“At Covent Garden?” suggested Inspector Chippenfield.
“Yes, at Covent Garden,” said Hill.
“When I got home my wife was awake and in a terrible fright. She wanted to know where I’d been, but I didn’t tell her. I told her, though, that my very life depended on nobody knowing I’d been out of my own home that night, and I made her swear that no matter who questioned her she’d stick to the story that I’d been at home all night, and in bed. She begged me to tell her why, and as I knew that she’d have to be told the next day, I told her that Sir Horace Fewbanks had been murdered. She buried her face in her pillow with a moan, but when I took an oath that I had had no hand in it she recovered, and promised not to tell a living soul that I had been out of the house and I knew I could depend on her.
“Next morning, as soon as I got up, I hurried off to a little wine tavern and asked to see the morning papers. It was a foolish thing to do, because I might have known that nothing could have been discovered in time to get into the morning papers, for I hadn’t posted the letter until nearly four o’clock. But I was all nervous and upset, and as I couldn’t face my wife or settle to anything until I knew the police had got the letter and found the body, I—though a strictly temperate man in the ordinary course of life, sir—sat down in one of the little compartments of the place and ordered a glass of wine to pass the time till the first editions of the evening papers came out—they are usually out here about noon. But there was no news in the first editions, and so I stayed there, drinking port wine and buying the papers as fast as they came out. But it was not till the 6.30 editions came out, late in the afternoon, that the papers had the news. I hurried home and then went up to Riversbrook and reported myself to you, sir.”
As Hill finished his story he buried his face in his hands, and bowed his head on the table in an attitude of utter dejection. Rolfe, looking at him, wondered if he were acting a part, or if he had really told the truth. He looked at Inspector Chippenfield to see how he regarded the confession, but his superior officer was busily writing in his note-book. In a few moments, however, he put the pocket-book down on the table and turned to the butler.
“Sit up, man,” he commanded sternly. “I want to ask you some questions.”
Hill raised a haggard face.
“Yes, sir,” he said, with what seemed to be a painful effort.
“What is this girl Fanning like?”
“Rather a showy piece of goods, if I may say so, sir. She has big black eyes, and black hair and small, regular teeth.”
“And Sir Horace had been keeping her?”
“I think so, sir.”
“And a fortnight before Sir Horace left for Scotland there was a quarrel—Sir Horace cast her off?”
“That is what it looked like to me,” said the butler.