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Title: Unravelled Knots
Author: Orczy, Emmuska Orczy, Baroness
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Unravelled Knots" ***






  COPYRIGHT, 1923, 1924, 1925, AND 1926,

  COPYRIGHT, 1924,



















  New York: George H. Doran Company





I cannot pretend to say how it all happened.  I can but relate what
occurred, leaving those of my friends who are versed in psychic
matters to find a plausible explanation for the fact that on that
horrible foggy afternoon I chanced to walk into that blameless
teashop at that particular hour.

Now, I had not been inside a teashop for years, and I had almost
ceased to think of the Old Man in the Corner--the weird, spook-like
creature with the baggy trousers, the huge horn-rimmed spectacles,
and the thin claw-like hands that went on fidgeting, fidgeting,
fidgeting with a piece of string, tying it with nervy deliberation
into innumerable and complicated knots.

And yet, when I walked into that teashop and saw him sitting in the
corner by the fire, I was hardly conscious of surprise, but I did not
think that he would recognise me.  So I sat down at the next table to
him, and when I thought that he was most intent on fidgeting with his
piece of string, I stole surreptitious glances at him.  The years
seemed to have passed him by; he was just the same; his face no more
wrinkled; his fingers were as agile and restless as they had been
when last I saw him twenty years ago.

Then all at once he spoke, just as he used to do, in the same cracked
voice with the dry, ironic chuckle.

"One of the most interesting cases it has ever been my good fortune
to investigate," he said.  I had not realised that he had seen me,
and I gave such a startled jump that I spilt half a cup of tea on my
frock.  With a long, bony finger he was pointing to a copy of the
_Express Post_, which lay beside his plate, and almost against my
will my eyes wandered to the flaring headline: "The Mystery of the
Khaki Tunic."

Then I looked up inquiringly at my pixy-like interlocutor.  It never
occurred to me to make a conventional little speech about the lapse
of time since last we met; for the moment I had the feeling as if I
had seen him the day before.

"You are still interested in criminology, then?" I asked.

"More than ever," he replied with a bland smile, "and this case has
given me some of the most delightful moments I have ever experienced
in connection with my studies.  I have watched the police committing
one blunder after another, and to-day, when they are completely
baffled and the public has started to write letters to the papers
about another undetected crime and another criminal at large, I am
having the time of my life."

"Of course, you have made up your mind," I retorted with what I felt
was withering sarcasm.

"I have arrived at the only possible solution of the mystery," he
replied, unperturbed, "and you will do the same when I have put the
facts clearly and logically before you.  As for the police, let 'em
flounder," he went on complacently.  "For me it has been an exciting
drama to watch from beginning to end.  Every one of the characters in
it stands out before me like a clear-cut cameo.

"There was Miss Mary Clarke, a quiet, middle-aged woman who rented
Hardacres from Lord Foremeere.  She had taken the place soon after
the Armistice, and ran a poultry farm there on a small scale with the
occasional assistance of her brother Arthur, an ex-officer in the
East Glebeshires, a young man who had an excellent war-record, but
who seemed, like so many other young men of his kind, to have fallen
into somewhat shiftless and lazy ways since the glorious peace.

"No doubt you know the geography of the place.  The halfpenny papers
have been full of maps and plans of Hardacres.  It is rather a lonely
house on the road between Langford and Barchester, about
three-quarters of a mile from Meere village.  Meere Court is another
half-mile or so farther on, the house hidden by clumps of stately
trees, above which can be perceived the towers of Barchester

"Very little seems to have been known about Miss Clarke in the
neighbourhood; she seemed to be fairly well-to-do and undoubtedly a
cut above the village folk, but, equally obviously, she did not
belong to the county set.  Nor did she encourage visitors, not even
the vicar; she seldom went to church, and neither went to parties nor
ever asked any one to tea; she did most of her shopping herself, in
Meere, and sold her poultry and eggs to Mr. Brook, the local dealer,
who served all the best houses for miles around.  Every morning at
seven o'clock a girl from the village, named Emily Baker, came in to
do the housework at Hardacres, and left again after the mid-day
dinner.  Once a week regularly, Miss Clarke called at Meere Court.
Always on a Friday.  She walked over in the afternoon, whatever the
weather, brought a large basket of eggs with her, and was shown,
without ever being kept waiting, straight into Lady Foremeere's
sitting-room.  The interview lasted about ten minutes, sometimes
more, and then she would be shown out again.

"Mind you," the funny creature went on glibly, and raising a long,
pointed finger to emphasise his words, "no one seems to have thought
that there was anything mysterious about Miss Clarke.  The fact that
'she kept 'erself to 'erself' was not in itself a sign of anything
odd about her.  People, especially women, in outlying country
districts, often lead very self-centred, lonely lives; they arouse a
certain amount of curiosity when they first arrive in the
neighbourhood, but after a while gossip dies out if it is not fed,
and the hermit's estrangement from village life is tacitly accepted.

"On the other hand, Miss Clarke's brother Arthur was exceedingly
gregarious.  He was a crack tennis player and an excellent dancer,
and these two accomplishments procured him his entrée into the best
houses in the county--houses which, before the war, when people were
more fastidious in the choice of their guests, would no doubt have
not been quite so freely opened to him.

"It was common gossip that Arthur was deeply in love with April St.
Jude, Lord Foremeere's beautiful daughter by a previous marriage, but
public opinion was unanimous in the assertion that there never could
be any question of marriage between an extemporary gentleman without
money or property of any kind and the society beauty who had been
courted by some of the smartest and richest men in London.

"Nor did Arthur Clarke enjoy the best of reputations in the
neighbourhood.  He was over-fond of betting and loafing about the
public-houses of Barchester.  People said, that he might help his
sister in the farm more than he did, seeing that he did not appear to
have a sixpence of his own, and that she gave him bed and board, but
as he was very good-looking and could make himself very agreeable if
he chose, the women, at any rate, smiled at his misdeeds and were
content to call Arthur 'rather wild, but not really a bad boy.'

"Then came the tragedy.

"On the twenty-eighth of December last, when Emily Baker came to work
as usual, she was rather surprised not to see or hear Miss Clarke
moving about the place.  As a rule she was out in the yard by the
time Emily arrived; the chickens would have had their hot mash and
the empty pans would have been left for Emily to wash up.  But this
morning nothing.  In the girl's own words there was a creepy kind of
lonely feeling about the house.  She knew that Mr. Clarke was not at
home.  The day before the servants at Meere Court had their annual
Christmas party, and Mr. Clarke had been asked to help with the tree
and to entertain the children.  He had announced his intention of
putting up afterwards at the Deanery Hotel for the night, a thing he
was rather fond of doing whenever he was asked out to parties and did
not know what time he might be able to get away.

"Emily, when she arrived, had found the front door on the latch, as
usual, therefore, she reflected, Miss Clarke must have been
downstairs and drawn the bolts.  But where could she be now?  Never,
never would she have gone out before feeding her chickens, on such a
cold morning, too!

"At this point Emily gave up reflecting, and proceeded to action.
She went up to her mistress's room.  It was empty, and the bed had
not been slept in.  Genuinely alarmed now, she ran down again, her
next objective being the parlour.  The door was, as usual, locked on
the outside, but, contrary to precedent, the key was not in the lock;
thinking it had dropped out, the girl searched for it, but in vain,
and at one moment, when she moved the small mat which stood before
the door of the locked room, she at once became aware of an
over-powering smell of gas.

"This proved the death-blow to Emily's fortitude; she took to her
heels and ran out of the house and down the road toward the village,
nor did she halt until she came to the local police-station, where
she gave as coherent an account as she could of the terrible state of
things at Hardacres.

"You will remember that when the police broke open the door of the
parlour, the first thing they saw was the body of Miss Clarke lying
full-length on the floor.  The poor woman was quite dead, suffocated
by the poisonous fumes of gas which was fully turned on in the
old-fashioned chandelier above her head.  The one window had been
carefully latched, and the thick curtains closely drawn together; the
chimney had been stuffed up with newspaper and paper had been thrust
into every aperture so as to exclude the slightest possible breath of
air.  There was a wad of it in the keyhole, and the mat on the
landing outside had been carefully arranged against the door with the
same sinister object.

"The news spread like wildfire and soon the entire neighbourhood was
gloating over a sensation the like of which had not come its way for
generations past."


"The London evening papers got hold of the story for their noonday
edition," the Old Man in the Corner went on, after a slight pause,
"and I with my passion for the enigmatical and the perplexing, made
up my mind then and there to probe the mystery on my own account,
because I knew well enough that this was just the sort of case which
would send the county police blundering all over the wrong track.

"I arrived at Barchester on the Tuesday, in time for the inquest, but
nothing of much importance transpired that day.  Medical evidence
went to prove that the deceased had first been struck on the back of
the head by some heavy instrument, a weighted stick or something of
the sort, which had no doubt stunned her, but she actually died of
gas poisoning, which she inhaled in large quantities while she was
half-conscious.  The medical officer went on to say that Miss Clarke
must have been dead twelve hours or more when he was called in by the
police at about eight o'clock in the morning.

"After this, a couple of neighbours testified to having seen Miss
Clarke at her front door at about half-past five the previous
evening.  It was a very dark night, if you remember, and a thick
Scotch mist was falling.  When the neighbours went by, Miss Clarke
had apparently just introduced a visitor into her house, the gas was
alight in the small hall, and they had vaguely perceived the outline
of a man or woman, they could not swear which, in a huge coat,
standing for a moment immediately behind Miss Clarke; the neighbours
also heard Miss Clarke's voice speaking to her visitor, but what she
said they could not distinguish.  The weather was so atrocious that
every one who was abroad that night hurried along without taking much
notice of what went on around.

"Evidence of a more or less formal character followed, and the
inquest was then adjourned until the Friday, every one going away
with the feeling that sensational developments were already in the

"And the developments came tumbling in thick and fast.  To begin
with, it appears that Arthur Clarke, when first questioned by the
police, had made a somewhat lame statement.

"'I was asked,' he said, 'to help with the servants' Christmas party
at Meere Court.  I walked over to Barchester at about three o'clock
in the afternoon, with my suit-case, as I was going to spend the
night at the Deanery Hotel.  I went on to Meere Court soon after
half-past three, and stayed until past seven; after which I walked
back to the Deanery, had some dinner, and went early to bed.  I never
knew that anything had happened to my sister until the police
telephoned to me soon after eight o'clock the next morning.  And,' he
added, 'that's all about it!'

"But it certainly was not 'all about it,' because several of the
servants at Meere Court who were asked at what time Mr. Clarke went
away that night, said that he must have gone very soon after five
o'clock.  They all finished their tea about that time, and then the
gramophone was set going for dancing; they were quite sure that they
had not seen Mr. Clarke after that.

"On the other hand, Miss St. Jude said that the servants were
mistaken; they were far too deeply engrossed in their own amusements
to be at all reliable in their statements.  As a matter of fact, Mr.
Clarke went away, as he said, at about seven o'clock; she herself had
danced with him most of the time, and said good-night to him in the
hall at a few minutes after seven.

"Here was a neat little complication, do you see--a direct conflict
of evidence at the very outset of this mysterious case.  Can you
wonder that amateur detectives already shrugged their shoulders and
raised their eyebrows, declaring that the Hon. April St. Jude was
obviously in love with Arthur Clarke, and was trying to shield him,
well knowing that he had something to hide.

"Of course the police themselves were very reticent, but even they
could not keep people from gossiping.  And gossip, I can assure you,
had enough and to spare to feed on.  At first, of course, the crime
had seemed entirely motiveless.  The deceased had not an enemy, or,
as far as that goes, many acquaintances in the world.  In the drawer
of the desk, in the parlour, the sum of twenty pounds odd in notes
and cash were found, and in a little box by the side of the money
poor Mary Clarke's little bits of jewellery.

"But twenty-four hours later no one could remain in doubt as to the
assassin's purpose.  You will remember that on the day following the
adjourned inquest there had arrived from the depths of Yorkshire an
old sister of the deceased, a respectable spinster, to whom Arthur
himself, it seems, had communicated the terrible news.  She had come
to Barchester for the funeral.  This elder Miss Clarke, Euphemia by
name, though she could not say much that was informative, did, at any
rate, throw light upon one dark passage in her sister's history.

"'For the past four years,' she told the police, 'my sister had an
allowance of four pounds a week from a member of the aristocracy.  I
did not know much about her affairs, but I do know that she had a
packet of letters on which she set great store.  What these letters
were I have not the slightest idea, nor do I know what Mary
ultimately did with them.  On one occasion, before she was actually
settled at Hardacres, she met me in London and asked me to take care
of this packet for her, and she told me then that they were very
valuable.  I also know that she and my brother Arthur had most heated
arguments together on the subject of these letters.  Arthur was
always wanting her to give them up to him, and she always refused.
On one occasion she told me that she could, if she wanted, sell that
packet of letters for five thousand pounds.  "Why on earth don't
you?" I asked her.  But she replied: "Oh, Arthur would only get the
money out of me!  It's better as it is."'

"This story, as you may well imagine, gave food enough for gossip; at
once a romance was woven of blackmail and drama of love and passion,
whilst the name of a certain great lady in the neighbourhood, to whom
Miss Clarke had been in the habit of paying mysterious weekly visits,
already was on everybody's lips.

"And then the climax came.  By evening it had transpired that in
Arthur Clarke's room at Hardacres, the detectives had found an old
khaki tunic stuffed away at the bottom of a drawer, and in the pocket
of the tunic the key of the locked parlour door.  It was an officer's
tunic, which had at some time had its buttons and badges taken off;
its right sleeve was so torn that it was nearly out at its armhole;
the cuff was all crumpled, as if it had been crushed in a damp, hot
hand, and there was a small piece of the cloth torn clean out of it.
And I will leave you to guess the importance of this fact--in the
tightly-clenched hand of the murdered woman was found the small piece
of khaki cloth which corresponded to a hair's-breadth with the
missing bit in the sleeve of the tunic.

"After that the man in the street shook his head and declared that
Arthur Clarke was as good as hung already."


The Old Man in the Corner had drawn out of his capacious pocket a
fresh piece of string.  And now his claw-like fingers started to work
on it with feverish intentness.  I watched him, fascinated, well
knowing that his keen mind was just as busy with the Hardacres
mystery as were his hands in the fashioning of some intricate and
complicated knot.

"I am not," he said after a while, "going to give you an elaborate
description of the inquest and of the crowds that collected both
inside and out of the court-room, hoping to get a glimpse of the
principal actors in the exciting drama.  By now, of course, all those
who had talked of the crime being without apparent motive had
effectually been silenced.  To every amateur detective, as well as to
the professional, the murderer and his nefarious object appeared
absolutely revealed to the light of day.  Every indication, every
scrap of evidence collected up to this hour, both direct and
circumstantial, pointed to Arthur Clarke as the murderer of his
sister.  There were the letters, which were alleged to be worth five
thousand pounds, to the mysterious member of the aristocracy who was
paying Miss Clarke a weekly pittance, obviously in order to silence
her; there was the strong love motive--the young man in love with the
girl far above him in station and wanting to get hold of a large sum
of money, no doubt, to embark on some profitable business which might
help him in his wooing; and there, above all, was the damning bit of
khaki cloth in the murdered woman's hand, and the tunic with the key
of the locked door in its pocket found in a drawer in Clarke's own

"No, indeed, the inquest was not likely to be a dull affair, more
especially as no one doubted what the verdict would be, whilst a good
many people anticipated that Clarke would at once be arrested on the
coroner's warrant and committed for trial at the next assizes on the
capital charge.

"But though we all knew that the inquest would not be dull, yet we
were not prepared for the surprises which were in store for us, and
which will render that inquest a memorable one in the annals of
criminal investigation.  To begin with we already knew that Arthur
Clarke had now the assistance of Mr. Markham, one of the leading
solicitors of Barchester, in his difficult position.  Acting on that
gentleman's advice Clarke had amplified the statement which he had
originally made as to his movements on the fatal afternoon.  This
amplified statement he now reiterated on oath, and though frankly no
one believed him, we were bound to admit that if he could
substantiate it, an extraordinary complication would arise, which
though it might not eventually clear him altogether, in the minds of
thinking people, would at any rate give him the benefit of the doubt.
What he now stated was in substance this:

"'The servants at Meere Court,' he said, 'are quite right when they
say that I left the party soon after five o'clock.  I was rather
tired, and after a last dance with Miss St. Jude, I went upstairs to
pay my respects to Lady Foremeere.  Her ladyship, however, kept me
talking for some considerable time on one subject and another, until,
to my astonishment, I saw that it was close on seven o'clock, when I
hastily took my leave.

"'While I was looking for my coat in the hall, I remember that Lord
Foremeere came out of the smoking-room and asked me if I knew whether
the party downstairs had broken up.  "These things are such a bore,"
he said, "but I will see if I can get one of them to come up and show
you out."  I told his lordship not to trouble.  However, he rang the
bell, and presently the butler, Spinks, came through from the
servants' quarters, and his lordship then went upstairs, I think.  A
minute or two later Miss St. Jude came, also from the servants'
quarters; she sent Spinks away, telling him that she would look after
me; we talked together for a few moments, and then I said good-night,
and went straight back to the hotel.'

"Now we had already learned from both the hall-porter and the head
waiter at the Deanery that Mr. Clarke was back at the hotel soon
after seven o'clock, that he had his dinner in the restaurant at
half-past, and that after spending an hour or so in the lounge after
dinner, he went up to his room, and did not go out again until the
following morning.  Therefore, all that was needed now was a
confirmatory statement from Lady Foremeere to prove Arthur Clarke's
innocence, because in that case every hour of his time would be
accounted for, from half-past three onwards, whilst Miss Clarke was
actually seen alive by two neighbours when she introduced a visitor
into her house at half-past five.

"The question would then resolve itself into, Who was that visitor?
leaving the more important one of the khaki tunic as a baffling
mystery, rather than as damning evidence.

"The entire courtroom was on the tiptoe of expectation when Lady
Foremeere was formally called.  I can assure you that the ubiquitous
pin could have been heard to drop during the brief moment's silence
when the elegant Society woman stood up and disposed her exquisite
sable cape about her shoulders and then swore to tell the whole truth
and nothing but the truth.

"She answered the coroner's questions in a clear, audible voice, and
never wavered in her assertions.  She said that her step-daughter had
come up to her boudoir and asked her if she would see Mr. Arthur
Clarke for a few moments; he had something very important to say to

"'I was rather surprised at the strange request,' Lady Foremeere
continued with the utmost composure, 'and suggested that Mr. Clarke
should make his important communication to Lord Foremeere, but my
step-daughter insisted, and to please her I agreed.  I thought that I
would get my husband to be present at this mysterious interview, but
his lordship was having a short rest in the smoking-room, so on
second consideration I decided not to disturb him.

"'A minute or two later, Mr.--er--Clarke presented himself, and at
once I realised that he had had too much to drink.  He talked wildly
about his desire to marry Miss St. Jude, and very excitedly about
some compromising letters which he alleged were in his possession,
and which he threatened to show to Lord Foremeere if I did not at
once give him so many thousand pounds.  Naturally, I ordered him out
of the place.  But he wouldn't go for a long time; he got more and
more incoherent and excited, and it was not until I threatened to
fetch Lord Foremeere immediately that he sobered down and finally
went away.  He had been in my room about half an hour.'

"'About half an hour?' was the coroner's earnest comment on this
amazing piece of evidence, 'But Mr. Clarke said that when he left
your ladyship it was close on seven.'

"'Mr.--er--Clarke is in error,' her ladyship asserted firmly.  'The
clock had just struck half-past five when I succeeded in ridding
myself of him.'

"You can easily imagine how great was the excitement at this moment
and how intensified it became when Lord Foremeere gave evidence in
his turn and further confused the issues.  He began by corroborating
Arthur Clarke's statement about his having spoken to him in the hall
at _seven o'clock_.  It was almost unbelievable!  Everybody gasped
and the coroner almost gave a jump:

"'But her ladyship has just told us,' he said, 'that Clarke left her
at half-past five!'

"'That, no doubt, is accurate,' Lord Foremeere rejoined in his stiff,
prim manner, 'since her ladyship said so.  All I know is that I was
asleep in front of the fire in the smoking-room when I heard a loud
bang issuing from the hall.  I went to see what it was and there I
certainly saw Clarke.  He was just coming through the glass door
which divides the outside vestibule from the hall, and he appeared to
me to have come straight out of the wet and to have left his hat and
coat in the outer vestibule.'

"'But,' the coroner insisted, 'what made your lordship think that he
had come from outside?'

"'Well, for one thing his face and hands were quite wet, and he was
wiping them with his handkerchief when I first caught sight of him.
His boots, too, were wet, and so were the edges of his trousers.  And
then, as I said, he was coming into the hall from the outer
vestibule, and it was the banging of the front door which had roused

"'And the hour then was?'

"'The clock had not long since struck seven.  But my butler will be
able to confirm this.'

"And Spinks the butler did confirm this portion of his lordship's
statement, though he could say nothing about Mr. Clarke's boots being
wet, nor did he help Mr. Clarke on with his coat and hat, or open the
door for him.  Miss St. Jude had practically followed Spinks into the
hall, and had at once dismissed him, saying she would look after Mr.
Clarke.  His lordship in the meanwhile had gone upstairs, and Spinks
went back into the servants' hall.

"Of course, Miss St. Jude was called.  You remember that she had
previously stated that Clarke had only left the party at about seven
o'clock, that she herself had danced with him most of the time until
then, and finally said good-bye to him in the hall.  But as this
statement was not even corroborated by Clarke's own assertions, and
entirely contradicted by both Lord and Lady Foremeere's evidence, she
was fortunately advised not to repeat it on oath.  But she hotly
denied the suggestion that Clarke had come in from outside when she
said good-bye to him in the hall.  She saw him put on his hat and
coat, and they were quite dry.  But nobody felt that her evidence was
of any value because she would naturally do her utmost to help her

"Finally, one of the most interesting moments in that memorable
inquiry was reached when Lady Foremeere was recalled and asked to
state what she knew of Miss Clarke's antecedents.

"'Very little,' she replied.  'I only knew her in France when she
worked under me in a hospital.  I was very ill at one time and she
nursed me devotedly; ever since that I helped her financially as much
as I could.'

"'You made her a weekly allowance?' her ladyship was asked.

"'Not exactly,' she replied.  'I just bought her eggs and poultry at
a higher figure than she would get from any one else.'

"'Do you know anything about some letters that she thought were so

"'Oh, yes!' the lady replied with a kindly smile.  'Mary had a
collection of autograph letters which she had collected whilst she
was nursing in France.  Among them were some by august, and others by
very distinguished, personages.  She had the idea that these were
extraordinarily valuable.'

"'Do you know what became of those letters?'

"'No,' her ladyship replied, 'I do not know.'

"'But there were other letters, were there not?' the coroner
insisted, 'in which you yourself were interested?  The ones Mr.
Clarke spoke to you about?'

"'They existed only in Mr. Clarke's imagination, I fancy,' Lady
Foremeere replied, 'but he was in such a highly excited state that
afternoon that I really could not quite make out what it was that he
desired to sell to me.'

"Lady Foremeere spoke very quietly and very simply, without a single
note of spite or acerbity in her soft, musical voice.  One felt that
she was stating quite simple facts that rather bored her, but to
which she did not attach any importance.  And later on when Miss
Euphemia Clarke retold the story of the packet of letters and of the
quarrels which the deceased and her brother had about them, and when
the damning evidence of the khaki tunic stood out like an avenging
Nemesis pointing at the unfortunate young man, those in court who had
imagination, saw--positively saw--the hangman's rope tightening
around his neck."


"And yet the verdict was one of wilful murder against some person or
persons unknown," I said, after a slight pause, waiting for the funny
creature to take up his narrative again.

"Yes," he replied, "Arthur Clarke has been cleared of every
suspicion.  He left the court a free man.  His innocence was proved
beyond question through what every one thought was the most damnatory
piece of evidence against him--the evidence of the khaki tunic.  The
khaki tunic exonerated Arthur Clarke as completely as the most
skilful defender could do.  Because it did not fit him.  Arthur
Clarke was a rather heavy, full-grown, broad-shouldered man, the
khaki tunic would only fit a slim lad of eighteen.  Clarke had
admitted the tunic was his, but he had never thought of examining it,
and certainly, not of trying it on.  It was Miss St. Jude who thought
of that.  Trust a woman in love for getting an inspiration.

"When she was called at the end of the day to affirm the statements
which she had previously made to the police and realised that these
statements of hers were actually in contradiction with Clarke's own
assertions, she worked herself up into a state bordering on hysteria,
in the midst of which she caught sight of the khaki tunic on the
coroner's table.  Of course, she, like every one else in the
neighbourhood, knew all about the tunic, but when April St. Jude
actually saw it with her own eyes and realised what its existence
meant to her sweetheart, she gave a wild shriek.

"'I'll not believe it,' she cried, 'I'll not believe it.  It can't
be.  It is not Arthur's tunic at all.'  Then her eyes dilated, her
voice sank to a hoarse whisper, and with a trembling hand she pointed
at the tunic.  'Why,' she murmured, 'it is so small--so small!
Arthur!  Where is Arthur?  Why does he not show them all that he
never could have worn that tunic?'

"Proverbially there is but a narrow dividing line between tragedy and
farce: While some people shuddered and gasped and men literally held
their breath, marvelling what would happen next, quite a number of
women fell into hysterical giggling.  Of course you remember what
happened.  The papers have told you all about it.  Arthur Clarke was
made to try on the khaki tunic, and he could not even get his arms
into the sleeves.  Under no circumstances could he ever have worn
that particular tunic.  It was several sizes too small for him.  Then
he examined it closely and recognised it as one he wore in his school
O.T.C. when he was a lad.  When he was originally confronted with it,
he explained, he was so upset, so genuinely terrified at the
consequences of certain follies which he undoubtedly had committed,
that he could hardly see out of his eyes.  The tunic was shown to
him, and he had admitted that it was his, for he had quite a
collection of old tunics which he had always kept.  But for the
moment he had forgotten the one which he had worn more than eight
years ago at school.

"And so the khaki tunic, instead of condemning Clarke, had entirely
cleared him, for it now became quite evident that the miscreant who
had committed the dastardly murder had added this hideous act to his
greater crime, and deliberately set to work to fasten the guilt on an
innocent man.  He had gone up to Clarke's room, opened the wardrobe,
picked up a likely garment, no doubt tearing a piece of cloth out of
it whilst so doing, and thus getting the fiendish idea of inserting
that piece of khaki between the fingers of the murdered woman.
Finally, after locking the parlour door, he put the key in the pocket
of the tunic and stuffed the latter in the bottom of a drawer.

"It was a clever and cruel trick which well nigh succeeded in hanging
an innocent man.  As it is, it has enveloped the affair in an almost
impenetrable mystery.  I say 'almost' because I know who killed Miss
Clarke, even though the public has thrown out an erroneous
conjecture.  'It was Lady Foremeere,' they say, 'who killed Miss
Clarke.'  But at once comes the question: 'How could she?' And the
query: 'When?'

"Arthur Clarke says he was with her until seven, and after that hour
there were several members of her household who waited upon her,
notably her maid who it seems came up to dress her at about that
time, and she and Lord Foremeere sat down to dinner as usual at eight

"That there had been one or two dark passages in Lady Foremeere's
life, prior to her marriage four years ago, and that Miss Clarke was
murdered for the sake of letters which were in some way connected
with her ladyship were the only actual undisputable facts in that
mysterious case.  That it was not Arthur Clarke who killed his sister
has been indubitably proved; that a great deal of the evidence was
contradictory every one has admitted.  And if the police do not act
on certain suggestions which I have made to them, the Hardacres
murder will remain a mystery to the public to the end of time."

"And what are those suggestions?" I asked, without the slightest
vestige of irony, for, much against my will, the man's personality
exercised a curious fascination over me.

"To keep an eye on Lord Foremeere," the funny creature replied with
his dry chuckle, "and see when and how he finally disposes of a wet
coat, a dripping hat and soaked boots, which he has succeeded in
keeping concealed somewhere in the smoking-room, away from the prying
eyes even of his own valet."

"You mean----" I asked, with an involuntary gasp.

"Yes," he replied.  "I mean that it was Lord Foremeere who murdered
Miss Clarke for the sake of those letters which apparently contained
matter that was highly compromising to his wife.

"Everything to my mind points to him as the murderer.  Whether he
knew all along of the existence of the compromising letters, or
whether he first knew of this through the conversation between her
ladyship and Clarke the day of the servants' party, it is impossible
to say; certain it is that he did overhear that conversation and that
he made up his mind to end the impossible situation then and there,
and to put a stop once and for all to any further attempt at

"It was easy enough for him on that day to pass in and out of the
house unperceived.  No doubt his primary object in going to Hardacres
was to purchase the letters from Miss Clarke, money down; perhaps she
proved obstinate, perhaps he merely thought that dead men tell no
tales.  This we shall never know.

"After the hideous deed, which must have revolted his otherwise
fastidious senses, he must have become conscious of an overwhelming
hatred for the man who had, as it were, pushed him into crime, and my
belief is that the elaborate _mise en scène_ of the khaki tunic, and
the circumstantial lie that when he came out of the smoking-room
Arthur Clarke had obviously just come in from outside was invented,
not so much with the object of averting any suspicion from himself,
as with the passionate desire to be revenged on Clarke.

"Think it over," the Old Man in the Corner concluded, as he stuffed
his beloved bit of string into his capacious pocket; "time,
opportunity, motive, all are in favour of my theory, so do not be
surprised if the early editions of to-morrow's evening papers contain
the final sensation in this interesting case."

He was gone before I could say another word, and all that I saw of
him was his spook-like figure disappearing through the swing-door.
There was no one now in the place, so a moment or two later I too
paid my bill and went away.


The Old Man in the Corner proved to be right in the end.  At eleven
o'clock the next morning the street corners were full of newspaper
placards with the flaring headlines: "Sudden death of Lord Foremeere."

It was reported that on the previous evening his lordship was
examining a new automatic which he had just bought and explaining the
mechanism to his valet.  At one moment he actually made the remark:
"It is all right, it isn't loaded," but apparently there was one
cartridge left in one of the chambers.  His lordship, it seems, was
looking straight down the barrel and his finger must accidentally
have touched the trigger; anyway, according to the valet's story,
there was a sudden explosion, and Lord Foremeere fell shot right
between the eyes.

The verdict at the inquest was, of course, one of accidental death,
the coroner and jury expressing the greatest possible sympathy with
Lady Foremeere and Miss St. Jude.  It was only subsequently that one
or two facts came to light which appeared obscure and unimportant to
the man in the street, but which for me, in the light of my
conversation with the Old Man in the Corner, bore special

It seems that an hour or two before the accident, the chief
superintendent of police had called with two constables at Meere
Court and were closeted for a considerable time with Lord Foremeere
in the smoking-room.  And Spinks, the butler, who subsequently let
the three men out, noticed that one of the constables was carrying a
coat and a hat, which Spinks knew were old ones belonging to his

Then I knew that the funny creature in the loud check tweeds and
baggy trousers had found the true solution of the Hardacres mystery.

Oh, and you wish to know what was the sequel to the pretty love story
between April St. Jude and Arthur Clarke.  Well, you know, she
married Amos Rottenberg, the New York banker, last year, and Clarke
runs a successful garage now somewhere in the North.  A kind friend
must have lent him the capital wherewith to make a start.  I can make
a shrewd guess who that kind friend was.




I did not see the Old Man in the Corner for several weeks after that
strange meeting in the blameless teashop.  The exigencies of my work
kept me busy, and somehow the sensational suicide of Lord Foremeere
which had appeared like the logical sequence of the spook-like
creature's deductions, had left a painful impression on my mind.
Entirely illogically, I admit, I felt that the Old Man in the Corner
had had something to do with the tragedy.

But when in March of that year we were all thrilled by the mystery of
the valuable Ingres picture, and wherever one went one heard
conjectures and explanations of that extraordinary case, my thoughts
very naturally reverted to the funny creature and his bit of string,
and I found myself often wondering what his explanation of what
seemed a truly impenetrable mystery could possibly be.

The facts certainly were very puzzling in themselves.  When first I
was deputed by the _Express Post_ to put them clearly and succinctly
before its readers, I found the task strangely difficult; this, for
the simple reason that I myself could not see daylight through it
all, and often did I stand in front of the admirable reproduction
which I possess of the Ingres "La Fiancée" wondering if those smiling
lips would not presently speak and tell me how an original and
exquisite picture could possibly have been at two different places at
one and the same time.

For that, in truth, was the depth of the puzzle.  We will, if you
please, call the original owners of the picture the Duc and Duchesse
Paul de Rochechouart.  That, of course, is not their name, but, as
you all know who they really are, it matters not what I call them for
the purpose of recording their singular adventure.

His Grace had early in life married a Swedish lady of great talent
and singular beauty.  She was an artist of no mean order, having
exhibited pictures of merit both at the Paris Salon and at the Royal
Academy in London; she was also an accomplished musician, and had
published one or two very charming volumes of poetry.

The Duke and his wife were devoted to one another; they lived for the
greater part of the year at their beautiful château on the Oise, not
far from Chantilly, and here they entertained a great deal, more
after the homely and hospitable manner of English country houses than
in the more formal fashion.  Here, too, they had collected some rare
furniture, tapestries, and objects of art and vertu, amongst which
certain highly-prized pictures of the French School of the Nineteenth

The war, we may imagine, left the Duc de Rochechouart and his
charming wife a good deal poorer, as it left most other people in
France, and soon it became known amongst the art dealers of London,
Paris and New York that they had decided to sell one or two of their
most valuable pictures; foremost amongst these was the celebrated "La
Fiancée" by Ingres.

Immediately there was what is technically known as a ramp after the
picture.  Dealers travelled backwards and forwards from all the great
Continental cities to the château on the Oise to view the picture.
Offers were made for it by cable, telegram and telephone, and the
whole art world was kept in a flutter over what certainly promised to
be a sensational deal.

Alas! as with most of the beautiful possessions of this impoverished
old world, the coveted prize was destined to go to the country that
had the longest purse.  A certain Mr. Aaron Jacobs, the Chicago
multi-millionaire, presently cabled an offer of half a million
dollars for the picture, an offer which, rumour had it, the Duc de
Rochechouart had since accepted.  Mr. Jacobs was said to be a
charming, highly-cultured man, a great art connoisseur and a great
art lover, and presently one heard that he had already set sail for
Europe with the intention of fetching away his newly-acquired
treasure himself.

On the very day following Mr. Jacobs's arrival as the guest of the
Duc and Duchesse de Rochechouart at the latter's château, the
world-famous picture was stolen in broad daylight by a thief or
thieves who contrived to make away with their booty without leaving
the slightest clue, so it was said, that might put the police on
their track.  The picture was cut clean out of the frame, an
operation which must have taken at least two or three minutes.  It
always used to hang above the tall chimneypiece in the Duchesse's
studio, but that self-same morning it had been lifted down and placed
on an easel in the dining-hall, no doubt for closer inspection by the
purchaser.  This easel stood in a corner of the hall, close to one of
the great windows that overlooked the gardens of the château.

The amazing point in this daring theft was that a garden fête and
tennis tournament were in progress at the time.  A crowd of guests
was spread all over the lawns and grounds in full view of the windows
of the hall, and, as far as the preliminary investigations were able
to establish, there were not more than twenty or twenty-five minutes
at most during which some servant or other inmate of the château had
not either actually been through the hall or had occasion to observe
the windows.

The dining-hall itself has monumental doors which open on the great
central vestibule, and immediately facing it similar doors give on
the library.  The marble vestibule runs right through the centre of
the main building, it has both a front and a garden entrance, and all
the reception rooms open out of it, right and left.  Close to the
front door entrance is one of the main ways into the kitchens and

Now right away until half-past four on that fateful afternoon the
servants were up and down the vestibule, busy with arrangements for
tea which they were serving outside on the lawns.  The tennis
tournament was then drawing to a close, the Duchesse was on the lawn
with her guests, dispensing tea, and at half-past four precisely the
Duc de Rochechouart came into the château by way of the garden
entrance, went across the vestibule and into the library to fetch the
prizes which were to be distributed to the victors in the tournament,
and which were locked up in his desk.  The doors of the dining-hall
were wide open and the Duc walking past them peeped into the room.
The picture was in its place then, and he gave a glance at it as he
passed, conscious of a pang of regret at the thought that he must
needs part with this precious treasure.  It took the Duc some little
time to sort the prizes, and as in the meanwhile the afternoon post
had come in and a few letters had been laid on his desk, he could not
resist the desire to glance through his correspondence.  On the whole
he thought that he might have been in the library about a quarter of
an hour or perhaps more.  He had closed the door when he entered the
room, and when he came out again he certainly noticed that the doors
of the dining-hall were shut.  But there was nothing in this to
arouse his suspicions, and with the neatly tied parcels containing
the prizes under his arm, he recrossed the vestibule and went once
more into the garden.

At five o'clock M. Amédé, the chief butler, had occasion to go into
the dining-hall to fetch a particular silver tray which he required.
He owned to being astonished at finding the doors closed, because he
had been past them a quarter of an hour before that and they were
wide open then.  However, he entered the room without any serious
misgivings, but the next moment he nearly fainted with horror at
sight of the empty frame upon the easel.  The very first glance had
indeed revealed the nefarious deed.  The picture had not been moved
out of its frame, it was the canvas that had been cut.  M. Amédé,
however, knowing what was due to his own dignity did not disturb the
entire household then and there; he made his way quietly back into
the garden where the distribution of prizes after the tournament was
taking place and, seizing a favourable opportunity, he caught M. le
Duc's eye and imparted to him the awful news.

Even so nothing was said until after the guests had departed.  By the
Duc's orders the doors leading into the dining-hall were locked, and
to various enquiries after the masterpiece made by inquisitive
ladies, the evasive answer was given that the picture was in the
hands of the packers.

There remained the house party, which, of course, included Mr. Aaron
Jacobs.  There were also several ladies and gentlemen staying at the
château, and before they all went up to their rooms to dress for
dinner, they were told what had happened.  In the meanwhile the
police had already been sent for, and M. le Commissaire was
conducting his preliminary investigations.  The rooms and belongings
of all the servants were searched, and, with the consent of the
guests themselves, this search was extended to their rooms.  A work
of art worth half a million dollars could not thus be allowed to
disappear and the thief to remain undetected for the sake of social
conventions, and as the law stands in France any man may be guilty of
a crime until he be proved innocent.


The theft of the Ingres masterpiece was one of those cases which
interest the public in every civilised country, and here in England
where most people are bitten with the craze for criminal
investigation it created quite a sensation in its way.

I remember that when we all realised for the first time that the
picture had in very truth disappeared, and that the French police,
despite its much vaunted acumen, had entirely failed to find the
slightest trace of the thief, we at once began to look about for a
romantic solution of the mystery.  M. le Duc de Rochechouart and his
pretty Duchesse had above all our deepest sympathy, for it had very
soon transpired that neither the Ingres masterpiece, nor indeed any
of the Duc's valuable collection of art works, was insured.  This
fact seems almost incredible to English minds, with whom every kind
of insurance is part and parcel of the ordinary household routine.
But abroad the system is not nearly so far-reaching or so extended,
and there are numberless households in every degree of the social
scale who never dream of spending money on insurances save, perhaps,
against fire.

Be that as it may, the fact remained that "La Fiancée" was not
insured against theft, and that through the action of an unknown
miscreant the Duc and Duchesse de Rochechouart would, unless the
police did ultimately succeed in tracing the stolen masterpiece, find
themselves the poorer by half a million dollars.  With their usual
lack of logic, readers of the halfpenny Press promptly turned their
attention to Mr. Aaron Jacobs, the intending purchaser.  Being a
Chicago multi-millionaire does not, it appears, render a man immune
from the temptation of acquiring by dishonest means the things which
he covets.  Anyway, the public decided that Mr. Jacobs was not so
rich as he was reputed to be, but that, on the other hand, being as
greedy for the possession of European works of art as any ogre for
human flesh, he had stolen the picture which he could not afford to
buy; and ten, or mayhap fifteen years hence, when the story of the
mysterious theft will have been consigned to oblivion, Mr. Jacobs
would display the masterpiece in his gallery.  How this was to be
accomplished without the subsequent intervention of the police those
wiseacres did not attempt to explain.

The mystery remained impenetrable for close on two years.  Many other
sensations, criminal or otherwise, had, during that time, driven the
affair of the Ingres masterpiece out of the public mind.  Then
suddenly the whole story was revived and in a manner which proved far
more exciting than any one had surmised.  It was linked--though the
European public did not know this--with the death in July, 1919, of
Charles B. Tupper, the head of one of the greatest cinematograph
organisations in the States--a man who for the past few years had
controlled over two thousand theatres, and had made millions in his
day.  Some time during the war he had married the well-known cinema
star, Anita Hodgkins, a beautiful entirely uneducated girl who hailed
from Upper Tooting.  The will of Mr. Charles B. Tupper was proved for
a fabulous sum, and, as soon as his affairs were settled, Mrs.
Tupper, who presumably had remained Cockney at heart as well as in
speech, set sail for England with the intention of settling down once
more in the country of her birth.  She bought Holt Manor, a
magnificent house in Buckinghamshire, sent for all her splendid
furniture and belongings from America, and, early in 1920, when her
palatial residence was ready for occupation, she married Lord
Polchester, a decadent young nincompoop, who was said to have fallen
in love with her when he first saw her on the screen.

Presumably Mrs. Anita Tupper _née_ Hodgkins hugged herself with the
belief that once she was styled my lady she would automatically
become a social star as she had been a cinema one in the past.  But
in this harmless ambition she was at first disappointed.  Though she
had furnished her new house lavishly, though paragraphs appeared in
all the halfpenny and weekly Press giving details of the sumptuous
establishment of which the new Lady Polchester was queen, though she
appeared during the London season of 1920 at several official
functions and went to an evening Court that year, wearing pearls that
might have been envied by an empress, she found that in
Buckinghamshire the best people were shy of calling on her, and the
bits of pasteboard that were from time to time left at her door came
chiefly from the neighbouring doctors, parsons, or retired London
tradespeople, or from mothers with marriageable daughters who looked
forward to parties at the big house and consequent possible
matrimonial prizes.

This went on for a time and then Lady Polchester, wishing no doubt to
test the intentions of the county towards her, launched out
invitations for a garden party!  The invitations included the London
friends she had recently made, and a special train from Paddington
was to bring those friends to the party.  Among these was Mr. Aaron
Jacobs.  He had known the late Charles B. Tupper over in the States,
and had met Lady Polchester more recently at one of the great
functions at the United States Embassy in London.  She had interested
him with a glowing account of her splendid collection of works of
art, of pictures and antique furniture which she had inherited from
her first husband and which now adorned her house in Buckinghamshire,
and when she asked him down to her party he readily accepted, more I
imagine out of curiosity to see the objects in which he was as keenly
interested as ever than from a desire to establish closer
acquaintanceship with the lady.

The garden party at Holt Manor, as the place was called, does not
appear to have been a great social success.  For one thing it rained
the whole afternoon, and the military band engaged for the occasion
proved too noisy for indoor entertainment.  But some of the guests
were greatly interested in the really magnificent collection of
furniture, tapestries, pictures and works of art which adorned the
mansion, and after tea Lady Polchester graciously conducted them all
over the house, pointing out herself the most notable pieces in the
collection and never failing to mention the price at which the late
Mr. Charles B. Tupper purchased the work of art in question.

And that is when the sensation occurred.  Following their hostess,
the guests had already seen and duly admired two really magnificent
Van Dycks that hung in the hall, when she turned to them and said,
with a flourish of her plentifully be-gemmed hands:

"You must come into the library and see the picture for which Mr.
Tupper gave over half a million dollars.  I never knew I had it, as
he never had it taken out of its case, and I never saw it until this
year when it came over with all my other things from our house in New
York.  Lord Polchester had it unpacked and hung in the library.  I
don't care much about it myself, and the late Mr. Tupper hadn't the
time to enjoy his purchase, because he died two days after the
picture arrived in New York, and, as I say, he never had it unpacked.
He bought it for use in a commercial undertaking which he had in mind
at one time, then the scheme fell through, and I am sure I never
thought any more about the old picture."

With that she led the way into the library, a nobly-proportioned room
lined with books in choice bindings, and with a beautiful Adam
chimneypiece, above which hung a picture.

Of course there were some people present who had never heard of the
stolen Ingres, but there must have been a few who, as they entered
the room, must literally have gasped with astonishment, for there it
certainly was.  "La Fiancée" with her marvellously painted Eastern
draperies, her exquisitely drawn limbs and enigmatic smile, was
smiling down from the canvas, just as if she had every right to be in
the house of the ex-cinema star, and as if there had not been a
gigantic fuss about her throughout the whole art world of Europe.

We may take it that the person by far the most astonished at that
moment was Mr. Aaron Jacobs.  But he was too thoroughly a gentleman
and too much a man of the world to betray his feelings then, and I
suppose that those who, like himself, had thought they recognised the
stolen masterpiece, did not like to say anything either until they
were more sure: English people in all grades of society being
proverbially averse to being what they call "mixed up" in any kind of
a fuss.  Certain it is that nothing was said at the moment to disturb
Lady Polchester's complacent equanimity, and after a while the party
broke up and the guests departed.

Of course people thought that Mr. Aaron Jacobs should have informed
Lord Polchester of his intentions before he went to the police.  But
Lord Polchester was such a nonentity in his own household, such a
frivolous fool, and, moreover, addicted to drink and violent fits of
temper, that those who knew him easily realised how a sensible
business man like Mr. Aaron Jacobs would avoid any personal
explanation with him.

Mr. Jacobs went straight to the police that self-same evening, and
the next day Lady Polchester had a visit from Detective Purley, one
of the ablest as he was one of the most tactful men on the staff.
But indeed he had need of all his tact in face of the infuriated
cinema star when that lady realised the object of his visit.

"How dared they come and ask her such impertinent questions?" she
stormed.  "Did they imagine she had stolen a beastly picture which
she would as soon throw on the dust heap as look at again?  She, who
could buy up all the pictures in any gallery and not feel the
pinch..." and so on and so on.  The unfortunate Purley had a very
unpleasant quarter of an hour, but after a while he succeeded in
pacifying the irate lady and got her to listen calmly to what he had
to say.

He managed to make her understand that without casting the slightest
aspersion upon her honourability or that of the late Charles B.
Tupper, there was no getting away from the fact that the picture now
hanging in the library of Holt Manor was the property of the Duc de
Rochechouart from whose house in France it was stolen over two years
before--to be quite accurate it was stolen on July twenty-fifth, 1919.

"Then," retorted the lady, by no means convinced or mollified, "I can
prove you all to be liars, for the late Mr. Charles B. Tupper bought
the old thing long before that.  He had been on the Continent in the
spring of 1919 and landed in New York again on May eighteenth.  He
told me then that he had made some interesting purchases in Europe,
amongst them there was a picture for which he had paid half a million
dollars.  I scolded him about it, as I thought he was throwing his
money away on such stuff, but he said that he wanted to make use of
the picture for some wonderful advertising scheme he had in his mind,
so I said no more about it.  But that is the picture you say was
stolen from some duke or other in July, when I tell you that it had
been shipped for New York a month at least before that."

Perhaps at this point Detective Purley failed to conceal altogether a
slight look of incredulity, for Lady Polchester turned on him once
more like a fury.

"So you still think I stole the dirty old picture, do you?" she
cried, using further language that is quite unprintable, "and you
think that I am such a ninny and that I will give it up simply
because you are trying to bully me.  But I won't, so there!  I can
prove the truth of every word I say, and I don't care if I have to
spend another million dollars to put your old duke in prison for
talking such rot about me."

Once again Purley's tact had to come into play, and after a while he
succeeded in soothing the lady's outraged feelings.  With infinite
patience he gradually got her to view the matter more calmly and
above all not to look upon him as an enemy, but as a friend whose one
desire was to throw light upon what certainly seemed an extraordinary

"Very well, then," she said, after a while, "I'll tell you all I can.
I don't know when the picture was shipped from Europe but I do know
that a case addressed to Mr. Charles B. Tupper and marked 'valuable
picture with great care' was delivered at our house in New York on
July eighteenth.  I can't mistake the date because Mr. Tupper was
already very ill when the case arrived and he died two days later,
that is on July twentieth, 1919.  That you can ascertain easily
enough, can't you?" Lady Polchester added tartly.  Then as Purley
offered no comment she went on more quietly:

"That's all right, then.  Now let me tell you that the case
containing this picture was in my house two days before Mr. Tupper
died, and that I never had it undone until a couple of months ago,
here in this house.  I had it shipped from New York, not along with
all my things, but by itself; and there is the lawyer over there, Mr.
George F. Topham, who can tell you all about the case.  I was too
upset what with Mr. Tupper's illness and then his death, and the will
and the whole bag of tricks to trouble much about it myself, but I
told the lawyer that it contained a picture for which Mr. Tupper had
paid half a million dollars, and it was put down for probate for that
amount; the lawyer took charge of the old thing, and he can swear,
and lots of other people over in the States can swear that the case
was never undone.  And the shipping company can swear that it never
was touched whilst it was in their charge.  They delivered it here
and their men opened the case for us and helped us to place the

"And now," concluded Lady Polchester, not because she had nothing
more to say but presumably because she was out of breath, "now
perhaps you'll tell me how a picture which was over in New York on
the eighteenth of July can have been stolen from France on the
twenty-fifth; and if you can't tell me that, then I'll trouble you to
clear out of my house, for I've no use for Nosey Parkers about the

The unfortunate Purley had certainly, by all accounts, rather a rough
time of it with the lady.  Nor could he arrive at any satisfactory
arrangement with her.  Needless to say that she absolutely refused to
give up the picture unless she were forced to do so by law, and even
then, she dared say, she could make it very unpleasant for some


The next event of any importance in this extraordinary case was the
action brought by the Duc and Duchesse de Rochechouart here in
England against Lady Polchester for illegal detention of their

It very soon transpired that several witnesses had come over from the
States in order to corroborate tie lady's assertions with regard to
her rightful ownership of the picture, and the public was once more
on the tiptoe of expectation.

The case came on for hearing in March and lasted only two days.  The
picture was in court and was identified first by the Duc and Duchesse
de Rochechouart and then by two or three experts as the genuine work
of Ingres: "La Fiancée" known throughout the entire art world as
having been purchased by the Duc's grandfather from the artist
himself in 1850, and having been in the family uninterruptedly ever
since.  The Duc himself had last seen it in his own château at
half-past four on the afternoon of July twenty-fifth, 1919.

A well-known peculiarity about the masterpiece was that it had
originally been painted on a somewhat larger canvas, and that the
artist himself, at the request of the original purchaser, had it cut
smaller and re-strained on a smaller stretcher; this alteration was,
of course, distinctly visible on the picture.  The frame was new; it
was admittedly purchased by Lady Polchester recently.  When the
picture came into her possession it was unframed.

On that lady's behalf on the other hand there was a formidable array
of witnesses, foremost amongst these being Mr. Anthony Kleeberger,
who was the late Charles B. Tupper's secretary and manager.  He was
the first to throw some light on the original transaction, whereby
"La Fiancée" first came into his employer's possession.

"Mr. Tupper," he explained, "was the inventor of a new process of
colour photography which he desired to test and then to advertise all
over the world by means of reproduction from some world-famous
masterpiece, and when during the spring of 1919 I accompanied him to
Europe, one of the objects he had in mind was the purchase of a
picture suitable for his purpose.  It pretty soon was known all over
the art world of the Continent what we were after and that Mr. Tupper
was prepared to pay a big price for his choice.  You would be
surprised if I were to tell you of some of the offers we had in
Vienna, in London, even in Rome.

"At last, when we were staying in Paris, Mr. Tupper came to me one
day and told me he had at last found the very picture he wanted.  He
had gone to the studio of a picture restorer who had written to him
and offered him a genuine Ingres.  He had seen the picture and liked
it, and had agreed to give the owner half a million dollars for it.
I thought this a terrific price and frankly I was a little doubtful
whether my employer had a sufficient knowledge of art to enter into a
transaction of this sort.  I feared that he might be badly had, and
buying some spurious imitation rather than a masterpiece.  But Mr.
Tupper was always a queer man in business.  Once he had made up his
mind there was no arguing with him.  'I like the picture,' was all
that he ever said to me in response to some timid suggestion on my
part that he should seek expert advice, 'and I have agreed to buy it
for half a million dollars, simply because the fellow would not part
with it for less.  I believe it to be genuine.  But if it is not I
don't care.  It will answer my purpose and there it is.'

"He then gave me instructions to see about the packing and forwarding
of the picture and this I did.  I must say that I had terrible
misgivings about the whole affair.  I certainly thought the picture
magnificent, but of course I am no judge.  It had a worthless frame
around it which I discarded in order to facilitate the packing.  The
picture restorer's studio was up a back street in the Montmartre
quarter.  He and his wife saw to the packing themselves.  I never saw
anybody else in the place.  I arranged for the forwarding of the
case, for the insurance and so on, and I myself handed over to the
vendor, whose name was given to me as Matthieu Vignard, five hundred
thousand-dollar bills in the name and on account of my employer, Mr.
Charles B. Tupper.  Of course, I presumed that the snuffy old man and
his blousey wife were acting for some personage who desired to remain
unknown, and as time went on and there was no talk in the art world
or in the newspapers then about any great masterpiece being stolen, I
soon forgot my misgivings, and a couple of months later I set out on
Mr. Tupper's business for Central America where I remained for close
on two years.

"Half the time during those years I was up country in Costa Rica,
Venezuela and so on where newspapers are scarce, and when the hue and
cry was after a picture stolen from the house of the Duc de
Rochechouart, I knew nothing about it.  But this picture now in court
is certainly the one which Mr. Tupper bought in Paris at the end of
June, 1919, and which I myself saw packed and nailed down in its case
and forwarded to New York where it arrived two days before Mr.
Tupper's death."

That was the substance of Mr. Kleeberger's evidence, by far the most
important heard on the first day of the action.  After that the
testimony of other witnesses went to confirm the whole story.  There
was the well-known New York solicitor, Mr. George F. Topham, who took
charge of the picture after the death of his client, Mr. Tupper, and
the managing director of the Nebraska Safe Deposit Company where it
was stored until Lady Polchester sent for it.  There were the
managers of the shipping companies who forwarded the picture from
Paris to New York in June-July, 1919, and from New York to Holt Manor
in the following year, and there were the removal men and servants
who saw the picture unpacked and taken into the library at the Manor.

It took two days to go through all that evidence, but it was never
either conflicting or doubtful.  Yet the one supreme, mysterious
contradiction remained, namely, that the picture now in court, the
wonderful Ingres masterpiece, was bought by Mr. Tupper in Paris in
June, 1919, and then and there shipped over to him to New York, and
that, nevertheless, it was stated never to have left the Duc de
Rochechouart's possession from the day when his grandfather bought it
more than seventy years ago until that memorable twenty-fifth of
July, 1919, when it was stolen on the very day it was about to pass
into the possession of Mr. Aaron Jacobs.  One felt one's head reeling
when one thought out this amazing puzzle, and the decision of the
learned judge was awaited with palpitating curiosity.

But after the second day of the action, just before it was adjourned,
counsel on both sides were able to announce that their respective
clients had come to an exceedingly satisfactory arrangement.  All
aspersions as to the honourability of the late Charles B. Tupper or
of Lady Polchester would be publicly withdrawn and a notice to that
effect would appear in all the leading newspapers of London, Paris
and New York; and Lady Polchester would now remain in undisputed
possession of the Ingres masterpiece, having paid its rightful owner
the Duc de Rochechouart the sum of one hundred and twenty thousand
pounds for it.

So both parties we may take it were completely satisfied; at one time
it had looked as if the unfortunate duke would be done both out of
his picture and out of the money, and another as if Lady Polchester
would be so defrauded.  But now all was well and the learned judge
declared himself pleased with the agreement.  Not so the public who
were left to face a mystery which every one felt would never now be
cleared up.

I for one felt completely at sea, so much so indeed that my thoughts
instinctively flew to the curious creature in the blameless tea-shop
who I felt sure would have a theory of his own which would account
for what was puzzling us all.

And a day or two later I saw him, weaving a fantastic design of knots
in a piece of string.  He saw that I wished to hear his explanation
of the mystery of the Ingres masterpiece, but he kept me on
tenter-hooks for some time, wearing out my patience with his sharp,
sarcastic comments.

"Do you admit," he asked me at one time, with his exasperating
chuckle, "that the Ingres masterpiece could have been in two places
at one and the same time?"

"No, of course," I replied, "I do not admit such nonsense."

"Very well, then," he resumed, "what is the logical conclusion?"

"That there were two pictures," I said coldly.

"Of course there were two pictures.  And as the great Mr. Ingres did
not presumably paint his masterpiece in duplicate, we must take it
that one picture was the original and the other the copy."

Now it was my turn to grow sarcastic and I retorted drily:

"Having done that, we are no nearer a solution of the mystery than we
were before."

"Are we not?" he rejoined with a cackle like an old hen.  "Now it
seems to me that when we have admitted that one of the pictures was a
copy of the other, and when we know that the picture which Mr.
Charles B. Tupper bought was the original, because that was the one
that was produced in court, we must come to the conclusion that the
one which was stolen from the château in France could only have been
the copy."

"Why, yes," I admitted, "but then again we have been told that the
grandfather of the present Duc de Rochechouart bought the picture
from the artist himself, and that it has been in the uninterrupted
possession of his family ever since."

"And I am willing to admit that the picture was in the uninterrupted
possession of the Duc de Rochechouart until the present holder of the
title or some one who had access to it in the same way as himself
sold it to Mr. Charles B. Tupper in June, 1919."

"But you don't mean----"

"Surely," the funny creature went on with his dry cackle, "it was not
such a very difficult little bit of dishonesty to perpetrate, seeing
that Mme. la Duchesse was such an accomplished artist.  Can you not
imagine the lady being like many of us, very short of money, and then
hearing of Mr. Charles B. Tupper, the American business man who was
searching Europe through for a world-famous masterpiece; can you not
see her during one of her husband's pleasure trips to Paris or
elsewhere setting to work to make an exact replica of 'La Fiancée'?
We know that it always hung in her studio until the day when it was
moved to the dining-hall.  Think how easy it was for her to
substitute her own copy for the original.  The only difficulty would
be the conveying of the picture to Paris, but an artist knows how to
take a canvas off its stretcher, to roll it up and re-strain it.

"Here I think that she must have had a confederate, probably some
down-at-heel friend of her artistic days, a man whom she paid
lavishly both for his help and his silence.  Who that man was I
suppose we shall never know.  The so-called Matthieu Vignard and his
'blousey wife,' as Mr. Kleeberger picturesquely described her, have
completely disappeared; no trace of them was ever found.  They hired
the studio at Montmartre for one month, paid the concierge the rent
in advance, and at the end of that time they decamped and have never
been heard of since, but unless I am much mistaken, they must at the
present moment be carrying on a very lucrative little blackmailing
business, because it must have been Vignard who conveyed the picture
to Paris in the same way as we know it was he who first approached
Charles B. Tupper and ultimately sold him the picture."

"But surely," I objected, for the funny creature had paused a moment,
and I could not deny that his arguments were sound, "surely it would
have been more practical to have sold the copy--which we suppose must
have been perfect--to Mr. Tupper who was a layman and an outsider,
and to have kept the original in the château, as the Duc was even
then negotiating for its sale, and most of the art dealers were
coming to have a look at it."

He did not reply immediately but remained for a while deeply absorbed
in the contemplation of his beloved bit of string.

"That," he admitted with complacent condescension, "would be a sound
argument if we admit at once that the Duchesse knew for a certainty
that her husband intended to sell 'La Fiancée.'  But my contention is
that at the time that she sold the picture to Mr. Tupper she had no
idea that the Duc had any such intentions.  No doubt when she knew
this for a fact, she must have been beside herself with horror; no
doubt also that she had a hard fight with her own terror before she
made a clean breast of her misdeed to her husband.  Apparently she
did not do this until the very last moment, until the day when the
picture was actually taken out of her studio and placed upon an easel
in the dining-hall for closer inspection.  Then discovery was
imminent and we must suppose that she made a full confession.

