The Old Man in the Corner
IV. The Robbery In Phillimore Terrace
Whether Miss Polly Burton really did expect to see the man in the corner that Saturday
afternoon, 'twere difficult to say; certain it is that when she found her way to the table
close by the window and realized that he was not there, she felt conscious of an
overwhelming sense of disappointment. And yet during the whole of the week she had,
with more pride than wisdom, avoided this particular A.B.C. shop.
"I thought you would not keep away very long," said a quiet voice close to her ear.
She nearly lost her balance--where in the world had he come from? She certainly had not
heard the slightest sound, and yet there he sat, in the corner, like a veritable Jack-in-the-
box, his mild blue eyes staring apologetically at her, his nervous fingers toying with the
inevitable bit of string.
The waitress brought him his glass of milk and a cheese-cake. He ate it in silence, while
his piece of string lay idly beside him on the table. When he had finished he fumbled in
his capacious pockets, and drew out the inevitable pocket-book.
Placing a small photograph before the girl, he said quietly:
"That is the back of the houses in Phillimore Terrace, which overlook Adam and Eve
She looked at the photograph, then at him, with a kindly look of indulgent expectancy.
"You will notice that the row of back gardens have each an exit into the mews. These
mews are built in the shape of a capital F. The photograph is taken looking straight down
the short horizontal line, which ends, as you see, in a _cul-de-sac_. The bottom of the
vertical line turns into Phillimore Terrace, and the end of the upper long horizontal line
into High Street, Kensington. Now, on that particular night, or rather early morning, of
January 15th, Constable D 21, having turned into the mews from Phillimore Terrace,
stood for a moment at the angle formed by the long vertical artery of the mews and the
short horizontal one which, as I observed before, looks on to the back gardens of the
Terrace houses, and ends in a _cul-de-sac_.
"How long D 21 stood at that particular corner he could not exactly say, but he thinks it
must have been three or four minutes before he noticed a suspicious-looking individual
shambling along under the shadow of the garden walls. He was working his way
cautiously in the direction of the _cul-de-sac_, and D 21, also keeping well within the
shadow, went noiselessly after him.
"He had almost overtaken him--was, in fact, not more than thirty yards from him--when
from out of one of the two end houses--No. 22, Phillimore Terrace, in fact--a man, in
nothing but his night-shirt, rushed out excitedly, and, before D 21 had time to intervene,