“Then Peter Tyrrell repeated slowly: ‘I wouldn’t swear.’
“But coroner and jury alike, aye, and every spectator in that crowded court, had seen that the man’s eyes had rested during that one moment of hesitation upon the face of the Earl of Brockelsby.”
THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
The man in the corner blinked across at Polly with his funny mild blue eyes.
“No wonder you are puzzled,” he continued, “so was everybody in the court that day, every one save myself. I alone could see in my mind’s eye that gruesome murder such as it had been committed, with all its details, and, above all, its motive, and such as you will see it presently, when I place it all clearly before you.
“But before you see daylight in this strange case, I must plunge you into further darkness, in the same manner as the coroner and jury were plunged on the following day, the second day of that remarkable inquest. It had to be adjourned, since the appearance of Mr. Timothy Beddingfield had now become of vital importance. The public had come to regard his absence from Birmingham at this critical moment as decidedly remarkable, to say the least of it, and all those who did not know the lawyer by sight wished to see him in his Inverness cape and Glengarry cap such as he had appeared before the several witnesses on the night of the awful murder.
“When the coroner and jury were seated, the first piece of information which the police placed before them was the astounding statement that Mr. Timothy Beddingfield’s whereabouts had not been ascertained, though it was confidently expected that he had not gone far and could easily be traced. There was a witness present who, the police thought, might throw some light as to the lawyer’s probable destination, for obviously he had left Birmingham directly after his interview with the deceased.
“This witness was Mrs. Higgins, who was Mr. Beddingfield’s housekeeper. She stated that her master was in the constant habit—especially latterly—of going up to London on business. He usually left by a late evening train on those occasions, and mostly was only absent thirty-six hours. He kept a portmanteau always ready packed for the purpose, for he often left at a few moments’ notice. Mrs. Higgins added that her master stayed at the Great Western Hotel in London, for it was there that she was instructed to wire if anything urgent required his presence back in Birmingham.
“‘On the night of the 14th,’ she continued, ’at nine o’clock or thereabouts, a messenger came to the door with the master’s card, and said that he was instructed to fetch Mr. Beddingfield’s portmanteau, and then to meet him at the station in time to catch the 9.35 p.m. up train. I gave him the portmanteau, of course, as he had brought the card, and I had no idea there could be anything wrong; but since then I have heard nothing of my master, and I don’t know when he will return.’