Infomotions, Inc.Martin Hewitt, Investigator / Morrison, Arthur, 1863-1945



Author: Morrison, Arthur, 1863-1945
Title: Martin Hewitt, Investigator
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): hewitt; martin hewitt; lord stanway; hewitt replied; sammy crockett
Contributor(s): Pope, R. Martin (Robert Martin), 1865-1944 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 58,766 words (short) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 67 (easy)
Identifier: etext11252
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Title: Martin Hewitt, Investigator

Author: Arthur Morrison

Release Date: February 24, 2004 [EBook #11252]

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Produced by Suzanne Shell, Andrea Ball and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.









MARTIN HEWITT, INVESTIGATOR.

By
Arthur Morrison


1894




CONTENTS.


I. THE LENTON CROFT ROBBERIES

II. THE LOSS OF SAMMY CROCKETT

III. THE CASE OF MR. FOGGATT

IV. THE CASE OF THE DIXON TORPEDO

V. THE QUINTON JEWEL AFFAIR

VI. THE STANWAY CAMEO MYSTERY

VII. THE AFFAIR OF THE TORTOISE




MARTIN HEWITT, INVESTIGATOR.




I.


THE LENTON CROFT ROBBERIES.

Those who retain any memory of the great law cases of fifteen or twenty
years back will remember, at least, the title of that extraordinary will
case, "Bartley _v_. Bartley and others," which occupied the Probate Court
for some weeks on end, and caused an amount of public interest rarely
accorded to any but the cases considered in the other division of the same
court. The case itself was noted for the large quantity of remarkable and
unusual evidence presented by the plaintiff's side--evidence that took the
other party completely by surprise, and overthrew their case like a house
of cards. The affair will, perhaps, be more readily recalled as the
occasion of the sudden rise to eminence in their profession of Messrs.
Crellan, Hunt & Crellan, solicitors for the plaintiff--a result due
entirely to the wonderful ability shown in this case of building up,
apparently out of nothing, a smashing weight of irresistible evidence.
That the firm has since maintained--indeed enhanced--the position it then
won for itself need scarcely be said here; its name is familiar to
everybody. But there are not many of the outside public who know that the
credit of the whole performance was primarily due to a young clerk in the
employ of Messrs. Crellan, who had been given charge of the seemingly
desperate task of collecting evidence in the case.

This Mr. Martin Hewitt had, however, full credit and reward for his
exploit from his firm and from their client, and more than one other firm
of lawyers engaged in contentious work made good offers to entice Hewitt
to change his employers. Instead of this, however, he determined to work
independently for the future, having conceived the idea of making a
regular business of doing, on behalf of such clients as might retain him,
similar work to that he had just done with such conspicuous success for
Messrs. Crellan, Hunt & Crellan. This was the beginning of the private
detective business of Martin Hewitt, and his action at that time has been
completely justified by the brilliant professional successes he has since
achieved.

His business has always been conducted in the most private manner, and he
has always declined the help of professional assistants, preferring to
carry out himself such of the many investigations offered him as he could
manage. He has always maintained that he has never lost by this policy,
since the chance of his refusing a case begets competition for his
services, and his fees rise by a natural process. At the same time, no man
could know better how to employ casual assistance at the right time.

Some curiosity has been expressed as to Mr. Martin Hewitt's system, and,
as he himself always consistently maintains that he has no system beyond a
judicious use of ordinary faculties, I intend setting forth in detail a
few of the more interesting of his cases in order that the public may
judge for itself if I am right in estimating Mr. Hewitt's "ordinary
faculties" as faculties very extraordinary indeed. He is not a man who has
made many friendships (this, probably, for professional reasons),
notwithstanding his genial and companionable manners. I myself first made
his acquaintance as a result of an accident resulting in a fire at the old
house in which Hewitt's office was situated, and in an upper floor of
which I occupied bachelor chambers. I was able to help in saving a
quantity of extremely important papers relating to his business, and,
while repairs were being made, allowed him to lock them in an old
wall-safe in one of my rooms which the fire had scarcely damaged.

The acquaintance thus begun has lasted many years, and has become a rather
close friendship. I have even accompanied Hewitt on some of his
expeditions, and, in a humble way, helped him. Such of the cases, however,
as I personally saw nothing of I have put into narrative form from the
particulars given me.

"I consider you, Brett," he said, addressing me, "the most remarkable
journalist alive. Not because you're particularly clever, you know,
because, between ourselves, I hope you'll admit you're not; but because
you have known something of me and my doings for some years, and have
never yet been guilty of giving away any of my little business secrets you
may have become acquainted with. I'm afraid you're not so enterprising a
journalist as some, Brett. But now, since you ask, you shall write
something--if you think it worth while."

This he said, as he said most things, with a cheery, chaffing good-nature
that would have been, perhaps, surprising to a stranger who thought of him
only as a grim and mysterious discoverer of secrets and crimes. Indeed,
the man had always as little of the aspect of the conventional detective
as may be imagined. Nobody could appear more cordial or less observant in
manner, although there was to be seen a certain sharpness of the
eye--which might, after all, only be the twinkle of good humor.

I _did_ think it worth while to write something of Martin Hewitt's
investigations, and a description of one of his adventures follows.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the head of the first flight of a dingy staircase leading up from an
ever-open portal in a street by the Strand stood a door, the dusty
ground-glass upper panel of which carried in its center the single word
"Hewitt," while at its right-hand lower corner, in smaller letters,
"Clerk's Office" appeared. On a morning when the clerks in the
ground-floor offices had barely hung up their hats, a short, well-dressed
young man, wearing spectacles, hastening to open the dusty door, ran into
the arms of another man who suddenly issued from it.

"I beg pardon," the first said. "Is this Hewitt's Detective Agency
Office?"

"Yes, I believe you will find it so," the other replied. He was a
stoutish, clean-shaven man, of middle height, and of a cheerful, round
countenance. "You'd better speak to the clerk."

In the little outer office the visitor was met by a sharp lad with inky
fingers, who presented him with a pen and a printed slip. The printed slip
having been filled with the visitor's name and present business, and
conveyed through an inner door, the lad reappeared with an invitation to
the private office. There, behind a writing-table, sat the stoutish man
himself, who had only just advised an appeal to the clerk.

"Good-morning, Mr. Lloyd--Mr. Vernon Lloyd," he said, affably, looking
again at the slip. "You'll excuse my care to start even with my
visitors--I must, you know. You come from Sir James Norris, I see."

"Yes; I am his secretary. I have only to ask you to go straight to Lenton
Croft at once, if you can, on very important business. Sir James would
have wired, but had not your precise address. Can you go by the next
train? Eleven-thirty is the first available from Paddington."

"Quite possibly. Do you know any thing of the business?"

"It is a case of a robbery in the house, or, rather, I fancy, of several
robberies. Jewelry has been stolen from rooms occupied by visitors to the
Croft. The first case occurred some months ago--nearly a year ago, in
fact. Last night there was another. But I think you had better get the
details on the spot. Sir James has told me to telegraph if you are coming,
so that he may meet you himself at the station; and I must hurry, as his
drive to the station will be rather a long one. Then I take it you will
go, Mr. Hewitt? Twyford is the station."

"Yes, I shall come, and by the 11.30. Are you going by that train
yourself?"

"No, I have several things to attend to now I am in town. Good-morning; I
shall wire at once."

Mr. Martin Hewitt locked the drawer of his table and sent his clerk for a
cab.

At Twyford Station Sir James Norris was waiting with a dog-cart. Sir James
was a tall, florid man of fifty or thereabout, known away from home as
something of a county historian, and nearer his own parts as a great
supporter of the hunt, and a gentleman much troubled with poachers. As
soon as he and Hewitt had found one another the baronet hurried the
detective into his dog-cart. "We've something over seven miles to drive,"
he said, "and I can tell you all about this wretched business as we go.
That is why I came for you myself, and alone."

Hewitt nodded.

"I have sent for you, as Lloyd probably told you, because of a robbery at
my place last evening. It appears, as far as I can guess, to be one of
three by the same hand, or by the same gang. Late yesterday afternoon----"

"Pardon me, Sir James," Hewitt interrupted, "but I think I must ask you to
begin at the first robbery and tell me the whole tale in proper order. It
makes things clearer, and sets them in their proper shape."

"Very well! Eleven months ago, or thereabout, I had rather a large party
of visitors, and among them Colonel Heath and Mrs. Heath--the lady being a
relative of my own late wife. Colonel Heath has not been long retired, you
know--used to be political resident in an Indian native state. Mrs. Heath
had rather a good stock of jewelry of one sort and another, about the most
valuable piece being a bracelet set with a particularly fine pearl--quite
an exceptional pearl, in fact--that had been one of a heap of presents
from the maharajah of his state when Heath left India.

"It was a very noticeable bracelet, the gold setting being a mere
feather-weight piece of native filigree work--almost too fragile to trust
on the wrist--and the pearl being, as I have said, of a size and quality
not often seen. Well, Heath and his wife arrived late one evening, and
after lunch the following day, most of the men being off by
themselves--shooting, I think--my daughter, my sister (who is very often
down here), and Mrs. Heath took it into their heads to go
walking--fern-hunting, and so on. My sister was rather long dressing, and,
while they waited, my daughter went into Mrs. Heath's room, where Mrs.
Heath turned over all her treasures to show her, as women do, you know.
When my sister was at last ready, they came straight away, leaving the
things littering about the room rather than stay longer to pack them up.
The bracelet, with other things, was on the dressing-table then."

"One moment. As to the door?"

"They locked it. As they came away my daughter suggested turning the key,
as we had one or two new servants about."

"And the window?"

"That they left open, as I was going to tell you. Well, they went on their
walk and came back, with Lloyd (whom they had met somewhere) carrying
their ferns for them. It was dusk and almost dinner-time. Mrs. Heath went
straight to her room, and--the bracelet was gone."

"Was the room disturbed?"

"Not a bit. Everything was precisely where it had been left, except the
bracelet. The door hadn't been tampered with, but of course the window was
open, as I have told you."

"You called the police, of course?"

"Yes, and had a man from Scotland Yard down in the morning. He seemed a
pretty smart fellow, and the first thing he noticed on the dressing-table,
within an inch or two of where the bracelet had been, was a match, which
had been lit and thrown down. Now nobody about the house had had occasion
to use a match in that room that day, and, if they had, certainly wouldn't
have thrown it on the cover of the dressing-table. So that, presuming the
thief to have used that match, the robbery must have been committed when
the room was getting dark--immediately before Mrs. Heath returned, in
fact. The thief had evidently struck the match, passed it hurriedly over
the various trinkets lying about, and taken the most valuable."

"Nothing else was even moved?"

"Nothing at all. Then the thief must have escaped by the window, although
it was not quite clear how. The walking party approached the house with a
full view of the window, but saw nothing, although the robbery must have
been actually taking place a moment or two before they turned up.

"There was no water-pipe within any practicable distance of the window,
but a ladder usually kept in the stable-yard was found lying along the
edge of the lawn. The gardener explained, however, that he had put the
ladder there after using it himself early in the afternoon."

"Of course it might easily have been used again after that and put back."

"Just what the Scotland Yard man said. He was pretty sharp, too, on the
gardener, but very soon decided that he knew nothing of it. No stranger
had been seen in the neighborhood, nor had passed the lodge gates.
Besides, as the detective said, it scarcely seemed the work of a stranger.
A stranger could scarcely have known enough to go straight to the room
where a lady--only arrived the day before--had left a valuable jewel, and
away again without being seen. So all the people about the house were
suspected in turn. The servants offered, in a body, to have their boxes
searched, and this was done; everything was turned over, from the butler's
to the new kitchen-maid's. I don't know that I should have had this
carried quite so far if I had been the loser myself, but it was my guest,
and I was in such a horrible position. Well, there's little more to be
said about that, unfortunately. Nothing came of it all, and the thing's as
great a mystery now as ever. I believe the Scotland Yard man got as far as
suspecting _me_ before he gave it up altogether, but give it up he did in
the end. I think that's all I know about the first robbery. Is it clear?"

"Oh, yes; I shall probably want to ask a few questions when I have seen
the place, but they can wait. What next?"

"Well," Sir James pursued, "the next was a very trumpery affair, that I
should have forgotten all about, probably, if it hadn't been for one
circumstance. Even now I hardly think it could have been the work of the
same hand. Four months or thereabout after Mrs. Heath's disaster--in
February of this year, in fact--Mrs. Armitage, a young widow, who had been
a school-fellow of my daughter's, stayed with us for a week or so. The
girls don't trouble about the London season, you know, and I have no town
house, so they were glad to have their old friend here for a little in the
dull time. Mrs. Armitage is a very active young lady, and was scarcely in
the house half an hour before she arranged a drive in a pony-cart with
Eva--my daughter--to look up old people in the village that she used to
know before she was married. So they set off in the afternoon, and made
such a round of it that they were late for dinner. Mrs. Armitage had a
small plain gold brooch--not at all valuable, you know; two or three
pounds, I suppose--which she used to pin up a cloak or anything of that
sort. Before she went out she stuck this in the pin-cushion on her
dressing-table, and left a ring--rather a good one, I believe--lying close
by."

"This," asked Hewitt, "was not in the room that Mrs. Heath had occupied, I
take it?"

"No; this was in another part of the building. Well, the brooch
went--taken, evidently, by some one in a deuce of a hurry, for, when Mrs.
Armitage got back to her room, there was the pin-cushion with a little
tear in it, where the brooch had been simply snatched off. But the curious
thing was that the ring--worth a dozen of the brooch--was left where it
had been put. Mrs. Armitage didn't remember whether or not she had locked
the door herself, although she found it locked when she returned; but my
niece, who was indoors all the time, went and tried it once--because she
remembered that a gas-fitter was at work on the landing near by--and found
it safely locked. The gas-fitter, whom we didn't know at the time, but who
since seems to be quite an honest fellow, was ready to swear that nobody
but my niece had been to the door while he was in sight of it--which was
almost all the time. As to the window, the sash-line had broken that very
morning, and Mrs. Armitage had propped open the bottom half about eight or
ten inches with a brush; and, when she returned, that brush, sash, and all
were exactly as she had left them. Now I scarcely need tell _you_ what an
awkward job it must have been for anybody to get noiselessly in at that
unsupported window; and how unlikely he would have been to replace it,
with the brush, exactly as he found it."

"Just so. I suppose the brooch, was really gone? I mean, there was no
chance of Mrs. Armitage having mislaid it?"

"Oh, none at all! There was a most careful search."

"Then, as to getting in at the window, would it have been easy?"

"Well, yes," Sir James replied; "yes, perhaps it would. It was a
first-floor window, and it looks over the roof and skylight of the
billiard-room. I built the billiard-room myself--built it out from a
smoking-room just at this corner. It would be easy enough to get at the
window from the billiard-room roof. But, then," he added, "that couldn't
have been the way. Somebody or other was in the billiard-room the whole
time, and nobody could have got over the roof (which is nearly all
skylight) without being seen and heard. I was there myself for an hour or
two, taking a little practice."

"Well, was anything done?"

"Strict inquiry was made among the servants, of course, but nothing came
of it. It was such a small matter that Mrs. Armitage wouldn't hear of my
calling in the police or anything of that sort, although I felt pretty
certain that there must be a dishonest servant about somewhere. A servant
might take a plain brooch, you know, who would feel afraid of a valuable
ring, the loss of which would be made a greater matter of."

"Well, yes, perhaps so, in the case of an inexperienced thief, who also
would be likely to snatch up whatever she took in a hurry. But I'm
doubtful. What made you connect these two robberies together?"

"Nothing whatever--for some months. They seemed quite of a different sort.
But scarcely more than a month ago I met Mrs. Armitage at Brighton, and we
talked, among other things, of the previous robbery--that of Mrs. Heath's
bracelet. I described the circumstances pretty minutely, and, when I
mentioned the match found on the table, she said: 'How strange! Why, _my_
thief left a match on the dressing-table when he took my poor little
brooch!'"

Hewitt nodded. "Yes," he said. "A spent match, of course?"

"Yes, of course, a spent match. She noticed it lying close by the
pin-cushion, but threw it away without mentioning the circumstance. Still,
it seemed rather curious to me that a match should be lit and dropped, in
each case, on the dressing-cover an inch from where the article was taken.
I mentioned it to Lloyd when I got back, and he agreed that it seemed
significant."

"Scarcely," said Hewitt, shaking his head. "Scarcely, so far, to be called
significant, although worth following up. Everybody uses matches in the
dark, you know."

"Well, at any rate, the coincidence appealed to me so far that it struck
me it might be worth while to describe the brooch to the police in order
that they could trace it if it had been pawned. They had tried that, of
course, over the bracelet without any result, but I fancied the shot might
be worth making, and might possibly lead us on the track of the more
serious robbery."

"Quite so. It was the right thing to do. Well?"

"Well, they found it. A woman had pawned it in London--at a shop in
Chelsea. But that was some time before, and the pawnbroker had clean
forgotten all about the woman's appearance. The name and address she gave
were false. So that was the end of that business."

"Had any of the servants left you between the time the brooch was lost and
the date of the pawn ticket?"

"No."

"Were all your servants at home on the day the brooch was pawned?"

"Oh, yes! I made that inquiry myself."

"Very good! What next?"

"Yesterday--and this is what made me send for you. My late wife's sister
came here last Tuesday, and we gave her the room from which Mrs. Heath
lost her bracelet. She had with her a very old-fashioned brooch,
containing a miniature of her father, and set in front with three very
fine brilliants and a few smaller stones. Here we are, though, at the
Croft. I'll tell you the rest indoors."

Hewitt laid his hand on the baronet's arm. "Don't pull up, Sir James," he
said. "Drive a little farther. I should like to have a general idea of the
whole case before we go in."

"Very good!" Sir James Norris straightened the horse's head again and went
on. "Late yesterday afternoon, as my sister-in-law was changing her dress,
she left her room for a moment to speak to my daughter in her room, almost
adjoining. She was gone no more than three minutes, or five at most, but
on her return the brooch, which had been left on the table, had gone. Now
the window was shut fast, and had not been tampered with. Of course the
door was open, but so was my daughter's, and anybody walking near must
have been heard. But the strangest circumstance, and one that almost makes
me wonder whether I have been awake to-day or not, was that there lay _a
used match_ on the very spot, as nearly as possible, where the brooch had
been--and it was broad daylight!"

Hewitt rubbed his nose and looked thoughtfully before him. "Um--curious,
certainly," he said, "Anything else?"

"Nothing more than you shall see for yourself. I have had the room locked
and watched till you could examine it. My sister-in-law had heard of your
name, and suggested that you should be called in; so, of course, I did
exactly as she wanted. That she should have lost that brooch, of all
things, in my house is most unfortunate; you see, there was some small
difference about the thing between my late wife and her sister when their
mother died and left it. It's almost worse than the Heaths' bracelet
business, and altogether I'm not pleased with things, I can assure you.
See what a position it is for me! Here are three ladies, in the space of
one year, robbed one after another in this mysterious fashion in my house,
and I can't find the thief! It's horrible! People will be afraid to come
near the place. And I can do nothing!"

"Ah, well, we'll see. Perhaps we had better turn back now. By-the-by, were
you thinking of having any alterations or additions made to your house?"

"No. What makes you ask?"

"I think you might at least consider the question of painting and
decorating, Sir James--or, say, putting up another coach-house, or
something. Because I should like to be (to the servants) the architect--or
the builder, if you please--come to look around. You haven't told any of
them about this business?"

"Not a word. Nobody knows but my relatives and Lloyd. I took every
precaution myself, at once. As to your little disguise, be the architect
by all means, and do as you please. If you can only find this thief and
put an end to this horrible state of affairs, you'll do me the greatest
service I've ever asked for--and as to your fee, I'll gladly make it
whatever is usual, and three hundred in addition."

Martin Hewitt bowed. "You're very generous, Sir James, and you may be sure
I'll do what I can. As a professional man, of course, a good fee always
stimulates my interest, although this case of yours certainly seems
interesting enough by itself."

"Most extraordinary! Don't you think so? Here are three persons, all
ladies, all in my house, two even in the same room, each successively
robbed of a piece of jewelry, each from a dressing-table, and a used match
left behind in every case. All in the most difficult--one would say
impossible--circumstances for a thief, and yet there is no clue!"

"Well, we won't say that just yet, Sir James; we must see. And we must
guard against any undue predisposition to consider the robberies in a
lump. Here we are at the lodge gate again. Is that your gardener--the man
who left the ladder by the lawn on the first occasion you spoke of?"

Mr. Hewitt nodded in the direction of a man who was clipping a box border.

"Yes; will you ask him anything?"

"No, no; at any rate, not now. Remember the building alterations. I think,
if there is no objection, I will look first at the room that the
lady--Mrs.----" Hewitt looked up, inquiringly.

"My sister-in-law? Mrs. Cazenove. Oh, yes! you shall come to her room at
once."

"Thank you. And I think Mrs. Cazenove had better be there."

They alighted, and a boy from the lodge led the horse and dog-cart away.

Mrs. Cazenove was a thin and faded, but quick and energetic, lady of
middle age. She bent her head very slightly on learning Martin Hewitt's
name, and said: "I must thank you, Mr. Hewitt, for your very prompt
attention. I need scarcely say that any help you can afford in tracing the
thief who has my property--whoever it may be--will make me most grateful.
My room is quite ready for you to examine."

The room was on the second floor--the top floor at that part of the
building. Some slight confusion of small articles of dress was observable
in parts of the room.

"This, I take it," inquired Hewitt, "is exactly as it was at the time the
brooch was missed?"

"Precisely," Mrs. Cazenove answered. "I have used another room, and put
myself to some other inconveniences, to avoid any disturbance."

Hewitt stood before the dressing-table. "Then this is the used match," he
observed, "exactly where it was found?"

"Yes."

"Where was the brooch?"

"I should say almost on the very same spot. Certainly no more than a very
few inches away."

Hewitt examined the match closely. "It is burned very little," he
remarked. "It would appear to have gone out at once. Could you hear it
struck?"

"I heard nothing whatever; absolutely nothing."

"If you will step into Miss Norris' room now for a moment," Hewitt
suggested, "we will try an experiment. Tell me if you hear matches struck,
and how many. Where is the match-stand?"

The match-stand proved to be empty, but matches were found in Miss Norris'
room, and the test was made. Each striking could be heard distinctly, even
with one of the doors pushed to.

"Both your own door and Miss Norris' were open, I understand; the window
shut and fastened inside as it is now, and nothing but the brooch was
disturbed?"

"Yes, that was so."

"Thank you, Mrs. Cazenove. I don't think I need trouble you any further
just at present. I think, Sir James," Hewitt added, turning to the
baronet, who was standing by the door----"I think we will see the other
room and take a walk outside the house, if you please. I suppose, by the
by, that there is no getting at the matches left behind on the first and
second occasions?"

"No," Sir James answered. "Certainly not here. The Scotland Yard man may
have kept his."

The room that Mrs. Armitage had occupied presented no peculiar feature. A
few feet below the window the roof of the billiard-room was visible,
consisting largely of skylight. Hewitt glanced casually about the walls,
ascertained that the furniture and hangings had not been materially
changed since the second robbery, and expressed his desire to see the
windows from the outside. Before leaving the room, however, he wished to
know the names of any persons who were known to have been about the house
on the occasions of all three robberies.

"Just carry your mind back, Sir James," he said. "Begin with yourself, for
instance. Where were you at these times?"

"When Mrs. Heath lost her bracelet, I was in Tagley Wood all the
afternoon. When Mrs. Armitage was robbed, I believe I was somewhere about
the place most of the time she was out. Yesterday I was down at the farm."
Sir James' face broadened. "I don't know whether you call those suspicious
movements," he added, and laughed.

"Not at all; I only asked you so that, remembering your own movements, you
might the better recall those of the rest of the household. Was anybody,
to your knowledge--_anybody_, mind--in the house on all three occasions?"

"Well, you know, it's quite impossible to answer for all the servants.
You'll only get that by direct questioning--I can't possibly remember
things of that sort. As to the family and visitors--why, you don't suspect
any of them, do you?"

"I don't suspect a soul, Sir James," Hewitt answered, beaming genially,
"not a soul. You see, I can't suspect people till I know something about
where they were. It's quite possible there will be independent evidence
enough as it is, but you must help me if you can. The visitors, now. Was
there any visitor here each time--or even on the first and last occasions
only?"

"No, not one. And my own sister, perhaps you will be pleased to know, was
only there at the time of the first robbery."

"Just so! And your daughter, as I have gathered, was clearly absent from
the spot each time--indeed, was in company with the party robbed. Your
niece, now?"

"Why hang it all, Mr. Hewitt, I can't talk of my niece as a suspected
criminal! The poor girl's under my protection, and I really can't
allow----"

Hewitt raised his hand, and shook his head deprecatingly.

"My dear sir, haven't I said that I don't suspect a soul? _Do_ let me know
how the people were distributed, as nearly as possible. Let me see. It was
your, niece, I think, who found that Mrs. Armitage's door was locked--this
door, in fact--on the day she lost her brooch?"

"Yes, it was."

"Just so--at the time when Mrs. Armitage herself had forgotten whether she
locked it or not. And yesterday--was she out then?"

"No, I think not. Indeed, she goes out very little--her health is usually
bad. She was indoors, too, at the time of the Heath robbery, since you
ask. But come, now, I don't like this. It's ridiculous to suppose that
_she_ knows anything of it."

"I don't suppose it, as I have said. I am only asking for information.
That is all your resident family, I take it, and you know nothing of
anybody else's movements--except, perhaps, Mr. Lloyd's?"

"Lloyd? Well, you know yourself that he was out with the ladies when the
first robbery took place. As to the others, I don't remember. Yesterday he
was probably in his room, writing. I think that acquits _him_, eh?" Sir
James looked quizzically into the broad face of the affable detective, who
smiled and replied:

"Oh, of course nobody can be in two places at once, else what would become
of the _alibi_ as an institution? But, as I have said, I am only setting
my facts in order. Now, you see, we get down to the servants--unless some
stranger is the party wanted. Shall we go outside now?"

Lenton Croft was a large, desultory sort of house, nowhere more than three
floors high, and mostly only two. It had been added to bit by bit, till it
zigzagged about its site, as Sir James Norris expressed it, "like a game
of dominoes." Hewitt scrutinized its external features carefully as they
strolled around, and stopped some little while before the windows of the
two bed-rooms he had just seen from the inside. Presently they approached
the stables and coach-house, where a groom was washing the wheels of the
dog-cart.

"Do you mind my smoking?" Hewitt asked Sir James. "Perhaps you will take a
cigar yourself--they are not so bad, I think. I will ask your man for a
light."

Sir James felt for his own match-box, but Hewitt had gone, and was
lighting his cigar with a match from a box handed him by the groom. A
smart little terrier was trotting about by the coach-house, and Hewitt
stooped to rub its head. Then he made some observation about the dog,
which enlisted the groom's interest, and was soon absorbed in a chat with
the man. Sir James, waiting a little way off, tapped the stones rather
impatiently with his foot, and presently moved away.

For full a quarter of an hour Hewitt chatted with the groom, and, when at
last he came away and overtook Sir James, that gentleman was about
re-entering the house.

"I beg your pardon, Sir James," Hewitt said, "for leaving you in that
unceremonious fashion to talk to your groom, but a dog, Sir James--a good
dog--will draw me anywhere."

"Oh!" replied Sir James, shortly.

"There is one other thing," Hewitt went on, disregarding the other's
curtness, "that I should like to know: There are two windows directly
below that of the room occupied yesterday by Mrs. Cazenove--one on each
floor. What rooms do they light?"

"That on the ground floor is the morning-room; the other is Mr.
Lloyd's--my secretary. A sort of study or sitting-room."

"Now you will see at once, Sir James," Hewitt pursued, with an affable
determination to win the baronet back to good-humor--"you will see at once
that, if a ladder had been used in Mrs. Heath's case, anybody looking from
either of these rooms would have seen it."

"Of course! The Scotland Yard man questioned everybody as to that, but
nobody seemed to have been in either of the rooms when the thing occurred;
at any rate, nobody saw anything."

"Still, I think I should like to look out of those windows myself; it
will, at least, give me an idea of what _was_ in view and what was not, if
anybody had been there."

Sir James Norris led the way to the morning-room. As they reached the door
a young lady, carrying a book and walking very languidly, came out. Hewitt
stepped aside to let her pass, and afterward said interrogatively: "Miss
Norris, your daughter, Sir James?"

"No, my niece. Do you want to ask her anything? Dora, my dear," Sir James
added, following her in the corridor, "this is Mr. Hewitt, who is
investigating these wretched robberies for me. I think he would like to
hear if you remember anything happening at any of the three times."

The lady bowed slightly, and said in a plaintive drawl: "I, uncle? Really,
I don't remember anything; nothing at all."

"You found Mrs. Armitage's door locked, I believe," asked Hewitt, "when
you tried it, on the afternoon when she lost her brooch?"

"Oh, yes; I believe it was locked. Yes, it was."

"Had the key been left in?"

"The key? Oh, no! I think not; no."

"Do you remember anything out of the common happening--anything whatever,
no matter how trivial--on the day Mrs. Heath lost her bracelet?"

"No, really, I don't. I can't remember at all."

"Nor yesterday?"

"No, nothing. I don't remember anything."

"Thank you," said Hewitt, hastily; "thank you. Now the morning-room, Sir
James."

In the morning-room Hewitt stayed but a few seconds, doing little more
than casually glance out of the windows. In the room above he took a
little longer time. It was a comfortable room, but with rather effeminate
indications about its contents. Little pieces of draped silk-work hung
about the furniture, and Japanese silk fans decorated the mantel-piece.
Near the window was a cage containing a gray parrot, and the writing-table
was decorated with two vases of flowers.

"Lloyd makes himself pretty comfortable, eh?" Sir James observed. "But it
isn't likely anybody would be here while he was out, at the time that
bracelet went."

"No," replied Hewitt, meditatively. "No, I suppose not."

He stared thoughtfully out of the window, and then, still deep in thought,
rattled at the wires of the cage with a quill toothpick and played a
moment with the parrot. Then, looking up at the window again, he said:
"That is Mr. Lloyd, isn't it, coming back in a fly?"

"Yes, I think so. Is there anything else you would care to see here?"

"No, thank you," Hewitt replied; "I don't think there is."

They went down to the smoking-room, and Sir James went away to speak to
his secretary. When he returned, Hewitt said quietly: "I think, Sir
James--I _think_ that I shall be able to give you your thief presently."

"What! Have you a clue? Who do you think? I began to believe you were
hopelessly stumped."

"Well, yes. I have rather a good clue, although I can't tell you much
about it just yet. But it is so good a clue that I should like to know now
whether you are determined to prosecute when you have the criminal?"

"Why, bless me, of course," Sir James replied, with surprise. "It doesn't
rest with me, you know--the property belongs to my friends. And even if
they were disposed to let the thing slide, I shouldn't allow it--I
couldn't, after they had been robbed in my house."

"Of course, of course! Then, if I can, I should like to send a message to
Twyford by somebody perfectly trustworthy--not a servant. Could anybody
go?"

"Well, there's Lloyd, although he's only just back from his journey. But,
if it's important, he'll go."

"It is important. The fact is we must have a policeman or two here this
evening, and I'd like Mr. Lloyd to fetch them without telling anybody
else."

Sir James rang, and, in response to his message, Mr. Lloyd appeared. While
Sir James gave his secretary his instructions, Hewitt strolled to the door
of the smoking-room, and intercepted the latter as he came out.

"I'm sorry to give you this trouble, Mr. Lloyd," he said, "but I must stay
here myself for a little, and somebody who can be trusted must go. Will
you just bring back a police-constable with you? or rather two--two would
be better. That is all that is wanted. You won't let the servants know,
will you? Of course there will be a female searcher at the Twyford
police-station? Ah--of course. Well, you needn't bring her, you know. That
sort of thing is done at the station." And, chatting thus confidentially,
Martin Hewitt saw him off.

When Hewitt returned to the smoking-room, Sir James said, suddenly: "Why,
bless my soul, Mr. Hewitt, we haven't fed you! I'm awfully sorry. We came
in rather late for lunch, you know, and this business has bothered me so I
clean forgot everything else. There's no dinner till seven, so you'd
better let me give you something now. I'm really sorry. Come along."

"Thank you, Sir James," Hewitt replied; "I won't take much. A few
biscuits, perhaps, or something of that sort. And, by the by, if you don't
mind, I rather think I should like to take it alone. The fact is I want to
go over this case thoroughly by myself. Can you put me in a room?"

"Any room you like. Where will you go? The dining-room's rather large, but
there's my study, that's pretty snug, or----"

"Perhaps I can go into Mr. Lloyd's room for half an hour or so; I don't
think he'll mind, and it's pretty comfortable."

"Certainly, if you'd like. I'll tell them to send you whatever they've
got."

"Thank you very much. Perhaps they'll also send me a lump of sugar and a
walnut; it's--it's a little fad of mine."

"A--what? A lump of sugar and a walnut?" Sir James stopped for a moment,
with his hand on the bell-rope. "Oh, certainly, if you'd like it;
certainly," he added, and stared after this detective with curious tastes
as he left the room.

