Part 3 out of 5
and very poorly formed; and as men and women possessing any power
of truthful dramatic expression by means of action, they were no
better than the chorus at an Italian Opera in England - and would
have been worse if such a thing were possible.
Mine are no new views of the noble savage. The greatest writers on
natural history found him out long ago. BUFFON knew what he was,
and showed why he is the sulky tyrant that he is to his women, and
how it happens (Heaven be praised!) that his race is spare in
numbers. For evidence of the quality of his moral nature, pass
himself for a moment and refer to his 'faithful dog.' Has he ever
improved a dog, or attached a dog, since his nobility first ran
wild in woods, and was brought down (at a very long shot) by POPE?
Or does the animal that is the friend of man, always degenerate in
his low society?
It is not the miserable nature of the noble savage that is the new
thing; it is the whimpering over him with maudlin admiration, and
the affecting to regret him, and the drawing of any comparison of
advantage between the blemishes of civilisation and the tenor of
his swinish life. There may have been a change now and then in
those diseased absurdities, but there is none in him.
Think of the Bushmen. Think of the two men and the two women who
have been exhibited about England for some years. Are the majority
of persons - who remember the horrid little leader of that party in
his festering bundle of hides, with his filth and his antipathy to
water, and his straddled legs, and his odious eyes shaded by his
brutal hand, and his cry of 'Qu-u-u-u-aaa!' (Bosjesman for
something desperately insulting I have no doubt) - conscious of an
affectionate yearning towards that noble savage, or is it
idiosyncratic in me to abhor, detest, abominate, and abjure him? I
have no reserve on this subject, and will frankly state that,
setting aside that stage of the entertainment when he counterfeited
the death of some creature he had shot, by laying his head on his
hand and shaking his left leg - at which time I think it would have
been justifiable homicide to slay him - I have never seen that
group sleeping, smoking, and expectorating round their brazier, but
I have sincerely desired that something might happen to the
charcoal smouldering therein, which would cause the immediate
suffocation of the whole of the noble strangers.
There is at present a party of Zulu Kaffirs exhibiting at the St.
George's Gallery, Hyde Park Corner, London. These noble savages
are represented in a most agreeable manner; they are seen in an
elegant theatre, fitted with appropriate scenery of great beauty,
and they are described in a very sensible and unpretending lecture,
delivered with a modesty which is quite a pattern to all similar
exponents. Though extremely ugly, they are much better shaped than
such of their predecessors as I have referred to; and they are
rather picturesque to the eye, though far from odoriferous to the
nose. What a visitor left to his own interpretings and imaginings
might suppose these noblemen to be about, when they give vent to
that pantomimic expression which is quite settled to be the natural
gift of the noble savage, I cannot possibly conceive; for it is so
much too luminous for my personal civilisation that it conveys no
idea to my mind beyond a general stamping, ramping, and raving,
remarkable (as everything in savage life is) for its dire
uniformity. But let us - with the interpreter's assistance, of
which I for one stand so much in need - see what the noble savage
does in Zulu Kaffirland.
The noble savage sets a king to reign over him, to whom he submits
his life and limbs without a murmur or question, and whose whole
life is passed chin deep in a lake of blood; but who, after killing
incessantly, is in his turn killed by his relations and friends,
the moment a grey hair appears on his head. All the noble savage's
wars with his fellow-savages (and he takes no pleasure in anything
else) are wars of extermination - which is the best thing I know of
him, and the most comfortable to my mind when I look at him. He
has no moral feelings of any kind, sort, or description; and his
'mission' may be summed up as simply diabolical.
The ceremonies with which he faintly diversifies his life are, of
course, of a kindred nature. If he wants a wife he appears before
the kennel of the gentleman whom he has selected for his father-in-
law, attended by a party of male friends of a very strong flavour,
who screech and whistle and stamp an offer of so many cows for the
young lady's hand. The chosen father-in-law - also supported by a
high-flavoured party of male friends - screeches, whistles, and
yells (being seated on the ground, he can't stamp) that there never
was such a daughter in the market as his daughter, and that he must
have six more cows. The son-in-law and his select circle of
backers screech, whistle, stamp, and yell in reply, that they will
give three more cows. The father-in-law (an old deluder, overpaid
at the beginning) accepts four, and rises to bind the bargain. The
whole party, the young lady included, then falling into epileptic
convulsions, and screeching, whistling, stamping, and yelling
together - and nobody taking any notice of the young lady (whose
charms are not to be thought of without a shudder) - the noble
savage is considered married, and his friends make demoniacal leaps
at him by way of congratulation.
When the noble savage finds himself a little unwell, and mentions
the circumstance to his friends, it is immediately perceived that
he is under the influence of witchcraft. A learned personage,
called an Imyanger or Witch Doctor, is immediately sent for to
Nooker the Umtargartie, or smell out the witch. The male
inhabitants of the kraal being seated on the ground, the learned
doctor, got up like a grizzly bear, appears, and administers a
dance of a most terrific nature, during the exhibition of which
remedy he incessantly gnashes his teeth, and howls:- 'I am the
original physician to Nooker the Umtargartie. Yow yow yow! No
connexion with any other establishment. Till till till! All other
Umtargarties are feigned Umtargarties, Boroo Boroo! but I perceive
here a genuine and real Umtargartie, Hoosh Hoosh Hoosh! in whose
blood I, the original Imyanger and Nookerer, Blizzerum Boo! will
wash these bear's claws of mine. O yow yow yow!' All this time
the learned physician is looking out among the attentive faces for
some unfortunate man who owes him a cow, or who has given him any
small offence, or against whom, without offence, he has conceived a
spite. Him he never fails to Nooker as the Umtargartie, and he is
instantly killed. In the absence of such an individual, the usual
practice is to Nooker the quietest and most gentlemanly person in
company. But the nookering is invariably followed on the spot by
Some of the noble savages in whom Mr. Catlin was so strongly
interested, and the diminution of whose numbers, by rum and
smallpox, greatly affected him, had a custom not unlike this,
though much more appalling and disgusting in its odious details.
The women being at work in the fields, hoeing the Indian corn, and
the noble savage being asleep in the shade, the chief has sometimes
the condescension to come forth, and lighten the labour by looking
at it. On these occasions, he seats himself in his own savage
chair, and is attended by his shield-bearer: who holds over his
head a shield of cowhide - in shape like an immense mussel shell -
fearfully and wonderfully, after the manner of a theatrical
supernumerary. But lest the great man should forget his greatness
in the contemplation of the humble works of agriculture, there
suddenly rushes in a poet, retained for the purpose, called a
Praiser. This literary gentleman wears a leopard's head over his
own, and a dress of tigers' tails; he has the appearance of having
come express on his hind legs from the Zoological Gardens; and he
incontinently strikes up the chief's praises, plunging and tearing
all the while. There is a frantic wickedness in this brute's
manner of worrying the air, and gnashing out, 'O what a delightful
chief he is! O what a delicious quantity of blood he sheds! O how
majestically he laps it up! O how charmingly cruel he is! O how
he tears the flesh of his enemies and crunches the bones! O how
like the tiger and the leopard and the wolf and the bear he is! O,
row row row row, how fond I am of him!' which might tempt the
Society of Friends to charge at a hand-gallop into the Swartz-Kop
location and exterminate the whole kraal.
When war is afoot among the noble savages - which is always - the
chief holds a council to ascertain whether it is the opinion of his
brothers and friends in general that the enemy shall be
exterminated. On this occasion, after the performance of an
Umsebeuza, or war song, - which is exactly like all the other
songs, - the chief makes a speech to his brothers and friends,
arranged in single file. No particular order is observed during
the delivery of this address, but every gentleman who finds himself
excited by the subject, instead of crying 'Hear, hear!' as is the
custom with us, darts from the rank and tramples out the life, or
crushes the skull, or mashes the face, or scoops out the eyes, or
breaks the limbs, or performs a whirlwind of atrocities on the
body, of an imaginary enemy. Several gentlemen becoming thus
excited at once, and pounding away without the least regard to the
orator, that illustrious person is rather in the position of an
orator in an Irish House of Commons. But, several of these scenes
of savage life bear a strong generic resemblance to an Irish
election, and I think would be extremely well received and
understood at Cork.
In all these ceremonies the noble savage holds forth to the utmost
possible extent about himself; from which (to turn him to some
civilised account) we may learn, I think, that as egotism is one of
the most offensive and contemptible littlenesses a civilised man
can exhibit, so it is really incompatible with the interchange of
ideas; inasmuch as if we all talked about ourselves we should soon
have no listeners, and must be all yelling and screeching at once
on our own separate accounts: making society hideous. It is my
opinion that if we retained in us anything of the noble savage, we
could not get rid of it too soon. But the fact is clearly
otherwise. Upon the wife and dowry question, substituting coin for
cows, we have assuredly nothing of the Zulu Kaffir left. The
endurance of despotism is one great distinguishing mark of a savage
always. The improving world has quite got the better of that too.
In like manner, Paris is a civilised city, and the Theatre Francais
a highly civilised theatre; and we shall never hear, and never have
heard in these later days (of course) of the Praiser THERE. No,
no, civilised poets have better work to do. As to Nookering
Umtargarties, there are no pretended Umtargarties in Europe, and no
European powers to Nooker them; that would be mere spydom,
subordination, small malice, superstition, and false pretence. And
as to private Umtargarties, are we not in the year eighteen hundred
and fifty-three, with spirits rapping at our doors?
To conclude as I began. My position is, that if we have anything
to learn from the Noble Savage, it is what to avoid. His virtues
are a fable; his happiness is a delusion; his nobility, nonsense.
We have no greater justification for being cruel to the miserable
object, than for being cruel to a WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE or an ISAAC
NEWTON; but he passes away before an immeasurably better and higher
power than ever ran wild in any earthly woods, and the world will
be all the better when his place knows him no more.
WHEN Don Diego de - I forget his name - the inventor of the last
new Flying Machines, price so many francs for ladies, so many more
for gentlemen - when Don Diego, by permission of Deputy Chaff-wax
and his noble band, shall have taken out a Patent for the Queen's
dominions, and shall have opened a commodious Warehouse in an airy
situation; and when all persons of any gentility will keep at least
a pair of wings, and be seen skimming about in every direction; I
shall take a flight to Paris (as I soar round the world) in a cheap
and independent manner. At present, my reliance is on the South-
Eastern Railway Company, in whose Express Train here I sit, at
eight of the clock on a very hot morning, under the very hot roof
of the Terminus at London Bridge, in danger of being 'forced' like
a cucumber or a melon, or a pine-apple. And talking of pine-
apples, I suppose there never were so many pine-apples in a Train
as there appear to be in this Train.
Whew! The hot-house air is faint with pine-apples. Every French
citizen or citizeness is carrying pine-apples home. The compact
little Enchantress in the corner of my carriage (French actress, to
whom I yielded up my heart under the auspices of that brave child,
'MEAT-CHELL,' at the St. James's Theatre the night before last) has
a pine-apple in her lap. Compact Enchantress's friend, confidante,
mother, mystery, Heaven knows what, has two pine-apples in her lap,
and a bundle of them under the seat. Tobacco-smoky Frenchman in
Algerine wrapper, with peaked hood behind, who might be Abd-el-
Kader dyed rifle-green, and who seems to be dressed entirely in
dirt and braid, carries pine-apples in a covered basket. Tall,
grave, melancholy Frenchman, with black Vandyke beard, and hair
close-cropped, with expansive chest to waistcoat, and compressive
waist to coat: saturnine as to his pantaloons, calm as to his
feminine boots, precious as to his jewellery, smooth and white as
to his linen: dark-eyed, high-foreheaded, hawk-nosed - got up, one
thinks, like Lucifer or Mephistopheles, or Zamiel, transformed into
a highly genteel Parisian - has the green end of a pine-apple
sticking out of his neat valise.
Whew! If I were to be kept here long, under this forcing-frame, I
wonder what would become of me - whether I should be forced into a
giant, or should sprout or blow into some other phenomenon!
