Part 3 out of 5
same line without observing it. And yet, what was the alternative?
Where could the train be? Had it possibly been sidetracked for
some reason in order to allow the slower train to go past? Such an
explanation was possible if some small repair had to be effected.
A telegram was dispatched to each of the stations between St.
Helens and Manchester, and the superintendent and traffic manager
waited in the utmost suspense at the instrument for the series of
replies which would enable them to say for certain what had become
of the missing train. The answers came back in the order of
questions, which was the order of the stations beginning at the St.
"Special passed here five o'clock.--Collins Green."
"Special passed here six past five.--Earlstown."
"Special passed here 5:10.--Newton."
"Special passed here 5:20.--Kenyon Junction."
"No special train has passed here.--Barton Moss."
The two officials stared at each other in amazement.
"This is unique in my thirty years of experience," said Mr.
"Absolutely unprecedented and inexplicable, sir. The special
has gone wrong between Kenyon Junction and Barton Moss."
"And yet there is no siding, so far as my memory serves me,
between the two stations. The special must have run off the
"But how could the four-fifty parliamentary pass over the same
line without observing it?"
"There's no alternative, Mr. Hood. It must be so.
Possibly the local train may have observed something which may
throw some light upon the matter. We will wire to Manchester for
more information, and to Kenyon Junction with instructions that the
line be examined instantly as far as Barton Moss."
The answer from Manchester came within a few minutes.
"No news of missing special. Driver and guard of slow train
positive no accident between Kenyon Junction and Barton Moss.
Line quite clear, and no sign of anything unusual.--Manchester."
"That driver and guard will have to go," said Mr. Bland,
grimly. "There has been a wreck and they have missed it. The
special has obviously run off the metals without disturbing the
line--how it could have done so passes my comprehension--but so it
must be, and we shall have a wire from Kenyon or Barton Moss
presently to say that they have found her at the bottom of an
But Mr. Bland's prophecy was not destined to be fulfilled.
Half an hour passed, and then there arrived the following message
from the station-master of Kenyon Junction--
"There are no traces of the missing special. It is quite
certain that she passed here, and that she did not arrive at Barton
Moss. We have detached engine from goods train, and I have myself
ridden down the line, but all is clear, and there is no sign of any
Mr. Bland tore his hair in his perplexity.
"This is rank lunacy, Hood!" he cried. "Does a train vanish
into thin air in England in broad daylight? The thing is
preposterous. An engine, a tender, two carriages, a van, five
human beings--and all lost on a straight line of railway! Unless
we get something positive within the next hour I'll take Inspector
Collins, and go down myself."
And then at last something positive did occur. It took the
shape of another telegram from Kenyon Junction.
"Regret to report that the dead body of John Slater, driver of
the special train, has just been found among the gorse bushes at a
point two and a quarter miles from the Junction. Had fallen from
his engine, pitched down the embankment, and rolled among the
bushes. Injuries to his head, from the fall, appear to be cause of
death. Ground has now been carefully examined, and there is no
trace of the missing train."
The country was, as has already been stated, in the throes of
a political crisis, and the attention of the public was
further distracted by the important and sensational developments in
Paris, where a huge scandal threatened to destroy the Government
and to wreck the reputations of many of the leading men in France.
The papers were full of these events, and the singular
disappearance of the special train attracted less attention than
would have been the case in more peaceful times. The grotesque
nature of the event helped to detract from its importance, for the
papers were disinclined to believe the facts as reported to them.
More than one of the London journals treated the matter as an
ingenious hoax, until the coroner's inquest upon the unfortunate
driver (an inquest which elicited nothing of importance) convinced
them of the tragedy of the incident.
Mr. Bland, accompanied by Inspector Collins, the senior
detective officer in the service of the company, went down to
Kenyon Junction the same evening, and their research lasted
throughout the following day, but was attended with purely negative
results. Not only was no trace found of the missing train, but no
conjecture could be put forward which could possibly explain the
facts. At the same time, Inspector Collins's official report
(which lies before me as I write) served to show that the
possibilities were more numerous than might have been expected.
"In the stretch of railway between these two points," said he,
"the country is dotted with ironworks and collieries. Of these,
some are being worked and some have been abandoned. There are no
fewer than twelve which have small-gauge lines which run trolly-
cars down to the main line. These can, of course, be disregarded.
Besides these, however, there are seven which have, or have had,
proper lines running down and connecting with points to the main
line, so as to convey their produce from the mouth of the mine to
the great centres of distribution. In every case these lines are
only a few miles in length. Out of the seven, four belong to
collieries which are worked out, or at least to shafts which are no
longer used. These are the Redgauntlet, Hero, Slough of Despond,
and Heartsease mines, the latter having ten years ago been one of
the principal mines in Lancashire. These four side lines may be
eliminated from our inquiry, for, to prevent possible accidents,
the rails nearest to the main line have been taken up, and
there is no longer any connection. There remain three other side
(a) To the Carnstock Iron Works;
(b) To the Big Ben Colliery;
(c) To the Perseverance Colliery.
"Of these the Big Ben line is not more than a quarter of a mile
long, and ends at a dead wall of coal waiting removal from the
mouth of the mine. Nothing had been seen or heard there of any
special. The Carnstock Iron Works line was blocked all day upon
the 3rd of June by sixteen truckloads of hematite. It is a single
line, and nothing could have passed. As to the Perseverance line,
it is a large double line, which does a considerable traffic, for
the output of the mine is very large. On the 3rd of June this
traffic proceeded as usual; hundreds of men including a gang of
railway platelayers were working along the two miles and a quarter
which constitute the total length of the line, and it is
inconceivable that an unexpected train could have come down there
without attracting universal attention. It may be remarked in
conclusion that this branch line is nearer to St. Helens than the
point at which the engine-driver was discovered, so that we have
every reason to believe that the train was past that point before
misfortune overtook her.
"As to John Slater, there is no clue to be gathered from his
appearance or injuries. We can only say that, so far as we can
see, he met his end by falling off his engine, though why he fell,
or what became of the engine after his fall, is a question upon
which I do not feel qualified to offer an opinion." In conclusion,
the inspector offered his resignation to the Board, being much
nettled by an accusation of incompetence in the London papers.
A month elapsed, during which both the police and the company
prosecuted their inquiries without the slightest success. A reward
was offered and a pardon promised in case of crime, but they were
both unclaimed. Every day the public opened their papers with the
conviction that so grotesque a mystery would at last be solved, but
week after week passed by, and a solution remained as far off as
ever. In broad daylight, upon a June afternoon in the most thickly
inhabited portion of England, a train with its occupants had
disappeared as completely as if some master of subtle chemistry had
volatilized it into gas. Indeed, among the various conjectures
which were put forward in the public Press, there were some which
seriously asserted that supernatural, or, at least, preternatural,
agencies had been at work, and that the deformed Monsieur Caratal
was probably a person who was better known under a less polite
name. Others fixed upon his swarthy companion as being the author
of the mischief, but what it was exactly which he had done could
never be clearly formulated in words.
Amongst the many suggestions put forward by various newspapers
or private individuals, there were one or two which were feasible
enough to attract the attention of the public. One which appeared
in The Times, over the signature of an amateur reasoner of some
celebrity at that date, attempted to deal with the matter in a
critical and semi-scientific manner. An extract must suffice,
although the curious can see the whole letter in the issue of the
3rd of July.
"It is one of the elementary principles of practical
reasoning," he remarked, "that when the impossible has been
eliminated the residuum, HOWEVER IMPROBABLE, must contain the
truth. It is certain that the train left Kenyon Junction. It is
certain that it did not reach Barton Moss. It is in the highest
degree unlikely, but still possible, that it may have taken one of
the seven available side lines. It is obviously impossible for a
train to run where there are no rails, and, therefore, we may
reduce our improbables to the three open lines, namely the
Carnstock Iron Works, the Big Ben, and the Perseverance. Is there
a secret society of colliers, an English Camorra, which is
capable of destroying both train and passengers? It is improbable,
but it is not impossible. I confess that I am unable to suggest
any other solution. I should certainly advise the company to
direct all their energies towards the observation of those three
lines, and of the workmen at the end of them. A careful
supervision of the pawnbrokers' shops of the district might
possibly bring some suggestive facts to light."
The suggestion coming from a recognized authority upon such
matters created considerable interest, and a fierce opposition from
those who considered such a statement to be a preposterous
libel upon an honest and deserving set of men. The only
answer to this criticism was a challenge to the objectors to lay
any more feasible explanations before the public. In reply to this
two others were forthcoming (Times, July 7th and 9th). The
first suggested that the train might have run off the metals and be
lying submerged in the Lancashire and Staffordshire Canal, which
runs parallel to the railway for some hundred of yards. This
suggestion was thrown out of court by the published depth of the
canal, which was entirely insufficient to conceal so large an
object. The second correspondent wrote calling attention to the
bag which appeared to be the sole luggage which the travellers had
brought with them, and suggesting that some novel explosive of
immense and pulverizing power might have been concealed in it. The
obvious absurdity, however, of supposing that the whole train might
be blown to dust while the metals remained uninjured reduced any
such explanation to a farce. The investigation had drifted into
this hopeless position when a new and most unexpected incident
This was nothing less than the receipt by Mrs. McPherson of a
letter from her husband, James McPherson, who had been the guard on
the missing train. The letter, which was dated July 5th, 1890, was
posted from New York and came to hand upon July 14th. Some doubts
were expressed as to its genuine character but Mrs. McPherson was
positive as to the writing, and the fact that it contained a
remittance of a hundred dollars in five-dollar notes was enough in
itself to discount the idea of a hoax. No address was given in the
letter, which ran in this way:
MY DEAR WIFE,--
"I have been thinking a great deal, and I find it very hard to
give you up. The same with Lizzie. I try to fight against it, but
it will always come back to me. I send you some money which will
change into twenty English pounds. This should be enough to bring
both Lizzie and you across the Atlantic, and you will find the
Hamburg boats which stop at Southampton very good boats, and
cheaper than Liverpool. If you could come here and stop at the
Johnston House I would try and send you word how to meet, but
things are very difficult with me at present, and I am not
very happy, finding it hard to give you both up. So no more at
present, from your loving husband,
For a time it was confidently anticipated that this letter
would lead to the clearing up of the whole matter, the more so as
it was ascertained that a passenger who bore a close resemblance to
the missing guard had travelled from Southampton under the name of
Summers in the Hamburg and New York liner Vistula, which
started upon the 7th of June. Mrs. McPherson and her sister Lizzie
Dolton went across to New York as directed and stayed for three
weeks at the Johnston House, without hearing anything from the
missing man. It is probable that some injudicious comments in the
Press may have warned him that the police were using them as a
bait. However, this may be, it is certain that he neither wrote
nor came, and the women were eventually compelled to return to
And so the matter stood, and has continued to stand up to the
present year of 1898. Incredible as it may seem, nothing has
transpired during these eight years which has shed the least light
upon the extraordinary disappearance of the special train which
contained Monsieur Caratal and his companion. Careful inquiries
into the antecedents of the two travellers have only established
the fact that Monsieur Caratal was well known as a financier and
political agent in Central America, and that during his voyage to
Europe he had betrayed extraordinary anxiety to reach Paris. His
companion, whose name was entered upon the passenger lists as
Eduardo Gomez, was a man whose record was a violent one, and whose
reputation was that of a bravo and a bully. There was evidence to
show, however, that he was honestly devoted to the interests of
Monsieur Caratal, and that the latter, being a man of puny
physique, employed the other as a guard and protector. It may be
added that no information came from Paris as to what the objects of
Monsieur Caratal's hurried journey may have been. This comprises
all the facts of the case up to the publication in the Marseilles
papers of the recent confession of Herbert de Lernac, now under
sentence of death for the murder of a merchant named Bonvalot.