When the vehicle, bringing back the secretary and the policeman, drew up
on the drive, Martin Hewitt left the room on the first floor and proceeded
down-stairs. On the landing he met Sir James Norris and Mrs. Cazenove, who
stared with astonishment on perceiving that the detective carried in his
hand the parrot-cage.

"I think our business is about brought to a head now," Hewitt remarked, on
the stairs. "Here are the police officers from Twyford." The men were
standing in the hall with Mr. Lloyd, who, on catching sight of the cage in
Hewitt's hand, paled suddenly.

"This is the person who will be charged, I think," Hewitt pursued,
addressing the officers, and indicating Lloyd with his finger.

"What, Lloyd?" gasped Sir James, aghast. "No--not Lloyd--nonsense!"

"He doesn't seem to think it nonsense himself, does he?" Hewitt placidly
observed. Lloyd had sank on a chair, and, gray of face, was staring
blindly at the man he had run against at the office door that morning. His
lips moved in spasms, but there was no sound. The wilted flower fell from
his button-hole to the floor, but he did not move.

"This is his accomplice," Hewitt went on, placing the parrot and cage on
the hall table, "though I doubt whether there will be any use in charging
_him_. Eh, Polly?"

The parrot put his head aside and chuckled. "Hullo, Polly!" it quietly
gurgled. "Come along!"

Sir James Norris was hopelessly bewildered. "Lloyd--Lloyd," he said, under
his breath. "Lloyd--and that!"

"This was his little messenger, his useful Mercury," Hewitt explained,
tapping the cage complacently; "in fact, the actual lifter. Hold him up!"

The last remark referred to the wretched Lloyd, who had fallen forward
with something between a sob and a loud sigh. The policemen took him by
the arms and propped him in his chair.

       *       *       *       *       *

"System?" said Hewitt, with a shrug of the shoulders, an hour or two after
in Sir James' study. "I can't say I have a system. I call it nothing but
common-sense and a sharp pair of eyes. Nobody using these could help
taking the right road in this case. I began at the match, just as the
Scotland Yard man did, but I had the advantage of taking a line through
three cases. To begin with, it was plain that that match, being left there
in daylight, in Mrs. Cazenove's room, could not have been used to light
the table-top, in the full glare of the window; therefore it had been used
for some other purpose--_what_ purpose I could not, at the moment, guess.
Habitual thieves, you know, often have curious superstitions, and some
will never take anything without leaving something behind--a pebble or a
piece of coal, or something like that--in the premises they have been
robbing. It seemed at first extremely likely that this was a case of that
kind. The match had clearly been _brought in_--because, when I asked for
matches, there were none in the stand, not even an empty box, and the room
had not been disturbed. Also the match probably had not been struck there,
nothing having been heard, although, of course, a mistake in this matter
was just possible. This match, then, it was fair to assume, had been lit
somewhere else and blown out immediately--I remarked at the time that it
was very little burned. Plainly it could not have been treated thus for
nothing, and the only possible object would have been to prevent it
igniting accidentally. Following on this, it became obvious that the match
was used, for whatever purpose, not _as_ a match, but merely as a
convenient splinter of wood.

"So far so good. But on examining the match very closely I observed, as
you can see for yourself, certain rather sharp indentations in the wood.
They are very small, you see, and scarcely visible, except upon narrow
inspection; but there they are, and their positions are regular. See,
there are two on each side, each opposite the corresponding mark of the
other pair. The match, in fact, would seem to have been gripped in some
fairly sharp instrument, holding it at two points above and two below--an
instrument, as it may at once strike you, not unlike the beak of a bird.

"Now here was an idea. What living creature but a bird could possibly have
entered Mrs. Heath's window without a ladder--supposing no ladder to have
been used--or could have got into Mrs. Armitage's window without lifting
the sash higher than the eight or ten inches it was already open? Plainly,
nothing. Further, it is significant that only _one_ article was stolen at
a time, although others were about. A human being could have carried any
reasonable number, but a bird could only take one at a time. But why
should a bird carry a match in its beak? Certainly it must have been
trained to do that for a purpose, and a little consideration made that
purpose pretty clear. A noisy, chattering bird would probably betray
itself at once. Therefore it must be trained to keep quiet both while
going for and coming away with its plunder. What readier or more probably
effectual way than, while teaching it to carry without dropping, to teach
it also to keep quiet while carrying? The one thing would practically
cover the other.

"I thought at once, of course, of a jackdaw or a magpie--these birds'
thievish reputations made the guess natural. But the marks on the match
were much too wide apart to have been made by the beak of either. I
conjectured, therefore, that it must be a raven. So that, when we arrived
near the coach-house, I seized the opportunity of a little chat with your
groom on the subject of dogs and pets in general, and ascertained that
there was no tame raven in the place. I also, incidentally, by getting a
light from the coach-house box of matches, ascertained that the match
found was of the sort generally used about the establishment--the large,
thick, red-topped English match. But I further found that Mr. Lloyd had a
parrot which was a most intelligent pet, and had been trained into
comparative quietness--for a parrot. Also, I learned that more than once
the groom had met Mr. Lloyd carrying his parrot under his coat, it having,
as its owner explained, learned the trick of opening its cage-door and
escaping.

"I said nothing, of course, to you of all this, because I had as yet
nothing but a train of argument and no results. I got to Lloyd's room as
soon as possible. My chief object in going there was achieved when I
played with the parrot, and induced it to bite a quill toothpick.

"When you left me in the smoking-room, I compared the quill and the match
very carefully, and found that the marks corresponded exactly. After this
I felt very little doubt indeed. The fact of Lloyd having met the ladies
walking before dark on the day of the first robbery proved nothing,
because, since it was clear that the match had _not_ been used to procure
a light, the robbery might as easily have taken place in daylight as
not--must have so taken place, in fact, if my conjectures were right. That
they were right I felt no doubt. There could be no other explanation.

"When Mrs. Heath left her window open and her door shut, anybody climbing
upon the open sash of Lloyd's high window could have put the bird upon the
sill above. The match placed in the bird's beak for the purpose I have
indicated, and struck first, in case by accident it should ignite by
rubbing against something and startle the bird--this match would, of
course, be dropped just where the object to be removed was taken up; as
you know, in every case the match was found almost upon the spot where the
missing article had been left--scarcely a likely triple coincidence had
the match been used by a human thief. This would have been done as soon
after the ladies had left as possible, and there would then have been
plenty of time for Lloyd to hurry out and meet them before
dark--especially plenty of time to meet them _coming back_, as they must
have been, since they were carrying their ferns. The match was an article
well chosen for its purpose, as being a not altogether unlikely thing to
find on a dressing-table, and, if noticed, likely to lead to the wrong
conclusions adopted by the official detective.

"In Mrs. Armitage's case the taking of an inferior brooch and the leaving
of a more valuable ring pointed clearly either to the operator being a
fool or unable to distinguish values, and certainly, from other
indications, the thief seemed no fool. The door was locked, and the
gas-fitter, so to speak, on guard, and the window was only eight or ten
inches open and propped with a brush. A human thief entering the window
would have disturbed this arrangement, and would scarcely risk discovery
by attempting to replace it, especially a thief in so great a hurry as to
snatch the brooch up without unfastening the pin. The bird could pass
through the opening as it was, and _would have_ to tear the pin-cushion to
pull the brooch off, probably holding the cushion down with its claw the
while.

"Now in yesterday's case we had an alteration of conditions. The window
was shut and fastened, but the door was open--but only left for a few
minutes, during which time no sound was heard either of coming or going.
Was it not possible, then, that the thief was _already_ in the room, in
hiding, while Mrs. Cazenove was there, and seized its first opportunity on
her temporary absence? The room is full of draperies, hangings, and what
not, allowing of plenty of concealment for a bird, and a bird could leave
the place noiselessly and quickly. That the whole scheme was strange
mattered not at all. Robberies presenting such unaccountable features must
have been effected by strange means of one sort or another. There was no
improbability. Consider how many hundreds of examples of infinitely higher
degrees of bird-training are exhibited in the London streets every week
for coppers.

"So that, on the whole, I felt pretty sure of my ground. But before taking
any definite steps I resolved to see if Polly could not be persuaded to
exhibit his accomplishments to an indulgent stranger. For that purpose I
contrived to send Lloyd away again and have a quiet hour alone with his
bird. A piece of sugar, as everybody knows, is a good parrot bribe; but a
walnut, split in half, is a better--especially if the bird be used to it;
so I got you to furnish me with both. Polly was shy at first, but I
generally get along very well with pets, and a little perseverance soon
led to a complete private performance for my benefit. Polly would take the
match, mute as wax, jump on the table, pick up the brightest thing he
could see, in a great hurry, leave the match behind, and scuttle away
round the room; but at first wouldn't give up the plunder to _me_. It was
enough. I also took the liberty, as you know, of a general look round, and
discovered that little collection of Brummagem rings and trinkets that you
have just seen--used in Polly's education, no doubt. When we sent Lloyd
away, it struck me that he might as well be usefully employed as not, so I
got him to fetch the police, deluding him a little, I fear, by talking
about the servants and a female searcher. There will be no trouble about
evidence; he'll confess. Of that I'm sure. I know the sort of man. But I
doubt if you'll get Mrs. Cazenove's brooch back. You see, he has been to
London to-day, and by this time the swag is probably broken up."

Sir James listened to Hewitt's explanation with many expressions of assent
and some of surprise. When it was over, he smoked a few whiffs and then
said: "But Mrs. Armitage's brooch was pawned, and by a woman."

"Exactly. I expect our friend Lloyd was rather disgusted at his small
luck--probably gave the brooch to some female connection in London, and
she realized on it. Such persons don't always trouble to give a correct
address."

The two smoked in silence for a few minutes, and then Hewitt continued: "I
don't expect our friend has had an easy job altogether with that bird. His
successes at most have only been three, and I suspect he had many failures
and not a few anxious moments that we know nothing of. I should judge as
much merely from what the groom told me of frequently meeting Lloyd with
his parrot. But the plan was not a bad one--not at all. Even if the bird
had been caught in the act, it would only have been 'That mischievous
parrot!' you see. And his master would only have been looking for him."




II.


THE LOSS OF SAMMY CROCKETT.

It was, of course, always a part of Martin Hewitt's business to be
thoroughly at home among any and every class of people, and to be able to
interest himself intelligently, or to appear to do so, in their various
pursuits. In one of the most important cases ever placed in his hands he
could have gone but a short way toward success had he not displayed some
knowledge of the more sordid aspects of professional sport, and a great
interest in the undertakings of a certain dealer therein.

The great case itself had nothing to do with sport, and, indeed, from a
narrative point of view, was somewhat uninteresting, but the man who alone
held the one piece of information wanted was a keeper, backer, or "gaffer"
of professional pedestrians, and it was through the medium of his
pecuniary interest in such matters that Hewitt was enabled to strike a
bargain with him.

The man was a publican on the outskirts of Padfield, a northern town,
pretty famous for its sporting tastes, and to Padfield, therefore, Hewitt
betook himself, and, arrayed in a way to indicate some inclination of his
own toward sport, he began to frequent the bar of the Hare and Hounds.
Kentish, the landlord, was a stout, bull-necked man, of no great
communicativeness at first; but after a little acquaintance he opened out
wonderfully, became quite a jolly (and rather intelligent) companion, and
came out with innumerable anecdotes of his sporting adventures. He could
put a very decent dinner on the table, too, at the Hare and Hounds, and
Hewitt's frequent invitation to him to join therein and divide a bottle of
the best in the cellar soon put the two on the very best of terms. Good
terms with Mr. Kentish was Hewitt's great desire, for the information he
wanted was of a sort that could never be extracted by casual questioning,
but must be a matter of open communication by the publican, extracted in
what way it might be.

"Look here," said Kentish one day, "I'll put you on to a good thing, my
boy--a real good thing. Of course you know all about the Padfield 135
Yards Handicap being run off now?"

"Well, I haven't looked into it much," Hewitt replied. "Ran the first
round of heats last Saturday and Monday, didn't they?"

"They did. Well"--Kentish spoke in a stage whisper as he leaned over and
rapped the table--"I've got the final winner in this house." He nodded his
head, took a puff at his cigar, and added, in his ordinary voice. "Don't
say nothing."

"No, of course not. Got something on, of course?"

"Rather! What do you think? Got any price I liked. Been saving him up for
this. Why, he's got twenty-one yards, and he can do even time all the way!
Fact! Why, he could win runnin' back'ards. He won his heat on Monday
like--like--like that!" The gaffer snapped his fingers, in default of a
better illustration, and went on. "He might ha' took it a little easier,
_I_ think; it's shortened his price, of course, him jumpin' in by two
yards. But you can get decent odds now, if you go about it right. You take
my tip--back him for his heat next Saturday, in the second round, and for
the final. You'll get a good price for the final, if you pop it down at
once. But don't go makin' a song of it, will you, now? I'm givin' you a
tip I wouldn't give anybody else."

"Thanks, very much; it's awfully good of you. I'll do what you advise. But
isn't there a dark horse anywhere else?"

"Not dark to me, my boy, not dark to me. I know every man runnin' like a
book. Old Taylor--him over at the Cop--he's got a very good lad at
eighteen yards, a very good lad indeed; and he's a tryer this time, I
know. But, bless you, my lad could give him ten, instead o' taking three,
and beat him then! When I'm runnin' a real tryer, I'm generally runnin'
something very near a winner, you bet; and this time, mind _this_ time,
I'm runnin' the certainest winner I _ever_ run--and I don't often make a
mistake. You back him."

"I shall, if you're as sure as that. But who is he?"

"Oh, Crockett's his name--Sammy Crockett. He's quite a new lad. I've got
young Steggles looking after him--sticks to him like wax. Takes his little
breathers in my bit o' ground at the back here. I've got a cinder-sprint
path there, over behind the trees. I don't let him out o' sight much, I
can tell you. He's a straight lad, and he knows it'll be worth his while
to stick to me; but there's some 'ud poison him, if they thought he'd
spoil their books."

Soon afterward the two strolled toward the taproom. "I expect Sammy'll be
there," the landlord said, "with Steggles. I don't hide him too
much--they'd think I'd got something extra on if I did."

In the tap-room sat a lean, wire-drawn-looking youth, with sloping
shoulders and a thin face, and by his side was a rather short, thick-set
man, who had an odd air, no matter what he did, of proprietorship and
surveillance of the lean youth. Several other men sat about, and there was
loud laughter, under which the lean youth looked sheepishly angry.

"'Tarn't no good, Sammy, lad," some one was saying, "you a-makin' after
Nancy Webb--she'll ha' nowt to do with 'ee."

"Don' like 'em so thread-papery," added another. "No, Sammy, you aren't
the lad for she. I see her----"

"What about Nancy Webb?" asked Kentish, pushing open the door. "Sammy's
all right, any way. You keep fit, my lad, an' go on improving, and some
day you'll have as good a house as me. Never mind the lasses. Had his
glass o' beer, has he?" This to Raggy Steggles, who, answering in the
affirmative, viewed his charge as though he were a post, and the beer a
recent coat of paint.

"Has two glasses of mild a day," the landlord said to Hewitt. "Never puts
on flesh, so he can stand it. Come out now." He nodded to Steggles, who
rose and marched Sammy Crockett away for exercise.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the following afternoon (it was Thursday), as Hewitt and Kentish
chatted in the landlord's own snuggery, Steggles burst into the room in a
great state of agitation and spluttered out: "He--he's bolted; gone away!"

"What?"

"Sammy--gone! Hooked it! _I_ can't find him."

The landlord stared blankly at the trainer, who stood with a sweater
dangling from his hand and stared blankly back. "What d'ye mean?" Kentish
said, at last. "Don't be a fool! He's in the place somewhere. Find him!"

But this Steggles defied anybody to do. He had looked already. He had left
Crockett at the cinder-path behind the trees in his running-gear, with the
addition of the long overcoat and cap he used in going between the path
and the house to guard against chill. "I was goin' to give him a bust or
two with the pistol," the trainer explained, "but, when we got over
t'other side, 'Raggy,' ses he, 'it's blawin' a bit chilly. I think I'll
ha' a sweater. There's one on my box, ain't there?' So in I coomes for the
sweater, and it weren't on his box, and, when I found it and got back--he
weren't there. They'd seen nowt o' him in t' house, and he weren't
nowhere."

Hewitt and the landlord, now thoroughly startled, searched everywhere, but
to no purpose. "What should he go off the place for?" asked Kentish, in a
sweat of apprehension. "'Tain't chilly a bit--it's warm. He didn't want no
sweater; never wore one before. It was a piece of kid to be able to clear
out. Nice thing, this is. I stand to win two years' takings over him.
Here--you'll have to find him."

"Ah, but how?" exclaimed the disconcerted trainer, dancing about
distractedly. "I've got all I could scrape on him myself. Where can I
look?"

Here was Hewitt's opportunity. He took Kentish aside and whispered. What
he said startled the landlord considerably. "Yes, I'll tell you all about
that," he said, "if that's all you want. It's no good or harm to me
whether I tell or no. But can you find him?"

"That I can't promise, of course. But you know who I am now, and what I'm
here for. If you like to give me the information I want, I'll go into the
case for you, and, of course, I shan't charge any fee. I may have luck,
you know, but I can't promise, of course."

The landlord looked in Hewitt's face for a moment. Then he said: "Done!
It's a deal."

"Very good," Hewitt replied; "get together the one or two papers you have,
and we'll go into my business in the evening. As to Crockett, don't say a
word to anybody. I'm afraid it must get out, since they all know about it
in the house, but there's no use in making any unnecessary noise. Don't
make hedging bets or do anything that will attract notice. Now we'll go
over to the back and look at this cinder-path of yours."

Here Steggles, who was still standing near, was struck with an idea. "How
about old Taylor, at the Cop, guv'nor, eh?" he said, meaningly. "His lad's
good enough to win with Sammy out, and Taylor is backing him plenty. Think
he knows any thing o' this?"

"That's likely," Hewitt observed, before Kentish could reply. "Yes. Look
here--suppose Steggles goes and keeps his eye on the Cop for an hour or
two, in case there's anything to be heard of? Don't show yourself, of
course."

Kentish agreed, and the trainer went. When Hewitt and Kentish arrived at
the path behind the trees, Hewitt at once began examining the ground. One
or two rather large holes in the cinders were made, as the publican
explained, by Crockett, in practicing getting off his mark. Behind these
were several fresh tracks of spiked shoes. The tracks led up to within a
couple of yards of the high fence bounding the ground, and there stopped
abruptly and entirely. In the fence, a little to the right of where the
tracks stopped, there was a stout door. This Hewitt tried, and found ajar.

"That's always kept bolted," Kentish said. "He's gone out that way--he
couldn't have gone any other without comin' through the house."

"But he isn't in the habit of making a step three yards long, is he?"
Hewitt asked, pointing at the last footmark and then at the door, which
was quite that distance away from it. "Besides," he added, opening the
door, "there's no footprint here nor outside."

The door opened on a lane, with another fence and a thick plantation of
trees at the other side. Kentish looked at the footmarks, then at the
door, then down the lane, and finally back toward the house. "That's a
licker!" he said.

"This is a quiet sort of lane," was Hewitt's next remark. "No houses in
sight. Where does it lead?"

"That way it goes to the Old Kilns--disused. This way down to a turning
off the Padfield and Catton road."

Hewitt returned to the cinder-path again, and once more examined the
footmarks. He traced them back over the grass toward the house.
"Certainly," he said, "he hasn't gone back to the house. Here is the
double line of tracks, side by side, from the house--Steggles' ordinary
boots with iron tips, and Crockett's running pumps; thus they came out.
Here is Steggles' track in the opposite direction alone, made when he went
back for the sweater. Crockett remained; you see various prints in those
loose cinders at the end of the path where he moved this way and that, and
then two or three paces toward the fence--not directly toward the door,
you notice--and there they stop dead, and there are no more, either back
or forward. Now, if he had wings, I should be tempted to the opinion that
he flew straight away in the air from that spot--unless the earth
swallowed him and closed again without leaving a wrinkle on its face."

Kentish stared gloomily at the tracks and said nothing.

"However," Hewitt resumed, "I think I'll take a little walk now and think
over it. You go into the house and show yourself at the bar. If anybody
wants to know how Crockett is, he's pretty well, thank you. By the by, can
I get to the Cop--this place of Taylor's--by this back lane?"

"Yes, down to the end leading to the Catton road, turn to the left and
then first on the right. Any one'll show you the Cop," and Kentish shut
the door behind the detective, who straightway walked--toward the Old
Kilns.

In little more than an hour he was back. It was now becoming dusk, and the
landlord looked out papers from a box near the side window of his
snuggery, for the sake of the extra light. "I've got these papers together
for you," he said, as Hewitt entered. "Any news?"

"Nothing very great. Here's a bit of handwriting I want you to recognize,
if you can. Get a light."

Kentish lit a lamp, and Hewitt laid upon the table half a dozen small
pieces of torn paper, evidently fragments of a letter which had been torn
up, here reproduced in fac-simile:

[Illustration: six scraps of paper: mmy, throw them ou, right away, left
hi, hate his, lane wr]

The landlord turned the scraps over, regarding them dubiously. "These
aren't much to recognize, anyhow. _I_ don't know the writing. Where did
you find 'em?"

"They were lying in the lane at the back, a little way down. Plainly they
are pieces of a note addressed to some one called Sammy or something very
like it. See the first piece, with its 'mmy'? That is clearly from the
beginning of the note, because there is no line between it and the smooth,
straight edge of the paper above; also, nothing follows on the same line.
Some one writes to Crockett--presuming it to be a letter addressed to him,
as I do for other reasons--as Sammy. It is a pity that there is no more of
the letter to be found than these pieces. I expect the person who tore it
up put the rest in his pocket and dropped these by accident."

Kentish, who had been picking up and examining each piece in turn, now
dolorously broke out:

"Oh, it's plain he's sold us--bolted and done us; me as took him out o'
the gutter, too. Look here--'throw them over'; that's plain enough--can't
mean anything else. Means throw _me_ over, and my friends--me, after what
I've done for him! Then 'right away'--go right away, I s'pose, as he has
done. Then"--he was fiddling with the scraps and finally fitted two
together--"why, look here, this one with 'lane' on it fits over the one
about throwing over, and it says 'poor f' where its torn; that means 'poor
fool,' I s'pose--_me_, or 'fathead,' or something like that. That's nice.
Why, I'd twist his neck if I could get hold of him; and I will!"

Hewitt smiled. "Perhaps it's not quite so uncomplimentary, after all," he
said. "If you can't recognize the writing, never mind. But, if he's gone
away to sell you, it isn't much use finding him, is it? He won't win if he
doesn't want to."

"Why, he wouldn't dare to rope under my very eyes. I'd--I'd----"

"Well, well; perhaps we'll get him to run, after all, and as well as he
can. One thing is certain--he left this place of his own will. Further, I
think he is in Padfield now; he went toward the town, I believe. And I
don't think he means to sell you."

"Well, he shouldn't. I've made it worth his while to stick to me. I've put
a fifty on for him out of my own pocket, and told him so; and, if he won,
that would bring him a lump more than he'd probably get by going crooked,
besides the prize money and anything I might give him over. But it seems
to me he's putting me in the cart altogether."

"That we shall see. Meantime, don't mention anything I've told you to any
one--not even to Steggles. He can't help us, and he might blurt things out
inadvertently. Don't say anything about these pieces of paper, which I
shall keep myself. By-the-by, Steggles is indoors, isn't he? Very well,
keep him in. Don't let him be seen hunting about this evening. I'll stay
here to-night and we'll proceed with Crockett's business in the morning.
And now we'll settle _my_ business, please."

       *       *       *       *       *

In the morning Hewitt took his breakfast in the snuggery, carefully
listening to any conversation that might take place at the bar. Soon after
nine o'clock a fast dog-cart stopped outside, and a red-faced, loud-voiced
man swaggered in, greeting Kentish with boisterous cordiality. He had a
drink with the landlord, and said: "How's things? Fancy any of 'em for the
sprint handicap? Got a lad o' your own in, haven't you?"

"Oh, yes," Kentish replied. "Crockett. Only a young un not got to his
proper mark yet, I reckon. I think old Taylor's got No. 1 this time."

"Capital lad," the other replied, with a confidential nod. "Shouldn't
wonder at all. Want to do anything yourself over it?"

"No, I don't think so. I'm not on at present. Might have a little flutter
on the grounds just for fun; nothing else."

There were a few more casual remarks, and then the red-faced man drove
away.

"Who was that?" asked Hewitt, who had watched the visitor through the
snuggery window.

"That's Danby--bookmaker. Cute chap. He's been told Crockett's missing,
I'll bet anything, and come here to pump me. No good, though. As a matter
of fact, I've worked Sammy Crockett into his books for about half I'm in
for altogether--through third parties, of course."

Hewitt reached for his hat. "I'm going out for half an hour now," he said.
"If Steggles wants to go out before I come back, don't let him. Let him go
and smooth over all those tracks on the cinder-path, very carefully. And,
by the by, could you manage to have your son about the place to-day, in
case I happen to want a little help out of doors?"

"Certainly; I'll get him to stay in. But what do you want the cinders
smoothed for?"

Hewitt smiled, and patted his host's shoulder. "I'll explain all my tricks
when the job's done," he said, and went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the lane from Padfield to Sedby village stood the Plough beer-house,
wherein J. Webb was licensed to sell by retail beer to be consumed on the
premises or off, as the thirsty list. Nancy Webb, with a very fine color,
a very curly fringe, and a wide smiling mouth revealing a fine set of
teeth, came to the bar at the summons of a stoutish old gentleman in
spectacles who walked with a stick.

The stoutish old gentleman had a glass of bitter beer, and then said in
the peculiarly quiet voice of a very deaf man: "Can you tell me, if you
please, the way into the main Catton road?"

"Down the lane, turn to the right at the cross-roads, then first to the
left."

The old gentleman waited with his hand to his ear for some few seconds
after she had finished speaking, and then resumed in his whispering voice:
"I'm afraid I'm very deaf this morning." He fumbled in his pocket and
produced a note-book and pencil. "May I trouble you to write it down? I'm
so very deaf at times that I--Thank you."

The girl wrote the direction, and the old gentleman bade her good-morning
and left. All down the lane he walked slowly with his stick. At the
cross-roads he turned, put the stick under his arm, thrust his spectacles
into his pocket, and strode away in the ordinary guise of Martin Hewitt.
He pulled out his note-book, examined Miss Webb's direction very
carefully, and then went off another way altogether, toward the Hare and
Hounds.

Kentish lounged moodily in his bar. "Well, my boy," said Hewitt, "has
Steggles wiped out the tracks?"

"Not yet; I haven't told him. But he's somewhere about; I'll tell him
now."

"No, don't. I don't think we'll have that done, after all. I expect he'll
want to go out soon--at any rate, some time during the day. Let him go
whenever he likes. I'll sit upstairs a bit in the club-room."

"Very well. But how do you know Steggles will be going out?"

"Well, he's pretty restless after his lost _protege_, isn't he? I don't
suppose he'll be able to remain idle long."

"And about Crockett. Do you give him up?"

"Oh, no! Don't you be impatient. I can't say I'm quite confident yet of
laying hold of him--the time is so short, you see--but I think I shall at
least have news for you by the evening."

Hewitt sat in the club-room until the afternoon, taking his lunch there.
At length he saw, through the front window, Raggy Steggles walking down
the road. In an instant Hewitt was down-stairs and at the door. The road
bent eighty yards away, and as soon as Steggles passed the bend the
detective hurried after him.

All the way to Padfield town and more than half through it Hewitt dogged
the trainer. In the end Steggles stopped at a corner and gave a note to a
small boy who was playing near. The boy ran with the note to a bright,
well-kept house at the opposite corner. Martin Hewitt was interested to
observe the legend, "H. Danby, Contractor," on a board over a gate in the
side wall of the garden behind this house. In five minutes a door in the
side gate opened, and the head and shoulders of the red-faced man emerged.
Steggles immediately hurried across and disappeared through the gate.

This was both interesting and instructive. Hewitt took up a position in
the side street and waited. In ten minutes the trainer reappeared and
hurried off the way he had come, along the street Hewitt had considerately
left clear for him. Then Hewitt strolled toward the smart house and took a
good look at it. At one corner of the small piece of forecourt garden,
near the railings, a small, baize-covered, glass-fronted notice-board
stood on two posts. On its top edge appeared the words, "H. Danby. Houses
to be Sold or Let." But the only notice pinned to the green baize within
was an old and dusty one, inviting tenants for three shops, which were
suitable for any business, and which would be fitted to suit tenants.
Apply within.

Hewitt pushed open the front gate and rang the door-bell. "There are some
shops to let, I see," he said, when a maid appeared. "I should like to see
them, if you will let me have the key."

"Master's out, sir. You can't see the shops till Monday."

"Dear me, that's unfortunate, I'm afraid I can't wait till Monday. Didn't
Mr. Danby leave any instructions, in case anybody should inquire?"

"Yes, sir--as I've told you. He said anybody who called about 'em must
come again on Monday."

"Oh, very well, then; I suppose I must try. One of the shops is in High
Street, isn't it?"

"No, sir; they're all in the new part--Granville Road."

"Ah, I'm afraid that will scarcely do. But I'll see. Good-day."

Martin Hewitt walked away a couple of streets' lengths before he inquired
the way to Granville Road. When at last he found that thoroughfare, in a
new and muddy suburb, crowded with brick-heaps and half-finished streets,
he took a slow walk along its entire length. It was a melancholy example
of baffled enterprise. A row of a dozen or more shops had been built
before any population had arrived to demand goods. Would-be tradesmen had
taken many of these shops, and failure and disappointment stared from the
windows. Some were half covered by shutters, because the scanty stock
scarce sufficed to fill the remaining half. Others were shut almost
altogether, the inmates only keeping open the door for their own
convenience, and, perhaps, keeping down a shutter for the sake of a little
light. Others, again, had not yet fallen so low, but struggled bravely
still to maintain a show of business and prosperity, with very little
success. Opposite the shops there still remained a dusty, ill-treated
hedge and a forlorn-looking field, which an old board offered on building
leases. Altogether a most depressing spot.

There was little difficulty in identifying the three shops offered for
letting by Mr. H. Danby. They were all together near the middle of the
row, and were the only ones that appeared not yet to have been occupied. A
dusty "To Let" bill hung in each window, with written directions to
inquire of Mr. H. Danby or at No. 7. Now No. 7 was a melancholy baker's
shop, with a stock of three loaves and a plate of stale buns. The
disappointed baker assured Hewitt that he usually kept the keys of the
shops, but that the landlord, Mr. Danby, had taken them away the day
before to see how the ceilings were standing, and had not returned them.
"But if you was thinking of taking a shop here," the poor baker added,
with some hesitation, "I--I--if you'll excuse my advising you--I shouldn't
recommend it. I've had a sickener of it myself."

Hewitt thanked the baker for his advice, wished him better luck in future,
and left. To the Hare and Hounds his pace was brisk. "Come," he said, as
he met Kentish's inquiring glance, "this has been a very good day, on the
whole. I know where our man is now, and I think we can get him, by a
little management."

"Where is he?"

"Oh, down in Padfield. As a matter of fact, he's being kept there against
his will, we shall find. I see that your friend Mr. Danby is a builder as
well as a bookmaker."

"Not a regular builder. He speculates in a street of new houses now and
again, that's all. But is he in it?"

"He's as deep in it as anybody, I think. Now, don't fly into a passion.
There are a few others in it as well, but you'll do harm if you don't keep
quiet."

"But go and get the police; come and fetch him, if you know where they're
keeping him. Why----"

"So we will, if we can't do it without them. But it's quite possible we
can, and without all the disturbance and, perhaps, delay that calling in
the police would involve. Consider, now, in reference to your own
arrangements. Wouldn't it pay you better to get him back quietly, without
a soul knowing--perhaps not even Danby knowing--till the heat is run
to-morrow?"

"Well, yes, it would, of course."

"Very good, then, so be it. Remember what I have told you about keeping
your mouth shut; say nothing to Steggles or anybody. Is there a cab or
brougham your son and I can have for the evening?"

"There's an old hiring landau in the stables you can shut up into a cab,
if that'll do."

"Excellent. We'll run down to the town in it as soon as it's ready. But,
first, a word about Crockett. What sort of a lad is he? Likely to give
them trouble, show fight, and make a disturbance?"

"No, I should say not. He's no plucked un, certainly; all his manhood's in
his legs, I believe. You see, he ain't a big sort o' chap at best, and
he'd be pretty easy put upon--at least, I guess so."

"Very good, so much the better, for then he won't have been damaged, and
they will probably only have one man to guard him. Now the carriage,
please."

Young Kentish was a six-foot sergeant of grenadiers home on furlough, and
luxuriating in plain clothes. He and Hewitt walked a little way toward the
town, allowing the landau to catch them up. They traveled in it to within
a hundred yards of the empty shops and then alighted, bidding the driver
wait.

"I shall show you three empty shops," Hewitt said, as he and young Kentish
walked down Granville Road. "I am pretty sure that Sammy Crockett is in
one of them, and I am pretty sure that that is the middle one. Take a look
as we go past."

