V.—THE CASE OF MRS. NORRIS
I HAVE always known Skin o' my Tooth to hold the axiom that, justice is invariably on the side of the cleverest lawyer. I might as well at this point record the fact that he held the learned gentlemen of the Bar in complete and withering contempt. "They are a necessary evil in the High Courts," he would say; but then, to my esteemed employer, everybody in a court of law, from the judge downwards, was "a necessary evil." He would have liked some arrangement by which he could have argued out a criminal case with another lawyer; that side to win who got the best of the argument.
I can recall one or two very narrow shaves, where a judge and jury's decision really seemed a matter of tossing a halfpenny; it might go either way, and my chief fully deserved the nickname which the public had now universally bestowed upon him. But, of the many interesting cases with which Skin o' my Tooth was associated after the Duffield peerage case had brought his name so prominently before the public, none, I think, seemed at the first glance so intricate, and demonstrated his weird gifts more marvellously than the case of Mrs. Norris.
She was a pile, delicate-looking woman—I should say not more than twenty-five years of age, and no doubt among her own friends would be called pretty. Of course, when Skin o' my Tooth saw her in Holloway, she was evidently worn out with sleepless nights, and half crazy with the horror of the position in which she found herself. Her speech was very incoherent, and the curious mixture of self-accusations and vigorous protestations of innocence, together with the marked obstinacy of her general attitude, would have irritated any man less devoted to his calling than Skin o' my Tooth.
The facts, as far as they were known to the police and the public, and as far as Mrs. Norris herself was willing to admit, were briefly these:—
On Thursday. April 17th, the inhabitants of Shirland Mansions, Maida Vale, were startled at eleven o 'clock at night by loud screams proceeding from one of the flats. Very soon the door of No. 22 was thrown violently open, and Mrs. Norris, who occupied the flat with her husband, came out on the landing loudly calling for help.
To the neighbours, who immediately responded to her call, she seemed like one demented; her eyes were starting out of her head, her face was livid, and with trembling fingers she was pointing towards her own apartments, whilst, in answer to every query, her quivering mouth murmured repeatedly—
"In there—in the sitting-room!"
At last, Mr. Daniell, from No. 23, less nervous and excitable than the other neighbours, made up his mind to ascertain what it was that had so completely shattered, Mrs. Norris's nerves. One glance into the sitting-room, where the electric light was fully turned on, told him the whole gruesome tale. The body of Mr. Norris was lying on the floor, with his throat cut. There was no doubt that he was dead—the body was rigid, the face livid, whilst the eyes stared up at the ceiling with a look of infinite terror; in his hand the unfortunate man held, tightly clutched, the razor with which evidently he had put an end to his life.
Following Mr. Daniell's example, a few of the neighbours had crowded into the small flat; a young fellow from No. 20, who owned a bicycle, suddenly bethought himself that perhaps a doctor or the police would be needful at this juncture, so he went off, leaving a select few to gaze awestruck and helpless at the rigid body, and to offer well-meant but wholly ineffectual comfort to the half-crazed young widow.
It was, of course, very late in the night when at last the detective-inspector from the station, accompanied by two constables and the police divisional surgeon, came in response to the call from the cyclist. After that, the crowd of eager and inquisitive neighbours had perforce to retire within the precincts of their respective flats.
From the very first the general public refused to believe in the suicide theory. The morning papers already on the following day threw out vague hints of possible sensational developments. The coroner's inquest held on Monday only confirmed what already everyone had suspected—namely, that Mr. Norris had been murdered. The doctor declared that the wound in his throat had not been caused by the sharp razor found clutched in the dead man's hand—it had been inflicted by a much blunter instrument. Now, no knife of any kind was found upon the scene of the tragedy, but a few drops of blood were noticed by the detective-inspector upon the earthenware sink in the kitchen, showing that the murderer had washed his hands and his instrument there. Probably after that he found the razor in the dressing-room, and placed it in his victim's hand in order to raise the question of suicide.
But it was the examination of Mrs. Norris which furnished the truly sensational element of the tragedy. She repeated before the coroner what she already had told the police—namely, that on the fateful night she had been out to dine with a friend in the neighbourhood of Swiss Cottage, she came home at eleven o'clock at night, and going straight into the sitting-room and turning on the electric light, she saw her husband lying on the floor, dead. Horrified beyond measure, she had screamed for help. She, too, had at first believed in the theory that Mr. Norris had for some unaccountable reason committed suicide: certainly he had no enemy, to her knowledge, and she professed herself quite unable to throw any light upon the mysterious affair.