This statement may be literally translated as follows:
"It is not out of mere pride or boasting that I give this
information, for, if that were my object, I could tell a dozen
actions of mine which are quite as splendid; but I do it in order
that certain gentlemen in Paris may understand that I, who am able
here to tell about the fate of Monsieur Caratal, can also tell in
whose interest and at whose request the deed was done, unless the
reprieve which I am awaiting comes to me very quickly. Take
warning, messieurs, before it is too late! You know Herbert de
Lernac, and you are aware that his deeds are as ready as his words.
Hasten then, or you are lost!
"At present I shall mention no names--if you only heard the
names, what would you not think!--but I shall merely tell you how
cleverly I did it. I was true to my employers then, and no doubt
they will be true to me now. I hope so, and until I am convinced
that they have betrayed me, these names, which would convulse
Europe, shall not be divulged. But on that day . . . well, I say
"In a word, then, there was a famous trial in Paris, in the
year 1890, in connection with a monstrous scandal in politics and
finance. How monstrous that scandal was can never be known save by
such confidential agents as myself. The honour and careers of many
of the chief men in France were at stake. You have seen a group of
ninepins standing, all so rigid, and prim, and unbending. Then
there comes the ball from far away and pop, pop, pop--there are
your ninepins on the floor. Well, imagine some of the greatest men
in France as these ninepins and then this Monsieur Caratal was the
ball which could be seen coming from far away. If he arrived, then
it was pop, pop, pop for all of them. It was determined that he
should not arrive.
"I do not accuse them all of being conscious of what was to
happen. There were, as I have said, great financial as well as
political interests at stake, and a syndicate was formed to manage
the business. Some subscribed to the syndicate who hardly
understood what were its objects. But others understood very well,
and they can rely upon it that I have not forgotten their names.
They had ample warning that Monsieur Caratal was coming long before
he left South America, and they knew that the evidence which he
held would certainly mean ruin to all of them. The syndicate had
the command of an unlimited amount of money--absolutely
unlimited, you understand. They looked round for an agent who was
capable of wielding this gigantic power. The man chosen must be
inventive, resolute, adaptive--a man in a million. They chose
Herbert de Lernac, and I admit that they were right.
"My duties were to choose my subordinates, to use freely the
power which money gives, and to make certain that Monsieur Caratal
should never arrive in Paris. With characteristic energy I set
about my commission within an hour of receiving my instructions,
and the steps which I took were the very best for the purpose which
could possibly be devised.
"A man whom I could trust was dispatched instantly to South
America to travel home with Monsieur Caratal. Had he arrived in
time the ship would never have reached Liverpool; but alas! it had
already started before my agent could reach it. I fitted out a
small armed brig to intercept it, but again I was unfortunate.
Like all great organizers I was, however, prepared for failure, and
had a series of alternatives prepared, one or the other of which
must succeed. You must not underrate the difficulties of my
undertaking, or imagine that a mere commonplace assassination would
meet the case. We must destroy not only Monsieur Caratal, but
Monsieur Caratal's documents, and Monsieur Caratal's companions
also, if we had reason to believe that he had communicated his
secrets to them. And you must remember that they were on the
alert, and keenly suspicious of any such attempt. It was a task
which was in every way worthy of me, for I am always most masterful
where another would be appalled.
"I was all ready for Monsieur Caratal's reception in Liverpool,
and I was the more eager because I had reason to believe that he
had made arrangements by which he would have a considerable guard
from the moment that he arrived in London. Anything which was to
be done must be done between the moment of his setting foot upon
the Liverpool quay and that of his arrival at the London and West
Coast terminus in London. We prepared six plans, each more
elaborate than the last; which plan would be used would depend upon
his own movements. Do what he would, we were ready for him. If he
had stayed in Liverpool, we were ready. If he took an ordinary
train, an express, or a special, all was ready. Everything had
been foreseen and provided for.
"You may imagine that I could not do all this myself. What
could I know of the English railway lines? But money can
procure willing agents all the world over, and I soon had one of
the acutest brains in England to assist me. I will mention no
names, but it would be unjust to claim all the credit for myself.
My English ally was worthy of such an alliance. He knew the London
and West Coast line thoroughly, and he had the command of a band of
workers who were trustworthy and intelligent. The idea was his,
and my own judgement was only required in the details. We bought
over several officials, amongst whom the most important was James
McPherson, whom we had ascertained to be the guard most likely to
be employed upon a special train. Smith, the stoker, was also in
our employ. John Slater, the engine-driver, had been approached,
but had been found to be obstinate and dangerous, so we desisted.
We had no certainty that Monsieur Caratal would take a special, but
we thought it very probable, for it was of the utmost importance to
him that he should reach Paris without delay. It was for this
contingency, therefore, that we made special preparations--
preparations which were complete down to the last detail long
before his steamer had sighted the shores of England. You will be
amused to learn that there was one of my agents in the pilot-boat
which brought that steamer to its moorings.
"The moment that Caratal arrived in Liverpool we knew that he
suspected danger and was on his guard. He had brought with him as
an escort a dangerous fellow, named Gomez, a man who carried
weapons, and was prepared to use them. This fellow carried
Caratal's confidential papers for him, and was ready to protect
either them or his master. The probability was that Caratal had
taken him into his counsel, and that to remove Caratal without
removing Gomez would be a mere waste of energy. It was necessary
that they should be involved in a common fate, and our plans to
that end were much facilitated by their request for a special
train. On that special train you will understand that two out of
the three servants of the company were really in our employ, at a
price which would make them independent for a lifetime. I do not
go so far as to say that the English are more honest than any other
nation, but I have found them more expensive to buy.
"I have already spoken of my English agent--who is a man
with a considerable future before him, unless some complaint
of the throat carries him off before his time. He had charge of
all arrangements at Liverpool, whilst I was stationed at the inn at
Kenyon, where I awaited a cipher signal to act. When the special
was arranged for, my agent instantly telegraphed to me and warned
me how soon I should have everything ready. He himself under the
name of Horace Moore applied immediately for a special also, in the
hope that he would be sent down with Monsieur Caratal, which might
under certain circumstances have been helpful to us. If, for
example, our great coup had failed, it would then have become the
duty of my agent to have shot them both and destroyed their papers.
Caratal was on his guard, however, and refused to admit any other
traveller. My agent then left the station, returned by another
entrance, entered the guard's van on the side farthest from the
platform, and travelled down with McPherson the guard.
"In the meantime you will be interested to know what my
movements were. Everything had been prepared for days before, and
only the finishing touches were needed. The side line which we had
chosen had once joined the main line, but it had been disconnected.
We had only to replace a few rails to connect it once more. These
rails had been laid down as far as could be done without danger of
attracting attention, and now it was merely a case of completing a
juncture with the line, and arranging the points as they had been
before. The sleepers had never been removed, and the rails, fish-
plates and rivets were all ready, for we had taken them from a
siding on the abandoned portion of the line. With my small but
competent band of workers, we had everything ready long before the
special arrived. When it did arrive, it ran off upon the small
side line so easily that the jolting of the points appears to have
been entirely unnoticed by the two travellers.
"Our plan had been that Smith, the stoker, should chloroform
John Slater, the driver, so that he should vanish with the others.
In this respect, and in this respect only, our plans miscarried--I
except the criminal folly of McPherson in writing home to his wife.
Our stoker did his business so clumsily that Slater in his
struggles fell off the engine, and though fortune was with us so
far that he broke his neck in the fall, still he remained as a blot
upon that which would otherwise have been one of those complete
masterpieces which are only to be contemplated in silent
admiration. The criminal expert will find in John Slater the one
flaw in all our admirable combinations. A man who has had as many
triumphs as I can afford to be frank, and I therefore lay my finger
upon John Slater, and I proclaim him to be a flaw.
"But now I have got our special train upon the small line two
kilometres, or rather more than one mile, in length, which leads,
or rather used to lead, to the abandoned Heartsease mine, once one
of the largest coal mines in England. You will ask how it is that
no one saw the train upon this unused line. I answer that along
its entire length it runs through a deep cutting, and that, unless
someone had been on the edge of that cutting, he could not have
seen it. There WAS someone on the edge of that cutting. I was
there. And now I will tell you what I saw.
