The Old Man in the Corner
XX. An Alibi
"It was close on six weeks before the doctor at last allowed his patient to attend to the
grave business which had prostrated him for so long.
"In the meantime, among the many people who directly or indirectly were made to suffer
in this mysterious affair, no one, I think, was more pitied, and more genuinely
sympathised with, than Robert Ireland, the manager's eldest son.
"You remember that he had been clerk in the bank? Well, naturally, the moment
suspicion began to fasten on his father his position in the business became untenable. I
think every one was very kind to him. Mr. Sutherland French, who was made acting
manager 'during Mr. Lewis Ireland's regrettable absence,' did everything in his power to
show his goodwill and sympathy to the young man, but I don't think that he or any one
else was much astonished when, after Mrs. Ireland's extraordinary attitude in the case had
become public property, he quietly intimated to the acting manager that he had
determined to sever his connection with the bank.
"The best of recommendations was, of course, placed at his disposal, and it was finally
understood that, as soon as his father was completely restored to health and would no
longer require his presence in London, he would try to obtain employment somewhere
abroad. He spoke of the new volunteer corps organized for the military policing of the
new colonies, and, truth to tell, no one could blame him that he should wish to leave far
behind him all London banking connections. The son's attitude certainly did not tend to
ameliorate the father's position. It was pretty evident that his own family had ceased to
hope in the poor manager's innocence.
"And yet he was absolutely innocent. You must remember how that fact was clearly
demonstrated as soon as the poor man was able to say a word for himself. And he said it
to some purpose, too.
"Mr. Ireland was, and is, very fond of music. On the evening in question, while sitting in
his club, he saw in one of the daily papers the announcement of a peculiarly attractive
programme at the Queen's Hall concert. He was not dressed, but nevertheless felt an
irresistible desire to hear one or two of these attractive musical items, and he strolled
down to the Hall. Now, this sort of alibi is usually very difficult to prove, but Dame
Fortune, oddly enough, favoured Mr. Ireland on this occasion, probably to compensate
him for the hard knocks she had been dealing him pretty freely of late.
"It appears that there was some difficulty about his seat, which was sold to him at the box
office, and which he, nevertheless, found wrongfully occupied by a determined lady, who
refused to move. The management had to be appealed to; the attendants also remembered
not only the incident, but also the face and appearance of the gentleman who was the
innocent cause of the altercation.