"The Duc, like a gallant gentleman, at once set his wits thinking how
best to save his wife's reputation without endangering his own.  To
have admitted to Mr. Aaron Jacobs and to the other experts and art
dealers who had come to see the masterpiece that a Duc de
Rochechouart was trying to sell a spurious imitation whilst having
already disposed of the original was, of course, unthinkable; and
thus the idea presented itself to their Graces that the copy must be
made to disappear effectually.  A favourable circumstance for the
success of this scheme was the garden fête which was to take place
that afternoon, when the house would be full of guests, of strangers
and of servants, when surveillance would be slack and the comings and
goings of the master of the house would easily pass unperceived.

"The Duc, in my opinion, chose the one quarter of an hour when he was
alone in the house to cut the picture out of its frame.  He then hid
the canvas sufficiently skilfully that it was never found.  Probably
he thought at the time that there the matter would end, but equally
probably he never gave the future another thought.  His own position
was unassailable seeing he was not insured against loss, and it was
the present alone that mattered: the fact that a Duc de Rochechouart
was trying to sell a spurious picture for half a million dollars.  To
many French men and women ever since the war, America is a far
country, and no doubt the Duc and Duchesse both hoped that the whole
transaction, including the Ingres masterpiece, would soon lie buried
somewhere at the bottom of the sea.

"Fate and Lady Polchester proved too strong for them; they ordained
that 'La Fiancée' should be brought back to Europe, and that the
whole of its exciting history be revived.  But fate proved kind in
the end, and I think that you will agree with me that two such daring
and resourceful adventurers as their Graces deserve the extra half
million dollars which, thanks to Lady Polchester's generosity and
ostentation, they got so unexpected.

"Soon afterwards you will remember that the Duc and Duchesse de
Rochechouart sold their château on the Oise together with the bulk of
their collection of pictures and furniture.

"They now live in Sweden, I understand, where the Duchesse has many
friends and relations and where the law of libel will not trouble you
much if you publish my deductions in your valuable magazine.

"Think it all out," the Old Man in the Corner concluded glibly, "and
from every point of view, and you will see that there is not a single
flaw in my argument.  I have given you the only possible solution of
the mystery of the Ingres masterpiece."

"You may be right----" I murmured thoughtfully.

"I know I am," he answered dryly.




The Old Man in the Corner had a very curious theory about that
mysterious affair of the pearl necklace, and though it all occurred a
few years ago, I am tempted to put his deductions down on record,
because, as far as I know, neither the police of this or any other
country, nor the public, have ever found a satisfactory solution for
what was undoubtedly a strange and mystifying adventure.

I remembered the case quite well when first he spoke to me about it
one afternoon in what had become my favourite tea-haunt in Fleet
Street; the only thing I was not quite certain of was the identity of
the august personage to whom the pearl necklace was to be presented.
I did know, of course, that she belonged to one of the reigning
families of Europe and that she had been an active and somewhat
hotheaded and bitter opponent of the Communist movement in her own
country, in consequence of which both she and her exalted husband had
been the object of more than one murderous attack by the other side.

It was on the occasion of the august lady's almost miraculous escape
from a peculiarly well-planned and brutal assault that a number of
ladies in England subscribed the sum of fifteen thousand pounds for
the purchase of an exquisite pearl necklace to be presented to her as
a congratulatory gift.

Rightly or wrongly, the donors of this princely gift feared that a
certain well-known political organisation on the Continent would
strive by every means in its power, fair or foul, to prevent this
token of English good-will from reaching the recipient, and also, as
it chanced to happen, there had been during the past few months a
large number of thefts of valuables on Continental railways, and it
became a question who should be entrusted by the committee of
subscribers with the perilous risk of taking the necklace over for
presentation; the trouble being further enhanced by the fact that in
those days the Insurance Companies barred one or two European
countries from their comprehensive policies against theft and petty
larceny, and that it was to one of those countries thus barred that
the bearer of the fifteen thousand pound necklace would have to

Imagine the excitement, the anxiety, which reigned in the hearts of
the thousands of middle-class English women who had subscribed their
mite to the gift!  Their committee sat behind closed doors discussing
the claims of various volunteers who were ready to undertake the
journey: these worthy folk were quite convinced that certain
well-known leaders of anarchical organisations would be on the
lookout for the booty and would have special facilities for the theft
of it at the frontier during the course of those endless customs and
passport formalities for which that particular country was ever

Finally the committee's choice fell upon a certain Captain Arthur
Saunders, nephew of Sir Montague Bowden, who was chairman of the
ladies' committee.  Captain Saunders had, it seems, travelled abroad
a great deal, and his wife was foreign--Swedish so it was understood;
it was thought that if he went abroad now in the company of his wife,
the object of their journey might be thought to be a visit to Mrs.
Saunders's relations, and the conveying of the pearl necklace to its
destination might thus remain more or less a secret.

The choice was approved of by all the subscribers, and it was decided
that Captain and Mrs. Saunders.  should start by the ten a.m. train
for Paris on the sixteenth of March.  Captain Saunders was to call
the previous afternoon at a certain bank in Charing Cross, where the
necklace was deposited, and there receive it as an almost sacred
trust from the hands of the manager.  Further, it was arranged that
Mrs. Saunders should, immediately on arrival in Paris, send a wire to
Mrs. Berners, a great friend of hers who was the secretary of the
committee, and in fact that she should keep the committee informed of
Captain Saunders's well-being at all the more important points of
their journey.

And thus they started.

But no news came from Paris on the sixteenth.  At first no anxiety
was felt on that score, every one being ready to surmise that the
Calais-Paris train had been late in, and that the Saunderses had
perhaps only barely time to clear their luggage at the customs and
catch the train de luxe which would take them on, via Cologne,
without a chance of sending the promised telegram.  But soon after
midday of the seventeenth, Sir Montague Bowden had a wire from Mrs.
Saunders from Paris saying: "Arthur disappeared since last night.
Desperately anxious.  Please come at once.  Have booked room for you
here.  Mary.  Hotel Majestic."

The news was terrifying; however, Sir Montague Bowden, with
commendable zeal, at once wired to Mary announcing his immediate
departure for Paris, and as it was then too late for him to catch the
afternoon Continental train, he started by the evening one,
travelling all night and arriving at the Hotel Majestic in the early

As soon as he had had a bath and some breakfast he went in search of
information.  He found that the French police already had the
"affaire" in hand, but that they had not so far the slightest clue to
the mysterious disappearance of le Capitaine Saunders.  He found the
management of the Majestic in a state of offended dignity, and Mrs.
Saunders, in one that verged on hysteria, but fortunately, he also
found at the hotel a Mr. Haasberg, brother of Mrs. Saunders, a
Swedish business man of remarkable coolness and clearness of
judgment, who promptly put him _au fait_ with what had occurred.

It seems that Mr. Haasberg was settled in business in Paris, and that
he had hoped to catch a glimpse of his sister and brother-in-law on
the evening of the sixteenth at the Gare du Nord on their way through
to the East, but that on that very morning he had received a telegram
from Mary asking him to book a couple of rooms--a bedroom and a
sitting-room--for one night for them at the Hotel Majestic.  This Mr.
Haasberg did, glad enough that he would see something more of his
sister than he had been led to hope.

On the afternoon of the sixteenth he was kept late at business, and
was unable to meet the Saunderses at the station, but towards nine
o'clock he walked round to the Majestic, hoping to find them in.
Their room was on the third floor.  Mr. Haasberg went up in the lift,
and as soon as he reached No. 301 he became aware of a buzz of
conversation coming from within, which, however, ceased as soon as he
had pushed open the door.

On entering the room he saw that Captain Saunders had a visitor, a
tall, thick-set man, who wore an old-fashioned, heavy moustache and
large, gold-rimmed spectacles.  At sight of Mr. Haasberg the man
clapped his hat--a bowler--on his head, pulled his coat-collar over
his ears, and with a hasty: "Well, s'long, old man.  I'll wait till
to-morrow!" spoken with a strong foreign accent, he walked rapidly
out of the room and down the corridor.

Haasberg stood for a moment in the doorway to watch the disappearing
personage, but he did this without any ulterior motive or thought of
suspicion; then he turned back into the room and greeted his

Saunders seemed to Haasberg to be nervous and ill-at-ease; in
response to the latter's inquiry after Mary, he explained that she
had remained in her room as he had a man to see on business.
Haasberg made some casual remark about this visitor, and then Mary
Saunders came in.  She, too, appeared troubled and agitated, and as
soon as she had greeted her brother, she turned to her husband and
asked very eagerly:

"Well, has he gone?"

Saunders, giving a significant glance in Haasberg's direction,
replied with an obvious effort at indifference:

"Yes, yes, he's gone.  But he said he would be back to-morrow."

At which Mary seemed to give a sigh of relief.

Scenting some uncomfortable mystery, Haasberg questioned her, and
also Saunders, about their visitor, but could not elicit any
satisfactory explanation.

"Oh, there is nothing mysterious about old Pasquier," was all that
either of them would say.

"He is an old pal of Arthur's," Mary added lightly, "but he is such
an awful bore that I got Arthur to say that I was out, so that he
might get rid of him more quickly."

Somehow Haasberg felt that these explanations were very lame.  He
could not get it out of his head, that there was something mysterious
about the visitor, and knowing the purpose of the Saunderses'
journey, he thought it as well to give them a very serious word of
warning about Continental hotels generally, and to suggest that they
should, after this stay in Paris, go straight through in the train de
luxe and never halt again until the fifteen thousand pound necklace
was safely in the hands of the august lady for whom it was intended.
But both Arthur and Mary laughed at these words of warning.

"My dear fellow," Arthur said, seemingly rather in a huff, "we are
not such mugs as you think us.  Mary and I have travelled on the
Continent at least as much as you have, and are fully alive to the
dangers attendant upon our mission.  As a matter of fact, the moment
we arrived, I gave the necklace in its own padlocked tin box, just as
I brought it over from England, in charge of the hotel management,
who immediately locked it up in their strong-room, so even if good
old Pasquier had designs on it--which I can assure you he has not--he
would stand no chance of getting hold of it.  And now, sit down,
there's a good chap, and talk of something else."

Only half reassured, Haasberg sat down and had a chat.  But he did
not stay long.  Mary was obviously tired, and soon said good-night.
Arthur offered to accompany his brother-in-law to the latter's
lodgings in the Rue de Moncigny.

"I would like a walk," he said, "before going to bed."

So the two men walked out together, and Haasberg finally said
good-night to Arthur just outside his own lodgings.  It was then
close upon ten o'clock.  The little party had agreed to spend the
next day together, as the train de luxe did not go until the evening,
and Haasberg had promised to take a holiday from business.  Before
going to bed he attended to some urgent correspondence, and had just
finished a letter when his telephone bell rang.  To his horror he
heard his sister's voice speaking.

"Don't keep Arthur up so late, Herman," she said.  "I am dog tired,
and can't go to sleep until he returns."

"Arthur?" he replied.  "But Arthur left me at my door two hours ago!"

"He has not returned," she insisted, "and I am getting anxious."

"Of course you are, but he can't be long now.  He must have turned
into a café and forgot the time.  Do ring me up as soon as he comes

Unable to rest, however, and once more vaguely anxious, Haasberg went
hastily back to the Majestic.  He found Mary nearly distracted with
anxiety, and as he himself felt anything but reassured, he did not
know how to comfort her.

At one time he went down into the hall to ascertain whether anything
was known on the hotel about Saunders's movements earlier in the
evening; but at this hour of the night there were only the night
porter and the watchman about, and they knew nothing of what had
occurred before they came on duty.

There was nothing for it but to await the morning as calmly as
possible.  This was difficult enough, as Mary Saunders was evidently
in a terrible state of agitation.  She was quite certain that
something tragic had happened to her husband, but Haasberg tried in
vain to get her to speak of the mysterious visitor who had from the
first aroused his own suspicions.  Mary persisted in asserting that
the visitor was just an old pal of Arthur's and that no suspicion of
any kind could possibly rest upon him.

In the early morning Haasberg went off to the nearest commissariat of
police.  They took the matter in hand without delay, and within the
hour had obtained some valuable information from the personnel of the
hotel.  To begin with, it was established that at about ten minutes
past ten the previous evening, that is to say a quarter of an hour or
so after Haasberg had parted from Arthur Saunders outside his own
lodgings, the latter had returned to the Majestic, and at once asked
for the tin box which he had deposited in the bureau.  There was some
difficulty in acceding to his request, because the clerk who was in
charge of the keys of the strong-room could not at once be found.
However, M. le Capitaine was so insistent that search was made for
the clerk, who presently appeared with the keys, and after the usual
formalities, handed over the tin box to Saunders, who signed a
receipt for it in the book.  Haasberg had since then identified the
signature which was quite clear and incontestable.

Saunders then went upstairs, refusing to take the lift, and five
minutes later he came down again, nodded to the hall porter, and went
out of the hotel.  No one had seen him since, but during the course
of the morning, the valet on the fourth floor had found an empty tin
box in the gentlemen's cloakroom.  This box was produced, and to her
unutterable horror Mary Saunders recognised it as the one which had
held the pearl necklace.

The whole of this evidence as it gradually came to light was a
staggering blow both to Mary and to Haasberg himself, because until
this moment neither of them had thought that the necklace was in
jeopardy: they both believed that it was safely locked up in the
strong-room of the hotel.

Haasberg now feared the worst.  He blamed himself terribly for not
having made more certain of the mysterious visitor's identity.  He
had not yet come to the point of accusing his brother-in-law in his
mind of a conspiracy to steal the necklace, but frankly, at this
stage, he did not know what to think.  Saunders's conduct had--to say
the least--been throughout extremely puzzling.  Why had he elected to
spend the night in Paris, when all arrangements had been made for him
and his wife to travel straight through?  Who was the mysterious
visitor with the walrus moustache, vaguely referred to by both Arthur
and Mary as "old Pasquier"?  And above all why had Arthur withdrawn
the necklace from the hotel strong-room where it was quite safe, and,
with it in his pocket, walked about the streets of Paris at that hour
of the night?

Haasberg was quite convinced that "old Pasquier" knew something about
the whole affair, but, strangely enough, Mary persisted in asserting
that he was quite harmless and an old friend of Arthur's who was
beyond suspicion.  When further pressed with questions, she declared
that she had no idea where the man lodged, and that, in fact, she
believed that he had left Paris the self-same evening _en route_ for
Brussels, where he was settled in business.

Enquiry amongst the personnel of the hotel revealed the fact that
Captain Saunders's visitor had been seen by the hall porter when he
came soon after half-past eight, and asked whether le Capitaine
Saunders had finished dinner; his question being answered in the
affirmative, he went upstairs, refusing to take the lift.  Half an
hour or so later he was seen by one of the waiters in the lounge
hurriedly crossing the hall, and finally by the two boys in
attendance at the swing doors when he went out of the hotel.  All
agreed that the man was very tall and thick-set, that he wore a heavy
moustache and a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles.  He had on a bowler
hat and an overcoat with the collar pulled right up to his ears.  The
hall porter, who himself spoke English fairly well, was under the
impression that the man was not English, although he made his
enquiries in that language.

In addition to all these investigations, the commissaire de police,
on his second visit to the hotel, was able to assure Haasberg that
all the commissariats in and around Paris had been communicated with
by telephone so as to ascertain whether any man answering to
Saunders's description had been injured during the night in a street
accident, and taken in somewhere for shelter; also that a description
of the necklace had already been sent round to all the Monts-de-Piété
throughout the country.  The police were also sharply on the lookout
for the man with the walrus moustache, but so far without success.

And Mary Saunders obstinately persisted in her denial of any
knowledge about him.  "Arthur," she said, "sometimes saw 'old
Pasquier' in London"; but she did not know anything about him,
neither what his nationality was, nor where he lodged.  She did not
know when he had left London, nor where he could be found in Paris.
All that she knew, so she said, was that his name was Pasquier, and
that he was in business in Brussels; she therefore concluded that he
was Belgian.

Even to her own brother she would not say more, although he succeeded
in making her understand how strange her attitude must appear both to
the police and to her friends, and what harm she was doing to her
husband, but at this she burst into floods of tears and swore that
she knew nothing about Pasquier's whereabouts, and that she believed
him to be innocent of any attempt to steal the necklace or to injure

There was nothing more to be said for the present and Haasberg sent
the telegram in his sister's name to Sir Montague Bowden because he
felt that some one less busy than himself should look after the
affair and be a comfort to Mary, whose mental condition appeared
pitiable in the extreme.

In this first interview he was able to assure Sir Montague that
everything had been done to trace the whereabouts of Arthur Saunders,
and also of the necklace of which the unfortunate man had been the
custodian; and it was actually while the two men were talking the
whole case over that Haasberg received an intimation from the police
that they believed the missing man had been found: at any rate would
Monsieur give himself the trouble to come round to the commissariat
at once.

This, of course, Haasberg did, accompanied by Sir Montague, and at
the commissariat to their horror they found the unfortunate Saunders
in a terrible condition.  Briefly the commissaire explained to them
that about a quarter past ten last night an _agent de police_, making
his rounds, saw a man crouching in the angle of a narrow blind alley
that leads out of the Rue de Moncigny.  On being shaken up by the
agent the man struggled to his feet, but he appeared quite dazed and
unable to reply to any questions that were put to him.  He was then
conveyed to the nearest commissariat, where he spent the night.

He was obviously suffering from loss of memory, and could give no
account of himself, nor were any papers of identification found upon
him, not even a visiting card, but close behind him, on the pavement
where he was crouching, the _agent_ had picked up a handkerchief
which was saturated with chloroform.  The handkerchief bore the
initials A.S.  The man, of course, was Arthur Saunders.  What had
happened to him it was impossible to ascertain.  He certainly did not
appear to be physically hurt, although from time to time when Mr.
Haasberg or Sir Montague tried to question him, he passed his hand
across the back of his head, and an expression of pathetic puzzlement
came into his eyes.

His two friends, after the usual formalities of identification, were
allowed to take him back to the Hotel Majestic where he was restored
to the arms of his anxious wife; the English doctor, hastily
summoned, could not find any trace of injury about the body, only the
head appeared rather tender when touched.  The doctor's theory was
that Saunders had probably been sandbagged first, and then rendered
more completely insensible by means of the chloroformed handkerchief,
and that excitement, anxiety and the blow on the head had caused
temporary loss of memory which quietude and good nursing would soon
put right.

In the meanwhile, of the fifteen thousand pound necklace there was
not the slightest trace.


Unfortunately the disappearance of so valuable a piece of jewellery
was one of those cases that could not be kept from public knowledge.
The matter was of course in the hands of the French police and they
had put themselves in communication with their English confrères, and
the consternation--not to say the indignation--amongst the good
ladies who had subscribed the money for the gift to the august lady
was unbounded.

Everybody was blaming everybody else; the choice of Captain Saunders
as the accredited messenger was now severely criticised; pointed
questions were asked as to his antecedents, as to his wife's foreign
relations, and it was soon found that very little was known about

Of course everybody knew that he was Sir Montague Bowden's nephew,
and that, thanks to his uncle's influence, he had obtained a
remunerative and rather important post in the office of one of the
big Insurance Companies.  But what his career had been before that no
one knew.  Some people said that he had fought in South Africa and
later on had been correspondent for one of the great dailies during
the Russo-Japanese war; altogether there seemed no doubt that he had
been something of a rolling stone.

Rather tardily the committee was taken severely to task for having
entrusted so important a mission to a man who was either a coward or
a thief, or both, for at first no one doubted that Saunders had met a
confederate in Paris and had handed over the necklace to him, whilst
he himself enacted a farce of being waylaid, chloroformed and robbed,
and subsequently of losing his memory.

But presently another version of the mystery was started by some
amateur detective, and it found credence with quite a good many
people.  This was that Sir Montague Bowden had connived at the theft
with Mrs. Saunders's relations; that the man with the walrus
moustache did not exist at all or was in very truth a harmless old
friend of Captain Saunders, and that it was Haasberg who had induced
his brother-in-law to withdraw the necklace from the hotel
strong-room and to bring it to the Rue de Moncigny; that in fact it
was that same perfidious Swede who had waylaid the credulous
Englishman, chloroformed and robbed him of the precious necklace.

In the meanwhile the police in England had, of course, been
communicated with by their French confrères, but before they could
move in the matter or enjoin discretion on all concerned, an
enterprising young man on the staff of the _Express Post_ had
interviewed Miss Elizabeth Spicer, who was the parlour-maid at the
Saunderses' flat in Sloane Street.

That young lady, it seems, had something to say about a gentleman
named Pasquier, who was not an infrequent visitor at the flat.  She
described him as a fine, tall gentleman, who wore large gold-rimmed
spectacles, and a full military moustache.  It seems that the last
time Miss Elizabeth saw him was two days before her master and
mistress's departure for abroad.  Mr. Pasquier called late that
evening and stayed till past ten o'clock.  When Elizabeth was rung
for in order to show him out, he was saying good-bye to the captain
in the hall, and she heard him say, "in his funny foreign way," as
she put it:

"Well, I shall be in Paris as soon as you.  Tink it over, my friend."

And on the top of that came a story told by Henry Tidy, Sir Montague
Bowden's butler.  According to him Captain Saunders called at Sir
Montague Bowden's house in Lowndes Street on the afternoon of the
fifteenth.  The two gentlemen remained closeted together in the
library for nearly an hour, when Tidy was summoned to show the
visitor out.  Sir Montague, it seems, went to the front door with his
nephew, and as the latter finally wished him good-bye, Sir Montague
said to him:

"My dear boy, you can take it from me that there's nothing to worry
about, and in any case I am afraid that it is too late to make any
fresh arrangements."

"It's because of Mary," the captain rejoined.  "She has made herself
quite ill over it."

"The journey will do her good," Sir Montague went on pleasantly, "but
if I were you I would have a good talk with your brother-in-law.  He
must know his Paris well.  Take my advice and spend the night at the
Majestic.  You can always get rooms there."

This conversation Tidy heard quite distinctly, and he related the
whole incident both to the journalist and to the police.  After that
the amateur investigators of crime were divided into two camps: there
were those who persisted in thinking that Pasquier and Saunders, and
probably Mrs. Saunders also, had conspired together to steal the
necklace, and that Saunders had acted the farce of being waylaid and
robbed, and losing his memory; they based their deductions on
Elizabeth Spicer's evidence and on Mary Saunders's extraordinary
persistence in trying to shield the mysterious Pasquier.

But other people, getting hold of Henry Tidy's story, deduced from it
that it was indeed Sir Montague Bowden who had planned the whole
thing in conjunction with Haasberg, since it was he who had persuaded
Saunders to spend the night in Paris, thus giving his accomplice the
opportunity of assaulting Saunders and stealing the necklace.  To
these wise-acres "old Pasquier" was indeed a harmless old pal of
Arthur's, whose presence that evening at the Majestic was either a
fable invented by Haasberg, or one quite innocent in purpose.  In
vain did Sir Montague try to explain away Tidy's evidence.  Arthur,
he said, had certainly called upon him that last afternoon, but what
he seemed worried about was his wife's health; he feared that she
would not be strong enough to undertake the long journey without a
break, so Sir Montague advised him to spend the night in Paris and in
any case to talk the matter over with Mary's brother.

The conversation overheard by Tidy could certainly admit of this
explanation, but it did not satisfy the many amateur detectives who
preferred to see a criminal in the chairman of the committee rather
than a harmless old gentleman, as eager as themselves to find a
solution to the mystery.  And while people argued and wrangled there
was no news of the necklace, and none of the man with the walrus
moustache.  No doubt that worthy had by now shaved off his hirsute
adornment and grown a beard.  He had certainly succeeded in evading
the police; whether he had gone to Brussels or succeeded in crossing
the German frontier no one could say, his disappearance certainly
bore out the theory of his being the guilty party with the connivance
of Saunders, as against the Bowden-Haasberg theory.

As for the necklace it had probably been already taken to pieces and
the pearls would presently be disposed of one by one to some
unscrupulous Continental dealers, when the first hue and cry after
them had died away.

Captain Saunders was said to be slowly recovering from his loss of
memory and subsequent breakdown.  Every one at home was waiting to
hear what explanation he would give of his amazing conduct in taking
the necklace out of the hotel strong-room late that night and
sallying forth with it into the streets of Paris at that hour.  The
explanation came after about a fortnight of suspense in a letter from
Mary to her friend Mrs. Berners.

Arthur, she said, had told her that on the fateful evening, after he
parted from Mr. Haasberg in the Rue de Moncigny, he had felt restless
and anxious about what the latter had told him on the subject of
foreign hotels, and he was suddenly seized with the idea that the
necklace was not safe in the care of the management of the Majestic,
because there would come a moment when he would have to claim the tin
box, and this would probably be handed over to him when the hall of
the hotel was crowded, and the eyes of expert thieves would then
follow his every movement.  Therefore he went back to the hotel,
claimed the tin box, and as the latter was large and cumbersome he
got rid of it in one of the cloak-rooms of the hotel, slipped the
necklace, in its velvet case, in the pocket of his overcoat, and went
out with the intention of asking Haasberg to take care of it for him,
and only to hand it back to him when on the following evening the
train de luxe was on the point of starting.  He had been in sight of
Haasberg's lodgings when, without the slightest warning, a dull blow
on the back of his head, coming he knew not whence, robbed him of

This explanation, however, was voted almost unanimously to be very
lame, and it was, on the whole, as well that the Saunderses had
decided to remain abroad for a time.  The ladies especially--and
above all those who had put their money together for the
necklace--were very bitter against him.  On the other hand Sir
Montague Bowden was having a very rough time of it; he had already
had one or two very unpleasant word-tussles with some outspoken
friends of his, and there was talk of a slander action that would
certainly be a _cause célèbre_ when it came on.

Thus the arguments went on in endless succession until one day--well
do I remember the excitement that spread throughout the town as soon
as the incident became known--there was a terrible row in one of the
big clubs in Piccadilly.  Sir Montague Bowden was insulted by one of
his fellow members: he was called a thief, and asked what share he
was getting out of the sale of the necklace.  Of course the man who
spoke in this unwarranted fashion was drunk at the time, but
nevertheless it was a terrible position for Sir Montague, because as
his opponent grew more and more abusive and he himself more and more
indignant, he realised that he had practically no friends who would
stand by him in the dispute.  Some of the members tried to stop the
row, and others appeared indifferent, but no one sided with him, or
returned abuse for abuse on his behalf.

It was in the very midst of this most unedifying scene--one perhaps
unparalleled in the annals of London club life--that a club servant
entered the room, and handed a telegram to Sir Montague Bowden.

Even the most sceptical there, and those whose brains were almost
fuddled with the wrangling and the noise, declared afterwards that a
mysterious Providence had ordained that the telegram should arrive at
that precise moment.  It had been sent to Sir Montague's private
house in Lowndes Street; his secretary had opened it and sent it on
to the club.  As soon as Sir Montague had mastered its contents he
communicated them to the members of the club, and it seems that there
never had been such excitement displayed in any assembly of sober
Englishmen as was shown in that club room on this momentous occasion.

The telegram had come all the way from the other end of Europe, and
had been sent by the august lady in whose hands the priceless
necklace, about which there was so much pother in England and France,
had just been safely placed.  It ran thus:

"Deeply touched by exquisite present just received through kind
offices of Captain Saunders, from English ladies.  Kind thoughts and
beautiful necklace equally precious.  Kindly convey my grateful
thanks to all subscribers."

Having read out the telegram, Sir Montague Bowden demanded an apology
from those who had impugned his honour, and I understand that he got
an unqualified one.  After that, male tongues were let loose; the
wildest conjectures flew about as to the probable solution of what
appeared a more curious mystery than ever.  By evening the papers had
got hold of the incident, and all those who were interested in the
affair shook their heads and looked portentously wise.

But the hero of the hour was certainly Captain Saunders.  From having
been voted either a knave or a fool, or both, he was declared all at
once to be possessed of all the qualities which had made England
great: prudence, astuteness, and tenacity.  However, as a matter of
fact, nobody knew what had actually happened; the august lady had the
necklace and Captain Saunders was returning to England without a
stain on his character, but as to how these two eminently
satisfactory results had come about not even the wise-acres could
say.  Captain and Mrs. Saunders arrived in England a few days later;
every one was agog with curiosity, and the poor things had hardly
stepped out of the train before they were besieged by newspaper men
and pressed with questions.

The next morning the _Express Post_ and the _Daily Thunderer_ came
out with exclusive interviews with Captain Saunders, who had made no
secret of the extraordinary adventure which had once more placed him
in possession of the necklace.  It seems that he and his wife on
coming out of the Madeleine Church on Easter Sunday were hustled at
the top of the steps by a man whose face they did not see, and who
pushed past them very hastily and roughly.  Arthur Saunders at once
thought of his pockets, and looked to see if his notecase had not
disappeared.  To his boundless astonishment his hand came in contact
with a long, hard parcel in the outside pocket of his overcoat, and
this parcel proved to be the velvet case containing the missing

Both he and his wife were flabbergasted at this discovery, and,
scarcely believing in this amazing piece of good luck, they managed
with the help of Mr. Haasberg, despite its being Easter Sunday, to
obtain an interview with one of the great jewellers in the Rue de la
Paix, who, well knowing the history of the missing necklace, was able
to assure them that they had indeed been lucky enough to regain
possession of their treasure.  That same evening they left by the
train de luxe, having been fortunate enough to secure seats; needless
to say that the necklace was safely stowed away inside Captain
Saunders's breast pocket.

All was indeed well that ended so well.  But the history of the
disappearance and reappearance of the pearl necklace has remained a
baffling mystery to this day.  Neither the Saunderses nor Mr.
Haasberg ever departed one iota from the circumstantial story which
they had originally told, and no one ever heard another word about
the man with the walrus moustache and the gold-rimmed spectacles: the
French police are still after him in connection with the assault on
le Capitaine Saunders, but no trace of him was ever found.

To some people this was a conclusive proof of guilt, but then, having
stolen the necklace, why should he have restored it?  Though the
pearls were very beautiful and there were a great number of them
beautifully matched, there was nothing abnormal about them either in
size or colour; there never could be any difficulty for an expert
thief to dispose of the pearls to Continental dealers.  The same
argument would of course apply to Mr. Haasberg, whom some wiseacres
still persisted in accusing.  If he stole the necklace why should he
have restored it?  Nothing could be easier than for a business man
who travelled a great deal on the Continent to sell a parcel of
pearls.  And there always remained the unanswered question: Why did
Saunders take the pearls out of the strong-room, and where was he
taking them to when he was assaulted and robbed?

Did the man with the walrus moustache really call at the Majestic
that night?  And if he was innocent, why did he disappear?  Why, why,


The case had very much interested me at the time, but the mystery was
a nine days' wonder as far as I was concerned, and soon far more
important matters than the temporary disappearance of a few rows of
pearls occupied public attention.

It was really only last year when I renewed my acquaintance with the
Old Man in the Corner, that I bethought myself once more of the
mystery of the pearl necklace, and I felt the desire to hear what the
spook-like creature's theory was upon the subject.

"The pearl necklace?" he said with a cackle.  "Ah, yes, it caused a
good bit of stir in its day.  But people talked such a lot of
irresponsible nonsense that thinking minds had not a chance of
arriving at a sensible conclusion."

"No," I rejoined amiably.  "But you did."

"Yes, you are right there," he replied, "I knew well enough where the
puzzle lay, but it was not my business to put the police on the right
track.  And if I had I should have been the cause of making two
innocent and clever people suffer more severely than the guilty

"Will you condescend to explain?" I asked, with an indulgent smile.

"Why should I not?" he retorted, and once again his thin fingers
started to work on the inevitable piece of string.  "It all lies in a
nutshell, and is easily understandable if we realise that 'old
Pasquier,' the man with the walrus moustache, was not the friend of
the Saunderses, but their enemy."

I frowned.  "Their enemy?"

"An old pal shall we say?" he retorted, "who knew something in the
past history of one or the other of them that they did not wish their
newest friends to know: really a blackmailer who, under the guise of
comradeship, sat not infrequently at their fireside, watching an
opportunity for extorting a heavy price for his silence and his
good-will.  Thus he could worm himself into their confidence; he knew
their private life; he heard about the necklace, and decided that
here was the long sought for opportunity at last.

"Think it all over and you will see how well the pieces of that
jig-saw puzzle fit together and make a perfect picture.  Pasquier
calls on the Saunderses a day or two before their departure and
springs his infamous proposal upon them then.  For the time being
Arthur succeeds in giving him the slip, his journey is not yet ...
the necklace is not yet in his possession ... but he knows the true
quality of the blackmailer now, and he is on the alert.

"He begins by going to Sir Montague Bowden and begging him to entrust
the mission to somebody else.  Judging by the butler's evidence, he
even makes a clean breast of his troubles to Sir Montague who,
however, makes light of them and advises consultation with Mr.
Haasberg, who perhaps would undertake the journey.  In any case it is
too late to make fresh arrangements at this hour.  Very reluctantly
now, and hoping for the best, the Saunderses make a start.  But the
blackmailer, too, is on the alert, he has succeeded in spying upon
them and in tracing them to the Majestic in Paris.  The situation now
has become terribly serious, for the blackmailer has thrown off the
mask and demands the necklace under threats which apparently the
Saunderses did not dare defy.

"But they are both clever and resourceful, and as soon as Haasberg's
arrival rids them temporarily their tormentor, they put their heads
together and invent a plot which was destined to free them for ever
from the threats of Pasquier and at the same time would enable them
to honour the trust which had been placed in them by the committee.
In any case, they had until the morrow to make up their minds.
Remember the words which Mr. Haasberg overheard on the part of
Pasquier: 'S'long, old man.  I'll wait till to-morrow!'  Anyway,
Pasquier must have gone off that evening confident that he had
Captain Saunders entirely in his power, and that the wretched man
would on the morrow hand over the necklace without demur.

"Whether Arthur Saunders confided in Haasberg or not is doubtful.
Personally I think not.  I believe that he and Mary did the whole
thing between them.  Arthur having parted from his brother-in-law
went back to the hotel, took the necklace out of the strong-room and
then left it in Mary's charge.  He threw the tin box away, there
where it would surely be found again.  Then he went as far as the Rue
de Moncigny and crouched, seemingly unconscious, in the blind alley,
having previously taken the precaution of saturating his handkerchief
with chloroform.

"Thus the two clever conspirators cut the ground from under the
blackmailer's feet, for the latter now had the police after him for
an assault, which he might find very difficult to disprove, even if
he cleared himself of the charge of having stolen the necklace.
Anyway he would remain a discredited man, and his threats would in
the future be defied, because if he dared come out in the open after
that, public feeling would be so bitter against him for a crime which
he had not committed that he would never be listened to if he tried
to do Captain Saunders an injury.  And it was with a view of keeping
public indignation at boiling pitch against the supposed thief that
the Saunderses kept up the comedy for so long.  To my mind that was a
very clever move.  Then they came out with the story of the
restoration of the necklace and became the heroes of the hour.

"Think it over," the funny creature went on, as he finally stuffed
his bit of string back into his pocket and rose from the table,
"think it over and you will realise at once that everything happened
just as I have related, and that it is the only theory that fits in
with the facts that are known; you'll also agree with me, I think,
that Captain and Mrs. Saunders chose the one way of ridding
themselves effectually of a dangerous blackmailer.  The police were
after him for a long time, as they still believed that he had
something to do with the theft of the necklace and with the assault
on M. le Capitaine Saunders.  But presently 1914 came along and what
became of the man with the walrus moustache no one ever knew.  What
his nationality was was never stated at the time, but whatever it
was, it would, I imagine, be a bar against his obtaining a visa on
his passport for the purpose of visiting England and blackmailing
Arthur Saunders.

"But it was a curious case."




There had been a great deal of talk about that time, in newspapers
and amongst the public, of the difficulty an inexperienced criminal
finds in disposing of the evidences of his crime--notably of course
of the body of his victim.  In no case perhaps was this difficulty so
completely overcome--at any rate as far as was publicly known--as in
that of the murder of the individual known as Prince Orsoff.  I am
thus qualifying his title because as a matter of fact the larger
public never believed that he was a genuine Prince--Russian or
otherwise--and that even if he had not come by such a violent and
tragic death the Smithsons would never have seen either their ten
thousand pounds again or poor Louisa's aristocratic bridegroom.

I had been thinking a great deal about this mysterious affair, indeed
it had been discussed at most of the literary and journalistic clubs
as a possible subject for a romance or drama, and it was with
deliberate intent that I walked over to Fleet Street one afternoon,
in order to catch the Old Man in the Corner in his accustomed
teashop, and get him to give me his views on the subject of the
mystery that to this very day surrounds the murder of the Russian

"Let me just put the whole case before you," the funny creature began
as soon as I had led him to talk upon the subject, "as far as it was
known to the general public.  It all occurred in Folkestone, you
remember, where the wedding of Louisa Smithson, the daughter of a
late retired grocer, to a Russian Prince whom she had met abroad, was
the talk of the town.

"It was on a lovely day in May, and the wedding ceremony was to take
place at Holy Trinity Church.  The Smithsons--mother and
daughter--especially since they had come into a fortune, were very
well known in Folkestone, and there was a large crowd of relatives
and friends inside the church and another out in the street to watch
the arrival of guests and to see the bride.  There were camera men
and newspaper men, and hundreds of idlers and visitors, and the
police had much ado to keep the crowd in order.

"Mrs. Smithson had already arrived looking gorgeous in what I
understand is known as amethyst crêpe-de-chine, and there was a
marvellous array of Bond Street gowns and gorgeous headgears, all of
which kept the lookers-on fully occupied during the traditional
quarter of an hour's grace usually accorded to the bride.

"But presently those fifteen minutes became twenty, the clergy had
long since arrived, the guests had all assembled, the bridesmaids
were waiting in the porch: but there was no bridegroom.  Neither he
nor his best man had arrived; and now it was half an hour after the
time appointed for the ceremony, and, oh, horror! the bride's car was
in sight.  The bride in church waiting for the bridegroom!--such an
outrage had not been witnessed in Folkestone within the memory of the
oldest inhabitants.

"One of the guests went at once to break the news to the elderly
relative who had arranged to give the bride away, and who was with
her in the car, whilst another, a Mr. Sutherland Ford, jumped into
the first available taxi, having volunteered to go to the station in
order to ascertain whether there had been any breakdown on the line,
as the bridegroom was coming down by train from London with his best

"The bride, hastily apprised of the extraordinary contretemps,
remained in the car, with the blinds pulled down, well concealed from
the prying eyes of the crowd, whilst the fashionable guests,
relatives and friends had perforce to possess their soul in patience.

"And presently the news fell like a bombshell in the midst of this
lively throng.  A taxi drove up, and from it alighted first Mr.
Sutherland Ford, who had volunteered to go to the station for
information, and then John and Henry Carter, the two latter
beautifully got up in frock-coats, striped trousers, top hats, and
flowers in their buttonholes, looking obviously like belated wedding
guests.  But still no bridegroom, and no best man.

"The three gentlemen, paying no heed to the shower of questions that
assailed them, as soon as they had jumped out of the taxi ran
straight into the church, leaving every one's curiosity unsatisfied
and public excitement at fever pitch.

"'It was John and Henry Carter,' the ladies whispered agitatedly;
'fancy their being asked to the wedding!'

"And those who were in the know whispered to those who were less
favoured that young Henry had at one time been engaged to Louisa
Smithson, before she met her Russian Prince, and that when she threw
him over he was in such dire despair that his friends thought he
would commit suicide.

"A moment or two later Mrs. Smithson was seen hurriedly coming out of
church, her face pale and drawn, and her beautiful hat all awry.  She
made straight for the bride's car, stepped into it, and the car
immediately drove off, whilst the wedding guests trooped out of the
church, and the terrible news spread like wildfire through the crowd,
and was presently all over the town.

"It seems that when the midday train, London to Folkestone, stopped
at Swanley Junction, two passengers who were about to enter a
first-class compartment in one of the corridor carriages were
horrified to find it in a terrible state of disorder.  They hastily
called the guard, and on examination the carriage looked indeed as if
it had been the scene of a violent struggle: the door on the off side
was unlatched, two of the window straps were wrenched off, the
anti-macassars were torn off the cushions, one of the luggage racks
was broken, and the net hung down in strips, and over some of the
cushions were marks unmistakably made by a blood-stained hand.

"The guard immediately locked the compartment and sent for the local
police.  No one was allowed in or out of the station until every
passenger on the train had satisfied the police as to his or her
identity.  Thus the train was held up for over two hours whilst
preliminary investigations were going on.

"There appeared no doubt that a terrible murder had been committed,
and telephonic communication all along the line presently established
the fact that it must have been done somewhere in the neighbourhood
of Sydenham Hill, because a group of men who were at work on the 'up'
side of the line at Penge, when the down train came out of the tunnel
noticed that the door of one of the first-class carriages was open.
It swung to again just before the train steamed through the station.

"A preliminary search was at once made in and about the tunnel; it
revealed on the platform of Sydenham Hill station a first-class
single ticket of that day's issue, London to Folkestone, crushed and
stained with blood, and on the permanent way, close to the entrance
of the tunnel on the Penge side, a soft black hat, and a broken pair
of pince-nez.  But as to the identity of the victim there was for the
moment no clue.

"After a couple of wearisome and anxious hours the passengers were
allowed to proceed on their journey.  Among these passengers, it
appears, were John and Henry Carter, who were on their way to the
Smithson wedding.  Until they arrived in Folkestone they had no more
idea than the police who the victim of the mysterious train murder
was: but in the station they caught side of Mr. Sutherland Ford, whom
they knew slightly.  Mr. Ford was making agitated enquiries as to any
possible accident on the line.  The Carters put him _au fait_ of what
had occurred, and as there was no sign of the Russian Prince amongst
the passengers who had just arrived, all three men came to the
horrifying conclusion that it was indeed the bridegroom elect who had
been murdered.

"They communicated at once with the police, and there were more
investigations and telephonic messages up and down the line before
the Carters and Mr. Ford were at last allowed to proceed to the
church and break the awful news to those most directly concerned.

"And in this tragic fashion did Louisa Smithson's wedding-day draw to
its end; nor, as far as the public was concerned, was the mystery of
that terrible murder ever satisfactorily cleared up.  The local
police worked very hard and very systematically, but, though
presently they also had the help of one of the ablest detectives from
Scotland Yard, nothing was seen or found that gave the slightest clue
either as to the means which the murderer or murderers adopted for
removing the body of their victim, or in what manner they made good
their escape.  The body of the Russian Prince was never found, and,
as far as the public knows, the murderer is still at large; and
although, as time went on, many strange facts came to light, they
only helped to plunge that extraordinary crime into darker mystery."


"The facts in themselves were curious enough, you will admit," the
Old Man in the Corner went on after a while.  "Many of these were
never known to the public, whilst others found their way into the
columns of the halfpenny Press, who battened on the 'Mystery of the
Russian Prince' for weeks on end, and, as far as the unfortunate
Smithsons were concerned, there was not a reader of the _Express
Post_ and kindred newspapers who did not know the whole of their
family history.

"It seems that Louisa Smithson is the daughter of a grocer in
Folkestone, who had retired from business just before the War, and
with his wife and his only child led a meagre and obscure existence
in a tiny house in Warren Avenue somewhere near the tram road.  They
were always supposed to be very poor, but suddenly old Smithson died
and it turned out that he had been a miser, for he left the handsome
little fortune of fifteen thousand pounds to be equally divided
between his daughter and his widow.

"At once Mrs. Smithson and Louisa found themselves the centre of an
admiring throng of friends and relatives all eager to help them spend
their money for their especial benefit; but Mrs. Smithson was shrewd
enough not to allow herself to be exploited by those who in the past
had never condescended to more than a bowing acquaintance with her.
She turned her back on most of those sycophants, but at the same time
she was determined to do the best for herself and for Louisa, and to
this end she admitted into her councils her sister, Margaret Penny,
who was saleswoman at a fashionable shop in London, and who
immediately advised a journey up to town so that the question of
clothes might at once be satisfactorily settled.

"In addition to valuable advice on that score, this Miss Penny seems
to have succeeded in completely turning her sister's head.  Certain
it is that Mrs. Smithson left Folkestone a quiet, sensible, motherly
woman, and that she returned, six weeks later, an arrogant,
ill-mannered parvenue, who seemed to think that the possession of a
few thousand pounds entitled her to ride rough-shod over the feelings
and sentiments of those who had less money than herself.

"She began by taking a suite of rooms at the Splendide Hotel for
herself, her daughter, and her maid.  Then she sold her house in
Warren Avenue, bought a car, and, though she and Louisa were of
course in deep mourning, they were to be seen everywhere in wonderful
Bond Street dresses and marvellous feathered hats.  Finally, they
announced their intention of spending the coming winter on the
Riviera, probably Monte Carlo.

"All this extravagant behaviour made some people smile, others
shrugged their shoulders and predicted disaster: but there was one
who suffered acutely through this change in the fortune of the
Smithsons.  This was Henry Carter, a young clerk employed in an
insurance office in London.  He and his brother were Folkestone men,
sons of a local tailor in a very small way of business, who had been
one of old Smithson's rare friends.  The elder Carter boy had long
since cut his stick and was said to be earning a living in London by
free-lance journalism.  The younger one, Henry, remained to help his
father with the tailoring.  He was a constant visitor in the little
house in Warren Avenue, and presently became engaged to Louisa.
There could be no question of an immediate marriage, of course, as
Henry had neither money nor prospects.  However, presently old Carter
died, the tailoring business was sold for a couple of hundred pounds,
and Henry went up to London to join his brother and to seek his
fortune.  Presently he obtained a post in an insurance office, but
his engagement to Louisa subsisted: the young people were known to be
deeply in love with one another, and Henry spent most weekends and
all his holidays in Folkestone in order to be near his girl.

"Then came the change in the fortune of the Smithsons, and an
immediate coolness in Louisa's manner toward young Henry.  It was all
very well in the past to be engaged to the son of a jobbing tailor,
while one was poor oneself, and one had neither wit nor good looks,
but now...!

"In fact already when they were in London Mrs. Smithson had intimated
to Henry Carter that his visits were none too welcome, and when he
appealed to Louisa she put him off with a few curt words.  The young
man was in despair, and, indeed, his brother actually feared at one
time that he would commit suicide.

"It was soon after Christmas of that same year that the curtain was
rung up on the first act of the mysterious tragedy which was destined
to throw a blight for ever after upon the life of Louisa Smithson.
It began with the departure of herself and her mother for the
Continent, where they intended to remain until the end of March.  For
the first few weeks their friends had no news of them, but presently
Miss Margaret Penny, who had kept up a desultory correspondence with
a pal of hers in Folkestone, started to give glowing accounts of the
Smithsons' doings in Monte Carlo.

"They were staying at the Hotel de Paris, paying two hundred francs a
day for their rooms alone.  They were lunching and dining out every
day of the week.  They had been introduced to one or two of the
august personages who usually graced the Riviera with their presence
at this time of year, and they had met a number of interesting
people.  According to Miss Penny's account, Louisa Smithson was being
greatly admired, and, in fact, several titled gentlemen of various
nationalities had professed themselves deeply enamoured of her.

"All this Miss Penny recounted in her letters to her friends with a
wealth of detail and a marvellous profusion of adjectives, and
finally in one of her letters there was mention of a certain Russian
grandee--Prince Orsoff by name--who was paying Louisa marked
attention.  He, also, was staying at the Paris, appeared very
wealthy, and was obviously of very high rank for he never mixed with
the crowd which was more than usually brilliant this year in Monte
Carlo.  This exclusiveness on his part was all the more flattering to
the Smithsons, and, when he apprised them of his intention to spend
the season in London, they had asked him to come and visit them in
Folkestone, where Mrs. Smithson intended to take a house presently
and there to entertain lavishly during the summer.

"After this preliminary announcement from Miss Penny, Louisa herself
wrote a letter to Henry Carter.  It was quite a pleasant chatty
letter, telling him of their marvellous doings abroad and of her own
social successes.  It did not do more, however, than vaguely hint at
the Russian prince, his distinguished appearance and obvious wealth.
Nevertheless it plunged the unfortunate young man into the utmost
depths of despair, and according to his brother John's subsequent
account, the latter had a terrible time with young Henry that winter.
John himself was very busy with journalistic work which kept him away
sometimes for days and weeks on end from the little home in London
which the two brothers had set up for themselves with the money
derived from the sale of the tailoring business.  And Henry's state
of mind did at times seriously alarm his brother, for he would either
threaten to do away with himself, or vow that he would be even with
that accursed foreigner.

"At the end of March, the Smithsons returned to England.  During the
interval Mrs. Smithson had made all arrangements for taking The
Towers, a magnificently furnished house facing the Leas at
Folkestone, and here she and Louisa installed themselves preparatory
to launching their invitations for the various tea and tennis
parties, dinners and dances which they proposed to give during the

"One might really quite truthfully say that the eyes of all
Folkestone were fixed upon the two ladies.  Their Paris dresses,
their hats, their jewellery, was the chief subject of conversation at
tea-tables, and of course every one was talking about the Russian
Prince, who--Mrs. Smithson had confided this to a bosom friend--was
coming over to England for the express purpose of proposing to Louisa.

"There was quite a flutter of excitement on a memorable Friday
afternoon when it was rumoured that Henry Carter had come down for a
week-end, and had put up at a small hotel down by the harbour.  Of
course, he had come to see Louisa Smithson; every one knew that, and
no doubt he wished to make a final appeal to her love for him which
could not be entirely dead yet.

"Within twenty-four hours, however, it was common gossip that young
Henry had presented himself at The Towers and been refused
admittance.  The ladies were out, the butler said, and he did not
know when they would be home.  This was on the Saturday.  On the
Sunday Henry walked about on the Leas all the morning, in the hope of
seeing Louisa or her mother, and as he failed to do so he called
again in the early part of the afternoon: he was told the ladies were
resting.  Later he came again, and the ladies had gone out, and on
the Monday, as presumably business called him back to town, he left
by the early-morning train without having seen his former fiancée.
Indeed people from that moment took it for granted that young Henry
had formally been given his congé.

"Toward the middle of April Prince Orsoff arrived in London.  Within
two days he telephoned to Mrs. Smithson to ask her when he might come
to pay his respects.  A day was fixed, and he came to The Towers to
lunch.  He came again, and at his third visit he formally proposed to
Miss Louisa Smithson, and was accepted.  The wedding was to take
place almost immediately, and the very next day the exciting
announcement had gone the round of the Smithsons' large circle of
friends--not only in Folkestone but also in London.

"The effect of the news appears to have been staggering as far as the
unfortunate Henry Carter was concerned.  In the picturesque language
of Mrs. Hicks, the middle-aged charlady who 'did' for the two
brothers in their little home in Chelsea, ''e carried on something
awful.'  She even went so far as to say that she feared he might 'put
'is 'ead in the gas oven,' and that, as Mr. John was away at the
time, she took the precaution every day when she left to turn the gas
off at the meter.

"The following week-end Henry came down to Folkestone and again took
up his quarters in the small hotel by the harbour.  On the Saturday
afternoon he called at The Towers, and refused to take 'no' for an
answer when he asked to see Miss Smithson.  Indeed, he seems
literally to have pushed his way into the drawing-room where the
ladies were having tea.  According to statements made subsequently by
the butler, there ensued a terrible scene between Henry and his
former fiancée, at the very height of which, as luck would have it,
who should walk in but Prince Orsoff.

"That elegant gentleman, however, seems to have behaved on that
trying occasion with perfect dignity and tact, making it his chief
business to reassure the ladies, and paying no heed to Henry's
recriminations, which presently degenerated into vulgar abuse and
ended in violent threats.  At last, with the aid of the majestic
butler, the young man was thrust out of the house, but even on the
doorstep he turned and raised a menacing fist in the direction of
Prince Orsoff and said loudly enough for more than one person to hear:

"'Wait!  I'll be even with that ---- foreigner yet!'

"It must indeed have been a terrifying scene for two sensitive and
refined ladies like Mrs. and Miss Smithson to witness.  Later on,
after the Prince himself had taken his leave, the butler was rung for
by Mrs. Smithson who told him that under no circumstances was Mr.
Henry Carter ever to be admitted inside The Towers.

"However, a Sunday or two afterwards, Mr. John Carter called and Mrs.
Smithson saw him.  He said that he had come down expressly from
London in order to apologise for his brother's conduct.  Harry, he
said, was deeply contrite that he should thus have lost control over
himself, his broken heart was his only excuse.  After all, he had
been and still was deeply in love with Louisa, and no man, worth his
salt, could see the girl he loved turning her back on him without
losing some of that equanimity which should of course be the
characteristic of every gentleman.

"In fact, Mr. John Carter spoke so well and so persuasively that Mrs.
Smithson and Louisa, who were at bottom quite a worthy pair of women,
agreed to let bygones be bygones, and said that, if Henry would only
behave himself in the future, there was no reason why he should not
remain their friend.

"This appeared a quite satisfactory state of things, and over in the
little house in Chelsea Mrs. Hicks gladly noted that 'Mr. 'Enry
seemed more like 'isself, afterwards.'  The very next week-end the
two brothers went down to Folkestone together, and they called at The
Towers so that Henry might offer his apologies in person.  The two
gentlemen on that occasion were actually asked to stay to tea.

"Indeed, it seems as if Henry had entirely turned over a new leaf,
and when presently the gracious invitation came for both brothers to
come to the wedding, they equally graciously accepted.


"The day fixed for the happy event was now approaching.  The large
circle of acquaintances, friends, and hangers-on which the Smithsons
had gathered around them were all agog with excitement, wedding
presents were pouring in by every post.  A kind of network of romance
had been woven around the personalities of the future bride, her
mother, and the Russian Prince.  The wealth of the Smithsons had been
magnified an hundredfold, and Prince Orsoff was reputed to be a
brother of the late Czar who had made good his escape out of Russia,
bringing away with him most of the Crown jewels, which he would
presently bestow upon his wife.  And so on, _ad infinitum_.

"And upon the top of all that excitement and that gossip, and
marvellous tales akin to the Arabian Nights, came the wedding-day
with its awful culminating tragedy.

"The Russian Prince had been murdered and his body so cleverly
disposed of that in spite of the most strenuous efforts on the part
of the police, not a trace of it could be found.

"That robbery had been the main motive of the crime was quickly
enough established.  The Smithsons--mother and daughter--had at once
supplied the detective in charge of the case with proofs as to that.

"It seems that as soon as the unfortunate Prince had become engaged
to Louisa, he asked that the marriage should take place without
delay.  He explained that his dearest friend, Mr. Schumann, the great
international financier, had offered him shares in one of the
greatest post-war undertakings which had ever been floated in Europe,
and which would bring in to the fortunate shareholders a net income
of not less than ten thousand pounds yearly for every ten thousand
pounds invested; Mr. Schumann himself owned one-half of all the
shares, and had, by a most wonderful act of disinterested generosity,
allowed his bosom friend, Prince Orsoff, to have a few--a concession,
by the way, which he had only granted to two other favoured
personages, one being the Prince of Wales and the other the President
of the French Republic.  Of course to receive ten thousand pounds
yearly for every ten thousand pounds invested, was too wonderful for
words; the President of the French Republic had been so delighted
with this chance of securing a fortune that he had put two million
francs into the concern, and the Prince of Wales had put in five
hundred thousand pounds.

"And it was so wonderfully secure, as otherwise the British
Government would not have allowed the Prince of Wales to invest such
a sum of money if the business was only speculative.  Security and
fortune beyond the dreams of thrift!  It was positively dazzling.

"No wonder that this vision of untold riches made poor Mrs.
Smithson's mouth water, the more so as she was quite shrewd enough to
realise that, at the rate she was going, her share in the fifteen
thousand pounds left by the late worthy grocer would soon fade into
nothingness.  In the past few months she and Louisa had spent
considerably over four thousand pounds between them, and once her
daughter was married to a quasi-royal personage, good old Mrs.
Smithson did not see herself retiring into comparative obscurity on a
few hundreds a year to be jeered at by all her friends.

"So she and Louisa talked the matter over together, and then they
talked it over with Prince Orsoff on the occasion of his visit about
ten days before the wedding.  The Prince at first was very doubtful
if the great Mr. Schumann would be willing to make a further
sacrifice in the cause of friendship.  He was an international
financier accustomed to deal in millions; he would not look
favourably--the Prince feared--at a few thousands.  Mrs. Smithson's
entire fortune now only consisted of about five thousand pounds; this
she was unwilling to admit to the wealthy and aristocratic future
son-in-law.  So the two ladies decided to pool their capital and then
they begged that Prince Orsoff should ask the great Mr. Schumann
whether he would condescend to receive ten thousand pounds for
investment in Mrs. Smithson's name in his great undertaking.

"Fortunately the great financier did condescend to do this--he really
was more a philanthropist than a business man--but, of course, he
could not be kept waiting, the money must reach him in Paris not
later than May twentieth, which was the very day fixed for the

"It was all terribly difficult; and Mrs. Smithson was at first in
despair as she feared she could not arrange to sell out her
securities in time, and the difficulties were increased an
hundredfold because, as Prince Orsoff explained to her, Mr. Schumann
would even at the eleventh hour refuse to allow her to participate in
the huge fortune if he found that she had talked about the affair
over in England.  The business had to be kept a profound secret for
international reasons, in fact, if any detail relating to the
business and to Mr. Schumann's participation in it were to become
known, the whole of Europe would once more be plunged into war.

"To make a long story short, Mrs. Smithson and Louisa sold out all
their securities, amounting between them to ten thousand pounds.
Then they went up to London, drew the money out of their bank,
changed it themselves into French money--so as to make it more
convenient for Mr. Schumann--and handed the entire sum over to Prince
Orsoff on the eve of the wedding.

"Of course such fatuous imbecility would be unbelievable if it did
not occur so frequently: vain, silly women, who have never moved
outside their own restricted circle, are always the ready prey of
plausible rascals.

"Anyway, in this case the Smithsons returned to Folkestone that day,
perfectly happy and with never a thought of anything but contentment
for the present and prosperity in the future.  The wedding was to be
the next day; the bridegroom-elect was coming down by the midday
train with his best man, whom he vaguely described as secretary to
the Russian Embassy, and the bridal pair would start for Paris by the
afternoon boat.

"All this the Smithsons related to the police inspector in charge of
the case and subsequently to the Scotland Yard detective, with a
wealth of detail and a profusion of lamentations not unmixed with
expletives directed against the unknown assassin and thief.  For
indeed there was no doubt in the minds of Louisa and her mother that
the unfortunate Prince, on whom the girl still lavished the wealth of
her trustful love, had been murdered for the sake of the money which
he had upon his person.

"It must have amounted to millions of francs, Mrs. Smithson declared,
for he had the Prince of Wales's money upon him also, and probably
that of the President of the French Republic, and at first she and
Louisa fastened their suspicions upon the anonymous best man, the
so-called secretary of the Russian Embassy.  Even when they were
presently made to realise that there was no such thing as a Russian
Embassy in London these days, and that minute enquiries both at home
and abroad regarding the identity of a Prince Orsoff led to no result
whatever, they repudiated with scorn the suggestion put forth by the
police that their beloved Russian Prince was nothing more or less
than a clever crook who had led them by the nose, and that in all
probability he had not been murdered in the train but had succeeded
in jumping out of it and making good his escape across country.

"This the Smithson ladies would not admit for a moment, and with
commendable logic they argued that if Prince Orsoff had been a crook
and had intended to make away with their money he could have done
that easily enough without getting into a train at Victoria and
jumping out of it at Sydenham Hill.

"Pressed with questions, however, the ladies were forced to admit
that they knew absolutely nothing about Prince Orsoff, they had never
been introduced to any of his relations, nor had they met any of his
friends.  They did not even know where he had been staying in London.
He was in the habit of telephoning to Louisa every morning, and any
arrangements for his visits down to The Towers or the ladies' trips
up to town were made in that manner.  As a matter of fact Louisa and
her future husband had not met more than a dozen times altogether, on
some five or six occasions in Monte Carlo, and not more than six in
England.  It had been a case of love at first sight.