When the shops had been slowly passed, Hewitt resumed: "Now, did you see
anything about those shops that told a tale of any sort?"

"No," Sergeant Kentish replied. "I can't say I noticed anything beyond the
fact that they were empty--and likely to stay so, I should think."

"We'll stroll back, and look in at the windows, if nobody's watching us,"
Hewitt said. "You see, it's reasonable to suppose they've put him in the
middle one, because that would suit their purpose best. The shops at each
side of the three are occupied, and, if the prisoner struggled, or
shouted, or made an uproar, he might be heard if he were in one of the
shops next those inhabited. So that the middle shop is the most likely.
Now, see there," he went on, as they stopped before the window of the shop
in question, "over at the back there's a staircase not yet partitioned
off. It goes down below and up above. On the stairs and on the floor near
them there are muddy footmarks. These must have been made to-day, else
they would not be muddy, but dry and dusty, since there hasn't been a
shower for a week till to-day. Move on again. Then you noticed that there
were no other such marks in the shop. Consequently the man with the muddy
feet did not come in by the front door, but by the back; otherwise he
would have made a trail from the door. So we will go round to the back
ourselves."

It was now growing dusk. The small pieces of ground behind the shops were
bounded by a low fence, containing a door for each house.

"This door is bolted inside, of course," Hewitt said, "but there is no
difficulty in climbing. I think we had better wait in the garden till
dark. In the meantime, the jailer, whoever he is, may come out; in which
case we shall pounce on him as soon as he opens the door. You have that
few yards of cord in your pocket, I think? And my handkerchief, properly
rolled, will make a very good gag. Now over."

They climbed the fence and quietly approached the house, placing
themselves in the angle of an outhouse out of sight from the windows.
There was no sound, and no light appeared. Just above the ground about a
foot of window was visible, with a grating over it, apparently lighting a
basement. Suddenly Hewitt touched his companion's arm and pointed toward
the window. A faint rustling sound was perceptible, and, as nearly as
could be discerned in the darkness, some white blind or covering was
placed over the glass from the inside. Then came the sound of a striking
match, and at the side edge of the window there was a faint streak of
light.

"That's the place," Hewitt whispered. "Come, we'll make a push for it. You
stand against the wall at one side of the door and I'll stand at the
other, and we'll have him as he comes out. Quietly, now, and I'll startle
them."

He took a stone from among the rubbish littering the garden and flung it
crashing through the window. There was a loud exclamation from within, the
blind fell, and somebody rushed to the back door and flung it open.
Instantly Kentish let fly a heavy right-hander, and the man went over like
a skittle. In a moment Hewitt was upon him and the gag in his mouth.

"Hold him," Hewitt whispered, hurriedly. "I'll see if there are others."

He peered down through the low window. Within Sammy Crockett, his bare
legs dangling from beneath his long overcoat, sat on a packing-box,
leaning with his head on his hand and his back toward the window. A
guttering candle stood on the mantel-piece, and the newspaper which had
been stretched across the window lay in scattered sheets on the floor. No
other person besides Sammy was visible.

They led their prisoner indoors. Young Kentish recognized him as a
public-house loafer and race-course ruffian, well known in the
neighborhood.

"So it's you, is it, Browdie?" he said. "I've caught you one hard clump,
and I've half a mind to make it a score more. But you'll get it pretty
warm one way or another before this job's forgotten."

Sammy Crockett was overjoyed at his rescue. He had not been ill-treated,
he explained, but had been thoroughly cowed by Browdie, who had from time
to time threatened him savagely with an iron bar by way of persuading him
to quietness and submission. He had been fed, and had taken no worse harm
than a slight stiffness from his adventure, due to his light under-attire
of jersey and knee-shorts.

Sergeant Kentish tied Browdie's elbows firmly together behind, and carried
the line round the ankles, bracing all up tight. Then he ran a knot from
one wrist to the other over the back of the neck, and left the prisoner,
trussed and helpless, on the heap of straw that had been Sammy's bed.

"You won't be very jolly, I expect," Kentish said, "for some time. You
can't shout and you can't walk, and I know you can't untie yourself.
You'll get a bit hungry, too, perhaps, but that'll give you an appetite. I
don't suppose you'll be disturbed till some time to-morrow, unless our
friend Danby turns up in the meantime. But you can come along to jail
instead, if you prefer it."

They left him where he lay, and took Sammy to the old landau. Sammy walked
in slippers, carrying his spiked shoes, hanging by the lace, in his hand.

"Ah," said Hewitt, "I think I know the name of the young lady who gave you
those slippers."

Crockett looked ashamed and indignant. "Yes," he said, "they've done me
nicely between 'em. But I'll pay her--I'll----"

"Hush, hush!" Hewitt said; "you mustn't talk unkindly of a lady, you know.
Get into this carriage, and we'll take you home. We'll see if I can tell
you your adventures without making a mistake. First, you had a note from
Miss Webb, telling you that you were mistaken in supposing she had
slighted you, and that, as a matter of fact, she had quite done with
somebody else--left him--of whom you were jealous. Isn't that so?"

"Well, yes," young Crockett answered, blushing deeply under the
carriage-lamp; "but I don't see how you come to know that."

"Then she went on to ask you to get rid of Steggles on Thursday afternoon
for a few minutes, and speak to her in the back lane. Now, your running
pumps, with their thin soles, almost like paper, no heels and long spikes,
hurt your feet horribly if you walk on hard ground, don't they?"

"Ay, that they do--enough to cripple you. I'd never go on much hard ground
with 'em."

"They're not like cricket shoes, I see."

"Not a bit. Cricket shoes you can walk anywhere in!"

"Well, she knew this--I think I know who told her--and she promised to
bring you a new pair of slippers, and to throw them over the fence for you
to come out in."

"I s'pose she's been tellin' you all this?" Crockett said, mournfully.
"You couldn't ha' seen the letter; I saw her tear it up and put the bits
in her pocket. She asked me for it in the lane, in case Steggles saw it."

"Well, at any rate, you sent Steggles away, and the slippers did come
over, and you went into the lane. You walked with her as far as the road
at the end, and then you were seized and gagged, and put into a carriage."

"That was Browdie did that," said Crockett, "and another chap I don't
know. But--why, this is Padfield High Street?" He looked through the
window and regarded the familiar shops with astonishment.

"Of course it is. Where did you think it was?"

"Why, where was that place you found me in?"

"Granville Road, Padfield. I suppose they told you you were in another
town?"

"Told me it was Newstead Hatch. They drove for about three or four hours,
and kept me down on the floor between the seats so as I couldn't see where
we was going."

"Done for two reasons," said Hewitt. "First, to mystify you, and prevent
any discovery of the people directing the conspiracy; and second, to be
able to put you indoors at night and unobserved. Well, I think I have told
you all you know yourself now as far as the carriage.

"But there is the Hare and Hounds just in front. We'll pull up here, and
I'll get out and see if the coast is clear. I fancy Mr. Kentish would
rather you came in unnoticed."

In a few seconds Hewitt was back, and Crockett was conveyed indoors by a
side entrance. Hewitt's instructions to the landlord were few, but
emphatic. "Don't tell Steggles about it," he said; "make an excuse to get
rid of him, and send him out of the house. Take Crockett into some other
bedroom, not his own, and let your son look after him. Then come here, and
I'll tell you all about it."

Sammy Crockett was undergoing a heavy grooming with white embrocation at
the hands of Sergeant Kentish when the landlord returned to Hewitt. "Does
Danby know you've got him?" he asked. "How did you do it?"

"Danby doesn't know yet, and with luck he won't know till he sees Crockett
running to-morrow. The man who has sold you is Steggles."

"Steggles?"

"Steggles it is. At the very first, when Steggles rushed in to report
Sammy Crockett missing, I suspected him. You didn't, I suppose?"

"No. He's always been considered a straight man, and he looked as startled
as anybody."

"Yes, I must say he acted it very well. But there was something suspicious
in his story. What did he say? Crockett had remarked a chilliness, and
asked for a sweater, which Steggles went to fetch. Now, just think. You
understand these things. Would any trainer who knew his business (as
Steggles does) have gone to bring out a sweater for his man to change for
his jersey in the open air, at the very time the man was complaining of
chilliness? Of course not. He would have taken his man indoors again and
let him change there under shelter. Then supposing Steggles had really
been surprised at missing Crockett, wouldn't he have looked about, found
the gate open, and _told_ you it was open when he first came in? He said
nothing of that--we found the gate open for ourselves. So that from the
beginning I had a certain opinion of Steggles."

"What you say seems pretty plain now, although it didn't strike me at the
time. But, if Steggles was selling us, why couldn't he have drugged the
lad? That would have been a deal simpler."

"Because Steggles is a good trainer, and has a certain reputation to keep
up. It would have done him no good to have had a runner drugged while
under his care; certainly it would have cooked his goose with _you_. It
was much the safer thing to connive at kidnapping. That put all the active
work into other hands, and left him safe, even if the trick failed. Now,
you remember that we traced the prints of Crockett's spiked shoes to
within a couple of yards from the fence, and that there they ceased
suddenly?"

"Yes. You said it looked as though he had flown up into the air; and so it
did."

"But I was sure that it was by that gate that Crockett had left, and by no
other. He couldn't have got through the house without being seen, and
there was no other way--let alone the evidence of the unbolted gate.
Therefore, as the footprints ceased where they did, and were not repeated
anywhere in the lane, I knew that he had taken his spiked shoes
off--probably changed them for something else, because a runner anxious as
to his chances would never risk walking on bare feet, with a chance of
cutting them. Ordinary, broad, smooth-soled slippers would leave no
impression on the coarse cinders bordering the track, and nothing short of
spiked shoes would leave a mark on the hard path in the lane behind. The
spike-tracks were leading, not directly toward the door, but in the
direction of the fence, when they stopped; somebody had handed, or thrown,
the slippers over the fence, and he had changed them on the spot. The
enemy had calculated upon the spikes leaving a track in the lane that
might lead us in our search, and had arranged accordingly.

"So far so good. I could see no footprints near the gate in the lane. You
will remember that I sent Steggles off to watch at the Cop before I went
out to the back--merely, of course, to get him out of the way. I went out
into the lane, leaving you behind, and walked its whole length, first
toward the Old Kilns and then back toward the road. I found nothing to
help me except these small pieces of paper--which are here in my
pocket-book, by the by. Of course this 'mmy' might have meant 'Jimmy' or
'Tommy' as possibly as 'Sammy,' but they were not to be rejected on that
account. Certainly Crockett had been decoyed out of your ground, not taken
by force, or there would have been marks of a scuffle in the cinders. And
as his request for a sweater was probably an excuse--because it was not at
all a cold afternoon--he must have previously designed going out.
Inference, a letter received; and here were pieces of a letter. Now, in
the light of what I have said, look at these pieces. First, there is the
'mmy'--that I have dealt with. Then see this 'throw them ov'--clearly a
part of 'throw them over'; exactly what had probably been done with the
slippers. Then the 'poor f,' coming just on the line before, and seen, by
joining up with this other piece, might easily be a reference to 'poor
feet.' These coincidences, one on the other, went far to establish the
identity of the letter, and to confirm my previous impressions. But then
there is something else. Two other pieces evidently mean 'left him,' and
'right away,' perhaps; but there is another, containing almost all of the
words 'hate his,' with the word 'hate' underlined. Now, who writes 'hate'
with the emphasis of underscoring--who but a woman? The writing is large
and not very regular; it might easily be that of a half-educated woman.
Here was something more--Sammy had been enticed away by a woman.

"Now, I remembered that, when we went into the tap-room on Wednesday, some
of his companions were chaffing Crockett about a certain Nancy Webb, and
the chaff went home, as was plain to see. The woman, then, who could most
easily entice Sammy Crockett away was Nancy Webb. I resolved to find who
Nancy Webb was and learn more of her.

"Meantime, I took a look at the road at the end of the lane. It was damper
than the lane, being lower, and overhung by trees. There were many
wheel-tracks, but only one set that turned in the road and went back the
way it came, toward the town; and they were narrow wheels--carriage
wheels. Crockett tells me now that they drove him about for a long time
before shutting him up; probably the inconvenience of taking him straight
to the hiding-place didn't strike them when they first drove off.

"A few inquiries soon set me in the direction of the Plough and Miss Nancy
Webb. I had the curiosity to look around the place as I approached, and
there, in the garden behind the house, were Steggles and the young lady in
earnest confabulation!

"Every conjecture became a certainty. Steggles was the lover of whom
Crockett was jealous, and he had employed the girl to bring Sammy out. I
watched Steggles home, and gave you a hint to keep him there.

"But the thing that remained was to find Steggles' employer in this
business. I was glad to be in when Danby called. He came, of course, to
hear if you would blurt out anything, and to learn, if possible, what
steps you were taking. He failed. By way of making assurance doubly sure I
took a short walk this morning in the character of a deaf gentleman, and
got Miss Webb to write me a direction that comprised three of the words on
these scraps of paper--'left,' 'right,' and 'lane'; see, they correspond,
the peculiar 'f's,' 't's,' and all.

"Now, I felt perfectly sure that Steggles would go for his pay to-day. In
the first place, I knew that people mixed up with shady transactions in
professional pedestrianism are not apt to trust one another far--they know
better. Therefore Steggles wouldn't have had his bribe first. But he would
take care to get it before the Saturday heats were run, because once they
were over the thing was done, and the principal conspirator might have
refused to pay up, and Steggles couldn't have helped himself. Again I
hinted he should not go out till I could follow him, and this afternoon,
when he went, follow him I did. I saw him go into Danby's house by the
side way and come away again. Danby it was, then, who had arranged the
business; and nobody was more likely, considering his large pecuniary
stake against Crockett's winning this race.

"But now how to find Crockett? I made up my mind he wouldn't be in Danby's
own house. That would be a deal too risky, with servants about and so on.
I saw that Danby was a builder, and had three shops to let--it was on a
paper before his house. What more likely prison than an empty house? I
knocked at Danby's door and asked for the keys of those shops. I couldn't
have them. The servant told me Danby was out (a manifest lie, for I had
just seen him), and that nobody could see the shops till Monday. But I got
out of her the address of the shops, and that was all I wanted at the
time.

"Now, why was nobody to see those shops till Monday? The interval was
suspicious--just enough to enable Crockett to be sent away again and cast
loose after the Saturday racing, supposing him to be kept in one of the
empty buildings. I went off at once and looked at the shops, forming my
conclusions as to which would be the most likely for Danby's purpose. Here
I had another confirmation of my ideas. A poor, half-bankrupt baker in one
of the shops had, by the bills, the custody of a set of keys; but he, too,
told me I couldn't have them; Danby had taken them away--and on Thursday,
the very day--with some trivial excuse, and hadn't brought them back. That
was all I wanted or could expect in the way of guidance. The whole thing
was plain. The rest you know all about."

"Well, you're certainly as smart as they give you credit for, I must say.
But suppose Danby had taken down his 'To Let' notice, what would you have
done, then?"

"We had our course, even then. We should have gone to Danby, astounded him
by telling him all about his little games, terrorized him with threats of
the law, and made him throw up his hand and send Crockett back. But, as it
is, you see, he doesn't know at this moment--probably won't know till
to-morrow afternoon--that the lad is safe and sound here. You will
probably use the interval to make him pay for losing the game--by some of
the ingenious financial devices you are no doubt familiar with."

"Ay, that I will. He'll give any price against Crockett now, so long as
the bet don't come direct from me."

"But about Crockett, now," Hewitt went on. "Won't this confinement be
likely to have damaged his speed for a day or two?"

"Ah, perhaps," the landlord replied; "but, bless ye, that won't matter.
There's four more in his heat to-morrow. Two I know aren't tryers, and the
other two I can hold in at a couple of quid apiece any day. The third
round and final won't be till to-morrow week, and he'll be as fit as ever
by then. It's as safe as ever it was. How much are you going to have on?
I'll lump it on for you safe enough. This is a chance not to be missed;
it's picking money up."

"Thank you; I don't think I'll have anything to do with it. This
professional pedestrian business doesn't seem a pretty one at all. I don't
call myself a moralist, but, if you'll excuse my saying so, the thing is
scarcely the game I care to pick tap money at in any way."

"Oh, very well! if you think so, I won't persuade ye, though I don't think
so much of your smartness as I did, after that. Still, we won't quarrel;
you've done me a mighty good turn, that I must say, and I only feel I
aren't level without doing something to pay the debt. Come, now, you've
got your trade as I've got mine. Let me have the bill, and I'll pay it
like a lord, and feel a deal more pleased than if you made a favor of
it--not that I'm above a favor, of course. But I'd prefer paying, and
that's a fact."

"My dear sir, you have paid," Hewitt said, with a smile. "You paid in
advance. It was a bargain, wasn't it, that I should do your business if
you would help me in mine? Very well; a bargain's a bargain, and we've
both performed our parts. And you mustn't be offended at what I said just
now."

"That I won't! But as to that Raggy Steggles, once those heats are over
to-morrow, I'll--well----"

It was on the following Sunday week that Martin Hewitt, in his rooms in
London, turned over his paper and read, under the head "Padfield Annual
135 Yards Handicap," this announcement: "Final heat: Crockett, first;
Willis, second; Trewby, third; Owen, 0; Howell, 0. A runaway win by nearly
three yards."




III.


THE CASE OF MR. FOGGATT.

Almost the only dogmatism that Martin Hewitt permitted himself in regard
to his professional methods was one on the matter of accumulative
probabilities. Often when I have remarked upon the apparently trivial
nature of the clews by which he allowed himself to be guided--sometimes,
to all seeming, in the very face of all likelihood--he has replied that
two trivialities, pointing in the same direction, became at once, by their
mere agreement, no trivialities at all, but enormously important
considerations. "If I were in search of a man," he would say, "of whom I
knew nothing but that he squinted, bore a birthmark on his right hand, and
limped, and I observed a man who answered to the first peculiarity, so far
the clue would be trivial, because thousands of men squint. Now, if that
man presently moved and exhibited a birthmark on his right hand, the
value of that squint and that mark would increase at once a hundred or
a thousand fold. Apart they are little; together much. The weight of
evidence is not doubled merely; it would be only doubled if half the men
who squinted had right-hand birthmarks; whereas the proportion, if it
could be ascertained, would be, perhaps, more like one in ten thousand.
The two trivialities, pointing in the same direction, become very strong
evidence. And, when the man is seen to walk with a limp, that limp
(another triviality), re-enforcing the others, brings the matter to the
rank of a practical certainty. The Bertillon system of identification--what
is it but a summary of trivialities? Thousands of men are of the same
height, thousands of the same length of foot, thousands of the same girth
of head--thousands correspond in any separate measurement you may name. It
is when the measurements are taken _together_ that you have your man
identified forever. Just consider how few, if any, of your friends
correspond exactly in any two personal peculiarities." Hewitt's dogma
received its illustration unexpectedly close at home.

The old house wherein my chambers and Hewitt's office were situated
contained, besides my own, two or three more bachelors' dens, in addition
to the offices on the ground and first and second floors. At the very top
of all, at the back, a fat, middle-aged man, named Foggatt, occupied a set
of four rooms. It was only after a long residence, by an accidental remark
of the housekeeper's, that I learned the man's name, which was not painted
on his door or displayed, with all the others, on the wall of the
ground-floor porch.

Mr. Foggatt appeared to have few friends, but lived in something as nearly
approaching luxury as an old bachelor living in chambers can live. An
ascending case of champagne was a common phenomenon of the staircase, and
I have more than once seen a picture, destined for the top floor, of a
sort that went far to awaken green covetousness in the heart of a poor
journalist.

The man himself was not altogether prepossessing. Fat as he was, he had a
way of carrying his head forward on his extended neck and gazing widely
about with a pair of the roundest and most prominent eyes I remember to
have ever seen, except in a fish. On the whole, his appearance was rather
vulgar, rather arrogant, and rather suspicious, without any very
pronounced quality of any sort. But certainly he was not pretty. In the
end, however, he was found shot dead in his sitting-room.

It was in this way: Hewitt and I had dined together at my club, and late
in the evening had returned to my rooms to smoke and discuss whatever came
uppermost. I had made a bargain that day with two speculative odd lots at
a book sale, each of which contained a hidden prize. We sat talking and
turning over these books while time went unperceived, when suddenly we
were startled by a loud report. Clearly it was in the building. We
listened for a moment, but heard nothing else, and then Hewitt expressed
his opinion that the report was that of a gunshot. Gunshots in residential
chambers are not common things, wherefore I got up and went to the
landing, looking up the stairs and down.

At the top of the next flight I saw Mrs. Clayton, the housekeeper. She
appeared to be frightened, and told me that the report came from Mr.
Foggatt's room. She thought he might have had an accident with the pistol
that usually lay on his mantel-piece. We went upstairs with her, and she
knocked at Mr. Foggatt's door.

There was no reply. Through the ventilating fanlight over the door it
could be seen that there were lights within, a sign, Mrs. Clayton
maintained, that Mr. Foggatt was not out. We knocked again, much more
loudly, and called, but still ineffectually. The door was locked, and an
application of the housekeeper's key proved that the tenant's key had been
left in the lock inside. Mrs. Clayton's conviction that "something had
happened" became distressing, and in the end Hewitt pried open the door
with a small poker.

Something _had_ happened. In the sitting-room Mr. Foggatt sat with his
head bowed over the table, quiet and still. The head was ill to look at,
and by it lay a large revolver, of the full-sized army pattern. Mrs.
Clayton ran back toward the landing with faint screams.

"Run, Brett!" said Hewitt; "a doctor and a policeman!"

I bounced down the stairs half a flight at a time. "First," I thought, "a
doctor. He may not be dead." I could think of no doctor in the immediate
neighborhood, but ran up the street away from the Strand, as being the
more likely direction for the doctor, although less so for the policeman.
It took me a good five minutes to find the medico, after being led astray
by a red lamp at a private hotel, and another five to get back, with a
policeman.

Foggatt was dead, without a doubt. Probably had shot himself, the doctor
thought, from the powder-blackening and other circumstances. Certainly
nobody could have left the room by the door, or he must have passed my
landing, while the fact of the door being found locked from the inside
made the thing impossible. There were two windows to the room, both of
which were shut, one being fastened by the catch, while the catch of the
other was broken--an old fracture. Below these windows was a sheer drop of
fifty feet or more, without a foot or hand-hold near. The windows in the
other rooms were shut and fastened. Certainly it seemed suicide--unless it
were one of those accidents that will occur to people who fiddle
ignorantly with firearms. Soon the rooms were in possession of the police,
and we were turned out.

We looked in at the housekeeper's kitchen, where her daughter was reviving
and calming Mrs. Clayton with gin and water.

"You mustn't upset yourself, Mrs. Clayton," Hewitt said, "or what will
become of us all? The doctor thinks it was an accident."

He took a small bottle of sewing-machine oil from his pocket and handed it
to the daughter, thanking her for the loan.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was little evidence at the inquest. The shot had been heard, the
body had been found--that was the practical sum of the matter. No friends
or relatives of the dead man came forward. The doctor gave his opinion as
to the probability of suicide or an accident, and the police evidence
tended in the same direction. Nothing had been found to indicate that any
other person had been near the dead man's rooms on the night of the
fatality. On the other hand, his papers, bankbook, etc., proved him to be
a man of considerable substance, with no apparent motive for suicide. The
police had been unable to trace any relatives, or, indeed, any nearer
connections than casual acquaintances, fellow-clubmen, and so on. The jury
found that Mr. Foggatt had died by accident.

"Well, Brett," Hewitt asked me afterward, "what do you think of the
verdict?"

I said that it seemed to be the most reasonable one possible, and to
square with the common-sense view of the case.

"Yes," he replied, "perhaps it does. From the point of view of the jury,
and on their information, their verdict was quite reasonable.
Nevertheless, Mr. Foggatt did not shoot himself. He was shot by a rather
tall, active young man, perhaps a sailor, but certainly a gymnast--a young
man whom I think I could identify if I saw him."

"But how do you know this?"

"By the simplest possible inferences, which you may easily guess, if you
will but think."

"But, then, why didn't you say this at the inquest?"

"My dear fellow, they don't want any inferences and conjectures at an
inquest; they only want evidence. If I had traced the murderer, of course
then I should have communicated with the police. As a matter of fact, it
is quite possible that the police have observed and know as much as I
do--or more. They don't give everything away at an inquest, you know. It
wouldn't do."

"But, if you are right, how did the man get away?"

"Come, we are near home now. Let us take a look at the back of the house.
He _couldn't_ have left by Foggatt's landing door, as we know; and as he
_was_ there (I am certain of that), and as the chimney is out of the
question--for there was a good fire in the grate--he must have gone out by
the window. Only one window is possible--that with the broken catch--for
all the others were fastened inside. Out of that window, then, he went."

"But how? The window is fifty feet up."

"Of course it is. But why _will_ you persist in assuming that the only way
of escape by a window is downward? See, now, look up there. The window is
at the top floor, and it has a very broad sill. Over the window is nothing
but the flat face of the gable-end; but to the right, and a foot or two
above the level of the top of the window, an iron gutter ends. Observe, it
is not of lead composition, but a strong iron gutter, supported, just at
its end, by an iron bracket. If a tall man stood on the end of the
window-sill, steadying himself by the left hand and leaning to the right,
he could just touch the end of this gutter with his right hand. The full
stretch, toe to finger, is seven feet three inches. I have measured it. An
active gymnast, or a sailor, could catch the gutter with a slight spring,
and by it draw himself upon the roof. You will say he would have to be
_very_ active, dexterous, and cool. So he would. And that very fact helps
us, because it narrows the field of inquiry. We know the sort of man to
look for. Because, being certain (as I am) that the man was in the room, I
_know_ that he left in the way I am telling you. He must have left in some
way, and, all the other ways being impossible, this alone remains,
difficult as the feat may seem. The fact of his shutting the window behind
him further proves his coolness and address at so great a height from the
ground."

All this was very plain, but the main point was still dark.

"You say you _know_ that another man was in the room," I said; "how do you
know that?"

"As I said, by an obvious inference. Come, now, you shall guess how I
arrived at that inference. You often speak of your interest in my work,
and the attention with which you follow it. This shall be a simple
exercise for you. You saw everything in the room as plainly as I myself.
Bring the scene back to your memory, and think over the various small
objects littering about, and how they would affect the case. Quick
observation is the first essential for my work. Did you see a newspaper,
for instance?"

"Yes. There was an evening paper on the floor, but I didn't examine it."

"Anything else?"

"On the table there was a whisky decanter, taken from the tantalus-stand
on the sideboard, and one glass. That, by the by," I added, "looked as
though only one person were present."

"So it did, perhaps, although the inference wouldn't be very strong. Go
on!"

"There was a fruit-stand on the sideboard, with a plate beside it
containing a few nutshells, a piece of apple, a pair of nut-crackers, and,
I think, some orange peel. There was, of course, all the ordinary
furniture, but no chair pulled up to the table, except that used by
Foggatt himself. That's all I noticed, I think. Stay--there was an
ash-tray on the table, and a partly burned cigar near it--only one cigar,
though."

"Excellent--excellent, indeed, as far as memory and simple observation go.
You saw everything plainly, and you remember everything. Surely _now_ you
know how I found out that another man had just left?"

"No, I don't; unless there were different kinds of ash in the ash-tray."

"That is a fairly good suggestion, but there were not--there was only a
single ash, corresponding in every way to that on the cigar. Don't you
remember everything that I did as we went down-stairs?"

"You returned a bottle of oil to the housekeeper's daughter, I think."

"I did. Doesn't that give you a hint? Come, you surely have it now?"

"I haven't."

"Then I sha'n't tell you; you don't deserve it. Think, and don't mention
the subject again till you have at least one guess to make. The thing
stares you in the face; you see it, you remember it, and yet you _won't_
see it. I won't encourage your slovenliness of thought, my boy, by telling
you what you can know for yourself if you like. Good-by--I'm off now.
There's a case in hand I can't neglect."

"Don't you propose to go further into this, then?"

Hewitt shrugged his shoulders. "I'm not a policeman," he said. "The case
is in very good hands. Of course, if anybody comes to me to do it as a
matter of business, I'll take it up. It's very interesting, but I can't
neglect my regular work for it. Naturally, I shall keep my eyes open and
my memory in order. Sometimes these things come into the hands by
themselves, as it were; in that case, of course, I am a loyal citizen, and
ready to help the law. _Au revoir_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

I am a busy man myself, and thought little more of Hewitt's conundrum for
some time; indeed, when I did think, I saw no way to the answer. A week
after the inquest I took a holiday (I had written my nightly leaders
regularly every day for the past five years), and saw no more of Hewitt
for six weeks. After my return, with still a few days of leave to run, one
evening we together turned into Luzatti's, off Coventry Street, for
dinner.

"I have been here several times lately," Hewitt said; "they feed you very
well. No, not that table"--he seized my arm as I turned to an unoccupied
corner--"I fancy it's draughty." He led the way to a longer table where a
dark, lithe, and (as well as could be seen) tall young man already sat,
and took chairs opposite him.

We had scarcely seated ourselves before Hewitt broke into a torrent of
conversation on the subject of bicycling. As our previous conversation had
been of a literary sort, and as I had never known Hewitt at any other time
to show the slightest interest in bicycling, this rather surprised me. I
had, however, such a general outsider's grasp of the subject as is usual
in a journalist-of-all-work, and managed to keep the talk going from my
side. As we went on I could see the face of the young man opposite
brighten with interest. He was a rather fine-looking fellow, with a dark,
though very clear skin, but had a hard, angry look of eye, a prominence of
cheek-bone, and a squareness of jaw that gave him a rather uninviting
aspect. As Hewitt rattled on, however, our neighbor's expression became
one of pleasant interest merely.

"Of course," Hewitt said, "we've a number of very capital men just now,
but I believe a deal in the forgotten riders of five, ten, and fifteen
years back. Osmond, I believe, was better than any man riding now, and I
think it would puzzle some of them to beat Furnivall as he was, at his
best. But poor old Cortis--really, I believe he was as good as anybody.
Nobody ever beat Cortis--except--let me see--I think somebody beat Cortis
once--who was it now? I can't remember."

"Liles," said the young man opposite, looking up quickly.

"Ah, yes--Liles it was; Charley Liles. Wasn't it a championship?"

"Mile championship, 1880; Cortis won the other three, though."

"Yes, so he did. I saw Cortis when he first broke the old 2.46 mile
record." And straightway Hewitt plunged into a whirl of talk of bicycles,
tricycles, records, racing cyclists, Hillier, and Synyer and Noel Whiting,
Taylerson and Appleyard--talk wherein the young man opposite bore an
animated share, while I was left in the cold.

Our new friend, it seems, had himself been a prominent racing bicyclist a
few years back, and was presently, at Hewitt's request, exhibiting a neat
gold medal that hung at his watch-guard. That was won, he explained, in
the old tall bicycle days, the days of bad tracks, when every racing
cyclist carried cinder scars on his face from numerous accidents. He
pointed to a blue mark on his forehead, which, he told us, was a track
scar, and described a bad fall that had cost him two teeth, and broken
others. The gaps among his teeth were plain to see as he smiled.

Presently the waiter brought dessert, and the young man opposite took an
apple. Nut-crackers and a fruit-knife lay on our side of the stand, and
Hewitt turned the stand to offer him the knife.

"No, thanks," he said; "I only polish a good apple, never peel it. It's a
mistake, except with thick-skinned foreign ones."

And he began to munch the apple as only a boy or a healthy athlete can.
Presently he turned his head to order coffee. The waiter's back was
turned, and he had to be called twice. To my unutterable amazement Hewitt
reached swiftly across the table, snatched the half-eaten apple from the
young man's plate and pocketed it, gazing immediately, with an abstracted
air, at a painted Cupid on the ceiling.

Our neighbor turned again, looked doubtfully at his plate and the
table-cloth about it, and then shot a keen glance in the direction of
Hewitt. He said nothing, however, but took his coffee and his bill,
deliberately drank the former, gazing quietly at Hewitt as he did it, paid
the latter, and left.

Immediately Hewitt was on his feet and, taking an umbrella, which stood
near, followed. Just as he reached the door he met our late neighbor, who
had turned suddenly back.

"Your umbrella, I think?" Hewitt asked, offering it.

"Yes, thanks." But the man's eye had more than its former hardness, and
his jaw muscles tightened as I looked. He turned and went. Hewitt came
back to me. "Pay the bill," he said, "and go back to your rooms; I will
come on later. I must follow this man--it's the Foggatt case." As he went
out I heard a cab rattle away, and immediately after it another.

I paid the bill and went home. It was ten o'clock before Hewitt turned up,
calling in at his office below on his way up to me.

"Mr. Sidney Mason," he said, "is the gentleman the police will be wanting
to-morrow, I expect, for the Foggatt murder. He is as smart a man as I
remember ever meeting, and has done me rather neatly twice this evening."

"You mean the man we sat opposite at Luzatti's, of course?"