It appears, however, that her attitude when originally questioned by the police was so strange, her confusion and excitement so manifest, that Mason, the detective who had charge of the case, set to work to immediately verify her statements. He saw the friend with whom Mrs. Norris had dined the evening of her husband's death, but he also ascertained that she left that friend's house at half-past nine o'clock.
Pressed by the coroner, now she seemed absolutely unable to give any account as to how she spent her time between 9.30 and 11 p.m. She had walked about the streets, she said; but as the night of the 17th had been pouring wet, this statement was, to say the least, peculiar. Unfortunately for her, no one in the Mansions had heard her come in; the outside doors not being closed until 11.30, anyone could come in or go out easily unperceived.
The owners of the other flats in the same building could not give the police much help in the matter. One statement in connection with the Norrises, however, was quite unanimous among all witnesses—namely, that the quarrels between husband and wife amounted to positive scandal. According to Mr. Daniell, at No. 23, scarcely a day passed in the Norris ménage without a domestic squabble. It was generally supposed that the young wife's extravagance and love of dress, and the husband's ungovernable temper, were the causes of this disunion. On the very night of Mr. Norris's death, Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt, in the flat immediately below his, heard at half-past ten o'clock at night the sound of a scuffle overhead. So loud was it that Mrs. Wyatt suggested that her husband should go upstairs and intervene, as she was quite sure Mr. Norris was murdering his wife.
I don't think that anyone could blame the police for the course they adopted in this very mysterious affair: they arrested Mrs. Norris on a charge of murdering her husband. Brought before the magistrate, she pleaded "Not guilty," and repeated her story with wonderful obstinacy—she had dined with a friend, and from 9.30 to 11 had walked about the streets alone. Her whole manner on that subject was confused in the extreme. That there was something here which she wished to hide, was apparent to everyone. But the lie told against her, of course; and were it not for the fact that the magistrate was a peculiarly humane and kindly man, who took pity on her lonely position, and remanded her so that she might obtain legal advice immediately, there is no doubt that she would at once have been committed for trial.
It was at this point that Mrs. Norris's relations approached Skin o' my Tooth, with the view that he should undertake her defence. The case had interested him from the first, and he was quite ready to give the unfortunate woman the benefit of his great skill.
We saw her in Holloway. She was obviously very pleased to have legal advice, and seemed inclined to be less reticent than she had been hitherto.
"I may have acted very thoughtlessly, Mr. Mulligan," she said; "but I had no one to advise me; and really, I have been half crazy with this horrible accusation hanging over me."
"I think you were very foolish to make such a secret of how you spent your time between 9.30 and 11 on that fateful night; an alibi in a case like yours is imperative. I hope that you have quite made up your mind to be absolutely frank with me."
"I am afraid that when you hear how simple the explanation is, you will think me worse than foolish."
"It doesn't matter what I think at this point," remarked Skin o' my Tooth drily.
"After I left my friend at 9.30," she began, speaking, I thought, with strange nervousness, "I went on to see another friend, in Hamilton Terrace, with whom I stayed until nearly eleven o'clock."
"As you say, it is extremely simple," said Skin o' my Tooth, who had noticed her curious and constrained manner, and was looking at her through his thick and fleshy lids. "The alibi is quite perfect. Of course, your friend will corroborate this statement."
She hesitated very palpably; then she added—
"I took a hansom to go home—no doubt the cabman can be found."
"No doubt; but it was a dark night, and the cabman may not be able to identify you accurately. Still, it is additional evidence, your friend's being, of course, the most valuable. Will you give me her name and address, so that I may communicate with her immediately?"
Again Mrs. Norris hesitated visibly for a moment before she replied—
"Lady Ralph Morshampton, 196, Hamilton Terrace."
Her attitude was a puzzle to me, and I could see that Skin o' my Tooth was both mystified and vexed. However, he dropped that point for the moment, and questioned Mrs. Norris of the probable motive for the murder.
"The police tell me that the rooms had evidently been searched through and through, possibly for money or valuables. Do you know of anything that may have tempted a murderer?"
"Nothing," she replied most emphatically. "We were in very modest circumstances; we never kept money in the house, beyond a sovereign or so, and we had no valuables of any kind."
And you cannot account for the wild search which was evidently made through the rooms for something? You know that the dressing-bag turned inside out, the drawers emptied; even the books in the bookcase were disturbed."
"I don't understand it," she replied, with a return of that strange nervous wilfulness which was so unaccountable, and which had already so much prejudiced her case; "I cannot account for it in any way."