"My assistant had remained at the points in order that he might
superintend the switching off of the train. He had four armed men
with him, so that if the train ran off the line--we thought it
probable, because the points were very rusty--we might still have
resources to fall back upon. Having once seen it safely on the
side line, he handed over the responsibility to me. I was waiting
at a point which overlooks the mouth of the mine, and I was also
armed, as were my two companions. Come what might, you see, I was
"The moment that the train was fairly on the side line, Smith,
the stoker, slowed-down the engine, and then, having turned it on
to the fullest speed again, he and McPherson, with my English
lieutenant, sprang off before it was too late. It may be that it
was this slowing-down which first attracted the attention of the
travellers, but the train was running at full speed again before
their heads appeared at the open window. It makes me smile to
think how bewildered they must have been. Picture to yourself your
own feelings if, on looking out of your luxurious carriage, you
suddenly perceived that the lines upon which you ran were rusted
and corroded, red and yellow with disuse and decay! What a catch
must have come in their breath as in a second it flashed upon them
that it was not Manchester but Death which was waiting for them at
the end of that sinister line. But the train was running with
frantic speed, rolling and rocking over the rotten line, while
the wheels made a frightful screaming sound upon the rusted
surface. I was close to them, and could see their faces. Caratal
was praying, I think--there was something like a rosary dangling
out of his hand. The other roared like a bull who smells the blood
of the slaughter-house. He saw us standing on the bank, and he
beckoned to us like a madman. Then he tore at his wrist and threw
his dispatch-box out of the window in our direction. Of course,
his meaning was obvious. Here was the evidence, and they would
promise to be silent if their lives were spared. It would have
been very agreeable if we could have done so, but business is
business. Besides, the train was now as much beyond our controls
"He ceased howling when the train rattled round the curve and
they saw the black mouth of the mine yawning before them. We had
removed the boards which had covered it, and we had cleared the
square entrance. The rails had formerly run very close to the
shaft for the convenience of loading the coal, and we had only to
add two or three lengths of rail in order to lead to the very brink
of the shaft. In fact, as the lengths would not quite fit, our
line projected about three feet over the edge. We saw the two
heads at the window: Caratal below, Gomez above; but they had both
been struck silent by what they saw. And yet they could not
withdraw their heads. The sight seemed to have paralysed them.
"I had wondered how the train running at a great speed would
take the pit into which I had guided it, and I was much interested
in watching it. One of my colleagues thought that it would
actually jump it, and indeed it was not very far from doing so.
Fortunately, however, it fell short, and the buffers of the engine
struck the other lip of the shaft with a tremendous crash. The
funnel flew off into the air. The tender, carriages, and van were
all smashed up into one jumble, which, with the remains of the
engine, choked for a minute or so the mouth of the pit. Then
something gave way in the middle, and the whole mass of green iron,
smoking coals, brass fittings, wheels, wood-work, and cushions all
crumbled together and crashed down into the mine. We heard the
rattle, rattle, rattle, as the debris struck against the walls, and
then, quite a long time afterwards, there came a deep roar as the
remains of the train struck the bottom. The boiler may have
burst, for a sharp crash came after the roar, and then a dense
cloud of steam and smoke swirled up out of the black depths,
falling in a spray as thick as rain all round us. Then the vapour
shredded off into thin wisps, which floated away in the summer
sunshine, and all was quiet again in the Heartsease mine.
"And now, having carried out our plans so successfully, it only
remained to leave no trace behind us. Our little band of workers
at the other end had already ripped up the rails and disconnected
the side line, replacing everything as it had been before. We were
equally busy at the mine. The funnel and other fragments were
thrown in, the shaft was planked over as it used to be, and the
lines which led to it were torn up and taken away. Then, without
flurry, but without delay, we all made our way out of the country,
most of us to Paris, my English colleague to Manchester, and
McPherson to Southampton, whence he emigrated to America. Let the
English papers of that date tell how throughly we had done our
work, and how completely we had thrown the cleverest of their
detectives off our track.
"You will remember that Gomez threw his bag of papers out of
the window, and I need not say that I secured that bag and brought
them to my employers. It may interest my employers now, however,
to learn that out of that bag I took one or two little papers as a
souvenir of the occasion. I have no wish to publish these papers;
but, still, it is every man for himself in this world, and what
else can I do if my friends will not come to my aid when I want
them? Messieurs, you may believe that Herbert de Lernac is quite
as formidable when he is against you as when he is with you, and
that he is not a man to go to the guillotine until he has seen that
every one of you is en route for New Caledonia. For your own
sake, if not for mine, make haste, Monsieur de----, and
General----, and Baron---- (you can fill up the blanks for
yourselves as you read this). I promise you that in the next
edition there will be no blanks to fill.
"P.S.--As I look over my statement there is only one omission
which I can see. It concerns the unfortunate man McPherson, who
was foolish enough to write to his wife and to make an appointment
with her in New York. It can be imagined that when interests like
ours were at stake, we could not leave them to the chance of
whether a man in that class of life would or would not give
away his secrets to a woman. Having once broken his oath by
writing to his wife, we could not trust him any more. We took
steps therefore to insure that he should not see his wife. I have
sometimes thought that it would be a kindness to write to her and
to assure her that there is no impediment to her marrying again."
A curious experience? said the Doctor. Yes, my friends, I have
had one very curious experience. I never expect to have another,
for it is against all doctrines of chances that two such events
would befall any one man in a single lifetime. You may believe
me or not, but the thing happened exactly as I tell it.
I had just become a medical man, but I had not started in
practice, and I lived in rooms in Gower Street. The street has
been renumbered since then, but it was in the only house which has
a bow-window, upon the left-hand side as you go down from the
Metropolitan Station. A widow named Murchison kept the house at
that time, and she had three medical students and one engineer as
lodgers. I occupied the top room, which was the cheapest, but
cheap as it was it was more than I could afford. My small
resources were dwindling away, and every week it became more
necessary that I should find something to do. Yet I was very
unwilling to go into general practice, for my tastes were all in
the direction of science, and especially of zoology, towards which
I had always a strong leaning. I had almost given the fight up and
resigned myself to being a medical drudge for life, when the
turning-point of my struggles came in a very extraordinary way.
One morning I had picked up the Standard and was glancing
over its contents. There was a complete absence of news, and I was
about to toss the paper down again, when my eyes were caught by an
advertisement at the head of the personal column. It was worded in
"Wanted for one or more days the services of a medical man. It
is essential that he should be a man of strong physique, of steady
nerves, and of a resolute nature. Must be an entomologist--
coleopterist preferred. Apply, in person, at 77B, Brook Street.
Application must be made before twelve o'clock today."
Now, I have already said that I was devoted to zoology. Of all
branches of zoology, the study of insects was the most attractive
to me, and of all insects beetles were the species with which I
was most familiar. Butterfly collectors are numerous, but
beetles are far more varied, and more accessible in these islands
than are butterflies. It was this fact which had attracted my
attention to them, and I had myself made a collection which
numbered some hundred varieties. As to the other requisites of the
advertisement, I knew that my nerves could be depended upon, and I
had won the weight-throwing competition at the inter-hospital
sports. Clearly, I was the very man for the vacancy. Within five
minutes of my having read the advertisement I was in a cab and on
my was to Brook Street.
As I drove, I kept turning the matter over in my head and
trying to make a guess as to what sort of employment it could be
which needed such curious qualifications. A strong physique, a
resolute nature, a medical training, and a knowledge of beetles--
what connection could there be between these various requisites?
And then there was the disheartening fact that the situation was
not a permanent one, but terminable from day to day, according to
the terms of the advertisement. The more I pondered over it the
more unintelligible did it become; but at the end of my meditations
I always came back to the ground fact that, come what might, I had
nothing to lose, that I was completely at the end of my resources,
and that I was ready for any adventure, however desperate, which
would put a few honest sovereigns into my pocket. The man fears to
fail who has to pay for his failure, but there was no penalty which
Fortune could exact from me. I was like the gambler with empty
pockets, who is still allowed to try his luck with the others.
No. 77B, Brook Street, was one of those dingy and yet imposing
houses, dun-coloured and flat-faced, with the intensely respectable
and solid air which marks the Georgian builder. As I alighted from
the cab, a young man came out of the door and walked swiftly down
the street. In passing me, I noticed that he cast an inquisitive
and somewhat malevolent glance at me, and I took the incident as a
good omen, for his appearance was that of a rejected candidate, and
if he resented my application it meant that the vacancy was not yet
filled up. Full of hope, I ascended the broad steps and rapped
with the heavy knocker.
A footman in powder and livery opened the door. Clearly I was
in touch with the people of wealth and fashion.
"Yes, sir?" said the footman.
"I came in answer to----"
"Quite so, sir," said the footman. "Lord Linchmere will see
you at once in the library."
Lord Linchmere! I had vaguely heard the name, but could not
for the instant recall anything about him. Following the footman,
I was shown into a large, book-lined room in which there was seated
behind a writing-desk a small man with a pleasant, clean-shaven,
mobile face, and long hair shot with grey, brushed back from his
forehead. He looked me up and down with a very shrewd, penetrating
glance, holding the card which the footman had given him in his
right hand. Then he smiled pleasantly, and I felt that externally
at any rate I possessed the qualifications which he desired.
"You have come in answer to my advertisement, Dr. Hamilton?" he
"Do you fulfil the conditions which are there laid down?"
"I believe that I do."
"You are a powerful man, or so I should judge from your
"I think that I am fairly strong."
"I believe so."
"Have you ever known what it was to be exposed to imminent
"No, I don't know that I ever have."
"But you think you would be prompt and cool at such a time?"
"I hope so."
"Well, I believe that you would. I have the more confidence in
you because you do not pretend to be certain as to what you would
do in a position that was new to you. My impression is that, so
far as personal qualities go, you are the very man of whom I am in
search. That being settled, we may pass on to the next point."
"To talk to me about beetles."
I looked across to see if he was joking, but, on the contrary,
he was leaning eagerly forward across his desk, and there was
an expression of something like anxiety in his eyes.
"I am afraid that you do not know about beetles," he cried.
"On the contrary, sir, it is the one scientific subject about
which I feel that I really do know something."
"I am overjoyed to hear it. Please talk to me about beetles."
I talked. I do not profess to have said anything original upon
the subject, but I gave a short sketch of the characteristics of
the beetle, and ran over the more common species, with some
allusions to the specimens in my own little collection and to the
article upon "Burying Beetles" which I had contributed to the
Journal of Entomological Science.
"What! not a collector?" cried Lord Linchmere. "You don't mean
that you are yourself a collector?" His eyes danced with pleasure
at the thought.
"You are certainly the very man in London for my purpose. I
thought that among five millions of people there must be such a
man, but the difficulty is to lay one's hands upon him. I have
been extraordinarily fortunate in finding you."
