The Old Man in the Corner
VIII. The Capital Charge
"The police, it appears, instinctively feeling that some mystery lurked round the death of
the bookmaker and his supposed murderer's quiet protestations of innocence, had taken a
very considerable amount of trouble in collecting all the evidence they could for the
inquest which might throw some light upon Charles Lavender's life, previous to his tragic
end. Thus it was that a very large array of witnesses was brought before the coroner, chief
among whom was, of course, Lord Arthur Skelmerton.
"The first witnesses called were the two constables, who deposed that, just as the church
clocks in the neighbourhood were striking eleven, they had heard the cries for help, had
ridden to the spot whence the sounds proceeded, and had found the prisoner in the tight
grasp of Lord Arthur Skelmerton, who at once accused the man of murder, and gave him
in charge. Both constables gave the same version of the incident, and both were positive
as to the time when it occurred.
"Medical evidence went to prove that the deceased had been stabbed from behind
between the shoulder-blades whilst he was walking, that the wound was inflicted by a
large hunting knife, which was produced, and which had been left sticking in the wound.
"Lord Arthur Skelmerton was then called and substantially repeated what he had already
told the constables. He stated, namely, that on the night in question he had some
gentlemen friends to dinner, and afterwards bridge was played. He himself was not
playing much, and at a few minutes before eleven he strolled out with a cigar as far as the
pavilion at the end of his garden; he then heard the voices, the cry and the groan
previously described by him, and managed to hold the murderer down until the arrival of
"At this point the police proposed to call a witness, James Terry by name and a
bookmaker by profession, who had been chiefly instrumental in identifying the deceased,
a 'pal' of his. It was his evidence which first introduced that element of sensation into the
case which culminated in the wildly exciting arrest of a Duke's son upon a capital charge.
"It appears that on the evening after the Ebor, Terry and Lavender were in the bar of the
Black Swan Hotel having drinks.
"'I had done pretty well over Peppercorn's fiasco,' he explained, 'but poor old Lavender
was very much down in the dumps; he had held only a few very small bets against the
favourite, and the rest of the day had been a poor one with him. I asked him if he had any
bets with the owner of Peppercorn, and he told me that he only held one for less than
"'I laughed and said that if he held one for £5000 it would make no difference, as from
what I had heard from the other fellows, Lord Arthur Skelmerton must be about stumped.