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Chapter 4 THE ROBBERY IN PHILLIMORE TERRACE

  • Whether Miss Polly Burton really did expect to see the man in the corner tha_aturday afternoon, 'twere difficult to say; certain it is that when she foun_er way to the table close by the window and realized that he was not there, she felt conscious of an overwhelming sense of disappointment. And yet durin_he whole of the week she had, with more pride than wisdom, avoided thi_articular A.B.C. shop.
  • "I thought you would not keep away very long," said a quiet voice close to he_ar.
  • She nearly lost her balance—where in the world had he come from? She certainl_ad not heard the slightest sound, and yet there he sat, in the corner, like _eritable Jack-in-the-box, his mild blue eyes staring apologetically at her, his nervous fingers toying with the inevitable bit of string.
  • The waitress brought him his glass of milk and a cheese-cake. He ate it i_ilence, while his piece of string lay idly beside him on the table. When h_ad finished he fumbled in his capacious pockets, and drew out the inevitabl_ocket-book.
  • Placing a small photograph before the girl, he said quietly:
  • "That is the back of the houses in Phillimore Terrace, which overlook Adam an_ve Mews."
  • She looked at the photograph, then at him, with a kindly look of indulgen_xpectancy.
  • "You will notice that the row of back gardens have each an exit into the mews.
  • These mews are built in the shape of a capital F. The photograph is take_ooking straight down the short horizontal line, which ends, as you see, in _cul-de-sac_. The bottom of the vertical line turns into Phillimore Terrace, and the end of the upper long horizontal line into High Street, Kensington.
  • Now, on that particular night, or rather early morning, of January 15th, Constable D 21, having turned into the mews from Phillimore Terrace, stood fo_ moment at the angle formed by the long vertical artery of the mews and th_hort horizontal one which, as I observed before, looks on to the back garden_f the Terrace houses, and ends in a _cul-de-sac_.
  • "How long D 21 stood at that particular corner he could not exactly say, bu_e thinks it must have been three or four minutes before he noticed _uspicious-looking individual shambling along under the shadow of the garde_alls. He was working his way cautiously in the direction of the _cul-de-sac_ , and D 21, also keeping well within the shadow, went noiselessly after him.
  • "He had almost overtaken him—was, in fact, not more than thirty yards fro_im—when from out of one of the two end houses—No. 22, Phillimore Terrace, i_act—a man, in nothing but his night-shirt, rushed out excitedly, and, befor_ 21 had time to intervene, literally threw himself upon the suspecte_ndividual, rolling over and over with him on the hard cobble-stones, an_rantically shrieking, 'Thief! Thief! Police!'
  • "It was some time before the constable succeeded in rescuing the tramp fro_he excited grip of his assailant, and several minutes before he could mak_imself heard.
  • "'There! there! that'll do!' he managed to say at last, as he gave the man i_he shirt a vigorous shove, which silenced him for the moment. 'Leave the ma_lone now, you mustn't make that noise this time o' night, wakin' up all th_olks.' The unfortunate tramp, who in the meanwhile had managed to got on t_is feet again, made no attempt to get away; probably he thought he woul_tand but a poor chance. But the man in the shirt had partly recovered hi_ower of speech, and was now blurting out jerky, half—intelligible sentences:
  • "'I have been robbed—robbed—I—that is—my master—Mr. Knopf. The desk i_pen—the diamonds gone—all in my charge—and—now they are stolen! That's th_hief—I'll swear—I heard him—not three minutes ago—rushed downstairs—the doo_nto the garden was smashed—I ran across the garden—he was sneaking about her_till—Thief! Thief! Police! Diamonds! Constable, don't let him go—I'll mak_ou responsible if you let him go—'
  • "'Now then—that'll do!' admonished D 21 as soon as he could get a word in,
  • 'stop that row, will you?'
  • "The man in the shirt was gradually recovering from his excitement.
  • "'Can I give this man in charge?' he asked.
  • "'What for?'
  • "'Burglary and housebreaking. I heard him, I tell you. He must have Mr.
  • Knopf's diamonds about him at this moment.'
  • "'Where is Mr. Knopf?'
  • "'Out of town,' groaned the man in the shirt. 'He went to Brighton last night, and left me in charge, and now this thief has been and—'
  • "The tramp shrugged his shoulders and suddenly, without a word, he quietl_egan taking off his coat and waistcoat. These he handed across to th_onstable. Eagerly the man in the shirt fell on them, and turned the ragge_ockets inside out. From one of the windows a hilarious voice made som_acetious remark, as the tramp with equal solemnity began divesting himself o_is nether garments.
  • "'Now then, stop that nonsense,' pronounced D 21 severely, 'what were yo_oing here this time o' night, anyway?'
  • "'The streets o' London is free to the public, ain't they?' queried the tramp.
  • "'This don't lead nowhere, my man.'
  • "'Then I've lost my way, that's all,' growled the man surlily, 'and p'rap_ou'll let me get along now.'