He rang a gong upon the table, and the footman entered.
"Ask Lady Rossiter to have the goodness to step this way," said
his lordship, and a few moments later the lady was ushered into the
room. She was a small, middle-aged woman, very like Lord Linchmere
in appearance, with the same quick, alert features and grey-black
hair. The expression of anxiety, however, which I had observed
upon his face was very much more marked upon hers. Some great
grief seemed to have cast its shadow over her features. As Lord
Linchmere presented me she turned her face full upon me, and I was
shocked to observe a half-healed scar extending for two inches over
her right eyebrow. It was partly concealed by plaster, but none
the less I could see that it had been a serious wound and not long
"Dr. Hamilton is the very man for our purpose, Evelyn," said
Lord Linchmere. "He is actually a collector of beetles, and he has
written articles upon the subject."
"Really!" said Lady Rossiter. "Then you must have heard of my
husband. Everyone who knows anything about beetles must have heard
of Sir Thomas Rossiter."
For the first time a thin little ray of light began to break
into the obscure business. Here, at last, was a
connection between these people and beetles. Sir Thomas Rossiter--
he was the greatest authority upon the subject in the world. He
had made it his lifelong study, and had written a most exhaustive
work upon it. I hastened to assure her that I had read and
"Have you met my husband?" she asked.
"No, I have not."
"But you shall," said Lord Linchmere, with decision.
The lady was standing beside the desk, and she put her hand
upon his shoulder. It was obvious to me as I saw their faces
together that they were brother and sister.
"Are you really prepared for this, Charles? It is noble of
you, but you fill me with fears." Her voice quavered with
apprehension, and he appeared to me to be equally moved, though he
was making strong efforts to conceal his agitation.
"Yes, yes, dear; it is all settled, it is all decided; in fact,
there is no other possible way, that I can see."
"There is one obvious way."
"No, no, Evelyn, I shall never abandon you--never. It will
come right--depend upon it; it will come right, and surely it looks
like the interference of Providence that so perfect an instrument
should be put into our hands."
My position was embarrassing, for I felt that for the instant
they had forgotten my presence. But Lord Linchmere came back
suddenly to me and to my engagement.
"The business for which I want you, Dr. Hamilton, is that you
should put yourself absolutely at my disposal. I wish you to come
for a short journey with me, to remain always at my side, and to
promise to do without question whatever I may ask you, however
unreasonable it may appear to you to be."
"That is a good deal to ask," said I.
"Unfortunately I cannot put it more plainly, for I do not
myself know what turn matters may take. You may be sure, however,
that you will not be asked to do anything which your conscience
does not approve; and I promise you that, when all is over, you
will be proud to have been concerned in so good a work."
"If it ends happily," said the lady.
"Exactly; if it ends happily," his lordship repeated.
"And terms?" I asked.
"Twenty pounds a day."
I was amazed at the sum, and must have showed my surprise upon
"It is a rare combination of qualities, as must have struck you
when you first read the advertisement," said Lord Linchmere; "such
varied gifts may well command a high return, and I do not conceal
from you that your duties might be arduous or even dangerous.
Besides, it is possible that one or two days may bring the matter
to an end."
"Please God!" sighed his sister.
"So now, Dr. Hamilton, may I rely upon your aid?"
"Most undoubtedly," said I. "You have only to tell me what my
"Your first duty will be to return to your home. You will pack
up whatever you may need for a short visit to the country. We
start together from Paddington Station at 3:40 this afternoon."
"Do we go far?"
"As far as Pangbourne. Meet me at the bookstall at 3:30. I
shall have the tickets. Goodbye, Dr. Hamilton! And, by the way,
there are two things which I should be very glad if you would bring
with you, in case you have them. One is your case for collecting
beetles, and the other is a stick, and the thicker and heavier the
You may imagine that I had plenty to think of from the time
that I left Brook Street until I set out to meet Lord Linchmere at
Paddington. The whole fantastic business kept arranging and
rearranging itself in kaleidoscopic forms inside my brain, until I
had thought out a dozen explanations, each of them more grotesquely
improbable than the last. And yet I felt that the truth must be
something grotesquely improbable also. At last I gave up all
attempts at finding a solution, and contented myself with exactly
carrying out the instructions which I had received. With a hand
valise, specimen-case, and a loaded cane, I was waiting at the
Paddington bookstall when Lord Linchmere arrived. He was an even
smaller man than I had thought--frail and peaky, with a manner
which was more nervous than it had been in the morning. He wore a
long, thick travelling ulster, and I observed that he carried a
heavy blackthorn cudgel in his hand.
"I have the tickets," said he, leading the way up the platform.
"This is our train. I have engaged a carriage, for I am
particularly anxious to impress one or two things upon you while we
And yet all that he had to impress upon me might have been said
in a sentence, for it was that I was to remember that I was there
as a protection to himself, and that I was not on any consideration
to leave him for an instant. This he repeated again and again as
our journey drew to a close, with an insistence which showed that
his nerves were thoroughly shaken.
"Yes," he said at last, in answer to my looks rather than to my
words, "I AM nervous, Dr. Hamilton. I have always been a timid
man, and my timidity depends upon my frail physical health. But my
soul is firm, and I can bring myself up to face a danger which a
less-nervous man might shrink from. What I am doing now is done
from no compulsion, but entirely from a sense of duty, and yet it
is, beyond doubt, a desperate risk. If things should go wrong, I
will have some claims to the title of martyr."
This eternal reading of riddles was too much for me. I felt
that I must put a term to it.
"I think it would very much better, sir, if you were to trust
me entirely," said I. "It is impossible for me to act effectively,
when I do not know what are the objects which we have in view, or
even where we are going."
"Oh, as to where we are going, there need be no mystery about
that," said he; "we are going to Delamere Court, the residence of
Sir Thomas Rossiter, with whose work you are so conversant. As to
the exact object of our visit, I do not know that at this stage of
the proceedings anything would be gained, Dr. Hamilton, by taking
you into my complete confidence. I may tell you that we are
acting--I say `we,' because my sister, Lady Rossiter, takes the
same view as myself--with the one object of preventing anything in
the nature of a family scandal. That being so, you can understand
that I am loath to give any explanations which are not absolutely
necessary. It would be a different matter, Dr. Hamilton, if I were
asking your advice. As matters stand, it is only your active
help which I need, and I will indicate to you from time to time how
you can best give it."
There was nothing more to be said, and a poor man can put up
with a good deal for twenty pounds a day, but I felt none the less
that Lord Linchmere was acting rather scurvily towards me. He
wished to convert me into a passive tool, like the blackthorn in
his hand. With his sensitive disposition I could imagine, however,
that scandal would be abhorrent to him, and I realized that he
would not take me into his confidence until no other course was
open to him. I must trust to my own eyes and ears to solve the
mystery, but I had every confidence that I should not trust to them
Delamere Court lies a good five miles from Pangbourne Station,
and we drove for that distance in an open fly. Lord Linchmere sat
in deep thought during the time, and he never opened his mouth
until we were close to our destination. When he did speak it was
to give me a piece of information which surprised me.
"Perhaps you are not aware," said he, "that I am a medical man
"No, sir, I did not know it."
"Yes, I qualified in my younger days, when there were several
lives between me and the peerage. I have not had occasion to
practise, but I have found it a useful education, all the same. I
never regretted the years which I devoted to medical study. These
are the gates of Delamere Court."
We had come to two high pillars crowned with heraldic monsters
which flanked the opening of a winding avenue. Over the laurel
bushes and rhododendrons, I could see a long, many-gabled mansion,
girdled with ivy, and toned to the warm, cheery, mellow glow of old
brick-work. My eyes were still fixed in admiration upon this
delightful house when my companion plucked nervously at my sleeve.
"Here's Sir Thomas," he whispered. "Please talk beetle all you
A tall, thin figure, curiously angular and bony, had emerged
through a gap in the hedge of laurels. In his hand he held a spud,
and he wore gauntleted gardener's gloves. A broad-brimmed, grey
hat cast his face into shadow, but it struck me as exceedingly
austere, with an ill-nourished beard and harsh, irregular features.
The fly pulled up and Lord Linchmere sprang out.
"My dear Thomas, how are you?" said he, heartily.
But the heartiness was by no means reciprocal. The owner of
the grounds glared at me over his brother-in-law's shoulder, and I
caught broken scraps of sentences--"well-known wishes . . . hatred
of strangers . . . unjustifiable intrusion . . . perfectly
inexcusable." Then there was a muttered explanation, and the two
of them came over together to the side of the fly.
"Let me present you to Sir Thomas Rossiter, Dr. Hamilton," said
Lord Linchmere. "You will find that you have a strong community of
I bowed. Sir Thomas stood very stiffly, looking at me severely
from under the broad brim of his hat.
"Lord Linchmere tells me that you know something about
beetles," said he. "What do you know about beetles?"
"I know what I have learned from your work upon the coleoptera,
Sir Thomas," I answered.
"Give me the names of the better-known species of the British
scarabaei," said he.
I had not expected an examination, but fortunately I was ready
for one. My answers seemed to please him, for his stern features
"You appear to have read my book with some profit, sir," said
he. "It is a rare thing for me to meet anyone who takes an
intelligent interest in such matters. People can find time for
such trivialities as sport or society, and yet the beetles are
overlooked. I can assure you that the greater part of the idiots
in this part of the country are unaware that I have ever written a
book at all--I, the first man who ever described the true function
of the elytra. I am glad to see you, sir, and I have no doubt that
I can show you some specimens which will interest you." He stepped
into the fly and drove up with us to the house, expounding to me as
we went some recent researches which he had made into the anatomy
of the lady-bird.
I have said that Sir Thomas Rossiter wore a large hat drawn
down over his brows. As he entered the hall he uncovered himself,
and I was at once aware of a singular characteristic which the hat
had concealed. His forehead, which was naturally high, and
higher still on account of receding hair, was in a continual state
of movement. Some nervous weakness kept the muscles in a constant
spasm, which sometimes produced a mere twitching and sometimes a
curious rotary movement unlike anything which I had ever seen
before. It was strikingly visible as he turned towards us after
entering the study, and seemed the more singular from the contrast
with the hard, steady, grey eyes which looked out from underneath
those palpitating brows.
