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Chapter 5 A NIGHT'S ADVENTURE

  • "Now I must tell you," continued the man in the corner, "that after I had rea_he account of the double robbery, which appeared in the early afternoo_apers, I set to work and had a good think—yes!" he added with a smile, notin_olly's look at the bit of string, on which he was still at work, "yes! aide_y this small adjunct to continued thought—I made notes as to how I shoul_roceed to discover the clever thief, who had carried off a small fortune in _ingle night. Of course, my methods are not those of a London detective; h_as his own way of going to work. The one who was conducting this cas_uestioned the unfortunate jeweller very closely about his servants and hi_ousehold generally.
  • "'I have three servants,' explained Mr. Shipman, two of whom have been with m_or many years; one, the housemaid, is a fairly new comer—she has been her_bout six months. She came recommended by a friend, and bore an excellen_haracter. She and the parlourmaid room together. The cook, who knew me when _as a schoolboy, sleeps alone; all three servants sleep on the floor above. _ocked the jewels up in the safe which stands in the dressing-room. My key_nd watch I placed, as usual, beside my bed. As a rule, I am a fairly ligh_leeper.
  • "'I cannot understand how it could have happened—but—you had better come u_nd have a look at the safe. The key must have been abstracted from m_edside, the safe opened, and the keys replaced—all while I was fast asleep.
  • Though I had no occasion to look into the safe until just now, I should hav_iscovered my loss before going to business, for I intended to take th_iamonds away with me—'
  • "The detective and the inspector went up to have a look at the safe. The loc_ad in no way been tampered with—it had been opened with its own key. Th_etective spoke of chloroform, but Mr. Shipman declared that when he woke i_he morning at about half-past seven there was no smell of chloroform in th_oom. However, the proceedings of the daring thief certainly pointed to th_se of an anaesthetic. An examination of the premises brought to light th_act that the burglar had, as in Mr. Knopf's house, used the glass-panelle_oor from the garden as a means of entrance, but in this instance he ha_arefully cut out the pane of glass with a diamond, slipped the bolts, turne_he key, and walked in.
  • "'Which among your servants knew that you had the diamonds in your house las_ight, Mr. Shipman?' asked the detective.
  • "'Not one, I should say,' replied the jeweller, 'though, perhaps, th_arlourmaid, whilst waiting at table, may have heard me and Mr. Knop_iscussing our bargain.'
  • "'Would you object to my searching all your servants' boxes?'
  • "'Certainly not. They would not object, either, I am sure. They are perfectl_onest.'
  • "The searching of servants' belongings is invariably a useless proceeding,"
  • added the man in the corner, with a shrug of the shoulders. "No one, not eve_ latter-day domestic, would be fool enough to keep stolen property in th_ouse. However, the usual farce was gone through, with more or less protest o_he part of Mr. Shipman's servants, and with the usual result.
  • "The jeweller could give no further information; the detective and inspector, to do them justice, did their work of investigation minutely and, what i_ore, intelligently. It seemed evident, from their deductions, that th_urglar had commenced proceedings on No. 26, Phillimore Terrace, and had the_one on, probably climbing over the garden walls between the houses to No. 22, where he was almost caught in the act by Robertson. The facts were simpl_nough, but the mystery remained as to the individual who had managed to glea_he information of the presence of the diamonds in both the houses, and th_eans which he had adopted to get that information. It was obvious that th_hief or thieves knew more about Mr. Knopf's affairs than Mr. Shipman's, sinc_hey had known how to use Mr. Emile Knopf's name in order to get his brothe_ut of the way.
  • "It was now nearly ten o'clock, and the detectives, having taken leave of Mr.
  • Shipman, went back to No. 22, in order to ascertain whether Mr. Knopf had com_ack; the door was opened by the old charwoman, who said that her master ha_eturned, and was having some breakfast in the dining-room.
  • "Mr. Ferdinand Knopf was a middle-aged man, with sallow complexion, black hai_nd beard, of obviously Hebrew extraction. He spoke with a marked foreig_ccent, but very courteously, to the two officials, who, he begged, woul_xcuse him if he went on with his breakfast.
  • "'I was fully prepared to hear the bad news,' he explained, 'which my ma_obertson told me when I arrived. The letter I got last night was a bogus one; there is no such person as J. Collins, M.D. My brother had never felt bette_n his life. You will, I am sure, very soon trace the cunning writer of tha_pistle—ah! but I was in a rage, I can tell you, when I got to the Metropol_t Brighton, and found that Emile, my brother, had never heard of any Docto_ollins.
