The Old Man in the Corner
VII. The York Mystery
The man in the corner looked quite cheerful that morning; he had had two glasses of milk
and had even gone to the extravagance of an extra cheese-cake. Polly knew that he was
itching to talk police and murders, for he cast furtive glances at her from time to time,
produced a bit of string, tied and untied it into scores of complicated knots, and finally,
bringing out his pocket-book, he placed two or three photographs before her.
"Do you know who that is?" he asked, pointing to one of these.
The girl looked at the face on the picture. It was that of a woman, not exactly pretty, but
very gentle and childlike, with a strange pathetic look in the large eyes which was
"That was Lady Arthur Skelmerton," he said, and in a flash there flitted before Polly's
mind the weird and tragic history which had broken this loving woman's heart. Lady
Arthur Skelmerton! That name recalled one of the most bewildering, most mysterious
passages in the annals of undiscovered crimes.
"Yes. It was sad, wasn't it?" he commented, in answer to Polly's thoughts. "Another case
which but for idiotic blunders on the part of the police must have stood clear as daylight
before the public and satisfied general anxiety. Would you object to my recapitulating its
She said nothing, so he continued without waiting further for a reply.
"It all occurred during the York racing week, a time which brings to the quiet cathedral
city its quota of shady characters, who congregate wherever money and wits happen to
fly away from their owners. Lord Arthur Skelmerton, a very well-known figure in
London society and in racing circles, had rented one of the fine houses which overlook
the racecourse. He had entered Peppercorn, by St. Armand--Notre Dame, for the Great
Ebor Handicap. Peppercorn was the winner of the Newmarket, and his chances for the
Ebor were considered a practical certainty.
"If you have ever been to York you will have noticed the fine houses which have their
drive and front entrances in the road called 'The Mount.' and the gardens of which extend
as far as the racecourse, commanding a lovely view over the entire track. It was one of
these houses, called 'The Elms,' which Lord Arthur Skelmerton had rented for the
"Lady Arthur came down some little time before the racing week with her servants--she
had no children; but she had many relatives and friends in York, since she was the
daughter of old Sir John Etty, the cocoa manufacturer, a rigid Quaker, who, it was
generally said, kept the tightest possible hold on his own purse-strings and looked with