"The question of Mr. Schumann's vast undertaking was first discussed
at The Towers.  After that the ladies wrote to their bank to sell out
their securities, and subsequently went up to town for a couple of
days to draw out their money, change it into French currency, and
finally hand it over to Prince Orsoff.  On that occasion he had met
them at Victoria Station and taken them to a quiet hotel in
Kensington, where he had engaged a suite of rooms for them.  All
financial matters were then settled in their private sitting-room.

"In answer to enquiries at that hotel, one or two of the employees
distinctly remembered the foreign-looking gentleman who had called on
Mrs. and Miss Smithson, lunched with them in their sitting-room that
day, and saw them into their cab when they went away the following
afternoon.  One or two of the station porters at Victoria also
vaguely remembered a man who answered to the description given of
Prince Orsoff by the Smithson ladies: tall, with a slight stoop,
wearing pince-nez, and with a profusion of dark, curly hair, bushy
eyebrows, long, dark moustache, and old-fashioned imperial, which
made him distinctly noticeable, he could not very well have passed

"Unfortunately, on the actual day of the murder, not one man employed
at Victoria Station could swear positively to having seen him, either
alone or in the company of another foreigner; and the latter has
remained a problematical personage to this day.

"But the Smithson ladies remained firm in their loyalty to their
Russian Prince.  Had they dared they would openly have accused Henry
Carter of the murder; as it was they threw out weird hints and
insinuations about Henry who had more than once sworn that he would
be even with his hated rival, and who had actually travelled down in
the same train as the Prince on that fateful wedding morning,
together with his brother John, who no doubt helped him in his
nefarious deed.  I believe that the unfortunate ladies actually spent
some of the money which now they could ill spare in employing a
private detective to collect proofs of Henry Carter's guilt.

"But not a tittle of evidence could be brought against him.  To begin
with, the train in which the murder was supposed to have been
committed was a non-stop to Swanley.  Then how could the Carters have
disposed of the body?  The Smithsons suggested a third miscreant as a
possible confederate; but the same objection against that theory
subsisted in the shape of the disposal of the body.  The murder--if
murder there was--occurred in broad daylight in a part of the country
that certainly was not lonely.  It was not possible to suppose that a
man would stand waiting on the line close to Sydenham Hill station
until a body was flung out to him from the passing train, and then
drag that body about until he found a suitable place in which to bury
it: and all that without being seen by the workmen on the line or
employees on the railway, or in fact any passer-by.  Therefore the
hypothesis that Henry Carter or his brother murdered the Russian
Prince with or without the help of a confederate was as untenable as
that the Prince had travelled from Victoria to Sydenham Hill and
there jumped out of the train, at risk of being discovered in the
act, rather than disappear quietly in London, shave off his luxuriant
hair, or assume any other convenient disguise, until he found an
opportunity for slipping back to the Continent.

"But the Smithsons remained firm in their belief in the genuineness
of their Prince and in their conviction that he had been murdered--if
not by the Carters, then by the mysterious secretary to the Russian
Embassy or any other Russian or German emissary, for political

"And thus the public was confronted with the two hypotheses, both of
which led to a deadlock.  No sensible person doubted that the
so-called Russian Prince was a crook, and that he had a confederate
to help him in his clever plot, but the mystery remained as to how
the rascal or rascals disappeared so completely as to checkmate every
investigation.  The travelling by train that morning and setting the
scene for a supposed murder was, of course, part of the plan, but it
was the plan that was so baffling, because to an ordinary mind that
disappearance could have been effected so much more easily and with
far less risk without the train journey.

"Of course there was not a single passenger on that train who was not
the subject of the closest watchfulness on the part of the police,
but there was not one--not excluding the Carters--who could by any
possible chance have known that the Prince carried a large sum of
money upon his person.  He was not likely to have confided the fact
to a stranger, and the mystery of the vanished body was always there
to refute the theory of an ordinary murderous attack for motives of


The Old Man in the Corner ceased talking, and became once more
absorbed in his favourite task of making knots in a bit of string.

"I see in the papers," I now put in thoughtfully, "that Miss Louisa
Smithson has overcome her grief for the loss of her aristocratic
lover by returning to the plebeian one."

"Yes," the funny creature replied dryly, "she is marrying Henry
Carter.  Funny, isn't it?  But women are queer fish!  One moment she
looked on the man as a murderer, now, by marrying him, she actually
proclaims her belief in his innocence."

"It certainly was abundantly proved," I rejoined, "that Henry Carter
could not possibly have murdered Prince Orsoff."

"It was also abundantly proved," he retorted, "that no one else
murdered the so-called Prince."

"You think, of course, that he was an ordinary impostor?" I asked.

"An impostor, yes," he replied, "but not an ordinary one.  In fact I
take off my hat to as clever a pair of scamps as I have ever come

"A pair?"

"Why, yes!  It could not have been done alone!"

"But the police..."

"The police," the spook-like creature broke in with a sharp cackle,
"know more in this case than you give them credit for.  They know
well enough the solution of the puzzle which appears so baffling to
the public, but they have not sufficient proof to effect an arrest.
At one time they hoped that the scoundrels would presently make a
false move and give themselves away, in which case they could be
prosecuted for defrauding the Smithsons of ten thousand pounds, but
this eventuality has become complicated through the master-stroke of
genius which made Henry Carter marry Louisa Smithson."

"Henry Carter?" I exclaimed.  "Then you do think the Carters had
something to do with the case?"

"They had everything to do with the case.  In fact, they planned the
whole thing in a masterly manner."

"But the Russian Prince at Monte Carlo?" I argued.  "Who was he?  If
he was a confederate, where has he disappeared to?"

"He is still engaged in free-lance journalism," the Old Man in the
Corner replied drily, "and in his spare moments changes parcels of
French currency back into English notes."

"You mean the brother!" I ejaculated with a gasp.

"Of course I mean the brother," he retorted dryly, "who else could
have been so efficient a collaborator in the plot?  John Carter was
comparatively his own master.  He lived with Henry in the small house
in Chelsea, waited on by a charwoman who came by the day.  It was
generally given out that his reporting work took him frequently and
for lengthened stays out of London.  The brothers, remember, had
inherited a few hundreds from their father, while the Smithsons had
inherited a few thousands.  We must suppose that the idea of
relieving the ladies of those thousands occurred to them as soon as
they realised that Louisa, egged on by her mother, would
cold-shoulder her fiancé.

"John Carter, mind you, must be a very clever man, else he could not
have carried out all the details of the plot with so much sang-froid.
We have been told, if you remember, that he had early in life cut his
stick and gone to seek fortune in London, therefore the Smithsons,
who had never been out of Folkestone, did not know him intimately.
His make-up as the Prince must have been very good, and his
histrionic powers not to be despised: his profession and life in
London no doubt helped him in these matters.  Then, remember also
that he took very good care not to be a great deal in the Smithsons'
company--even in Monte Carlo he only let them see him less than half
a dozen times, and as soon as he came to England he hurried on the
wedding as much as he could.

"Another fine stroke was Henry's apparent despair at being cut out of
Louisa's affections, and his threats against his successful rival: it
helped to draw suspicion on himself--suspicion which the scoundrels
took good care could easily be disproved.  Then take a pair of vain,
credulous, unintelligent women and a smart rascal who knows how to
flatter them, and you will see how easily the whole plot could be
worked.  Finally, when John Carter had obtained possession of the
money, he and Henry arranged the supposed tragedy in the train and
the Russian Prince's disappearance from the world as suddenly as he
had entered it."

I thought the matter over for a moment or two.  The solution of the
mystery certainly appealed to my dramatic sense.

"But," I said at last, "one wonders why the Carters took the trouble
to arrange a scene of a supposed murder in the train: they might
quite well have been caught in the act, and in any case it was an
additional unnecessary risk.  John Carter might quite well have been
content to shed his role of Russian Prince, without such an elaborate

"Well," he admitted, "in some ways you are right there, but it is
always difficult to gauge accurately the mentality of a clever
scoundrel.  In this case I don't suppose that the Carters had quite
made up their minds about what they would do when they left London,
but that the plan was in their heads is proved by the hat, pince-nez,
and railway ticket which they took with them when they started, and
which, if you remember, were found on the line: but it was probably
only because the train was comparatively empty, and they had both
time and opportunity in the non-stop train, that they decided to
carry their clever comedy through.

"Then think what an immense advantage in their future plans would be
the Smithsons' belief in the death of their Prince.  Probably Louisa
would never have dreamed of marrying if she thought her aristocratic
lover was an impostor and still alive: she would never have let the
matter rest; her mind would for ever have been busy with trying to
trace him, and bring him back, repentant, to her feet.  You know what
women are when they are in love with that type of scoundrel, they
cling to them with the tenacity of a leech.  But once she believed
the man to be dead, Louisa Smithson gradually got over her grief and
Henry Carter wooed and won her on the rebound.  She was poor now, and
her friends had quickly enough deserted her: she was touched by the
fidelity of her simple lover, and he thus consolidated his position
and made the future secure.

"Anyway," the Old Man in the Corner concluded, "I believe that it was
with a view to making a future marriage possible between Louisa and
Henry that the two brothers organised the supposed murder.  Probably
if the train had been full and they had seen danger in the
undertaking they would not have done it.  But the _mise en scène_ was
easily enough set and it certainly was an additional safeguard.  Now
in another week or so Louisa Smithson will be Henry Carter's wife,
and presently you will find that John in London, and Henry and his
wife, will be quite comfortably off.  And after that, whatever
suspicions Mrs. Smithson may have of the truth, her lips would have
to remain sealed.  She could not very well prosecute her only child's

"And so the matter will always remain a mystery to the public: but
the police know more than they are able to admit because they have no

"And now they never will have.  But as to the murder in the train,
well!--the murdered man never existed."




The Old Man in the Corner was in a philosophising mood that
afternoon, and all the while that his thin, claw-like fingers
fidgeted with the inevitable piece of string, he gave vent to
various, disjointed, always sententious remarks.

Suddenly he said:

"We know, of course, that the world has gone dancing mad!  But I
doubt if the fashionable craze has ever been responsible before for
so dark a tragedy as the death of old Sarah Levison.  What do you

"Well," I replied guardedly, for I knew that, whatever I might say, I
should draw an avalanche of ironical remarks upon my innocent head,
"I never have known what to think, and all the accounts of that
brutal murder as they appeared in the cheaper Press only made the
obscurity all the more obscure."

"That was a wise and well-thought-out reply," the aggravating
creature retorted with a dry chuckle, "and a non-committal one at
that.  Obscurity is indeed obscure for those who won't take the
trouble to think."

"I suppose it is all quite clear to you?" I said, with what I meant
to be withering sarcasm.

"As clear as the proverbial daylight," he replied undaunted.

"You know how old Mrs. Levison came by her death?"

"Of course I do.  I will tell you, if you like."

"By all means.  But I am not prepared to be convinced," I added

"No," he admitted, "but you soon will be.  However, before we reach
that happy conclusion, I shall have to marshal the facts before you,
because a good many of these must have escaped your attention.  Shall
I proceed?"

"If you please."

"Well, then, do you remember all the personages in the drama?" he

"I think so."

"There were, of course, young Aaron Levison and his wife,
Rebecca--the latter young, pretty, fond of pleasure, and above all of
dancing, and he, a few years older, but still in the prime of life,
more of an athlete than a business man, and yet tied to the shop in
which he carried on the trade of pawnbroking for his mother.  The
latter, an old Jewess, shrewd and dictatorial, was the owner of the
business: her son was not even her partner, only a well-paid clerk in
her employ, and this fact we must suppose rankled in the mind of her
smart daughter-in-law.  At any rate, we know that there was no love
lost between the two ladies; but the young couple and old Mrs.
Levison and another unmarried son lived together in the substantial
house over the shop in Bishop's Road.

"They had three servants and we are told that they lived well, old
Mrs. Levison bearing the bulk of the cost of housekeeping.  The
younger son, Reuben, seems to have been something of a bad egg; he
held at one time a clerkship in a bank, but was dismissed for
insobriety and laziness; then after the war he was supposed to have
bad health consequent on exposure in the trenches, and had not done a
day's work since he was demobilised.  But in spite, or perhaps
because, of this, he was very markedly his mother's favourite; where
the old woman would stint her hard-working, steady elder son, she
would prove generous, even lavish, toward the loafer, Reuben; and
young Mrs. Levison and he were thick as thieves.

"What money Reuben extracted out of his mother he would spend on
amusements, and his sister-in-law was always ready to accompany him.
It was either the cinema or dancing--oh, dancing above all!  Rebecca
Levison was, it seems, a beautiful dancer, and night after night she
and Reuben would go to one or other of the halls or hotels where
dancing was going on, and often they would not return until the small
hours of the morning.

"Aaron Levison was indulgent and easy-going enough where his young
wife was concerned: he thought that she could come to no harm while
Reuben was there to look after her.  But old Mrs. Levison, with the
mistrust of her race for everything that is frivolous and thriftless,
thought otherwise.  She was convinced in her own mind that her
beloved Reuben was being led astray from the path of virtue by his
brother's wife, and she appears to have taken every opportunity to
impress her thoughts and her fears upon the indulgent husband.

"It seems that one of the chief bones of contention between the old
and the young Mrs. Levison was the question of jewellery.  Old Mrs.
Levison kept charge herself of all the articles of value that were
pawned in the shop, and every evening after business hours Aaron
would bring up all bits of jewellery that had been brought in during
the day, and his mother would lock them up in a safe that stood in
her room close by her bedside.  The key of the safe she always
carried about with her.  For the most part these bits of jewellery
consisted of cheap rings and brooches, but now and again some
impoverished lady or gentleman would bring more valuable articles
along for the purpose of raising a temporary loan upon them, and at
the time of the tragedy there were some fine diamond ornaments
reposing in the safe in old Mrs. Levison's room.

"Now young Mrs. Levison had more than once suggested that she might
wear some of this fine jewellery when she went out to balls and
parties.  She saw no harm in it, and neither, for a matter of that,
did Reuben.  Why shouldn't Rebecca wear a few ornaments now and again
if she wanted to?--they would always be punctually returned, of
course, and they could not possibly come to any harm.  But the very
suggestion of such a thing was anathema to the old lady, and in her
flat refusal ever to gratify such a senseless whim she had the
whole-hearted support of her eldest son: such a swerving from
traditional business integrity was not to be thought of in the
Levison household.

"On that memorable Saturday evening young Mrs. Levison was going with
her brother-in-law to one of the big charity balls at the Kensington
Town Hall, and her great desire was to wear for the occasion a set of
diamond stars which had lately been pledged in the shop, and which
were locked up in the old lady's safe.  Of course, Mrs. Levison
refused, and it seems that the two ladies very nearly came to blows
about this, the quarrel being all the more violent as Reuben hotly
sided with his sister-in-law against his mother."


"That then was the position in the Levison household on the day of
the mysterious tragedy," the Old Man in the Corner went on presently;
"an armed truce between the two ladies--the lovely Rebecca sore and
defiant, pining to gratify a whim which was being denied her, and old
Mrs. Levison more bitter than usual against her, owing to Reuben's
partisanship.  Egged on by Rebecca, he was furious with his mother
and vowed that he was sick of the family and meant to cut his stick
in order to be free to lead his own life, and so on.  It was all
tall-talk, of course, as he was entirely dependent on his mother, but
it went to show the ugliness of his temper and the domination which
his brother's wife exercised over him.  Aaron, on the other hand,
took no part in the quarrel, but the servants remarked that he was
unwontedly morose all day, and that his wife was very curt and
disagreeable with him.

"Nothing, however, of any importance occurred during the day until
dinner-time, which as usual was served in the parlour at the back of
the shop at seven o'clock.  It seems that as soon as the family sat
down to their meal, there was another violent quarrel on some subject
or other between the two ladies, Rebecca being hotly backed up by
Reuben, and Aaron taking no part in the discussion; in the midst of
the quarrel, and following certain highly offensive words spoken by
Reuben, old Mrs. Levison got up abruptly from the table and went
upstairs to her own room which was immediately overhead at the back
of the house, next to the drawing-room, nor did she come downstairs
again that evening.

"At half-past nine the three servants went up to bed according to the
rule of the house.  Old Mrs. Levison, who was a real autocrat in the
management of the household, expected the girls to be down at six
every morning, but they were free to go to bed as soon as their work
was done, and half-past nine was their usual time.

"Two of the girls slept at the top of the house, and the housemaid,
Ida Griggs by name, who also acted as a sort of maid to old Mrs.
Levison, occupied a small slip room on the half-landing immediately
above the old lady's bedroom.  On the floor above this there was a
large bedroom at the back, and a bathroom and dressing-room in front,
all occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Aaron, and over that the two maids'
room, and one for Mr. Reuben, and a small spare room in which Mr.
Aaron would sleep now and again when his wife was likely to be out
late and he did not want to get his night's rest broken by her
home-coming, or if he himself was going to be late home on a holiday
night after one of those country excursions on his bicycle of which
he was immensely fond and in which he indulged himself from time to

"On this fateful Saturday evening Aaron was kept late in the shop,
but he finally went up to bed soon after ten, after he had seen to
all the doors below being bolted and barred, with the exception of
the front door which had to be left on the latch, Mrs. Aaron having
the latchkey.  Thus the house was shut up and every one in bed by
half-past ten.

"In the meanwhile the lovely Rebecca and Reuben had dressed and gone
to the ball.

"The next morning at a little before six, Ida Griggs, the housemaid,
having got up and dressed, prepared to go downstairs: but when she
went to open her bedroom door she found it locked--locked on the
outside.  At first she thought that the other girls were playing her
a silly trick, and, presently hearing the patter of their feet on the
stairs, she pounded against the door with her fists.  It took the
others some time to understand what was amiss, but at last they did
try the lock on the outside, and found that the key had been turned
and that Ida was indeed locked in.

"They let her out, and then consulted what had best be done, but for
the moment it did not seem to strike any of the girls that this
locking of a door from the outside had a sinister significance.
Anyway, they all went down into the kitchen and Ida prepared old Mrs.
Levison's early cup of tea.  This she had to take up every morning at
half-past six; on this occasion she went up as usual, knocked at her
mistress's door, and waited to be let in, as the old lady always
slept behind locked doors.  But no sound came from within, though Ida
knocked repeatedly and loudly called her mistress by name.

"Soon she started screaming, and her screams brought the household
together: the two girls came up from the kitchen, Mr. Aaron came down
from the top floor brandishing a poker, and presently Mrs. Aaron
opened her door and peeped out clad in a filmy and exquisite
nightgown, her eyes still heavy with sleep, and her beautiful hair
streaming down her back.  But of old Mrs. Levison there was no sign.

"Mr. Aaron, genuinely alarmed, glued his ear to the keyhole, but not
a sound could he hear.  Behind that locked door absolute silence
reigned.  Fearing the worst, he set himself the task of breaking open
the door, which after some effort and the use of a jemmy, he
succeeded in doing: and here the sight that met his eyes filled his
soul with horror, for he saw his mother lying on the floor of her
bedroom in a pool of blood.

"Evidently an awful crime had been committed.  The unfortunate woman
was fully dressed, as she had been on the evening before; the door of
the safe was open with the key still in the lock, but no other piece
of furniture appeared to be disturbed; the one window of the room was
wide open, and the one door had been locked on the inside; the other
door, the one which gave on the front drawing-room, being permanently
blocked by a heavy wardrobe; and below the open window the bunch of
creepers against the wall was all broken and torn, showing plainly
the way that the miscreant had escaped.

"After a few moments of awe-stricken silence Aaron Levison regained
control of himself and at once telephoned--first for the police and
then for the doctor, but he would not allow anything in the room to
be touched, not even his mother's dead body.

"For this precaution he was highly commended by the police inspector
who presently appeared upon the scene, accompanied by a constable and
the divisional surgeon; the latter proceeded to examine the body.  He
stated that the unfortunate woman had been attacked from behind, the
marks of fingers being clearly visible round her throat: in her
struggle for freedom she must have fallen backwards and in so doing
struck her head against the corner of the marble washstand, which
caused her death.

"In the meanwhile the inspector had been examining the premises: he
found that the back door which gave on the yard and the one that gave
on the front area were barred and locked just as Mr. Aaron had left
them before he went up to bed the previous night; on the other hand
the front door was still on the latch, young Mrs. Levison having
apparently failed to bolt it when she came home from the ball.

"In the backyard the creeper against the wall below the window of
Mrs. Levison's room was certainly torn, and the miscreant undoubtedly
made his escape that way, but he could not have got up to the window
save with the aid of a ladder, the creeper was too slender to have
supported any man's weight, and the brick wall of the house offered
no kind of foothold even to a cat.  The yard itself was surrounded on
every side by the backyards of contiguous houses, and against the
dividing walls there were clumps of Virginia creeper and anæmic
shrubs such as are usually found in London backyards.

"Now neither on those walls nor on the creepers and shrubs was there
the slightest trace of a ladder being dragged across, or even of a
man having climbed the walls or slung a rope over: there was not a
twig of shrub broken or a leaf of creeper disturbed.

"With regard to the safe, it must either have been open at the time
that the murderer attacked Mrs. Levison, or he had found the key and
opened the safe after he had committed that awful crime.  Certainly
the contents did not appear to have been greatly disturbed, no
jewellery or other pledged goods of value were missing: Mr. Aaron
could verify this by his books, but whether his mother had any money
in the safe he was not in a position to say.

"There was no doubt at first glance the crime did not seem to have
been an ordinary one; whether robbery had been its motive, or its
corollary, only subsequent investigation would reveal: for the moment
the inspector contented himself with putting a few leading questions
to the various members of the household, and subsequently questioning
the neighbours.  The public, of course, was not to know what the
result of these preliminary investigations was, but the midday papers
were in a position to assert that no one, with perhaps the exception
of Ida Griggs, had seen or heard anything alarming during the night,
and that the most minute enquiries in the neighbourhood failed to
bring forth the slightest indication of how the murderer effected an
entrance into the house.

"The papers were also able to state that young Mrs. Levison returned
from the ball in the small hours of the morning, but that Mr. Reuben
Levison did not sleep in the house at all that night.


"Fortunately for me," my eccentric friend went on glibly, "I was up
betimes that morning when the papers came out with an early account
of the mysterious crime in Bishop's Road.  I say fortunately,
because, as you know, mysteries of that sort interest me beyond
everything, and for me there is no theatre in the world to equal in
excitement the preliminary investigations of a well-conceived and
cleverly executed crime.  I should indeed have been bitterly
disappointed had circumstances prevented me from attending that
particular inquest.  From the first, one was conscious of an
atmosphere of mystery that hung over the events of that night in the
Bishop's Road household: here indeed was no ordinary crime; the
motive for it was still obscure, and one instinctively felt that
somewhere in this vast city of London there lurked a criminal of no
mean intelligence who would probably remain unpunished.

"Even the evidence of the police was not as uninteresting as it
usually is, because it established beyond a doubt that this was not a
case of common burglary and housebreaking.  Certainly the open window
and the torn creeper suggested that the miscreant had made his escape
that way, but how he effected an entrance into Mrs. Levison's room
remained an unsolved riddle.  The absence of any trace of a man's
passage on the surrounding walls of the backyard was very mysterious,
and it was firmly established that the back door and the area door
were secured, barred and bolted from the inside.  A burglar might, of
course, have entered the house by the front door, which was on the
latch, using a skeleton key, but it still remained inconceivable how
he gained access into Mrs. Levison's room.

"From the first the public had felt that there was a background of
domestic drama behind the seemingly purposeless crime, for it did
appear purposeless, seeing that so much portable jewellery had been
left untouched in the safe.  But it was when Ida Griggs, the
housemaid, stood up in response to her name being called that one
seemed to see the curtain going up on the first act of a terrible

"Griggs was a colourless, youngish woman, with thin, sallow face,
round blue eyes, and thin lips, and directly she began to speak one
felt that underneath her placid, old-maidish manner there was an
under-current of bitter spite, and even of passion.  For some reason
which probably would come to light later on, she appeared to have
conceived a hatred for Mrs. Aaron; on the other hand she had
obviously been doggedly attached to her late mistress, and in the
evidence she dwelt at length on the quarrels between the two ladies,
especially on the scene of violence that occurred at the dinner-table
on Saturday, and which culminated in old Mrs. Levison flouncing out
of the room.

"'Mrs. Levison was that upset,' the girl went on, in answer to a
question put to her by the coroner, 'that I thought she was going to
be ill, and she says to me that women like Mrs. Aaron were worse than
---- as they would stick at nothing to get a new gown or a bit of
jewellery.  She also says to me----'

"But at this point the coroner checked her flow of eloquence, as, of
course, what the dead woman had said could not be admitted as
evidence.  But nevertheless the impression remained vividly upon the
public that there had been a terrible quarrel between those two, and
of course we all knew that young Mrs. Levison had been seen at the
ball wearing those five diamond stars; we did not need the sworn
testimony of several witnesses who were called and interrogated on
that point.  We knew that Rebecca Levison had worn the diamond stars
at the ball, and that Police Inspector Blackshire found them on her
dressing-table the morning after the murder.

"Nor did she deny having worn them.  At the inquest she renewed the
statement which she had already made to the police.

"'My brother-in-law, Reuben,' she said, 'was a great favourite with
his mother, and when we were both of us ready dressed he went into
Mrs. Levison's room to say good-night to her.  He cajoled her into
letting me wear the diamond stars that night.  In fact he always
could make her do anything he really wanted, and they parted the best
of friends.'

"'At what time did you go to the ball, Mrs. Levison?' the coroner

"'My brother-in-law,' she replied, 'went out to call a taxi at
half-past nine, and he and I got into it the moment one drew up.'

"'And Mr. Reuben Levison had been in to say good-night to his mother
just before that?'

"'Yes, about ten minutes before.'

"'And he brought you the stars then,' the coroner insisted, 'and you
put them on before he went out to call the taxi?'

"For the fraction of a second Rebecca Levison hesitated, but I do not
think that any one in the audience except myself noted that little
fact Then she said quite firmly:

"'Yes, Mr. Reuben Levison told me that he had persuaded his mother to
let me wear the stars, he handed them to me and I put them on.'

"'And that was at half-past nine?'

"Again Rebecca Levison hesitated, this time more markedly; her face
was very pale and she passed her tongue once or twice across her lips
before she gave answer.

"'At about half-past nine,' she said, quite steadily.

"'And about what time did you come home, Mrs. Levison?' the coroner
asked her blandly.

"'It must have been close on one o'clock,' she replied.  'The dance
was a Cinderella, but we walked part of the way home.'

"'What! in the rain?'

"'It had ceased raining when we came out of the town hall.'

"'Mr. Reuben Levison did not accompany you all the way?'

"'He walked with me across the Park, then he put me into a taxicab,
and I drove home alone.  I had my latchkey.'

"'But you failed to bolt the door after you when you returned.  How
was that?'

"'I forgot, I suppose,' the lovely Rebecca replied, with a defiant
air.  'I often forget to bolt the door.'

"'And did you not see or hear anything strange when you came in?'

"'I heard nothing.  I was rather sleepy and went straight up to my
room.  I was in bed within ten minutes of coming in.'

"She was speaking quite firmly now, in a clear though rather harsh
voice: but that she was nervous, not to say frightened, was very
obvious.  She had a handkerchief in her hand, with which she fidgeted
until it was nothing but a small, wet ball, and she had a habit of
standing first on one foot then on the other, and of shifting the
position of her hat.  I do not think that there was a single member
of the jury who did not think that she was lying, and she knew that
they thought so, for now and again her fine dark eyes would
scrutinise their faces and dart glances at them either of scorn or of

"After a while she appeared very tired, and when pressed by the
coroner over some trifling matters, she broke down and began to cry.
After which she was allowed to stand down, and Mr. Reuben Levison was

"I must say that I took an instinctive dislike to him as he stood
before the jury with a jaunty air of complete self-possession.  He
had a keen, yet shifty eye, and sharp features very like a rodent.
To me it appeared at once that he was reciting a lesson rather than
giving independent evidence.  He stated that he had been present at
dinner during the quarrel between his mother and sister-in-law, and
his mother was certainly very angry at the moment, but later on he
went upstairs to bid her good-night.  She cried a little and said a
few hard things, but in the end she gave way to him as she always
did: she opened the safe, got out the diamond stars and gave them to
him, making him promise to return them the very first thing in the

"'I told her,' Reuben went on glibly, 'that I would not be home until
the Monday morning.  I would see Rebecca into a taxi after the ball,
but I had the intention of spending a couple of nights and the
intervening Sunday with a pal who had a flat at Haverstock Hill.  I
thought then that my mother would lock the stars up again,
however--she was always a woman of her word--once she had said a
thing she would stick to it--and so as I said she gave me the stars
and Mrs. Aaron wore them that night.'

"'And you handed the stars to Mrs. Aaron at half-past nine?'

"The coroner asked the question with the same earnest emphasis which
he had displayed when he put it to young Mrs. Levison.  I saw
Reuben's shifty eye flash across at her, and I know that she answered
that flash with a slight drop of her eyelids.  Whereupon he replied
as readily as she had done:

"'Yes, sir, it must have been about half-past nine.'

"And I assure you that every intelligent person in that room must
have felt certain that Reuben was lying just as Rebecca had done
before him."


The Old Man in the Corner paused in his narrative.  He drank half a
glass of milk, smacked his lips, and for a few moments appeared
intent on examining one of the complicated knots which he had made in
his bit of string.  Then after a while he resumed.

"The one member of the Levison family," he said, "for whom every one
felt sorry was the eldest son Aaron.  Like most men of his race he
had been very fond of his mother, not because of any affection she
may have shown him but just because she was his mother.  He had
worked hard for her all his life, and now through her death he found
himself very much left out in the cold.  It seems that by her will
the old lady left all her savings, which, it seems, were
considerable, and a certain share in the business, to Reuben, whilst
to Aaron she only left the business nominally, with a great many
charges on it in the way of pensions and charitable bequests and
whatever was due to Reuben.

"But here I am digressing, as the matter of the will was not touched
upon until later on, but there is no doubt that Aaron knew from the
first that it would be Reuben who would primarily benefit by their
mother's death.  Nevertheless, he did not speak bitterly about his
brother, and nothing that he said could be construed into possible
suspicion of Reuben.  He looked just a big lump of good nature,
splendidly built, with the shoulders and gait of an athlete, but with
an expression of settled melancholy in his face, and a dull, rather
depressing voice.  Seeing him there, gentle, almost apologetic,
trying to explain away everything that might in any way cast a
reflection upon his wife's conduct, one realised easily enough the
man's position in the family--a kind of good-natured beast of burden,
who would do all the work and never receive a 'thank you' in return.

"He was not able to throw much light on the horrible tragedy.  He,
too, had been at the dinner-table when the quarrel occurred, but
directly after dinner he had been obliged to return to the shop, it
being Saturday night and business very brisk.  He had only one
assistant to help him, who left at nine o'clock, after putting up the
shutters: but he himself remained in the shop until ten o'clock to
put things away and make up the books.  He heard the taxi being
called, and his wife and brother going off to the ball; he was not
quite sure as to when that was, but he dared say it was somewhere
near half-past nine.

"As nothing of special value had been pledged that day in the course
of business, he had no occasion to go and speak with his mother
before going up to bed and, on the whole he thought that, as she
might still be rather sore and irritable, it would be best not to
disturb her again, he did just knock at her door and called out
'good-night, mother.'  But hearing no reply he thought she must
already have been asleep.

"In answer to the coroner Aaron Levison further said that he had
slept in the spare room at the top of the house for some time, as his
wife was often very late coming home, and he did not like to have his
night's rest broken.  He had gone up to bed at ten o'clock and had
neither seen nor heard anything in the house until six o'clock in the
morning when the screams of the maid down below had roused him from
his sleep and made him jump out of bed in double-quick time.

"Although Aaron's evidence was more or less of a formal character,
and he spoke very quietly without any show either of swagger or of
spite, one could not help feeling that the elements of drama and of
mystery connected with this remarkable case were rather accentuated
than diminished by what he said.  Thus one was more or less prepared
for those further developments which brought one's excitement and
interest in the case to their highest point.

"Recalled, and pressed by the coroner to try and memorise every
event, however trifling, that occurred on that Saturday evening, Ida
Griggs, the maid, said that, soon after that she had dropped to
sleep, she woke with the feeling that she had heard some kind of
noise, but what it was she could not define: it might have been a
bang, or a thud, or a scream.  At the time she thought nothing of it,
whatever it was, because while she lay awake for a few minutes
afterwards, the house was absolutely still; but a moment or two later
she certainly heard the window of Mrs. Levison's room being thrown

"'There did not seem to you anything strange in that?' the coroner
asked her.

"'No, sir,' she replied, 'there was nothing funny in Mrs. Levison
opening her window.  I remember that it was raining rather heavily,
for I heard the patter against the window-panes, and Mrs. Levison may
have wanted to look at the weather.  I went to sleep directly after
that and thought no more about it.'

"'And you don't know what it was that woke you in the first instance?'

"'No, sir, I don't,' the girl replied.

"'And you did not happen to glance at the clock at the moment?'

"'No, sir,' she said, 'I did not switch on the light.'

"But having disposed of that point, Ida Griggs had yet another to
make, and one that proved more dramatic than anything that had gone

"'While I was clearing away the dinner things,' she said, 'Mr. Reuben
and Mrs. Aaron were sitting talking in the parlour.  At half-past
eight Mrs. Aaron rang for me to take up her hot water as she was
going to dress.  I took up the water for her and also for Mrs.
Levison, as I always did.  I was going to help Mrs. Levison to
undress, but she said she was not going to bed yet as she had some
accounts to go through.  She kept me talking for a bit, then while I
was with her there was a knock at the door and I heard Mr. Reuben
asking if he might come in and say good-night.  Mrs. Levison called
out "good-night, my boy," but she would not let Mr. Reuben come in,
and I heard him go downstairs again.

"'A quarter of an hour or so afterwards Mrs. Levison dismissed me and
I heard her locking her door after me.  I went downstairs on my way
to the kitchen: Mrs. Aaron was in the parlour then, fully dressed and
with her cloak on; and Mr. Reuben was there, too, talking to her.
The door was wide open, and I saw them both and I heard Mrs. Aaron
say quite spiteful like: "So she would not even see you, the old cat!
She must have felt bad."  And Mr. Reuben he laughed and said: "Oh
well, she will have to get over it."  Then they saw me and stopped
talking, and soon afterwards Mr. Reuben went out to call a taxi, and
we girls went up to bed.'

"'It is all a wicked lie!' here broke in a loud, high-pitched voice,
and Mrs. Aaron, trembling with excitement, jumped to her feet.  'A
lie, I say.  The woman is spiteful, and wants to ruin me.'

"The coroner vainly demanded silence, and after a moment or two of
confusion and of passionate resistance the lovely Rebecca was
forcibly led out of the room.  Her husband followed her, looking
bigger and more meek and apologetic than ever before; and Ida Griggs
was left to conclude her evidence in peace.  She reaffirmed all that
she had said and swore positively to the incident just as it had
occurred in Mrs. Levison's room.  Asked somewhat sharply by the
coroner why she had said nothing about all this before, she replied
that she did not wish to make mischief, but that truth was truth, and
whoever murdered her poor mistress must swing for it, and that's all
about it.

"Nor could any cross-examination upset her: she looked like a
spiteful cat, but not like a woman who was lying.

"Reuben Levison had sat on, serene and jaunty, all the while that
these damaging statements were being made against him.  When he was
recalled he contented himself with flatly denying Ida Griggs's story,
and reiterating his own.

"'The girl is lying,' he said airily, 'why she does so I don't know,
but there was nothing in the world more unlikely than that my mother
should at any time refuse to see me.  Ask any impartial witness you
like,' he went on dramatically, 'they will all tell you that my
mother worshipped me: she was not likely to quarrel with me over a
few bits of jewellery.'

"Of course Mrs. Aaron, when she was recalled, corroborated Reuben's
story.  She could not make out why Ida should tell such lies about

"'But there,' she added, with tears in her beautiful dark eyes, 'the
girl always hated me.'

"Yet one more witness was heard that afternoon whose evidence proved
of great interest.  This was the assistant in the shop, Samuel Kutz.
He could not throw much light on the tragedy, because he had not been
out of the shop from six o'clock, when he finished his tea, to nine,
when he put up the shutters and went away.  But he did say that,
while he was having his tea in the back parlour, old Mrs. Levison was
helping in the front shop, and Mr. Reuben was there, too, doing
nothing in particular, as was his custom.  When witness went back to
the shop Mrs. Levison went through into the back parlour, and, as
soon as she had gone, he noticed that she had left her bag on the
bureau behind the counter.  Mr. Reuben saw it, too; he picked up the
bag, and said with a laugh: 'I'd best take it up at once, the old
girl don't like leaving this about.'  Kutz told him he thought Mrs.
Levison was in the back parlour, but Mr. Reuben was sure she had
since gone upstairs.

"'Anyway,' concluded witness, 'he took the bag and went upstairs with

"This may have been a valuable piece of evidence or it may not," the
Old Man in the Corner went on with a grin, "in view of the tragedy
occurring so much later, it did not appear so at the time.  But it
brought in an altogether fresh element of conjecture, and while the
police asked for an adjournment pending fresh enquiries, the public
was left to ponder over the many puzzles and contradictions that the
case presented.  Whichever line of argument one followed, one quickly
came to a dead stop.

"There was, first of all, the question whether Reuben Levison did
cajole his mother into giving him the diamond stars, or whether he
was peremptorily refused admittance to her room; but this was just a
case of hard swearing between one party and the other, and here I
must admit, that public opinion was inclined to take Reuben's version
of the story.  Mrs. Levison's passionate affection for her younger
son was known to all her friends, and people thought that Ida Griggs
had lied in order to incriminate Mrs. Aaron.

"But in this she entirely failed, and here was the first dead stop.
You will remember that she said that, after she left Mrs. Levison,
she went downstairs and saw Mrs. Aaron and Mr. Reuben fully dressed
in the back parlour, and that afterward she heard Mr. Reuben call a
taxi: obviously, therefore, Mrs. Aaron had the diamonds in her
possession then, since she was wearing them at the ball, and it is
not conceivable that either of those two would have gone off in the
taxi, leaving the other to force an entrance into Mrs. Levison's
room, strangle her, and steal the diamonds.  As Mrs. Aaron could not
possibly have done all that in her evening-dress, making her way
afterwards from a first floor window down into the yard by clinging
to a creeper in the pouring rain, the hideous task must have devolved
on Reuben, and even the police, wildly in search of a criminal, could
not put the theory forward that a man would murder his mother in
order that his sister-in-law might wear a few diamond stars at a ball.

"It was, in fact, the motive of the crime that seemed so utterly
inadequate, and therefore public argument fell back on the theory
that Reuben had stolen the diamond stars just before dinner after he
had found his mother's handbag in the shop, and that the subsequent
murder was the result of ordinary burglary, the miscreant having
during the night entered Mrs. Levison's room by the window while she
was asleep.  It was suggested that he had found the key of the safe
by the bedside and was in the act of ransacking the place when Mrs.
Levison woke, and the inevitable struggle ensued resulting in the old
lady's death.  The chief argument, however, against this theory was
the fact that the unfortunate woman was still dressed when she was
attacked, and no one who knew her for the careful, thrifty woman she
was could conceive that she would go fast asleep leaving the safe
door wide open.  This, coupled with the fact that not the slightest
trace could be found anywhere in the backyard of the house, or the
adjoining yards and walls of the passage, of a miscreant armed with a
ladder, constituted another dead stop on the road of public

"Finally, when at the adjourned inquest Reuben Levison was able to
bring forward more than one witness who could swear that he arrived
at the ball at the Kensington Town Hall in the company of his
sister-in-law somewhere about ten o'clock, and others who spoke to
him from time to time during the evening, it seemed clear that he, at
any rate, was innocent of the murder.  Mr. Aaron had not gone up to
bed until ten o'clock, and, if Reuben had planned to return and
murder his mother, he could only have done so at a later hour, when
he was seen by several people at the Kensington Town Hall.

"Subsequently the jury returned an open verdict and that abominable
crime has remained unpunished until now.  Though it appeared so
simple and crude at first, it proved a terribly hard nut for the
police to crack.  We may say that they never did crack it.  They are
absolutely convinced that Reuben Levison and Mrs. Aaron planned to
murder the old lady, but how they did it, no one has been able to
establish.  As for proofs of their guilt, there are none and never
will be, for though they are perhaps a pair of rascals, they are not
criminals.  It is not they who murdered Mrs. Levison."

"You think it was Ida Griggs?" I put in quickly, as the Old Man in
the Corner momentarily ceased talking.

"Ah!" he retorted, with his funny, dry cackle, "you favour that
theory, do you?"

"No, I do not," I replied.  "But I don't see----"

"It is a foolish theory," he went on, "not only because there was
absolutely no reason why Ida Griggs should kill her mistress--she did
not rob her, nor had she anything to gain by Mrs. Levison's
death--but as she was neither a cat, nor a night moth, she could not
possibly have ascended from a first floor window to another window on
the half-landing above, and entered her own room that way, for we
must not lose sight of the fact that her bedroom door was the next
morning found locked on the outside, and the key left in the lock."

"Then," I argued, "it must have been a case of ordinary burglary."

"That has been proved impossible," he riposted--"proved to the hilt.
No man could have climbed up the wall of the house without a ladder,
and no man could have brought a ladder into that backyard without
leaving some trace of his passage, however slight: against the walls,
around the yard, there were creepers and shrubs--it would be
impossible to drag a heavy ladder over those walls without breaking
some of them."

"But some one killed old Mrs. Levison," I went on with some
exasperation--"she did not strangle herself with her own fingers."

"No, she did not do that," he admitted, with a dry laugh.

"And if the murderer escaped through the window, he could not vanish
into thin air."

"No," he admitted again, "he could not do that."

"Well then?" I retorted.

"Well then, the murder must have been committed by one of the inmates
of the house," he said; and now I knew that I was on the point of
hearing the solution of the mystery of the five diamond stars,
because his thin, claw-like fingers were working with feverish
rapidity upon his beloved bit of string.

"But neither Mrs. Aaron," I argued, "nor Reuben Levison----"

"Neither," he broke in decisively.  "We all know that.  It was not
conceivable that a woman could commit such a murder, nor that Reuben
would kill his mother in order to gratify his sister-in-law's whim.
That, of course, was nonsense, and every proof, both of time and
circumstance, both of motive and opportunity, was entirely in their
favour.  No.  We must look for a deeper motive for the hideous crime,
a stronger determination, and above all a more powerful physique and
easier opportunity for carrying the plot through.  Personally, I do
not believe that there was a plot to murder; on the other hand, I do
believe in the man who idolised his young wife, and had witnessed a
deadly quarrel between her and his mother, and I do believe in his
going presently to the latter in order to try to soothe her anger
against the woman he loved."

"You mean," I gasped, incredulous and scornful, "that it was Aaron

"Of course I mean that," he replied placidly.  "And if you think over
all the circumstances of the case you will readily agree with me.  We
know that Aaron Levison loved and admired his wife; we know that he
was very athletic, and altogether an outdoor man.  Bear these two
facts in mind, and let your thoughts follow the man after the
terrible quarrel at the dinner-table.

"For a while he is busy in the shop, probably brooding over his
mother's anger and the unpleasant consequences it might have for the
lovely Rebecca.  But presently he goes upstairs determined to speak
with his mother, to plead with her.  Dreading that Ida Griggs, with
the habit of her kind, might sneak out of her room, and perhaps glue
her ear to the keyhole, he turns the key in the lock of the girl's
bedroom door.  He knows that the interview with his mother will be
unpleasant, that hard words will be spoken against Rebecca, and these
he does not wish Ida Griggs to hear.

"Then he knocks at his mother's door, and asks admittance on the
pretext that he has something of value to remit to her for keeping in
her safe.  She would have no reason to refuse.  He goes in, talks to
his mother; she does not mince her words.  By now she knows the
diamond stars have been extracted from the safe, stolen by her
beloved Reuben for the adornment of the hated daughter-in-law.

"Can't you see those two arguing over the woman whom the man loves
and whom the older woman hates?  Can't you see the latter using words
which outrage the husband's pride and rouses his wrath till it gets
beyond his control?  Can't you see him in an access of unreasoning
passion gripping his mother by the throat, to smother the insults
hurled at his wife?--and can you see the old woman losing her
balance, and hitting her head against the corner of the marble
wash-stand and falling--falling--whilst the son gazes down, frantic
and horror-struck at what he has done?

"Then the instinct of self-preservation is roused.  Oh, the man was
cleverer than he was given credit for!  He remembers with
satisfaction locking Ida Griggs's door from the outside; and now to
give the horrible accident the appearance of ordinary burglary!  He
locks his mother's door on the inside, switches out the light, then
throws open the window.  For a youngish man who is active and
athletic the drop from a first floor window, with the aid of a
creeper on the wall, presents but little difficulty, and when a man
is faced with a deadly peril, minor dangers do not deter him.

"Fortunately, everything has occurred before he has bolted and barred
the downstairs door for the night.  This, of course, greatly
facilitates matters.  He lets himself down through the window, jumps
down into the yard, lets himself into the house through the back
door, then closes up everything, and quietly goes upstairs to bed.

"There has not been much noise, even his mother's fall was
practically soundless, and--poor thing!--she had not the time to
scream; the only sound was the opening of the window; it certainly
would not bring Ida Griggs out of her bed--girls of her class are
more likely to smother their heads under their bedclothes if any
alarming noise is heard.  And so the unfortunate man is able to sneak
up to his room unseen and unheard.

"Whoever would dream of casting suspicion on him?

"He was never mixed up in any quarrel with his mother, and he had
nothing much to gain by her death.  At the inquest every one was
sorry for him; but I could not repress a feeling of admiration for
the coolness and cleverness with which he obliterated every trace of
his crime.  I imagine him carefully wiping his boots before he went
upstairs, and brushing and folding up his clothes before he went to
bed.  Cannot you?

"A clever criminal, what?" the whimsical creature concluded, as he
put his piece of string in the pocket of his funny tweed coat.
"Think of it--you will see that I am right.  As you say, Mrs. Levison
did not strangle herself, and a burglar from the outside could not
have vanished into thin air."



The Old Man in the Corner was more than usually loquacious that day:
he had a great deal to say on the subject of the strictures which a
learned judge levelled against the police in a recent murder case.

"Well deserved," he concluded, with his usual self-opinionated
emphasis, "but not more so in this case than in many others, where
blunder after blunder is committed and the time of the courts wasted
without either judge or magistrate, let alone the police, knowing
where the hitch lies."

"Of course, _you_ always know," I remarked dryly.

"Nearly always," he replied, with ludicrous self-complacence.  "Have
I not proved to you over and over again that with a little reasonable
common-sense and a minimum of logic there is no such thing as an
impenetrable mystery in criminology.  Criminology is an exact science
to which certain rules of reasoning invariably apply.  The trouble is
that so few are masters of logic and that fewer still know how to
apply its rules.  Now take the case of that poor girl, Janet Smith.
We are likely to see some startling developments in it within the
next two or three days.  You'll see if we don't, and they will open
the eyes of the police and public alike to what has been clear as
daylight to me ever since the first day of the inquest."

I hastened to assure the whimsical creature that though I was
acquainted with the main circumstances of the tragedy, I was very
vague as to detail, and that nothing would give me greater pleasure
than that he should enlighten my mind on the subject--which he
immediately proceeded to do.

"You know Broxmouth, don't you?" he began, after a while--"on the
Wessex coast.  It is a growing place, for the scenery is superb, and
the air acts on jaded spirits like sparkling wine.  The only
drawback--that is, from an artistic point of view--to the place is
that hideous barrack-like building on the West Cliff.  It is a huge
industrial school recently erected and endowed by the trustees of the
Woodforde bequest for the benefit of sons of temporary officers
killed in the war, and is under the presidency of no less a personage
than General Sir Arkwright Jones, who has a whole alphabet after his

"The building is certainly an eyesore, and before it came into being,
Broxmouth was a real beauty spot.  If you have ever been there, you
will remember that fine walk along the edge of the cliffs, at the end
of which there is a wonderful view as far as the towers of Barchester
Cathedral.  It is called the Lovers' Walk, and is patronised by all
the young people in the neighbourhood.  They find it romantic as well
as exhilarating: the objective is usually Kurtmoor, where there are
one or two fine hotels for plutocrats in search of rural
surroundings, and where humble folk like you and I and the aforesaid
lovers can get an excellent cup of tea at the Wheatsheaf in the main
village street.

"But it is a daylight walk, for the path is narrow and in places the
cliffs fall away, sheer and precipitous, to the water's edge, whilst
loose bits of rock have an unpleasant trick of giving way under one's
feet.  If you were to consult one of the Broxmouth gaffers on the
advisability of taking a midnight walk to Kurtmoor, he would most
certainly shake his head and tell you to wait till the next day and
take your walk in the morning.  Accidents have happened there more
than once, though Broxmouth holds its tongue about that.  Rash
pedestrians have lost their footing and tumbled down the side of the
cliff before now, almost always with fatal results.

"And so, when a couple of small boys hunting for mussels at low tide
in the early morning of May fifth last, saw the body of a woman lying
inanimate upon the rocks at the foot of the cliffs, and reported
their discovery to the police, every one began by concluding that
nothing but an accident had occurred, and went on to abuse the town
Council for not putting up along the more dangerous portions of the
Lovers' Walk some sort of barrier as a protection to unwary

"Later on, when the body was identified as that of Miss Janet Smith,
a well-known resident of Broxmouth, public indignation waxed high:
the barrier along the edge of the Lovers' Walk became the burning
question of the hour.  But during the whole of that day the
'accident' theory was never disputed; it was only towards evening
that whispers of 'suicide' began to circulate, to be soon followed by
the more ominous ones of 'murder.'

"And the next morning Broxmouth had the thrill of its life when it
became known throughout the town that Captain Franklin Marston had
been detained in connection with the finding of the body of Janet
Smith, and that he would appear that day before the magistrate on a
charge of murder.

"Properly to appreciate the significance of such an announcement, it
would be necessary to be oneself a resident of Broxmouth where the
Woodforde Institute, its affairs and its personnel are, as it were,
the be-all and end-all of all the gossip in the neighbourhood.  To
begin with the deceased was head matron of the institute, and the man
now accused of the foul crime of having murdered her was its
secretary; moreover the secretary and the pretty young matron were
known to be very much in love with one another, and, as a matter of
fact, Broxmouth had of late been looking forward to a very
interesting wedding.  The idea of Captain Marston--who by the way was
very good-looking, very smart, and a splendid tennis player--being
accused of murdering his sweetheart was in itself so preposterous, so
impossible, that his numerous friends and many admirers were aghast
and incredulous.  'There is some villainous plot here somewhere,' the
ladies averred, and wanted to know what Major Gubbins's attitude was
going to be under these tragic circumstances.

"Major Gubbins, if you remember, was headmaster of the school, and,
what's more, he, too, had been very much in love with Janet Smith,
but it appeared that his friendship with Captain Marston had prompted
him to stand aside as soon as he realised which way the girl's
affections lay.  Major Gubbins was not so popular as the Captain, he
was inclined to be off-hand and disagreeable, so the ladies said,
and, moreover, he did not play tennis, and, with the sublime
inconsequence of your charming sex, they seemed to connect these
defects with the terrible accusation which was now weighing upon the
Major's successful rival.

"The executive of the institute consisted, in addition to the three
persons I have named, of its president, General Sir Arkwright Jones,
who, it seems, took little if any interest in the concern.  It seemed
as if, by giving it the prestige of his name, he had done all that he
intended for the furtherance of the institute's welfare.  Then there
were the governors, a number of amiable local gentlemen and ladies
who played tennis all day and attended innumerable tea-parties, and
knew as much about administering a big concern as a terrier does of

"In the midst of this official supineness, the murder of the young
matron, followed immediately by the arrest of the secretary, had come
as a bombshell, and now wise heads began to wag and ominous murmurs
became current that for some time past there had been something very
wrong in the management of the Woodforde Institute.  Whilst, at the
call of various august personages, money was pouring in from the
benevolent public, the commissariat was being conducted on
parsimonious lines that were a positive scandal.  The boys were
shockingly underfed, and the staff of servants was constantly being
changed because girls would not remain on what they called a
starvation régime.

"Then again, no proper accounts had been kept since the inception of
the Institute five years ago; entries were spasmodic, irregular and
unreliable; books were never audited; no one, apparently, had the
slightest idea of profit and loss or of balances; no one knew from
week to week where the salaries and wages were coming from, or from
quarter to quarter if there would be funds enough to meet rates and
taxes; no one, in fact, appeared to know anything about the affairs
of the Institute, least of all the secretary himself, who had often
remarked quite jocularly that he had never in all his life known
anything about book-keeping, and that his appointment by the
governors rested upon his agreeable personality rather than upon his
financial and administrative ability.

"As you see, the Captain's position was, in consequence of this, a
very serious one; it became still more so when presently two or three
ominous facts came to light.  To begin with, it seemed that he could
give absolutely no account of himself during the greater part of the
night of May fifth.  He had left the Institute at about seven
o'clock; he told the headmaster then that he was going for a walk
which seemed strange as it was pouring with rain.  On the other hand
the landlady at the room where he lodged told the police that when
she herself went to bed at eleven o'clock, the Captain had not come
in: she hadn't seen him since morning, when he went to his work, and
at what time he eventually came home she couldn't say.

"But there was worse to come: firstly, a stick was found on the beach
some thirty yards or less from the spot where the body itself was
discovered; and secondly, the police produced a few strands of wool
which were, it seems, clinging to the poor girl's hatpin, and which
presumably were torn out of a muffler during the brief struggle which
must have occurred when she was first attacked and before she lost
her footing and fell down the side of the cliff.

"Now the stick was identified as the property of Captain Marston, and
he had been seen on the road with it in his hand in the early part of
the evening.  He was then walking alone on the Lovers' Walk; two
Broxmouth visitors met him on their way back from Kurtmoor.  Knowing
him by sight, they passed the time of day.  These witnesses, however,
were quite sure that Captain Marston was not then wearing a muffler,
on the other hand they were equally sure that he carried the stick;
they had noticed it as a very unusual one, of what is known as
Javanese snake-wood with a round heavy knob and leather strap which
the Captain carried slung upon his arm.

"Of course, the matter interested me enormously; it is not often that
a person of the social and intellectual calibre of Captain Marston
stands accused of so foul a crime.  If he was guilty, then indeed, he
was one of the vilest criminals that ever defaced God's earth, and in
the annals of crime there were few crimes more hideous.  The poor
girl, it seems, had been in love with him right up to the end and,
according to some well-informed gossips, the wedding-day had actually
been fixed.

"The unsuccessful rival, Major Gubbins, too, was an interesting
personality, and it was difficult to suppose that he was entirely
ignorant of the events which must of necessity have led up to the
crime.  Supposedly there had been a quarrel between the lovers;
sundry rumours were current as to this and in a vague way those
rumours connected this quarrel with the shaky financial situation of
the Institute.  But it was all mere surmise and very contradictory;
no one could easily state what possible connection there could be
between the affairs of the Institute and the murder of the chief

"In the meanwhile the accused had been brought up before the
magistrate, and formal evidence of the finding of the body and of the
arrest was given, as well as of the subsequent discovery of the
stick, which was identified by the two witnesses, and of the strands
of wool.  The accused was remanded until the following Monday, bail
being refused.  The inquest was held a day or two later, and I went
down to Broxmouth for it.  I remember how hot it was in that crowded
court-room; excited and perspiring humanity filled the stuffy
atmosphere with heat.  While the crowd jabbered and fidgeted I had a
good look at the chief personages who were about to enact a thrilling
drama for my entertainment; you have seen portraits of them all in
the illustrated papers, the British army being well represented by a
trio of as fine specimens of manhood as any one would wish to see.

"The President, General Arkwright Jones, was there as a matter of
course.  He looked worried and annoyed that the even tenor of his
pleasant existence should have been disturbed by this tiresome event;
he is the regular type of British pre-war officer with ruddy face and
white hair, something like a nice ripe tomato that has been packed in
cotton wool.  Then there was the headmaster, Major Gubbins,
well-groomed, impassive, immaculate in dress and bearing; and finally
the accused himself, in charge of two warders, a fine-looking man,
obviously more of a soldier and an athlete than a clerk immersed in

"Two other persons in the crowded room arrested my attention: two
women.  One of them dressed in deep black, thin lipped, with pale
round eyes and pursed-up mouth was Miss Amelia Smith, the sister with
whom the deceased had been living, and the other was Louisa Rumble
who held the position of housekeeper at the Woodforde Institute.  The
latter was one of the first witnesses called: and her evidence was
intensely interesting because it gave one the first clue as to the
motive which underlay the hideous crime.  The woman's testimony, you
must know, bore entirely on the question of housekeeping and of the
extraordinary scarcity of money in the richly-endowed Institute.

"'Often and often,' said the witness, a motherly old soul in a
flamboyant bonnet, 'did I complain to Miss Smith when she give me my
weekly allowance for the tradesmen's books: "'Tisn't enough, Miss
Smith," I says to 'er, "not to feed a family," I says, "let alone
thirty growin' boys and 'arf a dozen working girls."  But Miss Smith
she just shook 'er 'ead and says: "Committee's orders, Mrs. Rumble, I
'ave no power."  "Why don't you speak to the Captain?" I says to 'er,
"'e 'as the 'andling of the money, it is a scandal," I says.  "Those
boys can't live on boiled bacon an' beans and not English nor Irish
bacon it ain't neither," I says.  "Pore lambs!  The money I 'ave
won't pay for beef or mutton for them, Miss Smith," I says, "and you
know it."  But Miss Smith, she only shook 'er 'ead and says she would
speak to the Captain about it.'

"Asked whether she knew if deceased had actually spoken to the
secretary on the subject, Mrs. Rumble said most emphatically 'Yes!'

"'What's more, sir,' she went on, 'I can tell you that the very day
before she died, the pore lamb 'ad a reg'lar tiff with the Captain
about that there commissariat.'

"Mrs. Rumble had stumbled a little over the word, but strangely
enough no one tittered; the importance of the old woman's testimony
was impressed upon every mind and silenced every tongue.  All eyes
were turned in the direction of the accused.  He had flushed to the
roots of his hair, but otherwise stood quite still, with arms folded,
and a dull expression of hopelessness upon his good-looking face.

"The coroner had asked the witness how she knew that Miss Smith had
had words with Captain Marston: 'Because I 'eard them two 'aving
words, sir,' Mrs. Rumble replied.  'I'd been in the office to get my
money and my orders from Miss Smith, and we 'ad the usual talk about
American bacon and boiled beans, with which I don't 'old, not for
growing boys; then back I went to the kitchen, when I remembered I
'ad forgot to speak to Miss Smith about the scullery-maid, who'd been
saucy and given notice.  So up I went again, and I was just a-goin'
to open the office door when I 'eard Miss Smith say quite loud and
distinck: "It is shameful," she says, "and I can't bear it," she
says, "and if you won't speak to the General then I will.  He is
staying at the Queen's at Kurtmoor, I understand," she says, "and I
am goin' this very night to speak with him," she says, "as I can't
spend another night," she says, "with this on my mind."  Then I give
a genteel cough and...'

"The worthy lady had got thus far in her story when her volubility
was suddenly checked by a violent expletive from the accused.

"'But this is damnable!' he cried, and no doubt would have said a lot
more, but a touch on his shoulder from the warders behind him quickly
recalled him to himself.  He once more took up his outwardly calm
attitude, and Mrs. Rumble concluded her evidence amidst silence more
ominous than any riotous scene would have been.

"'I give a genteel cough,' she resumed with unruffled dignity, 'and
opened the door.  Miss Smith, she was all flushed and I could see
that she'd been crying; but the Captain; 'e just walked out of the
room, and didn't say not another word.'