  • "'The last train to town had gone, although I raced back to the station a_ard as I could. Poor old Robertson, he has a terrible cold. Ah yes! my loss!
  • it is for me a very serious one; if I had not made that lucky bargain with Mr.
  • Shipman last night I should, perhaps, at this moment be a ruined man.
  • "'The stones I had yesterday were, firstly, some magnificent Brazilians; thes_ sold to Mr. Shipman mostly. Then I had some very good Cape diamonds—al_one; and some quite special Parisians, of wonderful work and finish, entrusted to me for sale by a great French house. I tell you, sir, my los_ill be nearly £10,000 altogether. I sell on commission, and, of course, hav_o make good the loss.'
  • "He was evidently trying to bear up manfully, and as a business man should, under his sad fate. He refused in any way to attach the slightest blame to hi_ld and faithful servant Robertson, who had caught, perhaps, his death of col_n his zeal for his absent master. As for any hint of suspicion falling eve_emotely upon the man, the very idea appeared to Mr. Knopf absolutel_reposterous.
  • "With regard to the old charwoman, Mr. Knopf certainly knew nothing about her, beyond the fact that she had been recommended to him by one of th_radespeople in the neighbourhood, and seemed perfectly honest, respectable, and sober.
  • "About the tramp Mr. Knopf knew still less, nor could he imagine how he, or i_act anybody else, could possibly know that he happened to have diamonds i_is house that night.
  • "This certainly seemed the great hitch in the case.
  • "Mr. Ferdinand Knopf, at the instance of the police, later on went to th_tation and had a look at the suspected tramp. He declared that he had neve_et eyes on him before.
  • "Mr. Shipman, on his way home from business in the afternoon, had don_ikewise, and made a similar statement.
  • "Brought before the magistrate, the tramp gave but a poor account of himself.
  • He gave a name and address, which latter, of course, proved to be false. Afte_hat he absolutely refused to speak. He seemed not to care whether he was kep_n custody or not. Very soon even the police realized that, for the present, at any rate, nothing could be got out of the suspected tramp.
  • "Mr. Francis Howard, the detective, who had charge of the case, though h_ould not admit it even to himself, was at his wits' ends. You must remembe_hat the burglary, through its very simplicity, was an exceedingly mysteriou_ffair. The constable, D 21, who had stood in Adam and Eve Mews, presumabl_hile Mr. Knopf's house was being robbed, had seen no one turn out from th_cul-de-sac_ into the main passage of the mews.
  • "The stables, which immediately faced the back entrance of the Phillimor_errace houses, were all private ones belonging to residents in th_eighbourhood. The coachmen, their families, and all the grooms who slept i_he stablings were rigidly watched and questioned. One and all had see_othing, heard nothing, until Robertson's shrieks had roused them from thei_leep.
  • "As for the letter from Brighton, it was absolutely commonplace, and writte_pon note-paper which the detective, with Machiavellian cunning, traced to _tationer's shop in West Street. But the trade at that particular shop was _ery brisk one; scores of people had bought note-paper there, similar to tha_n which the supposed doctor had written his tricky letter. The handwritin_as cramped, perhaps a disguised one; in any case, except under ver_xceptional circumstances, it could afford no clue to the identity of th_hief. Needless to say, the tramp, when told to write his name, wrote _otally different and absolutely uneducated hand.
  • "Matters stood, however, in the same persistently mysterious state when _mall discovery was made, which suggested to Mr. Francis Howard an idea, which, if properly carried out, would, he hoped, inevitably bring the cunnin_urglar safely within the grasp of the police.
  • "That was the discovery of a few of Mr. Knopf's diamonds," continued the ma_n the corner after a slight pause, "evidently trampled into the ground by th_hief whilst making his hurried exit through the garden of No. 22, Phillimor_errace.
  • "At the end of this garden there is a small studio which had been built by _ormer owner of the house, and behind it a small piece of waste ground abou_even feet square which had once been a rockery, and is still filled wit_arge loose stones, in the shadow of which earwigs and woodlice innumerabl_ave made a happy hunting ground.
  • "It was Robertson who, two days after the robbery, having need of a larg_tone, for some household purpose or other, dislodged one from that piece o_aste ground, and found a few shining pebbles beneath it. Mr. Knopf took the_ound to the police-station himself immediately, and identified the stones a_ome of his Parisian ones.
  • "Later on the detective went to view the place where the find had been made, and there conceived the plan upon which he built big cherished hopes.