With marked impatience Skin o' my Tooth rose to go. I could see that he was within an ace of throwing up the case, for it was clear, of course, that Mrs. Norris was not absolutely frank, even with him. But the case had gripped him, and this additional puzzle only aroused his further interest in it; it seemed literally to bristle with mysteries. He controlled his rising temper for the moment and took leave of his client, promising to call again early the next morning.
"Why does that woman lie to me?" he said savagely, the moment we were outside. "She knows or guesses the motive of that murder, I'll swear. Is she guilty herself, after all, or is she shielding a friend? And what in Heaven's name has Lady Ralph Morshampton to do with it all?"
I, of course, could not answer these intricate questions, and we returned to Finsbury Square in silence. We found that during our absence from the office the boy had introduced a visitor into Skin o' my Tooth's private room.
"A lady, sir," he explained. "She wouldn't give her name, and she wouldn't wait here, so I had to show her in."
I followed my chief into his private office, where the visitor was waiting. She was a lady very elegantly dressed, who rose with languid grace to greet Skin o' my Tooth as he entered.
"Mr. Mulligan?" she asked.
"That is my name," replied my chief, as he drew an easy-chair forward for her and seated himself at his desk, viewing his elegant visitor with more than professional interest.
She seemed a little troubled at what to say next, and looked across at me somewhat doubtfully.
"My confidential clerk," explained Skin o' my Tooth. "As trustworthy as myself. Still, if you wish it, he can go."
"Oh, no! not at all. Since he has your confidence, I have nothing more to say. I did not leave my name with your office boy, Mr. Mulligan, as I would wish, as far as possible, that my interview with you should remain confidential. I am Lady Ralph Morshampton. No doubt you know my husband by name; and I came to see you about a matter connected with the murder of a Mr. Norris, in Shirland Mansions."
"Indeed" commented Skin o' my Tooth.
"Yes," she continued, with more composure. "I know a good deal about this Mrs. Norris, who is accused of murdering her husband. As a matter of fact, I think I can explain to you the reason why that cruel and dastardly crime was committed."
"Indeed!" repeated my employer, quite unmoved.
"As a matter of fact, Mrs. Norris was in my house only an hour or so before she committed that awful crime. She was pursuing a policy of blackmail against me, Mr. Mulligan; and finding that her poor husband would not be a party to that ignoble policy, she made him its victim."
"I don't quite understand."
"I must try to make it quite clear. Before my marriage, Mr. Mulligan, I was on the stage; and as it happened, just before I was engaged to Lord Ralph Morehampton, a villainous scandal was circulated amongst my envious colleagues, coupling my name with that of Adam Norris, a young dramatic author of much promise. Fortunately that scandal never reached the ears either of the Marquis of Camberley, my father-in-law, or of the exalted society of which I was about to become a member. I was the daughter of a gentleman, and had always acted in Shakespearian drama only. Society, after my marriage, tolerated me from the first, but now, after strenuous efforts on my part, it has finally accepted me. I have a position within its circles which many envy. In the meanwhile, Adam Norris also married. Through some unaccountable carelessness on his part, which amounts practically to a sin, his wife got to know of that old and buried scandal anent himself and me. He had been fool enough to keep my letters. I believe they were distinctly compromising. I really had not remembered them at all, but Mrs. Norris having caught sight of them once by accident, bethought herself of doing a bit of illicit traffic with them. She was inordinately fond of finery and gaiety, passions which her husband's somewhat modest position would not allow her to indulge in. She wrote to me one day offering to sell me my old letters for a couple of thousand pounds and a few introductions in good society. Now, Mr. Mulligan, I am the wife of a very rich man, with plenty of money at my command with which to gratify any passing whim. In this case it was my whim to pay money down and regain possession of those letters sooner than allow my husband and my friends to know of their contents. I wrote to Mrs. Norris asking her to come and see me on Thursday evening, the 17th. She came at about 10 o'clock and we had a short interview, in which it was agreed between us that I should give her £4,000, and no introductions, in exchange for the letters. I must tell you that she informed me then that she had not got the letters. Her husband had them still; but she seemed to think that she would have no difficulty in obtaining possession of them. I could not tell you exactly at what hour she left me," concluded Lady Ralph Morshampton coldly, "but I imagine that she went straight home—well—and that she had some difficulty in persuading her husband to give up those letters. What do you think yourself, Mr. Mulligan?"
