The Old Man in the Corner
XXXV. Suicide Or Murder?
"At first there was only talk of a terrible accident, the result of some inexplicable
carelessness which perhaps the evidence at the inquest would help to elucidate.
"Medical assistance came too late; the unfortunate woman was indeed dead, frozen to
death, inside her own room. Further examination showed that she had received a severe
blow at the back of the head, which must have stunned her and caused her to fall,
helpless, beside the open window. Temperature at five degrees below zero had done the
rest. Detective Inspector Howell discovered close to the window a wrought-iron gas
bracket, the height of which corresponded exactly with the bruise at the back of Mrs.
"Hardly however had a couple of days elapsed when public curiosity was whetted by a
few startling headlines, such as the halfpenny evening papers alone know how to concoct.
"'The mysterious death in Percy Street.' 'Is it Suicide or Murder?' 'Thrilling details--
Strange developments.' 'Sensational Arrest.'
"What had happened was simply this:
"At the inquest a few certainly very curious facts connected with Mrs. Owen's life had
come to light, and this had led to the apprehension of a young man of very respectable
parentage on a charge of being concerned in the tragic death of the unfortunate caretaker.
"To begin with, it happened that her life, which in an ordinary way should have been very
monotonous and regular, seemed, at any rate latterly, to have been more than usually
chequered and excited. Every witness who had known her in the past concurred in the
statement that since October last a great change had come over the worthy and honest
"I happen to have a photo of Mrs. Owen as she was before this great change occurred in
her quiet and uneventful life, and which led, as far as the poor soul was concerned, to
such disastrous results.
"Here she is to the life," added the funny creature, placing the photo before Polly--"as
respectable, as stodgy, as uninteresting as it is well possible for a member of your
charming sex to be; not a face, you will admit, to lead any youngster to temptation or to
induce him to commit a crime.
"Nevertheless one day all the tenants of the Rubens Studios were surprised and shocked
to see Mrs. Owen, quiet, respectable Mrs. Owen, sallying forth at six o'clock in the
afternoon, attired in an extravagant bonnet and a cloak trimmed with imitation astrakhan
which--slightly open in front--displayed a gold locket and chain of astonishing