"I am sorry," said he, "that Lady Rossiter is not here to help
me to welcome you. By the way, Charles, did Evelyn say anything
about the date of her return?"
"She wished to stay in town for a few more days," said Lord
Linchmere. "You know how ladies' social duties accumulate if they
have been for some time in the country. My sister has many old
friends in London at present."
"Well, she is her own mistress, and I should not wish to alter
her plans, but I shall be glad when I see her again. It is very
lonely here without her company."
"I was afraid that you might find it so, and that was partly
why I ran down. My young friend, Dr. Hamilton, is so much
interested in the subject which you have made your own, that I
thought you would not mind his accompanying me."
"I lead a retired life, Dr. Hamilton, and my aversion to
strangers grows upon me," said our host. "I have sometimes thought
that my nerves are not so good as they were. My travels in search
of beetles in my younger days took me into many malarious and
unhealthy places. But a brother coleopterist like yourself is
always a welcome guest, and I shall be delighted if you will look
over my collection, which I think that I may without exaggeration
describe as the best in Europe."
And so no doubt it was. He had a huge, oaken cabinet arranged
in shallow drawers, and here, neatly ticketed and classified, were
beetles from every corner of the earth, black, brown, blue, green,
and mottled. Every now and then as he swept his hand over the
lines and lines of impaled insects he would catch up some rare
specimen, and, handling it with as much delicacy and reverence as
if it were a precious relic, he would hold forth upon its
peculiarities and the circumstances under which it came into his
possession. It was evidently an unusual thing for him to meet
with a sympathetic listener, and he talked and talked until the
spring evening had deepened into night, and the gong announced that
it was time to dress for dinner. All the time Lord Linchmere said
nothing, but he stood at his brother-in-law's elbow, and I caught
him continually shooting curious little, questioning glances into
his face. And his own features expressed some strong emotion,
apprehension, sympathy, expectation: I seemed to read them all.
I was sure that Lord Linchmere was fearing something and awaiting
something, but what that something might be I could not imagine.
The evening passed quietly but pleasantly, and I should have
been entirely at my ease if it had not been for that continual
sense of tension upon the part of Lord Linchmere. As to our host,
I found that he improved upon acquaintance. He spoke constantly
with affection of his absent wife, and also of his little son, who
had recently been sent to school. The house, he said, was not the
same without them. If it were not for his scientific studies, he
did not know how he could get through the days. After dinner we
smoked for some time in the billiard-room, and finally went early
And then it was that, for the first time, the suspicion that
Lord Linchmere was a lunatic crossed my mind. He followed me into
my bedroom, when our host had retired.
"Doctor," said he, speaking in a low, hurried voice, "you must
come with me. You must spend the night in my bedroom."
"What do you mean?"
"I prefer not to explain. But this is part of your duties. My
room is close by, and you can return to your own before the servant
calls you in the morning."
"But why?" I asked.
"Because I am nervous of being alone," said he. "That's the
reason, since you must have a reason."
It seemed rank lunacy, but the argument of those twenty pounds
would overcome many objections. I followed him to his room.
"Well," said I, "there's only room for one in that bed."
"Only one shall occupy it," said he.
"And the other?"
"Must remain on watch."
"Why?" said I. "One would think you expected to be attacked."
"Perhaps I do."
"In that case, why not lock your door?"
"Perhaps I WANT to be attacked."
It looked more and more like lunacy. However, there was
nothing for it but to submit. I shrugged my shoulders and sat down
in the arm-chair beside the empty fireplace.
"I am to remain on watch, then?" said I, ruefully.
"We will divide the night. If you will watch until two, I will
watch the remainder."
"Call me at two o'clock, then."
"I will do so."
"Keep your ears open, and if you hear any sounds wake me
instantly--instantly, you hear?"
"You can rely upon it." I tried to look as solemn as he did.
"And for God's sake don't go to sleep," said he, and so, taking
off only his coat, he threw the coverlet over him and settled down
for the night.
It was a melancholy vigil, and made more so by my own sense of
its folly. Supposing that by any chance Lord Linchmere had cause
to suspect that he was subject to danger in the house of Sir Thomas
Rossiter, why on earth could he not lock his door and so protect
himself?" His own answer that he might wish to be attacked was
absurd. Why should he possibly wish to be attacked? And who would
wish to attack him? Clearly, Lord Linchmere was suffering from
some singular delusion, and the result was that on an imbecile
pretext I was to be deprived of my night's rest. Still, however
absurd, I was determined to carry out his injunctions to the letter
as long as I was in his employment. I sat, therefore, beside the
empty fireplace, and listened to a sonorous chiming clock somewhere
down the passage which gurgled and struck every quarter of an hour.
It was an endless vigil. Save for that single clock, an absolute
silence reigned throughout the great house. A small lamp stood on
the table at my elbow, throwing a circle of light round my chair,
but leaving the corners of the room draped in shadow. On the bed
Lord Linchmere was breathing peacefully. I envied him his quiet
sleep, and again and again my own eyelids drooped, but every
time my sense of duty came to my help, and I sat up, rubbing my
eyes and pinching myself with a determination to see my irrational
watch to an end.
And I did so. From down the passage came the chimes of two
o'clock, and I laid my hand upon the shoulder of the sleeper.
Instantly he was sitting up, with an expression of the keenest
interest upon his face.
"You have heard something?"
"No, sir. It is two o'clock."
"Very good. I will watch. You can go to sleep."
I lay down under the coverlet as he had done and was soon
unconscious. My last recollection was of that circle of lamplight,
and of the small, hunched-up figure and strained, anxious face of
Lord Linchmere in the centre of it.
How long I slept I do not know; but I was suddenly aroused by
a sharp tug at my sleeve. The room was in darkness, but a hot
smell of oil told me that the lamp had only that instant been
"Quick! Quick!" said Lord Linchmere's voice in my ear.
I sprang out of bed, he still dragging at my arm.
"Over here!" he whispered, and pulled me into a corner of the
room. "Hush! Listen!"
In the silence of the night I could distinctly hear that
someone was coming down the corridor. It was a stealthy step,
faint and intermittent, as of a man who paused cautiously after
every stride. Sometimes for half a minute there was no sound, and
then came the shuffle and creak which told of a fresh advance. My
companion was trembling with excitement. His hand, which still
held my sleeve, twitched like a branch in the wind.
"What is it?" I whispered.
"What does he want?"
"Hush! Do nothing until I tell you."
I was conscious now that someone was trying the door. There
was the faintest little rattle from the handle, and then I dimly
saw a thin slit of subdued light. There was a lamp burning
somewhere far down the passage, and it just sufficed to make the
outside visible from the darkness of our room. The greyish slit
grew broader and broader, very gradually, very gently, and then
outlined against it I saw the dark figure of a man. He was squat
and crouching, with the silhouette of a bulky and misshapen dwarf.
Slowly the door swung open with this ominous shape framed in the
centre of it. And then, in an instant, the crouching figure shot
up, there was a tiger spring across the room and thud, thud, thud,
came three tremendous blows from some heavy object upon the bed.
I was so paralysed with amazement that I stood motionless and
staring until I was aroused by a yell for help from my companion.
The open door shed enough light for me to see the outline of
things, and there was little Lord Linchmere with his arms round the
neck of his brother-in-law, holding bravely on to him like a game
bull-terrier with its teeth into a gaunt deerhound. The tall, bony
man dashed himself about, writhing round and round to get a grip
upon his assailant; but the other, clutching on from behind, still
kept his hold, though his shrill, frightened cries showed how
unequal he felt the contest to be. I sprang to the rescue, and the
two of us managed to throw Sir Thomas to the ground, though he made
his teeth meet in my shoulder. With all my youth and weight and
strength, it was a desperate struggle before we could master his
frenzied struggles; but at last we secured his arms with the waist-
cord of the dressing-gown which he was wearing. I was holding his
legs while Lord Linchmere was endeavouring to relight the lamp,
when there came the pattering of many feet in the passage, and the
butler and two footmen, who had been alarmed by the cries, rushed
into the room. With their aid we had no further difficulty in
securing our prisoner, who lay foaming and glaring upon the ground.
One glance at his face was enough to prove that he was a dangerous
maniac, while the short, heavy hammer which lay beside the bed
showed how murderous had been his intentions.
"Do not use any violence!" said Lord Linchmere, as we raised
the struggling man to his feet. "He will have a period of stupor
after this excitement. I believe that it is coming on already."
As he spoke the convulsions became less violent, and the madman's
head fell forward upon his breast, as if he were overcome by
sleep. We led him down the passage and stretched him upon his own
bed, where he lay unconscious, breathing heavily.
"Two of you will watch him," said Lord Linchmere. "And now,
Dr. Hamilton, if you will return with me to my room, I will give
you the explanation which my horror of scandal has perhaps caused
me to delay too long. Come what may, you will never have cause to
regret your share in this night's work.
"The case may be made clear in a very few words," he continued,
when we were alone. "My poor brother-in-law is one of the best
fellows upon earth, a loving husband and an estimable father, but
he comes from a stock which is deeply tainted with insanity. He
has more than once had homicidal outbreaks, which are the more
painful because his inclination is always to attack the very person
to whom he is most attached. His son was sent away to school to
avoid this danger, and then came an attempt upon my sister, his
wife, from which she escaped with injuries that you may have
observed when you met her in London. You understand that he knows
nothing of the matter when he is in his sound senses, and would
ridicule the suggestion that he could under any circumstances
injure those whom he loves so dearly. It is often, as you know, a
characteristic of such maladies that it is absolutely impossible to
convince the man who suffers from them of their existence.
"Our great object was, of course, to get him under restraint
before he could stain his hands with blood, but the matter was full
of difficulty. He is a recluse in his habits, and would not see
any medical man. Besides, it was necessary for our purpose that
the medical man should convince himself of his insanity; and he is
sane as you or I, save on these very rare occasions. But,
fortunately, before he has these attacks he always shows certain
premonitory symptoms, which are providential danger-signals,
warning us to be upon our guard. The chief of these is that
nervous contortion of the forehead which you must have observed.