"By this time," the Old Man in the Corner went on dryly, "we must
suppose that the amateur detectives and the large body of
unintelligent public felt that they were being cheated.  Never had
there been so simple a case.  Here, with the testimony of Mrs.
Rumble, was the whole thing clear as daylight--motive, quarrel,
means, everything was there already.  No chance of exercising those
powers of deduction so laboriously acquired by a systematic study of
detective fiction.  Had it not been for the position of the accused
and his popularity in Broxmouth society, all interest in the case
would have departed in the wake of Mrs. Rumble, and at first, when
Miss Amelia Smith, sister of the deceased, was called, her appearance
only roused languid curiosity.  Miss Amelia looked what, in fact, she
was: a retired school marm, and wore the regular hallmark of
impecunious and somewhat soured spinsterhood.

"'Janet often told me,' she said, in the course of her evidence,
'that she was quite sure there was roguery going on in the affairs of
the Institute, because she knew for a fact that subscriptions were
constantly pouring in from the public, far in excess of what was
being spent for the welfare of the boys.  I often used to urge her to
go straight to the governors or even to the President himself about
the whole matter, but she would always give the same disheartened
reply.  General Arkwright Jones, it seems, had made it a condition
when he accepted the presidency that he was never to be worried about
the administration of the place, and he refused to have anything to
do with the handling of the subscriptions; as for the governors, my
poor sister declared that they cared more for tennis parties than for
the welfare of a lot of poor officers' children.'

"But a moment or two later we realised that Miss Amelia Smith was
keeping her titbit of evidence until the end.  It seems that she had
not even spoken about it to the police, determined as she was, no
doubt, to create a sensation for once in her monotonous and dreary
life.  So now she pursed up her lips tighter than before, and after a
moment's dramatic silence, she said:

"'The day before her death, my poor sister was very depressed.  In
the late afternoon, when she came in for tea, I could see that she
had been crying.  I guessed, of course, what was troubling her, but I
didn't say much.  Captain Franklin Marston was in the habit of
calling for Janet in the evening, and they would go for a walk
together; at eight o'clock on that sad evening I asked her whether
Captain Marston was coming as usual; whereupon she became quite
excited, and said: "No, no, I don't wish to see him!" and after a
while she added in a voice choked with tears: "Never again!"

"'About a quarter of an hour later,' Miss Amelia went on, 'Janet
suddenly took up her hat and coat.  I asked her where she was going,
and she said to me: "I don't know, but I must put an end to all this.
I must know one way or the other."  I tried to question her further,
but she was in an obstinate mood; when I remarked that it was raining
hard she said: "That's all right, the rain will do me good."  And
when I asked her whether she wasn't going to meet Captain Marston
after all, she just gave me a look, but she made no reply.  And so my
poor sister went out into the darkness and the rain, and I never
again saw her alive.'

"Miss Amelia paused just long enough to give true dramatic value to
her statement, and indeed there was nothing lukewarm now about the
interest which she aroused; then she continued:

"'As the clock was striking nine I was surprised to receive a visit
from the headmaster, Major Gubbins.  He came with a message from
Captain Marston to my sister; I told him that Janet had gone out.  He
appeared vexed, and told me that the Captain would be terribly

"'What was this message?' the coroner asked, amidst breathless

"'That Janet would please meet Captain Marston at the Dog's Tooth
Cliff.  He would wait for her there until nine o'clock.'"

The Old Man in the Corner gave a short, sharp laugh, and with loving
eyes contemplated his bit of string, in which he had just woven an
elegant and complicated knot.  Then he said:

"Now it was at the foot of the Dog's Tooth Cliff that the dead body
of Janet Smith was found and some thirty yards further on the stick
which had last been seen in the hand of Captain Franklin Marston.
Nervous women gave a gasp, and scarcely dared to look at the accused,
for fear, no doubt, that they would see the hangman's rope around his
neck, but I took a good look at him then.  He had uttered a loud
groan and buried his face in his hands, and I, with that unerring
intuition on which I pride myself, knew that he was acting.  Yes,
deliberately acting a part--the part of shame and despair.  You, no
doubt, would ask me why he should have done this.  Well, you shall
understand presently.  For the moment, and to all unthinking
spectators, the attitude of despair on the part of the accused
appeared fully justified.

"Later on we heard the evidence of Major Gubbins himself.  He said
that about seven o'clock he met Captain Marston in the hall of the

"'He appeared flushed and agitated,' the witness went on, very
reluctantly it seemed, but in answer to pressing questions put to him
by the coroner, 'and told me he was going for a walk.  When I
remarked that it was raining hard, he retorted that the rain would do
him good.  He didn't say where he was going, but presently he put his
hand on my shoulder and said in a tone of pleading and affection
which I shall never forget: "Old man," he said, "I want you to do
something for me.  Tell Janet that I must see her again to-night; beg
her not to deny me.  I will meet her at our usual place on the Dog's
Tooth Cliff.  Tell her I will wait for her there until nine o'clock,
whatever the weather.  But she must come.  Tell her she must."

"'Unfortunately,' the Major continued, 'I was unable to deliver the
message immediately, as I had work to do in my office which kept me
till close on nine o'clock.  Then I hurried down to the Smiths'
house, and just missed Miss Janet who, it seems, had already gone

"Asked why he had not spoken about this before, the Major replied
that he did not intend to give evidence at all unless he was
absolutely forced to do so, as a matter of duty.  Captain Marston was
his friend, and he did not think that any man was called upon to give
what might prove damnatory evidence against his friend.

"All this sounded very nice and very loyal until we learned that
William Peryer, batman at the Institute, testified to having
overheard violent words between the headmaster and the secretary at
the very same hour when the latter was supposed to have made so
pathetic an appeal to his friend to deliver a message on his behalf.
Peryer swore that the two men were quarrelling and quarrelling
bitterly.  The words he overheard were: 'You villain!  You shall pay
for this!'  But he was so upset and so frightened that he could not
state positively which of the two gentlemen had spoken them, but he
was inclined to think that it was Major Gubbins.

"And so the tangle grew, a tangled web that was dexterously being
woven around the secretary of the Institute.  The two Broxmouth
visitors were recalled, and they once more swore positively to having
met Captain Marston on the Lovers' Walk at about eight o'clock of
that fateful evening.  They spoke to him and they noticed the stick
which he was carrying.  They were on their way home from Kurtmoor,
and they met the Captain some two hundred yards or so before they
came to the Dog's Tooth Cliff.  Of this they were both quite
positive.  The lady remembered coming to the cliff a few minutes
later: she was nervous in the dark and therefore the details of the
incident impressed themselves upon her memory.  Subsequently when
they were nearing home they met a lady who might or might not have
been the deceased; they did not know her by sight and the person they
met had her hat pulled down over her eyes and the collar of her coat
up to her ears.  It was raining hard then, and they themselves were
hurrying along and paid no attention to passers-by.

"We also heard that at about nine o'clock James Hoggs and his wife,
who live in a cottage not very far from the Dog's Tooth Cliff, heard
a terrifying scream.  They were just going to bed and closing up for
the night.  Hoggs had the front door open at the moment and was
looking at the weather.  It was raining, but nevertheless he picked
up his hat and ran out toward the cliff.  A moment or two later he
came up against a man whom he hailed; it was very dark, but he
noticed that the man was engaged in wrapping a muffler round his
neck.  He asked him whether he had heard a scream, but the man said:
'No, I've not!' then hurried quickly out of sight.  As Hoggs heard
nothing more, or saw anything, he thought that perhaps, after all, he
and his missis had been mistaken, so he turned back home and went to

"I think," the Old Man in the Corner continued thoughtfully, "that I
have now put before you all the most salient points in the chain of
evidence collected by the police against the accused.  There were not
many faulty links in the chain, you will admit.  The motive for the
hideous crime was clear enough: for there was the fraudulent
secretary and the unfortunate girl who had suspected the defalcations
and was threatening to go and denounce her lover either to the
President of the Institute or to the governors.  And the method was
equally clear: the meeting in the dark and the rain on the lonely
cliff, the muffler quickly thrown around the victim's mouth to
smother her screams, the blow with the stick, the push over the edge
of the cliff.  The stick stood up as an incontestable piece of
evidence.  The absence from home of the accused during the greater
part of that night had been testified by his landlady, whilst his
presence on the scene of the crime some time during the evening was
not disputed.

"As a matter of fact, the only points in the man's favour were the
strands of wool found sticking to the girl's hatpin, and Hoggs's
story of the man whom he had seen in the dark, engaged in readjusting
a muffler around his neck.  Unfortunately Hoggs, when more closely
questioned on that subject, became incoherent and confused, as men of
his class are apt to do when pinned down to a definite statement.

"Anyway, the accused was committed for trial on the coroner's
warrant, and, of course, reserved his defence.  You probably, like
the rest of the public, kept up a certain amount of interest in the
Cliff murder, as it was popularly called, for a time, and then
allowed your mind to dwell on other matters and forgot poor Captain
Franklin Marston who was languishing in gaol under such a horrible
accusation.  Subsequently your interest in him revived when he was
brought up for trial the other day at the Barchester Assizes.  In the
meanwhile he had secured the services of Messrs. Charnton and
Inglewood, the noted solicitors, who had engaged Mr. Provost Boon,
K.C., to defend their client.

"You know as well as I do what happened at the trial, and how Mr.
Boon turned the witnesses for the Crown inside out and round about
until they contradicted themselves and one another all along the
line.  The defence was conducted in a masterly fashion.  To begin
with, the worthy housekeeper, Mrs. Rumble, after a stiff
cross-examination, which lasted nearly an hour, was forced to admit
that she could not swear positively to the exact words which she
overheard between the deceased and Captain Marston.  All that she
could swear to was that the Captain and his sweetheart had apparently
had a tiff.  Then, as to Miss Amelia Smith's evidence; it also merely
went to prove that the lovers had had a quarrel; there was nothing
whatever to say that it was on the subject of finance, nor that
deceased had any intention either of speaking to the President about
it or of handing in her resignation to the governors.

"Next came the question of Major Gubbins's story of the message which
he had been asked by his friend to deliver to the deceased.  Now
accused flatly denied that story, and denied it on oath.  The whole
thing, he declared, was a fabrication on the part of the Major who,
far from being his friend, was his bitter enemy and unsuccessful
rival.  In support of this theory William Peryer's evidence was cited
as conclusive.  He had heard the two men quarrelling at the very
moment when accused was alleged to have made a pathetic appeal to his
friend.  Peryer had heard one of them say to the other: 'You villain!
You shall pay for this!'  And in very truth, the unfortunate Captain
was paying for it, in humiliation and racking anxiety.

"Then there came the great, the vital question of the stick and of
the strands of wool so obviously torn out of a muffler.  With regard
to the stick, the accused had stated that in the course of his walk
he had caught his foot against a stone and stumbled, and that the
stick had fallen out of his hand and over the edge of the cliff.  Now
this statement was certainly borne out by the fact that, as eminent
counsel reminded the jury, the stick was found more than thirty yards
away from the body.  As for the muffler, it was a graver point still;
strands of wool were found sticking to the girl's hatpin, and James
Hoggs, after hearing a scream at nine o'clock that evening, ran out
towards the cliff and came across a man who was engaged in
readjusting a muffler round his throat.  That was incontestable.

"Of course, Mr. Boon argued, it was easy enough to upset a witness of
the type of James Hoggs, but an English jury's duty was not to fasten
guilt on the first man who happens to be handy, but to see justice
meted out to innocent and guilty alike.  The evidence of the muffler,
argued the eminent counsel, was proof positive of the innocence of
the accused.  The witnesses who saw him in the Lovers' Walk on that
fateful night had declared most emphatically that he was not wearing
a muffler.  Then where was the man with the muffler?  Where was the
man who was within a few yards of the scene of the crime five minutes
after James Hoggs had heard the scream--the man who had denied
hearing the scream although both Hoggs and his wife heard it over a
quarter of a mile away?

"'Yes, gentlemen of the jury,' the eminent counsel concluded with a
dramatic gesture, 'it is the man with the muffler who murdered the
unfortunate girl.  If he is innocent why is he not here to give
evidence?  There are no side tracks that lead to the cliffs at this
point, so the man with the muffler must have seen something or some
one; he must know something that would be of invaluable assistance in
the elucidation of this sad mystery.  Then why does he not come
forward?  I say because he dare not.  But let the police look for
him, I say.  The accused is innocent; he is the victim of tragic
circumstances, but his whole life, his war-record, his affection for
the deceased, all proclaim him to be guiltless of such a dastardly
crime, and above all there stands the incontestable proof of his
innocence, the muffler, gentlemen of the jury--the muffler!'

"He said a lot more than that, of course," the Old Man in the Corner
went on, chuckling dryly to himself, "and said it a lot better than
ever I can repeat it, but I have given you the gist of what he said.
You know the result of the trial.  The accused was acquitted, the
jury having deliberated less than a quarter of an hour.  There was no
getting away from that muffler, even though every other circumstance
pointed to Marston as the murderer of Janet Smith.

"On the whole, his acquittal was a popular one, although many who
were present at the trial shook their heads, and thought that if they
had been on the jury Marston would not have got off so easily, but
for the most part these sceptics were not Broxmouth people.  In
Broxmouth the Captain was personally liked, and the proclamation of
his innocence was hailed with enthusiasm; and, what's more, those
same champions of the good-looking secretary--they were the women
mostly--looked askance on the headmaster, who, they averred, had
woven a Machiavellian net for trapping and removing from his path for
ever a hated and successful rival.

"The police have received a perfect deluge of anonymous
communications suggesting that Major Gubbins was identical with the
mysterious man with the muffler, but, of course, such a suggestion is
perfectly absurd, since at the very hour when James Hoggs heard the
scream, and a very few minutes before he met the man with the
muffler, Major Gubbins was paying his belated visit to Miss Amelia
Smith and delivering the alleged message.  Even those ladies who
disliked the headmaster most cordially had to admit that he could not
very well have been in two places at the same time.  The Dog's Tooth
Cliff is a good half hour's walk from Miss Smith's house, and the
Lovers' Walk itself is not accessible to cyclists or motors.

"And thus, to all intents and purposes, the Cliff murder has remained
a mystery, but it won't be one for long.  Have I not told you that
you may expect important developments within the next few days?  And
I am seldom wrong.  Already in this evening's paper you will have
read that the entire executive of the Woodforde Institute has placed
its resignation in the hands of the governors, that several august
personages have withdrawn their names from the list of patrons, and
that though the President has been implored not to withdraw his name,
he has proved adamant on the subject, and even refused to recommend
successors to the headmaster, the secretary, or the matron; in fact,
he has seemingly washed his hands of the whole concern."

"But surely," I now broke in, seeing that the Old Man in the Corner
threatened to put away his piece of string and to leave me without
the usual epilogue to his interesting narrative, "surely General Sir
Arkwright Jones cannot be blamed for the scandal which undoubtedly
has dimmed the fortunes of the Woodforde Institute?"

"Cannot be blamed?" the Old Man in the Corner retorted sarcastically.
"Cannot be blamed for entering into a conspiracy with his secretary
and his head-master to defraud the Institute, and then to silence for
ever the one voice that might have been raised in accusation against

"Sir Arkwright Jones?" I exclaimed incredulously, for indeed the idea
appeared to me preposterous then, as the General's name was almost a
household word before the catastrophe.  "Impossible!"

"Impossible!" he reiterated.  "Why?  He murdered Janet Smith; of that
you will be as convinced within the next few days as I am at this
hour.  That the three men were in collusion I have not the shadow of
doubt.  Marston only made love to Janet Smith in order to secure her
silence; but in this he failed, and the girl boldly accused him of
roguery as soon as she found him out.  It would be inconceivable to
suppose that being the bright, intelligent girl that she admittedly
was, she could remain for ever in ignorance of the defalcations in
the books; she must and did tax her lover of irregularities, she must
have and indeed did threaten to put the whole thing before the
governors.  So much for the lovers' quarrel overheard by Mrs. Rumble.

"I believe that the fate of the poor girl was decided on then and
there by two of the scoundrels; it only remained to consult with
their other accomplice as to the best means for carrying their
hideous project through.  Janet had announced her determination to go
to Kurtmoor that self-same evening, the only question was which of
those three miscreants would meet her in the darkness and solitude of
the Lovers' Walk.  But in order at the outset to throw dust in the
eyes of the public and the police and not appear to be in any way
associated with one another, Marston and Gubbins made pretence of a
violent quarrel which Peryer overheard; then Gubbins, in order to
make sure that the poor girl would carry out her intention of going
over to Kurtmoor that evening, went to her house with the supposed
message from Marston, and incidentally secured thereby his own alibi.
This made him safe.

"Marston in the meanwhile went to arrange matters with Arkwright
Jones.  His position was, of course, more difficult than that of
Gubbins.  If there was to be murder--and my belief is that the
scoundrels had been resolved on murder for some time before--the
first suspicion would inevitably fall on the secretary who had kept
the books and who had had the handling of the money.  The miscreants
had some sort of vague plan in their heads: of this there can be no
doubt; they were only procrastinating, hoping against hope that
chance would continue to favour them.  But now the hour had come, the
danger was imminent; within the next four-and-twenty hours Janet
Smith, being promised no redress on the part of the President, would
place the whole matter before the governors.  _Unless she was
effectually made to hold her tongue_.

"We can easily suppose that Marston would be clever enough to arrange
to meet Arkwright Jones, without arousing suspicion.  We do know that
soon after he finally quarrelled with Janet Smith he walked over to
Kurtmoor; the two witnesses who spoke with him stated that they met
him whilst they themselves were walking to Broxmouth.  It was then
past eight o'clock.  Arkwright Jones had either dined at his hotel or
not; we do not know, for it never struck the police to inquire at
once how the popular General had spent his time on that fateful
evening.  You know what those unconventional seaside places are:
people spend most of their time out of doors, and there would be
nothing strange, let alone suspicious, in any visitor going out for
an hour after dinner, even if it rained.

"Then surely you can in your mind see those two scoundrels putting
their villainous heads together, and as suspicion of any foul play
would of necessity at once fall on Marston, Jones decided to take the
hideous onus on himself.  He went to the Dog's Tooth Cliff to meet
Janet Smith himself, and borrowed Marston's stick to aid him in his
abominable deed.  He was clever enough, however, to throw it over the
edge of the cliff some distance away from the scene of his crime.  We
do not know, of course, whether the poor girl recognised him, or
whether he just fell on her in the dark; she gave only one scream
before she fell.

"They were clever scoundrels, we must admit, but chance favoured
them, too, especially in one thing: she favoured them when she
prompted Arkwright Jones to put a muffler round his throat.  This one
fact, as you know, saved Marston's neck from the gallows, but for the
strands of wool in the girl's hatpin, and Hoggs's brief view of a man
manipulating a muffler, nothing but Jones's own confession could have
saved his accomplice.  Whether he would have confessed remains a
riddle which no one will ever solve.  But as to the whole so-called
mystery, I saw daylight through it the moment I realised that
Marston's despair and humiliation during the inquest was a pretence.
If he feigned despair it was because he desired _temporarily_ to be
the victim of circumstantial evidence.  From that point to the
unravelling of the tangled skein was but a step for a mind bent on

"But," I argued, for indeed I was bewildered, and really incredulous,
"what will be the end of it all?  Surely three scoundrels like that
will not go scot free.  There will be an enquiry into the affairs of
the Institute: the governors----"

"The governors have talked of an inquiry," the funny creature broke
in, with a chuckle, "but if you had any experience of these private
charities, you would know that the first thing their administrators
wish to avoid is publicity.  The President of the Woodforde Institute
had sufficient influence on the committee you may be sure to stifle
any suggestion of creating public scandal by any sort of enquiry."

"But the question of the finances of the Institute is, anyhow, public
property now, and----"

"And it will be allowed to sink into oblivion.  The executive has
resigned.  Marston and Gubbins will leave the country, and everything
will be conveniently hushed up."

"But Arkwright Jones--" I protested.

"You see the papers regularly," he rejoined dryly; "watch them, and
you will see..."

I don't know when he went, but a moment or two later I found myself
sitting alone at the table in the blameless teashop.  The matter
interested me more than I cared to admit, but, for once, I was not
altogether prepared to accept the funny creature's deductions.

Twenty-four hours later, however, I had to own that he had been
right, when the following piece of sensational news appeared in the
_Evening Post_.


"An extraordinary sequel to the mysterious tragedy of the Dog's Tooth
Cliff near Broxmouth occurred last night, when on the self-same spot
where Miss Janet Smith met her death three months ago, General Sir
Arkwright Jones lost his footing and fell a distance of two hundred
feet on to the rocks below.  It was a beautiful moonlight evening,
and the tide being low a number of visitors were down on the beach at
the time; but those who immediately hurried to the General's
assistance found life already extinct.  The distinguished soldier,
who will be deeply mourned, must have been killed on the spot.
Indeed now general public opinion as well as every inhabitant of
Broxmouth will bring pressure to bear upon the Borough Council to see
that a suitable barrier is erected along the dangerous portions of
the beautiful Lovers' Walk.  The double tragedy of this year's season
renders such an erection imperative."

I was probably the only reader of that paragraph who guessed that the
once distinguished soldier had not come accidentally by his death.
No doubt the police had followed up the clue of the man with the
muffler, and were actually on the track of the miscreant, when the
latter, guessing that exposure was imminent, preferred to put an end
to his own miserable life.

I have since heard from friends at Broxmouth that Marston has gone to
the Malay States, and that Gubbins is doing something in Germany.
Curious creature Marston must have been!  Imagine after Jones had
returned from his infamous errand and told him that the hideous deed
was done, imagine Marston walking back to Broxmouth along the Lovers'
Walk in the rain and the darkness, past the Dog's Tooth Cliff, at the
foot of which the body of the murdered girl lay!  I wonder what would
be the views of the Old Man in the Corner on the psychology of a man
with nerve enough for such an ordeal.




"What do you make of this?" the Old Man in the Corner said to me that
afternoon.  "A curious case, is it not?"

And with his claw-like fingers he indicated the paragraph in the
_Evening Post_ which I had just been perusing with great interest.

"At best," I replied, "it is a very unpleasant business for the

"And at the worst?" he retorted with a chuckle.

"Well...!" I remarked dryly.

"Do you think they are guilty?" he asked.

"I don't see who else..."

"Ah!" he broke in, with his usual lack of manners, "that is such a
stale argument.  One doesn't see who else, therefore one makes up
one's mind that so-and-so must be guilty.  I'll lay an even bet with
any one that out of a dozen cases of miscarriage of justice, I could
point to ten that were directly due to that fallacious reasoning.

"Now take as an example the Tytherton case, in which you are
apparently interested.  It was an unprecedented outrage which stirred
the busy provincial town to its depths, the victim, Mr. Walter
Stonebridge, being one of its most noted solicitors.  He had his
office in Tytherton High Street, and lived in a small, detached house
on the Great West Road.  The house stood in the middle of a small
garden, and had only one story above the ground floor; the front door
opened straight on a long, narrow hall which ran along the full depth
of the house.  On the left side of this hall there were two doors,
one leading to the drawing-room and the other to a small
morning-room.  At the end of the hall was the staircase, and beyond
it, down a couple of steps, there was a tiny dining-room and the
usual offices.  The back door opened straight on the kitchen, and on
the floor above there were four bedrooms and a bathroom.  Mr. Walter
Stonebridge was a bachelor, and his domestic staff consisted of a
married couple--Henning by name--who did all that was necessary for
him in the house.

"It was on the last evening of February.  The weather was fair and
bright.  The Hennings had gone upstairs to their room as usual at ten
o'clock.  Mr. Stonebridge was at the time sitting in the
morning-room.  He was in the habit of sitting up late, reading and
writing.  On this occasion he told the Hennings to close the shutters
and lock the back door as usual, but to leave the front door on the
latch as he was expecting a visitor.  The Hennings thought nothing of
that, as one or two gentlemen--friends, or sometimes clients of Mr.
Stonebridge--would now and then drop in late to see him.  Anyway,
they went contentedly to bed.

"A little while later--they could not exactly recollect at what hour,
because they had already settled down for the night--they heard the
front-door bell, and immediately afterwards Mr. Stonebridge's
footsteps along the hall.  Then suddenly they heard a crash followed
by what sounded like a struggle, then a smothered cry, and finally
silence.  Henning was out of bed and on the landing with a candle in
an instant, and he had just switched on the light there when he heard
Mr. Stonebridge's voice calling up to him from below:

"It's all right, Henning.  I caught my foot in this confounded rug.
That's all.'

"Henning looked over the bannister, and seeing nothing he shouted

"'Shall I give you a 'and, sir?'

"But Mr. Stonebridge at once replied, quite cheerily:

"'No, no!  I'm all right.  You go back to bed.'

"And Henning did as he was told, nor did he or his wife hear anything
more during the night.  But in the early morning when Mrs. Henning
came downstairs she was horror-struck to find Mr. Stonebridge in the
dining-room, lying across the table, to which he was securely
pinioned with a rope; a serviette taken out of the sideboard drawer
had been tied tightly around his mouth and his eyes were blindfolded
with his own pocket handkerchief.

"The woman's screams brought her husband upon the scene; together
they set to work to rescue their master from his horrible plight.  At
first they thought that he was dead, and Henning was for fetching the
police immediately, but his wife declared that Mr. Stonebridge was
just unconscious and she started to apply certain household
restoratives and made Henning force some brandy through Mr.
Stonebridge's lips.

"Presently, the poor man opened his eyes, and gave one or two other
signs of returning consciousness, but he was still very queer and
shaky.  The Hennings then carried him upstairs, undressed him and put
him to bed; and then Henning ran for the doctor.

"Well, it was days, or in fact weeks before Mr. Stonebridge had
sufficiently recovered to give a coherent statement of what happened
to him on that fateful night, and--which was just as much to the
point--what had happened the previous day.  The doctor had prescribed
complete rest in the interim.  The patient had suffered from
concussion and I know not what, and those events had got so mixed up
in his brain that to try and disentangle them was such an effort that
every time he attempted it it nearly sent him into a brain fever.
But in the meanwhile his friends had been busy--notably, Mr.
Stonebridge's head clerk, Mr. Medburn, who was giving the police no
rest.  There was, even without the evidence of the principal witness
concerned, plenty of facts to go on, to make out a case against the
perpetrator of such a dastardly outrage.

"That robbery had been the main motive of the assault, was easily
enough established--a small fire- and burglar-proof safe which stood
in a corner of the morning-room had been opened and ransacked.  When
examined it was found to contain only a few trinkets which had
probably a sentimental value, but were otherwise worthless.  The key
of the safe--one of a bunch--was still in the lock, which went to
prove either that Mr. Stonebridge had the safe open when he was
attacked, or what was more likely--considering the solicitor's
well-known careful habits--that the assailant had ransacked his
victim's pockets after he had knocked him down.  A pocket-book, torn,
and containing only a few unimportant papers, lay on the ground;
there had been a fire in the room at the time of the outrage, and
careful analysis of the ashes found in the hearth revealed the
presence of a quantity of burnt paper.

"But robbery being established as the motive of the outrage did not
greatly help matters, because, while Mr. Stonebridge remained in such
a helpless condition, it was impossible to ascertain what booty his
assailant had carried away.  Soon, however, the first ray of light
was thrown upon what had seemed until this hour an impenetrable

"It appears that Mr. Medburn was looking after the business in High
Street during his employer's absence, and one morning--it was on the
Monday following the night of the outrage--he had a visit from a
client, who sent in his name as Felix Shap.  The head clerk knew
something about this client, who had recently come over to England
from somewhere abroad, in order to make good his claim to certain
royalties on what is known as the Shap Fuelettes--a kind of cheap
fuel which was launched some time before the War by Sir Alfred
Carysfort, Bart., of Tytherton Grange, and out of which that
gentleman made an immense fortune, and incidentally got his title

"This man, Shap--a Dutchman by birth--was, it appears, the original
inventor and patentee of these fuelettes, and Mr. Carysfort, as he
was then, had met him out in the Dutch East Indies, and had bought
the invention from him for a certain sum down, and then exploited it
in England first and afterwards all over the world at immense profit.
Sir Alfred Carysfort died about a year ago, leaving a fortune of over
a million sterling, and was succeeded in the title and in the
managing-directorship of the business by his eldest son David, a
married man with a large family.  The business had long since been
turned into a private limited liability company, the bulk of the
shares being held by the managing-director.

"The fact that the patent rights in the Shap Fuelettes had been sold
by the inventor to the late Alfred Carysfort had never been in
dispute.  It further appeared that Felix Shap had at one time been a
very promising mining engineer, but that in consequence of incurable,
intemperate habits he had gradually drifted down the social scale; he
lost one good appointment after another until he was just an
underpaid clerk in the office of an engineer in Batavia, whose
representative in England was Mr. Alfred Carysfort.  The latter was
on a visit to the head office in Batavia some twelve years ago when
he met Shap, who was then on his beam-ends.  He had recently been
sacked by his employers for intemperance, and was on the fair way to
becoming one of those hopeless human derelicts who usually end their
days either on the gallows or in a convict prison.

"But at the back of Shap's fuddled mind there had lingered throughout
his downward career the remembrance of a certain invention which he
had once patented, and which he had always declared would one day
bring him an immense fortune; but though he had spent quite a good
deal of money in keeping up his patent rights, he had never had the
pluck and perseverance to exploit or even to perfect his invention.

"Alfred Carysfort on the other hand, was brilliantly clever, he was
ambitious, probably none too scrupulous, and at once he saw the
immense possibilities, if properly worked, of Shap's rough invention,
and he set to work to obtain the man's confidence, and, presumably,
by exercising certain persuasion and pressure he got the wastrel to
make over to him in exchange for a few hundred pounds the entire
patent rights in the Fuelettes.

"The transaction was, as far as that goes, perfectly straightforward
and above board; it was embodied in a contract drawn up by an English
solicitor, who was the British Consul in Batavia at the time; nor was
it--taking everything into consideration--an unfair one.  Shap would
never have done anything with his invention, and a clean, wholesome
and entirely practical fuel would probably have been thus lost to the
world; but there remains the fact that Alfred Carysfort died a dozen
years later worth more than a million sterling, every penny of which
he had made out of an invention for which he had originally paid less
than five hundred.

"Mr. Medburn had been put in possession of these facts some few weeks
previously when Mr. Felix Shap had first presented himself at the
private house of Mr. Stonebridge; he came armed with a letter of
introduction from a relative of Mr. Stonebridge's whom he had met out
in Java, and he was accompanied by a friend--an American named Julian
Lloyd--who was piloting him about the place, and acting as his
interpreter and secretary, as he himself had never been in England
and spoke English very indifferently.  His passport and papers of
identification were perfectly in order; he appeared before Mr.
Stonebridge as a man still on the right side of sixty, who certainly
bore traces on his prematurely wrinkled face and in his tired,
lustreless eyes of a life spent in dissipation rather than in work,
but otherwise he bore himself well, was well-dressed and appeared
plentifully supplied with money.

"The story that he told Mr. Stonebridge through the intermediary of
his friend, Julian Lloyd, was a very curious one.  According to his
version of various transactions which took place between himself and
the late Sir Alfred Carysfort, the latter had, some time after the
signing of the original contract, made him a definite promise in
writing, that should the proceeds in the business of the Shap
Fuelettes exceed £10,000 in any one year, he, Sir Alfred, would pay
the original inventor, out of his own pocket, a sum equivalent to
twenty per cent. of all such profits over and above the £10,000, with
a minimum of £200.

"Mr. Shap had brought over with him all the correspondence relating
to this promise, and, moreover, he adduced as proof positive that Sir
Alfred had looked on that promise as binding, and had at first
loyally abided by it, the fact that until 1916 he had paid to Mr.
Felix Shap the sum of £200 every year.  These sums had been paid
half-yearly through Sir Alfred's bankers, and acknowledgments were
duly sent by Shap direct to the bank, all of which could of course be
easily verified.  But in the year 1916 these payments suddenly
ceased.  Mr. Shap wrote repeatedly to Sir Alfred, but never received
any reply.  At first he thought that there were certain difficulties
in the way owing to the European War, so after a while he ceased
writing.  But presently there came the Armistice.  Mr. Shap wrote
again and again, but was again met by the same obstinate silence.

"In the meanwhile he had come to the end of his resources; he had
spent all that he had ever saved, but, nevertheless, he was
determined that as soon as he could scrape up a sufficiency of money
he would go to England in order to establish his rights.  Then in
1922 he heard of Sir Alfred Carysfort's death.  It was now or never
if he did not mean to acquiesce silently in the terrible wrong which
was being put upon him.  Fortunately he had a good friend in Mr.
Julian Lloyd, who had helped him with money and advice, and at last
he had arrived in England.  It was for Mr. Stonebridge to say whether
the papers and correspondence which he had brought with him were
sufficient to establish his claim in law.  Mr. Medburn remembered Mr.
Stonebridge telling him all about these matters and emphasising the
fact that Felix Shap had undoubtedly a very strong case and that he
could not understand a man of the position of Sir Alfred Carysfort
thus wilfully repudiating his own signature.

"'There is not only the original letter,' Mr. Stonebridge had
concluded, 'making a definite promise to pay certain sums out of his
own pocket if the profits of the company exceeded ten thousand pounds
in any one year, but there are all the covering letters from Sir
Alfred's bankers whenever they sent cheques on his behalf to
Shap--usually twice a year for sums that varied between one hundred
and one hundred and fifty pounds.  I cannot understand it!' he had
reiterated more than once, and Mr. Medburn, who also had a great deal
of respect for the Carysforts, who were among the wealthiest people
in the county, was equally at a loss to understand the position.

"However Mr. Stonebridge, after he had seen the late Sir Alfred's
bankers about the payments to Shap, and consulted an expert on the
subject of the all-important letter signed by Alfred Carysfort,
sought an interview with Sir David.  From the first there seemed to
be an extraordinary amount of acrimony brought into the dispute by
both sides; this was understandable enough on the part of Felix Shap,
who felt he was being defrauded of his just dues by men who were
literally coining money out of the product of his brain; but the
greatest bitterness really appeared to come from the other side.

"At first Sir David Carysfort refused even to discuss the question;
he was quite sure that if his father had made promises of payments to
any one, he was the last man in the world to repudiate such
obligations.  Sir David had not yet had time to go through all his
father's papers, but he was quite convinced that correspondence, or
documents, would presently be found, which would set at nought the
original letter produced by Mr. Shap.  But, of course, the payments
to Shap up to and including the year 1916 could not be denied; there
was the testimony of Sir Alfred's bankers that sums in accordance
with Sir Alfred's instructions, varying between one hundred and one
hundred and fifty pounds, were paid by cheque every half year to the
order of Felix Shap in Batavia.  In 1916 these payments automatically
ceased, Sir Alfred giving no further orders for these to be made.
Mr. Stonebridge naturally desired to know what explanation Sir David
would give about those payments.

"At first Sir David denied all knowledge as to the reason or object
of the payments, but after a while he must have realised that public
opinion was beginning to raise its voice on the subject, and that it
was not exactly singing the praises of Sir David Carysfort, Bart.

"Although Mr. Stonebridge had, of course, been discretion itself, Mr.
Shap had admittedly not the same incentive to silence, and what's
more his friend, Mr. Lloyd, made it his business to get as much
publicity for the whole affair as he could.  Paragraphs in the local
papers had begun to appear with unabated regularity, and though there
were no actual comments on the case as a whole, no prejudging of
respective merits, there were unmistakable hints that it would be in
Sir David's interest to put dignity on one side and come out frankly
into the open with explanations and suggestions.  Soon the London
papers got hold of the story, and you know what that means.  The
Radical Press simply battened on a story which placed a poor,
down-at-heel inventor in the light of a victim to the insatiable
greed and frank dishonesty of a high-born profiteer.

"Whether it was pressure from outside, or from his own family, that
suddenly induced Sir David to 'come out into the open' is not
generally known; certain it is that presently he condescended to give
an explanation of the mysterious half-yearly payments made by his
father to Felix Shap, and the explanation was so romantic and frankly
so far-fetched that most people, especially men, refused to accept
it--notably Mr. Stonebridge.  It was not the business of a lawyer to
listen to sentimental stories, least of all was it the business of
the lawyer acting on the other side.

"The story told by Sir David, namely, was this:

"The late Sir Alfred, when quite a young man, had gone out as clerk
to that same engineering firm in Batavia, whom he represented later
on; it was then that he first met Felix Shap, who had not yet begun
to go downhill.  An intimacy sprang up between Alfred Carysfort and
Shap's sister, Berta, and the two were secretly married in Batavia.
A year later Berta had a son whose birth she only survived by a few
hours.  The marriage had been an unhappy one from the first, and
Carysfort was only too thankful when his firm called him back to
England and he was able to shake off the dust of Batavia from his
feet, as he hoped for ever.  He never spoke of his marriage, nor did
he ever recognise or have anything to do with his son.  By some
pecuniary arrangement entered into with Felix Shap the latter
undertook to provide for and look after the boy, to give him his own
name, and never to trouble his brother-in-law about him again.  A
deed-poll was, Sir David believed, duly executed, and the boy assumed
the name of Alfred Shap.

"Some years later there occurred the transaction over the Shap
Fuelettes.  Alfred Carysfort had come to Batavia on business: he had
met Felix Shap again, who by this time had become a hopeless wastrel.
The contract for the sale of the patent rights in the Fuelettes was
duly executed, but whether, after seeing his son once more, the call
of the blood became more insistent in the heart of Alfred Carysfort,
or whether he merely yielded to blackmail, Sir David could not say;
certain it is that after a while when the profits of the Shap
Fuelettes Company became substantial, Sir Alfred took to sending over
a couple of hundred pounds every year to Shap for the benefit of
young Alfred.  Then the war broke out; young Alfred joined the
Australian Expeditionary Force, and was killed in Gallipoli in
August, 1915.  As soon as Sir Alfred had definite news of the boy's
death, he naturally stopped all further payments to Shap.

"The story as you see sounded plausible enough, and if it proved to
be untrue, it would reflect great credit on Sir David's gift of
imagination.  Felix Shap, as was only to be expected, denied it from
beginning to end; the whole thing, he declared, was an impudent
falsehood, based on a semblance of truth.  It was quite true that he
had adopted and for years had cared for his sister's son, who was
subsequently killed in Gallipoli; it was also true that Alfred
Carysfort had years ago paid some attention to his sister Berta, but
there never was any question of marriage between them, young
Carysfort deeming himself far too grand and well-born to marry the
daughter of an obscure East Indian trader.  Berta had subsequently
married a man of mixed blood who deserted her and went off somewhere
to Argentina or Honduras--Shap did not know where; at any rate, he
was never heard of again.

"In proof of his version of the romantic story, Felix Shap actually
had a copy of his sister's marriage certificate, as well as one or
two letters written at different times to his sister Berta by her
rascally husband.  He had, indeed, plenty of proofs for his
assertions; but when Mr. Stonebridge asked for confirmation of Sir
David's story, the latter appeared either unprepared or unwilling to
produce any, whereupon, Mr. Stonebridge, on behalf of his client,
entered an action for the recovery of certain royalties due to him on
the sales of the Shap Fuelettes, the amount to be presently agreed on
after examination of the audited accounts.

"Thus matters stood when on that Wednesday night in February last,
Mr. Stonebridge was found gagged and unconscious, the victim of a
murderous and inexplicable assault.

"On the Monday following, Mr. Felix Shap, accompanied by his friend,
Mr. Lloyd, called on Mr. Medburn at the office in High Street.  They
had read in the papers certain details which had filled Shap with
apprehension; they had read that the safe in the morning-room in Mr.
Stonebridge's house had been obviously ransacked, and that the
analysis of the ashes in the grate had revealed the presence of a
large quantity of burnt paper.

"'My friend Mr. Shap would like you to put his mind at rest,
Mr.--er--Medburn,' Mr. Lloyd said, in an anxious, agitated tone of
voice, 'that the papers relating to his case, which he entrusted to
Mr. Stonebridge, are safely locked up in a safe at this office.'

"Unfortunately, the head clerk was not able to satisfy Mr. Shap on
that point.  Mr. Stonebridge had never brought the papers to the
office, nor had Mr. Medburn ever seen them.  His impression was--he
regretted to say--that Mr. Stonebridge had, for the time being, kept
all papers relating to this particular case at his private house,
just as he had always seen Mr. Shap there rather than at the office.
Of course, Mr. Medburn hastened to assure his visitor, Mr.
Stonebridge may have kept the documents in some other secure place;
Mr. Medburn couldn't say, not having access to all his employer's
papers, and in any case he would make a comprehensive search for the
missing documents, and if nothing was found he would at once inform
the police.

"An evening or two later the papers came out with flaring headlines:
'Amazing Developments in the Tytherton outrage.  Missing documents.
Sensational turn in the Shap Fuelettes case.'  And so on.  The head
clerk had made an exhaustive search amongst his employer's papers,
but not a trace could he find of any documents relative to Mr. Shap's
case.  One and all had disappeared: the original letter from Alfred
Carysfort promising to pay an extra twenty per cent. on the profits
of the Shap Fuelette Company under certain conditions, the letters
from the scoundrel who had been Berta's husband, together with the
copy of Berta's marriage certificate--everything was gone, every
proof of the truth of the story which Felix Shap had come all this
way to tell.


"The next exciting incident," the Old Man in the Corner continued
glibly, "in this remarkably mysterious case, was the news that Mr.
Allan Carysfort, eldest son of Sir David Carysfort, Bart., had been
detained in connection with the assault upon Mr. Stonebridge and the
disappearance of certain papers, the property of Mr. Felix Shap of

"Young Allan Carysfort, who was a subaltern in a cavalry regiment,
had come home from India recently, and, as a matter of fact, he had
arrived at the Grange, the family seat just outside Tytherton, the
very evening of the outrage.  Acting upon certain information
received, the police had detained him; he was to be brought before
the magistrates on the following day; and in the meanwhile it was
generally understood that some highly sensational evidence had been
collected by the police.

"It has been asserted that Sir David Carysfort and his family were
the last to realise how very strong public opinion had been against
them ever since Shap's story and the loss of the documents had become
generally known.  Though there had been no hint of it in the Press,
the public loudly declared that the Carysforts must have had
something to do with the outrage, seek him whom the crime benefits
being a most excellent adage.  But imagine the sensation when Allan
Carysfort, the eldest son of Sir David Carysfort, Bart., was arrested!

"Need I say that the following day when the young man was brought
before the magistrates, the court was crowded.  Sir David was a
magistrate, too, but of course he did not sit that day.  To see his
eldest son arraigned before his brother Beaks must have been a bitter
pill for his pride to swallow.

"We had the usual formal evidence of arrest, the medical evidence,
and so on, after which we quickly plunged into exciting business.
Mr. Stonebridge we were soon told had made a statement.  He was not
yet strong enough to appear in person, _but he had made a statement_,
so at last the public was to be initiated into the mysteries that
surrounded the inexplicable assault.

"'After my servants had gone to bed,' Mr. Stonebridge had stated, 'I
sat awhile reading in my study.  I was expecting a visit from Mr.
Shap, as we had talked over the possibility of a quiet chat at my
house that evening on the subject of his affairs.  He and Mr. Lloyd,
who were both of them very fond of the cinema, were in the habit of
dropping in after the show, on their way home.  At about a quarter to
eleven--I am sure it was not later--there was a ring at the
front-door bell, and I went to open the door.  No sooner had I done
this than a shawl or muffler of some sort was thrown over my face,
and I was made to lose my balance by the thrust of a foot between my
two shins.  I came down backwards with a crash.

"'The whole thing occurred in fewer seconds than it takes to
describe; the next moment I had the sensation of cold steel against
my temple, I heard an ominous click, and a husky voice whispered in
my ear, "Your servant is coming out of his room.  Speak to him, tell
him you are all right, or I shoot."  What could I do?  I was utterly
helpless and a revolver was held to my temple.  The muffler was then
lifted from my mouth, I could feel the man bending over me, I could
feel his hot breath on my forehead, and a few seconds later I heard
Henning come out of his room upstairs and switch on the light on the
top landing.  "If he comes downstairs," the voice whispered close to
my ear, "I shoot."

"'Then it was,' Mr. Stonebridge went on to say, 'that I shouted up to
Henning that I had only tripped over a rug, and that I was quite all
right.  I don't think I ever looked death so very near in the face
before.  The next moment I heard Henning switch off the light
upstairs and go back to his room.  After that I remember nothing
more.  I only have a vague recollection of a sudden terrible pain in
my head; everything else is a blank until I found myself in bed, and
with vague stirrings of memory bringing a return of that same
appalling headache.'

"The great point about Mr. Stonebridge's evidence was that he was
utterly unable to identify his assailant.  He was not even sure
whether he had been attacked by two men or one, since he had been
blindfolded at the outset, and all that he heard was a husky voice
that spoke in a whisper.  He was ready to admit that he might have
left the safe unlocked when he went to answer the front-door bell,
and he certainly had the papers relating to Mr. Shap's case on his
desk as he had been going through them earlier in the evening.  Those
papers, therefore, had undoubtedly been burned in the grate, and it
was obvious that the theft and destruction of those papers was the
motive of the assault.

"After that we went from excitement to excitement.  We did not get it
all the same day, of course; Allan Carysfort appeared, as far as I
can remember, three or four times before the local magistrates; in
between times he was out on bail, this having been fixed at £1,000 in
two recognisances £500 each, with an additional £500 on his own.  It
seems that when he was arrested he had made a statement, to which he
had since unreservedly subscribed.  He said that he had arrived in
London from Southampton on Monday the twenty-sixth, and after seeing
to some business in town, he took the eight-ten P.M. train on the
twenty-eighth to Tytherton, where he arrived at nine-fifty, having
dined on board.  His father met him at the station with the car, but
it was such a beautiful moon-lit night Sir David and himself decided
that they would walk to the Grange and then sent the car home with a
message to Lady Carysfort that they would be home at about eleven

"Carysfort had been asked whether it was not strange that after being
absent from home for so long, he should have elected to put off
seeing his mother till a much later hour.

"'Not at all,' he replied.  'My father wished to put me _au fait_ of
certain family matters before I actually saw Lady Carysfort.  These
matters,' he added emphatically in reply to questions put to him by
the magistrate, 'had nothing whatever to do with financial business,
least of all were they in any relation to Mr. Shap and his affairs.
Sir David and I,' he went on calmly, 'walked about for a while, and
then Sir David remembered that he wished to see a friend at the
County Club.  He went in there, but I preferred to take another turn
out of doors, as I had not had a taste of English country air for
nearly two years.'

"Asked how long he had walked about Tytherton waiting for Sir David,
Carysfort thought about half an hour, and when questioned as to the
direction he had taken, he said he really couldn't remember.

"The police of course had adduced certain witnesses whose testimony
would justify the course they had taken in arresting a gentleman in
the position of Mr. Allan Carysfort.  There was, first of all, Felix
Shap himself and his friend Julian Lloyd.  They deposed that at about
half-past ten, or perhaps a little earlier, they were on their way to
see Mr. Stonebridge, as the latter had expressed a wish to see them
both and have another quiet talk over a cigar and a glass of wine;
Shap and Lloyd had been to the P.P.P. cinema in High Street, and they
left just before the end to go to Mr. Stonebridge's house.  They were
within fifty yards of it when they saw a man turn out of the nearest
side street and go up to Mr. Stonebridge's house.  The man went
through the garden gate and up to the front door.  Shap and Lloyd saw
him in the act of ringing the bell.  It was then somewhere between
ten-thirty and ten-forty-five.  Mr. Stonebridge was so very much in
the habit of seeing friends, and even those clients with whom he was
intimate, late in the evenings, that Mr. Shap and Mr. Lloyd didn't
think anything of the incident; but, at the same time, they made up
their minds to postpone their own visit to Mr. Stonebridge until they
could be quite sure of seeing him alone.  So they turned then and
there, and went straight back to the Black Swan where they lodged.

"I may add that with commendable reserve both these witnesses refused
to identify Allan Carysfort with Mr. Stonebridge's visitor on that
memorable Wednesday evening.  The man they saw had an overcoat and
wore a Glengarry cap.  More they could not say, as they had not seen
his face clearly.

"On the other hand the hall-porter at the County Club, another
witness for the Treasury, had no cause for such reserve.  He said
that on the evening of February twenty-eighth, Sir David Carysfort
came to the Club a little before half-past ten.  Mr. Allan was with
him then, but he didn't come in.  The hall-porter heard him say to
Sir David: 'Very well, then!  I'll pick you up here in about half an
hour!'  And Sir David rejoined: 'Yes; don't be late!'  Mr. Allan did
return to the Club at about eleven o'clock and the two gentlemen then
went off together.  The hall-porter remembered the incident on that
date quite distinctly, because he recollected being much surprised at
seeing Mr. Allan Carysfort, who he thought was still abroad.

"After that there was another remand, Allan Carysfort's solicitor
having asked and obtained an adjournment for a week.  But by this
time, as you may imagine, not only the county, but London Society too
were absolutely horror-struck.  To think that a man in the position
of the Carysforts should have stooped to such an act, not only of
violence, but of improbity, was indeed staggering.  Nor did public
opinion swerve from this attitude one hair's breadth, even though at
the next hearing all the proofs which the police had adduced against
the accused were absolutely confuted.

"Fortunately for Carysfort, his solicitors had been successful in
finding two witnesses, Miriam Page and Arthur Ormeley, who had seen
Mr. Allan Carysfort, whom they knew by sight, strolling by the river
at a quarter to eleven.  They--like the hall-porter of the County
Club--remembered the circumstance very clearly, because they did not
know that Mr. Allan was home from abroad, and were astonished to see
him there.

"The point of the evidence of these witnesses was that the river
where they had seen Allan Carysfort strolling at a quarter to eleven
is at the diametrically opposite end of the town to that where lies
the Great West Road.  Now the hall-porter had seen Allan Carysfort
outside the County Club at half-past ten and again at eleven.  If
Carysfort was strolling by the river at a quarter to eleven, and
there was no reason to impugn the credibility of the witnesses, he
could not possibly have been the man whom Mr. Shap and Mr. Lloyd saw
ringing the bell of Mr. Stonebridge's house at about that same hour.

"Allan Carysfort was discharged by the magistrates, as you know.
There was no definite proof against him.  But public opinion is ever
an uncertain quantity, and it is still dead against the Carysforts.
In the public mind two facts have remained indelibly fixed: firstly,
that the Carysforts had everything to gain by the destruction of
Felix Shap's papers and, secondly, that there was nobody else who
could possibly have benefited by it.

"Since then also Mr. Stonebridge has made a declaration that nothing
was stolen out of his safe and pocketbook except the papers and
letters belonging to Felix Shap.  So what would you?  Although Allan
Carysfort was discharged by the magistrates, really because there was
no tangible evidence against him, he did not leave the court without
a stain on his character.  The stain was there, and there it is to
this day.  It will take the Carysforts years to live the scandal
down; though some friends have remained loyal, there are always the
enemies, the envious, the uncharitable, and they insist that the two
witnesses--the only two, mind you, whose evidence did clear Allan
Carysfort of suspicion--had been bought and should not be believed,
while others simply declare that Sir David and his son employed some
ruffian to do the dirty work for them."

He gave a dry cackle, and contemplated me through his huge
horn-rimmed spectacles.

"And you are of that opinion, too, I imagine," he said.

"Well, it seems the only likely explanation," I replied guardedly.

"Surely you don't suppose," he retorted, "that a business man like
David Carysfort would place himself so entirely in the hands of a
ruffian that he would for ever after be the victim of blackmail!
Why, it would have been cheaper to buy off Felix Shap!"

"But," I rejoined, "I don't see who else had any interest in doing
away with those documents."

"I'll tell you," he rejoined dryly.  "Felix Shap himself."

"What _do_ you mean?" I queried, with as much lofty scorn as I could

"I mean," he replied, "that all Felix Shap's documents were

"Forgeries?" I exclaimed.

"Yes, spurious!  False affidavits!  Forgeries, the lot of 'em.  My
belief is that Stonebridge began to suspect this himself, and I think
he has had a narrow escape of being murdered outright by those two
rascals.  As it is, they have destroyed every proof of their
villainy, and old Stonebridge, I imagine, is content to let things
remain as they are rather than admit publicly that he was completely
taken in by two very plausible rogues."

"But," I urged, "what about the handwriting expert?"

The funny creature laughed aloud.

"Yes!" he said, "what about the expert?  If there had been two they
would have disagreed.  And mind you at a distance of twelve years a
signature would be difficult of absolute identification.  Every one's
handwriting undergoes certain modifications in the course of years.
Experts," he reiterated.  "Bah!"

"But," I went on, impatiently, "I don't see the object of the whole

"The object was blackmail," the whimsical creature retorted, "and it
has succeeded admirably.  Already we read that Messrs. Shap and Lloyd
are staying at expensive hotels in London, that they have granted
interviews to pressmen and written articles for half-penny
newspapers.  We shall hear of them as cinema stars presently.  They
have had the most gorgeous, the most paying publicity, and presently
Sir David Carysfort will have had enough of them and will put a few
more hundreds in their pockets just to be rid of them.  That was the
object of the whole scheme, my dear young lady!  And see how well it
was carried out.

"Of course the fuddle-headed Dutchman never thought of it.  I imagine
that the whole scheme originated in the fertile brain of Mr. Julian
Lloyd.  And it was thoroughly well thought out from the manufacture
of the documents and letters down to the assault on the silly old
country attorney.  And, mind you, the rascals originally went to a
silly country attorney; they would have been afraid to go to a London
lawyer, lest he be too sharp for them.

"The only mistake they made were the letters purported to be written
to Berta Shap by the husband who is supposed to have disappeared, and
the copy of Berta's marriage certificate.  It is those letters that
gave me the clue to the whole thing; old Stonebridge was too dull to
have seen through those letters.  If they were genuine why should
Felix Shap have brought them over to England?  They had nothing
whatever to do with any contract about the Shap Fuelettes.  If they
were genuine, how could he guess that he would have to disprove a
story of a secret marriage and of young Alfred being the son of Sir
Alfred Carysfort?  By wanting to prove too much, he, to my mind, gave
himself away, and one can but marvel that neither lawyers nor police
saw through the roguery.

"Of course the moment one understands that one set of papers was
spurious, it is easily concluded that all the others were forgeries.
And the late Sir Alfred Carysfort, anxious only to obliterate every
vestige of that early marriage of his, unwittingly played into the
hands of those two scoundrels by destroying all the correspondence
that he had ever had with Shap.

"Think it all over, you will see that I am right.  Look at this
paragraph again in the _Evening Post_, does it not bear out what I

The paragraph in the evening paper to which the Old Man in the Corner
was pointing read as follows:

"Among the passengers on the Dutch liner _Stadt Rotterdam_ is Mr.
Felix Shap, the hero of a recent celebrated case.  He is returning to
Batavia, having, through a misadventure which has remained an
impenetrable mystery to this day, been deprived of all the proofs
that would have established his claim to a substantial share of the
profits in the Shap Fuelettes Company.  Fortunately Mr. Shap had
enlisted so many sympathies in England that his friends had no
difficulty in collecting a considerable sum of money which was
presented to him on his departure in the form of a purse and as a
compensation for the ill-luck which has attended him since he set
foot in this country.  Mr. Shap will now be able to take abroad with
him the assurance that British public opinion is always on the side
of the victims of an adverse and unmerited fate."

"Yes!" the funny creature concluded with a cackle, "until the victims
are found out to be rogues.  Mr. Felix Shap and his friend, Mr.
Julian Lloyd, will be found out some day."

The next moment he had gone with that rapidity which was so
characteristic of him, and I might have thought that he was just a
spook who had come to visit me whilst I dozed over my cup of tea,
only that on the table by the side of an empty glass was a piece of
string adorned with a series of complicated knots.




"Did you ever make up your mind about that Brudenell Court affair?"
the Old Man in the Corner said to me that day.

"No," I replied.  "As far as I am concerned the death of Colonel
Forburg has remained a complete mystery."

"You don't think," he insisted, "that Morley Thrall was guilty?"

"Well," I said, "I don't know what to think."

"Then don't do it," he rejoined, with a chuckle, "if you don't know
what to think, then it's best not to think at all.  At any rate wait
until I have told you exactly what did happen--not as it was reported
in the newspapers, but in the sequence in which the various incidents

"On Christmas Eve, last year, while the family were at dinner, there
was a sudden commotion and cries of 'Stop, thief!' issuing from the
back premises of Brudenell Court, the country seat of a certain
Colonel Forburg.  The butler ran in excitedly to say that Julia
Mason, one of the maids, was drawing down the blinds in one of the
first-floor rooms, when she saw a man fiddling with the shutters of
the French window in the smoking-room downstairs.  She at once gave
the alarm, whereupon the man bolted across the garden in the
direction of the five-acre field.  The Colonel and his stepson, as
well as two male guests who were dining with them, immediately jumped
up and hurried out to help in the chase.  It was a very dark night,
people were running to and fro, and for a few moments there was a
great deal of noise and confusion, through which two pistol-shots in
close succession were distinctly heard.

"The ladies--amongst whom was Miss Monica Glenluce, the Colonel's
stepdaughter--had remained in the dining-room, and the dinner was
kept waiting, pending the return of the gentlemen.  They straggled in
one by one, all except the Colonel.  The ladies eagerly asked for
news; the gentlemen could not say much--the night was very dark and
they had just waited about outside until some of the indoor men who
had given chase came back with the news that the thief had been

"This news was confirmed by young Glenluce, Miss Monica's brother,
who was the last to return.  He had actually witnessed the capture.
The thief had bolted straight across the five-acre meadow, but
doubled back before he reached the stables, turned sharply to the
right through the kitchen garden, and then jumped over the boundary
wall of the grounds into the lane beyond, where he fell straight into
the arms of the local constable who happened to be passing by.

"Young Glenluce had great fun out of the chase; he had guessed the
man's purpose, and instead of running after him across the meadow, he
had gone round it, and had reached the boundary wall only a few
seconds after the thief had scaled it.  There was some talk about the
gunshots that had been heard, and every one supposed that Colonel
Forburg, who was a violent-tempered man, had snatched up a revolver
before giving chase to the burglar, and had taken a potshot at him;
it was fortunate that he had missed him.

"The incident would then have been closed and the interrupted dinner
proceeded with, but for the fact that the host had not yet returned.
Nothing was thought of this at first, for it was generally supposed
that the Colonel had been kept talking by one of his men, or perhaps
by the constable who had effected the capture; it was only when close
on half an hour had gone by that Miss Monica became impatient.  She
got the butler to telephone both to the stables and the lodge, but
the Colonel had not been seen at either place, either during or after
the incident with the burglar; communication with the police station
brought the same result; nothing had been seen or heard of the

"Genuinely alarmed now, Miss Monica gave orders for the grounds to be
searched; it was just possible that the Colonel had fallen whilst
running, and was lying somewhere, helpless in the dark, perhaps
unconscious....  Every one began recalling those pistol-shots and a
vague sense of tragedy spread over the entire house.  Monica blamed
herself for not having thought of all this before.

"A search party went out at once; for a while stable-lanterns and
electric-torches gleamed through the darkness and past the
shrubberies.  Then suddenly there were calls for help, the wandering
lights centred in one spot, somewhere in the middle of the five-acre
meadow near the big elm tree.  Obviously there had been an accident.
Monica ran to the front door, followed by all the guests.  Through
the darkness a group of men were seen slowly wending their way
towards the house; one man was running ahead, it was the chauffeur.
Young Glenluce, half guessing that something sinister had occurred,
went forward to meet him.

"What had happened was indeed as tragic as it was mysterious; the
search party had found the Colonel lying full-length in the meadow.
His clothes were saturated with blood; he had been shot in the breast
and was apparently dead.  Close by a revolver had been picked up.  It
was impossible to keep the terrible news from Miss Monica.  Her
brother broke the news to her.  She bore up with marvellous calm, and
it was she who at once gave the necessary orders to have her
stepfather's body taken upstairs and to fetch both the doctor and the

"In the meanwhile the guests had gone back into the house.  They
stood about in groups, awestruck and whispering.  They did not care
to finish their dinner, or to go up to their rooms, as in all
probability they would be required when the police came to make
enquiries.  Monica and Gerald Glenluce had gone to sit in the

"It was the most horrible Christmas Eve any one in that house had
ever experienced."