"I was merely wondering, Lady Morshampton, whether you are really convinced in your own mind that Mrs. Norris actually murdered her husband?"
"I really have not given that subject a thought. I merely came to you to-day because I thought that probably she would have given you her own version of her interview with me, and that you might take it into your head to cite me as a witness on her behalf. You will see for yourself, I am sure, that this would do your client no appreciable good; on the contrary, it would furnish the prosecution with a strong additional weapon against her—a motive."
"You forget, Lady Morshampton," retorted Skin o' my Tooth, taken aback in spite of himself at this extraordinary display of callousness and egoism, "you forget that citing you as a witness would also give me an additional motive in my client's defence."
"I don't understand."
"The question of time."
"Oh! that is very vague," she retorted placidly, "I did not wish the servants to know of Mrs. Norris's visit; that is why I had fixed the hour ten o'clock, when they were all at supper. I was on the watch for her and opened the door to her myself. I let her out when our interview was over—I could not tell you at what time that was—and I am quite sure that none of the servants even knew that she had been in the house."
"But your husband?"
"Lord Ralph was in the smoking-room when Mrs. Norris called. I heard him go out a quarter of an hour or so later, and he certainly did not come in until after she left."
"Therefore, if I cite you as a witness——"
"You do so at Mrs. Norris's risk and peril," said Lady Ralph Morshampton, rising from her chair, and cooler than any cucumber. "I tell you that I could not swear positively at what hour she left me, and I know that she took a hansom lower down the road. I live in Hamilton Terrace, so it was only five minutes' drive at most. I think," she added finally, as she moved gracefully towards the door, "that I have succeeded in convincing you that it would be more prudent to leave my name out of this case altogether, have I not? Perhaps, after all, Mrs. Norris was wise and did not mention her visit to me, in which case there is no harm done, as I know I can rely on your discretion. By the way, I have not got those letters yet; will you tell Mrs. Norris that the bargain still holds good? Thank you so much. Good morning, Mr. Mulligan. A very wet spring, is it not? Let us hope we shall have fine weather for the Coronation. Don't trouble to see me down. I shall get a hansom outside."
When she had gone, Skin o' my Tooth turned to me with a heavy grunt.
"For Heaven's sake, Muggins," he said, "let's have some air! Open those windows. Even the slushy London air is preferable to the moral atmosphere this elegant lady has left behind her."
We saw Mrs. Norris in prison that same afternoon. The interview vas somewhat stormy, as Skin o' my Tooth was furious with her. Nothing enrages him so much as a want of absolute confidence on the part of a client, and I am quite sure that in this instance he would have thrown up the whole case and let Mrs. Norris literally go hang, but for the fact that the ever-increasing mysteries in connection with it had roused all his passion for what was interesting in the history of crime.
There was no doubt that Lady Ralph Morshampton's narrative had added fresh mystery to this already bewildering case. Mrs. Norris, sternly questioned by Skin o' my Tooth, corroborated it in every detail. The reason why she had so obstinately held her tongue on the subject was because she felt convinced that her attempt at blackmailing, and her avowed interest in obtaining possession of certain letters belonging to her husband, would furnish the prosecution with an additional terrible weapon against her. Moreover, she felt instinctively—and there her instinct did not err—that Lady Ralph Morshampton would prove a bitter enemy whom it would be unwise to drag into the case more than was absolutely necessary.
"I did not dare tell anyone, Mr. Mulligan," she pleaded pathetically. "Don't be hard upon me. I was quite convinced that something would turn up to prove that I did not commit that awful crime. I don't believe now that justice can err quite to such an extent."
"You certainly have done your level best to damage your own case," growled Skin o' my Tooth, somewhat mollified; "but now tell me, at what time did you leave Lady Ralph Morshampton?"
"It was just before eleven, I took a hansom, and told the driver to put me down at the corner of Elgin Avenue. Shirland Mansions are just a few yards further on."
"But what about the letters?"
"I haven't got them, Mr. Mulligan. Just before the inquest, and before I was accused, I looked for them in their accustomed place, but they had gone."
"Where was their accustomed place?"
"Between some books in the bookcase. I don't think that my husband attached much importance to them. Anyway, I knew that I could easily get at them at any time."
"The police did not find those letters, I know," said Skin o' my Tooth to me, later in the day, "It is clear, therefore, that the murderer succeeded in getting hold of them, and clearer still that the crime was committed in order to obtain possession of them. Now, if Mrs. Norris speaks the truth, she was with Lady Morshampton until close on eleven, when she went straight home."
