“Then he lays his plans. He typewrites a letter, forges the signature of the erstwhile Count, and awaits events. The fish does rise to the bait. He gets sundry bits of money, and his success makes him daring. He looks round him for an accomplice—clever, unscrupulous, greedy—and selects Mr. Edward Skinner, probably some former pal of his wild oats days.
“The plan was very neat, you must confess. Mr. Skinner takes the room in Russell House, and studies all the manners and customs of his landlady and her servant. He then draws the full attention of the police upon himself. He meets Morton in West Street, then disappears ostensibly after the ‘assault.’ In the meanwhile Morton goes to Russell House. He walks upstairs, talks loudly in the room, then makes elaborate preparations for his comedy.”
“Why! he nearly died of starvation!”
“That, I dare say, was not a part of his reckoning. He thought, no doubt, that Mrs. Chapman or the servant would discover and rescue him pretty soon. He meant to appear just a little faint, and endured quietly the first twenty-four hours of inanition. But the excitement and want of food told on him more than he expected. After twenty-four hours he turned very giddy and sick, and, falling from one fainting fit into another, was unable to give the alarm.
“However, he is all right again now, and concludes his part of a downright blackguard to perfection. Under the plea that his conscience does not allow him to live with a lady whose first husband is still alive, he has taken a bachelor flat in London, and only pays afternoon calls on his wife in Brighton. But presently he will tire of his bachelor life, and will return to his wife. And I’ll guarantee that the Comte de la Tremouille will never be heard of again.”
And that afternoon the man in the corner left Miss Polly Burton alone with a couple of photos of two uininteresting, stodgy, quiet-looking men—Morton and Skinner—who, if the old scarecrow was right in his theories, wore a pair of the finest blackguards unhung.
THE REGENT’S PARK MURDER
By this time Miss Polly Burton had become quite accustomed to her extraordinary vis-a-vis in the corner.
He was always there, when she arrived, in the selfsame corner, dressed in one of his remarkable check tweed suits; he seldom said good morning, and invariably when she appeared he began to fidget with increased nervousness, with some tattered and knotty piece of string.
“Were you ever interested in the Regent’s Park murder?” he asked her one day.
Polly replied that she had forgotten most of the particulars connected with that curious murder, but that she fully remembered the stir and flutter it had caused in a certain section of London Society.
“The racing and gambling set, particularly, you mean,” he said. “All the persons implicated in the murder, directly or indirectly, were of the type commonly called ‘Society men,’ or ‘men about town,’ whilst the Harewood Club in Hanover Square, round which centred all the scandal in connection with the murder, was one of the smartest clubs in London.