The Old Man in the Corner
XXVII. Two Blackguards
"Tell me what you think of it," said the man in the corner, seeing that Polly remained
silent and puzzled.
"Well," she replied dubiously, "I suppose that the so-called Armand de la Tremouille's
story was true in substance. That he did not perish on the _Argentina_, but drifted home,
and blackmailed his former wife."
"Doesn't it strike you that there are at least two very strong points against that theory?" he
asked, making two gigantic knots in his piece of string.
"Yes. In the first place, if the blackmailer was the 'Comte de la Tremouille' returned to
life, why should he have been content to take £10,000 from a lady who was his lawful
wife, and who could keep him in luxury for the rest of his natural life upon her large
fortune, which was close upon a quarter of a million? The real Comte de la Tremouille,
remember, had never found it difficult to get money out of his wife during their brief
married life, whatever Mr. Morton's subsequent experience in the same direction might
have been. And, secondly, why should he have typewritten his letters to his wife?"
"That was a point which, to my mind, the police never made the most of. Now, my
experience in criminal cases has invariably been that when a typewritten letter figures in
one, that letter is a forgery. It is not very difficult to imitate a signature, but it is a jolly
sight more difficult to imitate a handwriting throughout an entire letter."
"Then, do you think--"
"I think, if you will allow me," he interrupted excitedly, "that we will go through the
points--the sensible, tangible points of the case. Firstly: Mr. Morton disappears with
£10,000 in his pocket for four entire days; at the end of that time he is discovered loosely
tied to an arm-chair, and a wool shawl round his mouth. Secondly: A man named Skinner
is accused of the outrage. Mr. Morton, although he himself is able, mind you, to furnish
the best defence possible for Skinner, by denying his identity with the man who assaulted
him, refuses to prosecute. Why?"
"He did not wish to drag his wife's name into the case."
"He must have known that the Crown would take up the case. Then, again, how is it no
one saw him in the company of the swarthy foreigner he described?"
"Two witnesses did see Mr. Morton in company with Skinner," argued Polly.