“What is your name, my dear?”
“Daphne, sir—Daphne Hill.”
“How old are you, Daphne?”
“Please, sir, I’m eight next birthday.”
“Why, you’re quite a big girl, Daphne! Do you go to school?”
“Oh, yes, sir. I’m in the second form.”
“Do you like going to school, Daphne?”
“I suppose you like going to the Zoo better? Did you like going with father the other day?”
The child’s eyes sparkled with retrospective pleasure.
“Oh, yes,” she said, delightedly. “We saw all kinds of things: lions and tigers, and elephants. I had a ride on a elephant”—her eyes grew big with the memory—“an’ ’e took a bun with his long nose out of my hand.”
“That was splendid, Daphne! Which did you like best—the Zoo or the pictures?”
“I liked them both,” she replied.
“Was Father at home when you came home from the pictures?”
“No,” said the little girl innocently. “He was out.”
Mrs. Hill, standing a little way off with fear on her face, uttered an inarticulate noise, and took a step towards the inspector and her daughter.
“Better not interfere, Mrs. Hill, unless you want to make matters worse,” said the inspector meaningly. “Now, tell me, Daphne, dear, when did your father come home?”
“Not till morning,” replied the little girl, with a timid glance at her mother.
“How do you know that?”
“Because I slept in Mother’s bed that night with Mother, like I always do when Father is away, but Father came home in the morning and lifted me into my own bed, because he said he wanted to go to bed.”
“What time was that, Daphne?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“It was light, Daphne? You could see?”
“Oh, yes, sir.”
Inspector Chippenfield told the child she was a good girl, and gave her sixpence. The little one slipped off his knee and ran across to her mother with delight, to show the coin; all unconscious that she had betrayed her father. The mother pushed the child from her with a heart-broken gesture.
A heavy step was heard in the shop, and the inspector, looking through the window, saw Rolfe. He opened the door leading from the shop and beckoned his subordinate in.
Rolfe was excited, and looked like a man burdened with weighty news. He whispered a word in Inspector Chippenfield’s ear.
“Let’s go into the shop,” said Inspector Chippenfield promptly. “But, first, I’ll make things safe here.” He locked the door leading to the kitchen, put the key into his pocket, and followed his colleague into the shop. “Now, Rolfe, what is it?”
“I’ve found out that Hill put in nearly the whole day after the murder drinking in a wine tavern. He sat there like a man in a dream and spoke to nobody. The only thing he took any interest in was the evening papers. He bought about a dozen of them during the afternoon.”