Compact Enchantress is not ruffled by the heat - she is always
composed, always compact. O look at her little ribbons, frills,
and edges, at her shawl, at her gloves, at her hair, at her
bracelets, at her bonnet, at everything about her! How is it
accomplished? What does she do to be so neat? How is it that
every trifle she wears belongs to her, and cannot choose but be a
part of her? And even Mystery, look at HER! A model. Mystery is
not young, not pretty, though still of an average candle-light
passability; but she does such miracles in her own behalf, that,
one of these days, when she dies, they'll be amazed to find an old
woman in her bed, distantly like her. She was an actress once, I
shouldn't wonder, and had a Mystery attendant on herself. Perhaps,
Compact Enchantress will live to be a Mystery, and to wait with a
shawl at the side-scenes, and to sit opposite to Mademoiselle in
railway carriages, and smile and talk subserviently, as Mystery
does now. That's hard to believe!
Two Englishmen, and now our carriage is full. First Englishman, in
the monied interest - flushed, highly respectable - Stock Exchange,
perhaps - City, certainly. Faculties of second Englishman entirely
absorbed in hurry. Plunges into the carriage, blind. Calls out of
window concerning his luggage, deaf. Suffocates himself under
pillows of great-coats, for no reason, and in a demented manner.
Will receive no assurance from any porter whatsoever. Is stout and
hot, and wipes his head, and makes himself hotter by breathing so
hard. Is totally incredulous respecting assurance of Collected
Guard, that 'there's no hurry.' No hurry! And a flight to Paris
in eleven hours!
It is all one to me in this drowsy corner, hurry or no hurry.
Until Don Diego shall send home my wings, my flight is with the
South-Eastern Company. I can fly with the South-Eastern, more
lazily, at all events, than in the upper air. I have but to sit
here thinking as idly as I please, and be whisked away. I am not
accountable to anybody for the idleness of my thoughts in such an
idle summer flight; my flight is provided for by the South-Eastern
and is no business of mine.
The bell! With all my heart. It does not require me to do so much
as even to flap my wings. Something snorts for me, something
shrieks for me, something proclaims to everything else that it had
better keep out of my way, - and away I go.
Ah! The fresh air is pleasant after the forcing-frame, though it
does blow over these interminable streets, and scatter the smoke of
this vast wilderness of chimneys. Here we are - no, I mean there
we were, for it has darted far into the rear - in Bermondsey where
the tanners live. Flash! The distant shipping in the Thames is
gone. Whirr! The little streets of new brick and red tile, with
here and there a flagstaff growing like a tall weed out of the
scarlet beans, and, everywhere, plenty of open sewer and ditch for
the promotion of the public health, have been fired off in a
volley. Whizz! Dust-heaps, market-gardens, and waste grounds.
Rattle! New Cross Station. Shock! There we were at Croydon.
Bur-r-r-r! The tunnel.
I wonder why it is that when I shut my eyes in a tunnel I begin to
feel as if I were going at an Express pace the other way. I am
clearly going back to London now. Compact Enchantress must have
forgotten something, and reversed the engine. No! After long
darkness, pale fitful streaks of light appear. I am still flying
on for Folkestone. The streaks grow stronger - become continuous -
become the ghost of day - become the living day - became I mean -
the tunnel is miles and miles away, and here I fly through
sunlight, all among the harvest and the Kentish hops.
There is a dreamy pleasure in this flying. I wonder where it was,
and when it was, that we exploded, blew into space somehow, a
Parliamentary Train, with a crowd of heads and faces looking at us
out of cages, and some hats waving. Monied Interest says it was at
Reigate Station. Expounds to Mystery how Reigate Station is so
many miles from London, which Mystery again develops to Compact
Enchantress. There might be neither a Reigate nor a London for me,
as I fly away among the Kentish hops and harvest. What do I care?
Bang! We have let another Station off, and fly away regardless.
Everything is flying. The hop-gardens turn gracefully towards me,
presenting regular avenues of hops in rapid flight, then whirl
away. So do the pools and rushes, haystacks, sheep, clover in full
bloom delicious to the sight and smell, corn-sheaves, cherry-
orchards, apple-orchards, reapers, gleaners, hedges, gates, fields
that taper off into little angular corners, cottages, gardens, now
and then a church. Bang, bang! A double-barrelled Station! Now a
wood, now a bridge, now a landscape, now a cutting, now a - Bang! a
single-barrelled Station - there was a cricket-match somewhere with
two white tents, and then four flying cows, then turnips - now the
wires of the electric telegraph are all alive, and spin, and blurr
their edges, and go up and down, and make the intervals between
each other most irregular: contracting and expanding in the
strangest manner. Now we slacken. With a screwing, and a
grinding, and a smell of water thrown on ashes, now we stop!
Demented Traveller, who has been for two or three minutes watchful,
clutches his great-coats, plunges at the door, rattles it, cries
'Hi!' eager to embark on board of impossible packets, far inland.
Collected Guard appears. 'Are you for Tunbridge, sir?'
'Tunbridge? No. Paris.' 'Plenty of time, sir. No hurry. Five
minutes here, sir, for refreshment.' I am so blest (anticipating
Zamiel, by half a second) as to procure a glass of water for
Who would suppose we had been flying at such a rate, and shall take
wing again directly? Refreshment-room full, platform full, porter
with watering-pot deliberately cooling a hot wheel, another porter
with equal deliberation helping the rest of the wheels bountifully
to ice cream. Monied Interest and I re-entering the carriage
first, and being there alone, he intimates to me that the French
are 'no go' as a Nation. I ask why? He says, that Reign of Terror
of theirs was quite enough. I ventured to inquire whether he
remembers anything that preceded said Reign of Terror? He says not
particularly. 'Because,' I remark, 'the harvest that is reaped,
has sometimes been sown.' Monied Interest repeats, as quite enough
for him, that the French are revolutionary, - 'and always at it.'
Bell. Compact Enchantress, helped in by Zamiel (whom the stars
confound!), gives us her charming little side-box look, and smites
me to the core. Mystery eating sponge-cake. Pine-apple atmosphere
faintly tinged with suspicions of sherry. Demented Traveller flits
past the carriage, looking for it. Is blind with agitation, and
can't see it. Seems singled out by Destiny to be the only unhappy
creature in the flight, who has any cause to hurry himself. Is
nearly left behind. Is seized by Collected Guard after the Train
is in motion, and bundled in. Still, has lingering suspicions that
there must be a boat in the neighbourhood, and WILL look wildly out
of window for it.
Flight resumed. Corn-sheaves, hop-gardens, reapers, gleaners,
apple-orchards, cherry-orchards, Stations single and double-
barrelled, Ashford. Compact Enchantress (constantly talking to
Mystery, in an exquisite manner) gives a little scream; a sound
that seems to come from high up in her precious little head; from
behind her bright little eyebrows. 'Great Heaven, my pine-apple!
My Angel! It is lost!' Mystery is desolated. A search made. It
is not lost. Zamiel finds it. I curse him (flying) in the Persian
manner. May his face be turned upside down, and jackasses sit upon
his uncle's grave!
Now fresher air, now glimpses of unenclosed Down-land with flapping
crows flying over it whom we soon outfly, now the Sea, now
Folkestone at a quarter after ten. 'Tickets ready, gentlemen!'
Demented dashes at the door. 'For Paris, sir? No hurry.'
Not the least. We are dropped slowly down to the Port, and sidle
to and fro (the whole Train) before the insensible Royal George
Hotel, for some ten minutes. The Royal George takes no more heed
of us than its namesake under water at Spithead, or under earth at
Windsor, does. The Royal George's dog lies winking and blinking at
us, without taking the trouble to sit up; and the Royal George's
'wedding party' at the open window (who seem, I must say, rather
tired of bliss) don't bestow a solitary glance upon us, flying thus
to Paris in eleven hours. The first gentleman in Folkestone is
evidently used up, on this subject.
Meanwhile, Demented chafes. Conceives that every man's hand is
against him, and exerting itself to prevent his getting to Paris.
Refuses consolation. Rattles door. Sees smoke on the horizon, and
'knows' it's the boat gone without him. Monied Interest
resentfully explains that HE is going to Paris too. Demented
signifies, that if Monied Interest chooses to be left behind, HE
'Refreshments in the Waiting-Room, ladies and gentlemen. No hurry,
ladies and gentlemen, for Paris. No hurry whatever!'
Twenty minutes' pause, by Folkestone clock, for looking at
Enchantress while she eats a sandwich, and at Mystery while she
eats of everything there that is eatable, from pork-pie, sausage,
jam, and gooseberries, to lumps of sugar. All this time, there is
a very waterfall of luggage, with a spray of dust, tumbling
slantwise from the pier into the steamboat. All this time,
Demented (who has no business with it) watches it with starting
eyes, fiercely requiring to be shown HIS luggage. When it at last
concludes the cataract, he rushes hotly to refresh - is shouted
after, pursued, jostled, brought back, pitched into the departing
steamer upside down, and caught by mariners disgracefully.
A lovely harvest-day, a cloudless sky, a tranquil sea. The piston-
rods of the engines so regularly coming up from below, to look (as
well they may) at the bright weather, and so regularly almost
knocking their iron heads against the cross beam of the skylight,
and never doing it! Another Parisian actress is on board, attended
by another Mystery. Compact Enchantress greets her sister artist -
Oh, the Compact One's pretty teeth! - and Mystery greets Mystery.
My Mystery soon ceases to be conversational - is taken poorly, in a
word, having lunched too miscellaneously - and goes below. The
remaining Mystery then smiles upon the sister artists (who, I am
afraid, wouldn't greatly mind stabbing each other), and is upon the
And now I find that all the French people on board begin to grow,
and all the English people to shrink. The French are nearing home,
and shaking off a disadvantage, whereas we are shaking it on.
Zamiel is the same man, and Abd-el-Kader is the same man, but each
seems to come into possession of an indescribable confidence that
departs from us - from Monied Interest, for instance, and from me.
Just what they gain, we lose. Certain British 'Gents' about the
steersman, intellectually nurtured at home on parody of everything
and truth of nothing, become subdued, and in a manner forlorn; and
when the steersman tells them (not exultingly) how he has 'been
upon this station now eight year, and never see the old town of
Bullum yet,' one of them, with an imbecile reliance on a reed, asks
him what he considers to be the best hotel in Paris?
Now, I tread upon French ground, and am greeted by the three
charming words, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, painted up (in
letters a little too thin for their height) on the Custom-house
wall - also by the sight of large cocked hats, without which
demonstrative head-gear nothing of a public nature can be done upon
this soil. All the rabid Hotel population of Boulogne howl and
shriek outside a distant barrier, frantic to get at us. Demented,
by some unlucky means peculiar to himself, is delivered over to
their fury, and is presently seen struggling in a whirlpool of
Touters - is somehow understood to be going to Paris - is, with
infinite noise, rescued by two cocked hats, and brought into
Custom-house bondage with the rest of us.
Here, I resign the active duties of life to an eager being, of
preternatural sharpness, with a shelving forehead and a shabby
snuff-coloured coat, who (from the wharf) brought me down with his
eye before the boat came into port. He darts upon my luggage, on
the floor where all the luggage is strewn like a wreck at the
bottom of the great deep; gets it proclaimed and weighed as the
property of 'Monsieur a traveller unknown;' pays certain francs for
it, to a certain functionary behind a Pigeon Hole, like a pay-box
at a Theatre (the arrangements in general are on a wholesale scale,
half military and half theatrical); and I suppose I shall find it
when I come to Paris - he says I shall. I know nothing about it,
except that I pay him his small fee, and pocket the ticket he gives
me, and sit upon a counter, involved in the general distraction.
Railway station. 'Lunch or dinner, ladies and gentlemen. Plenty
of time for Paris. Plenty of time!' Large hall, long counter,
long strips of dining-table, bottles of wine, plates of meat, roast
chickens, little loaves of bread, basins of soup, little caraffes
of brandy, cakes, and fruit. Comfortably restored from these
resources, I begin to fly again.
I saw Zamiel (before I took wing) presented to Compact Enchantress
and Sister Artist, by an officer in uniform, with a waist like a
wasp's, and pantaloons like two balloons. They all got into the
next carriage together, accompanied by the two Mysteries. They
laughed. I am alone in the carriage (for I don't consider Demented
anybody) and alone in the world.
