“Where was this?” asked the inspector.
“At a little wine tavern in High Street, where he’s never been seen before. The man who keeps the place gave me a good description of him, though. Hill went there about ten o’clock in the morning, and started drinking port wine, and as fast as the evening papers came out he sent the boy out for them, glanced through them, and then crumpled them up. He stayed there till after five o’clock. By that time the 6.30 editions would reach Camden Town, and if you remember it was the six-thirty editions which had the first news of the murder. The tavern-keeper declares that Hill drank nearly two bottles of Tarragona port, in threepenny glasses, during the day.”
“I should have credited Hill with a better taste in port, with his opportunities as Sir Horace Fewbanks’s butler,” said Inspector Chippenfield drily. “What you have found out, Rolfe, only goes to bear out my own discovery that Hill is deeply implicated in this affair. I have found out, for my part, that Hill did not spend the night of the murder at home here.”
There was a ring of triumph in Inspector Chippenfield’s voice as he announced this discovery, but before Rolfe could make any comment upon it there was a quick step behind them, and both men turned, to see Hill. The butler was astonished at finding the two police officers in his wife’s shop. He hesitated, and apparently his first impulse was to turn into the street again; but, realising the futility of such a course, he came forward with an attempt to smooth his worried face into a conciliatory smile.
“Hill!” said Inspector Chippenfield sternly. “Once and for all, will you own up where you were on the night of the murder?”
Hill started slightly, then, with admirable self-command, he recovered himself and became as tight-lipped and reticent as ever.
“I’ve already told you, sir,” he replied smoothly. “I spent it in my own home. If you ask my wife, sir, she’ll tell you I never stirred out of the house after I came back from taking my little girl to the Zoo.”
“I know she will, you scoundrel!” burst out the choleric inspector. “She’s been well tutored by you, and she tells the tale very well. But it’s no good, Hill. You forgot to tutor your little daughter, and she’s innocently put you away. What’s more, you were seen in London before daybreak the night after the murder. The game’s up, my man.”
Inspector Chippenfield produced a pair of handcuffs as he spoke. Hill passed his tongue over his dry lips before he was able to speak.
“Don’t put them on me,” he said imploringly, as Inspector Chippenfield advanced towards him. “I’ll—I’ll confess!”
Inspector Chippenfield’s first words were a warning.
“You know what you are saying, Hill?” he asked. “You know what this means? Any statement you make may be used in evidence against you at your trial.”