The Old Man in the Corner
XXIV. An Unparalleled Outrage
"Do you care for the seaside?" asked the man in the corner when he had finished his
lunch. "I don't mean the seaside at Ostend or Trouville, but honest English seaside with
nigger minstrels, three-shilling excursionists, and dirty, expensive furnished apartments,
where they charge you a shilling for lighting the hall gas on Sundays and sixpence on
other evenings. Do you care for that?"
"I prefer the country."
"Ah! perhaps it is preferable. Personally I only liked one of our English seaside resorts
once, and that was for a week, when Edward Skinner was up before the magistrate,
charged with what was known as the 'Brighton Outrage.' I don't know if you remember
the memorable day in Brighton, memorable for that elegant town, which deals more in
amusements than mysteries, when Mr. Francis Morton, one of its most noted residents,
disappeared. Yes! disappeared as completely as any vanishing lady in a music-hall. He
was wealthy, had a fine house, servants, a wife and children, and he disappeared. There
was no getting away from that.
"Mr. Francis Morton lived with his wife in one of the large houses in Sussex Square at
the Kemp Town end of Brighton. Mrs. Morton was well known for her Americanisms,
her swagger dinner parties, and beautiful Paris gowns. She was the daughter of one of the
many American millionaires (I think her father was a Chicago pork-butcher), who
conveniently provide wealthy wives for English gentlemen; and she had married Mr.
Francis Morton a few years ago and brought him her quarter of a million, for no other
reason but that she fell in love with him. He was neither good-looking nor distinguished,
in fact, he was one of those men who seem to have CITY stamped all over their person.
"He was a gentleman of very regular habits, going up to London every morning on
business and returning every afternoon by the 'husband's train.' So regular was he in these
habits that all the servants at the Sussex Square house were betrayed into actual gossip
over the fact that on Wednesday, March 17th, the master was not home for dinner. Hales,
the butler, remarked that the mistress seemed a bit anxious and didn't eat much food. The
evening wore on and Mr. Morton did not appear. At nine o'clock the young footman was
dispatched to the station to make inquiries whether his master had been seen there in the
afternoon, or whether--which Heaven forbid--there had been an accident on the line. The
young man interviewed two or three porters, the bookstall boy, and ticket clerk; all were
agreed that Mr. Morton did not go up to London during the day; no one had seen him
within the precincts of the station. There certainly had been no accident reported either on
the up or down line.
"But the morning of the 18th came, with its initial postman's knock, but neither Mr.
Morton nor any sign or news from him. Mrs. Morton, who evidently had spent a sleepless
night, for she looked sadly changed and haggard, sent a wire to the hall porter at the large
building in Cannon Street, where her husband had his office. An hour later she had the