Fields, windmills, low grounds, pollard-trees, windmills, fields,
fortifications, Abbeville, soldiering and drumming. I wonder where
England is, and when I was there last - about two years ago, I
should say. Flying in and out among these trenches and batteries,
skimming the clattering drawbridges, looking down into the stagnant
ditches, I become a prisoner of state, escaping. I am confined
with a comrade in a fortress. Our room is in an upper story. We
have tried to get up the chimney, but there's an iron grating
across it, imbedded in the masonry. After months of labour, we
have worked the grating loose with the poker, and can lift it up.
We have also made a hook, and twisted our rugs and blankets into
ropes. Our plan is, to go up the chimney, hook our ropes to the
top, descend hand over hand upon the roof of the guard-house far
below, shake the hook loose, watch the opportunity of the sentinels
pacing away, hook again, drop into the ditch, swim across it, creep
into the shelter of the wood. The time is come - a wild and stormy
night. We are up the chimney, we are on the guard-house roof, we
are swimming in the murky ditch, when lo! 'Qui v'la?' a bugle, the
alarm, a crash! What is it? Death? No, Amiens.
More fortifications, more soldiering and drumming, more basins of
soup, more little loaves of bread, more bottles of wine, more
caraffes of brandy, more time for refreshment. Everything good,
and everything ready. Bright, unsubstantial-looking, scenic sort
of station. People waiting. Houses, uniforms, beards, moustaches,
some sabots, plenty of neat women, and a few old-visaged children.
Unless it be a delusion born of my giddy flight, the grown-up
people and the children seem to change places in France. In
general, the boys and girls are little old men and women, and the
men and women lively boys and girls.
Bugle, shriek, flight resumed. Monied Interest has come into my
carriage. Says the manner of refreshing is 'not bad,' but
considers it French. Admits great dexterity and politeness in the
attendants. Thinks a decimal currency may have something to do
with their despatch in settling accounts, and don't know but what
it's sensible and convenient. Adds, however, as a general protest,
that they're a revolutionary people - and always at it.
Ramparts, canals, cathedral, river, soldiering and drumming, open
country, river, earthenware manufactures, Creil. Again ten
minutes. Not even Demented in a hurry. Station, a drawing-room
with a verandah: like a planter's house. Monied Interest considers
it a band-box, and not made to last. Little round tables in it, at
one of which the Sister Artists and attendant Mysteries are
established with Wasp and Zamiel, as if they were going to stay a
Anon, with no more trouble than before, I am flying again, and
lazily wondering as I fly. What has the South-Eastern done with
all the horrible little villages we used to pass through, in the
DILIGENCE? What have they done with all the summer dust, with all
the winter mud, with all the dreary avenues of little trees, with
all the ramshackle postyards, with all the beggars (who used to
turn out at night with bits of lighted candle, to look in at the
coach windows), with all the long-tailed horses who were always
biting one another, with all the big postilions in jack-boots -
with all the mouldy cafes that we used to stop at, where a long
mildewed table-cloth, set forth with jovial bottles of vinegar and
oil, and with a Siamese arrangement of pepper and salt, was never
wanting? Where are the grass-grown little towns, the wonderful
little market-places all unconscious of markets, the shops that
nobody kept, the streets that nobody trod, the churches that nobody
went to, the bells that nobody rang, the tumble-down old buildings
plastered with many-coloured bills that nobody read? Where are the
two-and-twenty weary hours of long, long day and night journey,
sure to be either insupportably hot or insupportably cold? Where
are the pains in my bones, where are the fidgets in my legs, where
is the Frenchman with the nightcap who never WOULD have the little
coupe-window down, and who always fell upon me when he went to
sleep, and always slept all night snoring onions?
A voice breaks in with 'Paris! Here we are!'
I have overflown myself, perhaps, but I can't believe it. I feel
as if I were enchanted or bewitched. It is barely eight o'clock
yet - it is nothing like half-past - when I have had my luggage
examined at that briskest of Custom-houses attached to the station,
and am rattling over the pavement in a hackney-cabriolet.
Surely, not the pavement of Paris? Yes, I think it is, too. I
don't know any other place where there are all these high houses,
all these haggard-looking wine shops, all these billiard tables,
all these stocking-makers with flat red or yellow legs of wood for
signboard, all these fuel shops with stacks of billets painted
outside, and real billets sawing in the gutter, all these dirty
corners of streets, all these cabinet pictures over dark doorways
representing discreet matrons nursing babies. And yet this morning
- I'll think of it in a warm-bath.
Very like a small room that I remember in the Chinese baths upon
the Boulevard, certainly; and, though I see it through the steam, I
think that I might swear to that peculiar hot-linen basket, like a
large wicker hour-glass. When can it have been that I left home?
When was it that I paid 'through to Paris' at London Bridge, and
discharged myself of all responsibility, except the preservation of
a voucher ruled into three divisions, of which the first was
snipped off at Folkestone, the second aboard the boat, and the
third taken at my journey's end? It seems to have been ages ago.
Calculation is useless. I will go out for a walk.
The crowds in the streets, the lights in the shops and balconies,
the elegance, variety, and beauty of their decorations, the number
of the theatres, the brilliant cafes with their windows thrown up
high and their vivacious groups at little tables on the pavement,
the light and glitter of the houses turned as it were inside out,
soon convince me that it is no dream; that I am in Paris, howsoever
I got there. I stroll down to the sparkling Palais Royal, up the
Rue de Rivoli, to the Place Vendome. As I glance into a print-shop
window, Monied Interest, my late travelling companion, comes upon
me, laughing with the highest relish of disdain. 'Here's a
people!' he says, pointing to Napoleon in the window and Napoleon
on the column. 'Only one idea all over Paris! A monomania!'
Humph! I THINK I have seen Napoleon's match? There was a statue,
when I came away, at Hyde Park Corner, and another in the City, and
a print or two in the shops.
I walk up to the Barriere de l'Etoile, sufficiently dazed by my
flight to have a pleasant doubt of the reality of everything about
me; of the lively crowd, the overhanging trees, the performing
dogs, the hobby-horses, the beautiful perspectives of shining
lamps: the hundred and one enclosures, where the singing is, in
gleaming orchestras of azure and gold, and where a star-eyed Houri
comes round with a box for voluntary offerings. So, I pass to my
hotel, enchanted; sup, enchanted; go to bed, enchanted; pushing
back this morning (if it really were this morning) into the
remoteness of time, blessing the South-Eastern Company for
realising the Arabian Nights in these prose days, murmuring, as I
wing my idle flight into the land of dreams, 'No hurry, ladies and
gentlemen, going to Paris in eleven hours. It is so well done,
that there really is no hurry!'
THE DETECTIVE POLICE
WE are not by any means devout believers in the old Bow Street
Police. To say the truth, we think there was a vast amount of
humbug about those worthies. Apart from many of them being men of
very indifferent character, and far too much in the habit of
consorting with thieves and the like, they never lost a public
occasion of jobbing and trading in mystery and making the most of
themselves. Continually puffed besides by incompetent magistrates
anxious to conceal their own deficiencies, and hand-in-glove with
the penny-a-liners of that time, they became a sort of
superstition. Although as a Preventive Police they were utterly
ineffective, and as a Detective Police were very loose and
uncertain in their operations, they remain with some people a
superstition to the present day.
On the other hand, the Detective Force organised since the
establishment of the existing Police, is so well chosen and
trained, proceeds so systematically and quietly, does its business
in such a workmanlike manner, and is always so calmly and steadily
engaged in the service of the public, that the public really do not
know enough of it, to know a tithe of its usefulness. Impressed
with this conviction, and interested in the men themselves, we
represented to the authorities at Scotland Yard, that we should be
glad, if there were no official objection, to have some talk with
the Detectives. A most obliging and ready permission being given,
a certain evening was appointed with a certain Inspector for a
social conference between ourselves and the Detectives, at The
Household Words Office in Wellington Street, Strand, London. In
consequence of which appointment the party 'came off,' which we are
about to describe. And we beg to repeat that, avoiding such topics
as it might for obvious reasons be injurious to the public, or
disagreeable to respectable individuals, to touch upon in print,
our description is as exact as we can make it.
The reader will have the goodness to imagine the Sanctum Sanctorum
of Household Words. Anything that best suits the reader's fancy,
will best represent that magnificent chamber. We merely stipulate
for a round table in the middle, with some glasses and cigars
arranged upon it; and the editorial sofa elegantly hemmed in
between that stately piece of furniture and the wall.
It is a sultry evening at dusk. The stones of Wellington Street
are hot and gritty, and the watermen and hackney-coachmen at the
Theatre opposite, are much flushed and aggravated. Carriages are
constantly setting down the people who have come to Fairy-Land; and
there is a mighty shouting and bellowing every now and then,
deafening us for the moment, through the open windows.
Just at dusk, Inspectors Wield and Stalker are announced; but we do
not undertake to warrant the orthography of any of the names here
mentioned. Inspector Wield presents Inspector Stalker. Inspector
Wield is a middle-aged man of a portly presence, with a large,
moist, knowing eye, a husky voice, and a habit of emphasising his
conversation by the aid of a corpulent fore-finger, which is
constantly in juxtaposition with his eyes or nose. Inspector
Stalker is a shrewd, hard-headed Scotchman - in appearance not at
all unlike a very acute, thoroughly-trained schoolmaster, from the
Normal Establishment at Glasgow. Inspector Wield one might have
known, perhaps, for what he is - Inspector Stalker, never.
The ceremonies of reception over, Inspectors Wield and Stalker
observe that they have brought some sergeants with them. The
sergeants are presented - five in number, Sergeant Dornton,
Sergeant Witchem, Sergeant Mith, Sergeant Fendall, and Sergeant
Straw. We have the whole Detective Force from Scotland Yard, with
one exception. They sit down in a semi-circle (the two Inspectors
at the two ends) at a little distance from the round table, facing
the editorial sofa. Every man of them, in a glance, immediately
takes an inventory of the furniture and an accurate sketch of the
editorial presence. The Editor feels that any gentleman in company
could take him up, if need should be, without the smallest
hesitation, twenty years hence.
The whole party are in plain clothes. Sergeant Dornton about fifty
years of age, with a ruddy face and a high sunburnt forehead, has
the air of one who has been a Sergeant in the army - he might have
sat to Wilkie for the Soldier in the Reading of the Will. He is
famous for steadily pursuing the inductive process, and, from small
beginnings, working on from clue to clue until he bags his man.
Sergeant Witchem, shorter and thicker-set, and marked with the
small-pox, has something of a reserved and thoughtful air, as if he
were engaged in deep arithmetical calculations. He is renowned for
his acquaintance with the swell mob. Sergeant Mith, a smooth-faced
man with a fresh bright complexion, and a strange air of
simplicity, is a dab at housebreakers. Sergeant Fendall, a light-
haired, well-spoken, polite person, is a prodigious hand at
pursuing private inquiries of a delicate nature. Straw, a little
wiry Sergeant of meek demeanour and strong sense, would knock at a
door and ask a series of questions in any mild character you choose
to prescribe to him, from a charity-boy upwards, and seem as
innocent as an infant. They are, one and all, respectable-looking
men; of perfectly good deportment and unusual intelligence; with
nothing lounging or slinking in their manners; with an air of keen
observation and quick perception when addressed; and generally
presenting in their faces, traces more or less marked of habitually
leading lives of strong mental excitement. They have all good
eyes; and they all can, and they all do, look full at whomsoever
they speak to.
We light the cigars, and hand round the glasses (which are very
temperately used indeed), and the conversation begins by a modest
amateur reference on the Editorial part to the swell mob.
Inspector Wield immediately removes his cigar from his lips, waves
his right hand, and says, 'Regarding the swell mob, sir, I can't do
better than call upon Sergeant Witchem. Because the reason why?
I'll tell you. Sergeant Witchem is better acquainted with the
swell mob than any officer in London.'