"Perhaps, after all," I suggested, "Mr. Norris committed suicide, and his wife, on coming home, merely hunted for the letters, and not finding them in their accustomed place, turned the room topsy-turvy before giving the alarm."
To my astonishment. Skin o' my Tooth did not receive my suggestion with the scorn which I feel sure it deserved, and which he usually bestows upon my attempts in that direction. It was clearest of all to me that my esteemed employer was completely at sea for the moment.
"You shall find out for me, Muggins, whether Mrs. Norris did speak the truth or not. I give you two days to do it in, and mind you don't mention the subject to me during that time. You know how to set to work, of course?"
"I think I do, sir. In any case, I will have an advertisement ready for all the daily papers to-morrow, and police notices all over the town, for the hansom-cabdriver who drove a lady from Hamilton Terrace to the corner of Elgin Avenue on Thursday, April 17th, at about 11 p.m."
"That's all right, Muggins. You are not quite such an ass as you look. Fire away, then; and, whatever you do, don't speak to me for two days."
The next morning my advertisements were in every paper and my notices all over the town. Twenty-four hours after that, I knew the name, address, and number of the cabman who drove a lady at the hour, on the day, and to the destination I had mentioned. Unfortunately he had not seen the lady's face, and certainly would not know her again.
In the meanwhile, life at the office was anything but pleasant. Skin o' my Tooth was in one of those tempers of his during which it was not good to talk to him. That he had got some fixed idea in his mind about that murder, I was then already quite sure. I knew the symptoms so well. For all the world like a great frowsy hound smelling blood, he sat for hours curled up in his armchair, smoking his long-stemmed German pipe, whilst even his beloved French novels were discarded. Every now and then I would see that weird and cruel spark flash in his lazy, blue eyes. Then I knew that the tracker of blood was on the scent, that he held a clue, and that his mind had already solved the problem which would bring the murderer of Mr. Norris inevitably to justice.
I told him the result of my investigations when the two days had elapsed. It was then ten o'clock in the morning, and we had both just arrived at the office.
"Sit down, Muggins," he said. "I expect a visitor."
I could see that he was very excited. He went himself to the door, when presently a heavy step was heard in the passage. Skin o' my Tooth's visitor was a big, burly fellow, wrapped from head to foot in a huge overcoat. The word "cabby" seemed to be written all over his moribund countenance. He had a copy of the Daily Mail in his hand, to which he was pointing somewhat anxiously as he walked into the room.
"You're the gent, ain't you, sir," he asked presently, "who put this 'ere advertisement in the Mail?"
"Yes. I did put that advertisement in; and I got your letter this morning, so you see that I was expecting you."
"Ah" remarked Cabby, with a grin of satisfaction. "It says 'ere that you'd give 'un a fiver reward. What you want to know is 'oo drove a gent from 'Amilton Terriss to somewhere near Helgin Havenue on the hevening of April 17th?"
"That's it exactly."
"Now, I drove a swell from top of Carlton 'Ill to the corner of Helgin Havenue and Maidu Vale at about a quarter past ten on that night. It was pourin' wet; and when I 'ad dropped 'im, I went in to the 'Lord Helgin' for a drink. Now, about three-quarters of an hour later, that same swell picked me up again just as I was turning into Maida Vale, and I took 'im back to 'Amilton Terriss."
"You don't know to what number?"
"No. I don't; but I'd know that swell again if I saw him. 'E gave me five bob each way. I thought 'e looked as if 'e'd been drinking when 'e drove home—his clothes were all anyhow. 'E 'ad on a silk comforter round his neck, which 'e left in my cab."
"I suppose you won't mind throwing that comforter in with the most valuable information you have been good enough to give me," suggested Skin o' my Tooth, "and for which I shall have much pleasure in handing you the promised £5 note?"
A broad grin illuminated the worthy old cabby's countenance. He drew from his pocket a large coloured silk muffler, which he placed on the desk. Then he stretched out a very large and very grimy fist towards the crisp banknote which Skin o' my Tooth was holding out towards him.
"I am mighty glad, sir, that my heffort of memory is worth all that to ye," he said sententiously.
"Not to me, cabby," said Skin o' my Tooth, with a smile, "but to an unfortunate woman whom your excellent memory has saved from the gallows."
"Lor'! it ain't a case of murder, is it? I don't like that."
"Remember that you told this young gentleman here and myself that you would know the swell again," said Skin o' my Tooth sternly.
"Yes. I would," replied Cabby, scratching his shaggy old head, "but I don't like to be mixed up with p'lice and things."