This is a phenomenon which always appears from three to four days
before his attacks of frenzy. The moment it showed itself his wife
came into town on some pretext, and took refuge in my house in
"It remained for me to convince a medical man of Sir Thomas's
insanity, without which it was impossible to put him where he could
do no harm. The first problem was how to get a medical man into
his house. I bethought me of his interest in beetles, and his love
for anyone who shared his tastes. I advertised, therefore, and was
fortunate enough to find in you the very man I wanted. A stout
companion was necessary, for I knew that the lunacy could only be
proved by a murderous assault, and I had every reason to believe
that that assault would be made upon myself, since he had the
warmest regard for me in his moments of sanity. I think your
intelligence will supply all the rest. I did not know that the
attack would come by night, but I thought it very probable, for the
crises of such cases usually do occur in the early hours of the
morning. I am a very nervous man myself, but I saw no other way in
which I could remove this terrible danger from my sister's life.
I need not ask you whether you are willing to sign the lunacy
"Undoubtedly. But TWO signatures are necessary."
"You forget that I am myself a holder of a medical degree. I
have the papers on a side-table here, so if you will be good enough
to sign them now, we can have the patient removed in the morning."
So that was my visit to Sir Thomas Rossiter, the famous beetle-
hunter, and that was also my first step upon the ladder of success,
for Lady Rossiter and Lord Linchmere have proved to be staunch
friends, and they have never forgotten my association with them in
the time of their need. Sir Thomas is out and said to be cured,
but I still think that if I spent another night at Delamere Court,
I should be inclined to lock my door upon the inside.
The Man with the Watches
There are many who will still bear in mind the singular
circumstances which, under the heading of the Rugby Mystery,
filled many columns of the daily Press in the spring of the year
1892. Coming as it did at a period of exceptional dullness, it
attracted perhaps rather more attention than it deserved, but it
offered to the public that mixture of the whimsical and the
tragic which is most stimulating to the popular imagination.
Interest drooped, however, when, after weeks of fruitless
investigation, it was found that no final explanation of the
facts was forthcoming, and the tragedy seemed from that time to
the present to have finally taken its place in the dark catalogue
of inexplicable and unexpiated crimes. A recent communication
(the authenticity of which appears to be above question) has,
however, thrown some new and clear light upon the matter. Before
laying it before the public it would be as well, perhaps, that I
should refresh their memories as to the singular facts upon which
this commentary is founded. These facts were briefly as follows:
At five o'clock on the evening of the 18th of March in the year
already mentioned a train left Euston Station for Manchester. It
was a rainy, squally day, which grew wilder as it progressed, so it
was by no means the weather in which anyone would travel who was
not driven to do so by necessity. The train, however, is a
favourite one among Manchester business men who are returning from
town, for it does the journey in four hours and twenty minutes,
with only three stoppages upon the way. In spite of the inclement
evening it was, therefore, fairly well filled upon the occasion of
which I speak. The guard of the train was a tried servant of the
company--a man who had worked for twenty-two years without a
blemish or complaint. His name was John Palmer.
The station clock was upon the stroke of five, and the guard
was about to give the customary signal to the engine-driver when he
observed two belated passengers hurrying down the platform. The
one was an exceptionally tall man, dressed in a long black overcoat
with astrakhan collar and cuffs. I have already said that the
evening was an inclement one, and the tall traveller had the high,
warm collar turned up to protect his throat against the bitter
March wind. He appeared, as far as the guard could judge by so
hurried an inspection, to be a man between fifty and sixty years of
age, who had retained a good deal of the vigour and activity of his
youth. In one hand he carried a brown leather Gladstone bag. His
companion was a lady, tall and erect, walking with a vigorous step
which outpaced the gentleman beside her. She wore a long, fawn-
coloured dust-cloak, a black, close-fitting toque, and a dark veil
which concealed the greater part of her face. The two might very
well have passed as father and daughter. They walked swiftly down
the line of carriages, glancing in at the windows, until the guard,
John Palmer, overtook them.
"Now then, sir, look sharp, the train is going," said he.
"First-class," the man answered.
The guard turned the handle of the nearest door. In the
carriage which he had opened, there sat a small man with a cigar in
his mouth. His appearance seems to have impressed itself upon the
guard's memory, for he was prepared, afterwards, to describe or to
identify him. He was a man of thirty-four or thirty-five years of
age, dressed in some grey material, sharp-nosed, alert, with a
ruddy, weather-beaten face, and a small, closely cropped, black
beard. He glanced up as the door was opened. The tall man paused
with his foot upon the step.
"This is a smoking compartment. The lady dislikes smoke," said
he, looking round at the guard.
"All right! Here you are, sir!" said John Palmer. He slammed
the door of the smoking carriage, opened that of the next one,
which was empty, and thrust the two travellers in. At the same
moment he sounded his whistle and the wheels of the train began to
move. The man with the cigar was at the window of his carriage,
and said something to the guard as he rolled past him, but the
words were lost in the bustle of the departure. Palmer
stepped into the guard's van, as it came up to him, and
thought no more of the incident.
Twelve minutes after its departure the train reached Willesden
Junction, where it stopped for a very short interval. An
examination of the tickets has made it certain that no one either
joined or left it at this time, and no passenger was seen to alight
upon the platform. At 5:14 the journey to Manchester was resumed,
and Rugby was reached at 6:50, the express being five minutes late.
At Rugby the attention of the station officials was drawn to
the fact that the door of one of the first-class carriages was
open. An examination of that compartment, and of its neighbour,
disclosed a remarkable state of affairs.
The smoking carriage in which the short, red-faced man with the
black beard had been seen was now empty. Save for a half-smoked
cigar, there was no trace whatever of its recent occupant. The
door of this carriage was fastened. In the next compartment, to
which attention had been originally drawn, there was no sign either
of the gentleman with the astrakhan collar or of the young lady who
accompanied him. All three passengers had disappeared. On the
other hand, there was found upon the floor of this carriage--the
one in which the tall traveller and the lady had been--a young man
fashionably dressed and of elegant appearance. He lay with his
knees drawn up, and his head resting against the farther door, an
elbow upon either seat. A bullet had penetrated his heart and his
death must have been instantaneous. No one had seen such a man
enter the train, and no railway ticket was found in his pocket,
neither were there any markings upon his linen, nor papers nor
personal property which might help to identify him. Who he was,
whence he had come, and how he had met his end were each as great
a mystery as what had occurred to the three people who had started
an hour and a half before from Willesden in those two compartments.
I have said that there was no personal property which might
help to identify him, but it is true that there was one peculiarity
about this unknown young man which was much commented upon at the
time. In his pockets were found no fewer than six valuable gold
watches, three in the various pockets of his waist-coat, one in his
ticket-pocket, one in his breast-pocket, and one small one set
in a leather strap and fastened round his left wrist. The obvious
explanation that the man was a pickpocket, and that this was his
plunder, was discounted by the fact that all six were of American
make and of a type which is rare in England. Three of them bore
the mark of the Rochester Watchmaking Company; one was by Mason, of
Elmira; one was unmarked; and the small one, which was highly
jewelled and ornamented, was from Tiffany, of New York. The other
contents of his pocket consisted of an ivory knife with a corkscrew
by Rodgers, of Sheffield; a small, circular mirror, one inch in
diameter; a readmission slip to the Lyceum Theatre; a silver box
full of vesta matches, and a brown leather cigar-case containing
two cheroots--also two pounds fourteen shillings in money. It was
clear, then, that whatever motives may have led to his death,
robbery was not among them. As already mentioned, there were no
markings upon the man's linen, which appeared to be new, and no
tailor's name upon his coat. In appearance he was young, short,
smooth-cheeked, and delicately featured. One of his front teeth
was conspicuously stopped with gold.
On the discovery of the tragedy an examination was instantly
made of the tickets of all passengers, and the number of the
passengers themselves was counted. It was found that only three
tickets were unaccounted for, corresponding to the three travellers
who were missing. The express was then allowed to proceed, but a
new guard was sent with it, and John Palmer was detained as a
witness at Rugby. The carriage which included the two compartments
in question was uncoupled and side-tracked. Then, on the arrival
of Inspector Vane, of Scotland Yard, and of Mr. Henderson, a
detective in the service of the railway company, an exhaustive
inquiry was made into all the circumstances.
That crime had been committed was certain. The bullet, which
appeared to have come from a small pistol or revolver, had been
fired from some little distance, as there was no scorching of the
clothes. No weapon was found in the compartment (which finally
disposed of the theory of suicide), nor was there any sign of the
brown leather bag which the guard had seen in the hand of the tall
gentleman. A lady's parasol was found upon the rack, but no other
trace was to be seen of the travellers in either of the sections.
Apart from the crime, the question of how or why three
passengers (one of them a lady) could get out of the train, and one
other get in during the unbroken run between Willesden and Rugby,
was one which excited the utmost curiosity among the general
public, and gave rise to much speculation in the London Press.
John Palmer, the guard was able at the inquest to give some
evidence which threw a little light upon the matter. There was a
spot between Tring and Cheddington, according to his statement,
where, on account of some repairs to the line, the train had for a
few minutes slowed down to a pace not exceeding eight or ten miles
an hour. At that place it might be possible for a man, or even for
an exceptionally active woman, to have left the train without
serious injury. It was true that a gang of platelayers was there,
and that they had seen nothing, but it was their custom to stand in
the middle between the metals, and the open carriage door was upon
the far side, so that it was conceivable that someone might have
alighted unseen, as the darkness would by that time be drawing in.
A steep embankment would instantly screen anyone who sprang out
from the observation of the navvies.
The guard also deposed that there was a good deal of movement
upon the platform at Willesden Junction, and that though it was
certain that no one had either joined or left the train there, it
was still quite possible that some of the passengers might have
changed unseen from one compartment to another. It was by no means
uncommon for a gentleman to finish his cigar in a smoking carriage
and then to change to a clearer atmosphere. Supposing that the man
with the black beard had done so at Willesden (and the half-smoked
cigar upon the floor seemed to favour the supposition), he would
naturally go into the nearest section, which would bring him into
the company of the two other actors in this drama. Thus the first
stage of the affair might be surmised without any great breach of
probability. But what the second stage had been, or how the final
one had been arrived at, neither the guard nor the experienced
detective officers could suggest.