"Yes, I got his name, of course, from the reverse of that gold medal he
was good enough to show me. But I fear he has bilked me over the address.
He suspected me, that was plain, and left his umbrella by way of
experiment to see if I were watching him sharply enough to notice the
circumstance, and to avail myself of it to follow him. I was hasty and
fell into the trap. He cabbed it away from Luzatti's, and I cabbed it
after him. He has led me a pretty dance up and down London to-night, and
two cabbies have made quite a stroke of business out of us. In the end he
entered a house of which, of course, I have taken the address, but I
expect he doesn't live there. He is too smart a man to lead me to his den;
but the police can certainly find something of him at the house he went in
at--and, I expect, left by the back way. By the way, you never guessed
that simple little puzzle as to how I found that this _was_ a murder, did
you? You see it now, of course?"

"Something to do with that apple you stole, I suppose?"

"Something to do with it? I should think so, you worthy innocent. Just
ring your bell; we'll borrow Mrs. Clayton's sewing-machine oil again. On
the night we broke into Foggatt's room you saw the nutshells and the
bitten remains of an apple on the sideboard, and you remembered it; and
yet you couldn't see that in that piece of apple possibly lay an important
piece of evidence. Of course I never expected you to have arrived at any
conclusion, as I had, because I had ten minutes in which to examine that
apple, and to do what I did with it. But, at least, you should have seen
the possibility of evidence in it.

"First, now, the apple was white. A bitten apple, as you must have
observed, turns of a reddish brown color if left to stand long. Different
kinds of apples brown with different rapidities, and the browning always
begins at the core. This is one of the twenty thousand tiny things that
few people take the trouble to notice, but which it is useful for a man in
my position to know. A russet will brown quite quickly. The apple on the
sideboard was, as near as I could tell, a Newtown pippin or other apple of
that kind, which will brown at the core in from twenty minutes to half an
hour, and in other parts in a quarter of an hour more. When we saw it, it
was white, with barely a tinge of brown about the exposed core. Inference,
somebody had been eating it fifteen or twenty minutes before, perhaps a
little longer--an inference supported by the fact that it was only partly
eaten.

"I examined that apple, and found it bore marks of very irregular teeth.
While you were gone, I oiled it over, and, rushing down to my rooms, where
I always have a little plaster of Paris handy for such work, took a mold
of the part where the teeth had left the clearest marks. I then returned
the apple to its place for the police to use if they thought fit. Looking
at my mold, it was plain that the person who had bitten that apple had
lost two teeth, one at top and one below, not exactly opposite, but nearly
so. The other teeth, although they would appear to have been fairly sound,
were irregular in size and line. Now, the dead man had, as I saw, a very
excellent set of false teeth, regular and sharp, with none missing.
Therefore it was plain that somebody _else_ had been eating that apple. Do
I make myself clear?"

"Quite! Go on!"

"There were other inferences to be made--slighter, but all pointing the
same way. For instance, a man of Foggatt's age does not, as a rule, munch
an unpeeled apple like a school-boy. Inference, a young man, and healthy.
Why I came to the conclusion that he was tall, active, a gymnast, and
perhaps a sailor, I have already told you, when we examined the outside of
Foggatt's window. It was also pretty clear that robbery was not the
motive, since nothing was disturbed, and that a friendly conversation had
preceded the murder--witness the drinking and the eating of the apple.
Whether or not the police noticed these things I can't say. If they had
had their best men on, they certainly would, I think; but the case, to a
rough observer, looked so clearly one of accident or suicide that possibly
they didn't.

"As I said, after the inquest I was unable to devote any immediate time to
the case, but I resolved to keep my eyes open. The man to look for was
tall, young, strong and active, with a very irregular set of teeth, a
tooth missing from the lower jaw just to the left of the center, and
another from the upper jaw a little farther still toward the left. He
might possibly be a person I had seen about the premises (I have a good
memory for faces), or, of course, he possibly might not.

"Just before you returned from your holiday I noticed a young man at
Luzatti's whom I remembered to have seen somewhere about the offices in
this building. He was tall, young, and so on, but I had a client with me,
and was unable to examine him more narrowly; indeed, as I was not exactly
engaged on the case, and as there are several tall young men about, I took
little trouble. But to-day, finding the same young man with a vacant seat
opposite him, I took the opportunity of making a closer acquaintance."

"You certainly managed to draw him out."

"Oh, yes; the easiest person in the world to draw out is a cyclist. The
easiest cyclist to draw out is, of course, the novice, but the next
easiest is the veteran. When you see a healthy, well-trained-looking man,
who, nevertheless, has a slight stoop in the shoulders, and, maybe, a
medal on his watch-guard, it is always a safe card to try him first with a
little cycle-racing talk. I soon brought Mr. Mason out of his shell, read
his name on his medal, and had a chance of observing his teeth--indeed, he
spoke of them himself. Now, as I observed just now, there are several
tall, athletic young men about, and also there are several men who have
lost teeth. But now I saw that this tall and athletic young man had lost
exactly _two_ teeth--one from the lower jaw, just to the left of the
center, and another from the upper jaw, farther still toward the left!
Trivialities, pointing in the same direction, became important
considerations. More, his teeth were irregular throughout, and, as nearly
as I could remember it, looked remarkably like this little plaster mold of
mine."

He produced from his pocket an irregular lump of plaster, about three
inches long. On one side of this appeared in relief the likeness of two
irregular rows of six or eight teeth, minus one in each row, where a deep
gap was seen, in the position spoken of by my friend. He proceeded:

"This was enough at least to set me after this young man. But he gave me
the greatest chance of all when he turned and left his apple (eaten
unpeeled, remember!--another important triviality) on his plate. I'm
afraid I wasn't at all polite, and I ran the risk of arousing his
suspicions, but I couldn't resist the temptation to steal it. I did, as
you saw, and here it is."

He brought the apple from his coat-pocket. One bitten side, placed against
the upper half of the mold, fitted precisely, a projection of apple
filling exactly the deep gap. The other side similarly fitted the lower
half.

"There's no getting behind that, you see," Hewitt remarked. "Merely
observing the man's teeth was a guide, to some extent, but this is as
plain as his signature or his thumb impression. You'll never find two men
_bite_ exactly alike, no matter whether they leave distinct teeth-marks or
not. Here, by the by, is Mrs. Clayton's oil. We'll take another mold from
this apple, and compare _them_."

He oiled the apple, heaped a little plaster in a newspaper, took my
water-jug, and rapidly pulled off a hard mold. The parts corresponding to
the merely broken places in the apple were, of course, dissimilar; but as
to the teeth-marks, the impressions were identical.

"That will do, I think," Hewitt said. "Tomorrow morning, Brett, I shall
put up these things in a small parcel, and take them round to Bow Street."

"But are they sufficient evidence?"

"Quite sufficient for the police purpose. There is the man, and all the
rest--his movements on the day and so forth--are simple matters of
inquiry; at any rate, that is police business."

       *       *       *       *       *

I had scarcely sat down to my breakfast on the following morning when
Hewitt came into the room and put a long letter before me.

"From our friend of last night," he said; "read it."

This letter began abruptly, and undated, and was as follows:


"TO MARTIN HEWITT, ESQ.

"SIR: I must compliment you on the adroitness you exhibited this evening
in extracting from me my name. The address I was able to balk you of for
the time being, although by the time you read this you will probably have
found it through the _Law List_, as I am an admitted solicitor. That,
however, will be of little use to you, for I am removing myself, I think,
beyond the reach even of your abilities of search. I knew you well by
sight, and was, perhaps, foolish to allow myself to be drawn as I did.
Still, I had no idea that it would be dangerous, especially after seeing
you, as a witness with very little to say, at the inquest upon the
scoundrel I shot. Your somewhat discourteous seizure of my apple at first
amazed me--indeed, I was a little doubtful as to whether you had really
taken it--but it was my first warning that you might be playing a deep
game against me, incomprehensible as the action was to my mind. I
subsequently reflected that I had been eating an apple, instead of taking
the drink he first offered me, in the dead wretch's rooms on the night he
came to his merited end. From this I assume that your design was in some
way to compare what remained of the two apples--although I do not presume
to fathom the depths of your detective system. Still, I have heard of many
of your cases, and profoundly admire the keenness you exhibit. I am
thought to be a keen man myself, but, although I was able, to some extent,
to hold my own to-night, I admit that your acumen in this case alone is
something beyond me.

"I do not know by whom you are commissioned to hunt me, nor to what extent
you may be acquainted with my connection with the creature I killed. I
have sufficient respect for you, however, to wish that you should not
regard me as a vicious criminal, and a couple of hours to spare in which
to offer you an explanation that will convince you that such is not
altogether the case. A hasty and violent temper I admit possessing; but
even now I can not forget the one crime it has led me into--for it is, I
suppose, strictly speaking, a crime. For it was the man Foggatt who made a
felon of my father before the eyes of the world, and killed him with
shame. It was he who murdered my mother, and none the less murdered her
because she died of a broken heart. That he was also a thief and a
hypocrite might have concerned me little but for that.

"Of my father I remember very little. He must, I fear, have been a weak
and incapable man in many respects. He had no business abilities--in fact,
was quite unable to understand the complicated business matters in which
he largely dealt. Foggatt was a consummate master of all those arts of
financial jugglery that make so many fortunes, and ruin so many others, in
matters of company promoting, stocks, and shares. He was unable to
exercise them, however, because of a great financial disaster in which he
had been mixed up a few years before, and which made his name one to be
avoided in future. In these circumstances he made a sort of secret and
informal partnership with my father, who, ostensibly alone in the
business, acted throughout on the directions of Foggatt, understanding as
little what he did, poor, simple man, as a schoolboy would have done. The
transactions carried on went from small to large, and, unhappily from
honorable to dishonorable. My father relied on the superior abilities of
Foggatt with an absolute trust, carrying out each day the directions given
him privately the previous evening, buying, selling, printing
prospectuses, signing whatever had to be signed, all with sole
responsibility and as sole partner, while Foggatt, behind the scenes
absorbed the larger share of the profits. In brief, my unhappy and foolish
father was a mere tool in the hands of the cunning scoundrel who pulled
all the wires of the business, himself unseen and irresponsible. At last
three companies, for the promotion of which my father was responsible,
came to grief in a heap. Fraud was written large over all their history,
and, while Foggatt retired with his plunder, my father was left to meet
ruin, disgrace, and imprisonment. From beginning to end he, and he only,
was responsible. There was no shred of evidence to connect Foggatt with
the matter, and no means of escape from the net drawn about my father. He
lived through three years of imprisonment, and then, entirely abandoned by
the man who had made use of his simplicity, he died--of nothing but shame
and a broken heart.

"Of this I knew nothing at the time. Again and again, as a small boy, I
remember asking of my mother why I had no father at home, as other boys
had--unconscious of the stab I thus inflicted on her gentle heart. Of her
my earliest, as well as my latest, memory is that of a pale, weeping
woman, who grudged to let me out of her sight.

"Little by little I learned the whole cause of my mother's grief, for she
had no other confidant, and I fear my character developed early, for my
first coherent remembrance of the matter is that of a childish design to
take a table-knife and kill the bad man who had made my father die in
prison and caused my mother to cry.

"One thing, however, I never knew--the name of that bad man. Again and
again, as I grew older, I demanded to know, but my mother always withheld
it from me, with a gentle reminder that vengeance was for a greater hand
than mine.

"I was seventeen years of age when my mother died. I believe that nothing
but her strong attachment to myself and her desire to see me safely
started in life kept her alive so long. Then I found that through all
those years of narrowed means she had contrived to scrape and save a
little money--sufficient, as it afterward proved, to see me through the
examinations for entrance to my profession, with the generous assistance
of my father's old legal advisers, who gave me my articles, and who have
all along treated me with extreme kindness.

"For most of the succeeding years my life does not concern the matter in
hand. I was a lawyer's clerk in my benefactors' service, and afterward a
qualified man among their assistants. All through the firm were careful,
in pursuance of my poor mother's wishes, that I should not learn the name
or whereabouts of the man who had wrecked her life and my father's. I
first met the man himself at the Clifton Club, where I had gone with an
acquaintance who was a member. It was not till afterward that I understood
his curious awkwardness on that occasion. A week later I called (as I had
frequently done) at the building in which your office is situated, on
business with a solicitor who has an office on the floor above your own.
On the stairs I almost ran against Mr. Foggatt. He started and turned
pale, exhibiting signs of alarm that I could not understand, and asked me
if I wished to see him.

"'No,' I replied, 'I didn't know you lived here. I am after somebody else
just now. Aren't you well?'

"He looked at me rather doubtfully, and said he was _not_ very well.

"I met him twice or thrice after that, and on each occasion his manner
grew more friendly, in a servile, flattering, and mean sort of way--a
thing unpleasant enough in anybody, but doubly so in the intercourse of a
man with another young enough to be his own son. Still, of course, I
treated the man civilly enough. On one occasion he asked me into his rooms
to look at a rather fine picture he had lately bought, and observed
casually, lifting a large revolver from the mantel-piece:

"'You see, I am prepared for any unwelcome visitors to my little den! He!
He!' Conceiving him, of course, to refer to burglars, I could not help
wondering at the forced and hollow character of his laugh. As we went down
the stairs he said: 'I think we know one another pretty well now, Mr.
Mason, eh? And if I could do anything to advance your professional
prospects, I should be glad of the chance, of course. I understand the
struggles of a young professional man--he! he!' It was the forced laugh
again, and the man spoke nervously. 'I think,' he added, 'that if you will
drop in to-morrow evening, perhaps I may have a little proposal to make.
Will you?'

"I assented, wondering what this proposal could be. Perhaps this eccentric
old gentleman was a good fellow, after all, anxious to do me a good turn,
and his awkwardness was nothing but a natural delicacy in breaking the
ice. I was not so flush of good friends as to be willing to lose one. He
might be desirous of putting business in my way.

"I went, and was received with cordiality that even then seemed a little
over-effusive. We sat and talked of one thing and another for a long
while, and I began to wonder when Mr. Foggatt was coming to the point that
most interested me. Several times he invited me to drink and smoke, but
long usage to athletic training has given me a distaste for both
practices, and I declined. At last he began to talk about myself. He was
afraid that my professional prospects in this country were not great, but
he had heard that in some of the colonies--South Africa, for
example--young lawyers had brilliant opportunities.

"'If you'd like to go there,' he said, 'I've no doubt, with a little
capital, a clever man like you could get a grand practice together very
soon. Or you might buy a share in some good established practice. I should
be glad to let you have L500, or even a little more, if that wouldn't
satisfy you, and----'

"I stood aghast. Why should this man, almost a stranger, offer me L500, or
even more, 'if that wouldn't satisfy' me? What claim had I on him? It was
very generous of him, of course, but out of the question. I was, at least,
a gentleman, and had a gentleman's self-respect. Meanwhile, he had gone
maundering on, in a halting sort of way, and presently let slip a sentence
that struck me like a blow between the eyes.

"'I shouldn't like you to bear ill-will because of what has happened in
the past,' he said. 'Your late--your late lamented mother--I'm afraid--she
had unworthy suspicions--I'm sure--it was best for all parties--your
father always appreciated----'

"I set back my chair and stood erect before him. This groveling wretch,
forcing the words through his dry lips, was the thief who had made another
of my father and had brought to miserable ends the lives of both my
parents! Everything was clear. The creature went in fear of me, never
imagining that I did not know him, and sought to buy me off--to buy me
from the remembrance of my dead mother's broken heart for L500--L500 that
he had made my father steal for him! I said not a word. But the memory of
all my mother's bitter years, and a savage sense of this crowning insult
to myself, took a hold upon me, and I was a tiger. Even then I verily
believe that one word of repentance, one tone of honest remorse, would
have saved him. But he drooped his eyes, snuffled excuses, and stammered
of 'unworthy suspicions' and 'no ill-will.' I let him stammer. Presently
he looked up and saw my face; and fell back in his chair, sick with
terror. I snatched the pistol from the mantel-piece, and, thrusting it in
his face, shot him where he sat.

"My subsequent coolness and quietness surprise me now. I took my hat and
stepped toward the door. But there were voices on the stairs. The door was
locked on the inside, and I left it so. I went back and quietly opened a
window. Below was a clear drop into darkness, and above was plain wall;
but away to one side, where the slope of the gable sprang from the roof,
an iron gutter ended, supported by a strong bracket. It was the only way.
I got upon the sill and carefully shut the window behind me, for people
were already knocking at the lobby door. From the end of the sill, holding
on by the reveal of the window with one hand, leaning and stretching my
utmost, I caught the gutter, swung myself clear, and scrambled on the
roof. I climbed over many roofs before I found, in an adjoining street, a
ladder lashed perpendicularly against the front of a house in course of
repair. This, to me, was an easy opportunity of descent, notwithstanding
the boards fastened over the face of the ladder, and I availed myself of
it.

"I have taken some time and trouble in order that you (so far as I am
aware the only human being beside myself who knows me to be the author of
Foggatt's death) shall have at least the means of appraising my crime at
its just value of culpability. How much you already know of what I have
told you I can not guess. I am wrong, hardened, and flagitious, I make no
doubt, but I speak of the facts as they are. You see the thing, of course,
from your own point of view--I from mine. And I remember my mother!

"Trusting that you will forgive the odd freak of a man--a criminal, let us
say--who makes a confidant of the man set to hunt him down, I beg leave to
be, sir, your obedient servant,

"SIDNEY MASON."

I read the singular document through and handed it back to Hewitt.

"How does it strike you?" Hewitt asked.

"Mason would seem to be a man of very marked character," I said.
"Certainly no fool. And, if his tale is true, Foggatt is no great loss to
the world."

"Just so--if the tale is true. Personally I am disposed to believe it is."

"Where was the letter posted?"

"It wasn't posted. It was handed in with the others from the front-door
letter-box this morning in an unstamped envelope. He must have dropped it
in himself during the night. Paper," Hewitt proceeded, holding it up to
the light, "Turkey mill, ruled foolscap. Envelope, blue, official shape,
Pirie's watermark. Both quite ordinary and no special marks."

"Where do you suppose he's gone?"

"Impossible to guess. Some might think he meant suicide by the expression
'beyond the reach even of your abilities of search,' but I scarcely think
he is the sort of man to do that. No, there is no telling. Something may
be got by inquiring at his late address, of course; but, when such a man
tells you he doesn't think you will find him, you may count upon its being
a difficult job. His opinion is not to be despised."

"What shall you do?"

"Put the letter in the box with the casts for the police. _Fiat justitia_,
you know, without any question of sentiment. As to the apple, I really
think, if the police will let me, I'll make you a present of it. Keep it
somewhere as a souvenir of your absolute deficiency in reflective
observation in this case, and look at it whenever you feel yourself
growing dangerously conceited. It should cure you."

       *       *       *       *       *

This is the history of the withered and almost petrified half apple that
stands in my cabinet among a number of flint implements and one or two
rather fine old Roman vessels. Of Mr. Sidney Mason we never heard another
word. The police did their best, but he had left not a track behind him.
His rooms were left almost undisturbed, and he had gone without anything
in the way of elaborate preparation for his journey, and without leaving a
trace of his intentions.




IV.


THE CASE OF THE DIXON TORPEDO.

Hewitt was very apt, in conversation, to dwell upon the many curious
chances and coincidences that he had observed, not only in connection with
his own cases, but also in matters dealt with by the official police, with
whom he was on terms of pretty regular, and, indeed, friendly,
acquaintanceship. He has told me many an anecdote of singular happenings
to Scotland Yard officials with whom he has exchanged experiences. Of
Inspector Nettings, for instance, who spent many weary months in a search
for a man wanted by the American Government, and in the end found, by the
merest accident (a misdirected call), that the man had been lodging next
door to himself the whole of the time; just as ignorant, of course, as was
the inspector himself as to the enemy at the other side of the party-wall.
Also of another inspector, whose name I can not recall, who, having been
given rather meager and insufficient details of a man whom he anticipated
having great difficulty in finding, went straight down the stairs of the
office where he had received instructions, and actually _fell over_ the
man near the door, where he had stooped down to tie his shoe-lace! There
were cases, too, in which, when a great and notorious crime had been
committed, and various persons had been arrested on suspicion, some were
found among them who had long been badly wanted for some other crime
altogether. Many criminals had met their deserts by venturing out of their
own particular line of crime into another; often a man who got into
trouble over something comparatively small found himself in for a
startlingly larger trouble, the result of some previous misdeed that
otherwise would have gone unpunished. The ruble note-forger Mirsky might
never have been handed over to the Russian authorities had he confined his
genius to forgery alone. It was generally supposed at the time of his
extradition that he had communicated with the Russian Embassy, with a view
to giving himself up--a foolish proceeding on his part, it would seem,
since his whereabouts, indeed even his identity as the forger, had not
been suspected. He _had_ communicated with the Russian Embassy, it is
true, but for quite a different purpose, as Martin Hewitt well understood
at the time. What that purpose was is now for the first time published.

       *       *       *       *       *

The time was half-past one in the afternoon, and Hewitt sat in his inner
office examining and comparing the handwriting of two letters by the aid
of a large lens. He put down the lens and glanced at the clock on the
mantel-piece with a premonition of lunch; and as he did so his clerk
quietly entered the room with one of those printed slips which were kept
for the announcement of unknown visitors. It was filled up in a hasty and
almost illegible hand, thus:

Name of visitor: _F. Graham Dixon_.

Address: _Chancery Lane_.

Business: _Private and urgent_.

"Show Mr. Dixon in," said Martin Hewitt.

Mr. Dixon was a gaunt, worn-looking man of fifty or so, well, although
rather carelessly, dressed, and carrying in his strong, though drawn, face
and dullish eyes the look that characterizes the life-long strenuous
brain-worker. He leaned forward anxiously in the chair which Hewitt
offered him, and told his story with a great deal of very natural
agitation.

"You may possibly have heard, Mr. Hewitt--I know there are rumors--of the
new locomotive torpedo which the government is about adopting; it is, in
fact, the Dixon torpedo, my own invention, and in every respect--not
merely in my own opinion, but in that of the government experts--by far
the most efficient and certain yet produced. It will travel at least four
hundred yards farther than any torpedo now made, with perfect accuracy of
aim (a very great desideratum, let me tell you), and will carry an
unprecedentedly heavy charge. There are other advantages--speed, simple
discharge, and so forth--that I needn't bother you about. The machine is
the result of many years of work and disappointment, and its design has
only been arrived at by a careful balancing of principles and means, which
are expressed on the only four existing sets of drawings. The whole thing,
I need hardly tell you, is a profound secret, and you may judge of my
present state of mind when I tell you that one set of drawings has been
stolen."

"From your house?"

"From my office, in Chancery Lane, this morning. The four sets of drawings
were distributed thus: Two were at the Admiralty Office, one being a
finished set on thick paper, and the other a set of tracings therefrom;
and the other two were at my own office, one being a penciled set,
uncolored--a sort of finished draft, you understand--and the other a set
of tracings similar to those at the Admiralty. It is this last set that
has gone. The two sets were kept together in one drawer in my room. Both
were there at ten this morning; of that I am sure, for I had to go to that
very drawer for something else when I first arrived. But at twelve the
tracings had vanished."

"You suspect somebody, probably?"

"I can not. It is a most extraordinary thing. Nobody has left the office
(except myself, and then only to come to you) since ten this morning, and
there has been no visitor. And yet the drawings are gone!"

"But have you searched the place?"

"Of course I have! It was twelve o'clock when I first discovered my loss,
and I have been turning the place upside down ever since--I and my
assistants. Every drawer has been emptied, every desk and table turned
over, the very carpet and linoleum have been taken up, but there is not a
sign of the drawings. My men even insisted on turning all their pockets
inside out, although I never for a moment suspected either of them, and it
would take a pretty big pocket to hold the drawings, doubled up as small
as they might be."

"You say your men--there are two, I understand--had neither left the
office?"

"Neither; and they are both staying in now. Worsfold suggested that it
would be more satisfactory if they did not leave till something was done
toward clearing the mystery up, and, although, as I have said, I don't
suspect either in the least, I acquiesced."

"Just so. Now--I am assuming that you wish me to undertake the recovery of
these drawings?"

The engineer nodded hastily.

"Very good; I will go round to your office. But first perhaps you can tell
me something about your assistants--something it might be awkward to tell
me in their presence, you know. Mr. Worsfold, for instance?"

"He is my draughtsman--a very excellent and intelligent man, a very smart
man, indeed, and, I feel sure, quite beyond suspicion. He has prepared
many important drawings for me (he has been with me nearly ten years now),
and I have always found him trustworthy. But, of course, the temptation in
this case would be enormous. Still, I can not suspect Worsfold. Indeed,
how can I suspect anybody in the circumstances?"

"The other, now?"

"His name's Ritter. He is merely a tracer, not a fully skilled
draughtsman. He is quite a decent young fellow, and I have had him two
years. I don't consider him particularly smart, or he would have learned a
little more of his business by this time. But I don't see the least reason
to suspect him. As I said before, I can't reasonably suspect anybody."

"Very well; we will get to Chancery Lane now, if you please, and you can
tell me more as we go."

"I have a cab waiting. What else can I tell you?"

"I understand the position to be succinctly this: The drawings were in the
office when you arrived. Nobody came out, and nobody went in; and _yet_
they vanished. Is that so?"

"That is so. When I say that absolutely nobody came in, of course I except
the postman. He brought a couple of letters during the morning. I mean
that absolutely nobody came past the barrier in the outer office--the
usual thing, you know, like a counter, with a frame of ground glass over
it."

"I quite understand that. But I think you said that the drawings were in a
drawer in your _own_ room--not the outer office, where the draughtsmen
are, I presume?"

"That is the case. It is an inner room, or, rather, a room parallel with
the other, and communicating with it; just as your own room is, which we
have just left."

"But, then, you say you never left your office, and yet the drawings
vanished--apparently by some unseen agency--while you were there in the
room?"

"Let me explain more clearly." The cab was bowling smoothly along the
Strand, and the engineer took out a pocket-book and pencil. "I fear," he
proceeded, "that I am a little confused in my explanation--I am naturally
rather agitated. As you will see presently, my offices consist of three
rooms, two at one side of a corridor, and the other opposite--thus." He
made a rapid pencil sketch.

[Illustration]

"In the outer office my men usually work. In the inner office I work
myself. These rooms communicate, as you see, by a door. Our ordinary way
in and out of the place is by the door of the outer office leading into
the corridor, and we first pass through the usual lifting flap in the
barrier. The door leading from the _inner_ office to the corridor is
always kept locked on the inside, and I don't suppose I unlock it once in
three months. It has not been unlocked all the morning. The drawer in
which the missing drawings were kept, and in which I saw them at ten
o'clock this morning, is at the place marked D; it is a large chest of
shallow drawers in which the plans lie flat."

"I quite understand. Then there is the private room opposite. What of
that?"

"That is a sort of private sitting-room that I rarely use, except for
business interviews of a very private nature. When I said I never left my
office, I did not mean that I never stirred out of the inner office. I was
about in one room and another, both the outer and the inner offices, and
once I went into the private room for five minutes, but nobody came either
in or out of any of the rooms at that time, for the door of the private
room was wide open, and I was standing at the book-case (I had gone to
consult a book), just inside the door, with a full view of the doors
opposite. Indeed, Worsfold was at the door of the outer office most of the
short time. He came to ask me a question."

"Well," Hewitt replied, "it all comes to the simple first statement. You
know that nobody left the place or arrived, except the postman, who
couldn't get near the drawings, and yet the drawings went. Is this your
office?"

The cab had stopped before a large stone building. Mr. Dixon alighted and
led the way to the first-floor. Hewitt took a casual glance round each of
the three rooms. There was a sort of door in the frame of ground glass
over the barrier to admit of speech with visitors. This door Hewitt pushed
wide open, and left so.

He and the engineer went into the inner office. "Would you like to ask
Worsfold and Ritter any questions?" Mr. Dixon inquired.

"Presently. Those are their coats, I take it, hanging just to the right of
the outer office door, over the umbrella stand?"

"Yes, those are all their things--coats, hats, stick, and umbrella."

"And those coats were searched, you say?"

"Yes."

"And this is the drawer--thoroughly searched, of course?"

"Oh, certainly; every drawer was taken out and turned over."

"Well, of course I must assume you made no mistake in your hunt. Now tell
me, did anybody know where these plans were, beyond yourself and your two
men?"

"As far as I can tell, not a soul."

"You don't keep an office boy?"

"No. There would be nothing for him to do except to post a letter now and
again, which Ritter does quite well for."

"As you are quite sure that the drawings were there at ten o'clock,
perhaps the thing scarcely matters. But I may as well know if your men
have keys of the office?"

"Neither. I have patent locks to each door and I keep all the keys myself.
If Worsfold or Ritter arrive before me in the morning they have to wait to
be let in; and I am always present myself when the rooms are cleaned. I
have not neglected precautions, you see."

"No. I suppose the object of the theft--assuming it is a theft--is pretty
plain: the thief would offer the drawings for sale to some foreign
government?"

"Of course. They would probably command a great sum. I have been looking,
as I need hardly tell you, to that invention to secure me a very large
fortune, and I shall be ruined, indeed, if the design is taken abroad. I
am under the strictest engagements to secrecy with the Admiralty, and not
only should I lose all my labor, but I should lose all the confidence
reposed in me at headquarters; should, in fact, be subject to penalties
for breach of contract, and my career stopped forever. I can not tell you
what a serious business this is for me. If you can not help me, the
consequences will be terrible. Bad for the service of the country, too, of
course."

"Of course. Now tell me this: It would, I take it, be necessary for the
thief to _exhibit_ these drawings to anybody anxious to buy the secret--I
mean, he couldn't describe the invention by word of mouth."

"Oh, no, that would be impossible. The drawings are of the most
complicated description, and full of figures upon which the whole thing
depends. Indeed, one would have to be a skilled expert to properly
appreciate the design at all. Various principles of hydrostatics,
chemistry, electricity, and pneumatics are most delicately manipulated and
adjusted, and the smallest error or omission in any part would upset the
whole. No, the drawings are necessary to the thing, and they are gone."

At this moment the door of the outer office was heard to open and somebody
entered. The door between the two offices was ajar, and Hewitt could see
right through to the glass door left open over the barrier and into the
space beyond. A well-dressed, dark, bushy-bearded man stood there carrying
a hand-bag, which he placed on the ledge before him. Hewitt raised his
hand to enjoin silence. The man spoke in a rather high-pitched voice and
with a slight accent. "Is Mr. Dixon now within?" he asked.

"He is engaged," answered one of the draughtsmen; "very particularly
engaged. I am afraid you won't be able to see him this afternoon. Can I
give him any message?"

"This is two--the second time I have come to-day. Not two hours ago Mr.
Dixon himself tells me to call again. I have a very important--very
excellent steam-packing to show him that is very cheap and the best of the
market." The man tapped his bag. "I have just taken orders from the
largest railway companies. Can not I see him, for one second only? I will
not detain him."

"Really, I'm sure you can't this afternoon; he isn't seeing anybody. But
if you'll leave your name----"

"My name is Hunter; but what the good of that? He ask me to call a little
later, and I come, and now he is engaged. It is a very great pity." And
the man snatched up his bag and walking-stick, and stalked off,
indignantly.

Hewitt stood still, gazing through the small aperture in the doorway.

"You'd scarcely expect a man with such a name as Hunter to talk with that
accent, would you?" he observed, musingly. "It isn't a French accent, nor
a German; but it seems foreign. You don't happen to know him, I suppose?"

"No, I don't. He called here about half-past twelve, just while we were in
the middle of our search and I was frantic over the loss of the drawings.
I was in the outer office myself, and told him to call later. I have lots
of such agents here, anxious to sell all sorts of engineering appliances.
But what will you do now? Shall you see my men?"

"I think," said Hewitt, rising--"I think I'll get you to question them
yourself."

"Myself?"

"Yes, I have a reason. Will you trust me with the 'key' of the private
room opposite? I will go over there for a little, while you talk to your
men in this room. Bring them in here and shut the door; I can look after
the office from across the corridor, you know. Ask them each to detail his
exact movements about the office this morning, and get them to recall each
visitor who has been here from the beginning of the week. I'll let you
know the reason of this later. Come across to me in a few minutes."

Hewitt took the key and passed through the outer office into the corridor.

Ten minutes later Mr. Dixon, having questioned his draughtsmen, followed
him. He found Hewitt standing before the table in the private room, on
which lay several drawings on tracing-paper.

"See here, Mr. Dixon," said Hewitt, "I think these are the drawings you
are anxious about?"

The engineer sprang toward them with a cry of delight. "Why, yes, yes," he
exclaimed, turning them over, "every one of them! But where--how--they
must have been in the place after all, then? What a fool I have been!"

Hewitt shook his head. "I'm afraid you're not quite so lucky as you think,
Mr. Dixon," he said. "These drawings have most certainly been out of the
house for a little while. Never mind how--we'll talk of that after. There
is no time to lose. Tell me--how long would it take a good draughtsman to
copy them?"

"They couldn't possibly be traced over properly in less than two or two
and a half long days of very hard work," Dixon replied with eagerness.

"Ah! then it is as I feared. These tracings have been photographed, Mr.
Dixon, and our task is one of every possible difficulty. If they had been
copied in the ordinary way, one might hope to get hold of the copy. But
photography upsets everything. Copies can be multiplied with such amazing
facility that, once the thief gets a decent start, it is almost hopeless
to checkmate him. The only chance is to get at the negatives before copies
are taken. I must act at once; and I fear, between ourselves, it may be
necessary for me to step very distinctly over the line of the law in the
matter. You see, to get at those negatives may involve something very like
house-breaking. There must be no delay, no waiting for legal procedure, or
the mischief is done. Indeed, I very much question whether you have any
legal remedy, strictly speaking."