Our heart leaping up when we beheld this rainbow in the sky, we
turn to Sergeant Witchem, who very concisely, and in well-chosen
language, goes into the subject forthwith. Meantime, the whole of
his brother officers are closely interested in attending to what he
says, and observing its effect. Presently they begin to strike in,
one or two together, when an opportunity offers, and the
conversation becomes general. But these brother officers only come
in to the assistance of each other - not to the contradiction - and
a more amicable brotherhood there could not be. From the swell
mob, we diverge to the kindred topics of cracksmen, fences, public-
house dancers, area-sneaks, designing young people who go out
'gonophing,' and other 'schools.' It is observable throughout
these revelations, that Inspector Stalker, the Scotchman, is always
exact and statistical, and that when any question of figures
arises, everybody as by one consent pauses, and looks to him.
When we have exhausted the various schools of Art - during which
discussion the whole body have remained profoundly attentive,
except when some unusual noise at the Theatre over the way has
induced some gentleman to glance inquiringly towards the window in
that direction, behind his next neighbour's back - we burrow for
information on such points as the following. Whether there really
are any highway robberies in London, or whether some circumstances
not convenient to be mentioned by the aggrieved party, usually
precede the robberies complained of, under that head, which quite
change their character? Certainly the latter, almost always.
Whether in the case of robberies in houses, where servants are
necessarily exposed to doubt, innocence under suspicion ever
becomes so like guilt in appearance, that a good officer need be
cautious how he judges it? Undoubtedly. Nothing is so common or
deceptive as such appearances at first. Whether in a place of
public amusement, a thief knows an officer, and an officer knows a
thief - supposing them, beforehand, strangers to each other -
because each recognises in the other, under all disguise, an
inattention to what is going on, and a purpose that is not the
purpose of being entertained? Yes. That's the way exactly.
Whether it is reasonable or ridiculous to trust to the alleged
experiences of thieves as narrated by themselves, in prisons, or
penitentiaries, or anywhere? In general, nothing more absurd.
Lying is their habit and their trade; and they would rather lie -
even if they hadn't an interest in it, and didn't want to make
themselves agreeable - than tell the truth.
From these topics, we glide into a review of the most celebrated
and horrible of the great crimes that have been committed within
the last fifteen or twenty years. The men engaged in the discovery
of almost all of them, and in the pursuit or apprehension of the
murderers, are here, down to the very last instance. One of our
guests gave chase to and boarded the emigrant ship, in which the
murderess last hanged in London was supposed to have embarked. We
learn from him that his errand was not announced to the passengers,
who may have no idea of it to this hour. That he went below, with
the captain, lamp in hand - it being dark, and the whole steerage
abed and sea-sick - and engaged the Mrs. Manning who WAS on board,
in a conversation about her luggage, until she was, with no small
pains, induced to raise her head, and turn her face towards the
light. Satisfied that she was not the object of his search, he
quietly re-embarked in the Government steamer along-side, and
steamed home again with the intelligence.
When we have exhausted these subjects, too, which occupy a
considerable time in the discussion, two or three leave their
chairs, whisper Sergeant Witchem, and resume their seat. Sergeant
Witchem, leaning forward a little, and placing a hand on each of
his legs, then modestly speaks as follows:
'My brother-officers wish me to relate a little account of my
taking Tally-ho Thompson. A man oughtn't to tell what he has done
himself; but still, as nobody was with me, and, consequently, as
nobody but myself can tell it, I'll do it in the best way I can, if
it should meet your approval.'
We assure Sergeant Witchem that he will oblige us very much, and we
all compose ourselves to listen with great interest and attention.
'Tally-ho Thompson,' says Sergeant Witchem, after merely wetting
his lips with his brandy-and-water, 'Tally-ho Thompson was a famous
horse-stealer, couper, and magsman. Thompson, in conjunction with
a pal that occasionally worked with him, gammoned a countryman out
of a good round sum of money, under pretence of getting him a
situation - the regular old dodge - and was afterwards in the "Hue
and Cry" for a horse - a horse that he stole down in Hertfordshire.
I had to look after Thompson, and I applied myself, of course, in
the first instance, to discovering where he was. Now, Thompson's
wife lived, along with a little daughter, at Chelsea. Knowing that
Thompson was somewhere in the country, I watched the house -
especially at post-time in the morning - thinking Thompson was
pretty likely to write to her. Sure enough, one morning the
postman comes up, and delivers a letter at Mrs. Thompson's door.
Little girl opens the door, and takes it in. We're not always sure
of postmen, though the people at the post-offices are always very
obliging. A postman may help us, or he may not, - just as it
happens. However, I go across the road, and I say to the postman,
after he has left the letter, "Good morning! how are you?" "How
are YOU!" says he. "You've just delivered a letter for Mrs.
Thompson." "Yes, I have." "You didn't happen to remark what the
post-mark was, perhaps?" "No," says he, "I didn't." "Come," says
I, "I'll be plain with you. I'm in a small way of business, and I
have given Thompson credit, and I can't afford to lose what he owes
me. I know he's got money, and I know he's in the country, and if
you could tell me what the post-mark was, I should be very much
obliged to you, and you'd do a service to a tradesman in a small
way of business that can't afford a loss." "Well," he said, "I do
assure you that I did not observe what the post-mark was; all I
know is, that there was money in the letter - I should say a
sovereign." This was enough for me, because of course I knew that
Thompson having sent his wife money, it was probable she'd write to
Thompson, by return of post, to acknowledge the receipt. So I said
"Thankee" to the postman, and I kept on the watch. In the
afternoon I saw the little girl come out. Of course I followed
her. She went into a stationer's shop, and I needn't say to you
that I looked in at the window. She bought some writing-paper and
envelopes, and a pen. I think to myself, "That'll do!" - watch her
home again - and don't go away, you may be sure, knowing that Mrs.
Thompson was writing her letter to Tally-ho, and that the letter
would be posted presently. In about an hour or so, out came the
little girl again, with the letter in her hand. I went up, and
said something to the child, whatever it might have been; but I
couldn't see the direction of the letter, because she held it with
the seal upwards. However, I observed that on the back of the
letter there was what we call a kiss - a drop of wax by the side of
the seal - and again, you understand, that was enough for me. I
saw her post the letter, waited till she was gone, then went into
the shop, and asked to see the Master. When he came out, I told
him, "Now, I'm an Officer in the Detective Force; there's a letter
with a kiss been posted here just now, for a man that I'm in search
of; and what I have to ask of you, is, that you will let me look at
the direction of that letter." He was very civil - took a lot of
letters from the box in the window - shook 'em out on the counter
with the faces downwards - and there among 'em was the identical
letter with the kiss. It was directed, Mr. Thomas Pigeon, Post
Office, B-, to be left till called for. Down I went to B- (a
hundred and twenty miles or so) that night. Early next morning I
went to the Post Office; saw the gentleman in charge of that
department; told him who I was; and that my object was to see, and
track, the party that should come for the letter for Mr. Thomas
Pigeon. He was very polite, and said, "You shall have every
assistance we can give you; you can wait inside the office; and
we'll take care to let you know when anybody comes for the letter."
Well, I waited there three days, and began to think that nobody
ever WOULD come. At last the clerk whispered to me, "Here!
Detective! Somebody's come for the letter!" "Keep him a minute,"
said I, and I ran round to the outside of the office. There I saw
a young chap with the appearance of an Ostler, holding a horse by
the bridle - stretching the bridle across the pavement, while he
waited at the Post Office Window for the letter. I began to pat
the horse, and that; and I said to the boy, "Why, this is Mr.
Jones's Mare!" "No. It an't." "No?" said I. "She's very like
Mr. Jones's Mare!" "She an't Mr. Jones's Mare, anyhow," says he.
"It's Mr. So and So's, of the Warwick Arms." And up he jumped, and
off he went - letter and all. I got a cab, followed on the box,
and was so quick after him that I came into the stable-yard of the
Warwick Arms, by one gate, just as he came in by another. I went
into the bar, where there was a young woman serving, and called for
a glass of brandy-and-water. He came in directly, and handed her
the letter. She casually looked at it, without saying anything,
and stuck it up behind the glass over the chimney-piece. What was
to be done next?
'I turned it over in my mind while I drank my brandy-and-water
(looking pretty sharp at the letter the while), but I couldn't see
my way out of it at all. I tried to get lodgings in the house, but
there had been a horse-fair, or something of that sort, and it was
full. I was obliged to put up somewhere else, but I came backwards
and forwards to the bar for a couple of days, and there was the
letter always behind the glass. At last I thought I'd write a
letter to Mr. Pigeon myself, and see what that would do. So I
wrote one, and posted it, but I purposely addressed it, Mr. John
Pigeon, instead of Mr. Thomas Pigeon, to see what THAT would do.
In the morning (a very wet morning it was) I watched the postman
down the street, and cut into the bar, just before he reached the
Warwick Arms. In he came presently with my letter. "Is there a
Mr. John Pigeon staying here?" "No! - stop a bit though," says the
barmaid; and she took down the letter behind the glass. "No," says
she, "it's Thomas, and HE is not staying here. Would you do me a
favour, and post this for me, as it is so wet?" The postman said
Yes; she folded it in another envelope, directed it, and gave it
him. He put it in his hat, and away he went.
'I had no difficulty in finding out the direction of that letter.
It was addressed Mr. Thomas Pigeon, Post Office, R-,
Northamptonshire, to be left till called for. Off I started
directly for R-; I said the same at the Post Office there, as I had
said at B-; and again I waited three days before anybody came. At
last another chap on horseback came. "Any letters for Mr. Thomas
Pigeon?" "Where do you come from?" "New Inn, near R-." He got
the letter, and away HE went at a canter.
'I made my inquiries about the New Inn, near R-, and hearing it was
a solitary sort of house, a little in the horse line, about a
couple of miles from the station, I thought I'd go and have a look
at it. I found it what it had been described, and sauntered in, to
look about me. The landlady was in the bar, and I was trying to
get into conversation with her; asked her how business was, and
spoke about the wet weather, and so on; when I saw, through an open
door, three men sitting by the fire in a sort of parlour, or
kitchen; and one of those men, according to the description I had
of him, was Tally-ho Thompson!
'I went and sat down among 'em, and tried to make things agreeable;
but they were very shy - wouldn't talk at all - looked at me, and
at one another, in a way quite the reverse of sociable. I reckoned
'em up, and finding that they were all three bigger men than me,
and considering that their looks were ugly - that it was a lonely
place - railroad station two miles off - and night coming on -
thought I couldn't do better than have a drop of brandy-and-water
to keep my courage up. So I called for my brandy-and-water; and as
I was sitting drinking it by the fire, Thompson got up and went
'Now the difficulty of it was, that I wasn't sure it WAS Thompson,
because I had never set eyes on him before; and what I had wanted
was to be quite certain of him. However, there was nothing for it
now, but to follow, and put a bold face upon it. I found him
talking, outside in the yard, with the landlady. It turned out
afterwards that he was wanted by a Northampton officer for
something else, and that, knowing that officer to be pock-marked
(as I am myself), he mistook me for him. As I have observed, I
found him talking to the landlady, outside. I put my hand upon his
shoulder - this way - and said, "Tally-ho Thompson, it's no use. I
know you. I'm an officer from London, and I take you into custody
for felony!" "That be d-d!" says Tally-ho Thompson.
'We went back into the house, and the two friends began to cut up
rough, and their looks didn't please me at all, I assure you. "Let
the man go. What are you going to do with him?" "I'll tell you
what I'm going to do with him. I'm going to take him to London to-
night, as sure as I'm alive. I'm not alone here, whatever you may
think. You mind your own business, and keep yourselves to
yourselves. It'll be better for you, for I know you both very
well." I'D never seen or heard of 'em in all my life, but my
bouncing cowed 'em a bit, and they kept off, while Thompson was
making ready to go. I thought to myself, however, that they might
be coming after me on the dark road, to rescue Thompson; so I said
to the landlady, "What men have you got in the house, Missis?" "We
haven't got no men here," she says, sulkily. "You have got an
ostler, I suppose?" "Yes, we've got an ostler." "Let me see him."