A careful examination of the line between Willesden and Rugby
resulted in one discovery which might or might not have a bearing
upon the tragedy. Near Tring, at the very place where the train
slowed down, there was found at the bottom of the embankment a
small pocket Testament, very shabby and worn. It was printed
by the Bible Society of London, and bore an inscription: "From
John to Alice. Jan. 13th, 1856," upon the fly-leaf. Underneath
was written: "James. July 4th, 1859," and beneath that again:
"Edward. Nov. 1st, 1869," all the entries being in the same
handwriting. This was the only clue, if it could be called a clue,
which the police obtained, and the coroner's verdict of "Murder by
a person or persons unknown" was the unsatisfactory ending of a
singular case. Advertisement, rewards, and inquiries proved
equally fruitless, and nothing could be found which was solid
enough to form the basis for a profitable investigation.
It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that no theories
were formed to account for the facts. On the contrary, the Press,
both in England and in America, teemed with suggestions and
suppositions, most of which were obviously absurd. The fact that
the watches were of American make, and some peculiarities in
connection with the gold stopping of his front tooth, appeared to
indicate that the deceased was a citizen of the United States,
though his linen, clothes and boots were undoubtedly of British
manufacture. It was surmised, by some, that he was concealed under
the seat, and that, being discovered, he was for some reason,
possibly because he had overheard their guilty secrets, put to
death by his fellow-passengers. When coupled with generalities as
to the ferocity and cunning of anarchical and other secret
societies, this theory sounded as plausible as any.
The fact that he should be without a ticket would be consistent
with the idea of concealment, and it was well known that women
played a prominent part in the Nihilistic propaganda. On the other
hand, it was clear, from the guard's statement, that the man must
have been hidden there BEFORE the others arrived, and how
unlikely the coincidence that conspirators should stray exactly
into the very compartment in which a spy was already concealed!
Besides, this explanation ignored the man in the smoking carriage,
and gave no reason at all for his simultaneous disappearance. The
police had little difficulty in showing that such a theory would
not cover the facts, but they were unprepared in the absence of
evidence to advance any alternative explanation.
There was a letter in the Daily Gazette, over the signature
of a well-known criminal investigator, which gave rise to
considerable discussion at the time. He had formed a
hypothesis which had at least ingenuity to recommend it, and I
cannot do better than append it in his own words.
"Whatever may be the truth," said he, "it must depend upon some
bizarre and rare combination of events, so we need have no
hesitation in postulating such events in our explanation. In the
absence of data we must abandon the analytic or scientific method
of investigation, and must approach it in the synthetic fashion.
In a word, instead of taking known events and deducing from them
what has occurred, we must build up a fanciful explanation if it
will only be consistent with known events. We can then test this
explanation by any fresh facts which may arise. If they all fit
into their places, the probability is that we are upon the right
track, and with each fresh fact this probability increases in a
geometrical progression until the evidence becomes final and
"Now, there is one most remarkable and suggestive fact which
has not met with the attention which it deserves. There is a local
train running through Harrow and King's Langley, which is timed in
such a way that the express must have overtaken it at or about the
period when it eased down its speed to eight miles an hour on
account of the repairs of the line. The two trains would at that
time be travelling in the same direction at a similar rate of speed
and upon parallel lines. It is within every one's experience how,
under such circumstances, the occupant of each carriage can see
very plainly the passengers in the other carriages opposite to him.
The lamps of the express had been lit at Willesden, so that each
compartment was brightly illuminated, and most visible to an
observer from outside.
"Now, the sequence of events as I reconstruct them would be
after this fashion. This young man with the abnormal number of
watches was alone in the carriage of the slow train. His ticket,
with his papers and gloves and other things, was, we will suppose,
on the seat beside him. He was probably an American, and also
probably a man of weak intellect. The excessive wearing of
jewellery is an early symptom in some forms of mania.
"As he sat watching the carriages of the express which were
(on account of the state of the line) going at the same pace as
himself, he suddenly saw some people in it whom he knew. We will
suppose for the sake of our theory that these people were a
woman whom he loved and a man whom he hated--and who in return
hated him. The young man was excitable and impulsive. He opened
the door of his carriage, stepped from the footboard of the local
train to the footboard of the express, opened the other door, and
made his way into the presence of these two people. The feat (on
the supposition that the trains were going at the same pace) is by
no means so perilous as it might appear.
"Having now got our young man, without his ticket, into the
carriage in which the elder man and the young woman are travelling,
it is not difficult to imagine that a violent scene ensued. It is
possible that the pair were also Americans, which is the more
probable as the man carried a weapon--an unusual thing in England.
If our supposition of incipient mania is correct, the young man is
likely to have assaulted the other. As the upshot of the quarrel
the elder man shot the intruder, and then made his escape from the
carriage, taking the young lady with him. We will suppose that all
this happened very rapidly, and that the train was still going at
so slow a pace that it was not difficult for them to leave it. A
woman might leave a train going at eight miles an hour. As a
matter of fact, we know that this woman DID do so.
"And now we have to fit in the man in the smoking carriage.
Presuming that we have, up to this point, reconstructed the tragedy
correctly, we shall find nothing in this other man to cause us to
reconsider our conclusions. According to my theory, this man saw
the young fellow cross from one train to the other, saw him open
the door, heard the pistol-shot, saw the two fugitives spring out
on to the line, realized that murder had been done, and sprang out
himself in pursuit. Why he has never been heard of since--whether
he met his own death in the pursuit, or whether, as is more likely,
he was made to realize that it was not a case for his
interference--is a detail which we have at present no means of
explaining. I acknowledge that there are some difficulties in the
way. At first sight, it might seem improbable that at such a
moment a murderer would burden himself in his flight with a brown
leather bag. My answer is that he was well aware that if the bag
were found his identity would be established. It was absolutely
necessary for him to take it with him. My theory stands or falls
upon one point, and I call upon the railway company to make strict
inquiry as to whether a ticket was found unclaimed in the local
train through Harrow and King's Langley upon the 18th of March. If
such a ticket were found my case is proved. If not, my theory may
still be the correct one, for it is conceivable either that he
travelled without a ticket or that his ticket was lost."
To this elaborate and plausible hypothesis the answer of the
police and of the company was, first, that no such ticket was
found; secondly, that the slow train would never run parallel to
the express; and, thirdly, that the local train had been stationary
in King's Langley Station when the express, going at fifty miles an
hour, had flashed past it. So perished the only satisfying
explanation, and five years have elapsed without supplying a new
one. Now, at last, there comes a statement which covers all the
facts, and which must be regarded as authentic. It took the shape
of a letter dated from New York, and addressed to the same criminal
investigator whose theory I have quoted. It is given here in
extenso, with the exception of the two opening paragraphs, which
are personal in their nature:
"You'll excuse me if I'm not very free with names. There's
less reason now than there was five years ago when mother was still
living. But for all that, I had rather cover up our tracks all I
can. But I owe you an explanation, for if your idea of it was
wrong, it was a mighty ingenious one all the same. I'll have to go
back a little so as you may understand all about it.
"My people came from Bucks, England, and emigrated to the
States in the early fifties. They settled in Rochester, in the
State of New York, where my father ran a large dry goods store.
There were only two sons: myself, James, and my brother, Edward.
I was ten years older than my brother, and after my father died I
sort of took the place of a father to him, as an elder brother
would. He was a bright, spirited boy, and just one of the most
beautiful creatures that ever lived. But there was always a soft
spot in him, and it was like mould in cheese, for it spread and
spread, and nothing that you could do would stop it. Mother saw it
just as clearly as I did, but she went on spoiling him all the
same, for he had such a way with him that you could refuse him
nothing. I did all I could to hold him in, and he hated me for my
"At last he fairly got his head, and nothing that we could do
would stop him. He got off into New York, and went rapidly
from bad to worse. At first he was only fast, and then he was
criminal; and then, at the end of a year or two, he was one of the
most notorious young crooks in the city. He had formed a
friendship with Sparrow MacCoy, who was at the head of his
profession as a bunco-steerer, green goodsman and general rascal.
They took to card-sharping, and frequented some of the best hotels
in New York. My brother was an excellent actor (he might have made
an honest name for himself if he had chosen), and he would take the
parts of a young Englishman of title, of a simple lad from the
West, or of a college undergraduate, whichever suited Sparrow
MacCoy's purpose. And then one day he dressed himself as a girl,
and he carried it off so well, and made himself such a valuable
decoy, that it was their favourite game afterwards. They had made
it right with Tammany and with the police, so it seemed as if
nothing could ever stop them, for those were in the days before the
Lexow Commission, and if you only had a pull, you could do pretty
nearly everything you wanted.
"And nothing would have stopped them if they had only stuck to
cards and New York, but they must needs come up Rochester way, and
forge a name upon a cheque. It was my brother that did it, though
everyone knew that it was under the influence of Sparrow MacCoy.
I bought up that cheque, and a pretty sum it cost me. Then I went
to my brother, laid it before him on the table, and swore to him
that I would prosecute if he did not clear out of the country. At
first he simply laughed. I could not prosecute, he said, without
breaking our mother's heart, and he knew that I would not do that.
I made him understand, however, that our mother's heart was being
broken in any case, and that I had set firm on the point that I
would rather see him in Rochester gaol than in a New York hotel.
So at last he gave in, and he made me a solemn promise that he
would see Sparrow MacCoy no more, that he would go to Europe, and
that he would turn his hand to any honest trade that I helped him
to get. I took him down right away to an old family friend, Joe
Willson, who is an exporter of American watches and clocks, and I
got him to give Edward an agency in London, with a small salary and
a 15 per cent commission on all business. His manner and
appearance were so good that he won the old man over at once,
and within a week he was sent off to London with a case full
"It seemed to me that this business of the cheque had really
given my brother a fright, and that there was some chance of his
settling down into an honest line of life. My mother had spoken
with him, and what she said had touched him, for she had always
been the best of mothers to him and he had been the great sorrow of
her life. But I knew that this man Sparrow MacCoy had a great
influence over Edward and my chance of keeping the lad straight lay
in breaking the connection between them. I had a friend in the New
York detective force, and through him I kept a watch upon MacCoy.
When, within a fortnight of my brother's sailing, I heard that
MacCoy had taken a berth in the Etruria, I was as certain as if
he had told me that he was going over to England for the purpose of
coaxing Edward back again into the ways that he had left. In an
instant I had resolved to go also, and to pit my influence against
MacCoy's. I knew it was a losing fight, but I thought, and my
mother thought, that it was my duty. We passed the last night
together in prayer for my success, and she gave me her own
Testament that my father had given her on the day of their marriage
in the Old Country, so that I might always wear it next my heart.
