“To me the whole thing was clear from the very first. When I read the account of the murder—the knife! stabbing!—bah! Don’t I know enough of English crime not to be certain at once that no English_man_, be he ruffian from the gutter or be he Duke’s son, ever stabs his victim in the back. Italians, French, Spaniards do it, if you will, and women of most nations. An Englishman’s instinct is to strike and not to stab. George Higgins or Lord Arthur Skelmerton would have knocked their victim down; the woman only would lie in wait till the enemy’s back was turned. She knows her weakness, and she does not mean to miss.
“Think it over. There is not one flaw in my argument, but the police never thought the matter out—perhaps in this case it was as well.”
He had gone and left Miss Polly Burton still staring at the photograph of a pretty, gentle-looking woman, with a decided, wilful curve round the mouth, and a strange, unaccountable look in the large pathetic eyes; and the little journalist felt quite thankful that in this case the murder of Charles Lavender the bookmaker—cowardly, wicked as it was—had remained a mystery to the police and the public.
THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILWAY
It was all very well for Mr. Richard Frobisher (of the London Mail) to cut up rough about it. Polly did not altogether blame him.
She liked him all the better for that frank outburst of manlike ill-temper which, after all said and done, was only a very flattering form of masculine jealousy.
Moreover, Polly distinctly felt guilty about the whole thing. She had promised to meet Dickie—that is Mr. Richard Frobisher—at two o’clock sharp outside the Palace Theatre, because she wanted to go to a Maud Allan matinee, and because he naturally wished to go with her.
But at two o’clock sharp she was still in Norfolk Street, Strand, inside an A.B.C. shop, sipping cold coffee opposite a grotesque old man who was fiddling with a bit of string.
How could she be expected to remember Maud Allan or the Palace Theatre, or Dickie himself for a matter of that? The man in the corner had begun to talk of that mysterious death on the underground railway, and Polly had lost count of time, of place, and circumstance.
She had gone to lunch quite early, for she was looking forward to the matinee at the Palace.
The old scarecrow was sitting in his accustomed place when she came into the A.B.C. shop, but he had made no remark all the time that the young girl was munching her scone and butter. She was just busy thinking how rude he was not even to have said “Good morning,” when an abrupt remark from him caused her to look up.
“Will you be good enough,” he said suddenly, “to give me a description of the man who sat next to you just now, while you were having your cup of coffee and scone.”