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The Old Man in the Corner

X. The Mysterious Death On The Underground Railway
It was all very well for Mr. Richard Frobisher (of the _London Mail_) to cut up rough
about it. Polly did not altogether blame him.
She liked him all the better for that frank outburst of manlike ill-temper which, after all
said and done, was only a very flattering form of masculine jealousy.
Moreover, Polly distinctly felt guilty about the whole thing. She had promised to meet
Dickie--that is Mr. Richard Frobisher--at two o'clock sharp outside the Palace Theatre,
because she wanted to go to a Maud Allan _matinée_, and because he naturally wished to
go with her.
But at two o'clock sharp she was still in Norfolk Street, Strand, inside an A.B.C. shop,
sipping cold coffee opposite a grotesque old man who was fiddling with a bit of string.
How could she be expected to remember Maud Allan or the Palace Theatre, or Dickie
himself for a matter of that? The man in the corner had begun to talk of that mysterious
death on the underground railway, and Polly had lost count of time, of place, and
circumstance.
She had gone to lunch quite early, for she was looking forward to the _matinée_ at the
Palace.
The old scarecrow was sitting in his accustomed place when she came into the A.B.C.
shop, but he had made no remark all the time that the young girl was munching her scone
and butter. She was just busy thinking how rude he was not even to have said "Good
morning," when an abrupt remark from him caused her to look up.
"Will you be good enough," he said suddenly, "to give me a description of the man who
sat next to you just now, while you were having your cup of coffee and scone."
Involuntarily Polly turned her head towards the distant door, through which a man in a
light overcoat was even now quickly passing. That man had certainly sat at the next table
to hers, when she first sat down to her coffee and scone: he had finished his luncheon--
whatever it was--moment ago, had paid at the desk and gone out. The incident did not
appear to Polly as being of the slightest consequence.
Therefore she did not reply to the rude old man, but shrugged her shoulders, and called to
the waitress to bring her bill.
"Do you know if he was tall or short, dark or fair?" continued the man in the corner,
seemingly not the least disconcerted by the young girl's indifference. "Can you tell me at
all what he was like?"
 
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