Presently he came, and a shaggy-headed young fellow he was. "Now
attend to me, young man," says I; "I'm a Detective Officer from
London. This man's name is Thompson. I have taken him into
custody for felony. I am going to take him to the railroad
station. I call upon you in the Queen's name to assist me; and
mind you, my friend, you'll get yourself into more trouble than you
know of, if you don't!' You never saw a person open his eyes so
wide. "Now, Thompson, come along!" says I. But when I took out
the handcuffs, Thompson cries, "No! None of that! I won't stand
THEM! I'll go along with you quiet, but I won't bear none of
that!" "Tally-ho Thompson," I said, "I'm willing to behave as a
man to you, if you are willing to behave as a man to me. Give me
your word that you'll come peaceably along, and I don't want to
handcuff you." "I will," says Thompson, "but I'll have a glass of
brandy first." "I don't care if I've another," said I. "We'll
have two more, Missis," said the friends, "and confound you,
Constable, you'll give your man a drop, won't you?" I was
agreeable to that, so we had it all round, and then my man and I
took Tally-ho Thompson safe to the railroad, and I carried him to
London that night. He was afterwards acquitted, on account of a
defect in the evidence; and I understand he always praises me up to
the skies, and says I'm one of the best of men.'
This story coming to a termination amidst general applause,
Inspector Wield, after a little grave smoking, fixes his eye on his
host, and thus delivers himself:
'It wasn't a bad plant that of mine, on Fikey, the man accused of
forging the Sou'-Western Railway debentures - it was only t'other
day - because the reason why? I'll tell you.
'I had information that Fikey and his brother kept a factory over
yonder there,' - indicating any region on the Surrey side of the
river - 'where he bought second-hand carriages; so after I'd tried
in vain to get hold of him by other means, I wrote him a letter in
an assumed name, saying that I'd got a horse and shay to dispose
of, and would drive down next day that he might view the lot, and
make an offer - very reasonable it was, I said - a reg'lar bargain.
Straw and me then went off to a friend of mine that's in the livery
and job business, and hired a turn-out for the day, a precious
smart turn-out it was - quite a slap-up thing! Down we drove,
accordingly, with a friend (who's not in the Force himself); and
leaving my friend in the shay near a public-house, to take care of
the horse, we went to the factory, which was some little way off.
In the factory, there was a number of strong fellows at work, and
after reckoning 'em up, it was clear to me that it wouldn't do to
try it on there. They were too many for us. We must get our man
out of doors. "Mr. Fikey at home?" "No, he ain't." "Expected
home soon?" "Why, no, not soon." "Ah! Is his brother here?"
"I'M his brother." "Oh! well, this is an ill-conwenience, this is.
I wrote him a letter yesterday, saying I'd got a little turn-out to
dispose of, and I've took the trouble to bring the turn-out down a'
purpose, and now he ain't in the way." "No, he ain't in the way.
You couldn't make it convenient to call again, could you?" "Why,
no, I couldn't. I want to sell; that's the fact; and I can't put
it off. Could you find him anywheres?" At first he said No, he
couldn't, and then he wasn't sure about it, and then he'd go and
try. So at last he went up-stairs, where there was a sort of loft,
and presently down comes my man himself in his shirt-sleeves.
'"Well," he says, "this seems to be rayther a pressing matter of
yours." "Yes," I says, "it IS rayther a pressing matter, and
you'll find it a bargain - dirt cheap." "I ain't in partickler
want of a bargain just now," he says, "but where is it?" "Why," I
says, "the turn-out's just outside. Come and look at it." He
hasn't any suspicions, and away we go. And the first thing that
happens is, that the horse runs away with my friend (who knows no
more of driving than a child) when he takes a little trot along the
road to show his paces. You never saw such a game in your life!
'When the bolt is over, and the turn-out has come to a standstill
again, Fikey walks round and round it as grave as a judge - me too.
"There, sir!" I says. "There's a neat thing!" "It ain't a bad
style of thing," he says. "I believe you," says I. "And there's a
horse!" - for I saw him looking at it. "Rising eight!" I says,
rubbing his fore-legs. (Bless you, there ain't a man in the world
knows less of horses than I do, but I'd heard my friend at the
Livery Stables say he was eight year old, so I says, as knowing as
possible, "Rising eight.") "Rising eight, is he?" says he.
"Rising eight," says I. "Well," he says, "what do you want for
it?" "Why, the first and last figure for the whole concern is
five-and-twenty pound!" "That's very cheap!" he says, looking at
me. "Ain't it?" I says. "I told you it was a bargain! Now,
without any higgling and haggling about it, what I want is to sell,
and that's my price. Further, I'll make it easy to you, and take
half the money down, and you can do a bit of stiff (1) for the
" Well," he says again, "that's very cheap." "I believe you," says
I; "get in and try it, and you'll buy it. Come! take a trial!"
'Ecod, he gets in, and we get in, and we drive along the road, to
show him to one of the railway clerks that was hid in the public-
house window to identify him. But the clerk was bothered, and
didn't know whether it was him, or wasn't - because the reason why?
I'll tell you, - on account of his having shaved his whiskers.
"It's a clever little horse," he says, "and trots well; and the
shay runs light." "Not a doubt about it," I says. "And now, Mr.
Fikey, I may as well make it all right, without wasting any more of
your time. The fact is, I'm Inspector Wield, and you're my
prisoner." "You don't mean that?" he says. "I do, indeed." "Then
burn my body," says Fikey, "if this ain't TOO bad!"
'Perhaps you never saw a man so knocked over with surprise. "I
hope you'll let me have my coat?" he says. "By all means." "Well,
then, let's drive to the factory." "Why, not exactly that, I
think," said I; "I've been there, once before, to-day. Suppose we
send for it." He saw it was no go, so he sent for it, and put it
on, and we drove him up to London, comfortable.'
This reminiscence is in the height of its success, when a general
proposal is made to the fresh-complexioned, smooth-faced officer,
with the strange air of simplicity, to tell the 'Butcher's Story.'
The fresh-complexioned, smooth-faced officer, with the strange air
of simplicity, began with a rustic smile, and in a soft, wheedling
tone of voice, to relate the Butcher's Story, thus:
'It's just about six years ago, now, since information was given at
Scotland Yard of there being extensive robberies of lawns and silks
going on, at some wholesale houses in the City. Directions were
given for the business being looked into; and Straw, and Fendall,
and me, we were all in it.'
'When you received your instructions,' said we, 'you went away, and
held a sort of Cabinet Council together!'
The smooth-faced officer coaxingly replied, 'Ye-es. Just so. We
turned it over among ourselves a good deal. It appeared, when we
went into it, that the goods were sold by the receivers
extraordinarily cheap - much cheaper than they could have been if
they had been honestly come by. The receivers were in the trade,
and kept capital shops - establishments of the first respectability
- one of 'em at the West End, one down in Westminster. After a lot
of watching and inquiry, and this and that among ourselves, we
found that the job was managed, and the purchases of the stolen
goods made, at a little public-house near Smithfield, down by Saint
Bartholomew's; where the Warehouse Porters, who were the thieves,
took 'em for that purpose, don't you see? and made appointments to
meet the people that went between themselves and the receivers.
This public-house was principally used by journeymen butchers from
the country, out of place, and in want of situations; so, what did
we do, but - ha, ha, ha! - we agreed that I should be dressed up
like a butcher myself, and go and live there!'
Never, surely, was a faculty of observation better brought to bear
upon a purpose, than that which picked out this officer for the
part. Nothing in all creation could have suited him better. Even
while he spoke, he became a greasy, sleepy, shy, good-natured,
chuckle-headed, unsuspicious, and confiding young butcher. His
very hair seemed to have suet in it, as he made it smooth upon his
head, and his fresh complexion to be lubricated by large quantities
of animal food.
' - So I - ha, ha, ha!' (always with the confiding snigger of the
foolish young butcher) 'so I dressed myself in the regular way,
made up a little bundle of clothes, and went to the public-house,
and asked if I could have a lodging there? They says, "yes, you
can have a lodging here," and I got a bedroom, and settled myself
down in the tap. There was a number of people about the place, and
coming backwards and forwards to the house; and first one says, and
then another says, "Are you from the country, young man?" "Yes," I
says, "I am. I'm come out of Northamptonshire, and I'm quite
lonely here, for I don't know London at all, and it's such a mighty
big town." "It IS a big town," they says. "Oh, it's a VERY big
town!" I says. "Really and truly I never was in such a town. It
quite confuses of me!" and all that, you know.
'When some of the journeymen Butchers that used the house, found
that I wanted a place, they says, "Oh, we'll get you a place!" And
they actually took me to a sight of places, in Newgate Market,
Newport Market, Clare, Carnaby - I don't know where all. But the
wages was - ha, ha, ha! - was not sufficient, and I never could
suit myself, don't you see? Some of the queer frequenters of the
house were a little suspicious of me at first, and I was obliged to
be very cautious indeed how I communicated with Straw or Fendall.
Sometimes, when I went out, pretending to stop and look into the
shop windows, and just casting my eye round, I used to see some of
'em following me; but, being perhaps better accustomed than they
thought for, to that sort of thing, I used to lead 'em on as far as
I thought necessary or convenient - sometimes a long way - and then
turn sharp round, and meet 'em, and say, "Oh, dear, how glad I am
to come upon you so fortunate! This London's such a place, I'm
blowed if I ain't lost again!" And then we'd go back all together,
to the public-house, and - ha, ha, ha! and smoke our pipes, don't
'They were very attentive to me, I am sure. It was a common thing,
while I was living there, for some of 'em to take me out, and show
me London. They showed me the Prisons - showed me Newgate - and
when they showed me Newgate, I stops at the place where the Porters
pitch their loads, and says, "Oh dear, is this where they hang the
men? Oh Lor!" "That!" they says, "what a simple cove he is! THAT
ain't it!" And then, they pointed out which WAS it, and I says
"Lor!" and they says, "Now you'll know it agen, won't you?" And I
said I thought I should if I tried hard - and I assure you I kept a
sharp look out for the City Police when we were out in this way,
for if any of 'em had happened to know me, and had spoke to me, it
would have been all up in a minute. However, by good luck such a
thing never happened, and all went on quiet: though the
difficulties I had in communicating with my brother officers were
'The stolen goods that were brought to the public-house by the
Warehouse Porters, were always disposed of in a back parlour. For
a long time, I never could get into this parlour, or see what was
done there. As I sat smoking my pipe, like an innocent young chap,
by the tap-room fire, I'd hear some of the parties to the robbery,
as they came in and out, say softly to the landlord, "Who's that?
What does HE do here?" "Bless your soul," says the landlord, "he's
only a" - ha, ha, ha! - "he's only a green young fellow from the
country, as is looking for a butcher's sitiwation. Don't mind
HIM!" So, in course of time, they were so convinced of my being
green, and got to be so accustomed to me, that I was as free of the
parlour as any of 'em, and I have seen as much as Seventy Pounds'
Worth of fine lawn sold there, in one night, that was stolen from a
warehouse in Friday Street. After the sale the buyers always stood
treat - hot supper, or dinner, or what not - and they'd say on
those occasions, "Come on, Butcher! Put your best leg foremost,
young 'un, and walk into it!" Which I used to do - and hear, at
table, all manner of particulars that it was very important for us
Detectives to know.
'This went on for ten weeks. I lived in the public-house all the
time, and never was out of the Butcher's dress - except in bed. At
last, when I had followed seven of the thieves, and set 'em to
rights - that's an expression of ours, don't you see, by which I
mean to say that I traced 'em, and found out where the robberies
were done, and all about 'em - Straw, and Fendall, and I, gave one
another the office, and at a time agreed upon, a descent was made
upon the public-house, and the apprehensions effected. One of the
first things the officers did, was to collar me - for the parties
to the robbery weren't to suppose yet, that I was anything but a
Butcher - on which the landlord cries out, "Don't take HIM," he
says, "whatever you do! He's only a poor young chap from the
country, and butter wouldn't melt in his mouth!" However, they -
ha, ha, ha! - they took me, and pretended to search my bedroom,
where nothing was found but an old fiddle belonging to the
landlord, that had got there somehow or another. But, it entirely
changed the landlord's opinion, for when it was produced, he says,
"My fiddle! The Butcher's a purloiner! I give him into custody
for the robbery of a musical instrument!"
