“Well,” continued the man in the corner, with the chuckle peculiar to him in moments of excitement, “the noble prisoner was discharged. Perhaps it would be invidious to say that he left the court without a stain on his character, for I daresay you know from experience that the crime known as the York Mystery has never been satisfactorily cleared up.
“Many people shook their heads dubiously when they remembered that, after all, Charles Lavender was killed with a knife which one witness had sworn belonged to Lord Arthur; others, again, reverted to the original theory that George Higgins was the murderer, that he and James Terry had concocted the story of Lavender’s attempt at blackmail on Lord Arthur, and that the murder had been committed for the sole purpose of robbery.
“Be that as it may, the police have not so far been able to collect sufficient evidence against Higgins or Terry, and the crime has been classed by press and public alike in the category of so-called impenetrable mysteries.”
A BROKEN-HEARTED WOMAN
The man in the corner called for another glass of milk, and drank it down slowly before he resumed:
“Now Lord Arthur lives mostly abroad,” he said. “His poor, suffering wife died the day after he was liberated by the magistrate. She never recovered consciousness even sufficiently to hear the joyful news that the man she loved so well was innocent after all.
“Mystery!” he added as if in answer to Polly’s own thoughts. “The murder of that man was never a mystery to me. I cannot understand how the police could have been so blind when every one of the witnesses, both for the prosecution and defence, practically pointed all the time to the one guilty person. What do you think of it all yourself?”
“I think the whole case so bewildering,” she replied, “that I do not see one single clear point in it.”
“You don’t?” he said excitedly, while the bony fingers fidgeted again with that inevitable bit of string. “You don’t see that there is one point clear which to me was the key of the whole thing?
“Lavender was murdered, wasn’t he? Lord Arthur did not kill him. He had, at least, in Colonel McIntosh an unimpeachable witness to prove that he could not have committed that murder—and yet,” he added with slow, excited emphasis, marking each sentence with a knot, “and yet he deliberately tries to throw the guilt upon a man who obviously was also innocent. Now why?”
“He may have thought him guilty.”
“Or wished to shield or cover the retreat of one he knew to be guilty.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Think of someone,” he said excitedly, “someone whose desire would be as great as that of Lord Arthur to silence a scandal round that gentleman’s name. Someone who, unknown perhaps to Lord Arthur, had overheard the same conversation which George Higgins related to the police and the magistrate, someone who, whilst Chipps was taking Lavender’s card in to his master, had a few minutes’ time wherein to make an assignation with Lavender, promising him money, no doubt, in exchange for the compromising bills.”