The Old Man in the Corner
IX. A Broken-Hearted Woman
The man in the corner called for another glass of milk, and drank it down slowly before
"Now Lord Arthur lives mostly abroad," he said. "His poor, suffering wife died the day
after he was liberated by the magistrate. She never recovered consciousness even
sufficiently to hear the joyful news that the man she loved so well was innocent after all.
"Mystery!" he added as if in answer to Polly's own thoughts. "The murder of that man
was never a mystery to me. I cannot understand how the police could have been so blind
when every one of the witnesses, both for the prosecution and defence, practically
pointed all the time to the one guilty person. What do you think of it all yourself?"
"I think the whole case so bewildering," she replied, "that I do not see one single clear
point in it."
"You don't?" he said excitedly, while the bony fingers fidgeted again with that inevitable
bit of string. "You don't see that there is one point clear which to me was the key of the
"Lavender was murdered, wasn't he? Lord Arthur did not kill him. He had, at least, in
Colonel McIntosh an unimpeachable witness to prove that he could not have committed
that murder--and yet," he added with slow, excited emphasis, marking each sentence with
a knot, "and yet he deliberately tries to throw the guilt upon a man who obviously was
also innocent. Now why?"
"He may have thought him guilty."
"Or wished to shield or cover the retreat of _one he knew to be guilty_."
"I don't understand."
"Think of someone," he said excitedly, "someone whose desire would be as great as that
of Lord Arthur to silence a scandal round that gentleman's name. Someone who,
unknown perhaps to Lord Arthur, had overheard the same conversation which George
Higgins related to the police and the magistrate, someone who, whilst Chipps was taking
Lavender's card in to his master, had a few minutes' time wherein to make an assignation
with Lavender, promising him money, no doubt, in exchange for the compromising
"Surely you don't mean--" gasped Polly.
"Point number one," he interrupted quietly, "utterly missed by the police. George Higgins
in his deposition stated that at the most animated stage of Lavender's conversation with