The Old Man in the Corner
I. The Fenchurch Street Mystery
The man in the corner pushed aside his glass, and leant across the table.
"Mysteries!" he commented. "There is no such thing as a mystery in connection with any
crime, provided intelligence is brought to bear upon its investigation."
Very much astonished Polly Burton looked over the top of her newspaper, and fixed a
pair of very severe, coldly inquiring brown eyes upon him.
She had disapproved of the man from the instant when he shuffled across the shop and sat
down opposite to her, at the same marble-topped table which already held her large
coffee (3d.), her roll and butter (2d.), and plate of tongue (6d.).
Now this particular corner, this very same table, that special view of the magnificent
marble hall--known as the Norfolk Street branch of the Aërated Bread Company's depôts-
-were Polly's own corner, table, and view. Here she had partaken of eleven pennyworth
of luncheon and one pennyworth of daily information ever since that glorious never-to-
be-forgotten day when she was enrolled on the staff of the _Evening Observer_ (we'll call
it that, if you please), and became a member of that illustrious and world-famed
organization known as the British Press.
She was a personality, was Miss Burton of the _Evening Observer_. Her cards were
[Illustration: Miss MARY J. BURTON. _Evening Observer_.]
She had interviewed Miss Ellen Terry and the Bishop of Madagascar, Mr. Seymour
Hicks and the Chief Commissioner of Police. She had been present at the last
Marlborough House garden party--in the cloak-room, that is to say, where she caught
sight of Lady Thingummy's hat, Miss What-you-may-call's sunshade, and of various
other things modistical or fashionable, all of which were duly described under the
heading "Royalty and Dress" in the early afternoon edition of the _Evening Observer_.
(The article itself is signed M.J.B., and is to be found in the files of that leading
For these reasons--and for various others, too--Polly felt irate with the man in the corner,
and told him so with her eyes, as plainly as any pair of brown eyes can speak.