"Murder committed from any other motive than that of robbery," the
Old Man in the Corner went on after a moment's pause, "always excites
the interest of the public.  There is nearly always an element of
mystery about it, and it invariably suggests possibilities of
romance.  In this case, of course, there was no question of robbery.
After Colonel Forburg fell, shot, as it transpired, at close range
and full in the breast, his clothes were left untouched; there was
loose silver in his trousers pocket, a few treasury notes in his
letter-case, and he was wearing a gold watch and chain and a fine
pearl stud.

"The motive of the crime was therefore enmity or revenge, and here
the police were at once confronted with a great difficulty.  Not,
mind you, the difficulty of finding a man who hated the Colonel
sufficiently to kill him, but that of choosing among his many enemies
one who was most likely to have committed such a terrible crime.  He
was the best-hated man in the county.  Known as 'Remount Forburg,' he
was generally supposed to have made his fortune in some shady
transactions connected with the Remount Department of the War Office
during the Boer War, more than twenty years ago.

"His first wife was said to have died of a broken heart, and he had
no children of his own; some ten years ago he had married a widow
with two young children.  She had a considerable fortune of her own,
and when she died she left it in trust for her children, but she
directed that her husband should be the sole guardian of Monica and
Gerald until they came of age; moreover, she left him the interest of
the whole of the capital amount for so long as they were in his house
and unmarried.  After his death the money would revert
unconditionally to them.

"Of course it was a foolish, one might say a criminal will, and one
obviously made under the influence of her husband.  One can only
suppose that the poor woman had died without knowing anything of
'Remount Forburg's' character.  Since her death his violent temper
and insufferable arrogance had alienated from the children every
friend they ever had.  Only some chance acquaintances ever came
anywhere near Brudenell Court now.  Naturally every one said that the
Colonel's behaviour was part of a scheme for keeping suitors away
from his stepdaughter Monica, who was a very beautiful girl; as for
Gerald Glenluce, Monica's younger brother, he had been sadly
disfigured when he was a schoolboy through a fall against a sharp
object that had broken his nose and somewhat mysteriously deprived
him of the sight of one eye.

"Those who had suffered most from Colonel Forburg's violent tempers
declared that the boy's face had been smashed in by a blow from a
stick, and that the stick had been wielded by his stepfather.  Be
that as it may, Gerald Glenluce had remained, in consequence of this
disfigurement, a shy, retiring, silent boy, who neither played games
nor rode to hounds and had no idea how to handle a gun; but he was
essentially the Colonel's favourite.  Where Forburg was harsh and
dictatorial with every one else, he would always unbend to Gerald,
and was almost gentle and affectionate toward him.  Perhaps an
occasional twinge of remorse had something to do with this soft side
of his disagreeable character.

"Certainly that softness did not extend to Monica.  He made the
girl's life almost unbearable with his violence which amounted almost
to brutality.  The girl hated him and openly said so.  Her one desire
was to get away from Brudenell Court by any possible means.  But
owing to her mother's foolish will she had no money of her own, and
the few friends she had were not sufficiently rich, or sufficiently
disinterested, to give her a home away from her stepfather, nor would
the Colonel, for a matter of that, have given his consent to her
living away from him.

"As for marriage, it was a difficult question.  Young men fought shy
of any family connection with 'Remount Forburg.'  The latter's
nickname was bad enough, but there were rumours of secrets more
unavowable still in the past history of the Colonel.  Certain it is
that though Monica excited admiration wherever she went, and though
one or two of her admirers did go to the length of openly courting
her, the courtship never matured into an actual engagement.
Something or other always occurred to cool off the ardour of the
wooers.  Suddenly they would either go on a big-game shooting
expedition, or on a tour round the world, or merely find that country
air did not suit them.  There would perhaps be a scene of fond
farewell, but Monica would always understand that the farewell was a
definite one, and, as she was an intelligent as well as a fascinating
girl, she put two and two together, and observed that these farewell
scenes were invariably preceded by a long interview behind closed
doors between her stepfather and her admirer of the moment.

"Small wonder then that she hated the Colonel.  She hated him as much
as she loved her brother.  A great affection had, especially of late,
developed between these two; it was a love born of an affinity of
trouble and sense of injustice.  On Gerald's part there was also an
element of protection towards his beautiful sister; the fact that he
was so avowedly the spoilt son of his irascible stepfather enabled
him many a time to stand between Monica and the Colonel's unbridled

"Latterly, however, some brightness and romance had been introduced
into the drab existence of Monica Glenluce by the discreet courtship
of her latest admirer, Mr. Morley Thrall.  Mr. Thrall was a wealthy
man, not too young and of independent position, who presumably did
not care whether county society would cut him or no in consequence of
his marriage with the stepdaughter of 'Remount Forburg.'

"Subsequent events showed that he had observed the greatest
discretion while he was courting Monica.  No one knew that there was
an understanding between him and the girl, least of all the Colonel.
Mr. Morley Thrall came, not too frequently, to Brudenell Court; while
there he appeared to devote most of his attention to his host and to
Gerald, and to take little if any notice of Monica.  She had probably
given him a hint of rocks ahead, and he had succeeded in avoiding the
momentous interview with the Colonel which Monica had learned to look
on with dread.

"Mr. Morley Thrall had been asked to stay at Brudenell Court for
Christmas, the other guests being a Major Rawstone, with his wife and
daughter, Rachel.  They were all at dinner on that memorable
Christmas Eve when the tragedy occurred, and all the men hurried out
of the dining-room in the wake of their host when first the burglary
alarm was given.


"Thus did matters stand at Brudenell Court when, directly after the
holidays, Jim Peyton, a groom recently in the employ of Colonel
Forburg, was brought before the magistrates charged with the murder
of his former master.  There was a pretty stiff case against him too.
It seems that he had lately been dismissed by Colonel Forburg for
drunkenness, and that before dismissing him the Colonel had given him
a thrashing which apparently was well deserved, because while he was
drunk he very nearly set fire to the stables, and an awful disaster
was only averted by the timely arrival of the Colonel himself upon
the scene.

"Be that as it may, the man went away swearing vengeance.
Subsequently he took out a summons for assault against Colonel
Forburg and only got one shilling damages.  This had occurred a week
before Christmas.  There were several witnesses there who could swear
to the threatening language used by Peyton on more than one occasion
since then, and of course he had been caught in the very act of
trying to break into the house through the French window of the

"On the other hand, the revolver with which 'Remount Forburg' had
been shot, and which was found close to the body with two empty
chambers, was identified as the Colonel's own property, one which he
always kept, loaded, in a drawer of his desk in the smoking-room.
And--this is the interesting point--the shutters of the smoking-room
were found by the police inspector, who examined them subsequently,
to be bolted on the inside, just as they had been left earlier in the
evening by the footman whose business it was to see to the fastening
of windows and shutters on the ground floor.

"This fact--the shutters being bolted on the inside--was confirmed by
Miss Monica Glenluce, who had been the first to go into the
smoking-room after the tragic event.  Her brother joined her
subsequently.  Both of these witnesses said that the room looked
absolutely undisturbed, the shutters were bolted, the drawer of the
desk was closed: they had remained in the room until after the visit
of the police inspector.

"After the positive evidence of these two witnesses, the police
prosecution had of necessity to fall back on the far-fetched theory
that Colonel Forburg himself, before he hurried out in order to join
in the chase against the burglar, had run into the smoking-room and
picked up his revolver, and that, having overtaken Peyton, he had
threatened him; that Peyton had then jumped on him, wrenched the
weapon out of his hand and shot him.  It was a far-fetched theory
certainly, and one which the defence quickly upset.  Gerald Glenluce
for one was distinctly under the impression that the Colonel ran from
the dining-room straight out into the garden, and the young footman
who was watching the fun from the front door, and saw the Colonel run
out, was equally sure that he had not a revolver in his hand.

"Peyton got six months hard for attempted house-breaking, there
really was no evidence against him to justify the more serious
charge; but when the charge of murder was withdrawn, it left the
mystery of 'Remount Forburg's' tragic end seemingly more impenetrable
than before.  Nevertheless the coroner and jury laboured
conscientiously at the inquest.  No stone was to be left unturned to
bring the murder of 'Remount Forburg' to justice, and in this
laudable effort the coroner had the able and unqualified assistance
of Miss Glenluce.  However bitter her feelings may have been in the
past towards her stepfather while he lived, she seemed determined
that his murderer should not go unpunished.  Nay more, there appeared
to be in all her actions during this terrible time a strange note of
vindictiveness and animosity, as if the unknown man who had rid her
of an arrogant and brutal tyrant had really done her a lasting injury.

"It was entirely through her energy and exertions that certain
witnesses were induced to come forward and give what turned out to be
highly sensational evidence.  The police who were convinced that
James Peyton was guilty had turned all their investigations in the
direction of proving their theories; Miss Monica, on the other hand,
had seemingly made up her mind that the murderer was to be sought for
inside the house; it even appeared as if she had certain suspicions
which she only desired to confirm.  To this end she had questioned
and cross-questioned every one who was in the house on that fatal
night, well knowing how reluctant some people are to be mixed up in
any way with police proceedings.  But at last she had forced two
persons to speak, and it was on the first day of the inquest that at
last a glimmer of light was thrown upon the mysterious tragedy.

"After the medical evidence which went to establish beyond a doubt
that Colonel Forburg died from a gunshot wound inflicted at close
range, both balls having penetrated the heart, Miss Glenluce was
called.  Replying to the coroner, who had put certain questions to
her with regard to the Colonel's state of mind just before the
tragedy, she said that he appeared to have a premonition that
something untoward was about to happen.  When the butler ran into the
dining-room saying that a burglar had been seen trying to break into
the house, the Colonel had jumped up from the table at once.

"'I did the same,' Miss Monica went on, 'as I was genuinely alarmed;
but my stepfather, in his peremptory way, ordered me to sit still.
"I believe," he said to me, with a funny laugh, "that it's a put-up
job.  It's some friend of Thrall's giving him a hand."  I could not,
of course, understand what he meant by that, and I looked at Mr.
Thrall for an explanation.  I must add that Mr. Thrall had been
extraordinarily moody all through dinner; he appeared flushed, and I
noticed particularly that he never spoke either to my step-father, to
my brother, or to me.  However at the moment I failed to catch his
eye, and the very next second he was out of the room, on the heels of
Colonel Forburg.'

"This was remarkable evidence to say the least of it, but
nevertheless it was confirmed by two witnesses who heard the Colonel
make that strange remark: one was Rachel Rawstone, the young friend
who was dining at Brudenell Court that Christmas Eve, and the other
was Gerald Glenluce.  Of course, by this time the public was getting
very excited: they were like so many hounds heading for a scent, and
the jury was beginning to show signs of that obstinate prejudice
which culminated in a ridiculous verdict.  But there was more to
come.  Thanks again to Miss Monica's insistence, the footman at
Brudenell Court, a lad named Cambalt, had been induced to come
forward with a story which he had evidently intended to keep hidden
within his bosom, if possible.  He gave his evidence with obvious
reluctance and in a scarcely audible voice.  It was generally
noticed, however, that Miss Monica urged him frequently to speak up.

"Cambalt deposed that just before dinner on Christmas Eve, he had
gone in to tidy the smoking-room before the gentlemen came down from
dressing.  As he opened the door he saw Mr. Morley Thrall standing in
the middle of the room facing Colonel Forburg who was seated at his
desk.  Young Mr. Glenluce was standing near the mantelpiece with one
foot on the fender, staring into the fire.  Mr. Thrall, according to
witness, was livid with rage.

"''E took a step forward like,' Cambalt went on, amidst breathless
silence on the part of the public and jury alike, 'and 'e raised 'is
fist.  But the Colonel 'e just laughed, then 'e opened the drawer of
the desk and took out a revolver and showed it to Mr. Thrall and
says: "'Ere y'are, there's a revolver 'andy, any way."  Then Mr.
Thrall 'e swore like anything, and says: "You blackguard!  You d----
scoundrel!  You ought to be shot like the cur you are."  I thought he
would strike the Colonel, but young Mr. Glenluce 'e just stepped
quickly in between the two gentlemen and 'e says: "Look 'ere, Thrall,
I won't put up with this!  You jess get out!"  Then one of the
gentlemen seed me, and Mr. Thrall 'e walked out of the room.'

"'And what happened after he had gone?' the coroner asked.

"'Oh!' the witness replied, 'the Colonel 'e threw the revolver back
into the drawer and laughed sarcastic like.  Then 'e 'eld out 'is
'and to Mr. Gerald, and says: "Thanks, my boy.  You did 'elp me to
get rid of that ruffian."  After that,' Cambalt concluded, 'I got on
with my work, and the gentlemen took no notice of me.'

"This witness was very much pressed with questions as to what
happened later on when the burglary alarm was given and the gentlemen
all hurried out of the house.  Cambalt was in the hall at the time
and he made straight for the front door to see some of the fun.  He
said that the Colonel was out first, and the other three gentlemen,
Mr. Gerald, Mr. Rawstone and Mr. Morley Thrall went out after him;
Mr. Thrall was the last to go outside; he ran across the garden in
the direction of the five-acre field.  Major Rawstone remained
somewhere near the house, but it was a very dark night, and he,
Cambalt, soon lost sight of the gentlemen.  Presently, however, Mr.
Thrall came back toward the house.  It was a few minutes after the
shots had been fired and witness heard Mr. Thrall say to Major
Rawstone: 'I suppose it's that fool Forburg potting away at the
burglar; hell get himself into trouble, if he doesn't look out.'
Soon after that Mr. Gerald came running back with the news that the
burglar had fallen into the arms of a passing constable and Cambalt
then returned to his duties in the dining-room.

"As you see," the Old Man in the Corner went on glibly, "this
witness's evidence was certainly sensational.  The jury, which was
composed of farm labourers, with the local butcher as foreman, had by
now fully made up its silly mind that Mr. Morley Thrall had taken the
opportunity of sneaking into the smoking-room, snatching up the
revolver, and shooting 'Remount Forburg,' whom he hated because the
Colonel was opposing his marriage with Miss Monica.  It was all as
clear as daylight to those dunderheads, and from that moment they
simply would not listen to any more evidence.  They had made up their
minds; they were ready with their verdict and it was: Manslaughter
against Morley Thrall.  Not murder, you see!  The dolts who had all
of them suffered from 'Remount Forburg's' arrogance and violent
temper would not admit that killing such vermin was a capital crime.

"What I am telling you would be unbelievable if it were not a
positive fact.  It is no use quoting British justice and dilating on
the absolute fairness of trial by jury.  A coroner's inquest
fortunately is not a trial.  The verdict of a coroner's jury, such as
the one which sat on the Brudenell Court affair, though it may have
very unpleasant consequences for an innocent person, cannot have
fatal results.  In this case it cast a stigma on a gentleman of high
position and repute, and the following day Mr. Morley Thrall, himself
J.P., was brought up before his brother magistrates on an ignominious


"It is not often," the Old Man in the Corner resumed after a while,
"that so serious a charge is preferred against a gentleman of Mr.
Morley Thrall's social position, and I am afraid that the best of us
are snobbish enough to be more interested in a gentleman criminal
than in an ordinary Bill Sykes.

"I happened to be present at that magisterial enquiry when Mr. Morley
Thrall, J.P., was brought in between two warders, looking quite calm
and self-possessed.  Every one of us there noticed that when he first
came in, and in fact throughout that trying enquiry, his eyes sought
to meet those of Miss Glenluce who sat at the solicitor's table; but
whenever she chanced to look his way, she quickly averted her gaze
again, and turned her head away with a contemptuous shrug.  Gerald
Glenluce, on the other hand, made pathetic efforts at showing
sympathy with the accused, but he was of such unprepossessing
appearance and was so shy and awkward that it was small wonder Morley
Thrall took little if any notice of him.

"Very soon we got going.  I must tell you, first of all, that the
whole point of the evidence rested upon a question of time.  If the
accused took the revolver out of the desk in the smoking-room, when
did he do it?  The footman, Cambalt, reiterated the statement which
he had made at the inquest.  He was, of course, pressed to say
definitely whether after the quarrel between Mr. Morley Thrall and
the Colonel which he had witnessed, and before every one went in to
dinner, Mr. Thrall might have gone back to the smoking-room and
extracted the revolver from the drawer of the desk; but Cambalt said
positively that he did not think this was possible.  He himself,
after he had tidied the smoking-room, had been in and out of the hall
preparing to serve dinner.  The door of the smoking-room gave on the
hall, between the dining-room and the passage leading to the
kitchens.  If any one had gone in or out of the smoking-room at that
time, Cambalt must have seen them.

"At this point Miss Glenluce was seen to lean forward and to say
something in a whisper to the Clerk of the Justices, who in his turn
whispered to the chairman on the Bench, and a moment or two later
that gentleman asked the witness:

"'Are you absolutely prepared to swear that no one went in or out of
the smoking-room while you were making ready to serve dinner?7

"Then, as the young man seemed to hesitate, the magistrate added more

"Think now!  You were busy with your usual avocations; there would
have been nothing extraordinary in one of the gentlemen going in or
out of the smoking-room at that hour.  Do you really believe and are
you prepared to swear that such a very ordinary incident would have
impressed itself indelibly upon your mind?'

"Thus pressed and admonished, Cambalt retrenched himself behind a
vague: 'No, sir!  I shouldn't like to swear one way or the other.'

"Whereat Miss Monica threw a defiant look at the accused, who,
however, did not as much as wink an eyelid in response.

"Presently when that lady herself was called, no one could fail to
notice that she, like the coroner's jury the previous day, had
absolutely made up her mind that Morley Thrall was guilty, otherwise
her attitude of open hostility toward him would have been quite
inexplicable.  She dwelt at full length on the fact that Mr. Thrall
had paid her marked attention for months, and that he had asked her
to marry him.  She had given him her consent, and between them they
had decided to keep their engagement a secret until after she,
Monica, had attained her twenty-first birthday, when she would be
free to marry whom she chose.

"'Unfortunately,' the witness went on, suddenly assuming a dry,
pursed-up manner, 'Colonel Forburg got wind of this.  He was always
very much set against my marrying at all, and between tea and dinner
on Christmas Eve he and I had some very sharp words together on the
subject, at the end of which my stepfather said very determinedly:
"Christmas or no Christmas, the fellow shall leave my house by the
first available train to-morrow, and to-night I am going to give him
a piece of my mind."'

"Just for a moment after Miss Glenluce had finished speaking, the
accused seemed to depart from his attitude of dignity and reserve,
and an indignant 'Oh!' quickly repressed, escaped his lips.  The
public by this time was dead against him.  They are just like sheep,
as you know, and the verdict of the coroner's jury had prejudiced
them from the start, and the police, aided by Miss Glenluce, had
certainly built up a formidable case against the unfortunate man.
Every one felt that the motive for the crime was fully established
already.  'Remount Forburg' had had a violent quarrel with Morley
Thrall, then had turned him out of the house, and the latter, furious
at being separated from the girl he loved, had killed the man who
stood in his way.

"I should be talking until to-morrow morning were I to give you in
detail all the evidence that was adduced in support of the
prosecution.  The accused listened to it all with perfect calm.  He
stood with arms folded, his eyes fixed on nothing.  The 'Oh!' of
indignation did not again cross his lips, nor did he look once at
Miss Monica Glenluce.  I can assure you that at one moment that day
things were looking very black against him.

"Fortunately for him, however, he had a very clever lawyer to defend
him in the person of his distinguished cousin, Sir Evelyn Thrall.
The latter, by amazingly clever cross-examination of the servants and
guests at Brudenell Court, had succeeded in establishing the fact
that at no time, from the moment that the burglary alarm was given
until after the two revolver shots had been heard, was the accused
completely out of sight of some one or other of the witnesses.  He
was the last to leave the dining-room.  Mrs. Rawstone and her
daughter testified to that.  He had stayed behind one moment after
the other three gentlemen had gone out in order to say a few words to
Monica Glenluce.  Miss Rawstone was standing inside the dining-room
door and she was quite positive that Mr. Thrall went straight out
into the garden.

"On the other hand Major Rawstone saw him in the forecourt coming
away from the five-acre meadow only a very few moments after the
shots were fired, and gave it absolutely as his opinion that it would
have been impossible for the accused to have fired those shots.  This
is where the question of time came in.

"'When a man who bears a spotless reputation,' Major Rawstone argued,
'finds that he has killed a fellow creature, he would necessarily
pause a moment, horror-struck with what he has done; whether the deed
was premeditated or involuntary he would at least try and ascertain
if life was really extinct.  It is inconceivable that any man save an
habitual and therefore callous criminal, would just throw down his
weapon and with absolute calm, hands in pocket and without a tremor
in his voice, make a casual remark to a friend.  Now I saw Mr. Morley
Thrall perhaps two minutes after the shots were fired; in that time
he could not have walked from the centre of the field to the
forecourt where I was standing; and he had not been running as his
voice was absolutely clear and he came walking towards me with his
hands in his pockets.'

"As was only to be expected, Sir Evelyn Thrall made the most of Major
Rawstone's evidence, and I may say that it was chiefly on the
strength of it that the charge of murder against the accused was
withdrawn, even though the Clerk to the Magistrates, perpetually
egged on by Miss Glenluce, did his best to upset Major Rawstone.
When the lady found that this could not be done, she tried to switch
back to the idea that accused had abstracted the revolver out of the
smoking-room before dinner and immediately after his quarrel with
Colonel Forburg.  The footman Cambalt's evidence on this point had
been somewhat discounted by his refusing to state positively that no
one could have gone into the smoking-room at that time without his
seeing them.  But against this theory there was always the
argument--of which Sir Evelyn Thrall made the most as you know--that
before dinner the accused could not have known that there would be an
alarm of burglary which would give him the opportunity of waylaying
the Colonel in the open field.  With equal skill, too, Sir Evelyn
brought forward evidence to bear out the statement made by the
accused on the matter of his quarrel with Colonel Forburg.

"'Just before dinner,' Mr. Thrall stated, 'Colonel Forburg told me he
had something to say to me in private.  I followed him into the
smoking-room, and there he gave me certain information with regard to
his past life, and also with regard to Miss Glenluce's parentage,
which made it absolutely impossible for me, in spite of the deep
regard which I have for that lady, to offer her marriage.  Miss
Glenluce is the innocent victim of tragic circumstances in the past,
and Forburg was just an unmitigated blackguard, and I told him so,
but I had my family to consider and very reluctantly I came to the
conclusion that I could not introduce any relation of Colonel Forburg
into its circle.  Colonel Forburg did not stand in the way of my
marrying his stepdaughter; it was I who most reluctantly withdrew.'

"Whilst the accused was cross-examined upon this statement, and he
gave his answers in firm, dignified tones, Miss Monica never took her
eyes off him, and surely if looks could kill, Mr. Morley Thrall would
not at that moment have escaped with his life, so full of deadly
hatred and contempt was her gaze.  The accused had signed a much
fuller statement than the one which he made in open court; it
contained a detailed account of his interview with Colonel Forburg,
and of the circumstances which finally induced him to give up all
thoughts of asking Miss Glenluce to be his wife.

"These facts were not made public at the time for the sake of Miss
Monica and of the unfortunate, Gerald, but it seems that the
transactions which had earned for the Colonel the sobriquet of
'Remount Forburg' were so disreputable and so dishonest that not only
was he cashiered from the army, but he served a term of imprisonment
for treason, fraud, and embezzlement.  He had no right to be styled
Colonel any longer, and quite recently had been threatened with
prosecution if he persisted in making further use of his army rank.

"But this was not all the trouble.  It seems that in his career of
improbity he had been associated with a man named Nosdel, a man of
Dutch extraction whom he had known in South Africa.  This man was
subsequently hanged for a particularly brutal murder, and it was his
widow who was 'Remount Forburg's' second wife, and the mother of
Monica and of Gerald, who had been given the fancy name of Glenluce.

"Obviously a man in Mr. Morley Thrall's position could not marry into
such a family, and it appears that whenever there was a question of a
suitor for Monica, 'Remount Forburg' would tell the aspirant the
whole story of his own shady past and, above all, that of Monica's
father.  Sir Evelyn Thrall had been clever enough to discover one or
two gentlemen who had had the same experience as his cousin Morley;
they, too, just before their courtship came to a head had had a
momentous interview with 'Remount Forburg,' who found this means of
choking off any further desire for matrimony on the part of a man who
had family connections to consider.  But it was very obvious that Mr.
Morley Thrall had no motive for killing 'Remount Forburg'; he would
have left Brudenell Court that very evening, he said, only that young
Glenluce had begged him, for Monica's sake, not to make a scene;
anyway, he was leaving the house the next day and had no intention of
ever darkening its doors again.

"Poor Monica Glenluce or Nosdel, ignorant of the hideous cloud that
hung over her entire life, ignorant, too, of what had passed between
her stepfather and Mr. Morley Thrall, felt nothing but hatred and
contempt for the man whose love, she believed, had proved as unstable
as that of any of her other admirers.  For charity's sake one must
suppose that she really thought him guilty at first, and hoped that
when the clouds had rolled by he would return to her more ardent than
before.  Presumably he found means to make her understand that all
was irrevocably at an end between them as far as he was concerned,
whereupon her regard for him turned to bitterness and desire for

"And, indeed, but for the cleverness of a distinguished lawyer, poor
Morley Thrall might have found himself the victim of a judicial error
brought about by the deliberate enmity of a woman.  Had he been
committed for trial, she would have had more time at her disposal to
manufacture evidence against him, which I am convinced she had a mind
to do."

"As it is," I now put in tentatively, for the Old Man in the Corner
had been silent for some little while, "the withdrawal of the charge
of murder against Morley Thrall did not help to clear up the mystery
of 'Remount Forburg's' tragic death."

"Not so far as the public is concerned," he retorted dryly.

"You have a theory?" I asked.

"Not a theory," he replied.  "I know who killed 'Remount Forburg.'"

"How do you know?" I riposted.

"By logic and inference," he said.  "As it was proved that Morley
Thrall did not kill him, and that Miss Monica could not have done it,
as the ladies did not join in the chase after the burglar, I looked
about me for the only other person in whose interest it was to put
that blackguard out of the way."

"You mean----?"

"I mean the boy Gerald, of course.  Openly and before the other
witness, Cambalt, he stood up for his stepfather against Thrall who
was not measuring his words, but just think how the knowledge which
he had gained about his own parentage and that of his sister must
have rankled in his mind.  He must have come to the conclusion that
while this man--his stepfather--lived, there would be no chance for
him to make friends, no chance for the sister whom he loved ever to
have a home, a life of her own.  Whether that interview on Christmas
Eve was the first inkling which he had of the real past history of
his own and Forburg's family, it is impossible to say.  Probably he
had suspicions of it before, when, one by one, Monica's suitors fell
away after certain private interviews with the Colonel.  Morley
Thrall must have been a last hope, and that, too, was dashed to the
ground by the same infamous means.

"I am not prepared to say that the boy got hold of the revolver that
night with the deliberate intention of killing his stepfather at the
earliest opportunity; he may have run into the smoking-room to snatch
up the weapon, only with a view to using it against the burglar;
certain it is that he overtook 'Remount Forburg' in the five-acre
field and that he shot him then and there.  Remember that the night
was very dark, and that there was a great deal of running about and
of confusion.  The boy was young enough and nimble enough after he
had thrown down the revolver to run across the field and then to go
back to the house by a roundabout way.  It is easy enough in a case
like that to cover one's tracks, and, of course, no one suspected
anything at the time.  Even the sound of firing created but little
astonishment; it was so very much on the cards that the Colonel would
use a revolver without the slightest hesitation against a man who had
been trying to break into his house.  It was just the sort of revenge
that a man of Gerald's temperament--disfigured, shy, silent and
self-absorbed--would seek against one whom he considered the fount of
all his wrongs."

"But," I objected, "how could young Glenluce run into the
smoking-room, pick up the revolver out of a drawer, and run back
through the hall with servants and guests standing about?  Some one
would be sure to see him."

"No one saw him," the funny creature retorted, "for he did it at the
moment of the greatest confusion.  The butler had run in with the
news of the burglary, the Colonel jumped up and ran out through the
hall, the guests had not yet made up their minds what to do.  In
moments like this there are always just a few seconds of pandemonium,
quite sufficient for a boy like Gerald to make a dash for the

"But after that----"

"He took the revolver out of the drawer and ran out through the
French window."

"But the shutters were found to be bolted on the inside," I argued,
"when they were examined by the police inspector."

"So they were," he admitted.  "Miss Monica had already been in there
with young Gerald.  They had seen to the shutters."

"Then you think that Monica knew?"

"Of course she did."

"Then her desire to prove Morley Thrall guilty----"

"Was partly hatred of him, and partly the desire to shield her
brother," the funny creature concluded as he collected traps, his bit
of string and his huge umbrella.  "Think it over; you will see that I
am right.  I am sorry for those two, aren't you?  But they are
selling Brudenell Court, I understand, and their mother's fortune has
become theirs absolutely.  They will go abroad together, make a home
for themselves, and one day, perhaps, everything will be forgotten,
and a new era of happiness will arise for the innocent, now that the
guilty has been so signally punished.  But it was an interesting
case.  Don't you agree with me?"




"I suppose that is a form of snobbishness," the Old Man in the Corner
began abruptly.

I gave such a jump that I nearly upset the contents of a cup of
boiling tea which I was conveying to my mouth.  As it was, I scalded
my tongue and nearly choked.

"What is?" I queried with a frown, for I was really vexed with the
creature.  I had no idea he was there at all.  But he only smiled and
concluded his speech, quite unperturbed.

"... that creates additional interest in a crime when it concerns
people of wealth or rank."

"Snobbishness," I rejoined, "of course it's snobbishness!  And when
the little suburban madam has finished reading about Lady
Stickinthemud's reception at Claridge's she likes to turn to Lord
Tomnoodle's prospective sojourn in gaol."

"You were thinking of the disappearance of the Australian
millionaire?" he asked blandly.

"I don't know that I was," I retorted.

"But of course you were.  How could any journalist worthy of the name
fail to be interested in that intricate case?"

"I suppose you have your theory--as usual?"

"It is not a theory," the creature replied, with that fatuous smile
of his which always irritated me; "it is a certainty."

Then, as he became silent, absorbed in the contemplation of a
wonderfully complicated knot in his beloved bit of string, I said
with gracious condescension:

"You may talk about it, if you like."

He did like, fortunately for me, because, frankly, I could not see
daylight in that maze of intrigue, adventure and possibly crime,
which was described by the Press as "The Mystery of the White

"The events were interesting from the outset," he began after a
while, whilst I settled down to listen, "and so were various actors
in the society drama.  Chief amongst these was, of course, Captain
Shillington, an Australian ex-officer, commonly reputed to be a
millionaire, who, with his mother and sister, rented Mexfield House
in Somerset Street, Mayfair, the summer before last.  It appears that
Lord Mexfield's younger son, the Honorable Henry Buckley, who was an
incorrigible rake and whom his father had sent on a tour round the
world in order to keep him temporarily out of mischief, not to say
out of gaol, had met a married brother of Captain Shillington's out
in the Antipodes, they had been very kind to him, and so on, with the
result that when came the following London season the family turned
up in England, and, after spending a couple of days at the Savoy,
they moved into the Mexfields' house in Somerset Street.

"Lord and Lady Mexfield were abroad that year, and Henry Buckley and
his sister Angela were living with an aunt who had a small house
somewhere in Mayfair.

"Although the Shillingtons were reputed to be very wealthy, they
appeared to be very quiet, simple folk, and it certainly seemed
rather strange that they should have gone to the expense of a house
in town, when obviously they had no social ambitions and did not mean
to entertain.  As a matter of fact, as far as Mrs. Shillington and
her daughter were concerned, nobody could have lived a quieter, more
retiring life than they did.  Mrs. Shillington was an invalid and
hardly ever went outside her front door, and the girl Marion seemed
to be suffering from a perpetual cold in the head.  They seemed to be
in a chronic state of servant trouble.  Mrs. Shillington was
dreadfully irritable, and one set of servants after another were
engaged only to leave without notice after a few days.  The one
faithful servant who remained was a snuffy old man who came to them
about a month after they moved into Mexfield House.  He and a
charwoman did all the work of cooking and valeting and so on.
Presumably the old man could not have got a situation elsewhere as
his appearance was very unprepossessing, and therefore he was willing
to put up with what the servants' registry offices would term 'a very
uncomfortable situation.'

"Captain Shillington, the hero of the tragic adventure, on the other
hand, went about quite a good deal.  He was certainly voted to be
rather strait-laced, not to say priggish, but he was very
good-looking and a fine dancer.  Henry Buckley introduced him to some
of his smart friends and Lady Angela constituted him her dancing
partner.  The partnership soon developed into warmer friendship and
presently it was given out that Lady Angela Buckley, only daughter of
the Earl and Countess of Mexfield, was engaged to Captain Denver
Shillington, the Australian millionaire.  Lady Angela confided to her
friends that her fiancé was the owner of immense estates in Western
Australia, on a portion of which rich deposits of gold had lately
been discovered.  He certainly had plenty of money to spend, and on
one occasion he actually paid Henry Buckley's gambling debts to the
tune of two or three hundred pounds.

"On the whole, society pronounced the match a suitable one.  Lady
Angela Buckley was no longer in her first youth, whilst her brother,
to whom she was really devoted, would be all the better for a
somewhat puritanical, strait-laced and, above all, wealthy


"That, then, was the position," the Old Man in the Corner continued
after a while, "and the date of Lady Angela Buckley's marriage to
Captain Denver Shillington had been actually fixed when the public
was startled one afternoon towards the end of the summer by the
sensational news in all the evening papers: 'Mysterious disappearance
of a millionaire.'  This highly coloured description applied, as it
turned out, to Captain Shillington, the fiancé of Lady Angela
Buckley.  It seems that during the course of that same morning a
young lady, apparently in deep distress and suffering from a
streaming cold in the head, had called at Scotland Yard.  She gave
her name and address as Marion Shillington, of Mexfield House,
Somerset Street, Mayfair, and stated that she and her mother were in
the greatest possible anxiety owing to the disappearance of her
brother, Captain Denver Shillington.  They had last seen him on the
previous Friday evening at about nine o'clock when he left home in
order to pick up his fiancée, Lady Angela Buckley, whom he was
escorting that night to a reception in Grosvenor Square.  He was
wearing full evening dress and a soft hat.  Miss Shillington couldn't
say whether he had any money in his pockets.  She thought that
probably he was carrying a gold cigarette case, which Lady Angela had
given him, but, as a matter of fact, he never wore any jewellery.

"No one in the house had heard him come in again that night, and his
bed had not been slept in.  Questioned by the police, Miss
Shillington explained that neither she nor her mother felt any alarm
at first because there had been some talk of Captain Shillington
going away with his fiancée to stay with friends over the week-end,
somewhere near Newmarket.  It was only this morning, Wednesday, that
Mrs. Shillington first began to worry when there was still no sign or
letter from him.  'My brother is a very good son,' Miss Shillington
continued, explaining to the police, 'and always very considerate to
mother.  It was so unlike him to leave us without news all this while
and not let us know when to expect him home.  So I rang up Lady
Angela Buckley, who is his fiancée, to see if I could get news
through her, as I could see mother was beginning to get anxious.  Mr.
Henry Buckley, Lady Angela's brother, answered the 'phone.  I asked
after his sister and he told me that she was staying on in the
country a day or two longer.  He himself had come back to town the
previous night.  I then asked him, quite casually, if he knew whether
Denver--that's my brother--would be returning with Angela.  And his
answer to me was, "Denver?  Why, I haven't seen him since Friday.
And I can tell you that he is in for a row with Angela.  She was
furious with him that he never wrote once to her while she was away."
I was so upset that I hung up the receiver and just sat there
wondering what to do next.  But Mr. Buckley rang up a moment or two
later and asked quite cheerily if there was anything wrong.  "Good
old Square-toes!" he said, meaning my brother, whom he always used to
chaff by calling him "Square-toes," "don't tell me he has gone off on
the spree without letting you know.  I say, that's too bad of him,
though.  But I shouldn't be anxious if I were you.  Boys, you know,
Miss Shillington, will be boys, and I like old Square-toes all the
better for it."'

"Miss Shillington," the Old Man in the Corner went on, "was as usual
suffering from a streaming cold, and between spluttering and crying,
she had reduced two or three handkerchiefs to wet balls.  At best she
was no beauty, and with a red nose and streaming eyes she presented a
most pitiable spectacle.  'I made Mr. Buckley assure me once more,'
she said, 'that he had seen nothing of Denver since Friday.  That
night he and Lady Angela and Denver were at a reception in Grosvenor
Square.  They all left about the same time.  Angela and Denver went,
presumably, straight home; at any rate, he, Mr. Buckley, saw nothing
more of them after they got into their car.  He himself went to spend
an hour or two at his club and came home about two a.m.  The next
morning, after breakfast, he drove his sister out to Tatchford, near
Newmarket, where they spent the week-end with some friends.  And that
was all Mr. Buckley could say to me,' Miss Shillington concluded,
vigorously blowing her nose: 'He came home last night from Tatchford,
and was expecting Lady Angela in a couple of days.  Denver had not
been at Tatchford at all, and he had not once written to Angela all
the while she was away.'

"Of course the police inspector to whom Miss Shillington related all
these facts had a great many questions to put to her.  For one thing
he wanted to know whether she had been in communication with Lady
Angela Buckley since this morning.

"'No,' the girl replied, 'I have not, and so far, I haven't said
anything to mother.  As soon as I felt strong enough I put on my
things and came along here.'

"Then the inspector wanted to know if she knew of any friends or
acquaintances of her brother's with whom he might have gone off for a
week-end jaunt without saying anything about it, either at home or to
his fiancée.  He put the questions as delicately as he could, but the
sister flared up with indignation.  It seems that the Captain's
conduct had always been irreproachable.  He was a model son, a model
brother, and deeply in love with Lady Angela.  Miss Shillington also
refused to believe that he could have been enticed to a place of
ill-fame and robbed by one of the usual confidence tricksters.

"'My brother is exceptionally shrewd,' she declared, 'and a splendid
business man.  Though he is not yet thirty, he has built up an
enormous fortune out in Australia, and administers his estates
himself to the admiration of every one who knows him.  He is not the
sort of man who could be fooled in that way.'

"But beyond all this, and beyond giving a detailed description of her
brother's appearance, the poor girl had very little to say, and the
detective who was put in charge of the case could only assure her
that enquiries would at once be instituted in every possible
direction, and that the police would keep her informed of everything
that was being done.  Obviously, the person most likely to be able to
throw some light upon the mystery was Lady Angela Buckley, but as you
know, the advent of this charming lady upon the scene only helped to
complicate matters.  It appears that Henry Buckley, delighted at what
he jocosely called, 'Old "Square-toes" falling from grace,' had rung
up his sister in order to tell her the startling news over the
telephone.  Lady Angela being a very modern young woman, her brother
thought that she might storm for a bit but in the end see the
humorous side of the situation.  But not at all!  Lady Angela took
the affair entirely _au tragique_.  Over the telephone she only
exclaimed, 'Great Lord!' but at one o'clock in the afternoon she
arrived at the flat, having taken the first train up to town and not
even waiting for her maid to pack her things.  Mr. Henry Buckley was
just going out to lunch.  Without condescending to explain anything,
his sister dragged him off then and there to Scotland Yard.
'Something has happened to Denver,' was all that she would say.
'Something dreadful, I am sure.'  In vain did her brother protest
that she would only be making a fool of herself by rushing to the
police like this, that old Square-toes had only gone on the spree,
and that, anyway, she ought to consult with the Shillingtons before
doing anything silly; Lady Angela would not listen to reason.  'You
don't know!  You don't know!' she kept on reiterating with
ever-increasing agitation.  'He has been murdered, I tell you.

"By the time that the pair arrived at Scotland Yard, Lady Angela was
in a state bordering on hysterics, and her brother appeared both
sulky and perplexed.  They saw the same Inspector who had interviewed
Miss Shillington, and certainly his amazement was no whit less than
that of Mr. Henry Buckley when Lady Angela having mentioned the
disappearance of Captain Denver Shillington, said abruptly, 'Yes, he
has disappeared, and incidentally, he had my pearls in his pocket.'
The Inspector made no immediate comment; men of his calling are used
to those kinds of surprises, but Henry Buckley gave a gasp of horror.

"'Your pearls?' he exclaimed.  'What pearls? Not----?'

"'Yes,' Lady Angela rejoined, coolly.  'The Glenarm pearls.  All of

"'But----' Henry Buckley stammered, wide-eyed and white to the lips.

"His sister threw him what appeared to be a warning glance, then she
turned once more to the police inspector.

"'My brother is upset,' she said calmly, 'because he knows that the
pearls are of immense value.  The late Lord Glenarm left them to me
in his will.  He made a huge fortune by a successful speculation in
sugar.  He had no daughters of his own, and late in life he married
my mother's sister.  He was my godfather, and when he first bought
the pearls and gave them to his wife as a wedding present, he said
that after her death and his they should belong to me.  They were
valued for probate at twenty-five thousand pounds.'

"Henry Buckley was still speechless, and it was in answer to several
questions put to her by the Inspector that Lady Angela gave the full
history, as far as she knew it, of the disappearance of her pearls.

"'I was going to spend the week-end with some friends at Tatchford,
near Newmarket,' she said.  'My brother at first had decided not to
come with me.  On the Friday evening I went with Captain Shillington
to a ball at the Duchess of Flint's in Grosvenor Square.  I wore my
pearls; on the way home in the car, Captain Shillington appeared very
anxious as to what I should do about the pearls whilst I was away.
He wanted me to take them to the bank first thing in the morning
before I left.  But I knew I couldn't do this, because my train was
at nine-fifty from Liverpool Street.  Captain Shillington had once or
twice before shown anxiety about the pearls and urged me to keep them
at the bank when I was not wearing them, but he had never been so
insistent as that night.'

"Lady Angela appeared to hesitate for a moment or two.  She glanced
at her brother with a curious expression, both of anxiety and
contempt.  It seemed as if she were trying to make up her mind to say
something that was very difficult, to put in so many words.  The
Inspector sat silent and impassive, waiting for her to continue her
story, and at last she did make up her mind to speak.

"'I had a safe in the flat,' she went on, glibly, 'where I keep my
jewellery, but Captain Shillington did not seem satisfied.  He argued
and argued, and at last he persuaded me to let him have the pearls
while I was away and he would deposit them at his own bank until my

"Presumably at this point the lady caught an expression on the face
of the Inspector which displeased her, for she added with becoming
dignity, 'I am engaged to be married to Captain Denver Shillington.'

"'My God!' Henry Buckley exclaimed at this point, and with a groan he
buried his face in his hands.

"Mind you," the Old Man in the Corner proceeded, after a moment's
pause, "the public had no information as to the exact words, and so
on, that passed between Lady Angela, her brother Henry, and the
officials of Scotland Yard.  All that I am telling you, and what I am
still about to tell you, came out bit by bit in the papers.
Sensation-lovers were immensely interested in the case from the
outset, because, although both public and police are familiar enough
with the tragi-comedy of the good-looking young blackguard who gets
confiding females to entrust him with their little bits of jewellery,
this was the first time that the confidence trick had been played by
a well-known man about town--reputed wealthy, since he had gone to
the length of paying a friend's gambling debts--on a society lady who
was not in her first youth and must presumably have had some
knowledge of the world she lived in.

"Lady Angela had concluded her statements by saying that during the
drive home in the car she took off her pearls and handed them to her
fiancé, who slipped them into his pocket just as they were, although
when presently the car drew up at her door she suggested running up
to her room to get the case for them.  The Captain, however, declared
this to be unnecessary.  What he said was, 'I will sleep with them
under my pillow to-night, and to-morrow morning first thing I will
take them round to the bank for you.'  After this he said good-night.
Lady Angela let herself into the house with her latchkey, and Captain
Shillington then dismissed the car, saying that he would enjoy a bit
of a walk as the rooms at Grosvenor Square had been so desperately

"And it was at this point," the Old Man in the Corner now said with
deliberate emphasis as he worked away at an exceptionally intricate
knot in his beloved bit of string, "it was at this point that certain
facts leaked out which lent to the whole case a sinister aspect.

"It appears that on the Saturday morning at break of day one of the
boats belonging to the Thames District Police found a grey Homburg
hat floating under one of the old steamship landing stages and, stuck
to one of the wooden piles close by, a man's silk scarf.  There was
no name inside the hat or any other clue as to the owner's identity,
but both the scarf, which had once been white or light grey, and the
hat were terribly soiled and torn, and both were stained with blood.
The police had tried on the quiet to trace the owner of the hat and
scarf but without success.  After Lady Angela had told her story of
the missing pearls, the things were shown to Miss Shillington, who at
once identified the hat as belonging to her brother; the scarf,
however, she knew nothing about.

"But this was not by any means all.  It appears that for some reason
which was never quite clear, Captain Shillington, after he said
good-night to Lady Angela, altered his mind about the proposed walk.
It may have started to rain, or he may not, after all, have liked the
idea of walking about the streets at night with twenty-five thousand
pounds' worth of pearls in his pocket.  Be that as it may, he hailed
a passing taxi and drove to Mexfield House.  The driver came forward
voluntarily in answer to an advertisement put in the papers by the
police.  He stated that he remembered the circumstance quite well
because of what followed.  He remembered taking up a fare outside
Stanhope Gate and being ordered to drive to Mexfield House in
Somerset Street.  When he slowed down close to Mexfield House he
noticed a man with his hands in his pockets lounging under the
doorway of one of the houses close by.  As far as he could see the
man was in evening dress and wore a light overcoat.  He had on a silk
hat tilted right over his eyes so that only the lower part of his
face was visible, and he had a white or pale grey scarf tied loosely
round his neck.  The chauffeur also noticed that he had a large white
flower, probably a carnation, in his buttonhole.  After the taxi-man
had put down his fare he drove off, and as he did so he saw the man
in the light overcoat step out from under the doorway, where he had
been lounging, and turn in the direction of Mexfield House.  What
happened after that he didn't know, as he drove away without taking
further notice, but the police were already in touch with another man
who had been watching that night in Somerset Street, where a portion
of the road was up for repair.  This man, whose name, I think, was
William Rugger, remembered quite distinctly seeing a 'swell' in a
light overcoat and wearing a light-coloured scarf round his neck,
loafing around Mexfield House.  He remembered the taxi drawing up and
a gentleman getting out of it, whereupon the one in the light
overcoat and the scarf went up to him and said, 'Hullo, Denver!' at
which the other gent, the one who had come in the taxi, appeared very
surprised, for Rugger heard him say, 'Good Lord, Henry, what are you
doing here?'

"Rugger didn't hear any more because the gentleman in the light
overcoat then took the other one by the arm and together the pair of
them walked away down the street.  When they had gone Rugger noticed
a large white carnation lying on the pavement; he picked it up and
subsequently took it home to his missis.

"You may imagine what a stir and excitement this story--which pretty
soon leaked out in all its details--caused amongst the public.  It
seems that although neither the taxi-driver nor the man Rugger had
seen the face of the man who had stepped out from under a
neighbouring doorway and accosted Captain Shillington, they were both
of them quite positive that he was in evening dress, and that he wore
a silk hat, a light overcoat, and had a pale grey or white scarf
wound round his neck.  And besides that, there was the white
carnation.  But, of course, the crux of the whole evidence was
Rugger's assertion that he heard one gentleman--the one who got out
of the cab--say to the other in tones of great surprise, 'Good Lord,
Henry, what are you doing here?'  Questioned again and again he never
wavered in this statement.  He heard the name Henry quite distinctly
and it stuck in his mind because his eldest boy was Henry.  He was
also asked whether the gentleman, who had stepped out of the
taxi--obviously Captain Shillington, since the other had called to
him, 'Hullo, Denver'--walked away reluctantly or willingly when he
was thus summarily taken hold of by the arm.  Rugger was under the
impression that he walked away reluctantly; he freed his arm once,
but the other got hold of him again, and, though Rugger did not catch
the actual words, he certainly thought that the two gentlemen were

"And thus public opinion, which at first had been dead against the
Australian Captain, now went equally dead against Henry Buckley.
Ugly stories were current of his extravagance, his gambling debts,
his addiction to drink.  People who knew him remembered one or two
ugly pages in his life's history: altercations with the police, raids
on gambling clubs of which he was a prominent member; there was even
a fraudulent bankruptcy which had been the original cause of his
being sent out to Australia by his harassed parents until the worst
of the clouds had rolled by.

"The only thing that told in his favour, as far as the public was
concerned, was the bitter vindictiveness displayed against him by
Miss Shillington.  That the girl had cause for bitterness was not to
be denied.  For a time, at any rate, public opinion had branded her
brother as a common trickster and a thief, and she and her mother had
no doubt suffered terribly under the stigma; in consequence of this,
Mrs. Shillington's health, always in a precarious state, had
completely broken down and the old lady had taken to her bed, not
suffering from any particular disease, but just from debility of mind
and body, obstinately refusing to see a doctor, declaring that
nothing would cure her except the return of her son.

"And on the top of all that came the growing conviction that the son
never would return and that he had been foully murdered for the sake
of Lady Angela's pearls, which he so foolishly was carrying in his
pocket that night.  No wonder, then, that his sister Marion felt
bitter against the people who were the original cause of all these
disasters; no wonder that she threw herself heart and soul into the
search for evidence against the man whom she sincerely believed to be
guilty of a most hideous crime.

"It was mainly due to her that the police came on the track of
William Rugger, the night-watchman, and through the latter that the
driver of the taxi-cab was advertised for, because Rugger remembered
seeing the gentleman alight from a taxi outside Mexfield House.  But
Miss Shillington's valuable assistance in the matter of investigation
went even further than that.  She at last prevailed upon the old
man-servant at Mexfield House to come forward like a man and to speak
the truth.  He was a poor creature, not really old, probably not more
than fifty, but timid and almost abject.  He had at first declined to
make any statement whatever, declaring that he had nothing to say.
To every question put to him by the police, he gave the one answer,
'I saw nothing, sir, I 'eard nothing.  I went to bed as usual on the
Friday night.  The Captain 'e never expected me to sit up for 'im
when 'e was out to parties, and I never 'ear 'im come in, as I sleep
at the top of the 'ouse.  No, sir, I didn't 'ear nothing that night.
The last I seed of the Captain was at nine o'clock, when 'e got into
the car and said good-night to me.'  When he was shown the
blood-stained hat, he burst out crying, and said, 'Yes, sir!  Yes,
sir!  That is the Captain's 'at.  My Lord!  What 'as become of 'im?'
He also failed to identify the scarf as being his master's property.

"Then one day Miss Shillington, still suffering from a cold in the
head, but otherwise very business-like and brisk, arrived at Scotland
Yard with the man--James Rose was his name--in tow.  By what means
she had persuaded him to speak the truth at last no one ever knew,
but in a tremulous voice and shaken with nervousness, he did tell
what he swore to be the truth.  'I must 'ave dropped to sleep in the
dining-room,' he said.  'I was very tired that evening, and I
remember after I 'ad cleared supper away I just felt as 'ow I
couldn't stand on my legs any longer, and I sat down in an armchair
and must 'ave dozed off.  What woke me was the front-door bell which
rings in the 'all as well as in the basement.  I looked at the clock,
it was past midnight.  Captain forgot 'is key, that's what I thought.
Lucky I 'adn't gone to bed, or I should never 'ave 'eard 'im.  Funny
'is forgetting 'is key, I thought.  Never done such a thing before, I
thought, and went to open the door for 'im.  But it wasn't the
Captain,' Rose went on, his voice getting more and more husky as no
doubt he realised the deadly importance of what he was about to say.
'No, it wasn't the Captain,' he reiterated, and shook his head in a
doleful manner.

"'Who was it?' the Inspector demanded.

"'The young gentleman who sometimes came to the 'ouse,' Rose repeated
under his breath.  'Mr. 'Enery Buckley it was, sir.  Yes, Mr. 'Enery,
that's 'oo it was.'

"'What did he say?' Rose was asked.

"''E asked if the Captain was in, and I said no, not as I knew, but I
would go and see.  So up I went to the Captain's room and saw 'e
wasn't there.  Not yet.  And I told Mr. 'Enery so when I came down

"'Then what happened?'

"'Mr. 'Enery 'e told me that 'e wouldn't wait and that I was to tell
the Captain 'e 'ad called, and that 'e would call again in 'arf an
hour.  I said that I was going to bed and I wouldn't probably see the
Captain.  'E might be ever so late.  Then Mr. 'Enery 'e just said,
"Very good," and "Never mind," and "Good-night, Rose," 'e said, and
then I let 'im out.'

"'Well?  And what happened after that?'

"'I don't know, sir,' the old man concluded.  'I went to bed and I
never seed the Captain again, nor yet Mr. 'Enery--not from that day
to this, sir.  No, not again, sir.'  And Rose once more shook his
head in the same doleful manner.  Of course the police were very down
on him for keeping back this valuable piece of information, and they
were even inclined to look with suspicion upon the man.  They wanted
to know something about his antecedents and why he seemed so
frightened of facing the police authorities.  Fortunately for him,
however, Miss Shillington could give them all the information they
wanted.  She said that James Rose had been for years in the service
of a Mrs. O'Shea, who was a great friend of Mrs. Shillington's.  When
Mrs. O'Shea died she left him a hundred pounds.  But the poor thing
had never been very strong, and he was nothing to look at, he
couldn't get another place, and the hundred pounds vanished bit by
bit.  About a month ago Mrs. Shillington, who was requiring a
man-servant, advertised for one in the _Daily Mail_.  Rose answered
the advertisement, and though the poor thing in the meanwhile had
gone terribly downhill physically, Mrs. Shillington, remembering how
honest and respectable he had always been when he was in Mrs.
O'Shea's service, engaged him out of compassion and for the sake of
old times.  Miss Shillington gave him an excellent character and the
police were satisfied.

"I think," the Old Man in the Corner said, amorously contemplating a
marvellously intricate knot, which he had just made in his bit of
string, "I think that the police were mainly satisfied because at
last they felt that 'they had made out a case.'  From that moment the
detectives and inspectors in charge became absolutely convinced that
Henry Buckley had enticed Captain Denver Shillington to some place of
evil fame close to the river and there, in collusion probably with
other disreputable characters, had robbed and murdered him.  To say
the least, the case looked black enough against Buckley.  His fast
living, his mountain of debt, the absence in him of moral rectitude
as proved by his fraudulent bankruptcy, all told against him; and now
it was definitely proved that he had sought out and actually been in
the company of Captain Shillington the night that the latter
disappeared.  A light grey overcoat similar to the one described by
Rugger and by the chauffeur as worn by the gentleman who was loafing
in Somerset Street was found to be a part of his wardrobe; no one
could swear, however, as to the scarf, but it turned out that he
never went out in the evening without wearing a large, white
carnation in his button-hole.

"The fact that he had not stated from the beginning that he had
called at Mexfield House that night, and subsequently met the missing
man and walked away with him, naturally told terribly against him.
Obviously the man lost his head.  Questioned by the police, he tried
at first to deny the whole thing: he declared that the man with the
white carnation and the light-coloured scarf was some other man whose
name happened to be Henry, and he tried to upset Rose's evidence by
declaring that the man lied and that he had never called at Mexfield
House that night.  But, unfortunately for him, he had taken a taxi
from his club to the house, the taxi-driver was found, and the noose
was further tightened round the Honourable Henry Buckley's neck.  In
vain did he assert after that that Denver Shillington had told him to
call at Mexfield House at a quarter-past midnight on that fatal
Friday.  He was no longer believed.  He admitted that he was in
financial difficulties, and that he had spoken about these to Captain
Shillington earlier in the evening.  He admitted, tardily enough,
that he went to Mexfield House hoping that Denver would give him some
money in order to wipe out his most pressing debts.  When he found
that the Captain had not yet come home, he left a message with the
man-servant and thought he would go on to the club for a little while
and return later to see Shillington.  Unfortunately, he drank rather
heavily whilst he was at the club and never thought any more either
about his money worries or about the Captain.  In fact, he remembered
nothing very clearly beyond the fact that he went home, in the small
hours and went straight to bed.

"He then went on to say that he woke up the next morning with a
splitting headache.  It was pouring with rain and London was looking
particularly beastly, as he picturesquely termed it.  He recollected
that his sister Angela had planned to go down with old Square-toes to
some friends near Newmarket for the weekend.  He, too, had been asked
but had declined the invitation, but now he began to wish he hadn't;
while he was out of town money-lenders couldn't dun him, and a breath
of country air would certainly do him good.

"And he was just cogitating over these matters at eight a.m. on that
Saturday morning, when his sister Angela came into his room.  'She
told me,' he went on, 'that old Square-toes was unable to accompany
her to these friends in Cambridgeshire, that she didn't want to go
alone, and would I hire a car and drive her down.  She offered to pay
for the car, and, as the scheme happened to suit me, I agreed.  We
drove down to Tatchford, and on the Tuesday I had an unpleasant
reminder from one of my creditors and thought that I must get back to
see what old Square-toes would do for me.  I got home that same
evening, and the next morning early Miss Shillington rang up and told
me over the 'phone that they had heard nothing of Captain Shillington
since the previous Friday and that they were getting anxious.  And
that's all I know,' he concluded.  'I swear that I never set eyes on
Shillington after he drove off from the Duchess of Flint's, with my
sister in his car.  I did call at Mexfield House, but it was at
Shillington's suggestion, but when the man told me that the Captain
was not yet home, I did not loaf about the street, I went straight
back to the club and then home.'

"Of course all this was very clear and very categorical, but there
were one or two doubtful points in Buckley's statements, which the
police--dead out now to prove him guilty of murder--made the most of.
Firstly, there was his former denial on oath that he had not called
at Mexfield House that night.  It was only when he was confronted
with the testimony of the taxi-cab driver that he made the admission.
The employees at his club, which, by the way, was in Hanover Square,
had seen him come in at about half-past eleven.  He went out again
twenty minutes later and the hall porter saw him hail a taxi-cab.  He
was once more in the club at half-past twelve, and it is a
significant fact that two of the younger members chaffed him
subsequently because he had not the usual white carnation in his

"Then again it was more than strange that on the Friday he was so
worried about his debts that he went in the middle of the night to
his friend's house in order to try and borrow money from him, and yet
when, according to his own statements, he never even saw his friend,
off he went the very next morning to the country, stayed away four
days, and on his return did not make any attempt seemingly to see the
Captain or to ask him for money.  Thirdly, it was equally
inconceivable that Captain Shillington should have appointed to see
Buckley at that hour of the night, however pressed the latter might
have been for money.  Why should he?  The next morning would have
done just as well, whether he meant to help him or whether he did
not, and, according to the testimony of the night-watchman, William
Rugger, when he was accosted by Buckley, he exclaimed in tones of
great surprise, 'Good Lord, Henry, what are you doing here?'  These
are not words which a man would say to a friend whom he had appointed
to meet at this very hour.

"However, this portion of the taxi-driver's and Rugger's testimony
Buckley still strenuously denied.  He could not deny the other.  He
had called at Mexfield House and reluctantly admitted that it had
been nothing but 'blue funk' that had prompted him at first to hold
his tongue about that and then to deny the fact altogether.

"But, above all, there was yet another fact which to the police was
more conclusive, more damning than any other and that was that on the
Wednesday morning the Honourable Henry Buckley had called at Messrs.
Foster and Turnbull, the well-known pawnbrokers of Oxford Street, and
had pledged a pair of diamond ear-rings and a couple of valuable
bracelets there for which he received three hundred and fifty pounds.

"Here again, if Buckley had volunteered this statement, all might
have been well, but it was the pawnbrokers who gave information to
the police.  It turned out that the ear-rings and the two bracelets
were the property of his sister, Lady Angela.  Buckley declared that
she had given them to him, and she, very nobly, did her best to
corroborate this statement of his, but it had become impossible to
believe a word he said.  Lady Angela's valiant efforts on his behalf
were thought to be unconvincing, and, as a matter of fact, the public
has never known from that day to this whether Henry Buckley stole his
sister's jewellery, or whether she gave it to him voluntarily.