"Mr. Hewitt, I implore you, do what you can. I need not say that all I
have is at your disposal. I will guarantee to hold you harmless for
anything that may happen. But do, I entreat you, do everything possible.
Think of what the consequences may be!"

"Well, yes, so I do," Hewitt remarked, with a smile. "The consequences to
me, if I were charged with house-breaking, might be something that no
amount of guarantee could mitigate. However, I will do what I can, if only
from patriotic motives. Now, I must see your tracer, Ritter. He is the
traitor in the camp."

"Ritter? But how?"

"Never mind that now. You are upset and agitated, and had better not know
more than is necessary for a little while, in case you say or do something
unguarded. With Ritter I must take a deep course; what I don't know I must
appear to know, and that will seem more likely to him if I disclaim
acquaintance with what I do know. But first put these tracings safely away
out of sight."

Dixon slipped them behind his book-case.

"Now," Hewitt pursued, "call Mr. Worsfold and give him something to do
that will keep him in the inner office across the way, and tell him to
send Ritter here."

Mr. Dixon called his chief draughtsman and requested him to put in order
the drawings in the drawers of the inner room that had been disarranged by
the search, and to send Ritter, as Hewitt had suggested.

Ritter walked into the private room with an air of respectful attention.
He was a puffy-faced, unhealthy-looking young man, with very small eyes
and a loose, mobile mouth.

"Sit down, Mr. Ritter," Hewitt said, in a stern voice. "Your recent
transactions with your friend Mr. Hunter are well known both to Mr. Dixon
and myself."

Ritter, who had at first leaned easily back in his chair, started forward
at this, and paled.

"You are surprised, I observe; but you should be more careful in your
movements out of doors if you do not wish your acquaintances to be known.
Mr. Hunter, I believe, has the drawings which Mr. Dixon has lost, and, if
so, I am certain that you have given them to him. That, you know, is
theft, for which the law provides a severe penalty."

Ritter broke down completely and turned appealingly to Mr. Dixon.

"Oh, sir," he pleaded, "it isn't so bad, I assure you. I was tempted, I
confess, and hid the drawings; but they are still in the office, and I can
give them to you--really, I can."

"Indeed?" Hewitt went on. "Then, in that case, perhaps you'd better get
them at once. Just go and fetch them in; we won't trouble to observe your
hiding-place. I'll only keep this door open, to be sure you don't lose
your way, you know--down the stairs, for instance."

The wretched Ritter, with hanging head, slunk into the office opposite.
Presently he reappeared, looking, if possible, ghastlier than before. He
looked irresolutely down the corridor, as if meditating a run for it, but
Hewitt stepped toward him and motioned him back to the private room.

"You mustn't try any more of that sort of humbug," Hewitt said with
increased severity. "The drawings are gone, and you have stolen them; you
know that well enough. Now attend to me. If you received your deserts, Mr.
Dixon would send for a policeman this moment, and have you hauled off to
the jail that is your proper place. But, unfortunately, your accomplice,
who calls himself Hunter--but who has other names besides that--as I
happen to know--has the drawings, and it is absolutely necessary that
these should be recovered. I am afraid that it will be necessary,
therefore, to come to some arrangement with this scoundrel--to square him,
in fact. Now, just take that pen and paper, and write to your confederate
as I dictate. You know the alternative if you cause any difficulty."

Ritter reached tremblingly for the pen.

"Address him in your usual way," Hewitt proceeded. "Say this: 'There has
been an alteration in the plans.' Have you got that? 'There has been an
alteration in the plans. I shall be alone here at six o'clock. Please
come, without fail.' Have you got it? Very well; sign it, and address the
envelope. He must come here, and then we may arrange matters. In the
meantime, you will remain in the inner office opposite."

The note was written, and Martin Hewitt, without glancing at the address,
thrust it into his pocket. When Ritter was safely in the inner office,
however, he drew it out and read the address. "I see," he observed, "he
uses the same name, Hunter; 27 Little Carton Street, Westminster, is the
address, and there I shall go at once with the note. If the man comes
here, I think you had better lock him in with Ritter, and send for a
policeman--it may at least frighten him. My object is, of course, to get
the man away, and then, if possible, to invade his house, in some way or
another, and steal or smash his negatives if they are there and to be
found. Stay here, in any case, till I return. And don't forget to lock up
those tracings."

 *       *       *       *       *

It was about six o'clock when Hewitt returned, alone, but with a smiling
face that told of good fortune at first sight.

"First, Mr. Dixon," he said, as he dropped into an easy chair in the
private room, "let me ease your mind by the information that I have been
most extraordinarily lucky; in fact, I think you have no further cause for
anxiety. Here are the negatives. They were not all quite dry when I--well,
what?--stole them, I suppose I must say; so that they have stuck together
a bit, and probably the films are damaged. But you don't mind that, I
suppose?"

He laid a small parcel, wrapped in a newspaper, on the table. The engineer
hastily tore away the paper and took up five or six glass photographic
negatives, of a half-plate size, which were damp, and stuck together by
the gelatine films in couples. He held them, one after another, up to the
light of the window, and glanced through them. Then, with a great sigh of
relief, he placed them on the hearth and pounded them to dust and
fragments with the poker.

For a few seconds neither spoke. Then Dixon, flinging himself into a
chair, said:

"Mr. Hewitt, I can't express my obligation to you. What would have
happened if you had failed, I prefer not to think of. But what shall we do
with Ritter now? The other man hasn't been here yet, by the by."

"No; the fact is I didn't deliver the letter. The worthy gentleman saved
me a world of trouble by taking himself out of the way." Hewitt laughed.
"I'm afraid he has rather got himself into a mess by trying two kinds of
theft at once, and you may not be sorry to hear that his attempt on your
torpedo plans is likely to bring him a dose of penal servitude for
something else. I'll tell you what has happened.

"Little Carton Street, Westminster, I found to be a seedy sort of
place--one of those old streets that have seen much better days. A good
many people seem to live in each house--they are fairly large houses, by
the way--and there is quite a company of bell-handles on each doorpost,
all down the side like organ-stops. A barber had possession of the ground
floor front of No. 27 for trade purposes, so to him I went. 'Can you tell
me,' I said, 'where in this house I can find Mr. Hunter?' He looked
doubtful, so I went on: 'His friend will do, you know--I can't think of
his name; foreign gentleman, dark, with a bushy beard.'

"The barber understood at once. 'Oh, that's Mirsky, I expect,' he said.
'Now, I come to think of it, he has had letters addressed to Hunter once
or twice; I've took 'em in. Top floor back.'

"This was good so far. I had got at 'Mr. Hunter's' other alias. So, by way
of possessing him with the idea that I knew all about him, I determined to
ask for him as Mirsky before handing over the letter addressed to him as
Hunter. A little bluff of that sort is invaluable at the right time. At
the top floor back I stopped at the door and tried to open it at once, but
it was locked. I could hear somebody scuttling about within, as though
carrying things about, and I knocked again. In a little while the door
opened about a foot, and there stood Mr. Hunter--or Mirsky, as you
like--the man who, in the character of a traveler in steam-packing, came
here twice to-day. He was in his shirt-sleeves, and cuddled something
under his arm, hastily covered with a spotted pocket-handkerchief.

"'I have called to see M. Mirsky," I said, 'with a confidential
letter----'

"'Oh, yas, yas,' he answered hastily; 'I know--I know. Excuse me one
minute.' And he rushed off down-stairs with his parcel.

"Here was a noble chance. For a moment I thought of following him, in case
there might be something interesting in the parcel. But I had to decide in
a moment, and I decided on trying the room. I slipped inside the door,
and, finding the key on the inside, locked it. It was a confused sort of
room, with a little iron bedstead in one corner and a sort of rough
boarded inclosure in another. This I rightly conjectured to be the
photographic dark-room, and made for it at once.

"There was plenty of light within when the door was left open, and I made
at once for the drying-rack that was fastened over the sink. There were a
number of negatives in it, and I began hastily examining them one after
another. In the middle of this our friend Mirsky returned and tried the
door. He rattled violently at the handle and pushed. Then he called.

"At this moment I had come upon the first of the negatives you have just
smashed. The fixing and washing had evidently only lately been completed,
and the negative was drying on the rack. I seized it, of course, and the
others which stood by it.

"'Who are you, there, inside?' Mirsky shouted indignantly from the
landing. 'Why for you go in my room like that? Open this door at once, or
I call the police!'

"I took no notice. I had got the full number of negatives, one for each
drawing, but I was not by any means sure that he had not taken an extra
set; so I went on hunting down the rack. There were no more, so I set to
work to turn out all the undeveloped plates. It was quite possible, you
see, that the other set, if it existed, had not yet been developed.

"Mirsky changed his tune. After a little more banging and shouting I could
hear him kneel down and try the key-hole. I had left the key there, so
that he could see nothing. But he began talking softly and rapidly through
the hole in a foreign language. I did not know it in the least, but I
believe it was Russian. What had led him to believe I understood Russian I
could not at the time imagine, though I have a notion now. I went on
ruining his stock of plates. I found several boxes, apparently of new
plates, but, as there was no means of telling whether they were really
unused or Avere merely undeveloped, but with the chemical impress of your
drawings on them, I dragged every one ruthlessly from its hiding-place and
laid it out in the full glare of the sunlight--destroying it thereby, of
course, whether it was unused or not.

"Mirsky left off talking, and I heard him quietly sneaking off. Perhaps
his conscience was not sufficiently clear to warrant an appeal to the
police, but it seemed to me rather probable at the time that that was what
he was going for. So I hurried on with my work. I found three dark
slides--the parts that carried the plates in the back of the camera, you
know--one of them fixed in the camera itself. These I opened, and exposed
the plates to ruination as before. I suppose nobody ever did so much
devastation in a photographic studio in ten minutes as I managed.

"I had spoiled every plate I could find, and had the developed negatives
safely in my pocket, when I happened to glance at a porcelain washing-well
under the sink. There was one negative in that, and I took it up. It was
_not_ a negative of a drawing of yours, but of a Russian twenty-ruble
note!"

This _was_ a discovery. The only possible reason any man could have for
photographing a bank-note was the manufacture of an etched plate for the
production of forged copies. I was almost as pleased as I had been at the
discovery of _your_ negatives. He might bring the police now as soon as he
liked; I could turn the tables on him completely. I began to hunt about
for anything else relating to this negative.

"I found an inking-roller, some old pieces of blanket (used in printing
from plates), and in a corner on the floor, heaped over with newspapers
and rubbish, a small copying-press. There was also a dish of acid, but not
an etched plate or a printed note to be seen. I was looking at the press,
with the negative in one hand and the inking-roller in the other, when I
became conscious of a shadow across the window. I looked up quickly, and
there was Mirsky hanging over from some ledge or projection to the side of
the window, and staring straight at me, with a look of unmistakable terror
and apprehension.

"The face vanished immediately. I had to move a table to get at the
window, and by the time I had opened it there was no sign or sound of the
rightful tenant of the room. I had no doubt now of his reason for carrying
a parcel down-stairs. He probably mistook me for another visitor he was
expecting, and, knowing he must take this visitor into his room, threw the
papers and rubbish over the press, and put up his plates and papers in a
bundle and secreted them somewhere down-stairs, lest his occupation should
be observed.

"Plainly, my duty now was to communicate with the police. So, by the help
of my friend the barber down-stairs, a messenger was found and a note sent
over to Scotland Yard. I awaited, of course, for the arrival of the
police, and occupied the interval in another look round--finding nothing
important, however. When the official detective arrived, he recognized at
once the importance of the case. A large number of forged Russian notes
have been put into circulation on the Continent lately, it seems, and it
was suspected that they came from London. The Russian Government have been
sending urgent messages to the police here on the subject.

"Of course I said nothing about your business; but, while I was talking
with the Scotland Yard man, a letter was left by a messenger, addressed to
Mirsky. The letter will be examined, of course, by the proper authorities,
but I was not a little interested to perceive that the envelope bore the
Russian imperial arms above the words 'Russian Embassy.' Now, why should
Mirsky communicate with the Russian Embassy? Certainly not to let the
officials know that he was carrying on a very extensive and lucrative
business in the manufacture of spurious Russian notes. I think it is
rather more than possible that he wrote--probably before he actually got
your drawings--to say that he could sell information of the highest
importance, and that this letter was a reply. Further, I think it quite
possible that, when I asked for him by his Russian name and spoke of 'a
confidential letter,' he at once concluded that _I_ had come from the
embassy in answer to his letter. That would account for his addressing me
in Russian through the key-hole; and, of course, an official from the
Russian Embassy would be the very last person in the world whom he would
like to observe any indications of his little etching experiments. But,
anyhow, be that as it may," Hewitt concluded, "your drawings are safe now,
and if once Mirsky is caught, and I think it likely, for a man in his
shirt-sleeves, with scarcely any start, and, perhaps, no money about him,
hasn't a great chance to get away--if he is caught, I say, he will
probably get something handsome at St. Petersburg in the way of
imprisonment, or Siberia, or what not; so that you will be amply avenged."

"Yes, but I don't at all understand this business of the drawings even
now. How in the world were they taken out of the place, and how in the
world did you find it out?"

"Nothing could be simpler; and yet the plan was rather ingenious. I'll
tell you exactly how the thing revealed itself to me. From your original
description of the case many people would consider that an impossibility
had been performed. Nobody had gone out and nobody had come in, and yet
the drawings had been taken away. But an impossibility is an
impossibility, after all, and as drawings don't run away of themselves,
plainly somebody had taken them, unaccountable as it might seem. Now, as
they were in your inner office, the only people who could have got at them
besides yourself were your assistants, so that it was pretty clear that
one of them, at least, had something to do with the business. You told me
that Worsfold was an excellent and intelligent draughtsman. Well, if such
a man as that meditated treachery, he would probably be able to carry away
the design in his head--at any rate, a little at a time--and would be
under no necessity to run the risk of stealing a set of the drawings. But
Ritter, you remarked, was an inferior sort of man. 'Not particularly
smart,' I think, were your words--only a mechanical sort of tracer. _He_
would be unlikely to be able to carry in his head the complicated details
of such designs as yours, and, being in a subordinate position, and
continually overlooked, he would find it impossible to make copies of the
plans in the office. So that, to begin with, I thought I saw the most
probable path to start on.

"When I looked round the rooms, I pushed open the glass door of the
barrier and left the door to the inner office ajar, in order to be able to
see any thing that _might_ happen in any part of the place, without
actually expecting any definite development. While we were talking, as it
happened, our friend Mirsky (or Hunter--as you please) came into the outer
office, and my attention was instantly called to him by the first thing he
did. Did you notice anything peculiar yourself?"

"No, really, I can't say I did. He seemed to behave much as any traveler
or agent might."

"Well, what I noticed was the fact that as soon as he entered the place he
put his walking-stick into the umbrella-stand over there by the door,
close by where he stood, a most unusual thing for a casual caller to do,
before even knowing whether you were in. This made me watch him closely. I
perceived with increased interest that the stick was exactly of the same
kind and pattern as one already standing there, also a curious thing. I
kept my eyes carefully on those sticks, and was all the more interested
and edified to see, when he left, that he took the _other_ stick--not the
one he came with--from the stand, and carried it away, leaving his own
behind. I might have followed him, but I decided that more could be
learned by staying, as, in fact, proved to be the case. This, by the by,
is the stick he carried away with him. I took the liberty of fetching it
back from Westminster, because I conceive it to be Ritier's property."

Hewitt produced the stick. It was an ordinary, thick Malacca cane, with a
buck-horn handle and a silver band. Hewitt bent it across his knee and
laid it on the table.

"Yes," Dixon answered, "that is Ritter's stick. I think I have often seen
it in the stand. But what in the world----"

"One moment; I'll just fetch the stick Mirsky left behind." And Hewitt
stepped across the corridor.

He returned with another stick, apparently an exact fac-simile of the
other, and placed it by the side of the other.

"When your assistants went into the inner room, I carried this stick off
for a minute or two. I knew it was not Worsfold's, because there was an
umbrella there with his initial on the handle. Look at this."

Martin Hewitt gave the handle a twist and rapidly unscrewed it from the
top. Then it was seen that the stick was a mere tube of very thin metal,
painted to appear like a Malacca cane.

"It was plain at once that this was no Malacca cane--it wouldn't bend.
Inside it I found your tracings, rolled up tightly. You can get a
marvelous quantity of thin tracing-paper into a small compass by tight
rolling."

"And this--this was the way they were brought back!" the engineer
exclaimed. "I see that clearly. But how did they get away? That's as
mysterious as ever."

"Not a bit of it! See here. Mirsky gets hold of Ritter, and they agree to
get your drawings and photograph them. Ritter is to let his confederate
have the drawings, and Mirsky is to bring them back as soon as possible,
so that they sha'n't be missed for a moment. Ritter habitually carries
this Malacca cane, and the cunning of Mirsky at once suggests that this
tube should be made in outward fac-simile. This morning Mirsky keeps the
actual stick, and Ritter comes to the office with the tube. He seizes the
first opportunity--probably when you were in this private room, and
Worsfold was talking to you from the corridor--to get at the tracings,
roll them up tightly, and put them in the tube, putting the tube back into
the umbrella-stand. At half-past twelve, or whenever it was, Mirsky turns
up for the first time with the actual stick and exchanges them, just as he
afterward did when he brought the drawings back."

"Yes, but Mirsky came half an hour after they were--Oh, yes, I see. What a
fool I was! I was forgetting. Of course, when I first missed the tracings,
they were in this walking-stick, safe enough, and I was tearing my hair
out within arm's reach of them!"

"Precisely. And Mirsky took them away before your very eyes. I expect
Ritter was in a rare funk when he found that the drawings were missed. He
calculated, no doubt, on your not wanting them for the hour or two they
would be out of the office."

"How lucky that it struck me to jot a pencil-note on one of them! I might
easily have made my note somewhere else, and then I should never have
known that they had been away."

"Yes, they didn't give you any too much time to miss them. Well, I think
the rest pretty clear. I brought the tracings in here, screwed up the sham
stick and put it back. You identified the tracings and found none missing,
and then my course was pretty clear, though it looked difficult. I knew
you would be very naturally indignant with Ritter, so, as I wanted to
manage him myself, I told you nothing of what he had actually done, for
fear that, in your agitated state, you might burst out with something that
would spoil my game. To Ritter I pretended to know nothing of the return
of the drawings or _how_ they had been stolen--the only things I did know
with certainty. But I _did_ pretend to know all about Mirsky--or
Hunter--when, as a matter of fact, I knew nothing at all, except that he
probably went under more than one name. That put Ritter into my hands
completely. When he found the game was up, he began with a lying
confession. Believing that the tracings were still in the stick and that
we knew nothing of their return, he said that they had not been away, and
that he would fetch them--as I had expected he would. I let him go for
them alone, and, when he returned, utterly broken up by the discovery that
they were not there, I had him altogether at my mercy. You see, if he had
known that the drawings were all the time behind your book-case, he might
have brazened it out, sworn that the drawings had been there all the time,
and we could have done nothing with him. We couldn't have sufficiently
frightened him by a threat of prosecution for theft, because there the
things were in your possession, to his knowledge.

"As it was he answered the helm capitally: gave us Mirsky's address on the
envelope, and wrote the letter that was to have got him out of the way
while I committed burglary, if that disgraceful expedient had not been
rendered unnecessary. On the whole, the case has gone very well."

"It has gone marvelously well, thanks to yourself. But what shall I do
with Ritter?"

"Here's his stick--knock him down-stairs with it, if you like. I should
keep the tube, if I were you, as a memento. I don't suppose the
respectable Mirsky will ever call to ask for it. But I should certainly
kick Ritter out of doors--or out of window, if you like--without delay."

Mirsky was caught, and, after two remands at the police-court, was
extradited on the charge of forging Russian notes. It came out that he had
written to the embassy, as Hewitt had surmised, stating that he had
certain valuable information to offer, and the letter which Hewitt had
seen delivered was an acknowledgment, and a request for more definite
particulars. This was what gave rise to the impression that Mirsky had
himself informed the Russian authorities of his forgeries. His real intent
was very different, but was never guessed.

 *       *       *       *       *

"I wonder," Hewitt has once or twice observed, "whether, after all, it
would not have paid the Russian authorities better on the whole if I had
never investigated Mirsky's little note factory. The Dixon torpedo was
worth a good many twenty-ruble notes."




V.


THE QUINTON JEWEL AFFAIR.

It was comparatively rarely that Hewitt came into contact with members of
the regular criminal class--those, I mean, who are thieves, of one sort or
another, by exclusive profession. Still, nobody could have been better
prepared than Hewitt for encountering this class when it became necessary.
By some means, which I never quite understood, he managed to keep abreast
of the very latest fashions in the ever-changing slang dialect of the
fraternity, and he was a perfect master of the more modern and debased
form of Romany. So much so that frequently a gypsy who began (as they
always do) by pretending that he understood nothing, and never heard of a
gypsy language, ended by confessing that Hewitt could _rokker_ better than
most Romany _chals_ themselves.

By this acquaintance with their habits and talk Hewitt was sometimes able
to render efficient service in cases of especial importance. In the
Quinton jewel affair Hewitt came into contact with a very accomplished
thief.

The case will probably be very well remembered. Sir Valentine Quinton,
before he married, had been as poor as only a man of rank with an old
country establishment to keep up can be. His marriage, however, with the
daughter of a wealthy financier had changed all that, and now the Quinton
establishment was carried on on as lavish a scale as might be; and,
indeed, the extravagant habits of Lady Quinton herself rendered it an
extremely lucky thing that she had brought a fortune with her.

Among other things her jewels made quite a collection, and chief among
them was the great ruby, one of the very few that were sent to this
country to be sold (at an average price of somewhere about twenty thousand
pounds apiece, I believe) by the Burmese king before the annexation of his
country. Let but a ruby be of a great size and color, and no equally fine
diamond can approach its value. Well, this great ruby (which was set in a
pendant, by the by), together with a necklace, brooches, bracelets,
ear-rings--indeed, the greater part of Lady Quinton's collection--were
stolen. The robbery was effected at the usual time and in the usual way in
cases of carefully planned jewelry robberies. The time was early
evening--dinner-time, in fact--and an entrance had been made by the window
to Lady Quinton's dressing-room, the door screwed up on the inside, and
wires artfully stretched about the grounds below to overset anybody who
might observe and pursue the thieves.

On an investigation by London detectives, however, a feature of
singularity was brought to light. There had plainly been only one thief at
work at Radcot Hall, and no other had been inside the grounds. Alone he
had planted the wires, opened the window, screwed the door, and picked the
lock of the safe. Clearly this was a thief of the most accomplished
description.

Some few days passed, and, although the police had made various arrests,
they appeared to be all mistakes, and the suspected persons were released
one after another. I was talking of the robbery with Hewitt at lunch, and
asked him if he had received any commission to hunt for the missing
jewels.

"No," Hewitt replied, "I haven't been commissioned. They are offering an
immense reward however--a very pleasant sum, indeed. I have had a short
note from Radcot Hall informing me of the amount, and that's all. Probably
they fancy that I may take the case up as a speculation, but that is a
great mistake. I'm not a beginner, and I must be commissioned in a regular
manner, hit or miss, if I am to deal with the case. I've quite enough
commissions going now, and no time to waste hunting for a problematical
reward."

But we were nearer a clue to the Quinton jewels than we then supposed.

We talked of other things, and presently rose and left the restaurant,
strolling quietly toward home. Some little distance from the Strand, and
near our own door, we passed an excited Irishman--without doubt an
Irishman by appearance and talk--who was pouring a torrent of angry
complaints in the ears of a policeman. The policeman obviously thought
little of the man's grievances, and with an amused smile appeared to be
advising him to go home quietly and think no more about it. We passed on
and mounted our stairs. Something interesting in our conversation made me
stop for a little while at Hewitt's office door on my way up, and, while I
stood there, the Irishman we had seen in the street mounted the stairs. He
was a poorly dressed but sturdy-looking fellow, apparently a laborer, in a
badly-worn best suit of clothes. His agitation still held him, and without
a pause he immediately burst out:

"Which of ye jintlemen will be Misther Hewitt, sor?"

"This is Mr. Hewitt," I said. "Do you want him?"

"It's protecshin I want, sor--protecshin! I spake to the polis, an' they
laff at me, begob. Foive days have I lived in London, an' 'tis nothin' but
battle, murdher, an' suddhen death for me here all day an' ivery day! An'
the polis say I'm dhrunk!"

He gesticulated wildly, and to me it seemed just possible that the police
might be right.

"They say I'm drunk, sor," he continued, "but, begob, I b'lieve they think
I'm mad. An' me being thracked an' folleyed an' dogged an' waylaid an'
poisoned an' blandandhered an' kidnapped an' murdhered, an' for why I do
not know!"

"And who's doing all this?'

"Sthrangers, sor--sthrangers. 'Tis a sthranger here I am mesilf, an' fwy
they do it bates me, onless I do be so like the Prince av Wales or other
crowned head they thry to slaughter me. They're layin' for me in the
sthreet now, I misdoubt not, and fwat they may thry next I can tell no
more than the Lord Mayor. An' the polis won't listen to me!"

This, I thought, must be one of the very common cases of mental
hallucination which one hears of every day--the belief of the sufferer
that he is surrounded by enemies and followed by spies. It is probably the
most usual delusion of the harmless lunatic.

"But what have these people done?" Hewitt asked, looking rather
interested, although amused. "What actual assaults have they committed,
and when? And who told you to come here?"

"Who towld me, is ut? Who but the payler outside--in the street below! I
explained to 'um, an' sez he: 'Ah, you go an' take a slape,' sez he; 'you
go an' take a good slape, an' they'll be all gone whin ye wake up.' 'But
they'll murdher me,' sez I. 'Oh, no!' sez he, smilin' behind av his ugly
face. 'Oh, no, they won't; you take ut aisy, me frind, an' go home!' 'Take
it aisy, is ut, an' go home!' sez I; 'why, that's just where they've been
last, a-ruinationin' an' a-turnin' av the place upside down, an' me strook
on the head onsensible a mile away. Take ut aisy, is ut, ye say, whin all
the demons in this unholy place is jumpin' on me every minut in places
promiscuous till I can't tell where to turn, descendin' an' vanishin'
marvelious an' onaccountable? Take ut aisy, is ut?' sez I. 'Well, me
frind,' sez he, 'I can't help ye; that's the marvelious an' onaccountable
departmint up the stairs forninst ye. Misther Hewitt ut is,' sez he, 'that
attinds to the onaccountable departmint, him as wint by a minut ago. You
go an' bother him.' That's how I was towld, sor."

Hewitt smiled.

"Very good," he said; "and now what are these extraordinary troubles of
yours? Don't declaim," he added, as the Irishman raised his hand and
opened his mouth, preparatory to another torrent of complaint; "just say
in ten words, if you can, what they've done to you."

"I will, sor. Wan day had I been in London, sor--wan day only, an' a low
scutt thried to poison me dhrink; next day some udther thief av sin shoved
me off av a railway platform undher a train, malicious and purposeful;
glory be, he didn't kill me! but the very docther that felt me bones
thried to pick me pockut, I du b'lieve. Sunday night I was grabbed
outrageous in a darrk turnin', rowled on the groun', half strangled, an'
me pockuts nigh ripped out av me trousies. An' this very blessed mornin'
av light I was strook onsensible an' left a livin' corpse, an' my lodgin's
penethrated an' all the thruck mishandled an' bruk up behind me back. Is
that a panjandhery for the polis to laff at, sor?"

Had Hewitt not been there I think I should have done my best to quiet the
poor fellow with a few soothing words and to persuade him to go home to
his friends. His excited and rather confused manner, his fantastic story
of a sort of general conspiracy to kill him, and the absurd reference to
the doctor who tried to pick his pocket seemed to me plainly to confirm my
first impression that he was insane. But Hewitt appeared strangely
interested.

"Did they steal anything?" he asked.

"Divil a shtick but me door-key, an' that they tuk home an' lift in the
door."

Hewitt opened his office door.

"Come in," he said, "and tell me all about this. You come, too, Brett."

The Irishman and I followed him into the inner office, where, shutting the
door, Hewitt suddenly turned on the Irishman and exclaimed sharply: "_Then
you've still got it_?"

He looked keenly in the man's eyes, but the only expression there was one
of surprise.

"Got ut?" said the Irishman. "Got fwhat, sor? Is ut you're thinkin' I've
got the horrors, as well as the polis?"

Hewitt's gaze relaxed. "Sit down, sit down!" he said. "You've still got
your watch and money, I suppose, since you weren't robbed?"

"Oh, that? Glory be, I have ut still! though for how long--or me own head,
for that matter--in this state of besiegement, I can not say."

"Now," said Hewitt, "I want a full, true, and particular account of
yourself and your doings for the last week. First, your name?"

"Leamy's my name, sor--Michael Leamy."

"Lately from Ireland?"

"Over from Dublin this last blessed Wednesday, and a crooil bad
poundherin' tit was in the boat, too--shpakin'av that same."

"Looking for work?"

"That is my purshuit at prisint, sor."

"Did anything noticeable happen before these troubles of yours
began--anything here in London or on the journey?"

"Sure," the Irishman smiled, "part av the way I thraveled first-class by
favor av the gyard, an' I got a small job before I lift the train."

"How was that? Why did you travel first-class part of the way?"

"There was a station fwhere we shtopped afther a long run, an' I got down
to take the cramp out av me joints, an' take a taste av dhrink. I
over-shtayed somehow, an', whin I got to the train, begob, it was on the
move. There was a first-class carr'ge door opin right forninst me, an'
into that the gyard crams me holus-bolus. There was a juce of a foine
jintleman sittin' there, an' he stares at me umbrageous, but I was not
dishcommoded, bein' onbashful by natur'. We thravelled along a heap av
miles more, till we came near London. Afther we had shtopped at a station
where they tuk tickets we wint ahead again, an' prisintly, as we rips
through some udther station, up jumps the jintleman opposite, swearin'
hard undher his tongue, an' looks out at the windy. 'I thought this train
shtopped here,' sez he."

"Chalk Farm," observed Hewitt, with a nod.

"The name I do not know, sor, but that's fwhat he said. Then he looks at
me onaisy for a little, an' at last he sez: 'Wud ye loike a small job, me
good man, well paid?'

"'Faith,' sez I, ''tis that will suit me well.'

"'Then, see here,' sez he, 'I should have got out at that station, havin'
particular business; havin' missed, I must sen' a telegrammer from Euston.
Now, here's a bag,' sez he, 'a bag full of imporrtant papers for my
solicitor--imporrtant to me, ye ondershtand, not worth the shine av a
brass farden to a sowl else--an' I want 'em tuk on to him. Take you this
bag,' he sez, 'an' go you straight out wid it at Euston an' get a cab. I
shall stay in the station a bit to see to the telegrammer. Dhrive out av
the station, across the road outside, an' wait there five minuts by the
clock. Ye ondershtand? Wait five minuts, an, maybe I'll come an' join ye.
If I don't 'twill be bekase I'm detained onexpected, an' then ye'll dhrive
to my solicitor straight. Here's his address, if ye can read writin',' an'
he put ut on a piece av paper. He gave me half-a-crown for the cab, an' I
tuk his bag."

"One moment--have you the paper with the address now?"

"I have not, sor. I missed ut afther the blayguards overset me yesterday;
but the solicitor's name was Hollams, an' a liberal jintleman wid his
money he was, too, by that same token."

"What was his address?"

"'Twas in Chelsea, and 'twas Gold or Golden something, which I know by the
good token av fwhat he gave me; but the number I misremember."

Hewitt turned to his directory. "Gold Street is the place, probably," he
said, "and it seems to be a street chiefly of private houses. You would be
able to point out the house if you were taken there, I suppose?"

"I should that, sor; indade, I was thinkin' av goin' there an' tellin'
Misther Hollams all my throubles, him havin' been so kind."

"Now tell me exactly what instructions the man in the train gave you, and
what happened?"

"He sez: 'You ask for Misther Hollams, an' see nobody else. Tell him ye've
brought the sparks from Misther W.'"

I fancied I could see a sudden twinkle in Hewitt's eye, but he made no
other sign, and the Irishman proceeded.

"'Sparks?' sez I. 'Yes, sparks,' sez he. 'Misther Hollams will know; 'tis
our jokin' word for 'em; sometimes papers is sparks when they set a
lawsuit ablaze,' and he laffed. 'But be sure ye say the _sparks from
Misther W._,' he sez again, 'bekase then he'll know ye're jinuine an'
he'll pay ye han'some. Say Misther W. sez you're to have your reg'lars, if
ye like. D'ye mind that?'

"'Ay,' sez I, 'that I'm to have my reg'lars.'

"Well, sor, I tuk the bag and wint out of the station, tuk the cab, an'
did all as he towld me. I waited the foive minuts, but he niver came, so
off I druv to Misther Hollams, and he threated me han'some, sor."

"Yes, but tell me exactly all he did."