  • "Acting upon the advice of Mr. Francis Howard, the police decided to let th_nonymous tramp out of his safe retreat within the station, and to allow hi_o wander whithersoever he chose. A good idea, perhaps—the presumption bein_hat, sooner or later, if the man was in any way mixed up with the cunnin_hieves, he would either rejoin his comrades or even lead the police to wher_he remnant of his hoard lay hidden; needless to say, his footsteps were to b_iterally dogged.
  • "The wretched tramp, on his discharge, wandered out of the yard, wrapping hi_hin coat round his shoulders, for it was a bitterly cold afternoon. He bega_perations by turning into the Town Hall Tavern for a good feed and a copiou_rink. Mr. Francis Howard noted that he seemed to eye every passer-by wit_uspicion, but he seemed to enjoy his dinner, and sat some time over hi_ottle of wine.
  • "It was close upon four o'clock when he left the tavern, and then began fo_he indefatigable Mr. Howard one of the most wearisome and uninterestin_hases, through the mazes of the London streets, he ever remembers to hav_ade. Up Notting Hill, down the slums of Notting Dale, along the High Street, beyond Hammersmith, and through Shepherd's Bush did that anonymous tramp lea_he unfortunate detective, never hurrying himself, stopping every now and the_t a public-house to get a drink, whither Mr. Howard did not always care t_ollow him.
  • "In spite of his fatigue, Mr. Francis Howard's hopes rose with every half-hou_f this weary tramp. The man was obviously striving to kill time; he seemed t_eel no weariness, but walked on and on, perhaps suspecting that he was bein_ollowed.
  • "At last, with a beating heart, though half perished with cold, and wit_erribly sore feet, the detective began to realize that the tramp wa_radually working his way back towards Kensington. It was then close upo_leven o'clock at night; once or twice the man had walked up and down the Hig_treet, from St. Paul's School to Derry and Toms' shops and back again, he ha_ooked down one or two of the side streets and—at last—he turned int_hillimore Terrace. He seemed in no hurry, he oven stopped once in the middl_f the road, trying to light a pipe, which, as there was a high east wind, took him some considerable time. Then he leisurely sauntered down the street, and turned into Adam and Eve Mews, with Mr. Francis Howard now close at hi_eels.
  • "Acting upon the detective's instructions, there were several men in plai_lothes ready to his call in the immediate neighbourhood. Two stood within th_hadow of the steps of the Congregational Church at the corner of the mews, others were stationed well within a soft call.
  • "Hardly, therefore, had the hare turned into the _cul-de-sac_ at the back o_hillimore Terrace than, at a slight sound from Mr. Francis Howard, ever_gress was barred to him, and he was caught like a rat in a trap.
  • "As soon as the tramp had advanced some thirty yards or so (the whole lengt_f this part of the mews is about one hundred yards) and was lost in th_hadow, Mr. Francis Howard directed four or five of his men to procee_autiously up the mews, whilst the same number were to form a line all alon_he front of Phillimore Terrace between the mews and the High Street.
  • "Remember, the back-garden walls threw long and dense shadows, but th_ilhouette of the man would be clearly outlined if he made any attempt a_limbing over them. Mr. Howard felt quite sure that the thief was bent o_ecovering the stolen goods, which, no doubt, he had hidden in the rear of on_f the houses. He would be caught _in flagrante delicto_ , and, with a heav_entence hovering over him, he would probably be induced to name hi_ccomplice. Mr. Francis Howard was thoroughly enjoying himself.
  • "The minutes sped on; absolute silence, in spite of the presence of so man_en, reigned in the dark and deserted mews.
  • "Of course, this night's adventure was never allowed to get into the papers,"
  • added the man in the corner with his mild smile. "Had the plan bee_uccessful, we should have heard all about it, with a long eulogistic articl_s to the astuteness of our police; but as it was—well, the tramp sauntered u_he mews—and—there he remained for aught Mr. Francis Howard or the othe_onstables could ever explain. The earth or the shadows swallowed him up. N_ne saw him climb one of the garden walls, no one heard him break open a door; he had retreated within the shadow of the garden walls, and was seen or hear_f no more."
  • "One of the servants in the Phillimore Terrace houses must have belonged t_he gang," said Polly with quick decision.
  • "Ah, yes! but which?" said the man in the corner, making a beautiful knot i_is bit of string. "I can assure you that the police left not a stone unturne_nce more to catch sight of that tramp whom they had had in custody for tw_ays, but not a trace of him could they find, nor of the diamonds, from tha_ay to this."