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The Old Man in the Corner

XXV. The Prisoner
"I really don't know," continued the man in the corner blandly, "what it was that
interested me in the case from the very first. Certainly it had nothing very out of the way
or mysterious about it, but I journeyed down to Brighton nevertheless, as I felt that
something deeper and more subtle lay behind that extraordinary assault, following a
robbery, no doubt.
"I must tell you that the police had allowed it to be freely circulated abroad that they held
a clue. It had been easy enough to ascertain who the lodger was who had rented the
furnished room in Russell House. His name was supposed to be Edward Skinner, and he
had taken the room about a fortnight ago, but had gone away ostensibly for two or three
days on the very day of Mr. Morton's mysterious disappearance. It was on the 20th that
Mr. Morton was found, and thirty-six hours later the public were gratified to hear that Mr.
Edward Skinner had been traced to London and arrested on the charge of assault upon the
person of Mr. Francis Morton and of robbing him of the sum of £10,000.
"Then a further sensation was added to the already bewildering case by the startling
announcement that Mr. Francis Morton refused to prosecute.
"Of course, the Treasury took up the case and subpoenaed Mr. Morton as a witness, so
that gentleman--if he wished to hush the matter up, or had been in any way terrorised into
a promise of doing so--gained nothing by his refusal, except an additional amount of
curiosity in the public mind and further sensation around the mysterious case.
"It was all this, you see, which had interested me and brought me down to Brighton on
March 23rd to see the prisoner Edward Skinner arraigned before the beak. I must say that
he was a very ordinary-looking individual. Fair, of ruddy complexion, with snub nose and
the beginning of a bald place on the top of his head, he, too, looked the embodiment of a
prosperous, stodgy 'City gent.'
"I took a quick survey of the witnesses present, and guessed that the handsome, stylish
woman sitting next to Mr. Reginald Pepys, the noted lawyer for the Crown, was Mrs.
Morton.
"There was a large crowd in court, and I heard whispered comments among the feminine
portion thereof as to the beauty of Mrs. Morton's gown, the value of her large picture hat,
and the magnificence of her diamond rings.
"The police gave all the evidence required with regard to the finding of Mr. Morton in the
room at Russell House and also to the arrest of Skinner at the Langham Hotel in London.
It appears that the prisoner seemed completely taken aback at the charge preferred against
him, and declared that though he knew Mr. Francis Morton slightly in business he knew
nothing as to his private life.
 
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