"'Misther Hollams, sor?' sez I. 'Who are ye?' sez he. 'Mick Leamy, sor,'
sez I, 'from Misther W. wid the sparks.' 'Oh,' sez he, 'thin come in.' I
wint in. 'They're in here, are they?' sez he, takin' the bag. 'They are,
sor,' sez I, 'an' Misther W. sez I'm to have me reg'lars.' 'You shall,'
sez he. 'What shall we say, now--afinnip?' 'Fwhat's that, sor?' sez I.
'Oh,' sez he, 'I s'pose ye're a new hand; five quid--ondershtand that?'"

"Begob, I did ondershtand it, an' moighty plazed I was to have come to a
place where they pay five-pun' notes for carryin' bags. So whin he asked
me was I new to London an' shud I kape in the same line av business, I
towld him I shud for certin, or any thin' else payin' like it. 'Right,'
sez he; 'let me know whin ye've got any thin'--ye'll find me all right.'
An' he winked frindly. 'Faith, that I know I shall, sor,' sez I, wid the
money safe in me pockut; an' I winked him back, conjanial. 'I've a smart
family about me,' sez he, 'an' I treat 'em all fair an' liberal.' An',
saints, I thought it likely his family 'ud have all they wanted, seein' he
was so free-handed wid a stranger. Thin he asked me where I was a livin'
in London, and, when I towld him nowhere, he towld me av a room in Musson
Street, here by Drury Lane, that was to let, in a house his fam'ly knew
very well, an' I wint straight there an' tuk ut, an' there I do be stayin'
still, sor."

I hadn't understood at first why Hewitt took so much interest in the
Irishman's narrative, but the latter part of it opened my eyes a little.
It seemed likely that Leamy had, in his innocence, been made a conveyer of
stolen property. I knew enough of thieves' slang to know that "sparks"
meant diamonds or other jewels; that "regulars" was the term used for a
payment made to a brother thief who gave assistance in some small way,
such as carrying the booty; and that the "family" was the time-honored
expression for a gang of thieves.

"This was all on Wednesday, I understand," said Hewitt. "Now tell me what
happened on Thursday--the poisoning, or drugging, you know?"

"Well, sor, I was walking out, an' toward the evenin' I lost mesilf. Up
comes a man, seemin'ly a sthranger, and shmacks me on the showldher. 'Why,
Mick!' sez he; 'it's Mick Leamy, I du b'lieve!'

"'I am that,' sez I, 'but you I do not know.'

"'Not know me?' sez he. 'Why, I wint to school wid ye.' An' wid that he
hauls me off to a bar, blarneyin' and minowdherin', an' orders dhrinks.

"Can ye rache me a poipe-loight?' sez he, an' I turned to get ut, but,
lookin' back suddent, there was that onblushin' thief av the warl' tippin'
a paperful of phowder stuff into me glass."

"What did you do?" Hewitt asked.

"I knocked the dhirty face av him, sor, an' can ye blame me? A mane scutt,
thryin' for to poison a well-manin' sthranger. I knocked the face av him,
an' got away home."

"Now the next misfortune?"

"Faith, that was av a sort likely to turn out the last of all misfortunes.
I wint that day to the Crystial Palace, bein' dishposed for a little
sphort, seein' as I was new to London. Comin' home at night, there was a
juce av a crowd on the station platform, consekins of a late thrain.
Sthandin' by the edge av the platform at the fore end, just as thrain came
in, some onvisible murdherer gives me a stupenjus drive in the back, and
over I wint on the line, mid-betwixt the rails. The engine came up an'
wint half over me widout givin' me a scratch, bekase av my centraleous
situation, an' then the porther-men pulled me out, nigh sick wid fright,
sor, as ye may guess. A jintleman in the crowd sings out: 'I'm a medical
man!' an' they tuk me in the waitin'-room, an' he investigated me, havin'
turned everybody else out av the room. There wuz no bones bruk, glory be!
and the docthor-man he was tellin' me so, after feelin' me over, whin I
felt his hand in me waistcoat pockut.

"'An' fwhat's this, sor?' sez I. 'Do you be lookin' for your fee that
thief's way?'

"He laffed, and said: 'I want no fee from ye, me man, an' I did but feel
your ribs,' though on me conscience he had done that undher me waistcoat
already. An' so I came home."

"What did they do to you on Saturday?"

"Saturday, sor, they gave me a whole holiday, and I began to think less of
things; but on Saturday night, in a dark place, two blayguards tuk me
throat from behind, nigh choked me, flung me down, an' wint through all me
pockuts in about a quarter av a minut."

"And they took nothing, you say?"

"Nothing, sor. But this mornin' I got my worst dose. I was trapesing along
distreshful an' moighty sore, in a street just away off the Strand here,
when I obsarved the docthor-man that was at the Crystial Palace station
a-smilin' an' beckonin' at me from a door.

"'How are ye now?' sez he. 'Well,' sez I, 'I'm moighty sore an' sad
bruised,' sez I. 'Is that so?' sez he. 'Sthep in here.' So I sthepped in,
an' before I could wink there dhropped a crack on the back av me head that
sent me off as unknowledgable as a corrpse. I knew no more for a while,
sor, whether half an hour or an hour, an' thin I got up in a room av the
place, marked 'To Let.' 'Twas a house full av offices, by the same token,
like this. There was a sore bad lump on me head--see ut, sor?--an' the
whole warl' was shpinnin' roun' rampageous. The things out av me pockuts
were lyin' on the flure by me--all barrin' the key av me room. So that the
demons had been through me posseshins again, bad luck to 'em."

"You are quite sure, are you, that everything was there except the key?"
Hewitt asked.

"Certin, sor? Well, I got along to me room, sick an' sorry enough, an'
doubtsome whether I might get in wid no key. But there was the key in the
open door, an', by this an' that, all the shtuff in the room--chair,
table, bed, an' all--was shtandin' on their heads twisty-ways, an' the
bedclothes an' every thin' else; such a disgraceful stramash av
conglomerated thruck as ye niver dhreamt av. The chist av drawers was
lyin' on uts face, wid all the dhrawers out an' emptied on the flure.
'Twas as though an arrmy had been lootin', sor!"

"But still nothing was gone?"

"Nothin', so far as I investigated, sor. But I didn't shtay. I came out to
spake to the polis, an' two av them laffed at me--wan afther another!"

"It has certainly been no laughing matter for you. Now, tell me--have you
anything in your possession--documents, or valuables, or anything--that
any other person, to your knowledge, is anxious to get hold of!"

"I have not, sor--divil a document! As to valuables, thim an' me is the
cowldest av sthrangers."

"Just call to mind, now, the face of the man who tried to put powder in
your drink, and that of the doctor who attended to you in the railway
station. Were they at all alike, or was either like anybody you have seen
before?"

Leamy puckered his forehead and thought.

"Faith," he said presently, "they were a bit alike, though one had a beard
an' the udther whiskers only."

"Neither happened to look like Mr. Hollams, for instance?"

Leamy started. "Begob, but they did! They'd ha' been mortal like him if
they'd been shaved." Then, after a pause, he suddenly added: "Holy saints!
is ut the fam'ly he talked av?"

Hewitt laughed. "Perhaps it is," he said. "Now, as to the man who sent you
with the bag. Was it an old bag?"

"Bran' cracklin' new--a brown leather bag."

"Locked?"

"That I niver thried, sor. It was not my consarn."

"True. Now, as to this Mr. W. himself." Hewitt had been rummaging for some
few minutes in a portfolio, and finally produced a photograph, and held it
before the Irishman's eye. "Is that like him?" he asked.

"Shure it's the man himself! Is he a friend av yours, sor?"

"No, he's not exactly a friend of mine," Hewitt answered, with a grim
chuckle. "I fancy he's one of that very respectable _family_ you heard
about at Mr. Hollams'. Come along with me now to Chelsea, and see if you
can point out that house in Gold Street. I'll send for a cab."

He made for the outer office, and I went with him.

"What is all this, Hewitt?" I asked. "A gang of thieves with stolen
property?"

Hewitt looked in my face and replied: "_It's the Quinton ruby_!"

"What! The ruby? Shall you take the case up, then?"

"I shall. It is no longer a speculation."

"Then do you expect to find it at Hollams' house in Chelsea?" I asked.

"No, I don't, because it isn't there--else why are they trying to get it
from this unlucky Irishman? There has been bad faith in Hollams' gang, I
expect, and Hollams has missed the ruby and suspects Leamy of having taken
it from the bag."

"Then who is this Mr. W. whose portrait you have in your possession?"

"See here!" Hewitt turned over a small pile of recent newspapers and
selected one, pointing at a particular paragraph. "I kept that in my mind,
because to me it seemed to be the most likely arrest of the lot," he said.

It was an evening paper of the previous Thursday, and the paragraph was a
very short one, thus:

"The man Wilks, who was arrested at Euston Station yesterday, in
connection with the robbery of Lady Quinton's jewels, has been released,
nothing being found to incriminate him."

"How does that strike you?" asked Hewitt. "Wilks is a man well known to
the police--one of the most accomplished burglars in this country, in
fact. I have had no dealings with him as yet, but I found means, some time
ago, to add his portrait to my little collection, in case I might want it,
and to-day it has been quite useful."

The thing was plain now. Wilks must have been bringing his booty to town,
and calculated on getting out at Chalk Farm and thus eluding the watch
which he doubtless felt pretty sure would be kept (by telegraphic
instruction) at Euston for suspicious characters arriving from the
direction of Radcot. His transaction with Leamy was his only possible
expedient to save himself from being hopelessly taken with the swag in his
possession. The paragraph told me why Leamy had waited in vain for "Mr.
W." in the cab.

"What shall you do now?" I asked.

"I shall go to the Gold Street house and find out what I can as soon as
this cab turns up."

There seemed a possibility of some excitement in the adventure, so I
asked: "Will you want any help?"

Hewitt smiled. "I _think_ I can get through it alone," he said.

"Then may I come to look on?" I said. "Of course I don't want to be in
your way, and the result of the business, whatever it is, will be to your
credit alone. But I am curious."

"Come, then, by all means. The cab will be a four-wheeler, and there will
be plenty of room."

       *       *       *       *       *

Gold Street was a short street of private houses of very fair size and of
a half-vanished pretension to gentility. We drove slowly through, and
Leamy had no difficulty in pointing out the house wherein he had been paid
five pounds for carrying a bag. At the end the cab turned the corner and
stopped, while Hewitt wrote a short note to an official of Scotland Yard.

"Take this note," he instructed Leamy, "to Scotland Yard in the cab, and
then go home. I will pay the cabman now."

"I will, sor. An' will I be protected?"

"Oh, yes! Stay at home for the rest of the day, and I expect you'll be
left alone in future. Perhaps I shall have something to tell you in a day
or two; if I do, I'll send. Good-by."

The cab rolled off, and Hewitt and I strolled back along Gold Street. "I
think," Hewitt said, "we will drop in on Mr. Hollams for a few minutes
while we can. In a few hours I expect the police will have him, and his
house, too, if they attend promptly to my note."

"Have you ever seen him?"

"Not to my knowledge, though I may know him by some other name. Wilks I
know by sight, though he doesn't know me."

"What shall we say?"

"That will depend on circumstances. I may not get my cue till the door
opens, or even till later. At worst, I can easily apply for a reference as
to Leamy, who, you remember, is looking for work."

But we were destined not to make Mr. Hollams' acquaintance, after all. As
we approached the house a great uproar was heard from the lower part
giving on to the area, and suddenly a man, hatless, and with a sleeve of
his coat nearly torn away burst through the door and up the area steps,
pursued by two others. I had barely time to observe that one of the
pursuers carried a revolver, and that both hesitated and retired on seeing
that several people were about the street, when Hewitt, gripping my arm
and exclaiming: "That's our man!" started at a run after the fugitive.

We turned the next corner and saw the man thirty yards before us, walking,
and pulling up his sleeve at the shoulder, so as to conceal the rent.
Plainly he felt save [safe?] from further molestation.

"That's Sim Wilks," Hewitt explained, as we followed, "the 'juce of a
foine jintleman' who got Leamy to carry his bag, and the man who knows
where the Quinton ruby is, unless I am more than usually mistaken. Don't
stare after him, in case he looks round. Presently, when we get into the
busier streets, I shall have a little chat with him."

But for some time the man kept to the back streets. In time, however, he
emerged into the Buckingham Palace Road, and we saw him stop and look at a
hat-shop. But after a general look over the window and a glance in at the
door he went on.

"Good sign!" observed Hewitt; "got no money with him--makes it easier for
us."

In a little while Wilks approached a small crowd gathered about a woman
fiddler. Hewitt touched my arm, and a few quick steps took us past our man
and to the opposite side of the crowd. When Wilks emerged, he met us
coming in the opposite direction.

"What, Sim!" burst out Hewitt with apparent delight. "I haven't piped your
mug[A] for a stretch;[B] I thought you'd fell.[C] Where's your cady?"[D]

[Footnote A: Seen your face.]

[Footnote B: A year.]

[Footnote C: Been imprisoned.]

[Footnote D: Hat.]

Wilks looked astonished and suspicious. "I don't know you," he said.
"You've made a mistake."

Hewitt laughed. "I'm glad you don't know me," he said. "If you don't, I'm
pretty sure the reelers[A] won't. I think I've faked my mug pretty well,
and my clobber,[B] too. Look here: I'll stand you a new cady. Strange
blokes don't do that, eh?"

[Footnote A: Police.]

[Footnote B: Clothes.]

Wilks was still suspicious. "I don't know what you mean," he said. Then,
after a pause, he added: "Who are you, then?"

Hewitt winked and screwed his face genially aside. "Hooky!" he said. "I've
had a lucky touch[A] and I'm Mr. Smith till I've melted the pieces.[B] You
come and damp it."

[Footnote A: Robbery.]

[Footnote B: Spent the money.]

"I'm off," Wilks replied. "Unless you're pal enough to lend me a quid," he
added, laughing.

"I am that," responded Hewitt, plunging his hand in his pocket. "I'm
flush, my boy, flush, and I've been wetting it pretty well to-day. I feel
pretty jolly now, and I shouldn't wonder if I went home cannon.[A] Only a
quid? Have two, if you want 'em--or three; there's plenty more, and you'll
do the same for me some day. Here y'are."

[Footnote A: Drunk.]

Hewitt had, of a sudden, assumed the whole appearance, manners, and
bearing of a slightly elevated rowdy. Now he pulled his hand from his
pocket and extended it, full of silver, with five or six sovereigns
interspersed, toward Wilks.

"I'll have three quid," Wilks said, with decision, taking the money; "but
I'm blowed if I remember you. Who's your pal?"

Hewitt jerked his hand in my direction, winked, and said, in a low voice:
"He's all right. Having a rest. Can't stand Manchester," and winked again.

Wilks laughed and nodded, and I understood from that that Hewitt had very
flatteringly given me credit for being "wanted" by the Manchester police.

We lurched into a public house, and drank a very little very bad whisky
and water. Wilks still regarded us curiously, and I could see him again
and again glancing doubtfully in Hewitt's face. But the loan of three
pounds had largely reassured him. Presently Hewitt said:

"How about our old pal down in Gold Street? Do anything with him now? Seen
him lately?"

Wilks looked up at the ceiling and shook his head.

"That's a good job. It 'ud be awkward if you were about there to-day, I
can tell you."

"Why?"

"Never mind, so long as you're not there. I know something, if I _have_
been away. I'm glad I haven't had any truck with Gold Street lately,
that's all."

"D'you mean the reelers are on it?"

Hewitt looked cautiously over his shoulder, leaned toward Wilks, and said:
"Look here: this is the straight tip. I know this--I got it from the very
nark[A] that's given the show away: By six o'clock No. 8 Gold Street will
be turned inside out, like an old glove, and everyone in the place will
be----" He finished the sentence by crossing his wrists like a handcuffed
man. "What's more," he went on, "they know all about what's gone on there
lately, and everybody that's been in or out for the last two moons[B] will
be wanted particular--and will be found, I'm told." Hewitt concluded with
a confidential frown, a nod, and a wink, and took another mouthful of
whisky. Then he added, as an after-thought: "So I'm glad you haven't been
there lately."

[Footnote A: Police spy.]

[Footnote B: Months.]

Wilks looked in Hewitt's face and asked: "Is that straight?"

"_Is_ it?" replied Hewitt with emphasis. "You go and have a look, if you
ain't afraid of being smugged yourself. Only _I_ shan't go near No. 8 just
yet--I know that."

Wilks fidgeted, finished his drink, and expressed his intention of going.
"Very well, if you _won't_ have another----" replied Hewitt. But he had
gone.

"Good!" said Hewitt, moving toward the door; "he has suddenly developed a
hurry. I shall keep him in sight, but you had better take a cab and go
straight to Euston. Take tickets to the nearest station to
Radcot--Kedderby, I think it is--and look up the train arrangements. Don't
show yourself too much, and keep an eye on the entrance. Unless I am
mistaken, Wilks will be there pretty soon, and I shall be on his heels. If
I _am_ wrong, then you won't see the end of the fun, that's all."

Hewitt hurried after Wilks, and I took the cab and did as he wished. There
was an hour and a few minutes, I found, to wait for the next train, and
that time I occupied as best I might, keeping a sharp lookout across the
quadrangle. Barely five minutes before the train was to leave, and just as
I was beginning to think about the time of the next, a cab dashed up and
Hewitt alighted. He hurried in, found me, and drew me aside into a recess,
just as another cab arrived.

"Here he is," Hewitt said. "I followed him as far as Euston Road and then
got my cabby to spurt up and pass him. He had had his mustache shaved off,
and I feared you mightn't recognize him, and so let him see you."

From our retreat we could see Wilks hurry into the booking-office. We
watched him through to the platform and followed. He wasted no time, but
made the best of his way to a third-class carriage at the extreme fore end
of the train.

"We have three minutes," Hewitt said, "and everything depends on his not
seeing us get into this train. Take this cap. Fortunately, we're both in
tweed suits."

He had bought a couple of tweed cricket caps, and these we assumed,
sending our "bowler" hats to the cloak-room. Hewitt also put on a pair of
blue spectacles, and then walked boldly up the platform and entered a
first-class carriage. I followed close on his heels, in such a manner that
a person looking from the fore end of the train would be able to see but
very little of me.

"So far so good," said Hewitt, when we were seated and the train began to
move off. "I must keep a lookout at each station, in case our friend goes
off unexpectedly."

"I waited some time," I said; "where did you both go to?"

"First he went and bought that hat he is wearing. Then he walked some
distance, dodging the main thoroughfares and keeping to the back streets
in a way that made following difficult, till he came to a little tailor's
shop. There he entered and came out in a quarter of an hour with his coat
mended. This was in a street in Westminster. Presently he worked his way
up to Tothill Street, and there he plunged into a barber's shop. I took a
cautious peep at the window, saw two or three other customers also
waiting, and took the opportunity to rush over to a 'notion' shop and buy
these blue spectacles, and to a hatter's for these caps--of which I regret
to observe that yours is too big. He was rather a long while in the
barber's, and finally came out, as you saw him, with no mustache. This was
a good indication. It made it plainer than ever that he had believed my
warning as to the police descent on the house in Gold Street and its
frequenters; which was right and proper, for what I told him was quite
true. The rest you know. He cabbed to the station, and so did I."

"And now perhaps," I said, "after giving me the character of a thief
wanted by the Manchester police, forcibly depriving me of my hat in
exchange for this all-too-large cap, and rushing me off out of London
without any definite idea of when I'm coming back, perhaps you'll tell me
what we're after?"

Hewitt laughed. "You wanted to join in, you know," he said, "and you must
take your luck as it comes. As a matter of fact there is scarcely anything
in my profession so uninteresting and so difficult as this watching and
following business. Often it lasts for weeks. When we alight, we shall
have to follow Wilks again, under the most difficult possible conditions,
in the country. There it is often quite impossible to follow a man
unobserved. It is only because it is the only way that I am undertaking it
now. As to what we're after, you know that as well as I--the Quinton ruby.
Wilks has hidden it, and without his help it would be impossible to find
it. We are following him so that he will find it for us."

"He must have hidden it, I suppose, to avoid sharing with Hollams?"

"Of course, and availed himself of the fact of Leamy having carried the
bag to direct Hollams's suspicion to him. Hollams found out by his
repeated searches of Leamy and his lodgings, that this was wrong, and this
morning evidently tried to persuade the ruby out of Wilks' possession with
a revolver. We saw the upshot of that."

Kedderby Station was about forty miles out. At each intermediate stopping
station Hewitt watched earnestly, but Wilks remained in the train. "What I
fear," Hewitt observed, "is that at Kedderby he may take a fly. To stalk a
man on foot in the country is difficult enough; but you _can't_ follow one
vehicle in another without being spotted. But if he's so smart as I think,
he won't do it. A man traveling in a fly is noticed and remembered in
these places."

He did _not_ take a fly. At Kedderby we saw him jump out quickly and
hasten from the station. The train stood for a few minutes, and he was out
of the station before we alighted. Through the railings behind the
platform we could see him walking briskly away to the right. From the
ticket collector we ascertained that Radcot lay in that direction, three
miles off.

To my dying day I shall never forget that three miles. They seemed three
hundred. In the still country almost every footfall seemed audible for any
distance, and in the long stretches of road one could see half a mile
behind or before. Hewitt was cool and patient, but I got into a fever of
worry, excitement, want of breath, and back-ache. At first, for a little,
the road zig-zagged, and then the chase was comparatively easy. We waited
behind one bend till Wilks had passed the next, and then hurried in his
trail, treading in the dustiest parts of the road or on the side grass,
when there was any, to deaden the sound of our steps.

At the last of these short bends we looked ahead and saw a long, white
stretch of road with the dark form of Wilks a couple of hundred yards in
front. It would never do to let him get to the end of this great stretch
before following, as he might turn off at some branch road out of sight
and be lost. So we jumped the hedge and scuttled along as we best might on
the other side, with backs bent, and our feet often many inches deep in
wet clay. We had to make continual stoppages to listen and peep out, and
on one occasion, happening, incautiously, to stand erect, looking after
him, I was much startled to see Wilks, with his face toward me, gazing
down the road. I ducked like lightning, and, fortunately, he seemed not to
have observed me, but went on as before. He had probably heard some slight
noise, but looked straight along the road for its explanation, instead of
over the hedge. At hilly parts of the road there was extreme difficulty;
indeed, on approaching a rise it was usually necessary to lie down under
the hedge till Wilks had passed the top, since from the higher ground he
could have seen us easily. This improved neither my clothes, my comfort,
nor my temper. Luckily we never encountered the difficulty of a long and
high wall, but once we were nearly betrayed by a man who shouted to order
us off his field.

At last we saw, just ahead, the square tower of an old church, set about
with thick trees. Opposite this Wilks paused, looked irresolutely up and
down the road, and then went on. We crossed the road, availed ourselves of
the opposite hedge, and followed. The village was to be seen some three or
four hundred yards farther along the road, and toward it Wilks sauntered
slowly. Before he actually reached the houses he stopped and turned back.

"The churchyard!" exclaimed Hewitt, under his breath. "Lie close and let
him pass."

Wilks reached the churchyard gate, and again looked irresolutely about
him. At that moment a party of children, who had been playing among the
graves, came chattering and laughing toward and out of the gate, and Wilks
walked hastily away again, this time in the opposite direction.

"That's the place, clearly," Hewitt said. "We must slip across quietly, as
soon as he's far enough down the road. Now!"

We hurried stealthily across, through the gate, and into the churchyard,
where Hewitt threw his blue spectacles away. It was now nearly eight in
the evening, and the sun was setting. Once again Wilks approached the
gate, and did not enter, because a laborer passed at the time. Then he
came back and slipped through.

The grass about the graves was long, and under the trees it was already
twilight. Hewitt and I, two or three yards apart, to avoid falling over
one another in case of sudden movement, watched from behind gravestones.
The form of Wilks stood out large and black against the fading light in
the west as he stealthily approached through the long grass. A light cart
came clattering along the road, and Wilks dropped at once and crouched on
his knees till it had passed. Then, staring warily about him, he made
straight for the stone behind which Hewitt waited.

I saw Hewitt's dark form swing noiselessly round to the other side of the
stone. Wilks passed on and dropped on his knee beside a large,
weather-worn slab that rested on a brick under-structure a foot or so
high. The long grass largely hid the bricks, and among it Wilks plunged
his hand, feeling along the brick surface. Presently he drew out a loose
brick, and laid it on the slab. He felt again in the place, and brought
forth a small dark object. I saw Hewitt rise erect in the gathering dusk,
and with extended arm step noiselessly toward the stooping man. Wilks made
a motion to place the dark object in his pocket, but checked himself, and
opened what appeared to be a lid, as though to make sure of the safety of
the contents. The last light, straggling under the trees, fell on a
brilliantly sparkling object within, and like a flash Hewitt's hand shot
over Wilks' shoulder and snatched the jewel.

The man actually screamed--one of those curious sharp little screams that
one may hear from a woman very suddenly alarmed. But he sprang at Hewitt
like a cat, only to meet a straight drive of the fist that stretched him
on his back across the slab. I sprang from behind my stone, and helped
Hewitt to secure his wrists with a pocket-handkerchief. Then we marched
him, struggling and swearing, to the village.

When, in the lights of the village, he recognized us, he had a perfect fit
of rage, but afterward he calmed down, and admitted that it was a "very
clean cop." There was some difficulty in finding the village constable,
and Sir Valentine Quinton was dining out and did not arrive for at least
an hour. In the interval Wilks grew communicative.

"How much d'ye think I'll get?" he asked.

"Can't guess," Hewitt replied. "And as we shall probably have to give
evidence, you'll be giving yourself away if you talk too much."

"Oh, I don't care; that'll make no difference. It's a fair cop, and I'm in
for it. You got at me nicely, lending me three quid. I never knew a reeler
do that before. That blinded me. But was it kid about Gold Street?"

"No, it wasn't. Mr. Hollams is safely shut up by this time, I expect, and
you are avenged for your little trouble with him this afternoon."

"What did you know about that? Well, you've got it up nicely for me, I
must say. S'pose you've been following me all the time?"

"Well, yes; I haven't been far off. I guessed you'd want to clear out of
town if Hollams was taken, and I knew this"--Hewitt tapped his breast
pocket--"was what you'd take care to get hold of first. You hid it, of
course, because you knew that Hollams would probably have you searched for
it if he got suspicious?"

"Yes, he did, too. Two blokes went over my pockets one night, and somebody
got into my room. But I expected that, Hollams is such a greedy pig. Once
he's got you under his thumb he don't give you half your makings, and, if
you kick, he'll have you smugged. So that I wasn't going to give him
_that_ if I could help it. I s'pose it ain't any good asking how you got
put on to our mob?"

"No," said Hewitt, "it isn't."

       *       *       *       *       *

We didn't get back till the next day, staying for the night, despite an
inconvenient want of requisites, at the Hall. There were, in fact, no late
trains. We told Sir Valentine the story of the Irishman, much to his
amusement.

"Leamy's tale sounded unlikely, of course," Hewitt said, "but it was
noticeable that every one of his misfortunes pointed in the same
direction--that certain persons were tremendously anxious to get at
something they supposed he had. When he spoke of his adventure with the
bag, I at once remembered Wilks' arrest and subsequent release. It was a
curious coincidence, to say the least, that this should happen at the very
station to which the proceeds of this robbery must come, if they came to
London at all, and on the day following the robbery itself. Kedderby is
one of the few stations on this line where no trains would stop after the
time of the robbery, so that the thief would have to wait till the next
day to get back. Leamy's recognition of Wilks' portrait made me feel
pretty certain. Plainly, he had carried stolen property; the poor,
innocent fellow's conversation with Hollams showed that, as, in fact, did
the sum, five pounds, paid to him by way of 'regulars,' or customary toll,
from the plunder of services of carriage. Hollams obviously took Leamy for
a criminal friend of Wilks', because of his use of the thieves'
expressions 'sparks' and 'regulars,' and suggested, in terms which Leamy
misunderstood, that he should sell any plunder he might obtain to himself,
Hollams. Altogether it would have been very curious if the plunder were
_not_ that from Radcot Hall, especially as no other robbery had been
reported at the time.

"Now, among the jewels taken, only one was of a very pre-eminent
value--the famous ruby. It was scarcely likely that Hollams would go to so
much trouble and risk, attempting to drug, injuring, waylaying, and
burgling the rooms of the unfortunate Leamy, for a jewel of small
value--for any jewel, in fact, but the ruby. So that I felt a pretty
strong presumption, at all events, that it was the ruby Hollams was after.
Leamy had not had it, I was convinced, from his tale and his manner, and
from what I judged of the man himself. The only other person was Wilks,
and certainly he had a temptation to keep this to himself, and avoid, if
possible, sharing with his London director, or principal; while the
carriage of the bag by the Irishman gave him a capital opportunity to put
suspicion on him, with the results seen. The most daring of Hollams'
attacks on Leamy was doubtless the attempted maiming or killing at the
railway station, so as to be able, in the character of a medical man, to
search his pockets. He was probably desperate at the time, having, I have
no doubt, been following Leamy about all day at the Crystal Palace without
finding an opportunity to get at his pockets.

"The struggle and flight of Wilks from Hollams' confirmed my previous
impressions. Hollams, finally satisfied that very morning that Leamy
certainly had not the jewel, either on his person or at his lodging, and
knowing, from having so closely watched him, that he had been nowhere
where it could be disposed of, concluded that Wilks was cheating him, and
attempted to extort the ruby from him by the aid of another ruffian and a
pistol. The rest of my way was plain. Wilks, I knew, would seize the
opportunity of Hollams' being safely locked up to get at and dispose of
the ruby. I supplied him with funds and left him to lead us to his
hiding-place. He did it, and I think that's all."

"He must have walked straight away from my house to the churchyard," Sir
Valentine remarked, "to hide that pendant. That was fairly cool."

"Only a cool hand could carry out such a robbery single-handed," Hewitt
answered. "I expect his tools were in the bag that Leamy carried, as well
as the jewels. They must have been a small and neat set."

They were. We ascertained on our return to town the next day that the bag,
with all its contents intact, including the tools, had been taken by the
police at their surprise visit to No. 8 Gold Street, as well as much other
stolen property.

Hollams and Wilks each got very wholesome doses of penal servitude, to the
intense delight of Mick Leamy. Leamy himself, by the by, is still to be
seen, clad in a noble uniform, guarding the door of a well-known London
restaurant. He has not had any more five-pound notes for carrying bags,
but knows London too well now to expect it.




VI.


THE STANWAY CAMEO MYSTERY.

It is now a fair number of years back since the loss of the famous Stanway
Cameo made its sensation, and the only person who had the least interest
in keeping the real facts of the case secret has now been dead for some
time, leaving neither relatives nor other representatives. Therefore no
harm will be done in making the inner history of the case public; on the
contrary, it will afford an opportunity of vindicating the professional
reputation of Hewitt, who is supposed to have completely failed to make
anything of the mystery surrounding the case. At the present time
connoisseurs in ancient objects of art are often heard regretfully to
wonder whether the wonderful cameo, so suddenly discovered and so quickly
stolen, will ever again be visible to the public eye. Now this question
need be asked no longer.

The cameo, as may be remembered from the many descriptions published at
the time, was said to be absolutely the finest extant. It was a sardonyx
of three strata--one of those rare sardonyx cameos in which it has been
possible for the artist to avail himself of three different colors of
superimposed stone--the lowest for the ground and the two others for the
middle and high relief of the design. In size it was, for a cameo,
immense, measuring seven and a half inches by nearly six. In subject it
was similar to the renowned Gonzaga Cameo--now the property of the Czar of
Russia--a male and a female head with imperial insignia; but in this case
supposed to represent Tiberius Claudius and Messalina. Experts considered
it probably to be the work of Athenion, a famous gem-cutter of the first
Christian century, whose most notable other work now extant is a smaller
cameo, with a mythological subject, preserved in the Vatican.

The Stanway Cameo had been discovered in an obscure Italian village by one
of those traveling agents who scour all Europe for valuable antiquities
and objects of art. This man had hurried immediately to London with his
prize, and sold it to Mr. Claridge of St. James Street, eminent as a
dealer in such objects. Mr. Claridge, recognizing the importance and value
of the article, lost no opportunity of making its existence known, and
very soon the Claudius Cameo, as it was at first usually called, was as
famous as any in the world. Many experts in ancient art examined it, and
several large bids were made for its purchase.

In the end it was bought by the Marquis of Stanway for five thousand
pounds for the purpose of presentation to the British Museum. The marquis
kept the cameo at his town house for a few days, showing it to his
friends, and then returned it to Mr. Claridge to be finally and carefully
cleaned before passing into the national collection. Two nights after Mr.
Claridge's premises were broken into and the cameo stolen.

Such, in outline, was the generally known history of the Stanway Cameo.
The circumstances of the burglary in detail were these: Mr. Claridge had
himself been the last to leave the premises at about eight in the evening,
at dusk, and had locked the small side door as usual. His assistant, Mr.
Cutler, had left an hour and a half earlier. When Mr. Claridge left,
everything was in order, and the policeman on fixed-point duty just
opposite, who bade Mr. Claridge good-evening as he left, saw nothing
suspicious during the rest of his term of duty, nor did his successors at
the point throughout the night.

