Part 3 out of 4
"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
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
"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
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."
"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,
"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
[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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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.
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
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,
"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
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
"The tortoise is dead now, I understand?"
"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
"And are the coals kept under this building?"
"No. The store for the whole row is under the next two houses--the
"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
"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
"But, man alive, why? Why bother about the person if it isn't the
"Never mind--never mind; probably the person will be a most valuable
"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."
"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
"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?"
"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
"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
"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_
"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!"
"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
"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
"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