“Even then—” she began.
“Wait a moment, for I found out something more. The moment I had ascertained that Mr. Vassall was not drawing more than about L500 a year from the business profits I tried to ascertain at what rate he lived and what were his chief vices. I found that he kept a fine house in Albert Terrace. Now, the rents of those houses are L250 a year. Therefore speculation, horse-racing or some sort of gambling, must help to keep up that establishment. Speculation and most forms of gambling are synonymous with debt and ruin. It is only a question of time. Whether Mr. Vassall was in debt or not at the time, that I cannot say, but this I do know, that ever since that unfortunate loss to him of about L1000 he has kept his house in nicer style than before, and he now has a good banking account at the Lancashire and Liverpool bank, which he opened a year after his ‘heavy loss.’”
“But it must have been very difficult—” argued Polly.
“What?” he said. “To have planned out the whole thing? For carrying it out was mere child’s play. He had twenty-four hours in which to put his plan into execution. Why, what was there to do? Firstly, to go to a local printer in some out-of-the-way part of the town and get him to print a few cards with the high-sounding name. That, of course, is done ‘while you wait.’ Beyond that there was the purchase of a good second-hand uniform, fur coat, and a beard and a wig from a costumier’s.
“No, no, the execution was not difficult; it was the planning of it all, the daring that was so fine. Schwarz, of course, was a foreigner; he had only been in England a little over a fortnight. Vassall’s broken English misled him; probably he did not know the junior partner very intimately. I have no doubt that but for his uncle’s absurd British prejudice and suspicions against the Russian Prince, Schwarz would not have been so ready to believe in the latter’s roguery. As I said, it would be a great boon if English tradesmen studied Gotha more; but it was clever, wasn’t it? I couldn’t have done it much better myself.”
That last sentence was so characteristic. Before Polly could think of some plausible argument against his theory he was gone, and she was trying vainly to find another solution to the Liverpool mystery.
THE EDINBURGH MYSTERY
The man in the corner had not enjoyed his lunch. Miss Polly Burton could see that he had something on his mind, for, even before he began to talk that morning, he was fidgeting with his bit of string, and setting all her nerves on the jar.
“Have you ever felt real sympathy with a criminal or a thief?” he asked her after a while.
“Only once, I think,” she replied, “and then I am not quite sure that the unfortunate woman who did enlist my sympathies was the criminal you make her out to be.”