"Mind you, there can be no question but that the police acted very
injudiciously when they actually preferred a charge of murder against
Henry Buckley.  There were two such damning flaws in the chain of
evidence that had been collected against him that the man ought never
to have been arrested.  Even the magistrate was of that opinion.  As
you know, if there is the slightest doubt about such a serious
charge, the magistrates will always commit a man for trial and let a
jury of twelve men pronounce on the final issue rather than decide
such grave matters on their own.  But in this case there were really
no proofs.  There were deductions: the accused was a young
blackguard, a moral coward and a liar.  There was the blood-stained
scarf, the hat and the white carnation, there was the testimony of
the taxi-driver and the night watchman that Henry Buckley had been in
the company of Captain Shillington that night, but there was no proof
that he had murdered his friend and stolen the pearls.

"To begin with, if there had been a murder, where was it committed,
and what became of Captain Shillington's body?  Of course, the police
still hope to find traces of it, but, as you know, they have not yet
succeeded.  Various theories are put forward that Henry Buckley was a
member of a gang of ruffians with headquarters in some obscure corner
of London close to the river, and that he enticed the Captain there
and murdered him with the help of his criminal associates with whom
he probably shared the proceeds of the crime.  But over a year has
gone by since Shillington disappeared and the police are no nearer
finding the body of the missing man.

"The magistrate dismissed the case against Henry Buckley.  There was
not sufficient evidence to commit him for trial.  What told most in
his favour in the end was the question of time.  He was able to prove
that he was at his club in Hanover Square at half-past midnight on
the fateful night.  Now, according to James Rose's testimony, it was
after midnight when he, Buckley, called at Mexfield House.  Even
supposing that Shillington had arrived in the taxi five minutes
later, it was inconceivable that a man could entice another to an
out-of-the-way part of London, murder him--even if he left others to
dispose of the body--and walk back unconcernedly to Hanover Square,
all in less than half an hour.  Nor were the pearls or any large sum
of money ever traced to Henry Buckley.  He was just as deeply in debt
after the disappearance of Captain Shillington as he had been before.
Now he has gone on another tour round the world, and the
Shillingtons--mother and daughter--have given up all hopes of ever
seeing the gallant Captain, who was such a model son, again.  A
little while ago the illustrated papers published photos of the two
ladies on board a P. and O. steamer bound for Australia, but the
public had forgotten all about Lady Angela's pearls and the
mysterious white carnation.  No one was interested in the old lady
with the white hair and stooping figure, who was carried on board in
a chair, and who obstinately refused to be interviewed by newspaper
men eager for copy.  The case is relegated, as far as the public is
concerned, to the category of undiscovered crimes."

"But," I argued, as the Old Man in the Corner became silent, absorbed
in the untying of an intricate knot which he had made a little while
ago, "surely the police have found out who the man was who accosted
Captain Shillington in Somerset Street that night, the man with the
light-coloured scarf, which was subsequently found in the river by
the side of the missing man's hat, the man who called the Captain
'Denver,' and whom the latter called 'Henry,' and was so surprised to
see.  If it was not Henry Buckley, who was it?"

"Ah!" the exasperating creature retorted with a fatuous smile, "who
was it?  That's just the point--a point just as dark as that a man
like Captain Shillington could be enticed at that hour of the night
to an out-of-the-way part of London, and at a moment when he had his
fiancée's jewellery worth twenty-five thousand pounds in his pocket.
Don't you think that _that_ point is absolutely inconceivable?"

"Well," I said, "it does seem----"

"Of course it does," he broke in eagerly.  "I ask you: Is it likely?
At one moment we are told that Captain Shillington was a pattern of
all the virtues and that his business acumen and abilities had earned
for him not only a fortune but the admiration of all those who knew
him; and the very next we are asked to suppose that he would meekly
allow a young blackguard, whom he knew to be dishonest and
unscrupulous, to drag him 'reluctantly' to some obscure haunt of a
gang of criminals.  Surely that should have jumped to the eyes of any
sane person who had studied the case."

"I don't suppose," I retorted, "that Captain Shillington allowed
Buckley to drag him very far.  Most people believed at the time that
he was attacked directly he rounded the corner of Somerset Street.
There are one or two entrances to mews just about there----"

"Yes," the funny creature rejoined excitedly, "but not one nearer
than fifty yards from Mexfield House.  And do you think that the
immaculate Australian would have walked ten at night with young
Buckley and with those pearls in his pocket?  Why should he?  He was
outside his own door.  Wouldn't he have taken Henry into the house
with him if he wished to speak to him?  No!  No!  The whole theory is

"But Captain Shillington disappeared," I argued, "and so did the
pearls, and his hat was found floating in the river, torn and
blood-stained.  You cannot deny that."

"I certainly cannot deny," he replied, "that a blood-stained hat will
float on the water if it is thrown--say, from a convenient bridge."

"But the scarf?" I retorted.

"A scarf will obey the same laws of Nature as a hat."

"But surely you are not going to tell me----?"


"That the whole thing was a confidence trick, after all?"

"I am certain that it was.  A clever one, I'll admit, and even I was
puzzled at the time.  I couldn't think who 'Henry' could possibly be.
It wasn't young Buckley, that was obvious.  The alibi was conclusive
as to that: the miscreants who had planned to throw dust in the eyes
of the police by trying to fasten a hideous crime on that unfortunate
young Buckley set their stage rather too elaborately when they
devised the trick about the scarf.  By identifying the murderer with
the wearer of the scarf, they saved Buckley from the gallows; without
it, there might have remained some doubt in the mind of some of the
jury.  But, of course, it raised a tremendous puzzle.  Who was the
'Henry' of Somerset Street?  And was it not a curious coincidence
that he should be wearing an overcoat similar to the one habitually
worn by Henry Buckley and a white carnation, which many friends would
at once associate with that unfortunate young man?  From the
examination of the puzzle to its solution was but a step.  I came at
once to the conclusion that here was no coincidence, but a deliberate
attempt to impersonate Henry Buckley, the man most likely in the eyes
of the public to waylay, rob, and even murder a man whom he knew to
be in possession of valuable jewellery.  Such a deliberate attempt,
therefore, argued that Captain Shillington himself must have been in
it.  'Good Lord, Henry, what in the world are you doing here?' was
obviously intended for any passer-by to hear in the same way that the
white carnation was intended for any chance passer-by to pick up.
Having established the _mise en scène_, the two scoundrels walked
off, having previously provided themselves with a blood-stained hat,
which presently Miss Shillington would identify as the property of
her brother."

"Miss Shillington?" I broke in eagerly, "then you think that the
whole Australian family was in the conspiracy?  And what about the
man Rose?"

"The whole family," he rejoined, "only consisted of two.  Man and
wife most likely."

"But the man Rose?" I insisted.

"An excellent part, alternately played with remarkable skill by the
Captain and his female accomplice."

"Do reconstruct the whole thing for me," I pleaded.  "I own that I am

And from my bag I extracted a brand-new piece of string which I
handed to him with an engaging smile.  Nothing could have pleased the
fatuous creature more.  With long, claw-like fingers twiddling the
string, he began leisurely:

"Nothing could be more simple.  Captain Shillington takes leave of
his fiancée, having her pearls in his pocket.  It is then about
half-past eleven.  Henry Buckley has gone to his club, Shillington
having appointed to see him at Mexfield House soon after midnight.
There is, therefore, plenty of time.  Shillington hurries home,
changes his personality into that of James Rose, as he often has done
before, and subsequently interviews Henry Buckley on the door-step.
You can see that, can't you?"

"Easily," I replied.

"Then as soon as he has got rid of Buckley, our friend the Captain
quits the personality of a snuffy, middle-aged man-servant, and
becomes himself once more.  He goes back to the neighbourhood of
Mayfair, hails a taxi and drives to Mexfield House.  But in the
meanwhile the female confederate--we'll call her Miss Shillington for
convenience' sake--in male attire and evening dress, wearing a light
overcoat, a light-coloured scarf and a white carnation in her
button-hole, lounges under a doorway in Somerset Street, waiting to
play her part.  Now do you see how simple it all is?"

"Perfectly," I admitted.  "As you said before, they had provided
themselves with a blood-stained hat, which presently they threw into
the river, together with the scarf; and what happened after that?"

"They walked home quietly and went to bed."

"What?  Both of them? ... But the mother?"

"I don't believe in the mother," he retorted blandly.  "Do you?"

"I thought----"

"She takes to her bed--she never sees a doctor--she and her daughter
never see any one--they have no friends--no servants save the man
Rose; put two and two together, my dear," the funny old man concluded
as he slipped the piece of string in his pocket.  "Captain
Shillington was the only one in that house who ever went outside the
doors.  The mother never did--no one ever saw her--the daughter had a
perpetual cold in the head--the man Rose had no one to speak for him,
no one to relate his past history, except Miss Shillington.  Where is
he now?  What has become of him?  There's nobody to enquire after
him, so the police don't trouble.  The two Shillingtons--supposed to
be mother and daughter--went back to Australia last year, but not the
man Rose.  Then where is he?  But I say that the two passengers on
board that P. and O. boat were not mother and daughter, but male and
female confederates in as fine a bit of rascality as I've ever seen.
And the man Rose never existed.  He was just a disguise assumed from
time to time by Captain Shillington.  It is not difficult, you know,
to assume a personality of that sort.  The police inspectors who
questioned him had never seen Captain Shillington, and dirt and
shabby clothes are very perfect disguises.  Now the pair of them are
knocking about the world somewhere, they will dispose of the pearls
to Continental dealers not over scrupulous where a good bargain can
be struck.  If you will just think of Captain Shillington
impersonating James Rose and a decrepit old woman alternately, and of
Miss Shillington impersonating Henry Buckley on that one occasion,
you will see how conclusive are my deductions.  I have a snapshot
here of the two Australian 'ladies,' taken on board the boat.  This
muffled-up bundle of bonnet and shawl is supposed to be Mrs.
Shillington; it might as well be M. Poincaré or the Kaiser, don't you
think?  And here is a snapshot of James Rose giving evidence in the
magistrate's court.  Unfortunately, I have no photo of Captain
Shillington, or I could have shown you just how to trace the
personality of the handsome young man about town under that of this
snuffy, dirty, ill-kempt, unwashed, and badly clothed, stooping
figure of an out-at-elbows servant."

He threw a bundle of newspaper cuttings down on the table.  I gazed
at them still puzzled, but nevertheless convinced that he was right.
When I looked up again, I only saw a corner of his shabby checked
ulster disappearing through the swing doors.




"It was during a foggy, rainy night in November a couple of years
ago," the Old Man in the Corner said to me that day, "that the
inhabitants of Wicklow Lane, Southwark, were startled by a terrible
row proceeding from one of the houses down the street.  There was a
lot of shouting and banging, then a couple of pistol-shots, after
that nothing more.  It was then just after midnight.  The dwellers in
Wicklow Lane are all of them poor, they are all of them worried with
the cares of large families, small accommodation, and irregular work,
all of which we must take it make for indifference to other people's
worries, and above all, to other people's quarrels.  Rows were not an
unknown occurrence in Wicklow Lane, not always perhaps at dead of
night and not necessarily accompanied by pistol-shots, but
nevertheless sufficiently frequent not to arouse more than passing
interest.  Half-a-dozen tousled heads--no more--were thrust out of
the windows to ascertain what this particular row was about; but as
everything was quiet again, as no police was in sight to whom one
might give directions, and as the mixture of rain and fog was
particularly unpleasant, the tousled heads after a few minutes
disappeared again, and once more peace reigned in Wicklow Lane.

"Of course the next morning the event of the night was mentioned and
mildly discussed, both by the men whilst going to their work and by
the ladies whilst scrubbing their doorsteps.  Every one agreed that
the pistol-shots were fired soon after midnight, but no one seemed to
be very clear in which particular house the row had occurred.  Two or
three of the people who lived in No. 11 and No. 15 respectively would
have it that it occurred 'next door,' but as the house next door to
them both could only be the one between them, namely No. 13, and as
No. 13 had been empty for months, this testimony was at first
strongly discounted.

"Presently, however, a helmeted and blue-coated representative of the
law came striding leisurely down the lane.  Within a minute or two he
was surrounded by a number of excited ladies, all eager to give him
their own version of the affair.  You can see him, can't you?" the
Old Man in the Corner went on with a grin, "stalking up the street,
his thumbs thrust into his belt, his face wearing that marvellous
look of impassivity peculiar to the force, and followed by this
retinue of gesticulating ladies, dressed in what they happened to
have picked up in neighboring 'ole clo'' shops, and by a sprinkling
of callow youths and unkempt, unshaven men.  You can see him solemnly
plying the knocker on the dilapidated front door of No. 13, while for
the space of a minute or two the gesticulating ladies, the youths,
and the men were silent and motionless.  But not a sound came in
response to the Bobby's vigorous knocking.  The house was silent as
the grave; just above the front door a weather-worn board, swaying
and creaking in the wind, mutely gave it out that the lease of these
desirable premises was to be sold, and that the key could be had on
application to Messrs. J  D. Whiskin and Sons, of Newnham Road, S.E.
The ladies, with cheeks blanched under the grime, looked aghast at
one another; the youths tittered nervously, the men swore.  No one
appeared altogether displeased.  Here was a real excitement at last
to vary the monotony of life, something that would keep gossip alive
at the White Lion for many a day to come.  The majestic
representative of the law then blew his whistle.  This broke the
spell of silence and voluble tongues started wagging again.  Soon the
second representative of the law appeared, as ponderous, as impassive
as his mate.  He was quickly put in possession of all the known and
unknown facts connected with the mysterious occurrence.  Leaving his
mate in charge, he stalked off to get assistance.

"Well, you remember no doubt what happened after that.  A police
inspector called straightway on Messrs. Whiskin and Sons, and
elicited from them the information that effectively No. 13 Wicklow
Lane was for sale, had been for some time, and that on the previous
morning--it was, of course, Thursday--a well-dressed gentleman had
called to make enquiries about the house.  Young Mr. Whiskin gave him
the key and asked him to be sure and return it before 1 p.m. as the
office closed early on Thursdays.  Well, the gentleman hadn't come
back yet with the key, but Mr. Whiskin was not troubling much about
that, there being nothing in the house--nor for a matter of that in
the street--likely to tempt a thief.  Young Mr. Whiskin thought that
he would be able to identify the gentleman if he saw him again.  He
had rather a red face and a thick nose, which suggested that he was
accustomed to good living, rough ginger-coloured hair, and a straggly
ginger beard and walrus moustache, all of which gave him rather a
peculiar appearance.  He wore a neat brown lounge-suit, a light
overcoat, and grey Homburg hat, and he was carrying a large parcel
under his arm.  Mr. Whiskin added that he had never seen the man
before or since.

"As soon as these facts became known there was more voluntary
information forthcoming.  It appears that one or two of the residents
in Wicklow Lane remembered seeing a man in light overcoat and soft
grey hat, and carrying a parcel under his arm, enter No. 13 with a
latchkey.  No one had taken 'pertikler notice,' however, chiefly
because the occurrence was not an unusual one.  Often people would go
in to look at the empty house and come out again after inspection.
Unfortunately, too, because of this there was distinct confusion of
evidence, some witnesses declaring that the man carried a large
parcel, and that he went away again, but not until the evening;
others would have it that he had a very small parcel, and that he
wore a bowler hat; others that the man with the bowler hat was
another person altogether, and did not call till the evening, whilst
this, again, was contradicted by another witness who said that the
man who called in the evening had very conspicuous ginger-coloured
hair and beard, but that he certainly wore a bowler hat.  And through
this mass of conflicting evidence there was always the fact that the
fog was very thick that night and that no one therefore was able to
swear very positively to anything.

"This, then, being all the information that could be gathered for the
moment from the outside, the police next decided to force an entry
into the empty house.  Its unlucky number justified, as you know, its
sinister reputation, because the first sight that greeted the
inspector when he entered the front room on the ground floor was the
body of a man lying in a pool of blood.  At first glance he looked
like a foreigner--youngish, and with jet-black hair and moustache.
By the side of him there was a damp towel, also stained with blood.
Closer examination revealed the fact that he was not dead, but he
seemed in a dead faint, and the inspector sent one of the men off at
once to telephone for the divisional surgeon.

"The wounded man was dressed in a dark suit.  He had on a gold watch
of foreign make, twenty pounds in notes, and some loose silver in his
pockets, and a letter addressed to 'Allen Lloyd, Esq.' at an hotel at
Boulogne.  The letter was a private one, relating unimportant family
events; it was signed by a Christian name only, and bore a London
postmark, but no address.  The police inspector took charge of the
letters and the money, and as the divisional surgeon had now arrived
and was busy with the wounded man, he proceeded to examine the

"The houses in Wicklow Lane all have small yards at the back.  These
yards end in a brick wall, the other side of which there is a railway
cutting.  It was obvious that No. 13 had been untenanted for some
time.  The dust of ages lay over window and door-frames, over broken
mantelpieces and dilapidated stoves.  There was not a stick of
anything anywhere; even the rubbish in the basement--such as is found
in every empty house, residue left over by the last tenant--had been
picked over until there was nothing left but dust and a few empty

"The front room in which the wounded man lay revealed very little.
Two bullets were found lodged in one of the walls; one, quite close
to the ceiling, suggesting that it had been fired in the air, and the
other at a height of seven feet from the ground.  The dust on the
floor had certainly been disturbed, but by how many pairs of feet it
was impossible to say.  On the other hand, the back room on the same
floor had quite a grim tale to tell.  It gave on the small backyard
with the wall as a background, beyond which was the railway cutting.
The window in this room was open.  In one corner there was an
ordinary sink which showed that water had been running from the tap
quite recently; there was a small piece of soap in the sink which had
also recently been used.  On the mantelpiece a small oak-framed
mirror was propped up against the wall and beside it on the shelf
there was the remnant of a burnt-out candle and a box of matches,
half empty.  And thrown down on the floor, in a corner of the room,
were a black Inverness cape and soft black hat with a very wide brim,
such as are usually affected by French students.

"It was, of course, difficult to reconstruct the assault just at
present, the wounded man being still in a state of stupor and unable
to give any account of himself, but the revolver was found lying at
the bottom of the yard close to the end wall.

"In the meanwhile the divisional surgeon had concluded his
examination.  He pronounced the wound to have been caused by one of
the bullets that had lodged in the wall of the front room.  It had
been fired at very close range, as the flesh was singed all round the
wound.  The bullet had gone right through the left deltoid, front to
back, and slightly upwards, just grazed the top of the shoulder, and
then lodged in the wall.  The surgeon was inclined to think that the
wound was self-inflicted, but this theory was thought to be
untenable, because if a man was such an obviously poor shot he would
surely have chosen some other way of putting an end to himself,
unless, indeed, he was a lunatic, which might account for any
incongruity in the known facts, even to the noise--the shouting and
the banging--that all the neighbours agreed had preceded the revolver

"But there certainly was one fact which discounted the attempted
suicide theory, and that was the undoubted presence of another man
upon the scene--the man with the ginger hair and the thick nose who
had called for the key at Messrs. Whiskin and Sons, and whom several
witnesses had actually seen entering the empty house, the man with
the parcel.  Now no one saw him come out again by the front door.  He
must have been in the house when the foreigner with the jet-black
hair came and joined him, and he must have slipped out later on in
the dark, under cover of the fog and rain, either by the front door
when nobody happened to be passing by, or over the wall and then by
the railway cutting.  Now what had brought these two men together in
an empty house, in one of the worst slums in London?  One man was
wounded; where was the other?  Had the revolver been dropped by one
of them in his flight or flung out of the window by a lunatic?  Was
it attempted suicide by a madman, or murder consequent on a quarrel,
or blackmail?  None of these questions was ever answered, nor was the
man with the ginger-coloured hair ever found.  There was absolutely
no clue by which he might be traced; the earth just swallowed him up
as if he had been a spook.

"Nor was the identity of the wounded man ever satisfactorily
established.  Who he was, where he came from, who were his associates
and what were his antecedents, he never revealed.  He was detained in
hospital for a time, as he certainly was suffering from loss of
memory.  But presently they had to let him go.  He had money and he
was otherwise perfectly sane, but to every question put to him he
only answered, 'I don't know!  I can't remember!'  He spoke English
without the slightest trace of foreign accent; all that was foreign
about him was his jet-black hair and beard.  Nor was the history of
the revolver ever traced to its source.  Where was it bought?  To
whom was it sold, and by whom?  Nobody ever knew."

"But where did the man go after he left the hospital?" I now asked,
seeing that the funny creature looked like curling himself up in his
corner and going to sleep.  "Surely he was kept under observation
when they let him out!"

"Of course he was," he replied glibly, "and for some time after that."

"Then where did he go," I reiterated, impatiently, "when he was
discharged from hospital?"

"He asked the way to the nearest public library and went straight
there; he looked down the columns of the _Morning Post_, scribbled a
few addresses on a scrap of paper, then he took a taxi and drove to
one of the private hotels in Mexborough Gate, where he engaged a
room, paying a fortnight's board and lodging in advance.  Here he
lived for some considerable time.  He was always plentifully supplied
with money, he bought himself clothes and linen, but where he got the
money from was never discovered.  For a time he was watched both by
the police and by amateur detectives eager for copy, but nothing was
ever discovered that would clear up the mystery.  From time to time
letters came for him at the hotel in Mexborough Gate.  They were
addressed to 'Allen Lloyd, Esq.' which may or may not have been a
taken-up name.  Presumably these letters contained remittances in
cash.  They were never traced to their source.  Anyway he always paid
his weekly bills at the hotel; but he never spoke to any one in the
place, nor, as far as could be ascertained, did he ever meet any one
or enter any house except the one he lodged in.

"Then one fine day he left the hotel, never to return.  He went out
one afternoon and nothing has been seen or heard of him from that day
to this.  The mysterious Mr. Allen Lloyd has disappeared in the
whirlpool of London, leaving no trace of his identity.  He had paid
his bill at the hotel that very day.  He left no debts and just a
very few personal belongings behind.  To all intents and purposes the
matter was relegated in the public mind to the category of unsolved
and unsolvable mysteries."


The Old Man in the Corner had paused.  From the capacious pocket of
his tweed ulster he now extracted a thick piece of string; his
claw-like fingers set to work.  The problem which police and public
had never been able to solve had, I had no doubt, presented few
difficulties to his agile brain.

"Tell me," I suggested.

He went on working away for a little while at an intricate knot, then
he said, "If you want to know more, you will have to listen to what
will seem to you an irrelevant story."

I professed my willingness to listen to anything he might choose to
tell me.

"Very well, then," he said.  "Let me take your mind back to that same
winter two years ago.  Do you remember the extraordinary theft of a
valuable collection of gems, the property of Sir James Narford?"

"I do."

"Do you know who Sir James Narford was?"

"I would prefer you to tell me," I replied.

"Sir James Narford," the funny creature went on glibly, "was a young
gentleman who had been employed during the war in one of the
Government departments; he was the only son of his father who was an
impoverished Irish baronet.  Soon after the Armistice, Sir James went
to South America to visit some relations.  He must have made a very
favourable impression on one of these--an eccentric old cousin who
died a very few months later and left to his English relative a
marvellous collection of pearls and other gems.  Some of these were
of priceless value, and as is the way with anything that is out of
the common, all sorts of stories grew around the romantic legacy.
The great worth and marvellous beauty of the jewels were told and
retold, with many embellishments no doubt, in the English papers.  It
was asserted that the Brazilian Government had valued them for
probate at a million pounds sterling; that there were diamonds--some
still uncut--that would make the Koh-i-noor or the Orloff look like
small bits of glass, and so on.  I daresay you can remember some of
the legends that gathered around Sir James Narford's gems.  By the
time the lucky owner of the fabulous treasure, who had gone out again
to Brazil in order to fetch away his jewels, had returned to England,
he was the object of universal interest and he and his gems were
photographed and paragraphed all over the place.

"But as I told you, the recipient of this princely legacy had always
been a poor man.  We may take it that the payment of legacy duty on
forty thousand pounds' worth of gems had impoverished him still
further.  Busybodies, of course, tried to persuade him to sell the
gems; he had numberless letters from diamond and pearl merchants,
asking for permission to see them with a view to purchase, but,
naturally enough, he didn't want to do anything in a hurry; he
deposited his treasure at the bank and then thought things over.  He
didn't want to sell, for he was inordinately proud of his new
possession and of the notoriety which it had conferred upon him.  It
was even rumoured that he had received more than one hint from fair
lips that if he proposed marriage, the owner of such beautiful jewels
would be certain of acceptance.

"I don't know who first suggested the idea to Sir James Narford that
he should exhibit the gems for the benefit of disabled soldiers and
sailors.  It was a splendid idea; 2s. 6d. was to be charged for
admission, and after deducting expenses of rent and attendants, the
profits were to go to that very laudable charity.  Suitable premises
were secured in Sackville Street.  These consisted of a shop with a
large plate-glass front and a small room at the back; the entrance
was through a front door and passage, which were common to the rest
of the house, and there were two doors in the passage, one of which
gave into the shop, and the other into the back room.  Sir James
spent a little money in getting up the place in modern style, and he
had some cases made for the display of the gems.  The door which gave
from the passage into the shop was condemned, and a heavy piece of
furniture placed against it.  The back room was only to be used as an
office and ante-room with communicating doors leading into the shop.

"In the daytime the gems were displayed in glass cases ranged right
and left of the shop; at night they were locked up in a safe which
stood in the middle of the shop, facing the plate-glass window and
with a blazing electric light kept on all night, just above the safe.
This is a very usual device with jewellers in a smaller way of
business.  The policeman on night duty can see at once if there is
anything wrong.

"Everything being ready, Sir James Narford asked a distinguished lady
friend of his to declare the show open, and for the first
fortnight--this, I must tell you, was in October--there was a steady
stream of visitors, ladies for the most part, who came to gaze on the
much-advertised gems.  You might wonder what pleasure there could be
in looking at things one could never hope to possess, especially at
loose gems, however precious, which, to my mind, only become
beautiful when they are mounted and set in artistic designs.
However, I do not profess to understand feminine mentality; all I
know is that Sir James Narford declared himself on more than one
occasion satisfied with the result of his little venture.  True that
after the first fortnight the attendance at the show fell off
considerably, and a few people did wonder why Sir James should
continue to keep it open for so long.  Those who had been most
curious to see the gems of fabulous value had flocked in the first
few days, after that there was only a very thin sprinkling of people
up from the country, or foreigners, who paid their 2s. 6d. admission
for the sight.  But be that as it may, the jewels were certainly
getting an additional amount of advertisement, and when presently the
owner would put them for sale, as no doubt he intended to do, they
would fetch a higher figure in consequence.  In the meanwhile Sir
James went on living very quietly in a small service flat in George
Street, waited on by a faithful servant, a man named Ruggles, whom he
had known for years.  Every day he would stroll round to Sackville
Street to look at his treasure and to talk to one or two friends.  At
six o'clock the exhibition would be closed, and Sir James would
himself deposit all the gems into the safe, lock up the premises, and
take the keys back with him to his flat.  He went out very little in
society, and only occasionally to his club.  His one extravagance
appeared to be a mania for travelling in all sorts of out-of-the-way
places; he had been seemingly in every corner of Europe--in
Czecho-Slovakia and Yugoslavia, in Montenegro, Bosnia, and
Bessarabia.  Before this whenever he went off on his travels he would
take his man with him and shut up the flat, but on the occasion which
presently arose he left Ruggles in charge of the exhibition in
Sackville Street.  This was early in November, about a fortnight
after the opening of the exhibition; and when Sir James had gone it
was Ruggles who every night at six o'clock put the gems away in the
safe and locked up the premises.  He then made a point of going for a
brisk walk, and returned to the flat at about half-past seven, had
his supper, read his paper, and then went to bed at about ten o'clock
with the keys of the safe and of the Sackville Street premises
underneath his pillow.

"One of the staff in the flats at George Street always got his supper
ready for him--some cold meat, bread and cheese, and half a pint of
beer, which the lift-boy invariably fetched for him from the Crown
and Sceptre round the corner.  He prepared his own breakfast in the
morning, and his other meals he took in Sackville Street.  They were
sent in from one of the cheaper restaurants in Piccadilly.

"Every morning the charwoman who cleaned the steps outside the block
of flats in George Street would see Ruggles come out of the house and
walk away in the direction of Sackville Street.  Even on Sundays he
would stroll round as far as the shop to see that everything was all

"It was on a snowy morning in January that the charwoman failed to
see Ruggles at his accustomed time.  As the quiet neighbourhood did
not as a rule lend itself much to gossip, the present opportunity was
not to be missed.  The charwoman, on meeting with the lift-boy,
imparted to him the priceless news that Mr. Ruggles must either be
ill or had gone and overslept himself.  Whereupon the lift-boy was
ready with the startling information that he had just observed that
one of the glass panels in the front door of Sir James Narford's flat
was broken.  'The glass wasn't broke in the evening, ten-thirty,' he
went on to say, 'when I took a party down who'd been visitin' Miss

"It seems that Miss Jenkins was maid to a lady who had a flat on the
same floor as Sir James Narford.  But there was the length of a
passage with staircase and lift between the two flats, and neither
the lady nor the maid, when spoken to by the lift-boy about the
broken glass panel, had heard anything during the night.  Now all
this seemed very strange, more especially as the morning hours wore
on and there was still no sign of Mr. Ruggles.  The lift-boy was kept
busy for the next hour taking the staff of the service flats up and
down in his lift, as every one wished to have a look at the broken
panel, and wanted to add their quota of opinion as to what had gone
on last night in Sir James Narford's flat.  At ten o'clock the
housekeeper, more responsible or more enterprising than the rest of
the staff, resolved to knock at the flat door.  No answer came.  She
then tried to peep through the broken glass panel, and to apply her
ear to it.  For a time all was silence.  The charwoman, the lift-boy,
the scullery-maid, and the head housemaid stood by on the landing,
holding their breath.  Suddenly they all gave a simultaneous gasp!  A
groan--distinctly a groan--was heard issuing from inside the flat!
The group of watchers looked at one another in dismay.  'What's to be
done?' they murmured.

"The lift-boy had the key of the flat, but as the front door was
bolted on the inside, the key in itself was no use.  The housekeeper
with the air of a general in command about to order a deathly charge,
said resolutely, 'I shall force my way in!'  And it was the lift-boy
who gasped, awe-stricken, 'You kin put your 'and through the broken
panel, mum, and pull the bolt.'

"Somehow this bright idea which had occurred to the lift-boy made
every one there feel still more uncomfortable.  The housekeeper, who
had been so bold a while ago, stammered something about fetching the
police, and when at that precise moment the lift-bell rang, the head
housemaid declared herself ready to faint.  But it was only Sir James
Narford who had rung for the lift from below.  He had arrived by the
night mail from Paris, and had only his small suit-case with him.
The lift-boy had the satisfaction of being the first to impart the
exciting news to him.  ''E took it badly, 'e did!' was that young
gentleman's comment on Sir James's reception of the news.  Without
taking the slightest notice of the group of excited women on the
landing, Sir James went straight to his front door, thrust his hand
through the broken panel, drew back the inside bolt, and stepped into
his flat.  The next moment the agitated crowd on the landing heard
him cry out, 'My God, Ruggles, what has happened?'  A feeble voice
which was scarcely recognisable as that of Ruggles was then heard
talking in short, jerky sentences, and a few moments later Sir
James's voice could be distinctly heard speaking on the telephone.

"'He is telephoning for the police,' the housekeeper solemnly
announced to the staff.

"Well," the Old Man in the Corner continued after a while, "let me
shorten my tale by telling you briefly the story which Ruggles told
the police.  It did not amount to a great deal, but such as it was it
revealed a degree of cunning and of daring in the ways of burglary
that have seldom been equalled.  Ruggles, it seems, had as usual put
away the gems in the safe and locked up the premises in Sackville
Street and then walked home to the flat, very glad, he declared, that
his responsibility would cease before another day went by, as he
expected Sir James home from abroad the following morning.  He had
his supper as usual, but when he settled down to read his paper, he
felt so sleepy that he just went and bolted the front door, placed
the keys underneath his pillow, and went straight to bed.  He
remembered nothing more until he felt himself roughly shaken and
heard his master's voice calling to him.  It took him some time to
collect himself; he felt dazed and his head ached terribly.  When Sir
James told him that it was past ten o'clock he could not conceive how
he could have overslept himself in this way.  Through force of habit
he put his hand under his pillow to grope for the keys.  They had
gone!  Then Sir James telephoned to the police.  That was all that
Ruggles could say.  His condition was pitiable; alternately bemoaning
his fate and cursing himself for a fool, he knelt at his master's
feet and with hands clasped begged for forgiveness.

"'I'd have done anything in the world for Sir James,' he kept
reiterating to the police officer, 'and 'ere I've been the ruin of
'im, just through over-sleepin'.'

"The police inspector got quite impatient with him, and at one time,
I think, he thought that the man was acting a part.  But Sir James
Narford himself indignantly repudiated any suggestion of the sort.
'I would trust Ruggles,' he said emphatically, 'as I would myself.  I
have known him for thirty years, and he was in my father's service
before that.  I trust him with my keys, with money, with everything.
He would have plenty of opportunity to rob me comfortably if he had a
mind.  What would a man of his class do with valuable gems?'

"All the same I fancy that the police did not altogether lose sight
of the possibility that Ruggles might know something about the
affair, but in spite of very clever questioning and
cross-questioning, his story never varied even in the minutest
detail.  All that he added to his original statement that was of any
value was the description of a foreign visitor at Sackville Street
whom, in his own words, he 'didn't like the looks of.'  This was a
youngish man, with very sallow complexion, jet-black hair and
moustache, and wearing a peculiar-looking caped overcoat and black
soft hat with a very wide brim, who had remained over half an hour in
the shop, apparently deeply interested in the gems.  At one time he
asked Ruggles whether he might have the glass cases opened, so that
he could examine the stones and pearls more closely.  This request
Ruggles very naturally refused.  The young man then put a lot of
questions to him: 'Where did the gems come from?  What was their
value?  Were they insured?  Where were they kept at night?  Was the
safe burglar-proof or only fireproof?' and so on.

"It seems that two ladies who were visiting the exhibition at the
same time noticed this same young man with the sallow complexion and
the jet-black hair.  They heard him questioning Ruggles and remarked
upon his foreign accent, which was neither Italian nor Spanish; they
thought he might be Portuguese.  His clothes were certainly very
outlandish.  The ladies had noticed the caped coat, a kind of black
Inverness, and the hat _à la_ Montmartre.  The presence of this
foreigner in the shop in Sackville Street became still more
significant later on, when another fact came to light--a fact in
connection with the half-pint of beer which the lift-boy from the
flats in George Street had fetched as usual on the evening preceding
the robbery, from the Crown and Sceptre public house.  A few drops of
the beer had remained in the mug beside the remnants of Ruggles's
supper.  On examination the beer was found to contain chloral.  The
lift-boy at first was probably too scared to throw any light on this
circumstance.  He had, he declared, fetched the beer as usual from
the Crown and Sceptre, taken it up to No. 4, Sir James Narford's
flat, and put it upon the table in the sitting-room, where Mr.
Ruggles's supper was already laid for him.  After repeated questions
from the police inspector, however, he recollected that on his way
from the public house to the flats, a gentleman accosted him and
asked him the way to Regent Street.  The boy, holding the mug of beer
in one hand, pointed out the way with the other and probably turned
his head in the same direction as he did so.  He couldn't say for
certain.  The gentleman seemed stupid and didn't understand the
directions all at once; the boy had to repeat them again and again,
and altogether was in conversation with the gentleman quite a while.
It was dark at the time, but he did see that the gentleman wore a
funny sort of coat and a funny hat, and as the boy picturesquely put
it, ''E spoke queer-like, as if 'e wor a Frenchman.'  To a lift-boy
presumably every foreigner is a Frenchman if he be not a German, and
though the lad's description of the coat and hat only amounted to his
calling them 'funny,' there seemed little doubt but that the man who
visited the shop in Sackville Street and the one who accosted the
lift-boy in George Street were one and the same.  There was also
little doubt but that he poured the drug into the mug of beer while
the boy's head was turned away.  And finally all doubts were set at
rest when the 'funny coat and hat' were discovered tied up in a
bundle in the area of an empty house, two doors higher up the street.

"Unfortunately, although these few facts were definitely established,
all traces of the man himself vanished after that.  How he got into
the block of flats could not be ascertained.  He might have slipped
in after the lift-boy, while the latter went upstairs with the beer,
and concealed himself somewhere in the basement.  It was impossible
to say.  The street-door was kept open as usual until eleven o'clock,
and until that hour the boy was in attendance at the lift; he had
been up and down several times, taking up residents or their
visitors, and while he ran to fetch the beer one of the maids saw to
the lift, if the bell rang.  At eleven o'clock every evening the
street-door was closed, but not bolted; it was provided with a Yale
lock and every resident had one key, in case they came in late; the
lift was not worked after that hour, but there was a light kept on
every landing.  These lights the housemaid switched off the first
thing every morning when she did the stairs, and as a matter of fact
she remembered that on that memorable morning the light on the top
floor landing--which is the landing outside Sir James Narford's
flat--was already switched off when she went to do it.

"And those are all the facts," the Old Man in the Corner went on
slowly, while he paused in his work of fashioning intricate knots in
his beloved bit of string, "all the facts that were ever known in
connection with the theft of Sir James Narford's gems.  Of course, as
you may well suppose, not only the official but also the public mind
at once flew to the mysterious personage, originally found wounded in
an empty house in Wicklow Lane.  There could be no shadow of doubt
that this man and the one who visited the shop in Sackville Street,
who accosted the lift-boy, drugged Ruggles's beer and robbed him of
his keys, were one and the same.  There was the black caped coat, the
Montmartre hat, the jet-black hair and foreign look.  True, the
wounded man of Wicklow Lane spoke English without any foreign accent,
but the latter could easily be assumed.  Indeed, it all seemed plain
sailing, and as soon as the word went round about the robbery in
Sackville Street and the description was given of the foreign-looking
individual with the jet-black hair, the police thought they had a
perfectly clear case.

"A clear case, yes!" the funny creature went on, with a grin, "but
not an easy one, because when the police called at the hotel in
Mexborough Gate they learned that the mysterious Mr. Allen Lloyd had
been gone three days.  Having paid his bill, he had walked out of the
house one dark afternoon and not been seen or heard of since.  He
went off carrying a paper parcel, which no doubt contained the few
belongings he had bought of late.

"Of course he was the thief and a marvellous cunning one.  Just think
what it meant.  It meant, first of all, immense presence of mind and
daring to accost the lift-boy and engage him in conversation whilst
pouring a drug into a mug of beer; then it meant sneaking into the
block of flats in George Street, breaking the glass panel of a door,
entering the flat, stealing the keys, sneaking out of the building
again, going round to Sackville Street, watching until the police on
duty had passed by, entering the house, opening the safe, collecting
the gems--all in full view of the street, mind you, or else in
absolute darkness--then relocking the safe and again watching for the
opportunity to sneak out of the house until the man on duty was out
of sight.  Clever?  I should think it would have been clever, if it
had ever been done!"

"How do you mean, if it had ever been done?" I ejaculated, with some
impatience.  "Whoever the thief was--and I suppose that you have your
theory--he must have done all those things."

"Oh no, he did not!" the funny creature asserted emphatically, "he
merely put all the gems away in his own pocket after the exhibition
was closed for the night, instead of locking them up in the safe."

"Then you think it was Ruggles?" I exclaimed.

"In conjunction with his master."

"Sir James Narford?  But why?"

"For the sake of the insurance money."

"But, man alive!" I ejaculated, "that was the tragedy of the whole
thing.  I remember reading about it at the time.  I suppose that it
was either out of meanness or because he had so little ready money,
but Sir James Narford had only insured his treasure for £20,000,
whereas the jewels----"

"Were not worth a penny more than that," the Old Man in the Corner
broke in with his bland smile.  "The public may have been bamboozled
with tales of fabulous value--nowadays people talk as glibly of
millions as the past generation did of thousands--but insurance
companies don't usually listen to fairy tales."

"But even so," I argued, "the jewels must have been worth more than
the insurance after all the advertisement they got.  Why shouldn't
Sir James have sold them, rather than take the risk of stealing them?"

"But, my dear young lady," he retorted, "can't you see that the
jewels can still be sold and that they will
be--abroad--presently--one by one?  Twenty thousand pounds insurance
money is good, but you double the amount and it is better."

"But what about the wounded man in Wicklow Lane?" I asked.

"A red herring across the trail," he replied, with a smile, "only
with this difference, that it was dragged across before the hounds
were on the scent.  And that is where the immense cleverness of the
man comes in.  To create a personality on whom to draw suspicion of a
crime and then make that personality disappear before the crime is
committed, is as clever a bit of rascality as I have ever seen.  It
needed absolute coolness and a knowledge of facial make-up, in both
of which we must take it Sir James Narford was a past-master.  Think
then how easy everything else would be for him.

"Just let me reconstruct the whole thing for you from beginning to
end, that is from the moment when Sir James Narford first conceived
the idea of doubling the value of his gems, and took his man Ruggles
as partner in that fine piece of rascality.  He couldn't have done it
without a partner, of course, and probably this was not the first
villainy those two scoundrels had carried through together.  Well
then, Narford having given instructions to Ruggles and arranged
certain matters of detail with him, begins his campaign by ostensibly
starting on a journey.  He crossed over to France probably and then
back to England.  It is easy enough for a man to disappear in crowded
trains or railway stations if there is no one on his track; easy
enough for him to stay in one hotel after another in any big town if
he chooses hotels whose proprietors have reason to dread the police,
and will not volunteer information if any of their visitors are
'wanted.'  A month only of such wanderings and Sir James Narford,
habitually a very dapper man, with sleek, sandy hair cropped very
close, a tiny tooth-brush moustache and shaven cheeks and chin, can
easily be transformed into one with shaggy hair and beard and walrus
moustache.  Add to this a nose built out with grease-paint and highly
coloured, and cheeks stained a dull red, and you have the man who
called for the key of the empty house at Messrs. Whiskin and Sons,
with a parcel under his arm, which contained the black cape and
Montmartre hat purchased abroad at some time previously, during the
course of his wanderings.  That's simple, is it not?" the funny
creature continued, while his thin, claw-like fingers worked away
feverishly at his piece of string.  "Now, all that our rascal wants
is to change his clothes and his face; so, late that evening, by
preconcerted plan, Ruggles meets him at the empty house under cover
of the fog.  Here he and his precious master change clothes with one
another.  Narford then completes his toilet by applying to his shaggy
hair and beard one of those modern dyes that are so much advertised
for the use of ladies desiring to possess raven locks.  And so we
have the explanation of all the conflicting evidence of the witnesses
who saw a man with a parcel, and yet were so much at variance both as
to the time when they saw him, as to his appearance, and even as to
the size of the parcel.

"Having thus _created_ the personality of a foreign-looking
individual in black clothes, you will easily see how important it was
for the general scheme that the comedy of the row and the
pistol-shots in the empty house should be enacted.  Attention had to
be drawn to the created personage, attention coupled with mystery,
and at this stage of the scheme there was not the slightest danger of
the wounded man in Wicklow Lane being in any way connected with Sir
James Narford of George Street, Mayfair.  Time was no object.  The
mysterious Mr. Allen Lloyd of Wicklow Lane might be detained days,
weeks, even months, but he would have to be let out some time or
other.  He was perfectly harmless apparently, and otherwise sane; he
could not be kept for ever at the country's expense.  He was
eventually discharged; went to an hotel, and lived there quietly a
while longer until he thought that the time was ripe for complete
disappearance.  In the meanwhile we must suppose that he was in touch
with Ruggles.  Ruggles made a point of taking a brisk walk every
evening.  Well, winter evenings are dark and London is a very crowded
place.  Ruggles would bring what money was required.  What more easy
than to meet in a crowd?

"Then at last the two rascals thought that the time was ripe.  The
mysterious Mr. Allen Lloyd disappeared from the hotel in Mexborough
Gate; he went to Sackville Street, where he shaved off his shaggy
moustache and beard, and cut his hair once more so close that nothing
of the dyed ends could be seen.  He changed into his own clothes,
which Ruggles kept there ready for him.  Then he slipped round to
Victoria Station and crossed over to France, only in order to return
to England, openly this time, as Sir James Narford, and just in time
to find Ruggles just aroused from a drugged sleep and the whole flat
seething with excitement.  But it was he who in black cape and
Montmartre hat visited the shop in Sackville Street, it was Ruggles
who the following night spoke to the lift-boy, even while Narford was
procuring for himself a perfect alibi by crossing over quite openly
from France.

"Ruggles's task was, of course, much easier.  All he had to do was to
put the gems in his pocket, and these Narford took over from him in
the morning at the flat before he telephoned for the police.  To put
on the black cape and hat and to accost the lift-boy was easy enough
on a dark, snowy night in January.  And now all the excitement has
died down.  The whole thing was so cleverly planned that the real
rascal was never suspected.  Ruggles may have been but nothing could
really be brought up against him.  The gems haven't been found and to
all appearances he has not benefited by the robbery.  He is just the
faithful, trusted servant of his master.

"Sir James Narford has got his money from the Insurance Company and
since then has left for abroad.  By the way," the Old Man in the
Corner concluded, as he gathered up his precious bit of string and
slipped it in the pocket of his ulster, "I heard recently that he has
bought some property in Argentina and has settled down there
permanently with his friend Ruggles.  I think he was wise to do that,
and if you care to publish my version of that mysterious affair, you
are at liberty to do so.  I don't think that our friend would sue you
for defamation of character, and, anyway, I'll undertake to pay
damages if the case comes into court."




"One of the most puzzling cases I ever remember watching," the Old
Man in the Corner said to me that day, "was the one known to the
public as that of 'The Miser of Maida Vale.'  It presented certain
altogether novel features, and for once I was willing to admit that,
though the police had a very hard nut to crack in the elucidation of
the mystery, and in the end failed to find a solution, they were at
one time very near putting their finger on the key of the puzzle.  If
they had only possessed some of that instinct for true facts with
which Nature did so kindly endow me, there is no doubt that they
would have brought that clever criminal to book."

I wish it were in my power to convey something of that air of
ludicrous complacency with which he said this.  I could almost hear
him purring to himself, like a lean, shabby old cat.  He had his
inevitable bit of string in his hand, and had been in rapturous
contemplation of a series of knots which he had been fashioning until
the moment when I sat down beside him and he began to speak.  But as
soon as he embarked upon his beloved topic he turned his rapturous
contemplation on himself.  He just sat there and admired himself, and
now and again blinked at me, with such an air of self-satisfaction
that I longed to say something terribly rude first, and then to
flounce out of the place, leaving him to admire himself at his

But, of course, this could not be.  To use the funny creature's own
verbiage, Nature had endowed me with the journalistic instinct.  I
had to listen to him; I had to pick his brains and to get copy out of
him.  The irresistible desire to learn something new, something that
would thrill my editor, as well as my public, compelled me to swallow
my impatience, to smile at him--somewhat wryly, perhaps--and then to
beg him to proceed.

I was all attention.

"Well," he said, still wearing an irritating air of condescension,
"do you remember the case of the old miser of Maida Vale?"

"Only vaguely," I was willing to admit.

"It presented some very interesting features," he went on, blandly,
"and assuming that you really only remember them vaguely, I will put
them before you as clearly as possible, in order that you may follow
my argument more easily later on.

"The victim of the mysterious tragedy was, as no doubt you remember,
an eccentric old invalid named Thornton Ashley, the well-known naval
constructor, who had made a considerable fortune during the war and
then retired, chiefly, it was said, owing to ill-health.  He had two
sons, one of whom, Charles, was a misshapen, undersized creature,
singularly unprepossessing both in appearance and in manner, whilst
the other, Philip, was a tall, good-looking fellow, very agreeable
and popular wherever he went.  Both these young men were bachelors, a
fact which, it appears, had been for some time a bone of contention
between them and their father.  Old Ashley was passionately fond of
children, and the one desire of his declining years was to see the
grandchildren who would ultimately enjoy the fortune which he had
accumulated.  Whilst he was ready to admit that Charles, with his
many afflictions, did not stand much chance with the fair sex, there
was no reason at all why Philip should not marry, and there had been
more than one heated quarrel between father and son on that one

"So much so, indeed, that presently Philip cut his stick and went to
live in rooms in Jermyn Street.  He had a few hundreds a year of his
own, left to him by a godmother.  He had been to Rugby and to
Cambridge, and had been a temporary officer in the war: pending his
obtaining some kind of job he settled down to live the life of a
smart young bachelor in town, whilst his brother Charles was left to
look after the old man, who became more and more eccentric as his
health gradually broke up.  He sold his fine house in Hyde Park
Gardens, his motor, and the bulk of his furniture, and moved into a
cheap flat in Maida Vale, where he promptly took to his bed, which he
never left again.  His eccentricities became more and more pronounced
and his temper more and more irascible.  He took a violent dislike to
strangers, refused to see anybody except his sons and two old
friends, Mr. Oldwall, the well-known solicitor, and Dr.
Fanshawe-Bigg, who visited him from time to time and whose orders he
obstinately refused to obey.  Worst of all, as far as the unfortunate
Charles was concerned, he became desperately mean, denying himself
(and, incidentally, his son) every luxury, subsisting on the barest
necessities, and keeping no servant to wait on him except a daily

"Soon his miserliness degenerated into a regular mania.

"'Charles and I are saving money for the grand-children you are going
to give me one day,' he would say with a chuckle whenever Philip
tried to reason with him on the subject of this self-denying
ordinance.  'When you have an establishment of your own, you can
invite us to come and live with you.  There will be plenty then for
housekeeping, I promise you!'

"At which the handsome Philip would laugh and shrug his shoulders and
go back to his comfortable rooms in Jermyn Street.  But no one knew
what Charles thought about it all.  To an outsider his case must
always have appeared singularly pathetic.  He had no money of his own
and his delicate health had made it impossible for him to take up any
profession: he could not cut his stick like his brother Philip had
done, but, truth to tell, he did not appear to wish to do so.
Perhaps it was real fondness for his father that made him seem
contented with his lot.  Certain it is that as time went on he became
a regular slave to the old man, waiting on him hand and foot, more
hard-worked than the daily 'char,' who put on her bonnet and walked
out of the flat every day at six o'clock when her work was done, and
who had all her Sundays to herself.

"All the relaxation that Charles ever had were alternate week-ends,
when his brother Philip would come over and spend Saturday to Monday
in the flat taking charge of the invalid.  On those occasions Charles
would get on an old bicycle, and with just a few shillings in his
pocket which he had saved during the past fortnight out of the meagre
housekeeping allowance which he handled, he would go off for the day
somewhere into the country, nobody ever knew where.  Then on Monday
morning he would return to the flat in Maida Vale, ready to take up
his slave's yoke, to all appearances with a light heart.

"'Charles Ashley is wise,' the gossiping acquaintances would say, 'he
sticks to the old miser.  Thornton Ashley can't live for ever, and
Oldwall says that he is worth close on a quarter of a million.'

"Philip, on the other hand, could have had no illusions with regard
to his father's testamentary intentions.  The bone of
contention--Philip's celibacy--was still there, making bad blood
between father and son; more than once the old miser had said to him
with a sardonic grin: 'Let me see you married soon, my boy, and with
a growing family around you, or I tell you that my money shall go to
that fool Charles, or to the founding of an orphan asylum or the
establishment of a matrimonial agency.'

"Mr. Oldwall, the solicitor, a very old friend of the Ashleys, and
who had seen the two boys grow up, threw out as broad a hint to
Philip on that same subject as professional honour allowed.

"'Your father,' he said to him one day, 'has got that mania for
saving money, but otherwise he is perfectly sane, you know.  He'll
never forgive you if you don't gratify his wish to see you married.
Hang it all, man, there are plenty of nice girls about.  And what on
earth would poor old Charles do with a quarter of a million, I'd like
to know.'

"But for a long time Philip remained obstinate and his friends knew
well enough the cause of this obstinacy; it had its root in a pre-war
romance.  Philip Ashley had been in love--some say that he had
actually been engaged to her--with a beautiful girl, Muriel Balleine,
the daughter of the eminent surgeon, Sir Arnold Balleine.  The two
young people were thought to be devoted to one another.  But the
lovely Muriel had, as it turned out, another admirer in Sir Wilfred
Peet-Jackson, the wealthy shipowner, who worshipped her in secret.
Philip Ashley and Wilfred Peet-Jackson were great friends; they had
been at school and 'Varsity together.  In 1915 they both obtained a
commission in the Coldstreams and in 1916 Peet-Jackson was very
severely wounded.  He was sent home to be nursed by the beautiful
Muriel in her father's hospital in Grosvenor Square.  His case had
already been pronounced hopeless, and Sir Arnold himself, as well as
other equally eminent surgeons, gave it as their opinion that the
unfortunate young man could not live more than a few months--if that.

"We must then take it that pity and romance played their part in the
events that ensued.  Certain it is that London society was one day
thrilled to read in its _Times_ that Miss Muriel Balleine had been
married the previous morning to Sir Wilfred Peet-Jackson, the wealthy
shipowner and owner of lovely Deverill Castle in Northamptonshire.
Her friends at once put it about that Muriel had only yielded to a
dying man's wish, and that there was nothing mercenary or calculating
in this unexpected marriage; she probably would be a widow within a
very short time and free to return to her original love and to marry
Philip Ashley.  But in this case, like in so many others in life, the
unexpected occurred.  Sir Wilfred Peet-Jackson did not die--not just
then.  He lived six years after the doctors had said that he must die
in six months.  He remained an invalid and he and his beautiful wife
spent their winters in the Canaries and their summers in Switzerland,
but Muriel did not become a widow until 1922, and Philip Ashley all
that time never looked at another girl; he was even willing to allow
a fortune to slip away from him, because he always hoped that the
woman whom he had never ceased to worship would be his wife one day.

"Probably old Ashley knew all that; probably he hated the idea that
this one woman should spoil his son's life for always; probably he
thought that threat of disinheritance would bring Philip back out of
the realms of romance to the realities of life.  All this we shall
never know.  The old man spoke to no one about that, not even to Mr.
Oldwall, possibly not even to Charles.  By the time that Sir Wilfred
Peet-Jackson had died and Philip had announced his engagement to the
beautiful widow, Thornton Ashley was practically a dying man.
However, he did have the satisfaction before he died of hearing the
good news.  Philip told him of his engagement one Saturday in May
when he came for his usual fortnightly week-end visit.  Strangely
enough, although the old man must have been delighted at this tardy
realisation of his life's desire, he did not after that make any
difference in his mode of life.  He remained just as irascible, just
as difficult, and every bit as mean as he had always been; he never
asked to see his future daughter-in-law, whom he had known in the
past, though she did come once or twice to see him; nor did he
encourage Philip to come and see him any more frequently than he had
done before.  The only indication he ever gave that he was pleased
with the engagement was an obvious impatience to see the wedding-day
fixed as soon as possible, and one day he worked himself up into a
state of violent passion because Philip told him that Lady
Peet-Jackson was bound to let a full year lapse before she married
again, out of respect for poor Wilfred's memory.


"Of course a good deal of gossip was concentrated on all these
events.  Although Thornton Ashley had, for the past three years, cut
himself adrift from all social intercourse, past friends and
acquaintances had not altogether forgotten him, whilst Philip Ashley
and Lady Peet-Jackson had always been well-known figures in a certain
set in London.  It was not likely, therefore, that their affairs
would not be discussed and commented on at tea-parties and in the
clubs.  Philip Ashley was exalted to the position of a hero.  By his
marriage he would at last grasp the fortune which he had so
obstinately and romantically evaded: true love was obtaining its just
reward, and so on.  Lady Peet-Jackson, on the other hand, was not
quite so leniently dealt with by the gossips.  It was now generally
averred that she had originally thrown Philip Ashley over only
because Peet-Jackson was a very rich man and had a handle to his
name, and that she was only returning to her former lover now because
Thornton Ashley had already one foot in the grave, and was reputed to
be worth a quarter of a million.

"I have a photograph here," the Old Man in the Corner went on, and
threw a bundle of newspaper cuttings down before me, "of Lady
Peet-Jackson.  As no doubt you will admit, she is very beautiful, but
the face is hard; looking at it one feels instinctively that she is
not a woman who would stand by a man in case of trouble or disgrace.
But it is difficult to judge from these smudgy reproductions, and
there is no doubt that Philip Ashley was madly in love with her.
That she had enemies, especially amongst those of her own sex, was
only natural in view of the fact that she was exceptionally
beautiful, had made one brilliant marriage, and was on the point of
making another.

"But the two romantic lovers were not the sole food of the
gossip-mongers.  There was the position of Charles Ashley to be
discussed and talked over.  What was going to become of him?  How
would he take this change in his fortune?  If rumour, chiefly based
on Mr. Oldwall's indiscretions, was correct, he would be losing that
reputed quarter of a million if Philip's marriage came off.  But in
this case gossip had to rest satisfied with conjectures.  No one ever
saw Charles, and Philip, when questioned about him, had apparently
very little to say.

"'Charles is a queer fish,' he would reply.  'I don't profess to know
what goes on inside him.  He seems delighted at the prospect of my
marriage, but he doesn't say much.  He is very shy and very sensitive
about his deformity, and he won't see any one now, not even Muriel.'

"And thus the stage was set," the funny creature continued with a
fatuous grin, "for the mysterious tragedy which has puzzled the
public and the police as much as the friends of the chief actors in
the drama.  It was set for the scene of Philip Ashley's marriage to
Muriel Lady Peet-Jackson, which was to take place very quietly at St.
Saviour's, Warwick Road, early in the following year.

"On the twenty-seventh of August old Thornton Ashley died, that is to
say he was found dead in his bed by his son Charles, who had returned
that morning from his fortnightly week-end holiday.  The cause of
death was not in question at first, though Dr. Fanshawe-Bigg was out
of town at the moment, his _locum tenens_ knew all about the case,
and had seen the invalid on the Thursday preceding his death.  In
accordance with the amazing laws of this country, he gave the
necessary certificate without taking a last look at the dead man, and
Thornton Ashley would no doubt have been buried then and there,
without either fuss or ceremony, but for the amazing events which
thereupon followed one another in quick succession.

"The funeral had been fixed for Thursday, the thirtieth, but within
twenty-four hours of the old miser's death it had already transpired
that he had indeed left a considerable fortune, which included one or
two substantial life insurances, and that the provisions of his will
were very much as Philip Ashley and his friends had surmised.  After
sundry legacies to various charitable institutions concerned with the
care of children, Thornton Ashley had left the residue of his
personalty to whichever of his sons was first married within a year
from the time of the testator's death, the other son receiving an
annuity of three hundred pounds.  This clearly was aimed at Philip,
as poor misshapen Charles had always been thought to be out of the
running.  Moreover, a further clause in the will directed that in the
event of both the testator's sons being still unmarried within that
given time, then the whole of the residue was to go to Charles, with
an annuity of one hundred pounds to Philip and a sum of ten thousand
pounds for the endowment of an orphan asylum at the discretion of the
Charity Organisation Society.

"There were a few conjectures as to whether Charles Ashley, who, by
his brother's impending marriage, would be left with a paltry three
hundred pounds a year, would contest his father's will on the grounds
of _non compos mentis_, but, as you know, it is always very difficult
in this country to upset a will, and the provisions of this
particular one were so entirely in accord with the wishes expressed
by the deceased on every possible occasion, that the plea that he was
of unsound mind when he made it would never have been upheld, quite
apart from the fact that Mr. Oldwall, who drew up the will and signed
it as one of the witnesses, would have repudiated any suggestion that
his client was anything but absolutely sane at the time.

"Everything then appeared quite smooth and above board when suddenly,
like a bolt from the blue, came the demand from the Insurance Company
in which the late Mr. Thornton Ashley had a life policy for forty
thousand pounds for a _post-mortem_ examination, the company not
being satisfied that the deceased had died a natural death.
Naturally, Dr. Percy Jutt, who had signed the death certificate, was
furious, but he was overruled by the demands of the Insurance
Company, backed by no less a person than Charles Ashley.  Indeed, it
soon transpired that it was in consequence of certain statements made
by Mr. Triscott, a local solicitor, on behalf of Charles Ashley to
the general manager of the company, that the latter took action in
the matter.