"Must do something for your £5 note, eh?"
"Well, sir, p'r'aps you're right."
He was inclined to be loquacious, but Skin o' my Tooth, having got what he wanted, was eager to be rid of him. I showed the amiable cabby out. I was longing to ask my chief a hundred questions. I found him sitting beside his desk, carefully examining the coloured silk muffler.
"There are stains on it, Muggins," he said quietly. "I am in luck to-day."
"But I don't understand, sir. What was the advertisement about, and who was the 'swell' who drove from Hamilton Terrace to Elgin Avenue and back?"
"Why, Muggins, you are even a bigger ass than I took you to be. The swell, my boy, was Lord Ralph Morshampton, the murderer of Adam Norris."
"I suspected it the moment I saw that very elegant, very egoistical woman of the world, but I was afraid that it would be very difficult to prove. It was, no doubt, all settled between him and his wife, and Lady Ralph arranged that the interview between herself and Mrs. Norris should take place at a moment when it would be most convenient for my lord to tackle the unfortunate dramatic author; this insured the wife being safely out of the way. I don't suppose for a moment that murder was premeditated. Lord Ralph Morshampton probably lost his temper, and finding Adam Norris obdurate, knocked him down."
"But what made you think of it all, sir?"
"Only this, Muggins, that when people tell me a lie, I immediately look about me for the motive which made them tell that particular lie. Lady Ralph Morshampton, if you remember, told me that her husband is a very rich man, and that she had plenty of money at her command with which to gratify any passing whim. Now, that is not true. Lord Ralph Morshampton is a younger brother of the present Marquis of Camberley. His father, the late Marquis, left each of his sons an annuity of three thousand pounds a year, payable out of the estate.
"My inquiries into Lord Ralph Morshampton's financial position, as compared with the lie his wife had told me, gave me the first inkling—call it intuition if you will—of the possible state of the case, for clearly Lady Ralph could not indulge in the luxury of buying those letters for four thousand pounds, however eager she might he to possess them; her appointment with Mrs. Norris, therefore, was a feint, either in order to gain time, or in order to devise some other means of gaining possession of those letters. After that, Muggins, taking it absolutely for granted that the murder was committed for the sake of those letters, it became easy enough to reduce the number of people interested in their possession to three; there was Mrs. Norris, who wanted to sell them, and Lady Ralph Morshampton, who wished to destroy them. Putting aside the question that the murder was really far too gruesome and horrible for any woman of refinement to have committed, it soon became an established fact that the two ladies were actually together at 196, Hamilton Terrace at the time that the murder was being perpetrated. You remember that the people in the flat below the one occupied by Mr. Norris heard the noise and scuffle at half-past ten. There then loomed before me the question of Lord Morshampton, the husband. I made inquiries among the servants at Hamilton Terrace and among the neighbours, and learned that he was passionately fond of his wife, and ever eager to hide her past history before his relatives and friends; he too, then, would have a motive—far stronger than any, since it concerned the woman he loved—to bury for ever a scandal which might injure her position in society. Having got the motive, I soon sought for proof. I remembered that Lady Morshampton herself had said said that her husband left the house at a quarter past ten. I surmised that he would go to Shirland Mansions to see Adam Norris, and that since he would not have much time at his command, he would go there in a cab. I advertised in the terms you know already, and got this morning the very proof I sought for. You see, the whole matter became child's play once I had a clue."
"It was instinct, sir," I said, with genuine admiration, "marvellous intuition."
"Call it reflection, my boy, and you'll be about right. You see, the moment those letters were destroyed, the Morshamptons' name slipped, as it were, right out of the case. My lady was right when she concluded that I could never have cited her on Mrs. Norris's behalf. She was quite ready to see the unfortunate woman go to the gallows, and to swear anything that would achieve that end. That is why I am inclined to think that she planned the whole thing, while her husband was but half willing. Now, Muggins, run along and take this muffler to Scotland Yard. Mrs. Norris comes up before the magistrate to-morrow. Poor woman! she has had a narrow shave; but what a fool she has been!"
Mrs. Norris was discharged by the magistrate.
Everyone remembers, no doubt, the awful sensation caused by the suicide of Lord Ralph Morshampton in his house in Hamilton Terrace. As there is always a special law for those in his position, the whole matter of his guilt in the murder of Adam Norris was most effectually hushed up by the police, and the public never got to know the name of "the swell" who drove to Shirland Mansions at a quarter past ten on that fatal night.