In the morning, however, Mr. Cutler, the assistant, who arrived first,
soon after nine o'clock, at once perceived that something unlooked-for had
happened. The door, of which he had a key, was still fastened, and had not
been touched; but in the room behind the shop Mr. Claridge's private desk
had been broken open, and the contents turned out in confusion. The door
leading on to the staircase had also been forced. Proceeding up the
stairs, Mr. Cutler found another door open, leading from the top landing
to a small room; this door had been opened by the simple expedient of
unscrewing and taking off the lock, which had been on the inside. In the
ceiling of this room was a trap-door, and this was six or eight inches
open, the edge resting on the half-wrenched-off bolt, which had been torn
away when the trap was levered open from the outside.

Plainly, then, this was the path of the thief or thieves. Entrance had
been made through the trap-door, two more doors had been opened, and then
the desk had been ransacked. Mr. Cutler afterward explained that at this
time he had no precise idea what had been stolen, and did not know where
the cameo had been left on the previous evening. Mr. Claridge had himself
undertaken the cleaning, and had been engaged on it, the assistant said,
when he left.

There was no doubt, however, after Mr. Claridge's arrival at ten
o'clock--the cameo was gone. Mr. Claridge, utterly confounded at his loss,
explained incoherently, and with curses on his own carelessness, that he
had locked the precious article in his desk on relinquishing work on it
the previous evening, feeling rather tired, and not taking the trouble to
carry it as far as the safe in another part of the house.

The police were sent for at once, of course, and every investigation made,
Mr. Claridge offering a reward of five hundred pounds for the recovery of
the cameo. The affair was scribbled off at large in the earliest editions
of the evening papers, and by noon all the world was aware of the
extraordinary theft of the Stanway Cameo, and many people were discussing
the probabilities of the case, with very indistinct ideas of what a
sardonyx cameo precisely was.

It was in the afternoon of this day that Lord Stanway called on Martin
Hewitt. The marquis was a tall, upstanding man of spare figure and active
habits, well known as a member of learned societies and a great patron of
art. He hurried into Hewitt's private room as soon as his name had been
announced, and, as soon as Hewitt had given him a chair, plunged into
business.

"Probably you already guess my business with you, Mr. Hewitt--you have
seen the early evening papers? Just so; then I needn't tell you again what
you already know. My cameo is gone, and I badly want it back. Of course
the police are hard at work at Claridge's, but I'm not quite satisfied. I
have been there myself for two or three hours, and can't see that they
know any more about it than I do myself. Then, of course, the police,
naturally and properly enough from their point of view, look first to find
the criminal, regarding the recovery of the property almost as a secondary
consideration. Now, from _my_ point of view, the chief consideration is
the property. Of course I want the thief caught, if possible, and properly
punished; but still more I want the cameo."

"Certainly it is a considerable loss. Five thousand pounds----"

"Ah, but don't misunderstand me! It isn't the monetary value of the thing
that I regret. As a matter of fact, I am indemnified for that already.
Claridge has behaved most honorably--more than honorably. Indeed, the
first intimation I had of the loss was a check from him for five thousand
pounds, with a letter assuring me that the restoration to me of the amount
I had paid was the least he could do to repair the result of what he
called his unpardonable carelessness. Legally, I'm not sure that I could
demand anything of him, unless I could prove very flagrant neglect indeed
to guard against theft."

"Then I take it, Lord Stanway," Hewitt observed, "that you much prefer the
cameo to the money?"

"Certainly. Else I should never have been willing to pay the money for the
cameo. It was an enormous price--perhaps much above the market value, even
for such a valuable thing--but I was particularly anxious that it should
not go out of the country. Our public collections here are not so
fortunate as they should be in the possession of the very finest examples
of that class of work. In short, I had determined on the cameo, and,
fortunately, happen to be able to carry out determinations of that sort
without regarding an extra thousand pounds or so as an obstacle. So that,
you see, what I want is not the value, but the thing itself. Indeed, I
don't think I can possibly keep the money Claridge has sent me; the affair
is more his misfortune than his fault. But I shall say nothing about
returning it for a little while; it may possibly have the effect of
sharpening everybody in the search."

"Just so. Do I understand that you would like me to look into the case
independently, on your behalf?"

"Exactly. I want you, if you can, to approach the matter entirely from my
point of view--your sole object being to find the cameo. Of course, if you
happen on the thief as well, so much the better. Perhaps, after all,
looking for the one is the same thing as looking for the other?"

"Not always; but usually it is, or course; even if they are not together,
they certainly _have_ been at one time, and to have one is a very long
step toward having the other. Now, to begin with, is anybody suspected?"

"Well, the police are reserved, but I believe the fact is they've nothing
to say. Claridge won't admit that he suspects any one, though he believes
that whoever it was must have watched him yesterday evening through the
back window of his room, and must have seen him put the cameo away in his
desk; because the thief would seem to have gone straight to the place. But
I half fancy that, in his inner mind, he is inclined to suspect one of two
people. You see, a robbery of this sort is different from others. That
cameo would never be stolen, I imagine, with the view of its being
sold--it is much too famous a thing; a man might as well walk about
offering to sell the Tower of London. There are only a very few people who
buy such things, and every one of them knows all about it. No dealer would
touch it; he could never even show it, much less sell it, without being
called to account. So that it really seems more likely that it has been
taken by somebody who wishes to keep it for mere love of the thing--a
collector, in fact--who would then have to keep it secretly at home, and
never let a soul besides himself see it, living in the consciousness that
at his death it must be found and this theft known; unless, indeed, an
ordinary vulgar burglar has taken it without knowing its value."

"That isn't likely," Hewitt replied. "An ordinary burglar, ignorant of its
value, wouldn't have gone straight to the cameo and have taken it in
preference to many other things of more apparent worth, which must be
lying near in such a place as Claridge's."

"True--I suppose he wouldn't. Although the police seem to think that the
breaking in is clearly the work of a regular criminal--from the
jimmy-marks, you know, and so on."

"Well, but what of the two people you think Mr. Claridge suspects?"

"Of course I can't say that he does suspect them--I only fancied from his
tone that it might be possible; he himself insists that he can't, in
justice, suspect anybody. One of these men is Hahn, the traveling agent
who sold him the cameo. This man's character does not appear to be
absolutely irreproachable; no dealer trusts him very far. Of course
Claridge doesn't say what he paid him for the cameo; these dealers are
very reticent about their profits, which I believe are as often something
like five hundred per cent as not. But it seems Hahn bargained to have
something extra, depending on the amount Claridge could sell the carving
for. According to the appointment he should have turned up this morning,
but he hasn't been seen, and nobody seems to know exactly where he is."

"Yes; and the other person?"

"Well, I scarcely like mentioning him, because he is certainly a
gentleman, and I believe, in the ordinary way, quite incapable of anything
in the least degree dishonorable; although, of course, they say a
collector has no conscience in the matter of his own particular hobby, and
certainly Mr. Wollett is as keen a collector as any man alive. He lives in
chambers in the next turning past Claridge's premises--can, in fact, look
into Claridge's back windows if he likes. He examined the cameo several
times before I bought it, and made several high offers--appeared, in fact,
very anxious indeed to get it. After I had bought it he made, I
understand, some rather strong remarks about people like myself 'spoiling
the market' by paying extravagant prices, and altogether cut up 'crusty,'
as they say, at losing the specimen." Lord Stanway paused a few seconds,
and then went on: "I'm not sure that I ought to mention Mr. Woollett's
name for a moment in connection with such a matter; I am personally
perfectly certain that he is as incapable of anything like theft as
myself. But I am telling you all I know."

"Precisely. I can't know too much in a case like this. It can do no harm
if I know all about fifty innocent people, and may save me from the risk
of knowing nothing about the thief. Now, let me see: Mr. Wollett's rooms,
you say, are near Mr. Claridge's place of business? Is there any means of
communication between the roofs?"

"Yes, I am told that it is perfectly possible to get from one place to the
other by walking along the leads."

"Very good! Then, unless you can think of any other information that may
help me, I think, Lord Stanway, I will go at once and look at the place."

"Do, by all means. I think I'll come back with you. Somehow, I don't like
to feel idle in the matter, though I suppose I can't do much. As to more
information, I don't think there is any."

"In regard to Mr. Claridge's assistant, now: Do you know anything of him?"

"Only that he has always seemed a very civil and decent sort of man.
Honest, I should say, or Claridge wouldn't have kept him so many
years--there are a good many valuable things about at Claridge's. Besides,
the man has keys of the place himself, and, even if he were a thief, he
wouldn't need to go breaking in through the roof."

"So that," said Hewitt, "we have, directly connected with this cameo,
besides yourself, these people: Mr. Claridge, the dealer; Mr. Cutler, the
assistant in Mr. Claridge's business; Hahn, who sold the article to
Claridge, and Mr. Woollett, who made bids for it. These are all?"

"All that I know of. Other gentlemen made bids, I believe, but I don't
know them."

"Take these people in their order. Mr. Claridge is out of the question, as
a dealer with a reputation to keep up would be, even if he hadn't
immediately sent you this five thousand pounds--more than the market
value, I understand, of the cameo. The assistant is a reputable man,
against whom nothing is known, who would never need to break in, and who
must understand his business well enough to know that he could never
attempt to sell the missing stone without instant detection. Hahn is a man
of shady antecedents, probably clever enough to know as well as anybody
how to dispose of such plunder--if it be possible to dispose of it at all;
also, Hahn hasn't been to Claridge's to-day, although he had an
appointment to take money. Lastly, Mr. Woollett is a gentleman of the most
honorable record, but a perfectly rabid collector, who had made every
effort to secure the cameo before you bought it; who, moreover, could have
seen Mr. Claridge working in his back room, and who has perfectly easy
access to Mr. Claridge's roof. If we find it can't be none of these, then
we must look where circumstances indicate."

There was unwonted excitement at Mr. Claridge's place when Hewitt and his
client arrived. It was a dull old building, and in the windows there was
never more show than an odd blue china vase or two, or, mayhap, a few old
silver shoe-buckles and a curious small sword. Nine men out of ten would
have passed it without a glance; but the tenth at least would probably
know it for a place famous through the world for the number and value of
the old and curious objects of art that had passed through it.

On this day two or three loiterers, having heard of the robbery, extracted
what gratification they might from staring at nothing between the railings
guarding the windows. Within, Mr. Claridge, a brisk, stout, little old
man, was talking earnestly to a burly police-inspector in uniform, and Mr.
Cutler, who had seized the opportunity to attempt amateur detective work
on his own account, was groveling perseveringly about the floor, among old
porcelain and loose pieces of armor, in the futile hope of finding any
clue that the thieves might have considerately dropped.

Mr. Claridge came forward eagerly.

"The leather case has been found, I am pleased to be able to tell you,
Lord Stanway, since you left."

"Empty, of course?"

"Unfortunately, yes. It had evidently been thrown away by the thief behind
a chimney-stack a roof or two away, where the police have found it. But it
is a clue, of course."

"Ah, then this gentleman will give me his opinion of it," Lord Stanway
said, turning to Hewitt. "This, Mr. Claridge, is Mr. Martin Hewitt, who
has been kind enough to come with me here at a moment's notice. With the
police on the one hand and Mr. Hewitt on the other we shall certainly
recover that cameo, if it is to be recovered, I think."

Mr. Claridge bowed, and beamed on Hewitt through his spectacles. "I'm very
glad Mr. Hewitt has come," he said. "Indeed, I had already decided to give
the police till this time to-morrow, and then, if they had found nothing,
to call in Mr. Hewitt myself."

Hewitt bowed in his turn, and then asked: "Will you let me see the various
breakages? I hope they have not been disturbed."

"Nothing whatever has been disturbed. Do exactly as seems best. I need
scarcely say that everything here is perfectly at your disposal. You know
all the circumstances, of course?"

"In general, yes. I suppose I am right in the belief that you have no
resident housekeeper?"

"No," Claridge replied, "I haven't. I had one housekeeper who sometimes
pawned my property in the evening, and then another who used to break my
most valuable china, till I could never sleep or take a moment's ease at
home for fear my stock was being ruined here. So I gave up resident
housekeepers. I felt some confidence in doing it because of the policeman
who is always on duty opposite."

"Can I see the broken desk?"

Mr. Claridge led the way into the room behind the shop. The desk was
really a sort of work-table, with a lifting top and a lock. The top had
been forced roughly open by some instrument which had been pushed in below
it and used as a lever, so that the catch of the lock was torn away.
Hewitt examined the damaged parts and the marks of the lever, and then
looked out at the back window.

"There are several windows about here," he remarked, "from which it might
be possible to see into this room. Do you know any of the people who live
behind them?"

"Two or three I know," Mr. Claridge answered, "but there are two
windows--the pair almost immediately before us--belonging to a room or
office which is to let. Any stranger might get in there and watch."

"Do the roofs above any of those windows communicate in any way with
yours?"

"None of those directly opposite. Those at the left do; you may walk all
the way along the leads."

"And whose windows are they?"

Mr. Claridge hesitated. "Well," he said, "they're Mr. Woollett's, an
excellent customer of mine. But he's a gentleman, and--well, I really
think it's absurd to suspect him."

"In a case like this," Hewitt answered, "one must disregard nothing but
the impossible. Somebody--whether Mr. Woollett himself or another
person--could possibly have seen into this room from those windows, and
equally possibly could have reached this room from that one. Therefore we
must not forget Mr. Woollett. Have any of your neighbors been burgled
during the night? I mean that strangers anxious to get at your trap-door
would probably have to begin by getting into some other house close by, so
as to reach your roof."

"No," Mr. Claridge replied; "there has been nothing of that sort. It was
the first thing the police ascertained."

Hewitt examined the broken door and then made his way up the stairs with
the others. The unscrewed lock of the door of the top back-room required
little examination. In the room below the trap-door was a dusty table on
which stood a chair, and at the other side of the table sat
Detective-Inspector Plummer, whom Hewitt knew very well, and who bade him
"good-day" and then went on with his docket.

"This chair and table were found as they are now, I take it?" Hewitt
asked.

"Yes," said Mr. Claridge; "the thieves, I should think, dropped in through
the trap-door, after breaking it open, and had to place this chair where
it is to be able to climb back."

Hewitt scrambled up through the trap-way and examined it from the top. The
door was hung on long external barn-door hinges, and had been forced open
in a similar manner to that practiced on the desk. A jimmy had been pushed
between the frame and the door near the bolt, and the door had been pried
open, the bolt being torn away from the screws in the operation.

Presently Inspector Plummer, having finished his docket, climbed up to the
roof after Hewitt, and the two together went to the spot, close under a
chimney-stack on the next roof but one, where the case had been found.
Plummer produced the case, which he had in his coat-tail pocket, for
Hewitt's inspection.

"I don't see anything particular about it; do you?" he said. "It shows us
the way they went, though, being found just here."

"Well, yes," Hewitt said; "if we kept on in this direction, we should be
going toward Mr. Woollett's house, and _his_ trap-door, shouldn't we!"

The inspector pursed his lips, smiled, and shrugged his shoulders. "Of
course we haven't waited till now to find that out," he said.

"No, of course. And, as you say, I didn't think there is much to be
learned from this leather case. It is almost new, and there isn't a mark
on it." And Hewitt handed it back to the inspector.

"Well," said Plummer, as he returned the case to his pocket, "what's your
opinion?"

"It's rather an awkward case."

"Yes, it is. Between ourselves--I don't mind telling you--I'm having a
sharp lookout kept over there"--Plummer jerked his head in the direction
of Mr. Woollett's chambers--"because the robbery's an unusual one. There's
only two possible motives--the sale of the cameo or the keeping of it. The
sale's out of the question, as you know; the thing's only salable to those
who would collar the thief at once, and who wouldn't have the thing in
their places now for anything. So that it must be taken to keep, and
that's a thing nobody but the maddest of collectors would do, just such
persons as--" and the inspector nodded again toward Mr. Woollett's
quarters. "Take that with the other circumstances," he added, "and I think
you'll agree it's worth while looking a little farther that way. Of course
some of the work--taking off the lock and so on--looks rather like a
regular burglar, but it's just possible that any one badly wanting the
cameo would like to hire a man who was up to the work."

"Yes, it's possible."

"Do you know anything of Hahn, the agent?" Plummer asked, a moment later.

"No, I don't. Have you found him yet?"

"I haven't yet, but I'm after him. I've found he was at Charing Cross a
day or two ago, booking a ticket for the Continent. That and his failing
to turn up to-day seem to make it worth while not to miss _him_ if we can
help it. He isn't the sort of man that lets a chance of drawing a bit of
money go for nothing."

They returned to the room. "Well," said Lord Stanway, "what's the result
of the consultation? We've been waiting here very patiently, while you two
clever men have been discussing the matter on the roof."

On the wall just beneath the trap-door a very dusty old tall hat hung on a
peg. This Hewitt took down and examined very closely, smearing his fingers
with the dust from the inside lining. "Is this one of your valuable and
crusted old antiques?" he asked, with a smile, of Mr. Claridge.

"That's only an old hat that I used to keep here for use in bad weather,"
Mr. Claridge said, with some surprise at the question. "I haven't touched
it for a year or more."

"Oh, then it couldn't have been left here by your last night's visitor,"
Hewitt replied, carelessly replacing it on the hook. "You left here at
eight last night, I think?"

"Eight exactly--or within a minute or two."

"Just so. I think I'll look at the room on the opposite side of the
landing, if you'll let me."

"Certainly, if you'd like to," Claridge replied; "but they haven't been
there--it is exactly as it was left. Only a lumber-room, you see," he
concluded, flinging the door open.

A number of partly broken-up packing-cases littered about this room, with
much other rubbish. Hewitt took the lid of one of the newest-looking
packing-cases, and glanced at the address label. Then he turned to a rusty
old iron box that stood against a wall. "I should like to see behind
this," he said, tugging at it with his hands. "It is heavy and dirty. Is
there a small crowbar about the house, or some similar lever?"

Mr. Claridge shook his head. "Haven't such a thing in the place," he said.

"Never mind," Hewitt replied, "another time will do to shift that old box,
and perhaps, after all, there's little reason for moving it. I will just
walk round to the police-station, I think, and speak to the constables who
were on duty opposite during the night. I think, Lord Stanway, I have seen
all that is necessary here."

"I suppose," asked Mr. Claridge, "it is too soon yet to ask if you have
formed any theory in the matter?"

"Well--yes, it is," Hewitt answered. "But perhaps I may be able to
surprise you in an hour or two; but that I don't promise. By the by," he
added suddenly, "I suppose you're sure the trap-door was bolted last
night?"

"Certainly," Mr. Claridge answered, smiling. "Else how could the bolt have
been broken? As a matter of fact, I believe the trap hasn't been opened
for months. Mr. Cutler, do you remember when the trap-door was last
opened?"

Mr. Cutler shook his head. "Certainly not for six months," he said.

"Ah, very well; it's not very important," Hewitt replied.

As they reached the front shop a fiery-faced old gentleman bounced in at
the street door, stumbling over an umbrella that stood in a dark corner,
and kicking it three yards away.

"What the deuce do you mean," he roared at Mr. Claridge, "by sending these
police people smelling about my rooms and asking questions of my servants?
What do you mean, sir, by treating me as a thief? Can't a gentleman come
into this place to look at an article without being suspected of stealing
it, when it disappears through your wretched carelessness? I'll ask my
solicitor, sir, if there isn't a remedy for this sort of thing. And if I
catch another of your spy fellows on my staircase, or crawling about my
roof, I'll--I'll shoot him!"

"Really, Mr. Woollett----" began Mr. Claridge, somewhat abashed, but the
angry old man would hear nothing.

"Don't talk to me, sir; you shall talk to my solicitor. And am I to
understand, my lord"--turning to Lord Stanway--"that these things are
being done with your approval?"

"Whatever is being done," Lord Stanway answered, "is being done by the
police on their own responsibility, and entirely without prompting, I
believe, by Mr. Claridge--certainly without a suggestion of any sort from
myself. I think that the personal opinion of Mr. Claridge--certainly my
own--is that anything like a suspicion of your position in this wretched
matter is ridiculous. And if you will only consider the matter calmly----"

"Consider it calmly? Imagine yourself considering such a thing calmly,
Lord Stanway. I _won't_ consider it calmly. I'll--I'll--I won't have it.
And if I find another man on my roof, I'll pitch him off!" And Mr.
Woollett bounced into the street again.

"Mr. Woollett is annoyed," Hewitt observed, with a smile. "I'm afraid
Plummer has a clumsy assistant somewhere."

Mr. Claridge said nothing, but looked rather glum, for Mr. Woollett was a
most excellent customer.

Lord Stanwood and Hewitt walked slowly down the street, Hewitt staring at
the pavement in profound thought. Once or twice Lord Stanway glanced at
his face, but refrained from disturbing him. Presently, however, he
observed: "You seem, at least, Mr. Hewitt, to have noticed something that
has set you thinking. Does it look like a clue?"

Hewitt came out of his cogitation at once. "A clue?" he said; "the case
bristles with clues. The extraordinary thing to me is that Plummer,
usually a smart man, doesn't seem to have seen one of them. He must be out
of sorts, I'm afraid. But the case is decidedly a most remarkable one."

"Remarkable in what particular way?"

"In regard to motive. Now it would seem, as Plummer was saying to me just
now on the roof, that there were only two possible motives for such a
robbery. Either the man who took all this trouble and risk to break into
Claridge's place must have desired to sell the cameo at a good price, or
he must have desired to keep it for himself, being a lover of such things.
But neither of these has been the actual motive."

"Perhaps he thinks he can extort a good sum from me by way of ransom?"

"No, it isn't that. Nor is it jealousy, nor spite, nor anything of that
kind. I know the motive, I _think_--but I wish we could get hold of Hahn.
I will shut myself up alone and turn it over in my mind for half an hour
presently."

"Meanwhile, what I want to know is, apart from all your professional
subtleties--which I confess I can't understand--can you get back the
cameo?"

"That," said Hewitt, stopping at the corner of the street, "I am rather
afraid I can not--nor anybody else. But I am pretty sure I know the
thief."

"Then surely that will lead you to the cameo?"

"It _may_, of course; but, then, it is just possible that by this evening
you may not want to have it back, after all."

Lord Stanway stared in amazement.

"Not want to have it back!" he exclaimed. "Why, of course I shall want to
have it back. I don't understand you in the least; you talk in conundrums.
Who is the thief you speak of?"

"I think, Lord Stanway," Hewitt said, "that perhaps I had better not say
until I have quite finished my inquiries, in case of mistakes. The case is
quite an extraordinary one, and of quite a different character from what
one would at first naturally imagine, and I must be very careful to guard
against the possibility of error. I have very little fear of a mistake,
however, and I hope I may wait on you in a few hours at Piccadilly with
news. I have only to see the policemen."

"Certainly, come whenever you please. But why see the policemen? They have
already most positively stated that they saw nothing whatever suspicious
in the house or near it."

"I shall not ask them anything at all about the house," Hewitt responded.
"I shall just have a little chat with them--about the weather." And with a
smiling bow he turned away, while Lord Stanway stood and gazed after him,
with an expression that implied a suspicion that his special detective was
making a fool of him.

       *       *       *       *       *

In rather more than an hour Hewitt was back in Mr. Claridge's shop. "Mr.
Claridge," he said, "I think I must ask you one or two questions in
private. May I see you in your own room?"

They went there at once, and Hewitt, pulling a chair before the window,
sat down with his back to the light. The dealer shut the door, and sat
opposite him, with the light full in his face.

"Mr. Claridge," Hewitt proceeded slowly, "_when did you first find that
Lord Stanway's cameo was a forgery_?"

Claridge literally bounced in his chair. His face paled, but he managed to
stammer sharply: "What--what--what d'you mean? Forgery? Do you mean to say
I sell forgeries? Forgery? It wasn't a forgery!"

"Then," continued Hewitt in the same deliberate tone, watching the other's
face the while, "if it wasn't a forgery, _why did you destroy it and burst
your trap-door and desk to imitate a burglary_?"

The sweat stood thick on the dealer's face, and he gasped. But he
struggled hard to keep his faculties together, and ejaculated hoarsely:
"Destroy it? What--what--I didn't--didn't destroy it!"

"Threw it into the river, then--don't prevaricate about details."

"No--no--it's a lie! Who says that? Go away! You're insulting me!"
Claridge almost screamed.

"Come, come, Mr. Claridge," Hewitt said more placably, for he had gained
his point; "don't distress yourself, and don't attempt to deceive me--you
can't, I assure you. I know everything you did before you left here last
night--everything."

Claridge's face worked painfully. Once or twice he appeared to be on the
point of returning an indignant reply, but hesitated, and finally broke
down altogether.

"Don't expose me, Mr. Hewitt!" he pleaded; "I beg you won't expose me! I
haven't harmed a soul but myself. I've paid Lord Stanway every penny back,
and I never knew the thing was a forgery till I began to clean it. I'm an
old man, Mr. Hewitt, and my professional reputation has been spotless
until now. I beg you won't expose me."

Hewitt's voice softened. "Don't make an unnecessary trouble of it," he
said. "I see a decanter on your sideboard--let me give you a little brandy
and water. Come, there's nothing criminal, I believe, in a man's breaking
open his own desk, or his own trap-door, for that matter. Of course I'm
acting for Lord Stanway in this affair, and I must, in duty, report to him
without reserve. But Lord Stanway is a gentleman, and I'll undertake he'll
do nothing inconsiderate of your feelings, if you're disposed to be frank.
Let us talk the affair over; tell me about it."

"It was that swindler Hahn who deceived me in the beginning," Claridge
said. "I have never made a mistake with a cameo before, and I never
thought so close an imitation was possible. I examined it most carefully,
and was perfectly satisfied, and many experts examined it afterward, and
were all equally deceived. I felt as sure as I possibly could feel that I
had bought one of the finest, if not actually the finest, cameos known to
exist. It was not until after it had come back from Lord Stanway's, and I
was cleaning it the evening before last, that in course of my work it
became apparent that the thing was nothing but a consummately clever
forgery. It was made of three layers of molded glass, nothing more nor
less. But the glass was treated in a way I had never before known of, and
the surface had been cunningly worked on till it defied any ordinary
examination. Some of the glass imitation cameos made in the latter part of
the last century, I may tell you, are regarded as marvelous pieces of
work, and, indeed, command very fair prices, but this was something quite
beyond any of those.

"I was amazed and horrified. I put the thing away and went home. All that
night I lay awake in a state of distraction, quite unable to decide what
to do. To let the cameo go out of my possession was impossible. Sooner or
later the forgery would be discovered, and my reputation--the highest in
these matters in this country, I may safely claim, and the growth of
nearly fifty years of honest application and good judgment--this
reputation would be gone forever. But without considering this, there was
the fact that I had taken five thousand pounds of Lord Stanway's money for
a mere piece of glass, and that money I must, in mere common honesty as
well as for my own sake, return. But how? The name of the Stanway Cameo
had become a household word, and to confess that the whole thing was a
sham would ruin my reputation and destroy all confidence--past, present,
and future--in me and in my transactions. Either way spelled ruin. Even if
I confided in Lord Stanway privately, returned his money, and destroyed
the cameo, what then? The sudden disappearance of an article so famous
would excite remark at once. It had been presented to the British Museum,
and if it never appeared in that collection, and no news were to be got of
it, people would guess at the truth at once. To make it known that I
myself had been deceived would have availed nothing. It is my business
_not_ to be deceived; and to have it known that my most expensive
specimens might be forgeries would equally mean ruin, whether I sold them
cunningly as a rogue or ignorantly as a fool. Indeed, my pride, my
reputation as a connoisseur, is a thing near to my heart, and it would be
an unspeakable humiliation to me to have it known that I had been imposed
on by such a forgery. What could I do? Every expedient seemed useless but
one--the one I adopted. It was not straightforward, I admit; but, oh! Mr.
Hewitt, consider the temptation--and remember that it couldn't do a soul
any harm. No matter who might be suspected, I knew there could not
possibly be evidence to make them suffer. All the next day--yesterday--I
was anxiously worrying out the thing in my mind and carefully devising
the--the trick, I'm afraid you'll call it, that you by some extraordinary
means have seen through. It seemed the only thing--what else was there?
More I needn't tell you; you know it. I have only now to beg that you will
use your best influence with Lord Stanway to save me from public derision
and exposure. I will do anything---pay anything--anything but exposure, at
my age, and with my position."

"Well, you see," Hewitt replied thoughtfully, "I've no doubt Lord Stanway
will show you every consideration, and certainly I will do what I can to
save you in the circumstances; though you must remember that you _have_
done some harm--you have caused suspicions to rest on at least one honest
man. But as to reputation, I've a professional reputation of my own. If I
help to conceal your professional failure, I shall appear to have failed
in _my_ part of the business."

"But the cases are different, Mr. Hewitt. Consider. You are not
expected--it would be impossible--to succeed invariably; and there are
only two or three who know you have looked into the case. Then your other
conspicuous successes----"

"Well, well, we shall see. One thing I don't know, though--whether you
climbed out of a window to break open the trap-door, or whether you got up
through the trap-door itself and pulled the bolt with a string through the
jamb, so as to bolt it after you."

"There was no available window. I used the string, as you say. My poor
little cunning must seem very transparent to you, I fear. I spent hours of
thought over the question of the trap-door--how to break it open so as to
leave a genuine appearance, and especially how to bolt it inside after I
had reached the roof. I thought I had succeeded beyond the possibility of
suspicion; how you penetrated the device surpasses my comprehension. How,
to begin with, could you possibly know that the cameo was a forgery? Did
you ever see it?"

"Never. And, if I had seen it, I fear I should never have been able to
express an opinion on it; I'm not a connoisseur. As a matter of fact, I
_didn't_ know that the thing was a forgery in the first place; what I knew
in the first place was that it was _you_ who had broken into the house. It
was from that that I arrived at the conclusion, after a certain amount of
thought, that the cameo must have been forged. Gain was out of the
question. You, beyond all men, could never sell the Stanway Cameo again,
and, besides, you had paid back Lord Stanway's money. I knew enough of
your reputation to know that you would never incur the scandal of a great
theft at your place for the sake of getting the cameo for yourself, when
you might have kept it in the beginning, with no trouble and mystery.
Consequently I had to look for another motive, and at first another motive
seemed an impossibility. Why should you wish to take all this trouble to
lose five thousand pounds? You had nothing to gain; perhaps you had
something to save--your professional reputation, for instance. Looking at
it so, it was plain that you were _suppressing_ the cameo--burking it;
since, once taken as you had taken it, it could never come to light again.
That suggested the solution of the mystery at once--you had discovered,
after the sale, that the cameo was not genuine."

"Yes, yes--I see; but you say you began with the knowledge that I broke
into the place myself. How did you know that? I can not imagine a
trace----"

"My dear sir, you left traces everywhere. In the first place, it struck me
as curious, before I came here, that you had sent off that check for five
thousand pounds to Lord Stanway an hour or so after the robbery was
discovered; it looked so much as though you were sure of the cameo never
coming back, and were in a hurry to avert suspicion. Of course I
understood that, so far as I then knew the case, you were the most
unlikely person in the world, and that your eagerness to repay Lord
Stanway might be the most creditable thing possible. But the point was
worth remembering, and I remembered it.

"When I came here, I saw suspicious indications in many directions, but
the conclusive piece of evidence was that old hat hanging below the
trap-door."

"But I never touched it; I assure you, Mr. Hewitt, I never touched the
hat; haven't touched it for months----"

"Of course. If you _had_ touched it, I might never have got the clue. But
we'll deal with the hat presently; that wasn't what struck me at first.
The trap-door first took my attention. Consider, now: Here was a
trap-door, most insecurely hung on _external_ hinges; the burglar had a
screwdriver, for he took off the door-lock below with it. Why, then,
didn't he take this trap off by the hinges, instead of making a noise and
taking longer time and trouble to burst the bolt from its fastenings? And
why, if he were a stranger, was he able to plant his jimmy from the
outside just exactly opposite the interior bolt? There was only one mark
on the frame, and that precisely in the proper place.

"After that I saw the leather case. It had not been thrown away, or some
corner would have shown signs of the fall. It had been put down carefully
where it was found. These things, however, were of small importance
compared with the hat. The hat, as you know, was exceedingly thick with
dust--the accumulation of months. But, on the top side, presented toward
the trap-door, were a score or so of _raindrop marks_. That was all. They
were new marks, for there was no dust over them; they had merely had time
to dry and cake the dust they had fallen on. _Now, there had been no rain
since a sharp shower just after seven o'clock last night_. At that time
you, by your own statement, were in the place. You left at eight, and the
rain was all over at ten minutes or a quarter past seven. The trap-door,
you also told me, had not been opened for months. The thing was plain.
You, or somebody who was here when you were, had opened that trap-door
during, or just before, that shower. I said little then, but went, as soon
as I had left, to the police-station. There I made perfectly certain that
there had been no rain during the night by questioning the policemen who
were on duty outside all the time. There had been none. I knew everything.