"Philip Ashley, through his solicitor, Mr. Oldwall, and backed by Dr.
Jutt, might perhaps have opposed the proceedings, but quite apart
from the fact that opposition from that quarter would have been
impolitic, it probably also would have been unsuccessful.  Anyway,
the sensation-mongers had quite a titbit to offer to the public that
afternoon; the evening papers came out before midday with flaring
headlines: 'The mystery miser of Maida Vale.'  Also, 'Sensational
developments,' and 'Sinister Rumours.'

"By four o'clock in the afternoon some of the papers had it that a
_post-mortem_ examination of the body of the late Mr. Thornton Ashley
had been conducted by Dr. Dawson, the divisional surgeon, and that it
had revealed the fact that the old miser had not died a natural
death, traces of violence having been discovered on the body.  It was
understood that the police were already in possession of certain
facts and that the coroner of the district would hold an inquest on
Thursday, the thirtieth, the very day on which the funeral was to
have taken place."


"Now I have attended many an inquest in my day," the Old Man in the
Corner continued after a brief pause, during which his claw-like
fingers worked away with feverish energy at his bit of string, "but
seldom have I been present at a more interesting one.  There were so
many surprises, such an unexpected turn of events, that one was kept
on tenterhooks the whole time as to what would happen next.

"Even to those who were in the know, the witnesses in themselves were
a surprise.  Of course, every one knew Mr. Oldwall, the solicitor and
life-long friend of old Thornton Ashley, and the divisional surgeon,
whose evidence would be interesting; then there was poor Charles
Ashley and his handsome brother, Philip, now the owner of a
magnificent fortune, whose romantic history had more than once been
paragraphed in the Press.  But what in the world had Mr. Triscott, a
local lawyer whom nobody knew, and Mrs. Trapp, a slatternly old
'char,' to do with the case?  And there was also Dr. Percy Jutt, who
had not come out of the case with flying professional colours, and
who must have cursed the day when he undertook the position of _locum
tenens_ for Dr. Fanshawe-Bigg.

"The proceedings began with the sensational evidence of Dr. Dawson,
the divisional surgeon, who had conducted the _post-mortem_.  He
stated that the deceased had been in an advanced state of uræmia, but
this had not actually been the cause of death.  Death was due to
heart failure, caused by fright and shock, following on violent
aggression and an attempt at strangulation.  There were marks round
the throat, and evidences of a severe blow having been dealt on the
face and cranium causing concussion.  In the patient's weak state of
health, shock and fright had affected the heart's action with fatal

"All the while that the divisional surgeon gave evidence, going into
technical details which the layman could not understand, Dr. Percy
Jutt had obvious difficulty to control himself.  He had a fidgety,
nervous way with him and was constantly biting his nails.  When he,
in his turn, entered the witness-box, he was as white as a sheet and
tried to hide his nervousness behind a dictatorial, blustering
manner.  In answer to the coroner, he explained that he had been
acting as _locum tenens_ for Dr. Fanshawe-Bigg, who was away on his
holiday.  He had visited the deceased once or twice during the past
fortnight, and had last seen him on the Thursday preceding his death.
Dr. Fanshawe-Bigg had left him a few notes on the case.

"'I found,' he went on to explain, 'the deceased in an advanced stage
of uræmia, and there was very little that I could do, more especially
as I was made to understand that my visits were not particularly
wanted.  On the Thursday, deceased was in a very drowsy state, this
being one of the best-known symptoms of the disease, and I didn't
think that he could live much longer.  I told Mr. Charles Ashley so;
at the same time, I did not think that the end would come quite so
soon.  However, I was not particularly surprised when on the Monday
morning I received a visit from Mr. Charles Ashley who told me that
his father was dead.  I found him very difficult to understand,' Dr.
Jutt continued, in reply to a question from the coroner, 'emotion
had, I thought, addled his speech a little.  He may have tried to
tell me something in connection with his father's death, but I was so
rushed with work that morning, and, as I say, I was fully prepared
for the event, that all I could do was to promise to come round some
time during the day, and, in the meanwhile, in order to facilitate
arrangements for the funeral, I gave the necessary certificate.  I
was entirely within my rights,' he concluded, with somewhat
aggressive emphasis, 'and, as far as I can recollect, Mr. Charles
Ashley said nothing that in any way led me to think that there was
anything wrong.'

"Mr. Oldwall, the solicitor, was the next witness called, and his
testimony was unimportant to the main issue.  He had drafted the late
Mr. Thornton Ashley's will in 1919, and had last seen him alive
before starting on a short holiday some time in June.  Deceased had
just heard then of his son's engagement and witness thought him
looking wonderfully better and brighter than he had been for a long

"'Mr. Ashley,' the coroner asked, 'didn't say anything to you then
about any alteration to his will?'

"'Most emphatically, no!' the witness replied.

"'Or at any time?'

"'At no time,' Mr. Oldwall asserted.

"These questions put by the coroner in quick succession had,
figuratively speaking, made every one sit up.  Up to now the general
public had not been greatly interested, one had made up one's mind
that the old miser had kept certain sums of money, after the fashion
of his kind, underneath his mattress; that some evil-doer had got
wind of this and entered the flat when no one was about, giving poor
Thornton Ashley a fright that had cost him his life.

"But with this reference to some possible alteration in the will the
case at once appeared more interesting.  Suddenly one felt on the
alert, excitement was in the air, and when the next witness, a
middle-aged, dapper little man, wearing spectacles, a grey suit and
white spats, stood up to answer questions put to him by the coroner,
a suppressed gasp of anticipatory delight went round the circle of

"The witness gave his name as James Triscott, solicitor, of Warwick
Avenue.  He said that he had known the deceased slightly, having seen
him on business in connection with the lease of 73, Malvine Mansions,
the landlord being a client of his.  On the previous Friday, that is,
the twenty-fourth, witness received a note written in a crabbed hand
and signed, 'A. Thornton Ashley,' asking him to call at Malvine
Mansions any time during the day.  This Mr. Triscott did that same
afternoon.  The door was opened by Mr. Charles Ashley whom he had
also met once or twice before, who showed him into the room where the
deceased lay in bed, obviously very ill, but perfectly conscious and

"'After some preliminary talk,' the witness went on, 'the deceased
explained to me that he was troubled in his mind about a will which
he had made some four years previously, and which had struck him of
late as being both harsh and unjust.  He desired to make a new will,
revoking the previous one.  I naturally told him that I was entirely
at his service, and he then dictated his wishes to me.  I made notes
and promised to have the will ready for his signature by Monday.  The
thought of this delay annoyed him considerably, and he pressed me
hard to have everything ready for him by the next day.
Unfortunately, I couldn't do that.  I was obliged to go off into the
country that evening on business for another client, and couldn't
possibly be back before midday Saturday, when my clerk and typist
would both be gone.  All I could do was to promise faithfully to call
again on Monday at eleven o'clock with the will quite ready for
signature.  I said I would bring my clerk with me, who could then
sign as a witness.

"'I quite saw the urgency of the business,' Mr. Triscott went on in
his brisk, rather consequential way, 'as the poor old gentleman
certainly looked very ill.  Before I left he asked me to let him at
least have a copy of my notes before I went away this evening.  This
I was able to promise him.  I got my clerk to copy the notes and to
take them round to the flat later on in the day.'

"I can assure you," the Old Man in the Corner said, "that while that
dapper little man was talking, you might have heard the proverbial
pin drop amongst the public.  You see, this was the first that any
one had ever heard of any alteration in old Ashley's will, and Mr.
Triscott's evidence opened up a vista of exciting situations that was
positively dazzling.  When he ceased speaking, you might almost have
heard the sensation-mongers licking their chops like a lot of cats
after a first bite at a succulent meal; glances were exchanged, but
not a word spoken, and presently a sigh of eagerness went round when
the coroner put the question which every one had been anticipating:

"'Have you got the notes, Mr. Triscott, which you took from the late
Mr. Thornton Ashley's dictation?'

"At which suggestion Mr. Oldwall jumped up, objecting that such
evidence was inadmissible.  There was some legal argument between him
and the coroner, during which Mr. Triscott, still standing in the
witness-box, beamed at his colleague and at the public generally
through his spectacles.  In the end the jury decided the point by
insisting on having the notes read out to them.

"Briefly, by the provisions of the new will, which was destined never
to be signed, the miser left his entire fortune, with the exception
of the same trifling legacies and of an annuity of a thousand pounds
a year to Philip, to his son Charles absolutely, in grateful
recognition for years of unflagging devotion to an eccentric and
crabbed invalid.  Mr. Triscott explained that on the Monday morning
he had the document quite ready by eleven o'clock, and that he walked
round with it to Malvine Mansions, accompanied by his clerk.  Great
was his distress when he was met at the door by Charles Ashley, who
told him that old Mr. Thornton Ashley was dead.

"That was the substance of Mr. Triscott's evidence, and I can assure
you that even I was surprised at the turn which events had taken.
You know what the sensation-mongers are; within an hour of the
completion of Mr. Triscott's evidence, it was all over London that
Mr. Philip Ashley had murdered his father in order to prevent his
signing a will that would deprive him--Philip--of a fortune.  That is
the way of the world," the funny creature added with a cynical smile.
"Philip's popularity went down like a sail when the wind suddenly
drops, and in a moment public sympathy was all on the side of
Charles, who had been done out of a fortune by a grasping and
unscrupulous brother.

"But there was more to come.

"The next witness called was Mrs. Triscott, the wife of the dapper
little solicitor, and her presence here in connection with the death
of old Thornton Ashley seemed as surprising at first as that of her
husband had been.  She looked a hard, rather common, but capable
woman, and after she had replied to the coroner's preliminary
questions, she plunged into her story in a quiet, self-assured
manner.  She began by explaining that she was a trained nurse, but
had given up her profession since her marriage.  Now and again,
however, either in an emergency or to oblige a friend, she had taken
care of a patient.

"'On Friday evening last,' she continued, 'Mr. Triscott, who was just
going off into the country on business, said to me that he had a
client in the neighbourhood who was very ill, and about whom, for
certain reasons, he felt rather anxious.  He went on to say that he
was chiefly sorry for the son, a delicate man, who was sadly
deformed.  Would I, like a good Samaritan, go and look after the sick
man during the weekend?  It seems that the doctor had ordered
absolute rest, and Mr. Triscott feared that there might be some
trouble with another son because, as a matter of fact, the old man
had decided to alter his will.

"'I knew nothing about Mr. Thornton Ashley's family affairs,' the
witness said, in reply to a question put to her by the coroner, and
calmly ignoring the sensation which her statement was causing,
'beyond what I have just told you that Mr. Triscott said to me, but I
agreed to go to Malvine Mansions and see if I could be of any use.  I
arrived at the flat on Friday evening and saw at once what the
invalid was suffering from.  I had nursed cases of uræmia before, and
I could see that the poor old man had not many more days to live.
Still I did not think that the end was imminent.  Mr. Charles Ashley,
who had welcomed me most effusively, looked to need careful nursing
almost as much as his father did.  He told me that he had not slept
for three nights, so I just packed him off to bed and spent the night
in an armchair in the patient's room.

"'The next morning Mr. Philip Ashley arrived and I was told of the
arrangement whereby Mr. Charles got a week-end holiday once a
fortnight.  I welcomed the idea for his sake, and as he seemed very
anxious about his father, and remembering what my husband had told
me, I promised that I would stay on in the flat until his return on
the Monday.  Thus only was I able to persuade him to go off on his
much-needed holiday.  Directly he had gone, however, I thought it my
duty to explain to Mr. Philip Ashley that really his father was very
ill.  He was only conscious intermittently and that in such cases the
only thing that could be done was to keep the patient absolutely
quiet.  It was the only way, I added, to prolong life and to ensure a
painless and peaceful death.

"'Mr. Philip Ashley,' the witness continued, 'appeared more annoyed
than distressed, when I told him this, and asked me by whose
authority I was here, keeping him out of his father's room, and so
on.  He also asked me several peremptory questions as to who had
visited his father lately, and when I told him that I was the wife of
a well-known solicitor in the neighbourhood, he looked for a moment
as if he would give way to a violent fit of rage.  However, I suppose
he thought better of it, and presently I took him into the patient's
room, who was asleep just then, begging him on no account to disturb
the sufferer.

"'After he had seen his father, Mr. Ashley appeared more ready to
admit that I was acting for the best.  However, he asked me--rather
rudely, I thought, considering that the patient was nothing to me and
I was not getting paid for my services--how long I proposed staying
in the flat.  I told him that I would wait here until his brother's
return, which I was afraid would not be before ten o'clock on Monday
morning.  Whereupon he picked up his hat, gave me a curt good-day,
and walked out of the flat.

"'To my astonishment,' the witness now said amidst literally
breathless silence on the part of the spectators, 'it had only just
gone eight on the Monday morning, when Mr. Philip Ashley turned up
once more.  I must say that I was rather pleased to see him.  I was
expecting Mr. Triscott home and had a lot to do in my own house.  The
patient, who had rallied wonderfully the last two days, had just gone
off into a comfortable sleep, and as I knew that Mr. Charles would be
back soon, I felt quite justified in going off duty and leaving Mr.
Philip in charge, with strict injunctions that he was on no account
to disturb the patient.  If he woke, he might be given a little
barley-water first and then some beef-tea, all of which I had
prepared and put ready.  My intention was directly I got home to
telephone to Dr. Jutt and ask him to look in at Malvine Mansions some
time during the morning.  Unfortunately, when I got home I had such a
lot to do, that, frankly, I forgot to telephone to the doctor, and
before the morning was over Mr. Triscott had come home with the news
that old Mr. Thornton Ashley was dead.'

"This," the Old Man in the Corner continued, "was the gist of Mrs.
Triscott's evidence at that memorable inquest.  Of course, there were
some dramatic incidents during the course of her examination; glances
exchanged between Philip Ashley and Mr. Oldwall, and between him and
the dapper little Mr. Triscott.  The latter, I must tell you, still
beamed on everybody; he looked inordinately proud of his capable,
business-like wife, and very pleased with the prominence which he had
attained through this mysterious and intricate case.


"The luncheon interval gave us all a respite from the tension that
had kept our nerves strung up all morning.  I don't think that Philip
Ashley, for one, ate much lunch that day.  I noticed, by the way,
that he and Mr. Oldwall went off together, whilst Mr. and Mrs.
Triscott took kindly charge of poor Charles.  I caught sight of the
three of them subsequently in a blameless teashop.  Charles was
indeed a pathetic picture to look upon; he looked the sort of man who
lives on his nerves, with no flesh on his poor, misshapen bones, and
a hungry, craving expression in his eyes, as in those of an under-fed

"We had his evidence directly after luncheon.  But, as a matter of
fact, he had not much to say.  He had last seen his father alive on
the Saturday morning when he went off on his fortnightly week-end
holiday.  He had bicycled to Dorking and spent his time there at the
Running Footman, as he had often done before.  He was well known in
the place.  On Monday morning he made an early start and got to
Malvine Mansions soon after ten and let himself into the flat with
his latch-key.  He expected to find his brother or Mrs. Triscott
there, but there was no one.  He then went into his father's room,
and at first thought that the old man was only asleep.  The blinds
were down and the room very dark.  He drew up the blind and went back
to his father's bedside.  Then only did he realise that the old man
was dead.  Though he was very ignorant in such matters, he thought
that there was something strange about the dead man, and he tried to
explain this to Dr. Jutt.  But the latter seemed too busy to attend
to him, so when Mr. Triscott came to call later on, he told him of
this strange feeling that troubled him.  Mr. Triscott then thought
that as Dr. Jutt seemed so indifferent about the matter, it might be
best to see the police.

"'But this,' Charles Ashley explained, 'I refused to do, and then Mr.
Triscott asked me if I knew whether my dear father had any life
insurances, and if so, in what company.  I was able to satisfy him on
that point, as I had heard him speak with Mr. Oldwall about a life
policy he had in the Empire of India Life Insurance Company.  Mr.
Triscott then told me to leave the matter to him, which I was only
too glad to do.'

"Witness was asked if he knew anything of his father's intentions
with regard to altering his will, and to this he gave an emphatic
'No!'  He explained that he had taken a note from his father to Mr.
Triscott on the Friday and that he had seen Mr. Triscott when the
latter called at the flat that afternoon, but when the coroner asked
him whether he knew what passed between his father and the lawyer on
that occasion, he again gave an emphatic 'No!'

"He had accepted gratefully Mr. Triscott's suggestion that Mrs.
Triscott should come over for the weekend to take charge of the
invalid; but he declared that this arrangement was in no way a
reflection upon his brother.  On the whole, then, Charles Ashley made
a favourable impression upon the public and jury for his clear and
straightforward evidence.  The only time when he hesitated--and did
so very obviously--was when the coroner asked him whether he knew of
any recent disagreement between his father and his brother Philip, a
disagreement which might have led to Mr. Thornton Ashley's decision
to alter his will.  Charles Ashley did hesitate at this point, and,
though he was hard-pressed by the coroner, he only gave ambiguous
replies, and when he had completed his evidence, he left one under
the impression that he might have said something if he would, and
that but for his many afflictions the coroner would probably have
pressed him much harder.

"This impression was confirmed by the evidence of the next witness, a
Mrs. Trapp, who had been the daily 'char' at Malvine Mansions.  She
began by explaining to the coroner that she had done the work at the
flat for the past two years.  At first she used to come every morning
for a couple of hours with the exception of Sundays, but for the last
two months or so she came on the Sundays, but stayed away on the
Mondays; on Wednesdays she stayed the whole day, until about six, as
Mr. Charles always did a lot of shopping those afternoons.

"Asked whether she remembered what happened at the flat on the
Wednesday preceding Mr. Thornton Ashley's death, she said that she
did remember quite well Mr. Philip Ashley called; he did do that
sometimes on a Wednesday, when his brother was out.  He stayed about
an hour and, in Mrs. Trapp's picturesque language, he and his father
'carried on awful!'

"'I couldn't 'ear what they said,' Mrs. Trapp explained, with eager
volubility, 'but I could 'ear the ole gentleman screaming.  I 'ad
'eard 'im storm like that at Mr. Philip once before--about a month
ago.  But Lor' bless you, Mr. Philip 'e didn't seem to care, and on
Wednesday, when I let 'im out of the flat 'e just looked quite
cheerful like.  But the ole gentleman 'e was angry.  I 'ad to give
'im a nip o' brandy, 'e was sort o' shaken after Mr. Philip went.'

"You see then, don't you?" the Old Man in the Corner said with a grim
chuckle, "how gradually a network of sinister evidence was being
woven around Philip Ashley.  He himself was conscious of it, and he
was conscious also of the wave of hostility that was rising up
against him.  He looked now, not only grave, but decidedly anxious,
and he held his arms tightly crossed over his chest, as if in the act
of making a physical effort to keep his nerves under control.

"He gave me the impression of a man who would hate any kind of
publicity, and the curious, eager looks that were cast upon him,
especially by the women, must have been positive torture to a
sensitive man.  However, he looked a handsome and manly figure as he
stood up to answer the questions put to him by the coroner.  He said
that he had arrived at the flat on the Saturday at about mid-day,
explaining to the jury that he always came once a fortnight to be
with his father, whilst his brother Charles enjoyed a couple of days
in the country.  On this occasion, however, he was told that his
father was too ill to see him.  Charles, however, went off on his
bicycle as usual, but contrary to precedent, a lady had apparently
been left in charge of the invalid.  Witness understood that this was
Mrs. Triscott, the wife of a neighbour, who had kindly volunteered to
stay over the week-end.  She was an experienced nurse and would know
what to do in case the patient required anything.  For the moment he
was asleep and must not be disturbed.

"'I naturally felt very vexed,' the witness continued, 'at being kept
out of my father's room, and I may have spoken rather sharply at the
moment, but I flatly deny that I was rude to Mrs. Triscott, or that I
was in a violent rage.  I did get a glimpse of my father, as he lay
in bed, and I must say that I did not think that he looked any worse
than he had been all along.  However, I was not going to argue the
point.  I preferred to wait until the Monday morning when my brother
would be home, and I could tackle him on the subject.'

"At this point the coroner desired to know why, in that case, when
the witness was told that his brother would not be at the flat before
ten o'clock, he turned up there as early as half-past eight.

"'Because,' the witness replied, 'I was naturally rather anxious to
know how things were, and because I hoped to get a day on the river
with a friend, and to make an early start if possible.  However, when
I got to the flat, Mrs. Triscott wanted to get away, and so I agreed
to stay there and wait until ten o'clock, when, so Mrs. Triscott
assured me, my brother would certainly be home.  As a matter of fact
he always used to get home at that hour with clockwork regularity on
the Monday mornings after his holiday.  My father was asleep, and
Mrs. Triscott left me instructions what to do in case he required
anything.  At half-past nine he woke.  I heard him stirring and I
went into his room and gave him some barley-water and sat with him
for a little while.  He seemed quite cheerful and good-tempered, and,
honestly, I did not think that he was any worse than he had been for
weeks.  Just before ten o'clock he dropped off to sleep again.  I
knew that my brother would be in within the next half hour and, as
this would not be the first time that my father had been left alone
in the flat, I did not think that I should be doing anything wrong by
leaving him.  I went back to my chambers and was busy making
arrangements for the day when I had a telephone message from my
brother that our father was dead.'

"Questioned by the coroner as to the disagreement which he had had
with his father on the previous Wednesday, Mr. Philip Ashley
indignantly repudiated the idea that there was any quarrel.

"'My father,' he said, 'had a very violent temper and a very harsh,
penetrating voice.  He certainly did get periodically angry with me
whenever I explained to him that my marriage to Lady Peet-Jackson
could not, in all decency, take place for at least another six
months.  He would storm and shriek for a little while,' the witness
went on, 'but we invariably parted the best of friends.'"

The Old Man in the Corner paused for a little while, leaving me both
interested and puzzled.  I was trying to piece together what I
remembered of the case with what he had just told me, and I was
longing to hear his explanation of the events which followed that
memorable inquest.  After a little while the funny creature resumed:

"I told you," he said, "that a wave of hostility had risen in the
public mind against Philip Ashley.  It came from a sense of sympathy
for the other son, who, deformed and afflicted, had been done out of
a fortune.  True that it would not have been of much use to him, and
that in the original will ample provision had been made for his
modest wants, but it now seemed as if, at the eleventh hour, the old
miser had thought to make reparation toward the son who had given up
his whole life to him, whilst the other had led one of leisure,
independence, and gaiety.  What had caused old Thornton Ashley thus
to change his mind was never conclusively proved; there were some
rumours already current that Philip Ashley was in debt and had
appealed to his father for money, a fatal thing to do with a miser.
But this also was never actually proved.  The only persons who could
have enlightened the jury on the subject were Philip Ashley himself
and his brother, Charles, but each of them, for reasons of his own,
chose to remain silent.

"And now you will no doubt recall the fact which finally determined
the jury to bring in their sensational verdict, in consequence of
which Philip Ashley was arrested on the coroner's warrant on a charge
of attempted murder.  It seemed horrible, ununderstandable,
unbelievable, but, nevertheless, a jury of twelve men did arrive at
that momentous decision after deliberation lasting less than half an
hour.  What I believe weighed with them in the end was the fact that
the assistant who came with the divisional surgeon to conduct the
_post-mortem_ found underneath the bed of the deceased, a
walking-stick with a crook-handle, and the crumpled and torn copy of
the notes for the new will which Mr. Triscott had prepared.  Philip
Ashley when confronted with the stick admitted that it was his.  He
had missed it on the Saturday when he was leaving the flat, as he was
under the impression that he had brought one with him; however, he
did not want to spend any more time looking for it, as he was
obviously so very much in the way.

"Now, both the charwoman and Mrs. Triscott swore that the patient's
room had been cleaned and tidied on the Sunday, and that there was no
sign of a walking-stick in the room then.


"And so," the Old Man in the Corner went on, with a cynical shrug of
his lean shoulders, "Philip Ashley went through the terrible ordeal
of being hauled up before the magistrate on the charge of having
attempted to murder his father, an old man with one foot in the
grave.  He pleaded 'Not Guilty,' and reserved his defence.  The whole
of the evidence was gone through all over again, of course, but
nothing new had transpired.  The case was universally thought to look
very black against the accused, and no one was surprised when he was
eventually committed for trial.

"Public feeling remained distinctly hostile to him.  It was a crime
so horrible and so unique you would have thought that no one would
have believed that a well-known, well-educated man could possibly
have been guilty of it.  Probably, if the event had occurred before
the war, public opinion would have repudiated the possibility, but so
many horrible crimes have occurred in every country these past few
years that one was just inclined to shrug one's shoulders and murmur:
'Perhaps, one never knows!'  One thing remained beyond a doubt: old
Mr. Thornton Ashley died of shock or fright following a violent and
dastardly assault, finger-marks were discovered round his throat, and
there were evidences on his face and head that he had been repeatedly
struck with what might easily have been the walking-stick which was
found under his bed.  Add to this the weight of evidence of the new
will, about to be signed, and of the quarrel between father and son
on the previous Wednesday, and you have as good a motive for the
murder as any prosecuting counsel might wish for.  Philip Ashley
would not, of course, hang for murder, but it was even betting that
he would get twenty years.

"Anyway, I don't think that, as things were, any one blamed Lady
Peet-Jackson for her decision.  A week before Philip Ashley's trial
came on she announced her engagement to Lord Francis Firmour, son of
the Marquis of Ettridge, whom she subsequently married.

"But Philip Ashley was acquitted--you remember that?  He was
acquitted because Sir Arthur Inglewood was his counsel, and Sir
Arthur is the finest criminal lawyer we possess; and, because the
evidence against him was entirely circumstantial, it was demolished
by his counsel with masterly skill.  Whatever might be said on the
subject of 'motive,' there was nothing whatever to prove that the
accused knew anything of his father's intentions with regard to a new
will; and there was only a charwoman's word to say that he had
quarrelled with his father on that memorable Wednesday.

"On the other hand, there was Mr. Oldwall and Dr. Fanshawe-Bigg, old
friends of the deceased, both swearing positively that Thornton
Ashley had a peculiarly shrill and loud voice, that he would often
get into passions about nothing at all, when he would scream and
storm, and yet mean nothing by it.  The only evidence of any tangible
value was the walking-stick but even that was not enough to blast a
man's life with such a monstrous suspicion.

"Philip Ashley was acquitted, but there are not many people who
followed that case closely who believed him altogether innocent at
the time.  What Lady Peet-Jackson thought about it no one knows.  It
was for her sake that the unfortunate man threw up the chances of a
fortune, and when it came within his grasp it still seemed destined
to evade him to the end.  In losing the woman for whom he had been
prepared to make so many sacrifices, poor Philip lost the fortune a
second time, because, as he was not married within the prescribed
time-limit, it was Charles who inherited under the terms of the
original will.  But I think you will agree with me that any sensitive
man is well out of a union with a hard and mercenary woman.

"And now there has been another revolution in the wheel of Fate.
Charles Ashley died the other day in a nursing home of heart failure,
following an operation.  He died intestate, and his brother is his
sole heir.  Funny, isn't it, that Philip Ashley should get his
father's fortune in the end?  But Fate does have a way sometimes of
dealing out compensations, after she has knocked a man about beyond
his deserts.  Philip Ashley is a rich man now, and there is a rumour,
I am told, current in the society papers, that Lady Francis Firmour
has filed a petition for divorce, and that the proceedings will be
undefended.  But can you imagine any man marrying such a woman after
all that she made him suffer?"

Then, as the funny creature paused and appeared entirely engrossed in
the fashioning of complicated knots in his beloved bit of string, I
felt that it was my turn to keep the ball rolling.

"Then you, for one," I said, "are quite convinced that Philip Ashley
did not know that his father intended to make a new will, and did not
try to murder him?"

"Aren't you?" he retorted.

"Well," I rejoined, somewhat lamely, "some one did assault the old
miser, didn't they?  If it was not Philip Ashley then it must have
been just an ordinary burglar, who thought that the old man had some
money hidden away under his mattress."

"Can't you theorise more intelligently than that?" the tiresome
creature asked in his very rude and cynical manner.  I would gladly
have slapped his face, only--I did want to know.

"Your own theory," I retorted, choosing to ignore his impertinence,
"seek him first whom the crime benefits."

"Well, and whom did that particular crime benefit the most?"

"Philip Ashley, of course," I replied, "but you said yourself----"

"Philip Ashley did not benefit by the crime," the old scarecrow broke
in, with a dry cackle.  "No, no, but for the fact that a merciful
Providence removed Charles Ashley so very unexpectedly out of this
wicked world, Philip would still be living on a few hundreds a year,
most of which he would owe to the munificence of his brother."

"That," I argued, "was only because that Peet-Jackson woman threw him
over, otherwise----"

"And why did she throw him over?  Because old Thornton Ashley died
under mysterious circumstances, and Philip Ashley was under a cloud
because of it.  Any one could have foreseen that that particular
woman would throw him over the very moment that suspicion fell upon

"But Charles----" I began.

"Exactly," he broke in, excitedly, "it was Charles who benefited by
the crime.  It was he who inherited the fortune."

"But, by the new will he would have inherited anyhow.  Then, why in
the world----"

"You surely don't believe in that new will, do you?  The way in which
I marshalled the facts before you ought to have paved the way for
more intelligent reasoning."

"But Mr. Triscott----" I argued.

"Ah, yes," he said, "Mr. Triscott--exactly.  The whole thing could
only be done in partnership, I admit.  But does not everything point
to a partnership in what, to my mind, is one of the ugliest crimes in
our records?  You ought to be able to follow the workings of Charles
Ashley's mind, a mind as tortuous as the body that held it.  Let me
put the facts once more briefly before you.  While Philip obstinately
remained a bachelor, all was well.  Charles stuck to the old miser,
carefully watching over his interests lest they become jeopardised.
But presently, Lady Peet-Jackson became a widow and Philip gaily
announced his engagement.  From that hour Charles, of course, must
have seen the fortune on which he had already counted slipping away
irretrievably from his grasp.  Can you not see in your mind's eye
that queer, misshapen creature setting his crooked brain to devise a
way out of the difficulty?  Can you not see the plan taking shape
gradually, forming itself slowly into a resolve--a resolve to stop
his brother's marriage at all costs?  But how?  Philip, passionately
in love with Muriel Peet-Jackson, having won her after years of
waiting, was not likely to give her up.  No, but _she_ might give
_him_ up.  She had done it once for the sake of ambition, she might
do it again if ... if ... well, Charles Ashley, obscure, poor,
misshapen, was not likely to find a rival who would supplant his
handsome brother in any woman's affections.  Certainly not!  But
there remained the other possibility, the possibility that Philip,
poor--or, better still, disgraced--might cease to be a prize in the
matrimonial market.  Disgraced!  But how?  By publicity?  By crime?
Yes, by crime!  Now, can you see the plan taking shape?

"Can you see Charles cudgelling his wits as to what crime could most
easily be fastened on a man of Philip's personality and social
position?  Probably a chance word dropped by his father put the
finishing touch to his scheme, a chance word on the subject of a
will.  And there was the whole plan ready.  The unsigned will, the
assault on the dying man, and quarrels there always were plenty
between the peppery old miser and his somewhat impatient son.  As for
Triscott, the dapper little local lawyer, I suppose it took some time
for Charles Ashley's crooked schemes to appear as feasible and
profitable to him.  Of course, without him nothing could have been
done, and the whole of my theory rests upon the fact that the two men
were partners in the crime.

"Where they first met, and how they became friends, I don't profess
to know.  If I had had anything to do with the official investigation
of that crime I should first of all have examined the servant in the
Triscott household, and found out whether or no Mr. Charles Ashley
had ever been a visitor there.  In any case, I should have found out
something about Triscott's friends and Triscott's haunts.  I am sure
that it would then have come to light that Charles Ashley and Mr.
Triscott had constant intercourse together.

"I cannot bring myself to believe in that unsigned will.  There was
nothing whatever that led up to it, except the supposed quarrel on
the Wednesday.  But, if that old miser did want to alter his will,
why should he have sent for a man whom he hardly knew and whom, mind
you, he would have to pay for his services, rather than for his
friend, Oldwall, who would have done the work for nothing?  The man
was a miser, remember.  His meanness, we are told, amounted to a
mania; a miser never pays for something he can get for nothing.
There was also another little point that struck me during the inquest
as significant.  If Triscott was an entire stranger to Charles
Ashley, why should he have taken such a personal interest in him and
in the old man to the extent of sending his wife to spend two whole
days and nights in charge of an invalid who was nothing to him?  Why
should Mrs. Triscott have undertaken such a thankless task in the
house of a miser, where she would get no comforts and hardly anything
to eat?  Why, I say, should the Triscotts have done all that if they
had not some vital self-interest at stake?

"And I contend that that self-interest demanded that one of them
should be there, in the flat, on the watch, to see that no third
person was present whilst Philip spent his time by his father's
bedside--a witness, such as Lady Peet-Jackson, perhaps, or some
friend--whose testimony might demolish the whole edifice of lies,
which had been so carefully built up.  And, did you notice another
point?  The charwoman, by a new arrangement, was never at the flat on
a Monday morning, and that arrangement had only obtained for the past
two months.  Now why?  Charwomen stay away, I believe, on Sundays
always, but, I ask you, have you ever heard of a charwoman having a
holiday on a Monday?"

I was bound to admit that it was unusual, whereupon the old scarecrow
went on, with excitement that grew as rapidly as did the feverish
energy of his fingers manipulating his bit of string.

"And now propel your mind back to that same Monday morning, when, the
coast being clear, Charles Ashley, back at the flat and alone with
the old man, was able at last to put the finishing touch to his work
of infamy.  One pressure of the fingers, one blow with the
walking-stick, and the curtain was rung down finally on the hideous
drama which he had so skilfully invented.  Think of it all carefully
and intelligently," the Old Man in the Corner concluded, as he
stuffed his beloved bit of string into the capacious pocket of his
checked ulster, "and you will admit that there is not a single flaw
in my argument----"

"The walking-stick," I broke in, quickly.

"Exactly," he retorted, "the walking-stick.  Charles was quick enough
to grasp the significance of that, and on Saturday, while his
brother's back was turned, he carefully hid the walking-stick,
knowing that it would be a useful piece of evidence presently.  Do
you, for a moment, suppose," he added, dryly, "that any man would
have been such a fool as to throw his walking-stick and the crumpled
notes of the will underneath his victim's bed?  They could not have
been left there, remember, they could not have rolled under the bed,
as the walking-stick had a crook-handle; they must deliberately have
been thrown there.

"No, no!" he said, in conclusion, "there is no flaw.  It is all as
clear as daylight to any receptive intelligence, and though human
justice did err at first, and it looked, at one time, as if the
innocent alone would suffer and the guilty enjoy the fruits of his
crime, a higher justice interposed in the end.  Charles has gone, and
Philip is in possession of the fortune which his father desired him
to have.  I only hope that his eyes are opened at last to the true
value of the beautiful Muriel's love, and that it will be some other
worthier woman who will share his fortune and help him forget all
that he endured in the past."

"And what about the Triscotts?" I asked.

"Ah!" he said, with a sigh, "they are the wicked who prosper, and
higher justice has apparently forgotten them, as it often does forget
the evil-doer, for a time.  We must take it that they were well paid
for their share in the crime, and, if the unfortunate Charles had
lived, he probably would have been blackmailed by them and bled
white.  As it is, they have gone scot-free.  I made a few enquiries
in the neighbourhood lately and I discovered that Mr. Triscott is
selling his practice and retiring from business.  Presently we'll
hear that he has bought himself a cottage in the country.  Then,
perhaps, your last doubt will vanish and you will be ready to admit
that I have found the true solution of the mystery that surrounded
the death of the miser of Maida Vale."

The next moment he was gone, and I just caught sight of the corner of
his checked ulster disappearing through the swing doors.




"Are you prepared to admit," the Old Man in the Corner said abruptly
as soon as he had finished his glass of milk, "that sympathy,
understanding, largeness of heart--what?--are invariably the outcome
of a big brain?  It is the fool who is censorious and cruel.  Your
clever man is nearly always sympathetic.  He understands, he
appreciates, he studies motives and understands them.  During the war
it was the fools who tracked down innocent men and women under
pretence that they were spies; it was the fools who did not
understand that a German might be just as fine a patriot as a Briton
or a Frenchman if he served his own country.  The hard, cruel man is
almost always a fool; the backbiting old maid invariably so.

"I am tempted to say this," he went on, "because I have been thinking
over that curious case which newspaper reporters have called the
Fulton Gardens Mystery.  You remember it, don't you?"

"Yes," I said, "I do.  As a matter of fact I knew poor old Mr. Jessup
slightly, and I was terribly shocked when I heard about that awful
tragedy.  And to think that that horrid young Leighton----"

"Ha!" my eccentric friend broke in, with a chuckle, "then you have
held on to that theory, have you?"

"There was no other possible!" I retorted.

"But he was discharged."

I shrugged my shoulders under pretence of being unconvinced.  As a
matter of fact, all I wanted was to make the funny creature talk.

"A flimsy _alibi_," I said coldly.

"And a want of sympathy," he rejoined.

"What has sympathy got to do with a brutal assault on a defenceless
old man?  You can't deny that Leighton had something, at any rate, to
do with it?"

"I did not mean sympathy for the guilty," he argued, "but for the
women who were the principal witnesses in the case."

"I don't see----" I protested.

"No, but I do.  I understood, and in a great measure I sympathised."

At which expression of noble sentiment I burst out laughing.  I
couldn't help it.  In view of his preamble just now his fatuous
statement was funny beyond words.

"You being the clever man who understands, etcetera," I said, as
seriously as I could, "and I the censorious and cruel old maid who is
invariably a fool."

"You put it crudely," he rejoined complacently, "and had you not
given ample proof of your intelligence before now I might have
thought it worth while to refute the second half of your argument.
As for the first..."

"Hadn't you better tell me about the Fulton Gardens Mystery?" I broke
in impatiently.

"Certainly," he replied, in no way abashed.  "I have meant to talk to
you about it all along, only that you would digress."

"_Pax!_" I retorted, and with a conciliatory smile I handed him a
beautiful bit of string.  He pounced on it with thin hands that
looked like the talons of a bird, and he gloated on that bit of
string for all the world as on a prey.

"I dare say," he began, "that to most people the mystery appeared
baffling enough.  But to me ... Well, there was the victim of what
you very properly call the cowardly assault, your friend--or
acquaintance--Mr. Seton Jessup, a man on the wrong side of sixty, but
very active and vigorous for his years.  He carried on the business
of pearl merchant in Fulton Gardens, but he did not live there, as
you know.  He was a married man, had sons and daughters and a nice
house in Fitzjohn's Avenue.  He also owned the house in Fulton
Gardens, a four-storied building of the pattern prevalent in that
neighbourhood.  The ground floor, together with the one above that,
and the basement were used by Mr. Jessup himself for his business: on
the ground floor he had his office and showroom, above that were a
couple of reception rooms, where he usually had his lunch and saw a
few privileged customers, and in the basement there was a kitchen
with scullery and pantry, a small servants' hall, and a strong-room
for valuables.  The top story of all was let to a surgical-instrument
maker who did not sleep on the premises, and the second floor--that
is the one just below the surgical-instrument maker and immediately
above the reception rooms--was occupied by Mrs. Tufnell, who was
cook-housekeeper to Mr. Jessup, and her niece, Ann Weber, who acted
as the house-parlourmaid.  Mrs. Tufnell's son, Mark, who was a junior
clerk in the office, did not sleep in the house.  He was considered
to be rather delicate, and lived with a family somewhere near the
Alexandra Palace.

"All these people, as you know, played important parts in the drama
that was enacted on the sixteenth of November at No. 13, Fulton
Gardens--an unlucky number, by the way, but one which Mr. Jessup did
not change to the usual 12a when he bought the house, because he
despised all superstition.  He was a hard-headed, prosperous business
man; he worked hard himself, and expected hard work from his
employés.  Both his sons worked in the office, one as senior clerk,
and the other as showman, and in addition to young Mark Tufnell there
was another junior clerk--a rather unsatisfactory youth named Arthur
Leighton, who was some sort of a relation of Mrs. Jessup's.  But for
this connection he never would have been kept on in the business, as
he was unpunctual, idle, and unreliable.  The housekeeper, as well as
some of the neighbours, had been scandalised lately by what was
picturesquely termed the 'goings on of that young Leighton with Ann,
the housemaid at No. 13.'

"Ann Weber was a very pretty girl, and like many pretty girls she was
fond of finery and of admiration.  As soon as she entered Mr.
Jessup's service she started a flirtation with Mark Tufnell, then she
dropped him for a while in favour of the youngest Mr. Jessup; then
she went back to Mark, and seemed really in love with him that time
until, finally, she transferred her favours to Arthur Leighton,
chiefly because he was by far the most generous of her admirers.  He
was always giving her presents of jewellery which Mark Tufnell could
not afford, and young Jessup apparently did not care to give her.
But she did not, by any means, confine her flirtations to one man:
indeed, it appears that she had a marvellous facility for keeping
several men hanging about her dainty apron-strings.  She was not on
the best of terms with her aunt, chiefly because the latter noted
with some asperity that her son was far from cured of his infatuation
for the pretty housemaid.  The more she flirted with Leighton and the
others the greater did his love for her appear, and all that Mrs.
Tufnell could hope for was that Mr. Leighton would marry Ann one day
soon, when he would take her right away and Mark would then probably
make up his mind to forget her.  Young Leighton was doing very well
in business apparently, for he always had plenty of money to spend,
whilst poor Mark had only a small salary, and, moreover, had nothing
of the smart, dashing ways about him which had made the other man so
attractive to Ann."


"And now," the Old Man in the Corner continued after a while, "we
come to that sixteenth of November when the mysterious drama occurred
at No. 13, Fulton Gardens.  As a general rule, it seems, Mr. Jessup
was in his office most evenings until seven o'clock.  His clerks and
showmen finished at six, but he would, almost invariably, stay on an
hour longer to go through his accounts or look over his stock.  On
this particular evening, just before seven o'clock, he rang for the
housekeeper, Mrs. Tufnell, and told her that he would be staying
until quite late, and would she send him in a cup of tea and a plate
of sandwiches in about an hour's time.  Mrs. Tufnell owned to being
rather disappointed when she had this order because her son Mark had
arranged to take her and Ann to the cinema that evening, and now, of
course, they could not leave until after Mr. Jessup had gone, in case
he wanted anything, and he might be staying on until all hours.
However, Mark stayed to supper, and after supper Mrs. Tufnell got the
tea and sandwiches ready and took the tray up to Mr. Jessup herself.
Mr. Jessup was then sitting at his desk with two or three big books
in front of him, and Mrs. Tufnell noticed that the safe in which the
cash was kept that came in after banking hours was wide open.

"Mrs. Tufnell put down the tray, and was about to leave the room
again when Mr. Jessup spoke to her.

"'I expect Mr. Leighton back presently.  Show him in here when he
comes.  But I don't want to see anybody else, not any of you.

"It seems that he said this in such a harsh and peremptory manner
that Mrs. Tufnell was not only upset, but quite frightened.  Mr.
Jessup had always been very kind and considerate to his servants, and
the housekeeper declared that she had never been spoken to like that
before.  But we all know what that sort of people are: they have no
understanding, and unless you are perpetually smiling at them they
turn huffy at the slightest word of impatience.  Undoubtedly Mr.
Jessup was both tired and worried, and no great stress was laid by
the police subsequently on the fact that he had spoken harshly on
this occasion.  Even to you at this moment I dare say that this seems
a trifling circumstance, but I mention it because to my mind it had a
great deal of significance, and I think that the police were very
wrong to dismiss it quite so lightly.

"Well, to resume.  Mr. Jessup was in his office with his books and
with the safe, where he kept all the cash that came in after banking
hours, open.  Mrs. Tufnell saw and spoke to him at eight o'clock and
he was then expecting Arthur Leighton to come to him at nine.

"No one saw him alive after that.

"The next morning Mrs. Tufnell was downstairs as usual at a quarter
to seven.  After she had lighted the kitchen fire, done her front
steps and swept the hall she went to do the ground-floor rooms.  She
told the police afterwards that from the moment she got up she felt
that there was something wrong in the house.  Somehow or other she
was frightened; she didn't know of what, but she was frightened.  As
soon as she had opened the office door she gave a terrified scream.
Mr. Jessup was sitting at his desk just as Mrs. Tufnell had seen him
the night before, with his big books in front of him and the safe
door open.  But his head had fallen forward on the desk, and his arms
were spread out over his books.  Mrs. Tufnell never doubted for a
second but that he was dead, even before she saw the stick lying on
the floor and that horrible, horrible dull red stain which spread
from the back of the old man's head, right down to his neck and
stained his collar and the top of his coat.  Even before she saw all
that she knew that Mr. Jessup was dead.  Terrified, she clung to the
open door; she could do nothing but stare and stare, for the room,
the furniture, the motionless figure by the desk had started whirling
round and round before her eyes, so that she felt that at any moment
she might fall down in a dead faint.  It seemed ages before she heard
Ann's voice calling to her, asking what was the matter.  Ann was lazy
and never came downstairs before eight o'clock.  She had apparently
only just tumbled out of bed when she heard Mrs. Tufnell's scream.
Now she came running downstairs, with her bare feet thrust into her
slippers and a dressing-gown wrapped round her.

"'What is it, Auntie?' she kept on asking as she ran.  'What has

"And when she reached the office door, she only gave one look into
the room and exclaimed, 'Oh, my God!  He's killed him!'

"Somehow Ann's exclamation of horror brought Mrs. Tufnell to her
senses.  With a great effort she pulled herself together, just in
time, too, to grip Ann by the arm, or the girl would have measured
her length on the tiled floor behind her.  As it was, Mrs. Tufnell
gave her a vigorous shake:

"'What do you mean, Ann Weber?' she demanded in a hoarse whisper.
'What do you mean?  Who has killed him?'

"But Ann couldn't or wouldn't utter another word.  She was as white
as a sheet and, staggering backwards, she had fallen up against the
bannisters at the foot of the stairs and was clinging to them,
wide-eyed, with twitching mouth and shaking knees.

"'Pull yourself together, Ann Weber,' Mrs. Tufnell said peremptorily,
'and run and fetch the police at once.'

"But Ann looked as if she couldn't move.  She kept on reiterating in
a dry, meaningless manner, 'The police!  The police,' until Mrs.
Tufnell, who by now had gathered her wits together, gave her a
vigorous push and then went upstairs to put on her bonnet.  A few
minutes later she had gone for the police.


"I don't know," the Old Man in the Corner went on glibly, "whether
you remember all the circumstances which made that case such a
puzzling one.  Indeed, it well deserved the popular name that the
evening papers bestowed on it--'The Fulton Gardens Mystery'--for it
was, indeed, a mystery, and to most people it has so remained to this

"Not to you," I put in, with a smile, just to humour him, as I could
see he was waiting to be buttered-up before he would proceed with his

"No, not to me," he admitted, with his fatuous smile.  "If the
members of the police force who had the case in hand had been
psychologists, they would not have been puzzled, either.  But they
were satisfied with their own investigations and with all that was
revealed at the inquest, and they looked no further, with the result
that when the edifice of their deductions collapsed, they had nowhere
to turn.  Time had gone on, evidences had become blurred, witnesses
were less sure of themselves and less reliable, and a certain
blackguard, on whom I for one could lay my fingers at this moment, is
going through the world scot-free.

"But let me begin by telling you the facts as they were revealed at
the inquest.  You can then form your own conclusions, and I dare say
that these will be quite as erroneous as those arrived at by the
public and the police.

"The drama began to unfold itself when Mr. Ernest Jessup, the younger
son of the deceased gentleman, was called.  He began by explaining
that he was junior clerk in his father's office, and that he, along
with all the other employés had remarked on the sixteenth that the
guv'nor did not seem at all like himself.  He was irritable with
everybody, and just before luncheon he called Arthur Leighton into
his office and apparently some very hot words passed between the two.
Witness happened to be in the hall at the moment, getting his hat and
coat, and the housemaid was standing by.  They both heard very loud
voices coming from the office.  The guv'nor was storming away at the
top of his voice.

"'That's poor Leighton getting it in the neck,' witness remarked to
Ann Weber.

"But the girl only giggled and shrugged her shoulders.  Then she
said: 'Do you think so?'

"'Yes,' witness replied, 'aren't you sorry to see your devoted
admirer in such hot water?'

"Again the girl giggled and then ran away upstairs.  Mr. Leighton was
not at the office the whole of that afternoon, but witness
understood, either from his father or from his brother--he couldn't
remember which--that Leighton was to come in late that night to
interview the guv'nor.

"Witness was next questioned as to the events that occurred at Mr.
Jessup's home in Fitzjohn's Avenue, while the terrible tragedy was
enacted in Fulton Gardens.  It seems that Mr. Jessup had an old
mother who lived in St. Albans, and that he went sometimes to see her
after business hours and stayed the night.  As a general rule, when
he intended going he would telephone home in the course of the
afternoon.  On the sixteenth he rang up at about five o'clock and
said that he was staying late at the office--later than usual--and
they were not to wait dinner for him.  Mrs. Jessup took this message
herself, and had recognised her husband's voice.  Then, later on in
the evening--it might have been half-past eight or nine--there was
another telephone message from the office.  Witness went to the
telephone that time.  A voice, which at first he did not think that
he recognised, said: 'Mr. Jessup has gone to St. Albans.  He caught
the 7.50, and won't be home to-night.'  In giving evidence witness at
first insisted on the fact that he did not recognise the voice on the
telephone.  It was a man's voice, and sounded like that of a person
who was rather the worse for drink.  He asked who was speaking, and
the reply came quite clearly that time: 'Why, it's Leighton, you ass!
Don't you know me?'  Witness then asked: 'Where are you speaking
from?' and the reply was: 'From the office, of course.  I've had my
wigging and am getting consoled by our Annie-bird.'  Annie-bird was
the name the pretty housemaid went by among the young clerks at the
office.  Witness then hung up the receiver and gave his mother the
message.  Neither Mrs. Jessup nor any one else in the house thought
anything more about it, as there was nothing whatever unusual about
the occurrence.  Witness only made some remarks about Arthur Leighton
having been drinking again, and there the matter unfortunately
remained until the following morning, when witness and his brother
arrived at the office and were met with the awful news.

"Both Mrs. Jessup and Mr. Aubrey, the eldest son, corroborated the
statements made by the previous witness with regard to the telephone
messages on the evening of the sixteenth.  Mr. Aubrey Jessup also
stated that he knew that his father was worried about some
irregularities in Arthur Leighton's accounts, and that he meant to
have it out with the young clerk in the course of the evening.
Witness had begged his father to let the matter rest until the next
day, as Leighton, he thought, had got the afternoon off to see a sick
sister, but the deceased had rejected the suggestion with obvious

"'Stuff and nonsense!' he said.  'I don't believe in that sick sister
a bit.  I'll see that young blackguard to-night.'

"The next witness was Mrs. Tufnell, who was cook-housekeeper at
Fulton Gardens.  She was a middle-aged, capable-looking woman, with a
pair of curiously dark eyes.  I say 'curiously' because Mrs.
Tufnell's eyes had that velvety quality which is usually only met
with in southern countries.  I have seldom seen them in England,
except, perhaps, in Cornwall.  Apart from her eyes, there was nothing
either remarkable or beautiful about Mrs. Tufnell.  She may have been
good-looking once, but that was a long time ago.  When she stood up
to give evidence her face appeared rather bloodless, weather-beaten,
and distinctly hard.  She spoke quite nicely and without any of that
hideous Cockney accent one might have expected from a cook in a City

"She deposed that on the sixteenth, just before the luncheon hour,
she was crossing the hall at 13, Fulton Gardens.  The door into the
office was ajar, and she heard Mr. Jessup's voice raised, evidently
in great wrath.  Mrs. Tufnell also heard Mr. Leighton's voice, both
gentlemen, as she picturesquely put it, going at one another hammer
and tongs.  Obviously, though she wouldn't admit it, Mrs. Tufnell
stopped to listen, but she does not seem to have understood much of
what was said.  However, a moment or two later, Mr. Jessup went to
the door in order to shut it, and while he did so, Mrs. Tufnell heard
him say quite distinctly:

"'Well, if you must go now, you must, though I don't believe a word
about your sister being ill.  But you may go; only, understand that I
expect you back here this evening not later than nine.  I shall have
gone through the accounts by then, and...'

"At this point the door was shut and witness heard nothing more.  But
she reiterated the statements which she had already made to the
police, and which I have just retold you, about Mr. Jessup staying
late at the office and her taking him in some sandwiches, when he
told her that he was expecting Mr. Leighton at about nine o'clock and
did not wish to be disturbed by anybody else.  Witness was asked to
repeat what the deceased had actually said to her with reference to
this matter, and she laid great stress on Mr. Jessup's harsh and
dictatorial manner, so different, she said, to his usual gentlemanly

"'"I don't want to see anybody else--not any of you," that's what he
said,' Mrs. Tufnell replied, with an air of dignity, and then added:
'As if Ann Weber or I had ever thought of disturbing him when he was
at work!'

"Witness went on to relate that, after she had taken in the tray of
tea and sandwiches, she went upstairs and found Ann Weber sitting in
her room by herself.  Mark, the girl explained, had gone off, very
disappointed that they couldn't all go together to the cinema.  Mrs.
Tufnell argued the point for a moment or two, as she didn't see why
Ann should have refused to go if she wanted to see the show.  But the
girl seemed to have turned sulky.  Anyway, it was too late, she said,
as Mark had gone off by himself: he had booked the places and didn't
want to waste them, so he was going to get another friend to go with

"Mrs. Tufnell then settled down to do some sewing, and Ann turned
over the pages of a stale magazine.  Mrs. Tufnell thought that she
appeared restless and agitated.  Her cheeks were flushed and at the
slightest sound she gave a startled jump.  Presently she said that
she had some silver to clean in the pantry, and went downstairs to do
it.  Some little time after that there was a ring at the front-door
bell, and Mrs. Tufnell heard Ann going through the hall to open the
door.  A quarter of an hour went by, and then another.

"Mrs. Tufnell began to wonder what Ann was up to.  She put down her
sewing and started to go downstairs.  The first thing that struck her
was that all the lights on the stairs and landing were out; the house
appeared very silent and dark; only a glimmer came from one of the
lights downstairs in the hall at the foot of the stairs.

"Mrs. Tufnell went down cautiously.  Strangely enough, it did not
occur to her to turn on the lights on her way.  After she had passed
the first-floor landing she heard the sound of muffled voices coming
from the hall below.  Thinking that she recognised Ann's voice, she
called to her: 'Is that you, Ann?'  And Ann immediately replied:
'Coming, aunt.'  'Who are you talking to?' Mrs. Tufnell asked, and as
Ann did not answer this time, she went on: 'Is it Mr. Leighton?'  And
Ann said: 'Yes.  He is just going.'

"Mrs. Tufnell stood there, waiting.  She was half-way down the stairs
between the first floor and the hall, and she couldn't see Ann or Mr.
Leighton, but a moment or two later she heard Ann's voice saying
quite distinctly: 'Well, good-night, Mr. Leighton, see you to-morrow
as usual.'  After which the front door was opened, then banged to
again, and presently Ann came tripping back across the hall.

"'You go to bed now, Ann,' Mrs. Tufnell said to her.  'I'll see Mr.
Jessup off when he goes.  He won't be long now, I dare say.'

"'Oh, but,' Ann said, 'Mr. Jessup has been gone some time.'

"'Gone some time?' Mrs. Tufnell exclaimed.  'He can't have been gone
some time.  Why, he was expecting Mr. Leighton, and Mr. Leighton has
only just gone.'

"Ann shrugged her shoulders.  'I can only tell you what I know, Mrs.
Tufnell,' she said acidly.  'You can come down and see for yourself.
The office is shut up and all the lights out.'

"'But didn't Mr. Leighton see Mr. Jessup?'

"'No, he didn't.  Mr. Jessup told Mr. Leighton to wait, and then he
went away without seeing him.'

"'That's funny,' Mrs. Tufnell remarked, dryly.  'What was Mr.
Leighton doing in the house, then, all this time?  I heard the
front-door bell half an hour ago and more.'

"'That's no business of yours, Aunt Sarah,' the girl retorted pertly.
'And it wasn't half an hour, so there!'

"Mrs. Tufnell did not argue the point any further.  Mechanically she
went downstairs and ascertained in point of fact that the door of the
office and the show-room on the ground floor were both locked as
usual, and that the key of the office was outside in the lock.  This
was entirely in accordance with custom.  Mrs. Tufnell, through force
of habit, did just turn the key and open the door of the office.  She
just peeped in to see that the lights were really all out.  Satisfied
that everything was dark she then closed and relocked the door.  Ann,
in the meanwhile, stood half-way up the stairs watching.  Then the
two women went upstairs together.  They had only just got back in
their room when the front-door bell rang once more.

"'Now, whoever can that be?' Mrs. Tufnell exclaimed.

"'Don't trouble, aunt,' Ann said with alacrity.  'I'll run down and
see.'  Which she did.  Again it was some time before she came back,
and when she did get back to her room, she seemed rather breathless
and agitated.

"'Some one for Mr. Jessup,' she said in answer to Mrs. Tufnell's
rather acid remark that she had been gone a long time.  'He kept me
talking ever such a while.  I don't think he believed me when I said
Mr. Jessup had gone.'

"'Who was it?' witness asked.

"'I don't know,' the girl replied.  'I never saw him before.'

"'Didn't you ask his name?'

"'I did.  But he said it didn't matter--he would call again

"After that the two women sat for a little while longer, Mrs. Tufnell
sewing, and Ann still rather restlessly turning over the pages of a
magazine.  At ten o'clock they went to bed.  And that was the end of
the day as far as the household of Mr. Jessup was concerned.

"You may well imagine that all the amateur detectives who were
present at the inquest had made up their minds by now that Arthur
Leighton had murdered Mr. Seton Jessup, and robbed the till both
before and after the crime.  It was a simple deduction easily arrived
at and presenting the usual features.  A flirty minx, an enamoured
young man, extravagance, greed, opportunity, and supreme temptation.
Amongst the public there were many who did not even think it worth
while to hear further witnesses.  To their minds the hangman's rope
was already round young Leighton's neck.  Of course, I admit that at
this point it seemed a very clear case.  It was only after this that
complications arose and soon the investigations bristled with


"After a good deal of tedious and irrelevant evidence had been gone
through the inquest was adjourned, and the public left the court on
the tiptoe of expectation as to what the morrow would bring.  Nor was
any one disappointed, for on the morrow the mystery deepened, even
though there was plenty of sensational evidence for newspaper
reporters to feed on.

"The police, it seems, had brought forward a very valuable witness in
the person of the point policeman, who was on duty from eight o'clock
onwards on the evening of the sixteenth at the corner of Clerkenwell
Road and Fulton Gardens.  No. 13 is only a few yards up the street.
The man had stated, it seems, that soon after half-past eight he had
seen a man come along Fulton Gardens from the direction of Holborn,
go up to the front door of No. 13 and ring the bell.  He was admitted
after a minute or two, and he stayed in the house about half an hour.
It was a dark night, and there was a slight drizzle; the witness
could not swear to the man's identity.  He was slight and of middle
height, and walked like a young man.  When he arrived he wore a
bowler hat and no overcoat, but when he came out again he had an
overcoat on and a soft grey hat, and carried the bowler in his hand.
Witness noticed as he walked away up Fulton Gardens towards Finsbury
this time he took off the soft hat, slipped it into the pocket of his
overcoat, and put on the bowler.  About ten minutes later, not more,
another visitor called at No. 13.  He also was slight and tallish,
and he wore an overcoat and a bowler hat.  He turned into Fulton
Gardens from Clerkenwell Road, but on the opposite corner to the one
where witness was standing.  He rang the bell and was admitted, and
stayed about twenty minutes.  He walked away in the direction of
Holborn.  Witness would not undertake to identify either of these two
visitors; he had not been close enough to them to see their faces,
and there was a good deal of fog that night as well as the drizzle.
There was nothing suspicious looking about either of the men.  They
had walked quite openly up to the front door, rung the bell, and been
admitted.  The only thing that had struck the constable as queer was
the way the first visitor had changed hats when he walked away.