"I was a fellow-traveller, on the steamship, with Sparrow
MacCoy, and at least I had the satisfaction of spoiling his little
game for the voyage. The very first night I went into the smoking-
room, and found him at the head of a card-table, with a half a
dozen young fellows who were carrying their full purses and their
empty skulls over to Europe. He was settling down for his harvest,
and a rich one it would have been. But I soon changed all that.
"`Gentlemen,' said I, `are you aware whom you are playing
"`What's that to you? You mind your own business!' said he,
with an oath.
"`Who is it, anyway?' asked one of the dudes.
"`He's Sparrow MacCoy, the most notorious card-sharper in the
"Up he jumped with a bottle in his hand, but he remembered
that he was under the flag of the effete Old Country, where
law and order run, and Tammany has no pull. Gaol and the gallows
wait for violence and murder, and there's no slipping out by the
back door on board an ocean liner.
"`Prove your words, you----!' said he.
"`I will!' said I. `If you will turn up your right shirt-
sleeve to the shoulder, I will either prove my words or I will eat
"He turned white and said not a word. You see, I knew
something of his ways, and I was aware of that part of the
mechanism which he and all such sharpers use consists of an elastic
down the arm with a clip just above the wrist. It is by means of
this clip that they withdraw from their hands the cards which they
do not want, while they substitute other cards from another hiding
place. I reckoned on it being there, and it was. He cursed me,
slunk out of the saloon, and was hardly seen again during the
voyage. For once, at any rate, I got level with Mister Sparrow
"But he soon had his revenge upon me, for when it came to
influencing my brother he outweighed me every time. Edward had
kept himself straight in London for the first few weeks, and had
done some business with his American watches, until this villain
came across his path once more. I did my best, but the best was
little enough. The next thing I heard there had been a scandal at
one of the Northumberland Avenue hotels: a traveller had been
fleeced of a large sum by two confederate card-sharpers, and the
matter was in the hands of Scotland Yard. The first I learned of
it was in the evening paper, and I was at once certain that my
brother and MacCoy were back at their old games. I hurried at once
to Edward's lodgings. They told me that he and a tall gentleman
(whom I recognized as MacCoy) had gone off together, and that he
had left the lodgings and taken his things with him. The landlady
had heard them give several directions to the cabman, ending with
Euston Station, and she had accidentally overheard the tall
gentleman saying something about Manchester. She believed that
that was their destination.
"A glance at the time-table showed me that the most likely
train was at five, though there was another at 4:35 which they
might have caught. I had only time to get the later one, but found
no sign of them either at the depot or in the train. They
must have gone on by the earlier one, so I determined to
follow them to Manchester and search for them in the hotels there.
One last appeal to my brother by all that he owed to my mother
might even now be the salvation of him. My nerves were overstrung,
and I lit a cigar to steady them. At that moment, just as the
train was moving off, the door of my compartment was flung open,
and there were MacCoy and my brother on the platform.
"They were both disguised, and with good reason, for they knew
that the London police were after them. MacCoy had a great
astrakhan collar drawn up, so that only his eyes and nose were
showing. My brother was dressed like a woman, with a black veil
half down his face, but of course it did not deceive me for an
instant, nor would it have done so even if I had not known that he
had often used such a dress before. I started up, and as I did so
MacCoy recognized me. He said something, the conductor slammed the
door, and they were shown into the next compartment. I tried to
stop the train so as to follow them, but the wheels were already
moving, and it was too late.
"When we stopped at Willesden, I instantly changed my carriage.
It appears that I was not seen to do so, which is not surprising,
as the station was crowded with people. MacCoy, of course, was
expecting me, and he had spent the time between Euston and
Willesden in saying all he could to harden my brother's heart and
set him against me. That is what I fancy, for I had never found
him so impossible to soften or to move. I tried this way and I
tried that; I pictured his future in an English gaol; I described
the sorrow of his mother when I came back with the news; I said
everything to touch his heart, but all to no purpose. He sat there
with a fixed sneer upon his handsome face, while every now and then
Sparrow MacCoy would throw in a taunt at me, or some word of
encouragement to hold my brother to his resolutions.
"`Why don't you run a Sunday-school?' he would say to me, and
then, in the same breath: `He thinks you have no will of your own.
He thinks you are just the baby brother and that he can lead you
where he likes. He's only just finding out that you are a man as
well as he.'
"It was those words of his which set me talking bitterly. We
had left Willesden, you understand, for all this took some time.
My temper got the better of me, and for the first time in my
life I let my brother see the rough side of me. Perhaps it would
have been better had I done so earlier and more often.
"`A man!' said I. `Well, I'm glad to have your friend's
assurance of it, for no one would suspect it to see you like a
boarding-school missy. I don't suppose in all this country there
is a more contemptible-looking creature than you are as you sit
there with that Dolly pinafore upon you.' He coloured up at that,
for he was a vain man, and he winced from ridicule.
"`It's only a dust-cloak,' said he, and he slipped it off.
`One has to throw the coppers off one's scent, and I had no other
way to do it.' He took his toque off with the veil attached, and
he put both it and the cloak into his brown bag. `Anyway, I don't
need to wear it until the conductor comes round,' said he.
"`Nor then, either,' said I, and taking the bag I slung it with
all my force out of the window. `Now,' said I, `you'll never make
a Mary Jane of yourself while I can help it. If nothing but that
disguise stands between you and a gaol, then to gaol you shall go.'
"That was the way to manage him. I felt my advantage at once.
His supple nature was one which yielded to roughness far more
readily than to entreaty. He flushed with shame, and his eyes
filled with tears. But MacCoy saw my advantage also, and was
determined that I should not pursue it.
"`He's my pard, and you shall not bully him,' he cried.
"`He's my brother, and you shall not ruin him,' said I. `I
believe a spell of prison is the very best way of keeping you
apart, and you shall have it, or it will be no fault of mine.'
"`Oh, you would squeal, would you?' he cried, and in an instant
he whipped out his revolver. I sprang for his hand, but saw that
I was too late, and jumped aside. At the same instant he fired,
and the bullet which would have struck me passed through the heart
of my unfortunate brother.
"He dropped without a groan upon the floor of the compartment,
and MacCoy and I, equally horrified, knelt at each side of him,
trying to bring back some signs of life. MacCoy still held the
loaded revolver in his hand, but his anger against me and my
resentment towards him had both for the moment been swallowed up in
this sudden tragedy. It was he who first realized the situation.
The train was for some reason going very slowly at the moment,
and he saw his opportunity for escape. In an instant he had the
door open, but I was as quick as he, and jumping upon him the two
of us fell off the footboard and rolled in each other's arms down
a steep embankment. At the bottom I struck my head against a
stone, and I remembered nothing more. When I came to myself I was
lying among some low bushes, not far from the railroad track, and
somebody was bathing my head with a wet handkerchief. It was
"`I guess I couldn't leave you,' said he. `I didn't want to
have the blood of two of you on my hands in one day. You loved
your brother, I've no doubt; but you didn't love him a cent more
than I loved him, though you'll say that I took a queer way to show
it. Anyhow, it seems a mighty empty world now that he is gone, and
I don't care a continental whether you give me over to the hangman
"He had turned his ankle in the fall, and there we sat, he with
his useless foot, and I with my throbbing head, and we talked and
talked until gradually my bitterness began to soften and to turn
into something like sympathy. What was the use of revenging his
death upon a man who was as much stricken by that death as I was?
And then, as my wits gradually returned, I began to realize also
that I could do nothing against MacCoy which would not recoil upon
my mother and myself. How could we convict him without a full
account of my brother's career being made public--the very thing
which of all others we wished to avoid? It was really as much our
interest as his to cover the matter up, and from being an avenger
of crime I found myself changed to a conspirator against Justice.
The place in which we found ourselves was one of those pheasant
preserves which are so common in the Old Country, and as we groped
our way through it I found myself consulting the slayer of my
brother as to how far it would be possible to hush it up.
"I soon realized from what he said that unless there were some
papers of which we knew nothing in my brother's pockets, there was
really no possible means by which the police could identify him or
learn how he had got there. His ticket was in MacCoy's pocket, and
so was the ticket for some baggage which they had left at the
depot. Like most Americans, he had found it cheaper and easier to
buy an outfit in London than to bring one from New York, so
that all his linen and clothes were new and unmarked. The bag,
containing the dust-cloak, which I had thrown out of the window,
may have fallen among some bramble patch where it is still
concealed, or may have been carried off by some tramp, or may have
come into the possession of the police, who kept the incident to
themselves. Anyhow, I have seen nothing about it in the London
papers. As to the watches, they were a selection from those which
had been intrusted to him for business purposes. It may have been
for the same business purposes that he was taking them to
Manchester, but--well, it's too late to enter into that.
"I don't blame the police for being at fault. I don't see how
it could have been otherwise. There was just one little clue that
they might have followed up, but it was a small one. I mean that
small, circular mirror which was found in my brother's pocket. It
isn't a very common thing for a young man to carry about with him,
is it? But a gambler might have told you what such a mirror may
mean to a card-sharper. If you sit back a little from the table,
and lay the mirror, face upwards, upon your lap, you can see, as
you deal, every card that you give to your adversary. It is not
hard to say whether you see a man or raise him when you know his
cards as well as your own. It was as much a part of a sharper's
outfit as the elastic clip upon Sparrow MacCoy's arm. Taking that,
in connection with the recent frauds at the hotels, the police
might have got hold of one end of the string.
"I don't think there is much more for me to explain. We got to
a village called Amersham that night in the character of two
gentlemen upon a walking tour, and afterwards we made our way
quietly to London, whence MacCoy went on to Cairo and I returned to
New York. My mother died six months afterwards, and I am glad to
say that to the day of her death she never knew what happened. She
was always under the delusion that Edward was earning an honest
living in London, and I never had the heart to tell her the truth.
He never wrote; but, then, he never did write at any time, so that
made no difference. His name was the last upon her lips.
"There's just one other thing that I have to ask you, sir, and
I should take it as a kind return for all this explanation, if you
could do it for me. You remember that Testament that was
picked up. I always carried it in my inside pocket, and it