  • "By this time a couple of constables had appeared upon the scene. D 21 had n_ntention of losing sight of his friend the tramp, and the man in the shir_ad again made a dash for the latter's collar at the bare idea that he shoul_e allowed to 'get along.'
  • "I think D 21 was alive to the humour of the situation. He suggested tha_obertson (the man in the night-shirt) should go in and get some clothes on, whilst he himself would wait for the inspector and the detective, whom D 1_ould send round from the station immediately.
  • "Poor Robertson's teeth were chattering with cold. He had a violent fit o_neezing as D 21 hurried him into the house. The latter, with anothe_onstable, remained to watch the burglared premises both back and front, and _5 took the wretched tramp to the station with a view to sending an inspecto_nd a detective round immediately.
  • "When the two latter gentlemen arrived at No. 22, Phillimore Terrace, the_ound poor old Robertson in bed, shivering, and still quite blue. He had go_imself a hot drink, but his eyes were streaming and his voice was terribl_usky. D 21 had stationed himself in the dining-room, where Robertson ha_ointed the desk out to him, with its broken lock and scattered contents.
  • "Robertson, between his sneezes, gave what account he could of the event_hich happened immediately before the robbery.
  • "His master, Mr. Ferdinand Knopf, he said, was a diamond merchant, and _achelor. He himself had been in Mr. Knopf's employ over fifteen years, an_as his only indoor servant. A charwoman came every day to do the housework.
  • "Last night Mr. Knopf dined at the house of Mr. Shipman, at No. 26, lowe_own. Mr. Shipman is the great jeweller who has his place of business in Sout_udley Street. By the last post there came a letter with the Brighto_ostmark, and marked 'urgent,' for Mr. Knopf, and he (Robertson) was jus_ondering if he should run over to No. 26 with it, when his master returned.
  • He gave one glance at the contents of the letter, asked for his A.B.C. Railwa_uide, and ordered him (Robertson) to pack his bag at once and fetch him _ab.
  • "'I guessed what it was,' continued Robertson after another violent fit o_neezing. 'Mr. Knopf has a brother, Mr. Emile Knopf, to whom he is very muc_ttached, and who is a great invalid. He generally goes about from one seasid_lace to another. He is now at Brighton, and has recently been very ill.
  • "'If you will take the trouble to go downstairs I think you will still fin_he letter lying on the hall table.
  • "'I read it after Mr. Knopf left; it was not from his brother, but from _entleman who signed himself J. Collins, M.D. I don't remember the exac_ords, but, of course, you'll be able to read the letter—Mr. J. Collins sai_e had been called in very suddenly to see Mr. Emile Knopf, who, he added, ha_ot many hours to live, and had begged of the doctor to communicate at onc_ith his brother in London.
  • "'Before leaving, Mr. Knopf warned me that there were some valuables in hi_esk—diamonds mostly, and told me to be particularly careful about locking u_he house. He often has left me like this in charge of his premises, an_sually there have been diamonds in his desk, for Mr. Knopf has no regula_ity office as he is a commercial traveller.'
  • "This, briefly, was the gist of the matter which Robertson related to th_nspector with many repetitions and persistent volubility.
  • "The detective and inspector, before returning to the station with thei_eport, thought they would call at No. 26, on Mr. Shipman, the great jeweller.
  • "You remember, of course," added the man in the corner, dreamily contemplatin_is bit of string, "the exciting developments of this extraordinary case. Mr.
  • Arthur Shipman is the head of the firm of Shipman and Co., the wealth_ewellers. He is a widower, and lives very quietly by himself in his own old- fashioned way in the small Kensington house, leaving it to his two marrie_ons to keep up the style and swagger befitting the representatives of s_ealthy a firm.
  • "'I have only known Mr. Knopf a very little while,' he explained to th_etectives. 'He sold me two or three stones once or twice, I think; but we ar_oth single men, and we have often dined together. Last night he dined wit_e. He had that afternoon received a very fine consignment of Brazilia_iamonds, as he told me, and knowing how beset I am with callers at m_usiness place, he had brought the stones with him, hoping, perhaps, to do _it of trade over the nuts and wine.
  • "'I bought £25,000 worth of him,' added the jeweller, as if he were speakin_f so many farthings, 'and gave him a cheque across the dinner table for tha_mount. I think we were both pleased with our bargain, and we had a fina_ottle of '48 port over it together. Mr. Knopf left me at about 9.30, for h_nows I go very early to bed, and I took my new stock upstairs with me, an_ocked it up in the safe. I certainly heard nothing of the noise in the mew_ast night. I sleep on the second floor, in the front of the house, and thi_s the first I have heard of poor Mr. Knopf's loss—'
  • "At this point of his narrative Mr. Shipman very suddenly paused, and his fac_ecame very pale. With a hasty word of excuse he unceremoniously left th_oom, and the detective heard him running quickly upstairs.
  • "Less than two minutes later Mr. Shipman returned. There was no need for hi_o speak; both the detective and the inspector guessed the truth in a momen_y the look upon his face.
  • "'The diamonds!' he gasped. 'I have been robbed.'"