'The man that had stolen the goods in Friday Street was not taken
yet. He had told me, in confidence, that he had his suspicions
there was something wrong (on account of the City Police having
captured one of the party), and that he was going to make himself
scarce. I asked him, "Where do you mean to go, Mr. Shepherdson?"
"Why, Butcher," says he, "the Setting Moon, in the Commercial Road,
is a snug house, and I shall bang out there for a time. I shall
call myself Simpson, which appears to me to be a modest sort of a
name. Perhaps you'll give us a look in, Butcher?" "Well," says I,
"I think I WILL give you a call" - which I fully intended, don't
you see, because, of course, he was to be taken! I went over to
the Setting Moon next day, with a brother officer, and asked at the
bar for Simpson. They pointed out his room, up-stairs. As we were
going up, he looks down over the banister, and calls out, "Halloa,
Butcher! is that you?" "Yes, it's me. How do you find yourself?"
"Bobbish," he says; "but who's that with you?" "It's only a young
man, that's a friend of mine," I says. "Come along, then," says
he; "any friend of the Butcher's is as welcome as the Butcher!"
So, I made my friend acquainted with him, and we took him into
'You have no idea, sir, what a sight it was, in Court, when they
first knew that I wasn't a Butcher, after all! I wasn't produced
at the first examination, when there was a remand; but I was at the
second. And when I stepped into the box, in full police uniform,
and the whole party saw how they had been done, actually a groan of
horror and dismay proceeded from 'em in the dock!
'At the Old Bailey, when their trials came on, Mr. Clarkson was
engaged for the defence, and he COULDN'T make out how it was, about
the Butcher. He thought, all along, it was a real Butcher. When
the counsel for the prosecution said, "I will now call before you,
gentlemen, the Police-officer," meaning myself, Mr. Clarkson says,
"Why Police-officer? Why more Police-officers? I don't want
Police. We have had a great deal too much of the Police. I want
the Butcher!" However, sir, he had the Butcher and the Police-
officer, both in one. Out of seven prisoners committed for trial,
five were found guilty, and some of 'em were transported. The
respectable firm at the West End got a term of imprisonment; and
that's the Butcher's Story!'
The story done, the chuckle-headed Butcher again resolved himself
into the smooth-faced Detective. But, he was so extremely tickled
by their having taken him about, when he was that Dragon in
disguise, to show him London, that he could not help reverting to
that point in his narrative; and gently repeating with the Butcher
snigger, '"Oh, dear," I says, "is that where they hang the men?
Oh, Lor!" "THAT!" says they. "What a simple cove he is!"'
It being now late, and the party very modest in their fear of being
too diffuse, there were some tokens of separation; when Sergeant
Dornton, the soldierly-looking man, said, looking round him with a
'Before we break up, sir, perhaps you might have some amusement in
hearing of the Adventures of a Carpet Bag. They are very short;
and, I think, curious.'
We welcomed the Carpet Bag, as cordially as Mr. Shepherdson
welcomed the false Butcher at the Setting Moon. Sergeant Dornton
'In 1847, I was despatched to Chatham, in search of one Mesheck, a
Jew. He had been carrying on, pretty heavily, in the bill-stealing
way, getting acceptances from young men of good connexions (in the
army chiefly), on pretence of discount, and bolting with the same.
'Mesheck was off, before I got to Chatham. All I could learn about
him was, that he had gone, probably to London, and had with him - a
'I came back to town, by the last train from Blackwall, and made
inquiries concerning a Jew passenger with - a Carpet Bag.
'The office was shut up, it being the last train. There were only
two or three porters left. Looking after a Jew with a Carpet Bag,
on the Blackwall Railway, which was then the high road to a great
Military Depot, was worse than looking after a needle in a hayrick.
But it happened that one of these porters had carried, for a
certain Jew, to a certain public-house, a certain - Carpet Bag.
'I went to the public-house, but the Jew had only left his luggage
there for a few hours, and had called for it in a cab, and taken it
away. I put such questions there, and to the porter, as I thought
prudent, and got at this description of - the Carpet Bag.
'It was a bag which had, on one side of it, worked in worsted, a
green parrot on a stand. A green parrot on a stand was the means
by which to identify that - Carpet Bag.
'I traced Mesheck, by means of this green parrot on a stand, to
Cheltenham, to Birmingham, to Liverpool, to the Atlantic Ocean. At
Liverpool he was too many for me. He had gone to the United
States, and I gave up all thoughts of Mesheck, and likewise of his
- Carpet Bag.
'Many months afterwards - near a year afterwards - there was a bank
in Ireland robbed of seven thousand pounds, by a person of the name
of Doctor Dundey, who escaped to America; from which country some
of the stolen notes came home. He was supposed to have bought a
farm in New Jersey. Under proper management, that estate could be
seized and sold, for the benefit of the parties he had defrauded.
I was sent off to America for this purpose.
'I landed at Boston. I went on to New York. I found that he had
lately changed New York paper-money for New Jersey paper money, and
had banked cash in New Brunswick. To take this Doctor Dundey, it
was necessary to entrap him into the State of New York, which
required a deal of artifice and trouble. At one time, he couldn't
be drawn into an appointment. At another time, he appointed to
come to meet me, and a New York officer, on a pretext I made; and
then his children had the measles. At last he came, per steamboat,
and I took him, and lodged him in a New York prison called the
Tombs; which I dare say you know, sir?'
Editorial acknowledgment to that effect.
'I went to the Tombs, on the morning after his capture, to attend
the examination before the magistrate. I was passing through the
magistrate's private room, when, happening to look round me to take
notice of the place, as we generally have a habit of doing, I
clapped my eyes, in one corner, on a - Carpet Bag.
'What did I see upon that Carpet Bag, if you'll believe me, but a
green parrot on a stand, as large as life!
'"That Carpet Bag, with the representation of a green parrot on a
stand," said I, "belongs to an English Jew, named Aaron Mesheck,
and to no other man, alive or dead!"
'I give you my word the New York Police Officers were doubled up
'"How did you ever come to know that?" said they.
'"I think I ought to know that green parrot by this time," said I;
"for I have had as pretty a dance after that bird, at home, as ever
I had, in all my life!"'
'And was it Mesheck's?' we submissively inquired.
'Was it, sir? Of course it was! He was in custody for another
offence, in that very identical Tombs, at that very identical time.
And, more than that! Some memoranda, relating to the fraud for
which I had vainly endeavoured to take him, were found to be, at
that moment, lying in that very same individual - Carpet Bag!'
Such are the curious coincidences and such is the peculiar ability,
always sharpening and being improved by practice, and always
adapting itself to every variety of circumstances, and opposing
itself to every new device that perverted ingenuity can invent, for
which this important social branch of the public service is
remarkable! For ever on the watch, with their wits stretched to
the utmost, these officers have, from day to day and year to year,
to set themselves against every novelty of trickery and dexterity
that the combined imaginations of all the lawless rascals in
England can devise, and to keep pace with every such invention that
comes out. In the Courts of Justice, the materials of thousands of
such stories as we have narrated - often elevated into the
marvellous and romantic, by the circumstances of the case - are
dryly compressed into the set phrase, 'in consequence of
information I received, I did so and so.' Suspicion was to be
directed, by careful inference and deduction, upon the right
person; the right person was to be taken, wherever he had gone, or
whatever he was doing to avoid detection: he is taken; there he is
at the bar; that is enough. From information I, the officer,
received, I did it; and, according to the custom in these cases, I
say no more.
These games of chess, played with live pieces, are played before
small audiences, and are chronicled nowhere. The interest of the
game supports the player. Its results are enough for justice. To
compare great things with small, suppose LEVERRIER or ADAMS
informing the public that from information he had received he had
discovered a new planet; or COLUMBUS informing the public of his
day that from information he had received he had discovered a new
continent; so the Detectives inform it that they have discovered a
new fraud or an old offender, and the process is unknown.
Thus, at midnight, closed the proceedings of our curious and
interesting party. But one other circumstance finally wound up the
evening, after our Detective guests had left us. One of the
sharpest among them, and the officer best acquainted with the Swell
Mob, had his pocket picked, going home!
THREE 'DETECTIVE' ANECDOTES
I. - THE PAIR OF GLOVES
'IT'S a singler story, sir,' said Inspector Wield, of the Detective
Police, who, in company with Sergeants Dornton and Mith, paid us
another twilight visit, one July evening; 'and I've been thinking
you might like to know it.
'It's concerning the murder of the young woman, Eliza Grimwood,
some years ago, over in the Waterloo Road. She was commonly called
The Countess, because of her handsome appearance and her proud way
of carrying of herself; and when I saw the poor Countess (I had
known her well to speak to), lying dead, with her throat cut, on
the floor of her bedroom, you'll believe me that a variety of
reflections calculated to make a man rather low in his spirits,
came into my head.
'That's neither here nor there. I went to the house the morning
after the murder, and examined the body, and made a general
observation of the bedroom where it was. Turning down the pillow
of the bed with my hand, I found, underneath it, a pair of gloves.
A pair of gentleman's dress gloves, very dirty; and inside the
lining, the letters TR, and a cross.
'Well, sir, I took them gloves away, and I showed 'em to the
magistrate, over at Union Hall, before whom the case was. He says,
"Wield," he says, "there's no doubt this is a discovery that may
lead to something very important; and what you have got to do,
Wield, is, to find out the owner of these gloves."
'I was of the same opinion, of course, and I went at it
immediately. I looked at the gloves pretty narrowly, and it was my
opinion that they had been cleaned. There was a smell of sulphur
and rosin about 'em, you know, which cleaned gloves usually have,
more or less. I took 'em over to a friend of mine at Kennington,
who was in that line, and I put it to him. "What do you say now?
Have these gloves been cleaned?" "These gloves have been cleaned,"
says he. "Have you any idea who cleaned them?" says I. "Not at
all," says he; "I've a very distinct idea who DIDN'T clean 'em, and
that's myself. But I'll tell you what, Wield, there ain't above
eight or nine reg'lar glove-cleaners in London," - there were not,
at that time, it seems - "and I think I can give you their
addresses, and you may find out, by that means, who did clean 'em."
Accordingly, he gave me the directions, and I went here, and I went
there, and I looked up this man, and I looked up that man; but,
though they all agreed that the gloves had been cleaned, I couldn't
find the man, woman, or child, that had cleaned that aforesaid pair
'What with this person not being at home, and that person being
expected home in the afternoon, and so forth, the inquiry took me
three days. On the evening of the third day, coming over Waterloo
Bridge from the Surrey side of the river, quite beat, and very much
vexed and disappointed, I thought I'd have a shilling's worth of
entertainment at the Lyceum Theatre to freshen myself up. So I
went into the Pit, at half-price, and I sat myself down next to a
very quiet, modest sort of young man. Seeing I was a stranger
(which I thought it just as well to appear to be) he told me the
names of the actors on the stage, and we got into conversation.
When the play was over, we came out together, and I said, "We've
been very companionable and agreeable, and perhaps you wouldn't
object to a drain?" "Well, you're very good," says he; "I
SHOULDN'T object to a drain." Accordingly, we went to a public-
house, near the Theatre, sat ourselves down in a quiet room up-
stairs on the first floor, and called for a pint of half-and-half,
apiece, and a pipe.
'Well, sir, we put our pipes aboard, and we drank our half-and-
half, and sat a-talking, very sociably, when the young man says,
"You must excuse me stopping very long," he says, "because I'm
forced to go home in good time. I must be at work all night." "At
work all night?" says I. "You ain't a baker?" "No," he says,
laughing, "I ain't a baker." "I thought not," says I, "you haven't
the looks of a baker." "No," says he, "I'm a glove-cleaner."
'I never was more astonished in my life, than when I heard them
words come out of his lips. "You're a glove-cleaner, are you?"
says I. "Yes," he says, "I am." "Then, perhaps," says I, taking
the gloves out of my pocket, "you can tell me who cleaned this pair
of gloves? It's a rum story," I says. "I was dining over at
Lambeth, the other day, at a free-and-easy - quite promiscuous -
with a public company - when some gentleman, he left these gloves
behind him! Another gentleman and me, you see, we laid a wager of
a sovereign, that I wouldn't find out who they belonged to. I've
spent as much as seven shillings already, in trying to discover;
but, if you could help me, I'd stand another seven and welcome.