"Witness swore positively that no one else had gone in or out of No.
13 that night except those two visitors.  How important this evidence
was you will understand presently.

"After this young Tufnell was called.  He was a shy-looking fellow,
with a nervous manner altogether out of keeping with his dark
expressive eyes--eyes which he had obviously inherited from his
mother and which gave him a foreign as well as a romantic appearance.
He was said to be musical and to be a talented amateur actor.  Every
one agreed, it seems, that he had always been a very good son to his
mother until his love for Ann Weber had absorbed all his thoughts and
most of his screw.  He explained that he was junior clerk to Mr.
Jessup, and as far as he knew had always given satisfaction.  On the
sixteenth he had also noticed that the guv'nor was not quite himself.
He appeared unusually curt and irritable with everybody.  Witness had
not been in the house all the evening.  When his mother told him that
neither she nor Ann could go to the cinema with him he went off by
himself, and after the show he went straight back to his digs near
the Alexandra Palace.  He only heard of the tragedy when he arrived
at the office as usual on the morning of the seventeenth.  His
evidence would have seemed uninteresting and unimportant but for the
fact that while he gave it he glanced now and again in the direction
where Ann Weber sat beside her aunt.  It seemed as if he were all the
time mutely asking for her approval of what he was saying, and
presently when the coroner asked him whether he knew the cause of his
employer's irritability, he very obviously looked at Ann before he
finally said: 'No, sir, I don't!'

"After that Ann Weber was called.  Of course it had been clear all
along that she was by far the most important witness in this
mysterious case, and when she rose from her place, looking very trim
and neat in her navy-blue coat and skirt, with a jaunty little hat
pulled over her left eye, and wearing long amber earrings that gave
her pretty face a piquant expression, every one settled down
comfortably to enjoy the sensation of the afternoon.

"Ann, who was thoroughly self-possessed, answered the coroner's
preliminary questions quite glibly, and when she was asked to relate
what occurred at No. 13, Fulton Gardens on the night of the
sixteenth, she plunged into her story without any hesitation or trace
of nervousness.

"'At about half-past eight,' she said, 'or it may have been later--I
won't swear as to the time--there was a ring at the front-door bell.
I was down in the pantry, and as I came upstairs I heard the office
door being opened.  When I got into the passage I saw Mr. Jessup
standing in the doorway of the office.  He had his spectacles on his
nose, and a pen in his hand.  He looked as if he had just got up from
his desk.'

"'"If that's young Leighton," he said to me, "tell him I'll see him
to-morrow.  I can't be bothered now."  Then he went back into the
office and shut the door.

"'I opened the door to Mr. Leighton,' witness continued, 'and he came
in looking very cold and wet.  I told him that Mr. Jessup didn't want
to see him to-night.  He seemed very pleased at this, but he wouldn't
go away, and when I told him I was busy he said that I couldn't be so
unkind as to turn a fellow out into the rain without giving him a
drink.  Now I could see that already Mr. Leighton he'd had a bit too
much, and I told him so quite plainly.  But there! he wouldn't take
"No" for an answer, and as it really was jolly cold and damp I told
him to go and sit down in the servants' hall while I got him a hot
toddy.  I went down into the kitchen and put the kettle on and cut a
couple of sandwiches.  I don't know where Mr. Leighton was during
that time or what he was doing.  I was in the kitchen some time,
because I couldn't get the kettle to boil as the fire had gone down
and we have no gas downstairs.  When I took the tray into the
servants' hall Mr. Leighton was there, and again I told him that I
didn't think he ought to have any more whisky, but he only laughed,
and was rather impudent, so I just put the tray down, and then I
thought that I would run upstairs and see if Mr. Jessup wanted
anything.  I was rather surprised when I got to the hall to see that
all the lights up the stairs had been turned off.  There's a switch
down in the hall that turns off the lot.  The whole house looked very
dark.  There was but a very little light that came from the lamp at
the other end of the hall, near the front door.  I was just thinking
that I would turn on the lights again when I saw what I could have
sworn was Mr. Jessup coming out of his office.  He had already got
his hat and coat on, and when he came out of the office he shut the
door and turned the key in the lock, just as Mr. Jessup always did.
It never struck me for a moment that it could be anybody but him.
Though it was dark, I recognised his hat and his overcoat, and his
own way of turning the key.  I spoke to him,' witness continued in
answer to a question put to her by the coroner, 'but he didn't reply;
he just went straight through the hall and out by the front door.
Then after a bit Mr. Leighton came up, and I told him Mr. Jessup had
gone.  He was quite pleased, and stopped talking in the hall for a
moment, and then aunt called to me and Mr. Leighton went away.'

"Witness was then questioned as to the other visitor who called later
that same evening, but she stated that she had no idea who it was.
'He came about nine,' she explained, 'and I went down to open the
door.  He kept me talking ever such a time, asking all sorts of silly
questions; I didn't know how to get rid of him, and he wouldn't leave
his name.  He said he would call again and that it didn't matter.'

"Ann Weber here gave the impression that the unknown visitor had
stopped for a flirtation with her on the doorstep, and her smirking
and pert glances rather irritated the coroner.  He pulled her up
sharply by putting a few straight questions to her.  He wanted to pin
her down to a definite statement as to the time when (1) she opened
the door to Mr. Leighton, (2) she saw what she thought was Mr. Jessup
go out of the house, and (3) the second visitor arrived.  Though
doubtful as to the exact time, Ann was quite sure that the three
events occurred in the order in which she had originally related, and
in this she was, of course, corroborating the evidence of the point
policeman.  But there was the mysterious contradiction.  Ann Weber
swore that Mr. Leighton followed her up from the servants' hall just
after she had seen the mysterious individual go out by the front
door.  On the other hand, she couldn't swear what happened while she
was busy in the kitchen getting the hot toddy for Mr. Leighton.  She
had been trying to make the fire burn up, and had rattled coals and
fire-irons.  She certainly had not heard any one using the telephone,
which was in the office, and she did not know where Mr. Leighton was
during that time.

"Nor would she say what was in her mind when first she saw her
employer lying dead over the desk and exclaimed: 'My God!  He has
killed him!'  And when the coroner pressed her with questions she
burst into tears.  Except for this her evidence had, on the whole,
been given with extraordinary self-possession.  It was a terrible
ordeal for a girl to have to stand up before a jury and, roughly
speaking, to swear away the character of a man with whom she had been
on intimate terms....  The character, did I say?  I might just as
well have said the life, because whatever doubts had lurked in the
public mind about Arthur Leighton's guilt, or at least complicity in
the crime, those doubts were dispelled by the girl's evidence.  For I
need not tell you, I suppose, that every man present that second day
at the inquest had already made up his mind that Ann Weber was lying
to save her sweetheart.  No one believed in the mysterious
impersonator of Mr. Jessup.  It was Arthur Leighton, they argued, who
had murdered his employer and robbed the till, and Ann Weber knew it
and had invented the story in order to drag a red herring across the

"I must say that the man himself did not make a good impression when
he was called in his turn.  As he stepped forward with a swaggering
air, and a bold glance at coroner and jury, the interest which he
aroused was not a kindly one.  He was rather a vulgar-looking
creature, with a horsey get-up, high collar, stock-tie, fancy
waistcoat, and so on.  His hair was of a ginger colour, his eyes
light, and his face tanned.  Every one noticed that he winked at Ann
Weber when he caught her eye, and also that the girl immediately
averted her glance and almost imperceptibly shrugged her shoulders.
Thereupon Leighton frowned and very obviously swore under his breath.

"Questioned as to his doings on the sixteenth, he admitted that 'the
guv'nor had been waxy with him, because,' as he put it with an
indifferent swagger, 'there were a few pounds missing from the till.'
He also admitted that he had not been looking forward to the
evening's interview, but that he had not dared refuse to come.  In
order to kill time, and to put heart into himself, he had gone with a
couple of friends to the Café Royal in Regent Street, and they all
had whiskies and sodas till it was time for him to go to Fulton
Gardens.  His friends were to wait for him until he returned, when
they intended to have supper together.  Witness then went to Fulton
Gardens and saw Ann Weber, who told him that the guv'nor didn't wish
to see him.  This, according to his own picturesque language, was a
little bit of all right.  He stayed for a few minutes talking to Ann,
and she gave him a hot toddy.  He certainly didn't think he had
stayed as long as half an hour, but then, when a fellow was talking
to a pretty girl ... eh? ... what? ...

"The coroner curtly interrupted his fatuous explanations by asking
him at what time he had left his friends, and at what time he had met
them again subsequently.  Witness was not very sure; he thought he
left the Café Royal about half-past eight, but it might have been
earlier or later.  He took a bus to the bottom of Fulton Gardens.  It
was beastly cold and wet, and he was very grateful to Ann for giving
him a hot drink.  He denied that he had been drinking too much, or
that he had demanded the hot drink.  It was Ann Weber who had offered
to get it for him.  Jolly pretty girl, Annie-bird, and not shy.
Witness concluded his evidence by swearing positively that he had
waited in the servants' hall all the while that Ann Weber got him the
toddy; he had followed her down, and not gone upstairs or seen
anything of Mr. Jessup all the time he was in the house.  When he
left Fulton Gardens he tried to get a bus back to Regent Street, but
many of them were full and it was rather late before he got back to
the Café Royal.

"It was very obvious that as the coroner continued to put question
after question to him, Arthur Leighton became vaguely conscious of
the feeling of hostility towards him which had arisen in the public
mind.  He lost something of his swagger, and his face under the tan
took on a greyish hue.  From time to time he glanced at Ann Weber,
but she obstinately looked another way.

"Undoubtedly he felt that he was caught in a network of damnatory
evidence which he was unable to combat.  The day ended, however, with
another adjournment; the police wanted a little more time before
taking drastic action.  The public so often blame them for being in
too great a hurry to fasten an accusation on the flimsiest grounds
that one is pleased to record such a noteworthy instance when they
really did not leave a single stone unturned before they arrested
Arthur Leighton on the charge of murder.  They did everything they
could to find some proof of the existence and identity of the
individual whom Ann Weber professed to have seen while Leighton was
still in the house.  But all their efforts in that direction came to
naught, whilst Leighton himself denied having had an accomplice just
as strenuously as he did his own guilt.

"He was brought up before the magistrate, charged with the terrible
crime.  No one, the police argued, had so strong a motive for the
crime or such an opportunity.  Alternatively, no one else could have
admitted the mysterious impersonator of Mr. Jessup into the house,
the accomplice who did the deed, whilst Leighton engaged Ann Weber's
attention, always supposing that he did exist, which was never
proved, and which the evidence of the police constable refuted.
People who dabbled in spiritualism and that sort of thing were
pleased to think that the mysterious personage whom the housemaid saw
was the ghost of poor old Jessup, who was then lying murdered in his
office, stricken by Leighton's hand.  But even the most
psychic-minded individual was unable to give a satisfactory
explanation for the ghost having changed hats while he walked away
from that fateful No. 13.

"Altogether the question of hats played an important role in the
drama of Leighton's arrest and final discharge.  The magistrate did
not commit him for trial, because the case for the prosecution
collapsed suddenly like a pack of cards.  It was the question of hats
that saved Leighton's neck from the hangman's rope.  You remember,
perhaps, that in his evidence he had stated that before starting to
interview his irate employer he had been with some friends at the
Café Royal in Regent Street, and that subsequently he met these
friends there for supper.  Well, although it appeared impossible to
establish definitely the time when Leighton left the Café Royal to go
to Fulton Gardens, there were two or three witnesses prepared to
swear that he was back again at a quarter to ten.  Now this was very
important.  It seems that his friends, who were waiting at the Café
Royal, were getting impatient, and at twenty minutes to ten by the
clock one of them--a fellow named Richard Hurrill--said he would go
outside and see if he could see anything of Leighton.  He strolled on
as far as Piccadilly Circus where the buses stop that come from the
City, and a minute or two later he saw Leighton step out of one.  He
seemed a little fuzzy in the head, and Hurrill chaffed him a bit.
Then he took him by the arm and led him back in triumph to the Café

"Now mark what followed," the funny creature went on, whilst all at
once his fingers started working away as if for dear life on his bit
of string.  "A hat--a soft grey hat--with an overcoat wrapped round
it, were found in the area of a derelict house in Blackhorse Road,
Walthamstow, close to the waterworks, and identified as the late Mr.
Seton Jessup's overcoat and hat.  I don't suppose that you have the
least idea where Blackhorse Road, Walthamstow, is, but let me tell
you that it is at the back of beyond in the northeast of London.  If
you remember, the point policeman had stated that the first visitor
had called at No. 13 Fulton Gardens at half-past eight, and stayed
half an hour.  He then walked away in the direction of Finsbury.
That visitor, the police argued, was Arthur Leighton, who had
murdered Mr. Jessup and sent the telephone message to Fitzjohn's
Avenue; then, hearing Ann Weber moving about downstairs and
frightened at being caught by her, he had put on the deceased's hat
and coat and slipped out of the house.  Ann, however, had recognised
him.  She had involuntarily given him away when the housekeeper asked
her whom she was talking to, so she invented the story of having seen
what she thought was Mr. Jessup in order to save her sweetheart.

"It was a logical theory enough, but here came the evidence of the
hat.  The man who walked away from Fulton Gardens at nine o'clock,
whom the point policeman saw changing his hat in the street at that
hour, could not possibly have gone all the way to Walthamstow, either
by bus or even part of the way in a taxi, and back again to
Piccadilly Circus all in the space of forty-five minutes.  And
Leighton, mind you, stepped out of a bus when his friend met him, and
I can tell you that the police worked their hardest to find a
taxi-man who may have picked up a fare that night in the
neighbourhood of Clerkenwell and driven out to Walthamstow and then
back to Holborn.  That search proved entirely fruitless.  On the
other hand, Leighton had paid his bus fare from Holborn, and the
conductor vaguely recollected that he had got in at the corner of
Clerkenwell Road.  Well, that being proved, the man couldn't have
done in the time all that the prosecution declared that he did.

"After he was discharged, the Press started violently abusing the
police for not having directed their attention to the second visitor
who called at Fulton Gardens ten minutes or so after the first one
had left.  But this person appeared as elusive and intangible as the
mysterious wearer of Mr. Jessup's hat and coat.  The point policeman
saw him in the distance, and Ann Weber admitted him into the house
and chatted with him for over twenty minutes.  She didn't know him,
but she declared that she could easily recognise him if she saw him
again.  For some time after that the poor girl was constantly called
upon by the police to see, and if possible identify, the mysterious
visitor.  Half the shady characters in London passed, I believe,
before her eyes during the next three months.  But this search proved
as fruitless as the other.  The murder of Mr. Seton Jessup has
remained as complete and as baffling a mystery as any in the annals
of crime.  Many there are--you amongst the number--who firmly believe
that Arthur Leighton had, at any rate, something to do with it.  I
know that the family of the deceased were convinced that he did.  Mr.
Aubrey Jessup, the eldest son of the deceased, who was one of the
executors under his father's will, and who had gone through the
accounts of the business, had noted certain irregularities in
Leighton's books; he also declared that various sums which had come
in on the sixteenth after banking hours were missing from the safe.
Moreover, young Leighton himself had admitted that 'the guv'nor was
waxy with him because a few pounds were missing from the till.'  All
these facts no doubt had influenced the police when they applied for
a warrant for his arrest, but there was no getting away from the
evidence of that hat and coat found ten miles and more away from the
scene of the crime, and of the bus conductor who could swear that out
of forty-five minutes which the accused had to account for he had
spent twenty in a bus."

"It is all very mysterious," I put in, because my eccentric friend
had been silent for quite a long time, while his attention was
entirely taken up by the fashioning of a whole series of intricate
knots.  "I am afraid that I was one of those who blamed the police
for not directing their investigations sooner in the direction of the
second visitor.  He seems to me much more mysterious than the first.
We know who the first one was----"

"Do we?" he retorted with a chuckle.  "Or rather, do you?"

"Well, of course, it was Arthur Leighton," I rejoined impatiently.
"Mrs. Tufnell saw him----"

"She didn't," he broke in quickly.  "The house was pitch-dark; she
heard voices and she asked Ann whether she was speaking to Mr.

"And Ann said yes!" I riposted.

"She said yes," he admitted with an irritating smile.

"And Leighton himself in his evidence----"

"Leighton in his evidence," the funny creature broke in excitedly,
"admitted that he had called at the house, he admitted that he
remembered vaguely that Ann Weber told him that Mr. Jessup had
decided not to see him, and that to celebrate the occasion he got the
girl to make him a whisky toddy.  But, apart from these facts, he
only had the haziest notions as to the time when he came and when he
left or how long he stayed.  Nor were his precious friends at the
Café Royal any clearer on that point.  They had all of them been
drinking, and only had the haziest notion of time until twenty
minutes to ten, when they got hungry and wanted their supper."

"But what does that prove?" I argued with an impatient frown.

"It proves that my contention is correct; that the first visitor was
not Leighton, that it was some one for whom Ann Weber cared more than
she did for Leighton, as she lied for his sake when she told her aunt
that she was speaking to Leighton in the hall.  The whole thing
occurred just as the police supposed.  The first visitor called, and
while Ann Weber was down in the kitchen getting him something to eat
and drink, he entered the office, probably not with any evil
intention, and saw his employer sitting at his desk with the safe
containing a quantity of loose cash invitingly open.  Let us be
charitable and assume that he yielded to sudden temptation.  Mr.
Jessup's coat, hat, and stick were lying there on a chair.  The stick
was one of those heavily-weighted ones which men like to carry
nowadays.  He seizes the stick and strikes the old man on the head
with it, then he collects the money from the safe and thrusts it into
his pockets.  At that moment Ann Weber comes up the stairs.  I say
that this man was her lover; she had returned to him, as she did once
before.  Imagine her horror first, and then her desire--her mad
desire--to save him from the consequences of his crime.  It is her
woman's wit which first suggests the idea of telephoning to
Fitzjohn's Avenue: she who thinks of plunging the house in darkness.
And now to get the criminal out of the house.  It can be done in a
moment, but just then Mrs. Tufnell opens her door on the second floor
and begins to grope her way downstairs.  It is impossible to think
quickly enough how to meet this situation.  Instinct is the only
guide, and instinct suggests impersonating the deceased, to avoid the
danger of Mrs. Tufnell peeping in at the office door.  The criminal
hastily dons his victim's hat and coat, and he is almost through the
hall when Mrs. Tufnell calls to Ann: 'Is it Mr. Leighton?'  And Ann
on the impulse of the moment replies: 'Yes, it is!  He is just
going.'  And so the criminal escapes unseen.  But there is still the
danger of Mrs. Tufnell peeping in at the office door, so Ann invents
the story of having seen Mr. Jessup walk out of the house some time
before.  So for the moment danger is averted; the housekeeper does
peep in at the door, but only in order to satisfy herself that the
lights are out; and the women then go upstairs together.

"Ten minutes later there is another ring at the bell.  This time it
is Arthur Leighton, and Ann Weber has sufficient presence of mind not
to let him see that there is anything wrong in the house.  She asks
him in, she tells him Mr. Jessup cannot see him, she gets him a
drink, and sends him off again.  I don't suppose for a moment that at
this stage she has any intention of using him as a shield for her
present sweetheart; but undoubtedly the thought had by now crept into
her mind to utilise Leighton's admitted presence in the house for the
purpose of confusing the issues.  Nor do I think that she had any
idea that night that Mr. Jessup was dead.  She probably thought that
he had only been stunned by a blow from the stick; hence her
exclamation when she realised the truth: 'My God, he has killed him!'
Then only did she concentrate all her energies and all her wits to
saving her sweetheart--even at the cost of another man.  Women are
like that sometimes," the Old Man in the Corner went on with a
chuckle, "the instinct of the primitive woman is first of all to save
her man, never mind at whose expense.  The cave-man's instinct is to
protect his woman with his fists--but she, conscious of physical
weakness, sets her wits to work, and if her man is in serious danger
she will lie and she will cheat--ay, and perjure herself if need be.
And those flirtatious minxes, of which Annie-bird is a striking
example, are only cave-women with a veneer of civilisation over them.

"She did save her man by dragging a red herring across his trail, and
she left Fate to deal with Leighton.  Once embarked on a system of
lies she had to stick to it or her man was doomed.  Fortunately she
could rely on the other woman.  A mother's wits are even sharper than
those of a sweetheart."

"A mother?" I ejaculated.  "Then you think that it was----?"

"Mark Tufnell, of course," he broke in, dryly.  "Didn't you guess?
As he could not go with his beloved to the cinema he thought he would
spend a happy evening with her.  What made him originally go into the
office we shall never know.  Some trifle no doubt, some message for
his employer--it is those sorts of trifles that so often govern the
destinies of men.  Personally I think that he was very much in the
same boat as young Leighton: some trifling irregularities in his
accounts.  The deceased, speaking so harshly to Mrs. Tufnell that
night, first directed my attention to young Tufnell.  He didn't want
to see any of them that night: he was irritated with Mark quite as
much as with Leighton, but out of consideration for the housekeeper
whom he valued he said little about her son.  Perhaps he had ordered
the young man to come to his office; as I said just now, this little
point I cannot vouch for.  But if I have not succeeded in convincing
you that the first visitor at No. 13, Fulton Gardens was Mark
Tufnell, that it was he who went out in Mr. Jessup's hat and
overcoat, changed hats in the street, and wandered out as far as
Walthamstow in order to be rid of the _pièces de conviction_, then
you are less intelligent than I have taken you to be.  Mark Tufnell,
remember, lives in the north of London; he was supposed to have gone
to the cinema that night, therefore the people with whom he lodged
thought nothing of his coming home late."

"That poor mother!" I ejaculated, "I wonder if she suspects the

"She knows it," the funny creature said, "you may be sure of that.
There was a bond of understanding between those two women, and they
never once contradicted each other in their evidence.  A worthless
young blackguard has been saved from the gallows; my sympathy is not
with him, but with the women who put up such a brave fight for his

"Do you know what happened to them all subsequently?" I asked.

"Not exactly.  But I do know that Mr. Seton Jessup in his will left
his housekeeper an annuity of £50.  I also know that young Tufnell
has gone out to Australia, and that if you ever dine with a friend at
the Alcyon Club you will notice an exceptionally pretty waitress who
will make eyes at all the men.  Her name is Ann Weber!"




The Old Man in the Corner had finished his glass of milk and ceased
to munch his bun; from the capacious pocket of his huge tweed coat he
extracted a piece of string, and for a while sat contemplating it,
with his head on one side, so like one of those bald-headed storks at
the Zoo.

"I always had a great predilection for that mystery," he said _à
propos_ of nothing at all.  "It still fascinates me."

"What mystery?" I asked; but as usual he took no notice of my

"It was more romantic than the common crimes of to-day; in fact, I
don't know if you will agree with me, but to me it has quite an
eighteenth-century atmosphere about it."

"If you were to tell me to what particular crime you refer," I said
coldly, "I might tell you whether I agree with you or not."

He looked at me as if he thought me an idiot, then he rejoined dryly:

"You don't mean to say that you have never thought of the Moorland

"Yes," I said, "often!"

"And don't you think that the story is as romantic as any you have
read in fiction recently?"

"Yes, I do think that the story is romantic, but only because of its
_mise en scène_.  The same thing might have occurred in a London
slum, and then it would have been merely sordid.  Of course, it is
all very mysterious, and I, for one, have often wondered what has
become of that Italian--I forget his name."

"Antonio Vissio.  A queer creature, wasn't he?  And we can well
imagine with what suspicion he was regarded by the yokels in the
neighbouring villages.  Yorkshire yokels!  Just think of them in
connection with an exotic creature like Vissio.  He had a curious
history, too.  His people owned a little farm somewhere in the
mountains near Santa Catarina in Liguria, and during the war an
English intelligence officer--Captain Arnott--lodged with them for a
time.  They were, it seems, extraordinarily kind to him.  The family
consisted of a widow, two daughters, and the son, Antonio.  As he was
the only son of a widow, he was, of course, exempt from military
service, and helped his mother to look after the farm.  His passion,
however--and one, by the way, which is very common to Italian
peasants--was shooting.  There is very little game in that part of
Italy, and it means long tramps before you can get as much as a
rabbit or a partridge; but there was nothing that Antonio loved more
than those tramps with a gun and a dog, and when Captain Arnott had
leisure, the two of them would go off together at daybreak and never
return till late at night.

"Some time in 1917 Captain Arnott was transferred to another front.
He got his majority the following year, and after the war he retired
with the rank of Lieut.-Colonel.  He hadn't seen the Vissio family
for some time, but he always retained the happiest recollections of
their kindness to him, and of Antonio's pleasant companionship.  It
was not to be wondered at, therefore, that when, in 1919, that
terrible explosion occurred at the fort of Santa Catarina, which was
only distant a quarter of a mile from the Vissios' farm, Colonel
Arnott should at once think of his friends, and, as he happened to be
at Genoa on business at the time, he motored over to Santa Catarina
to see if he could ascertain anything of their fate.  He found the
village a complete devastation, the isolated farms for miles around
nothing but masses of wreckage.  I don't know how many people--men,
women, and children--had been killed, there were over two hundred
injured, and those who had escaped were herding together amongst the
ruins of their homes.  It was only by dint of perseverance and the
exercise of an iron will that Captain Arnott succeeded at last in
finding Antonio Vissio.  There was nothing left of the farm but dust
and ashes.  The mother and one of the girls had been killed by the
falling in of the roof, and the younger daughter was being taken care
of by some sisters in a neighbouring convent which had escaped total

"Antonio was left in the world all alone, homeless, moneyless; Italy
is not like England, where at times of disaster money comes pouring
at once out of the pockets of the much-abused capitalists to help the
unfortunate.  There was no money poured out to help poor Antonio and
his kindred.

"Colonel Arnott was deeply moved at sight of the man's loneliness.
He worked hard to try and get him a job in England, right away from
the scenes of the disaster that must perpetually have awakened bitter
memories.  Finally he succeeded.  A friend of his, Lord Crookhaven,
who owned considerable property in the North Riding, agreed to take
Vissio as assistant to one of his gamekeepers, a fellow named William
Topcoat.  Of course this was an ideal life for Antonio.  He could
indulge his passion for shooting to his heart's content, and,
incidentally, he would learn something of the science of preserving,
and of the game laws as they exist in all the sporting countries.

"I don't suppose that Antonio ever realised quite how unpopular he
was from the first in his new surroundings.  The Yorkshire yokels
looked upon him as a dago, and the fact that he had not fought in the
war did not help matters.  During the first six months he did not
speak a word of English, and even after he had begun to pick up a
sentence or two, he always remained unsociable.  To begin with, he
didn't drink: he hated beer and said so; he didn't understand
cricket, and was bored with football.  He didn't bet, and he was
frightened of horses.  All that he cared for was his gun; but he went
about his work not only conscientiously, but intelligently, took
great interest in the rearing of young birds, and was particularly
successful with them.

"After he had been in England a year he fell madly in love with
Winnie Gooden.  And that is how the tragedy began.


"An Italian peasant's idea of love is altogether different to that of
an English yokel.  The latter will begin by keeping company with his
sweetheart: he will walk out with her in the twilight, and sit beside
her on the stile, chewing the end of a straw and timidly holding her
hand.  Kisses are exchanged, and sighs, and usually no end of jokes
and chaff.  On the whole the English yokel is a cheerful lover.  Not
so the Italian.  With him love is the serious drama of life; he is
always prepared for it to turn to tragedy.  His love is overwhelming,
tempestuous.  With one arm he fondles his sweetheart, but the other
hand is behind his back, grasping a knife.

"So it was with Antonio Vissio.  Winnie Gooden was the daughter of
one of the gardeners at Markthwaite Hall, Lord Crookhaven's
residence.  She was remarkably pretty, and I suppose that she was
attracted by the silent, rather sullen Italian, who, by the way, was
extraordinarily good-looking.  Dark eyes, a soft creamy skin,
quantities of wavy hair; every one admitted that the two of them made
a splendid pair when they walked out together on Sunday afternoons.
Thanks to the kindness of Colonel Arnott, Vissio had succeeded in
selling the bit of land on which his farm had stood, so he had a good
bit of money, too, and though James Gooden, the father, was said to
be averse to the idea of his daughter marrying a foreigner, it was
thought that Winnie would talk her father over easily enough, if she
really meant to have Antonio; but people didn't think that she was
seriously in love with him.

"During the spring of 1922 Mr. Gerald Moville came home from
Argentina, where he was said to be engaged in cattle-rearing.  He was
the youngest son of Sir Timothy Moville, whose property adjoined that
of Lord Crookhaven.  His arrival caused quite a flutter in feminine
hearts for miles around, for smart young men are scarce in those
parts, and Gerald Moville was both good-looking and smart, a splendid
dancer, a fine tennis and bridge player, and in fact, was possessed
of the very qualities which young ladies of all classes admire, and
which were so sadly lacking in the other young men of the
neighbourhood.  The fact that he had always been very wild, and that
it was only through joining the Air Force at the beginning of the war
that he escaped prosecution for some shady transaction in connection
with a bridge club in London, did not seriously stand against him, at
any rate with the ladies; the men, perhaps, cold-shouldered him at
first, and he was not made an honorary member of the County Club at
Richmond, but he was welcome at all the tea and garden parties, the
dances, and the tennis matches throughout the North Riding, and in
social matters it is, after all, the ladies who rule the roost.

"The Movilles, moreover, were big people in the neighbourhood, whom
nobody would have cared to offend.  The eldest son was colonel
commanding a smart regiment--I forget which; one daughter had married
an eminent K.C., and the other was the wife of a bishop; so for the
sake of the family, if for no other reason, Gerald Moville was
accepted socially and his peccadilloes, of which it seems there were
more than the one in connection with the bridge club, were
conveniently forgotten.  Besides which it was declared that he was
now a reformed character.  He had joined the Air Force quite early in
the war, been a prisoner of the Germans until 1919, when he went out
to Argentina, where he had made good, and where, it was said, he was
making a huge fortune.  This rumour also helped, no doubt, to make
Gerald Moville popular, even though he himself had laughingly sworn
on more than one occasion that he was not a marrying man: he was in
love with too many girls ever to settle down with one.  He certainly
was a terrible flirt, and gave all the pretty girls of the
neighbourhood a very good time; he had hired a smart little
two-seater at Richmond, and motor-excursions, lunches at the
Wheatsheaf at Reeth, jade earrings or wrist watches--the girls who
were ready to flirt with him and to amuse him could get anything they
wanted out of him.

"But it was soon pretty evident that though Gerald Moville flirted
with many, it was Winnie Gooden whom he admired the most.  From the
first he ran after that girl in a way that scandalised the village
gossips.  She, of course, was flattered by his attentions, but did
not show the slightest inclination to throw Antonio over.  She was
sensible enough to know that Gerald Moville would never marry her,
and she made it very clear that though he amused her, her heart would
remain true to her Italian lover.  But here was the trouble.  Antonio
was not the man to run in double harness.  His fiery Southern blood
rose in revolt against any thought of rivalry.  He had won Winnie's
love and meant to hold it against all comers, and more than once in
public and in private he threatened to do for any man who came
between him and Winnie.

"You would have thought that those who were in the know would have
foreseen the tragedy from the moment that Winnie Gooden started to
flirt with Gerald Moville; nevertheless, when it did occur there was
universal surprise quite as much as horror, and there seemed to be no
one clever enough to understand the psychological problem that was
the true key of that so-called mystery."


"Lord Crookhaven's property, you must know," the Old Man in the
Corner resumed after a moment's pause, "extends right over
Markthwaite Moor, which is a lonely stretch of country, intersected
by gullies, down which, during the heavy rains in spring and autumn,
the water rushes in torrents.  There are one or two disused stone
quarries on the moor, and, except for the shooting season, when Lord
Crookhaven has an occasional party of sportsmen to stay with him at
the Hall, who are out after the birds all day, this stretch of
country is singularly desolate.

"Topcoat's cottage, where Vissio lodged, is on the edge of the moor
on the Markthwaite side; about a couple of miles away to the north
the moor is intersected by the secondary road which runs from Kirkby
Stephen and joins up with the main road at Richmond, and three or
four miles again to the north of the road is the boundary wall that
divides Lord Crookhaven's property from that of his neighbour, Sir
Timothy Moville.

"It was in September, 1922, that the tragedy occurred which made
Markthwaite Moor so notorious at the time.  Topcoat was walking
across the moor in the company of the Italian, both carrying their
guns, when about half a mile away, on the further side of the quarry
known as the Poacher's Leap, the gamekeeper spied a man who appeared
to be crouching behind some scrub.  Without much reflection he
pointed this crouching figure out to Vissio and said:

"There's a fellow who is up to no good.  After the birds again, the
damned thief.  Run along, my lad, and see if you can't put a shot or
two into his legs.'

"Topcoat swore subsequently that when he said this he had not
recognised who the crouching figure was.  But he was a very hard man
where poachers were concerned; he had been much worried with them
lately, and a day or two ago had been reprimanded by Lord Crookhaven
for want of vigilance.  This, no doubt, irritated his temper, and
made him rather 'jumpy.'

"Vissio, with his gun on his shoulder, went off in the direction of
the Poacher's Leap.  Topcoat watched him until a bit of
sharply-rising ground hid him from sight.  A moment or two later the
crouching figure stood up, and Topcoat recognised Mr. Gerald Moville.
He had always had exceptionally fine sight, and Mr. Moville had
certain tricks of gait and movement which were unmistakable even at
that distance.  Topcoat immediately shouted to Vissio to come back,
but apparently the Italian did not hear him; and the last thing that
the gamekeeper saw on that eventful morning was Mr. Moville suddenly
turn and walk towards the high bit of ground behind which Vissio had
just disappeared.

"And that was the last," my eccentric neighbour concluded with a
chuckle all his own, "that has been seen up to this hour of those two
men--Mr. Gerald Moville and Antonio Vissio.  Topcoat waited for a
while on the moor, and called to the Italian several times, but as he
heard nothing in response, and as it had started to rain heavily, he
finally went home.  Vissio did not turn up at the cottage the whole
of that day, and he did not come home that night.  The following
morning, which was a Thursday, Topcoat walked across to the Goodens'
cottage to make enquiries, but no one had seen the Italian, and
Winnie knew nothing about him.  The gamekeeper waited until the
Saturday before he informed the police; that, of course, was a
serious delay which ought never to have occurred, but you have to
know that class of north-country yokel intimately to appreciate this
man's conduct throughout the affair.  They all have a perfect horror
of anything to do with the police: the type of delinquency most
frequent in these parts is, of course, poaching, and the gamekeepers
on the big estates look on themselves as the only efficient police
for those cases.  Half the time they don't turn the delinquent over
to the magistrates at all, and administer a kind of rough justice as
they think best.  They hate police interference.

"In this case we must also bear Topcoat's subsequent statement in
mind, which was that at first no suspicion of foul play had entered
his head.  He had not heard the report of a gun, and all he feared
was that the Italian had tried to pick a quarrel with Mr. Moville and
been soundly punished for his impertinence, and that probably he did
not dare show his face until the trouble had blown over.  Topcoat,
however, spent a couple of days scouring the moor for the missing
man, in case he had met with an accident and was lying somewhere
unable to move.  On the second day he found Vissio's gun lying in a
gully close to the Poacher's Leap; it had not been discharged; and
the next day--that is, on the Saturday--he very reluctantly went to
the police.  Even then he made no mention of Mr. Gerald Moville; he
only said that his assistant, an Italian named Antonio Vissio, who
lodged with him, had not been home for three days, and that he had
last seen him on Markthwaite Moor on the previous Wednesday carrying
a gun and walking in the direction of the Poacher's Leap.  Poachers,
of course, were at once suspected; Topcoat referred vaguely to Vissio
having gone after a man whose movements had appeared suspicious.  He
was severely blamed for having delayed so long before informing the
police; even if the Italian had not been the victim of foul play he
might, it was argued, have met with a serious accident, and been
lying for days perhaps with a broken leg out in the cold and wet, and
might even have perished of exposure and neglect.  But this latter
theory Topcoat would not admit.  He had scoured the moor, he
declared, from end to end; if Vissio had been lying anywhere he swore
that he would have found him.

"Another three or four days were now spent by the police in scouring
the moor, and it was only after a last fruitless search that Topcoat
mentioned the fact that he had seen Mr. Gerald Moville the very
morning and close to the spot where Vissio disappeared: that, as a
matter of fact, he was the man after whom the Italian had gone, and
that the two must have met somewhere near the north end of the
Poacher's Leap.

"Of course, to the general public--to you, for instance--Topcoat's
attitude of reticence all this while must seem positively criminal;
but it is useless to measure the conduct of people of that class in
remote north-country districts by the ordinary rules of common sense.
For a man in Topcoat's position to connect 'one of the gentry' with
the disappearance of a gamekeeper's assistant--and a foreigner at
that--would seem as preposterous as to imagine that the King of
England would go poaching on his neighbour's estate.  It simply
couldn't be, and when the D.C.C. to whom Topcoat first made this
statement rebuked him with unusual severity, the gamekeeper turned
sulky and declared that he didn't see he had done anything wrong.

"More than a week you see had elapsed since that Wednesday morning
when Vissio had last been seen alive; for the past four days the
police had worked very hard, but entirely in the dark.  Now at last
they felt that they had a glimmer of light to guide them in their
search.  The public, who had taken some interest at first in the
Moorland Mystery, was beginning to tire of reading about this
fruitless search for a missing dago.  But now, suddenly, the mystery
had taken a sensational turn.  Topcoat's statement had found its way
into the local papers, and Mr. Gerald Moville's name was whispered in
connection with the case.  And hardly had the lovers of sensation
recovered from this first shock of surprise, when they received
another that was even more staggering.

"Mr. Gerald Moville, it seems, had left home on the very day that
Vissio disappeared, and his people were without news of him.  Just
think what this sensational bit of news meant!  It evoked at once in
the mind of the imaginative a drama of love and jealousy, a real
romance such as is only dreamt of in the cinema, with an Italian dago
as the jealous lover, and a handsome young Englishman as the victim
of that jealousy.  The police, holding on to this clue, turned their
attention to the investigation of Mr. Gerald Moville's movements on
the morning of that eventful Wednesday: they had to go very tactfully
to work, so as not to cause alarm to Sir Timothy and Lady Moville.
It seems that Mr. Gerald had on the Monday previously announced his
sudden intention to return immediately to Argentina.  According to
statements made by one or two of the servants, he did this at
breakfast one morning after he had received a couple of
official-looking letters that bore the Buenos Ayres postmark.  Lady
Moville had been very distressed at this, and she and Sir Timothy had
tried to dissuade Mr. Gerald from going quite so soon; but he was
quite determined to go, saying that there was some trouble at the
farm which he must see to at once or it would mean a severe loss not
only to himself, but to his partner.  He finally announced that he
would have to go up to London on the Wednesday at latest to see about
getting a berth, if possible, in a boat that left Southampton for
Buenos Ayres the following Saturday.  Preparations for his departure
were made accordingly.  On the Tuesday the chauffeur took his luggage
to Richmond and saw to its being sent off to London in advance.  It
was addressed to the Carlton Hotel.  On the Wednesday Mr. Gerald had
breakfast at half-past six, as he wished to make an early start; he
was going to drive the little two-seater back to the place in
Richmond whence he had hired it, and then take the train that would
take him to Dalton in time to catch the express up to London.  He had
said good-bye to his parents the evening before, and, having tipped
all the servants lavishly, he made a start soon after seven.

"Two labourers going to their work saw the little car speeding along
the road that intersects the moor; according to their statement there
were two people in the car, a man and a woman.  They thought that the
man who was driving might have been Mr. Moville, but the woman had on
a thick veil and they had not particularly noticed who she was.  On
the other hand, one witness had seen the car standing unattended on
the roadside within a hundred yards of a group of cottages, one of
which was occupied by Gooden.  Whereupon Winnie was taken to task by
the police.  Amidst a flood of tears she finally confessed that she
had seen Mr. Moville on the Wednesday morning.  He had called for her
in his car very early; her father had only just gone to work, so it
could not have been much later than seven o'clock; he told her that
he had some business to attend to in Richmond, would she like to come
for a run and have lunch there with him.  To this she willingly
assented.  On the way Mr. Moville told her that as a matter of fact
he was going away for good, and that he could not possibly live
without her.  He begged her to come away with him; he would take her
to London first, and buy her everything she wanted in the way of
clothes, and then they would go on to Paris, and travel all over the
world and be the happiest couple on this earth.

"It seems that the girl at first was carried away by his eloquence;
she was immensely flattered and thrilled by this romantic adventure,
until something he said, or didn't say, some expression or some
gesture--Winnie couldn't say what it was--but something seemed to
drag her back.  Probably it was just sound Yorkshire common sense.
Anyway, she took fright, turned a deaf ear to Gerald Moville's
blandishments, and insisted on being taken back to her father's
cottage at once.  Still to the accompaniment of a flood of tears
Winnie went on to say that Mr. Gerald 'carried on terribly' when she
finally refused to go away with him, and he reproached her bitterly
for having played with him, all the while that she was in love with
that 'dirty dago.'  But Winnie was firm, and in the end the
disappointed lover had to turn the car back and take the girl home
again.  It was then close upon nine o'clock.  Mr. Gerald drove her to
within half a mile of her father's cottage; here she got out and
walked the rest of the way home.  She had not seen Mr. Moville since;
on the other hand, one of the neighbours told her that soon after she
went off in the car that morning, Antonio Vissio had called at the
cottage, and seemed in a terrible way when he was told that she had
gone out with Mr. Moville.

"As you see the mystery was deepening.  Instead of the one missing
man, there were now two who had disappeared, and the question was
what had become of Mr. Gerald Moville and his car.  Enquiries at the
garage where it belonged brought no light upon the subject.  The car
had not been returned, and nothing had been seen in Richmond of Mr.
Moville or the car.  Enquiries were then telegraphed all over the
place, and twenty-four hours later the car was traced to a small
placed called Falconblane, which is about twelve miles from Paisley,
where it was left at a garage late on the Wednesday night by a man
who had never since been to claim it.  The people at the garage could
only give a vague description of this man.  It was about eleven
o'clock, a very dark night, and just upon closing time.  The man wore
a big motor coat and a cap with flaps over the ears; he had on a pair
of goggles, and the lower part of his face looked coated with grime.
It would be next to impossible to swear to his identity, but the
assistant who took charge of the car said that the man spoke broken

"The police searched the car and found a hand-bag containing a number
of effects, such as a man would take with him if he was going on a
long train journey: brush and comb, a novel, a couple of
handkerchiefs, and so on.  Some of these effects bore the initials

"Pursuing their investigations further, the police discovered that a
man wearing a big motor coat, goggles, and a cap with flap ears had
taken a first-class ticket for Glasgow at Beith, which is a small
place on a local branch line, in the early morning of Thursday, and
had travelled to Glasgow by the 7.05 a.m.  Glasgow being a very busy
terminus, no one appears to have noticed him there, but one of the
porters found a motor coat, a cap, and a pair of goggles in one of
the first-class carriages on the local from Beith, and a certain Mr.
Etty, who was a gentleman's outfitter in the Station Road, stated
that he had a customer in his shop early on Thursday morning who
purchased a tweed cap and an overcoat off the peg.  He had come in
without either hat or coat, his face and hands were black with grime,
and his hair looked covered with coal dust.  He explained that he was
an engineer who had been engaged all night on some salvage work down
the line where there had been a breakdown, and that he had somehow
lost his coat and his cap.  He paid for the goods with a five-pound
note, which he took from a case out of his pocket, and the case
appeared to be bulging over with notes.  Mr. Etty thought that he
might possibly be able to identify the man if he saw him again; one
thing he did note about him, and that was that he spoke broken

"But from that moment, in spite of strenuous efforts on the part of
the police, all traces of the man with the dirty face, who spoke
broken English, vanished completely.  And what's more, all trace of
Mr. Gerald Moville had also vanished.  He did not go up to London,
and all this while his luggage was at the Carlton Hotel waiting to be
claimed.  Nor was it ever claimed by him, because about a month after
that tragic Wednesday in September the body of Mr. Gerald Moville was
found in a 'gruff' or gully about three-quarters of a mile from the
Poacher's Leap.  When I say that the body was found, I am wrong, for
it was only a part of the body, and that, of course, was completely
decomposed.  The head was missing, and it was never found, in spite
of the most strenuous efforts on the part of professional and amateur
detectives, and lavish expenditure of money, thought, and trouble on
the part of Sir Timothy Moville.  It lies buried, I imagine,
somewhere on the moor.  The clothes, though sodden, were, however,
still recognisable, also the unfortunate man's wrist watch which had
stopped at five minutes past eleven, his cuff-links, and his signet
ring, which had fallen from his fleshless finger and lay beside it in
the 'gruff.'

"And about seventy yards higher up the gully a search party found a
knife of obviously foreign make, which still bore certain stains,
which scientific analysis proved to be human blood.  That knife was
identified by Topcoat as the property of Vissio."


The Old Man in the Corner had been silent for a little while, as was
his habit when he reached a certain stage of his narrative.  At such
moments it always seemed as if nothing in the world interested him,
except the fashioning of innumerable and complicated knots in a bit
of string.  It was my business to set him talking again.

"Of course, there was an inquest after that," I said casually.

"Yes, there was," he replied dryly, "but it revealed nothing that the
public did not already know.  A few minor details--that was all.  For
instance, it came to light that when Mr. Moville left home on that
fateful morning he was wearing the coat, cap, and goggles which were
subsequently found in the train at Glasgow Station.  It was easy to
suppose that the murderer had stolen these from his victim; the cap
and goggles being especially useful for purposes of disguise.  The
same supposition applies to money.  Vissio, it was argued, had
probably only a few shillings in his pocket when in a moment of mad
jealousy he killed Gerald Moville.  That, of course, was the
universally accepted theory; it was only desperate necessity that
pushed him on to robbing the dead.  Topcoat and others who knew
Antonio well declared that he was quite harmless except where Winnie
Gooden was concerned; but it was more than likely that that morning
he was tortured by one of his jealous fits.  He had hated Gerald
Moville from the first, and, according to the girl's own admissions,
she must have given him definite cause for jealousy.  That very
morning he had called at her cottage and found that she had gone out
with his rival.  Perhaps he knew that Moville was going away for
good.  Perhaps he guessed that he would try and induce Winnie to go
with him.  With such torturing fears in his heart, what wonder that
when he met his rival on the lonely moor he 'saw red' and used his
knife, as Southerners, unfortunately, are only too apt to do?

"The coroner's jury returned a verdict of wilful murder against
Antonio Vissio, and the police hold a warrant for his arrest.  But
more than two years have gone by since then, and Vissio has succeeded
in eluding the police.  For many weeks the public were deeply
interested in the mystery; the evening papers used to come out with
the headlines: 'Where is Antonio Vissio?' and one great daily offered
a reward of five hundred pounds for information that would lead to
his apprehension.  But, as you know, it has all been in vain.  The
public want to know how a man of unusual personality and speaking
broken English could possibly lie _perdu_ so long in this tight
little island.

"And if he did leave the country, then how did he do it?  He hadn't
his passport with him, as that remained with his effects at Topcoat's
cottage.  How then did he evade the passport officials at Glasgow or
any other port of embarkation?  It is done sometimes, we all know
that, and in this case Vissio had four days' start before Topcoat
gave information to the police, but somehow the newspaper-reading
public felt that if Vissio got out of the country, something would
have betrayed him, some one would have seen him and furnished the
first clue that would lead to discovery.

"And so the disappearance of the Italian has been classed as one of
the unsolved mysteries in the annals of crime.  But to me the only
point on which I am not absolutely clear (although even there I hold
a theory), is why Gerald Moville should have gone wandering about the
moor after he had parted from Winnie Gooden, and when he hadn't very
much time left to catch his train, if he didn't want to miss his
connection at Dalton.  That point did strike Inspector Dodsworth of
the C.I.D., who had been sent down from London to assist the local
police in the investigation of the crime.  I know Dodsworth very
well, and he and I discussed that point once or twice.  Of course, I
was not going to give him the key to the whole mystery--a key, mind
you, which I had discovered for myself--but I didn't object to
talking over one or two of the minor details with the man, and I told
him that in my opinion Moville undoubtedly went out on the moor in
order to meet Vissio, and have it out with him on the subject of

"He wanted Winnie--badly--to come away with him, and I believe that
he was just the sort of man who would think that he could bribe the
Italian to stand aside for him by offering him money.  I believe
those half-bred Spaniards and Portuguese out in Argentina are a most
corrupt and venal crowd, and Gerald Moville classed Vissio amongst
that lot.  I have no doubt whatever in my mind that Moville was
walking across the moor to see if he couldn't find Vissio in
Topcoat's cottage.  It was obviously not for me to tell the police
that the Poacher's Leap is in a direct line between that cottage and
the place where the two-seater was seen at a standstill on the
roadside.  But Dodsworth had to admit that I was right on that point."

"Then you think," I rejoined, "that Mr. Moville, after he parted from
Winnie Gooden, set out to seek an interview with Antonio Vissio with
a view to entering into an arrangement with him about the girl?"

"Yes!" my eccentric friend assented with a nod.

"He wanted to bribe Vissio to stand aside for him?"


"Then," I went on, "he met Vissio on the moor?"


"Came out with his proposition?"


"Which so enraged the Italian that he knocked the other man down and
finally knifed him in accordance with the amiable custom of his

"No," the Old Man in the Corner retorted dryly, "I didn't say that."

"But we know that the two men met and that----"

"And that one of them was killed," he broke in quickly.  "But that
man was not Gerald Moville."

"He was seen," I argued, "at Falconblane, at Beith, and at Glasgow.
The man with the dirty face, the motor coat, and the goggles."

"Exactly," he broke in once more.  "The man in the cap with the flap
ears, and wearing motor goggles; the man whose face and hair were, in
addition, covered with grime.  An excellent disguise; as it indeed
proved to be."

"But the foreign accent?  The man spoke broken English."

"There are few things," he said with a sarcastic smile, "that are
easier to assume than broken English, especially when only uneducated
ears are there to hear."

"Then you think----"

"I don't think," he replied curtly, "I know.  I know that Gerald
Moville met the Italian on the moor, that he quarrelled with him over
Winnie Gooden, that he knocked him down, and that Vissio was killed
in the fall.  I can see the whole scene as plainly as if I had been
there.  Can't you see Moville realising that he had killed the
man?--that inevitably suspicion would fall on him?  Topcoat had seen
him, witnesses had seen his car in the road, he was known to be the
Italian's rival in Winnie's affections!  Already he could feel the
hangman's rope round his neck.  But we must look on Gerald Moville as
a man of resource, a man, above all, up to many tricks for drawing a
red herring across the trail of his own delinquencies.  I will spare
you the details of what I can see in my own mind as having happened
after Moville had realised that Vissio was dead: the stripping of the
body, the exchange of clothes down to the vest and shirt, the
mutilation of the corpse with the victim's own knife, and the
dragging of the body to a distant 'gruff,' where it must inevitably
remain hidden for days, until advanced decomposition had set in to
efface all identification marks.  Fear, no doubt, lent ingenuity and
strength to the miscreant; and, as a matter of fact, Gerald Moville
is one of the few criminals who committed no appreciable blunder when
he set to work to obliterate all traces of his crime; he left the
knife with its tell-tale stains on the spot, and that knife was
identified as the property of the Italian, and the head, which alone
might have betrayed him, even if the body were not found for weeks,
he took away with him to bury somewhere far away--goodness only knows
where, but somewhere between Yorkshire and Scotland.

"I can see Gerald Moville after he had accomplished his grim task
making his way back to his car--the loneliness of this stretch of
country would be entirely in his favour, more especially as it had
begun to rain; I can see him driving along putting mile upon mile
between himself and the scene of his crime.  At one place he
stopped--a lonely spot it must have been--where he disposed of his
gruesome burden; then on and on, past the borders of Yorkshire, of
Westmoreland and Cumberland and into Scotland, till he came close to
the network of railway round about Paisley and Glasgow.  Falconblane,
a village tucked away on a lonely bit of country but boasting of a
garage, must have seemed an ideal spot wherein to abandon the car
altogether and take to the road, and this Moville did, trusting to
the long night, and also to luck, to further efface his traces.
Again I can see him wandering restlessly through the dark hours of
that night, not daring to enter a house and ask for a bed, determined
at all costs to obliterate every vestige of his movements since the

"Then in the morning he takes train for Glasgow, the busiest centre
wherein a man can disappear in a crowd; in the train he takes the
precaution of divesting himself of the motor coat, the goggles and
the cap, but not of the grime that covers his face and hair.  We know
how he provided himself with a more suitable hat and coat; we know
how all through his wanderings he kept up his broken English.  At
Glasgow all traces of him vanish; he has become a very
ordinary-looking man, wearing quite ordinary clothes, and in Glasgow
people are far too busy to take much notice of passers-by.

"We can easily conjecture how easy it was for Moville to leave the
country altogether.  He had plenty of money, and it is never
difficult for a man of resource to leave a British port for any
destination he pleases, especially if he is of obviously British
nationality.  Money, we all know, will accomplish anything, and
rogues will slip through a cordon of officials where the respectable
citizens will be chivied about and harassed with regulations.
Moreover, we must always bear this in mind, that the police were not
on his track, nor on that of the Italian, for that matter.  Moville
was free to come and go, and you may be sure that he was quite clever
enough not to behave in any way that might create suspicion."

The Old Man in the Corner paused quite abruptly.  A complicated knot
was absorbing his whole attention.  I felt thoughtful, meditative,
and after a few minutes' silence I put my meditations into words.

"That is all very well," I said, "but, personally, I don't see that
you have anything definite this time on which to base your theory.
Both the men have disappeared; the police say that Vissio killed
Moville; you assert the reverse, and declare that Moville
deliberately dressed up the body of the Italian in his own clothes,
but you have nothing more to go on for your assertion than the police
have for theirs."

"I was waiting for that," he rejoined with a dry chuckle.  "But let
me assure you that I have at least three psychological facts to go on
for my assertion, whereas the police only go on two very superficial
matters for theirs; they base their whole argument firstly on the
clothes, watch, jewellery, and so on found on a body that was
otherwise unidentifiable, and, secondly, on a blood-stained knife
known to have belonged to the Italian.  Now I have demonstrated to
you, have I not, how easy it was for Moville to manufacture both
these pieces of evidence.  So mark the force of my argument," the
funny creature went on, gesticulating with his thin hands like a
scarecrow blown by the wind.  "First of all, why did Moville suddenly
declare his intention of leaving England?  In order to look after his
partner's affairs?  Not a bit of it.  He left England because of some
shady transaction out there in Argentina which was coming to light,
and because of which he thought it best to disappear altogether for a
time.  My proof for this? you will ask.  The simple proof that his
parents accepted his disappearance for a whole week without making
any enquiries about him either in Richmond, or London, or the
shipping company that controls the steamers to Buenos Ayres.  Can you
imagine that Sir Timothy Moville, having seen the last of his son on
the Tuesday evening, would say and do nothing, when he was left eight
days without news; he would have enquired in London; he knew to which
hotel his son intended to go; some one would have enquired at
Richmond whether the car had been left there.  But no!  There was not
a single enquiry made for Gerald Moville by his parents, or his
brothers and sisters, until after Topcoat had mentioned his name to
the police and the latter had started their investigations.  And why?
Because his people knew where he was; that is to say, they knew--or
some of them knew--that Gerald had to lie low, at any rate for a
time.  Of course his supposed death under such tragic circumstances
must have been a terrible shock to them, but it is a remarkable fact,
you will admit, that the offer of a substantial reward for the
apprehension of the murderer did not come from Sir Timothy Moville;
it came from one of the big dailies, out for publicity.

"My whole argument rests on psychological grounds, and in criminal
cases psychology is by far the surest guide.  Now there was not a
single detail in connection with the Moorland Tragedy that in any way
suggested the hand of a man like Antonio Vissio.  Can you see an
Italian peasant who, moreover, has lived all his life with a gun in
his hand, solemnly laying that gun down before embarking on a quarrel
with his rival?  And yet the gun was found undischarged, lying in a
gully.  Vissio was much more likely to have shouldered it at sight of
the man he hated, and shot him dead; more especially as the
Englishman would have an enormous advantage in a hand-to-hand fight,
even if the other man had suddenly whisked out a knife.  Vissio was
not the type of man who would think of the consequence of his crime.
Maddened by jealousy, he would kill his man at sight, but in his own
country and also in France, there would be no disgrace attached to
such a deed--no disgrace and very little punishment.  The man who
last year shot the English dancing girl on the Riviera because he
thought that she was carrying on with another man, only got five
years' imprisonment; Vissio would not realise that he would be
amenable to English law, which does not look at Homicide quite so

"Having killed his rival, the Italian would, in all probability, have
swanked as far as the nearest village, had a good drink to steady his
nerves, and then have boasted loudly of what he had done, certain
that he would be leniently dealt with by a judge, and sympathised
with by a jury, because of the torments of jealousy which he had
endured until he could do so no longer.  You can't imagine such a man
sawing off his victim's head and wrapping it up in a newspaper taken
out of the dead man's pocket.

"And this brings me to the final point in my argument, and one which
ought to have struck the police from the first: the question of the
car.  How would Vissio know that he would find Moville's car
conveniently stationed by the roadside?  He would have to know that
before he could dare walk across the moor carrying his gruesome
parcel.  Now Vissio couldn't possibly know all that, and what's more,
though he might not have been altogether ignorant of driving, he
certainly was not expert enough to drive a car all by himself for
over a hundred miles, at top speed, and for several hours in the
dark.  To my mind, if this fact had been driven home to the jury by a
motoring expert they never would have brought in a verdict against
Vissio, and if you think the whole matter over you will be bound to
admit that there is not a single flaw in my argument.  From the point
of view of possibility as well as of psychology, only one man could
have committed that crime, and that was Gerald Moville.  I suppose
his unfortunate parents will know the truth one day.  Soon, probably,
when the young miscreant is short of money and writes home for funds.

"Or else he may return to Argentina and under an assumed name start
life anew.  They are not over-particular there as to a man's
antecedents.  They would perhaps think all the more of him, when they
knew that where a girl is concerned he will stand no nonsense from a
rival.  Think it all over, you'll come to the conclusion that I'm

He gathered up his bit of string and took his spectacles from off his
nose.  For the first time I saw his pale, shrewd eyes looking down
straight at me.

"I shan't see you again for some time," he said with a wry smile.
"Won't you shake hands and wish me luck?"

"Indeed I will," I replied, "but you are not going away, are you?"

He gave a curious, short, dry chuckle:

"I am going out of England for the benefit of my health," he said

I hadn't shaken hands with him, because the very next moment he had
turned his back on me as if he thought better of it.  The next
morning I read in the papers a curious account of some extensive
robberies committed in the neighbourhood of Hatton Garden.  The
burglar had managed to escape, but the police were said to hold an
important clue.  A curious feature about those robberies was the way
in which a knotted cord had been used to effect an entrance through a
skylight.  The newspaper reporters gave a very full description of
this cord: it was photographed and reproduced in the illustrated
papers.  The knots in it were of a wonderful and intricate pattern.

They set me thinking--and wondering!

I have often been to that blameless teashop in Fleet Street since.

But the Old Man in the Corner is never there now, and the police have
never been able to trace the large consignment of diamonds stolen
from that shop in Hatton Garden and which has been valued at £80,000.

I wonder if I shall ever see my eccentric friend again.

Somehow I think that I shall.  And if I do, shall I see him sitting
in his accustomed corner, with his spectacles on his nose, and his
long, thin fingers working away at a bit of string--fashioning
knots--many knots--complicated knots--like those in the cord by the
aid of which an entrance was effected into that shop in Hatton Garden
and diamonds worth £80,000 were stolen?

I wonder!!


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