish to use the knowledge to force her into giving up Burton and becoming my wife."

"You would tell her of Robert\'s existence?"

"Not if I could help myself," said the Dutchman, politely. "Believe me, my dear friend, I am very discreet. You can safely confide in me."

"It seems I am forced to," grumbled Mr. Scarse, ungraciously. "What is it you particularly wish to know?"

"The whole story about your brother, and why you deny him. I am sure it will be most interesting. Go on, please, I am waiting."

Mr. Scarse looked at his tyrant savagely. He would dearly have liked to refuse, but he realized that he was on perilous ground. Van Zwieten knew just enough to be dangerous. He must not be allowed to make use of his knowledge, even if he had to be told more. Besides, Mr. Scarse was satisfied that for Brenda\'s sake he would keep quiet. Therefore he made a virtue of necessity and launched at once into a family history, of which in no other circumstances would he have spoken to any living soul. It was the very fact of the Dutchman\'s having it in his power to force his confidence that angered him. No man likes to be coerced.

"I don\'t think the story will interest you much," he said, sulkily; "but such as it is, I will relate it. Robert Scarse is my twin brother, and is as like me as it is possible for one man to be like another. His appearance deceived young Burton and the Chippingholt folk."

"I know they took him for you. And on account of that scarf they paid you the compliment of thinking you were out of your mind."

Mr. Scarse shrugged his shoulders. "As if I cared," he said contemptuously. "My speeches in the House prove that I am sane enough. Well, Robert is my brother, and I was--I am--very fond of him. My sister Julia--Mrs. St. Leger, you know--never liked him, and when we cast him off she made up her mind to regard him as dead. She never even admits that she has a brother. I am her only relative--at least the only one she acknowledges."

"And why, pray, was Robert cast off thus, and by his affectionate twin?"

"Don\'t be sarcastic, Van Zwieten, it does not suit you," snapped Scarse. "My brother was a bad lot. At school and college he led the authorities a devil of a dance until he was expelled. When he came to London he took to gambling and drinking. I was never like that. My one desire was to get into Parliament, where my father had been before me, and serve my country. My sister married St. Leger--he was a subaltern then--and went out to India. My mother died, and there was no one to check Robert\'s pranks. My father paid his debts so often that we became quite impoverished. That is why I am so poor."

"Are you poor?" asked............
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