You see there's TR and a cross, inside." "I see," he says. "Bless
you, I know these gloves very well! I've seen dozens of pairs
belonging to the same party." "No?" says I. "Yes," says he.
"Then you know who cleaned 'em?" says I. "Rather so," says he.
"My father cleaned 'em."
'"Where does your father live?" says I. "Just round the corner,"
says the young man, "near Exeter Street, here. He'll tell you who
they belong to, directly." "Would you come round with me now?"
says I. "Certainly," says he, "but you needn't tell my father that
you found me at the play, you know, because he mightn't like it."
"All right!" We went round to the place, and there we found an old
man in a white apron, with two or three daughters, all rubbing and
cleaning away at lots of gloves, in a front parlour. "Oh, Father!"
says the young man, "here's a person been and made a bet about the
ownership of a pair of gloves, and I've told him you can settle
it." "Good evening, sir," says I to the old gentleman. "Here's
the gloves your son speaks of. Letters TR, you see, and a cross."
"Oh yes," he says, "I know these gloves very well; I've cleaned
dozens of pairs of 'em. They belong to Mr. Trinkle, the great
upholsterer in Cheapside." "Did you get 'em from Mr. Trinkle,
direct," says I, "if you'll excuse my asking the question?" "No,"
says he; "Mr. Trinkle always sends 'em to Mr. Phibbs's, the
haberdasher's, opposite his shop, and the haberdasher sends 'em to
me." "Perhaps YOU wouldn't object to a drain?" says I. "Not in
the least!" says he. So I took the old gentleman out, and had a
little more talk with him and his son, over a glass, and we parted
'This was late on a Saturday night. First thing on the Monday
morning, I went to the haberdasher's shop, opposite Mr. Trinkle's,
the great upholsterer's in Cheapside. "Mr. Phibbs in the way?"
"My name is Phibbs." "Oh! I believe you sent this pair of gloves
to be cleaned?" "Yes, I did, for young Mr. Trinkle over the way.
There he is in the shop!" "Oh! that's him in the shop, is it? Him
in the green coat?" "The same individual." "Well, Mr. Phibbs,
this is an unpleasant affair; but the fact is, I am Inspector Wield
of the Detective Police, and I found these gloves under the pillow
of the young woman that was murdered the other day, over in the
Waterloo Road!" "Good Heaven!" says he. "He's a most respectable
young man, and if his father was to hear of it, it would be the
ruin of him!" "I'm very sorry for it," says I, "but I must take
him into custody." "Good Heaven!" says Mr. Phibbs, again; "can
nothing be done?" "Nothing," says I. "Will you allow me to call
him over here," says he, "that his father may not see it done?" "I
don't object to that," says I; "but unfortunately, Mr. Phibbs, I
can't allow of any communication between you. If any was
attempted, I should have to interfere directly. Perhaps you'll
beckon him over here?' Mr. Phibbs went to the door and beckoned,
and the young fellow came across the street directly; a smart,
brisk young fellow.
'"Good morning, sir," says I. "Good morning, sir," says he.
"Would you allow me to inquire, sir," says I, "if you ever had any
acquaintance with a party of the name of Grimwood?" "Grimwood!
Grimwood!" says he. "No!" "You know the Waterloo Road?" "Oh! of
course I know the Waterloo Road!" "Happen to have heard of a young
woman being murdered there?" "Yes, I read it in the paper, and
very sorry I was to read it." "Here's a pair of gloves belonging
to you, that I found under her pillow the morning afterwards!"
'He was in a dreadful state, sir; a dreadful state I "Mr. Wield,"
he says, "upon my solemn oath I never was there. I never so much
as saw her, to my knowledge, in my life!" "I am very sorry," says
I. "To tell you the truth; I don't think you ARE the murderer, but
I must take you to Union Hall in a cab. However, I think it's a
case of that sort, that, at present, at all events, the magistrate
will hear it in private."
'A private examination took place, and then it came out that this
young man was acquainted with a cousin of the unfortunate Eliza
Grimwood, and that, calling to see this cousin a day or two before
the murder, he left these gloves upon the table. Who should come
in, shortly afterwards, but Eliza Grimwood! "Whose gloves are
these?" she says, taking 'em up. "Those are Mr. Trinkle's gloves,"
says her cousin. "Oh!" says she, "they are very dirty, and of no
use to him, I am sure. I shall take 'em away for my girl to clean
the stoves with." And she put 'em in her pocket. The girl had
used 'em to clean the stoves, and, I have no doubt, had left 'em
lying on the bedroom mantelpiece, or on the drawers, or somewhere;
and her mistress, looking round to see that the room was tidy, had
caught 'em up and put 'em under the pillow where I found 'em.
That's the story, sir.'
II. - THE ARTFUL TOUCH
'One of the most BEAUTIFUL things that ever was done, perhaps,'
said Inspector Wield, emphasising the adjective, as preparing us to
expect dexterity or ingenuity rather than strong interest, 'was a
move of Sergeant Witchem's. It was a lovely idea!
'Witchem and me were down at Epsom one Derby Day, waiting at the
station for the Swell Mob. As I mentioned, when we were talking
about these things before, we are ready at the station when there's
races, or an Agricultural Show, or a Chancellor sworn in for an
university, or Jenny Lind, or anything of that sort; and as the
Swell Mob come down, we send 'em back again by the next train. But
some of the Swell Mob, on the occasion of this Derby that I refer
to, so far kidded us as to hire a horse and shay; start away from
London by Whitechapel, and miles round; come into Epsom from the
opposite direction; and go to work, right and left, on the course,
while we were waiting for 'em at the Rail. That, however, ain't
the point of what I'm going to tell you.
'While Witchem and me were waiting at the station, there comes up
one Mr. Tatt; a gentleman formerly in the public line, quite an
amateur Detective in his way, and very much respected. "Halloa,
Charley Wield," he says. "What are you doing here? On the look
out for some of your old friends?" "Yes, the old move, Mr. Tatt."
"Come along," he says, "you and Witchem, and have a glass of
sherry." "We can't stir from the place," says I, "till the next
train comes in; but after that, we will with pleasure." Mr. Tatt
waits, and the train comes in, and then Witchem and me go off with
him to the Hotel. Mr. Tatt he's got up quite regardless of
expense, for the occasion; and in his shirt-front there's a
beautiful diamond prop, cost him fifteen or twenty pound - a very
handsome pin indeed. We drink our sherry at the bar, and have had
our three or four glasses, when Witchem cries suddenly, "Look out,
Mr. Wield! stand fast!" and a dash is made into the place by the
Swell Mob - four of 'em - that have come down as I tell you, and in
a moment Mr. Tatt's prop is gone! Witchem, he cuts 'em off at the
door, I lay about me as hard as I can, Mr. Tatt shows fight like a
good 'un, and there we are, all down together, heads and heels,
knocking about on the floor of the bar - perhaps you never see such
a scene of confusion! However, we stick to our men (Mr. Tatt being
as good as any officer), and we take 'em all, and carry 'em off to
the station.' The station's full of people, who have been took on
the course; and it's a precious piece of work to get 'em secured.
However, we do it at last, and we search 'em; but nothing's found
upon 'em, and they're locked up; and a pretty state of heat we are
in by that time, I assure you!
'I was very blank over it, myself, to think that the prop had been
passed away; and I said to Witchem, when we had set 'em to rights,
and were cooling ourselves along with Mr. Tatt, "we don't take much
by THIS move, anyway, for nothing's found upon 'em, and it's only
the braggadocia, (2) after all." "What do you mean, Mr. Wield?"
says Witchem. "Here's the diamond pin!" and in the palm of his
hand there it was, safe and sound! "Why, in the name of wonder,"
says me and Mr. Tatt, in astonishment, "how did you come by that?"
"I'll tell you how I come by it," says he. "I saw which of 'em
took it; and when we were all down on the floor together, knocking
about, I just gave him a little touch on the back of his hand, as I
knew his pal would; and he thought it WAS his pal; and gave it me!"
It was beautiful, beau-ti-ful!
'Even that was hardly the best of the case, for that chap was tried
at the Quarter Sessions at Guildford. You know what Quarter
Sessions are, sir. Well, if you'll believe me, while them slow
justices were looking over the Acts of Parliament, to see what they
could do to him, I'm blowed if he didn't cut out of the dock before
their faces! He cut out of the dock, sir, then and there; swam
across a river; and got up into a tree to dry himself. In the tree
he was took - an old woman having seen him climb up - and Witchem's
artful touch transported him!'
III. - THE SOFA
"What young men will do, sometimes, to ruin themselves and break
their friends' hearts,' said Sergeant Dornton, 'it's surprising! I
had a case at Saint Blank's Hospital which was of this sort. A bad
case, indeed, with a bad end!
'The Secretary, and the House-Surgeon, and the Treasurer, of Saint
Blank's Hospital, came to Scotland Yard to give information of
numerous robberies having been committed on the students. The
students could leave nothing in the pockets of their great-coats,
while the great-coats were hanging at the hospital, but it was
almost certain to be stolen. Property of various descriptions was
constantly being lost; and the gentlemen were naturally uneasy
about it, and anxious, for the credit of the institution, that the
thief or thieves should be discovered. The case was entrusted to
me, and I went to the hospital.
'"Now, gentlemen," said I, after we had talked it over; "I
understand this property is usually lost from one room."
'Yes, they said. It was.
'"I should wish, if you please," said I, "to see the room."
'It was a good-sized bare room down-stairs, with a few tables and
forms in it, and a row of pegs, all round, for hats and coats.
'"Next, gentlemen," said I, "do you suspect anybody?"
'Yes, they said. They did suspect somebody. They were sorry to
say, they suspected one of the porters.
'"I should like," said I, "to have that man pointed out to me, and
to have a little time to look after him."
'He was pointed out, and I looked after him, and then I went back
to the hospital, and said, "Now, gentlemen, it's not the porter.
He's, unfortunately for himself, a little too fond of drink, but
he's nothing worse. My suspicion is, that these robberies are
committed by one of the students; and if you'll put me a sofa into
that room where the pegs are - as there's no closet - I think I
shall be able to detect the thief. I wish the sofa, if you please,
to be covered with chintz, or something of that sort, so that I may
lie on my chest, underneath it, without being seen."
'The sofa was provided, and next day at eleven o'clock, before any
of the students came, I went there, with those gentlemen, to get
underneath it. It turned out to be one of those old-fashioned
sofas with a great cross-beam at the bottom, that would have broken
my back in no time if I could ever have got below it. We had quite
a job to break all this away in the time; however, I fell to work,
and they fell to work, and we broke it out, and made a clear place
for me. I got under the sofa, lay down on my chest, took out my
knife, and made a convenient hole in the chintz to look through.
It was then settled between me and the gentlemen that when the
students were all up in the wards, one of the gentlemen should come
in, and hang up a great-coat on one of the pegs. And that that
great-coat should have, in one of the pockets, a pocket-book
containing marked money.
'After I had been there some time, the students began to drop into
the room, by ones, and twos, and threes, and to talk about all
sorts of things, little thinking there was anybody under the sofa -
and then to go up-stairs. At last there came in one who remained
until he was alone in the room by himself. A tallish, good-looking
young man of one or two and twenty, with a light whisker. He went
to a particular hat-peg, took off a good hat that was hanging
there, tried it on, hung his own hat in its place, and hung that
hat on another peg, nearly opposite to me. I then felt quite
certain that he was the thief, and would come back by-and-by.
'When they were all up-stairs, the gentleman came in with the
great-coat. I showed him where to hang it, so that I might have a
good view of it; and he went away; and I lay under the sofa on my
chest, for a couple of hours or so, waiting.
'At last, the same young man came down. He walked across the room,
whistling - stopped and listened - took another walk and whistled -
stopped again, and listened - then began to go regularly round the
pegs, feeling in the pockets of all the coats. When he came to the
great-coat, and felt the pocket-book, he was so eager and so
hurried that he broke the strap in tearing it open. As he began to
put the money in his pocket, I crawled out from under the sofa, and
his eyes met mine.