"The only other evidence there was pointed with all the rest. There were
no rain-marks on the leather case; it had been put on the roof as an
after-thought when there was no rain. A very poor after-thought, let me
tell you, for no thief would throw away a useful case that concealed his
booty and protected it from breakage, and throw it away just so as to
leave a clue as to what direction he had gone in. I also saw, in the
lumber-room, a number of packing-cases--one with a label dated two days
back--which had been opened with an iron lever; and yet, when I made an
excuse to ask for it, you said there was no such thing in the place.
Inference, you didn't want me to compare it with the marks on the desks
and doors. That is all, I think."

Mr. Claridge looked dolorously down at the floor. "I'm afraid," he said,
"that I took an unsuitable role when I undertook to rely on my wits to
deceive men like you. I thought there wasn't a single vulnerable spot in
my defense, but you walk calmly through it at the first attempt. Why did I
never think of those raindrops?"

"Come," said Hewitt, with a smile, "that sounds unrepentant. I am going,
now, to Lord Stanway's. If I were you, I think I should apologize to Mr.
Woollett in some way."

Lord Stanway, who, in the hour or two of reflection left him after parting
with Hewitt, had come to the belief that he had employed a man whose mind
was not always in order, received Hewitt's story with natural
astonishment. For some time he was in doubt as to whether he would be
doing right in acquiescing in anything but a straightforward public
statement of the facts connected with the disappearance of the cameo, but
in the end was persuaded to let the affair drop, on receiving an assurance
from Mr. Woollett that he unreservedly accepted the apology offered him by
Mr. Claridge.

As for the latter, he was at least sufficiently punished in loss of money
and personal humiliation for his escapade. But the bitterest and last blow
he sustained when the unblushing Hahn walked smilingly into his office two
days later to demand the extra payment agreed on in consideration of the
sale. He had been called suddenly away, he exclaimed, on the day he should
have come, and hoped his missing the appointment had occasioned no
inconvenience. As to the robbery of the cameo, of course he was very
sorry, but "pishness was pishness," and he would be glad of a check for
the sum agreed on. And the unhappy Claridge was obliged to pay it, knowing
that the man had swindled him, but unable to open his mouth to say so.

The reward remained on offer for a long time; indeed, it was never
publicly withdrawn, I believe, even at the time of Claridge's death. And
several intelligent newspapers enlarged upon the fact that an ordinary
burglar had completely baffled and defeated the boasted acumen of Mr.
Martin Hewitt, the well-known private detective.




VII.


THE AFFAIR OF THE TORTOISE.

Very often Hewitt was tempted, by the fascination of some particularly odd
case, to neglect his other affairs to follow up a matter that from a
business point of view was of little or no value to him. As a rule, he had
a sufficient regard for his own interests to resist such temptations, but
in one curious case, at least, I believe he allowed it largely to
influence him. It was certainly an extremely odd case--one of those
affairs that, coming to light at intervals, but more often remaining
unheard of by the general public, convince one that, after all, there is
very little extravagance about Mr. R.L. Stevenson's bizarre imaginings of
doings in London in his "New Arabian Nights." "There is nothing in this
world that is at all possible," I have often heard Martin Hewitt say,
"that has not happened or is not happening in London." Certainly he had
opportunities of knowing.

The case I have referred to occurred some time before my own acquaintance
with him began--in 1878, in fact. He had called one Monday morning at an
office in regard to something connected with one of those uninteresting,
though often difficult, cases which formed, perhaps, the bulk of his
practice, when he was informed of a most mysterious murder that had taken
place in another part of the same building on the previous Saturday
afternoon. Owing to the circumstances of the case, only the vaguest
account had appeared in the morning papers, and even this, as it chanced,
Hewitt had not read.

The building was one of a new row in a partly rebuilt street near the
National Gallery. The whole row had been built by a speculator for the
purpose of letting out in flats, suites of chambers, and in one or two
cases, on the ground floors, offices. The rooms had let very well, and to
desirable tenants, as a rule. The least satisfactory tenant, the
proprietor reluctantly admitted, was a Mr. Rameau, a negro gentleman,
single, who had three rooms on the top floor but one of the particular
building that Hewitt was visiting. His rent was paid regularly, but his
behavior had produced complaints from other tenants. He got uproariously
drunk, and screamed and howled in unknown tongues. He fell asleep on the
staircase, and ladies were afraid to pass. He bawled rough chaff down the
stairs and along the corridors at butcher-boys and messengers, and played
on errand-boys brutal practical jokes that ended in police-court
summonses. He once had a way of sliding down the balusters, shouting: "Ho!
ho! ho! yah!" as he went, but as he was a big, heavy man, and the
balusters had been built for different treatment, he had very soon and
very firmly been requested to stop it. He had plenty of money, and spent
it freely; but it was generally felt that there was too much of the
light-hearted savage about him to fit him to live among quiet people.

How much longer the landlord would have stood this sort of thing, Hewitt's
informant said, was a matter of conjecture, for on the Saturday afternoon
in question the tenancy had come to a startling full-stop. Rameau had been
murdered in his room, and the body had, in the most unaccountable fashion,
been secretly removed from the premises.

The strongest possible suspicion pointed to a man who had been employed in
shoveling and carrying coals, cleaning windows, and chopping wood for
several of the buildings, and who had left that very Saturday. The crime
had, in fact, been committed with this man's chopper, and the man himself
had been heard, again and again, to threaten Ramean, who, in his brutal
fashion, had made a butt of him. This man was a Frenchman, Victor Goujon
by name, who had lost his employment as a watchmaker by reason of an
injury to his right hand, which destroyed its steadiness, and so he had
fallen upon evil days and odd jobs.

He was a little man of no great strength, but extraordinarily excitable,
and the coarse gibes and horse-play of the big negro drove him almost to
madness. Rameau would often, after some more than ordinarily outrageous
attack, contemptuously fling Goujon a shilling, which the little
Frenchman, although wanting a shilling badly enough, would hurl back in
his face, almost weeping with impotent rage. "Pig! _Canaille_!" he would
scream. "Dirty pig of Africa! Take your sheelin' to vere you 'ave stole
it! _Voleur_! Pig!"

There was a tortoise living in the basement, of which Goujon had made
rather a pet, and the negro would sometimes use this animal as a missile,
flinging it at the little Frenchman's head. On one such occasion the
tortoise struck the wall so forcibly as to break its shell, and then
Goujon seized a shovel and rushed at his tormentor with such blind fury
that the latter made a bolt of it. These were but a few of the passages
between Rameau and the fuel-porter, but they illustrate the state of
feeling between them.

Goujon, after correspondence with a relative in France who offered him
work, gave notice to leave, which expired on the day of the crime. At
about three that afternoon a housemaid, proceeding toward Rameau's rooms,
met Goujon as he was going away. Goujon bade her good-by, and, pointing in
the direction of Rameau's rooms, said exultantly: "Dere shall be no more
of the black pig for me; vit 'im I 'ave done for. Zut! I mock me of 'im!
'E vill never _tracasser_ me no more." And he went away.

The girl went to the outer door of Rameau's rooms, knocked, and got no
reply. Concluding that the tenant was out, she was about to use her keys,
when she found that the door was unlocked. She passed through the lobby
and into the sitting-room, and there fell in a dead faint at the sight
that met her eyes. Rameau lay with his back across the sofa and his
head--drooping within an inch of the ground. On the head was a fearful
gash, and below it was a pool of blood.

The girl must have lain unconscious for about ten minutes. When she came
to her senses, she dragged herself, terrified, from the room and up to the
housekeeper's apartments, where, being an excitable and nervous creature,
she only screamed "Murder!" and immediately fell in a fit of hysterics
that lasted three-quarters of an hour. When at last she came to herself,
she told her story, and, the hall-porter having been summoned, Rameau's
rooms were again approached.

The blood still lay on the floor, and the chopper, with which the crime
had evidently been committed, rested against the fender; but the body had
vanished! A search was at once made, but no trace of it could be seen
anywhere. It seemed impossible that it could have been carried out of the
building, for the hall-porter must at once have noticed anybody leaving
with so bulky a burden. Still, in the building it was not to be found.

When Hewitt was informed of these things on Monday, the police were, of
course, still in possession of Rameau's rooms. Inspector Nettings, Hewitt
was told, was in charge of the case, and as the inspector was an
acquaintance of his, and was then in the rooms upstairs, Hewitt went up to
see him.

Nettings was pleased to see Hewitt, and invited him to look around the
rooms. "Perhaps you can spot something we have overlooked," he said.
"Though it's not a case there can be much doubt about."

"You think it's Goujon, don't you?"

"Think? Well, rather! Look here! As soon as we got here on Saturday, we
found this piece of paper and pin on the floor. We showed it to the
housemaid, and then she remembered--she was too much upset to think of it
before--that when she was in the room the paper was laying on the dead
man's chest--pinned there, evidently. It must have dropped off when they
removed the body. It's a case of half-mad revenge on Goujon's part,
plainly. See it; you read French, don't you?"

The paper was a plain, large half-sheet of note-paper, on which a sentence
in French was scrawled in red ink in a large, clumsy hand, thus:

  _puni par un vengeur de la tortue_.

"_Puni par un vengeur de la tortue_," Hewitt repeated musingly. "'Punished
by an avenger of the tortoise,' That seems odd."

"Well, rather odd. But you understand the reference, of course. Have they
told you about Rameau's treatment of Goujon's pet tortoise?"

"I think it was mentioned among his other pranks. But this is an extreme
revenge for a thing of that sort, and a queer way of announcing it."

"Oh, he's mad--mad with Rameau's continual ragging and baiting," Nettings
answered. "Anyway, this is a plain indication--plain as though he'd left
his own signature. Besides, it's in his own language--French. And there's
his chopper, too."

"Speaking of signatures," Hewitt remarked, "perhaps you have already
compared this with other specimens of Goujon's writing?"

"I did think of it, but they don't seem to have a specimen to hand, and,
anyway, it doesn't seem very important. There's 'avenger of the tortoise'
plain enough, in the man's own language, and that tells everything.
Besides, handwritings are easily disguised."

"Have you got Goujon?"

"Well, no; we haven't. There seems to be some little difficulty about
that. But I expect to have him by this time to-morrow. Here comes Mr.
Styles, the landlord."

Mr. Styles was a thin, querulous, and withered-looking little man, who
twitched his eyebrows as he spoke, and spoke in short, jerky phrases.

"No news, eh, inspector, eh? eh? Found out nothing else, eh? Terrible
thing for my property--terrible! Who's your friend?"

Nettings introduced Hewitt.

"Shocking thing this, eh, Mr. Hewitt? Terrible! Comes of having anything
to do with these blood-thirsty foreigners, eh? New buildings and
all--character ruined. No one come to live here now, eh? Tenants--noisy
niggers--murdered by my own servants--terrible! _You_ formed any opinion,
eh?"

"I dare say I might if I went into the case."

"Yes, yes--same opinion as inspector's, eh? I mean an opinion of your
own?" The old man scrutinized Hewitt's face sharply.

"If you'd like me to look into the matter----" Hewitt began.

"Eh? Oh, look into it! Well, I can't commission you, you know--matter for
the police. Mischief's done. Police doing very well, I think--must be
Goujon. But look about the place, certainly, if you like. If you see
anything likely to serve _my_ interests, tell me, and--and--perhaps I'll
employ you, eh, eh? Good-afternoon."

The landlord vanished, and the inspector laughed. "Likes to see what he's
buying, does Mr. Styles," he said.

Hewitt's first impulse was to walk out of the place at once. But his
interest in the case had been roused, and he determined, at any rate, to
examine the rooms, and this he did very minutely. By the side of the lobby
was a bath-room, and in this was fitted a tip-up wash-basin, which Hewitt
inspected with particular attention. Then he called the housekeeper, and
made inquiries about Rameau's clothes and linen. The housekeeper could
give no idea of how many overcoats or how much linen he had had. He had
all a negro's love of display, and was continually buying new clothes,
which, indeed, were lying, hanging, littering, and choking up the bedroom
in all directions. The housekeeper, however, on Hewitt's inquiring after
such a garment in particular, did remember one heavy black ulster, which
Rameau had very rarely worn--only in the coldest weather.

"After the body was discovered," Hewitt asked the housekeeper, "was any
stranger observed about the place--whether carrying anything or not?"

"No, sir," the housekeeper replied. "There's been particular inquiries
about that. Of course, after we knew what was wrong and the body was gone,
nobody was seen, or he'd have been stopped. But the hall-porter says he's
certain no stranger came or went for half an hour or more before that--the
time about when the housemaid saw the body and fainted."

At this moment a clerk from the landlord's office arrived and handed
Nettings a paper. "Here you are," said Nettings to Hewitt; "they've found
a specimen of Goujon's handwriting at last, if you'd like to see it. I
don't want it; I'm not a graphologist, and the case is clear enough for me
anyway."

Hewitt took the paper. "This" he said, "is a different sort of handwriting
from that on the paper. The red-ink note about the avenger of the tortoise
is in a crude, large, clumsy, untaught style of writing. This is small,
neat, and well formed--except that it is a trifle shaky, probably because
of the hand injury."

"That's nothing," contended Nettings. "handwriting clues are worse than
useless, as a rule. It's so easy to disguise and imitate writing; and
besides, if Goujon is such a good penman as you seem to say, why, he could
all the easier alter his style. Say now yourself, can any fiddling
question of handwriting get over this thing about 'avenging the
tortoise'--practically a written confession--to say nothing of the
chopper, and what he said to the housemaid as he left?"

"Well," said Hewitt, "perhaps not; but we'll see. Meantime"--turning to
the landlord's clerk--"possibly you will be good enough to tell me one or
two things. First, what was Goujon's character?"

"Excellent, as far as we know. We never had a complaint about him except
for little matters of carelessness--leaving coal-scuttles on the
staircases for people to fall over, losing shovels, and so on. He was
certainly a bit careless, but, as far as we could see, quite a decent
little fellow. One would never have thought him capable of committing
murder for the sake of a tortoise, though he was rather fond of the
animal."

"The tortoise is dead now, I understand?"

"Yes."

"Have you a lift in this building?"

"Only for coals and heavy parcels. Goujon used to work it, sometimes going
up and down in it himself with coals, and so on; it goes into the
basement."

"And are the coals kept under this building?"

"No. The store for the whole row is under the next two houses--the
basements communicate."

"Do you know Rameau's other name?"

"Cesar Rameau he signed in our agreement."

"Did he ever mention his relations?"

"No. That is to say, he did say something one day when he was very drunk;
but, of course, it was all rot. Some one told him not to make such a
row--he was a beastly tenant--and he said he was the best man in the
place, and his brother was Prime Minister, and all sorts of things. Mere
drunken rant! I never heard of his saying anything sensible about
relations. We know nothing of his connections; he came here on a banker's
reference."

"Thanks. I think that's all I want to ask. You notice," Hewitt proceeded,
turning to Nettings, "the only ink in this place is scented and violet, and
the only paper is tinted and scented, too, with a monogram--characteristic
of a negro with money. The paper that was pinned on Rameau's breast is
in red ink on common and rather grubby paper, therefore it was written
somewhere else and brought here. Inference, premeditation."

"Yes, yes. But are you an inch nearer with all these speculations? Can you
get nearer than I am now without them?"

"Well, perhaps not," Hewitt replied. "I don't profess at this moment to
know the criminal; you do. I'll concede you that point for the present.
But you don't offer an opinion as to who removed Rameau's body--which I
think I know."

"Who was it, then?"

"Come, try and guess that yourself. It wasn't Goujon; I don't mind letting
you know that. But it was a person quite within your knowledge of the
case. You've mentioned the person's name more than once."

Nettings stared blankly. "I don't understand you in the least," he said.
"But, of course, you mean that this mysterious person you speak of as
having moved the body committed the murder?"

"No, I don't. Nobody could have been more innocent of that."

"Well," Nettings concluded with resignation, "I'm afraid one of us is
rather thick-headed. What will you do?"

"Interview the person who took away the body," Hewitt replied, with a
smile.

"But, man alive, why? Why bother about the person if it isn't the
criminal?"

"Never mind--never mind; probably the person will be a most valuable
witness."

"Do you mean you think this person--whoever it is--saw the crime?"

"I think it very probable indeed."

"Well, I won't ask you any more. I shall get hold of Goujon; that's simple
and direct enough for me. I prefer to deal with the heart of the case--the
murder itself--when there's such clear evidence as I have."

"I shall look a little into that, too, perhaps," Hewitt said, "and, if you
like, I'll tell you the first thing I shall do."

"What's that?"

"I shall have a good look at a map of the West Indies, and I advise you to
do the same. Good-morning."

Nettings stared down the corridor after Hewitt, and continued staring for
nearly two minutes after he had disappeared. Then he said to the clerk,
who had remained: "What was he talking about?"

"Don't know," replied the clerk. "Couldn't make head nor tail of it."

"I don't believe there _is_ a head to it," declared Nettings; "nor a tail
either. He's kidding us."

       *       *       *       *       *

Nettings was better than his word, for within two hours of his
conversation with Hewitt, Goujon was captured and safe in a cab bound for
Bow Street. He had been stopped at Newhaven in the morning on his way to
Dieppe, and was brought back to London. But now Nettings met a check.

Late that afternoon he called on Hewitt to explain matters. "We've got
Goujon," he said, gloomily, "but there's a difficulty. He's got two
friends who can swear an _alibi_. Rameau was seen alive at half-past one
on Saturday, and the girl found him dead about three. Now, Goujon's two
friends, it seems, were with him from one o'clock till four in the
afternoon, with the exception of five minutes when the girl saw him, and
then he left them to take a key or something to the housekeeper before
finally leaving. They were waiting on the landing below when Goujon spoke
to the housemaid, heard him speaking, and had seen him go all the way up
to the housekeeper's room and back, as they looked up the wide well of the
staircase. They are men employed near the place, and seem to have good
characters. But perhaps we shall find something unfavorable about them.
They were drinking with Goujon, it seems, by way of 'seeing him off.'"

"Well," Hewitt said, "I scarcely think you need trouble to damage these
men's characters. They are probably telling the truth. Come, now, be
plain. You've come here to get a hint as to whether my theory of the case
helps you, haven't you?"

"Well, if you can give me a friendly hint, although, of course, I may be
right, after all. Still, I wish you'd explain a bit as to what you meant
by looking at a map and all that mystery. Nice thing for me to be taking a
lesson in my own business after all these years! But perhaps I deserve
it."

"See, now," quoth Hewitt, "you remember what map I told you to look at?"

"The West Indies."

"Right! Well, here you are." Hewitt reached an atlas from his book-shelf.
"Now, look here: the biggest island of the lot on this map, barring Cuba,
is Hayti. You know as well as I do that the western part of that island is
peopled by the black republic of Hayti, and that the country is in a
degenerate state of almost unexampled savagery, with a ridiculous show of
civilization. There are revolutions all the time; the South American
republics are peaceful and prosperous compared to Hayti. The state of the
country is simply awful--read Sir Spenser St. John's book on it. President
after president of the vilest sort forces his way to power and commits the
most horrible and bloodthirsty excesses, murdering his opponents by the
hundred and seizing their property for himself and his satellites, who are
usually as bad, if not worse, than the president himself. Whole
families--men, women, and children--are murdered at the instance of these
ruffians, and, as a consequence, the most deadly feuds spring up, and the
presidents and their followers are always themselves in danger of
reprisals from others. Perhaps the very worst of these presidents in
recent times has been the notorious Domingue, who was overthrown by an
insurrection, as they all are sooner or later, and compelled to fly the
country. Domingue and his nephews, one of whom was Chief Minister, while
in power committed the cruellest bloodshed, and many members of the
opposite party sought refuge in a small island lying just to the north of
Hayti, but were sought out there and almost exterminated. Now, I will show
you that island on the map. What is its name?"

"Tortuga."

"It is. 'Tortuga,' however, is only the old Spanish name; the Haytians
speak French--Creole French. Here is a French atlas: now see the name of
that island."

"La Tortue!"

"La Tortue it is--the tortoise. Tortuga means the same thing in Spanish.
But that island is always spoken of in Hayti as La Tortue. Now, do you see
the drift of that paper pinned to Rameau's breast?"

"Punished by an avenger of--or from--the tortoise or La Tortue--clear
enough. It would seem that the dead man had something to do with the
massacre there, and somebody from the island is avenging it. The thing's
most extraordinary."

"And now listen. The name of Domingue's nephew, who was Chief Minister,
was _Septimus Rameau_."

"And this was Cesar Rameau--his brother, probably. I see. Well, this _is_
a case."

"I think the relationship probable. Now you understand why I was inclined
to doubt that Goujon was the man you wanted."

"Of course, of course! And now I suppose I must try to get a nigger--the
chap who wrote that paper. I wish he hadn't been such an ignorant nigger.
If he'd only have put the capitals to the words 'La Tortue,' I might have
thought a little more about them, instead of taking it for granted that
they meant that wretched tortoise in the basement of the house. Well, I've
made a fool of a start, but I'll be after that nigger now."

"And I, as I said before," said Hewitt, "shall be after the person that
carried off Rameau's body. I have had something else to do this afternoon,
or I should have begun already."

"You said you thought he saw the crime. How did you judge that?"

Hewitt smiled. "I think I'll keep that little secret to myself for the
present," he said. "You shall know soon."

"Very well," Nettings replied, with resignation. "I suppose I mustn't
grumble if you don't tell me everything. I feel too great a fool
altogether over this case to see any farther than you show me." And
Inspector Nettings left on his search; while Martin Hewitt, as soon as he
was alone, laughed joyously and slapped his thigh.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a cab-rank and shelter at the end of the street where Mr.
Styles' building stood, and early that evening a man approached it and
hailed the cabmen and the waterman. Any one would have known the new-comer
at once for a cabman taking a holiday. The brim of the hat, the bird's-eye
neckerchief, the immense coat-buttons, and, more than all, the rolling
walk and the wrinkled trousers, marked him out distinctly.

"Watcheer!" he exclaimed, affably, with the self-possessed nod only
possible to cabbies and 'busmen. "I'm a-lookin' for a bilker. I'm told one
o' the blokes off this rank carried 'im last Saturday, and I want to know
where he went. I ain't 'ad a chance o' gettin' 'is address yet. Took a cab
just as it got dark, I'm told. Tallish chap, muffled up a lot, in a long
black overcoat. Any of ye seen 'im?"

The cabbies looked at one another and shook their heads; it chanced that
none of them had been on that particular rank at that time. But the
waterman said: "'Old on--I bet 'e's the bloke wot old Bill Stammers took.
Yorkey was fust on the rank, but the bloke wouldn't 'ave a 'ansom--wanted
a four-wheeler, so old Bill took 'im. Biggish chap in a long black coat,
collar up an' muffled thick; soft wide-awake 'at, pulled over 'is eyes;
and he was in a 'urry, too. Jumped in sharp as a weasel."

"Didn't see 'is face, did ye?"

"No--not an inch of it; too much muffled. Couldn't tell if he 'ad a face."

"Was his arm in a sling?"

"Ay, it looked so. Had it stuffed through the breast of his coat, like as
though there might be a sling inside."

"That's 'im. Any of ye tell me where I might run across old Bill Stammers?
He'll tell me where my precious bilker went to."

As to this there was plenty of information, and in five minutes Martin
Hewitt, who had become an unoccupied cabman for the occasion, was on his
way to find old Bill Stammers. That respectable old man gave him full
particulars as to the place in the East End where he had driven his
muffled fare on Saturday, and Hewitt then begun an eighteen, or twenty
hours' search beyond Whitechapel.

       *       *       *       *       *

At about three on Tuesday afternoon, as Nettings was in the act of leaving
Bow Street Police Station, Hewitt drove up in a four-wheeler. Some
prisoner appeared to be crouching low in the vehicle, but, leaving him to
take care of himself, Hewitt hurried into the station and shook Nettings
by the hand. "Well," he said, "have you got the murderer of Rameau yet?"

"No," Nettings growled. "Unless--well, Goujon's under remand still, and,
after all, I've been thinking that he may know something----"

"Pooh, nonsense!" Hewitt answered. "You'd better let him go. Now, I _have_
got somebody." Hewitt laughed and slapped the inspector's shoulder. "I've
got the man who carried Rameau's body away!"

"The deuce you have! Where? Bring him in. We must have him----"

"All right, don't be in a hurry; he won't bolt." And Hewitt stepped out to
the cab and produced his prisoner, who, pulling his hat farther over his
eyes, hurried furtively into the station. One hand was stowed in the
breast of his long coat, and below the wide brim of his hat a small piece
of white bandage could be seen; and, as he lifted his face, it was seen to
be that of a negro.

"Inspector Nettings," Hewitt said ceremoniously, "allow me to introduce
Mr. Cesar Rameau!"

Netting's gasped.

"What!" he at length ejaculated. "What! You--you're Rameau?"

The negro looked round nervously, and shrank farther from the door.

"Yes," he said; "but please not so loud--please not loud. Zey may be near,
and I'm 'fraid."

"You will certify, will you not," asked Hewitt, with malicious glee, "not
only that you were not murdered last Saturday by Victor Goujon, but that,
in fact, you were not murdered at all? Also, that you carried your own
body away in the usual fashion, on your own legs."

"Yes, yes," responded Rameau, looking haggardly about; "but is not
zis--zis room publique? I should not be seen."

"Nonsense!" replied Hewitt rather testily; "you exaggerate your danger and
your own importance, and your enemies' abilities as well. You're safe
enough."

"I suppose, then," Nettings remarked slowly, like a man on whose mind
something vast was beginning to dawn, "I suppose--why, hang it, you must
have just got up while that fool of a girl was screaming and fainting
upstairs, and walked out. They say there's nothing so hard as a nigger's
skull, and yours has certainly made a fool of me. But, then, _somebody_
must have chopped you over the head; who was it?"

"My enemies--my great enemies--enemies politique. I am a great man"--this
with a faint revival of vanity amid his fear--"a great man in my countree.
Zey have great secret club-sieties to kill me--me and my fren's; and one
enemy coming in my rooms does zis--one, two"--he indicated wrist and
head--"wiz a choppa."

Rameau made the case plain to Nettings, so far as the actual circumstances
of the assault on himself were concerned. A negro whom he had noticed near
the place more than once during the previous day or two had attacked him
suddenly in his rooms, dealing him two savage blows with a chopper. The
first he had caught on his wrist, which was seriously damaged, as well as
excruciatingly painful, but the second had taken effect on his head. His
assailant had evidently gone away then, leaving him for dead; but, as a
matter of fact, he was only stunned by the shock, and had, thanks to the
adamantine thickness of the negro skull and the ill-direction of the
chopper, only a very bad scalp-wound, the bone being no more than grazed.
He had lain insensible for some time, and must have come to his senses
soon after the housemaid had left the room. Terrified at the knowledge
that his enemies had found him out, his only thought was to get away and
hide himself. He hastily washed and tied up his head, enveloped himself in
the biggest coat he could find, and let himself down into the basement by
the coal-lift, for fear of observation. He waited in the basement of one
of the adjoining buildings till dark and then got away in a cab, with the
idea of hiding himself in the East End. He had had very little money with
him on his flight, and it was by reason of this circumstance that Hewitt,
when he found him, had prevailed on him to leave his hiding-place, since
it would be impossible for him to touch any of the large sums of money in
the keeping of his bank so long as he was supposed to be dead. With much
difficulty, and the promise of ample police protection, he was at last
convinced that it would be safe to declare himself and get his property,
and then run away and hide wherever he pleased.

Nettings and Hewitt strolled off together for a few minutes and chatted,
leaving the wretched Rameau to cower in a corner among several policemen.

"Well, Mr. Hewitt," Nettings said, "this case has certainly been a
shocking beating for me. I must have been as blind as a bat when I started
on it. And yet I don't see that you had a deal to go on, even now. What
struck you first?"

"Well, in the beginning it seemed rather odd to me that the body should
have been taken away, as I had been told it was, after the written paper
had been pinned on it. Why should the murderer pin a label on the body of
his victim if he meant carrying that body away? Who would read the label
and learn of the nature of the revenge gratified? Plainly, that indicated
that the person who had carried away the body was _not_ the person who had
committed the murder. But as soon as I began to examine the place I saw
the probability that there was no murder, after all. There were any number
of indications of this fact, and I can't understand your not observing
them. First, although there was a good deal of blood on the floor just
below where the housemaid had seen Rameau lying, there was none between
that place and the door. Now, if the body had been dragged, or even
carried, to the door, blood must have become smeared about the floor, or
at least there would have been drops, but there were none, and this seemed
to hint that the corpse might have come to itself, sat up on the sofa,
stanched the wound, and walked out. I reflected at once that Rameau was a
full-blooded negro, and that a negro's head is very nearly invulnerable to
anything short of bullets. Then, if the body had been dragged out--as such
a heavy body must have been--almost of necessity the carpet and rugs would
show signs of the fact, but there were no such signs. But beyond these
there was the fact that no long black overcoat was left with the other
clothes, although the housekeeper distinctly remembered Rameau's
possession of such a garment. I judged he would use some such thing to
assist his disguise, which was why I asked her. _Why_ he would want to
disguise was plain, as you shall see presently. There were no towels left
in the bath-room; inference, used for bandages. Everything seemed to show
that the only person responsible for Rameau's removal was Rameau himself.
Why, then, had he gone away secretly and hurriedly, without making
complaint, and why had he stayed away? What reason would he have for doing
this if it had been Goujon that had attacked him? None. Goujon was going
to France. Clearly, Rameau was afraid of another attack from some
implacable enemy whom he was anxious to avoid--one against whom he feared
legal complaint or defense would be useless. This brought me at once to
the paper found on the floor. If this were the work of Goujon and an open
reference to his tortoise, why should he be at such pains to disguise his
handwriting? He would have been already pointing himself out by the mere
mention of the tortoise. And, if he could not avoid a shake in his
natural, small handwriting, how could he have avoided it in a large,
clumsy, slowly drawn, assumed hand? No, the paper was not Goujon's."

"As to the writing on the paper," Nettings interposed, "I've told you how
I made that mistake. I took the readiest explanation of the words, since
they seemed so pat, and I wouldn't let anything else outweigh that. As to
the other things--the evidences of Rameau's having gone off by
himself--well, I don't usually miss such obvious things; but I never
thought of the possibility of the _victim_ going away on the quiet and not
coming back, as though _he'd_ done something wrong. Comes of starting with
a set of fixed notions."

"Well," answered Hewitt, "I fancy you must have been rather 'out of form,'
as they say; everybody has his stupid days, and you can't keep up to
concert pitch forever. To return to the case. The evidence of the chopper
was very untrustworthy, especially when I had heard of Goujon's careless
habits--losing shovels and leaving coal-scuttles on stairs. Nothing more
likely than for the chopper to be left lying about, and a criminal who had
calculated his chances would know the advantage to himself of using a
weapon that belonged to the place, and leaving it behind to divert
suspicion. It is quite possible, by the way, that the man who attacked
Rameau got away down the coal-lift and out by an adjoining basement, just
as did Rameau himself; this, however, is mere conjecture. The would-be
murderer had plainly prepared for the crime: witness the previous
preparation of the paper declaring his revenge, an indication of his pride
at having run his enemy to earth at such a distant place as this--although
I expect he was only in England by chance, for Haytians are not a
persistently energetic race. In regard to the use of small instead of
capital letters in the words 'La Tortue' on the paper, I observed, in the
beginning, that the first letter of the whole sentence--the 'p' in
'puni'--was a small one. Clearly, the writer was an illiterate man, and it
was at once plain that he may have made the same mistake with ensuing
words.

"On the whole, it was plain that everybody had begun with a too ready
disposition to assume that Goujon was guilty. Everybody insisted, too,
that the body had been carried away--which was true, of course, although
not in the sense intended--so I didn't trouble to contradict, or to say
more than that I guessed who _had_ carried the body off. And, to tell you
the truth, I was a little piqued at Mr. Styles' manner, and indisposed,
interested in the case as I was, to give away my theories too freely.

"The rest of the job was not very difficult. I found out the cabman who
had taken Rameau away--you can always get readier help from cabbies if you
go as one of themselves, especially if you are after a bilker--and from
him got a sufficiently near East End direction to find Rameau after
inquiries. I ventured, by the way, on a rather long shot. I described my
man to the cabman as having an injured arm or wrist--and it turned out a
correct guess. You see, a man making an attack with a chopper is pretty
certain to make more than a single blow, and as there appeared to have
been only a single wound on the head, it seemed probable that another had
fallen somewhere else--almost certainly on the arm, as it would be raised
to defend the head. At Limehouse I found he had had his head and wrist
attended to at a local medico's, and a big nigger in a fright, with a long
black coat, a broken head, and a lame hand, is not so difficult to find in
a small area. How I persuaded him up here you know already; I think I
frightened him a little, too, by explaining how easily I had tracked him,
and giving him a hint that others might do the same. He is in a great
funk. He seems to have quite lost faith in England as a safe asylum."

The police failed to catch Rameau's assailant--chiefly because Rameau
could not be got to give a proper description of him, nor to do anything
except get out of the country in a hurry. In truth, he was glad to be quit
of the matter with nothing worse than his broken head. Little Goujon made
a wild storm about his arrest, and before he did go to France managed to
extract twenty pounds from Rameau by way of compensation, in spite of the
absence of any strictly legal claim against his old tormentor. So that, on
the whole, Goujon was about the only person who derived any particular
profit from the tortoise mystery.


THE END.






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