“His wife told me herself. I went to the shop this afternoon to have a few words with Hill and see how he felt after the way Holymead had gone for him at the trial. His wife burst out crying when she saw me, and she told me that her husband had cleared out last night after he came home from court. The hardened scoundrel took with him the few pounds of her savings which she kept in her bedroom, and had even emptied the contents of the till of the few shillings and coppers it contained. All he left were the half-pennies in the child’s money-box. He cleared out in the middle of the night after his wife had gone to bed. He left her a note telling her she must get along without him. I have the note here—his wife gave it to me.”
Rolfe took a dirty scrap of paper out of his pocket-book and laid it before Inspector Chippenfield. The paper was a half sheet torn from an exercise-book, and its contents were written in faint lead pencil. They read:
“I have got to leave you. I have thought it out and this is the only thing to do. I am too frightened to stay after what took place in the court to-day. I’ll make a fresh start in some place where I am not known, and as soon as I can send a little money I will send for you and Daphne. Keep your heart up and it will be all right.
“Keep on the shop.
“YOUR LOVING HUSBAND.”
“The poor little woman is heartbroken,” continued Rolfe, when his superior officer had finished reading the note. “She wants to know if we cannot get her husband back for her. She says the shop won’t keep her and the child. Unless she can find her husband she’ll be turned into the streets, because she’s behind with the rent, and Hill’s taken every penny she’d put by.”
“Then she’d better go to the workhouse,” retorted Inspector Chippenfield brutally. “We’d have something to do if Scotland Yard undertook to trace all the absconding husbands in London. We can do nothing in the matter, and you’d better tell her so.”
Inspector Chippenfield handed back Hill’s note as he spoke. Rolfe eyed him in some surprise.
“But surely you’re going to take out a warrant for Hill’s arrest?” he said.
“Certainly not,” responded Inspector Chippenfield impatiently. “I’ve already said that Scotland Yard has something more to do than trace absconding husbands. There’s nothing to prevent your giving a little of your private time to looking for him, Rolfe, if you feel so tender-hearted about the matter. But officially—no. I’m astonished at your suggesting such a thing.”
“It isn’t that,” replied Rolfe, flushing a little, and speaking with slight embarrassment. “But surely after Hill’s flight you’ll apply for a warrant for his arrest on—the other ground.”
“On what other ground?” asked his chief coldly.
“Why, on a charge of murdering Sir Horace Fewbanks,” Rolfe burst out indignantly. “Doesn’t this flight point to his guilt?”