'My face, as you may perceive, is brown now, but it was pale at
that time, my health not being good; and looked as long as a
horse's. Besides which, there was a great draught of air from the
door, underneath the sofa, and I had tied a handkerchief round my
head; so what I looked like, altogether, I don't know. He turned
blue - literally blue - when he saw me crawling out, and I couldn't
feel surprised at it.
'"I am an officer of the Detective Police," said I, "and have been
lying here, since you first came in this morning. I regret, for
the sake of yourself and your friends, that you should have done
what you have; but this case is complete. You have the pocket-book
in your hand and the money upon you; and I must take you into
'It was impossible to make out any case in his behalf, and on his
trial he pleaded guilty. How or when he got the means I don't
know; but while he was awaiting his sentence, he poisoned himself
We inquired of this officer, on the conclusion of the foregoing
anecdote, whether the time appeared long, or short, when he lay in
that constrained position under the sofa?
'Why, you see, sir,' he replied, 'if he hadn't come in, the first
time, and I had not been quite sure he was the thief, and would
return, the time would have seemed long. But, as it was, I being
dead certain of my man, the time seemed pretty short.'
ON DUTY WITH INSPECTOR FIELD
HOW goes the night? Saint Giles's clock is striking nine. The
weather is dull and wet, and the long lines of street lamps are
blurred, as if we saw them through tears. A damp wind blows and
rakes the pieman's fire out, when he opens the door of his little
furnace, carrying away an eddy of sparks.
Saint Giles's clock strikes nine. We are punctual. Where is
Inspector Field? Assistant Commissioner of Police is already here,
enwrapped in oil-skin cloak, and standing in the shadow of Saint
Giles's steeple. Detective Sergeant, weary of speaking French all
day to foreigners unpacking at the Great Exhibition, is already
here. Where is Inspector Field?
Inspector Field is, to-night, the guardian genius of the British
Museum. He is bringing his shrewd eye to bear on every corner of
its solitary galleries, before he reports 'all right.' Suspicious
of the Elgin marbles, and not to be done by cat-faced Egyptian
giants with their hands upon their knees, Inspector Field,
sagacious, vigilant, lamp in hand, throwing monstrous shadows on
the walls and ceilings, passes through the spacious rooms. If a
mummy trembled in an atom of its dusty covering, Inspector Field
would say, 'Come out of that, Tom Green. I know you!' If the
smallest 'Gonoph' about town were crouching at the bottom of a
classic bath, Inspector Field would nose him with a finer scent
than the ogre's, when adventurous Jack lay trembling in his kitchen
copper. But all is quiet, and Inspector Field goes warily on,
making little outward show of attending to anything in particular,
just recognising the Ichthyosaurus as a familiar acquaintance, and
wondering, perhaps, how the detectives did it in the days before
Will Inspector Field be long about this work? He may be half-an-
hour longer. He sends his compliments by Police Constable, and
proposes that we meet at St. Giles's Station House, across the
road. Good. It were as well to stand by the fire, there, as in
the shadow of Saint Giles's steeple.
Anything doing here to-night? Not much. We are very quiet. A
lost boy, extremely calm and small, sitting by the fire, whom we
now confide to a constable to take home, for the child says that if
you show him Newgate Street, he can show you where he lives - a
raving drunken woman in the cells, who has screeched her voice
away, and has hardly power enough left to declare, even with the
passionate help of her feet and arms, that she is the daughter of a
British officer, and, strike her blind and dead, but she'll write a
letter to the Queen! but who is soothed with a drink of water - in
another cell, a quiet woman with a child at her breast, for begging
- in another, her husband in a smock-frock, with a basket of
watercresses - in another, a pickpocket - in another, a meek
tremulous old pauper man who has been out for a holiday 'and has
took but a little drop, but it has overcome him after so many
months in the house' - and that's all as yet. Presently, a
sensation at the Station House door. Mr. Field, gentlemen!
Inspector Field comes in, wiping his forehead, for he is of a burly
figure, and has come fast from the ores and metals of the deep
mines of the earth, and from the Parrot Gods of the South Sea
Islands, and from the birds and beetles of the tropics, and from
the Arts of Greece and Rome, and from the Sculptures of Nineveh,
and from the traces of an elder world, when these were not. Is
Rogers ready? Rogers is ready, strapped and great-coated, with a
flaming eye in the middle of his waist, like a deformed Cyclops.
Lead on, Rogers, to Rats' Castle!
How many people may there be in London, who, if we had brought them
deviously and blindfold, to this street, fifty paces from the
Station House, and within call of Saint Giles's church, would know
it for a not remote part of the city in which their lives are
passed? How many, who amidst this compound of sickening smells,
these heaps of filth, these tumbling houses, with all their vile
contents, animate, and inanimate, slimily overflowing into the
black road, would believe that they breathe THIS air? How much Red
Tape may there be, that could look round on the faces which now hem
us in - for our appearance here has caused a rush from all points
to a common centre - the lowering foreheads, the sallow cheeks, the
brutal eyes, the matted hair, the infected, vermin-haunted heaps of
rags - and say, 'I have thought of this. I have not dismissed the
thing. I have neither blustered it away, nor frozen it away, nor
tied it up and put it away, nor smoothly said pooh, pooh! to it
when it has been shown to me?'
This is not what Rogers wants to know, however. What Rogers wants
to know, is, whether you WILL clear the way here, some of you, or
whether you won't; because if you don't do it right on end, he'll
lock you up! 'What! YOU are there, are you, Bob Miles? You
haven't had enough of it yet, haven't you? You want three months
more, do you? Come away from that gentleman! What are you
creeping round there for?'
'What am I a doing, thinn, Mr. Rogers?' says Bob Miles, appearing,
villainous, at the end of a lane of light, made by the lantern.
'I'll let you know pretty quick, if you don't hook it. WILL you
A sycophantic murmur rises from the crowd. 'Hook it, Bob, when Mr.
Rogers and Mr. Field tells you! Why don't you hook it, when you
are told to?'
The most importunate of the voices strikes familiarly on Mr.
Rogers's ear. He suddenly turns his lantern on the owner.
'What! YOU are there, are you, Mister Click? You hook it too -
'What for?' says Mr. Click, discomfited.
'You hook it, will you!' says Mr. Rogers with stern emphasis.
Both Click and Miles DO 'hook it,' without another word, or, in
plainer English, sneak away.
'Close up there, my men!' says Inspector Field to two constables on
duty who have followed. 'Keep together, gentlemen; we are going
down here. Heads!'
Saint Giles's church strikes half-past ten. We stoop low, and
creep down a precipitous flight of steps into a dark close cellar.
There is a fire. There is a long deal table. There are benches.
The cellar is full of company, chiefly very young men in various
conditions of dirt and raggedness. Some are eating supper. There
are no girls or women present. Welcome to Rats' Castle, gentlemen,
and to this company of noted thieves!
'Well, my lads! How are you, my lads? What have you been doing
to-day? Here's some company come to see you, my lads! - THERE'S a
plate of beefsteak, sir, for the supper of a fine young man! And
there's a mouth for a steak, sir! Why, I should be too proud of
such a mouth as that, if I had it myself! Stand up and show it,
sir! Take off your cap. There's a fine young man for a nice
little party, sir! An't he?'
Inspector Field is the bustling speaker. Inspector Field's eye is
the roving eye that searches every corner of the cellar as he
talks. Inspector Field's hand is the well-known hand that has
collared half the people here, and motioned their brothers,
sisters, fathers, mothers, male and female friends, inexorably to
New South Wales. Yet Inspector Field stands in this den, the
Sultan of the place. Every thief here cowers before him, like a
schoolboy before his schoolmaster. All watch him, all answer when
addressed, all laugh at his jokes, all seek to propitiate him.
This cellar company alone - to say nothing of the crowd surrounding
the entrance from the street above, and making the steps shine with
eyes - is strong enough to murder us all, and willing enough to do
it; but, let Inspector Field have a mind to pick out one thief
here, and take him; let him produce that ghostly truncheon from his
pocket, and say, with his business-air, 'My lad, I want you!' and
all Rats' Castle shall be stricken with paralysis, and not a finger
move against him, as he fits the handcuffs on!
Where's the Earl of Warwick? - Here he is, Mr. Field! Here's the
Earl of Warwick, Mr. Field! - O there you are, my Lord. Come
for'ard. There's a chest, sir, not to have a clean shirt on. An't
it? Take your hat off, my Lord. Why, I should be ashamed if I was
you - and an Earl, too - to show myself to a gentleman with my hat
on! - The Earl of Warwick laughs and uncovers. All the company
laugh. One pickpocket, especially, laughs with great enthusiasm.
O what a jolly game it is, when Mr. Field comes down - and don't
So, YOU are here, too, are you, you tall, grey, soldierly-looking,
grave man, standing by the fire? - Yes, sir. Good evening, Mr.
Field! - Let us see. You lived servant to a nobleman once? - Yes,
Mr. Field. - And what is it you do now; I forget? - Well, Mr.
Field, I job about as well as I can. I left my employment on
account of delicate health. The family is still kind to me. Mr.
Wix of Piccadilly is also very kind to me when I am hard up.
Likewise Mr. Nix of Oxford Street. I get a trifle from them
occasionally, and rub on as well as I can, Mr. Field. Mr. Field's
eye rolls enjoyingly, for this man is a notorious begging-letter
writer. - Good night, my lads! - Good night, Mr. Field, and
Clear the street here, half a thousand of you! Cut it, Mrs.
Stalker - none of that - we don't want you! Rogers of the flaming
eye, lead on to the tramps' lodging-house!
A dream of baleful faces attends to the door. Now, stand back all
of you! In the rear Detective Sergeant plants himself, composedly
whistling, with his strong right arm across the narrow passage.
Mrs. Stalker, I am something'd that need not be written here, if
you won't get yourself into trouble, in about half a minute, if I
see that face of yours again!
Saint Giles's church clock, striking eleven, hums through our hand
from the dilapidated door of a dark outhouse as we open it, and are
stricken back by the pestilent breath that issues from within.
Rogers to the front with the light, and let us look!
Ten, twenty, thirty - who can count them! Men, women, children,
for the most part naked, heaped upon the floor like maggots in a
cheese! Ho! In that dark corner yonder! Does anybody lie there?
Me sir, Irish me, a widder, with six children. And yonder? Me
sir, Irish me, with me wife and eight poor babes. And to the left
there? Me sir, Irish me, along with two more Irish boys as is me
friends. And to the right there? Me sir and the Murphy fam'ly,
numbering five blessed souls. And what's this, coiling, now, about
my foot? Another Irish me, pitifully in want of shaving, whom I
have awakened from sleep - and across my other foot lies his wife -
and by the shoes of Inspector Field lie their three eldest - and
their three youngest are at present squeezed between the open door
and the wall. And why is there no one on that little mat before
the sullen fire? Because O'Donovan, with his wife and daughter, is
not come in from selling Lucifers! Nor on the bit of sacking in
the nearest corner? Bad luck! Because that Irish family is late
to-night, a-cadging in the streets!
They are all awake now, the children excepted, and most of them sit
up, to stare. Wheresoever Mr. Rogers turns the flaming eye, there
is a spectral figure rising, unshrouded, from a grave of rags. Who
is the landlord here? - I am, Mr. Field! says a bundle of ribs and
parchment against the wall, scratching itself. - Will you spend
this money fairly, in the morning, to buy coffee for 'em all? -
Yes, sir, I will! - O he'll do it, sir, he'll do it fair. He's
honest! cry the spectres. And with thanks and Good Night sink into
their graves again.
Thus, we make our New Oxford Streets, and our other new streets,
never heeding, never asking, where the wretches whom we clear out,
crowd. With such scenes at our doors, with all the plagues of
Egypt tied up with bits of cobweb in kennels so near our homes, we
timorously make our Nuisance Bills and Boards of Health,
nonentities, and think to keep away the Wolves of Crime and Filth,
by our electioneering ducking to little vestrymen and our
gentlemanly handling of Red Tape!