Charles Dickens.

The mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories online

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geants are presented — five in number. Sergeant
Dornton, Sergeant Witchem, Sergeant Mith,_
Sergeant Fendall, and Sergeant Straw. We
have the whole Detective Force from Scotland
Yard, with one exception. They sit down in a
semicircle (the two Inspectors at the two ends)
at a little distance from the round table, facing
the editorial sofa. Every man of them, in a
glance, immediately takes an inventory of the
furniture and an accurate sketch of the editorial
presence. The Editor feels that any gentleman
in company could take him up, if need should
be, without the smallest hesitation, twenty years



The whole party are in plain clothes. Ser-
geant Dornton, about fifty years of age, with a
ruddy face and a high sunburnt forehead, has
the air of one who has been a Sergeant in the
army — he might have sat to Wilkie for the Sol-
dier in the Reading of the Will. He is famous
for steadily pursuing the inductive process, and,
from small beginnings, working on from clue to
clue until he bags his man. Sergeant Witcliem,
shorter and thicker-set, and marked with the
small-pox, has something of a reserved and
thoughtful air, as if he were engaged in deep
arithmetical calculations. He is renowned for
his acquaintance with the swell mob. Sergeant
Mith, a smooth-faced man with a fresh bright
complexion, and a strange air of simplicity, is a
dab at housebreakers. Sergeant Fendall, a light-
haired, well-spoken, polite person, is a prodigious
hand at pursuing private inquiries of a delicate
nature. Straw, a little wiry Sergeant of meek
demeanour and strong sense, would knock at a
door and ask a series of questions in any mild
character you chose to prescribe to him, from a
charity-boy upwards, and seem as innocent as
an infant. They are, one and all, respectable-
looking men ; of perfectly good deportment and
unusual intelligence ; with nothing lounging or
slinking in their manners ; with an air of keen
observation and quick perception when ad-
dressed ; and generally presenting in their faces
traces more or less marked of habitually leading
lives of strong mental excitement. They have
all good eyes ; and they all can, and they all do,
look full at whomsoever they speak to.

We light the cigars, and hand round the glasses
(which are very temperately used indeed), and
the conversation begins by a modest amateur
reference on the Editorial part to the swell mob.
Inspector Wield immediately removes his cigar
from his lips, waves his right hand, and says,
" Regarding the swell mob, sir, I can't do better
than call upon Sergeant Witchem. Because the
reason why ? I'll tell you. Sergeant Witchem
is better acquainted with the swell mob than any
officer in London."

Our heart leaping up when we beheld this rain-
bow in the sky, we turn to Sergeant Witchem,
who very concisely, and in well-chosen lan-
guage, goes into the subject forthwith. Mean-
time, the whole of his brother officers are closely
interested in attending to what he says, and ob-
serving its effect. Presently they begin to strike
in, one or two together, when an opportunity
offers, and the conversation becomes general.
But these brother officers only come in to the
assistance of each other — not to the contradic-
tion — and a more amicable brotherhood there

could not be. From the swell mob, we diverge
to the kindred topics of cracksmen, fences,
public-house dancers, area sneaks, designing
young people who go out "gonophing," and other
" schools." It is observable, throughout these
revelations, that Inspector Stalker, the Scotch-
man, is always exact and statistical, and that
when any question of figures arises, everybody as
by one consent pauses, and looks to him.

When we have exhausted the various schools
of Art — during which discussion the whole body
have remained profoundly attentive, except when
some unusual noise at the Theatre over the way
has induced some gentleman to glance inquir-
ingly towards the window in that direction, be-
hind his next neighbour's back — we burrow for
information on such points as the following.
Whether there really are any highway robberies
in London, or whether some circumstances, not
convenient to be mentioned by the aggrieved
party, usually precede the robberies complained
of under that head, which quite change their
character? Certainly the latter, almost always.
Whether in the case of robberies in houses, where
servants are necessarily exposed to doubt, inno-
cence under suspicion ever becomes so like guilt
in appearance, that a good officer need be cau-
tious how he judges it? Undoubtedly. Nothing
is so common or deceptive as such appearances
at first. Whether in a place of public amusement
a thief knows an officer, and an officer knows a
thief — supposing them, beforehand, strangers to
each other — because each recognises in the other,
under all disguise, an inattention to what is going
on, and a purpose that is not the purpose of being
entertained? Yes. That's the way exactly.
Whether it is reasonable or ridiculous to trust
to the alleged experiences of thieves, as narrated
by themselves, in prisons, or penitentiaries, or
anywhere? In general, nothing more absurd.
Lying is their habit and their trade ; and they
would rather He — even if they hadn't an interest
in it, and didn't want to make themselves agree-
able — than tell the truth.

From these topics, we glide into a review of
the most celebrated and horrible of the great
crimes that have been committed within the last
fifteen or twenty years. The men engaged in the
discovery of almost all of them, and in the pur-
suit or apprehension of the murderers, are here,
down to the very last instance. One of our
guests gave chase to and boarded the emigrant
ship in which the murderess last hanged in Lon-
don was supposed to have embarked. We learn
from him that his errand was not announced to
the passengers, who may have no idea of it to
this hour. That he went below with the captain,



lamp in hand — it bein^^ dark, and the whole
steerage abed and sea-sick — and engaged the Mrs.
Manning who 7uas on board in a conversation
about her luggage, until she was, with no small
pains, induced to raise her head, and turn her
face towards the light. Satisfied that she was not
the object of his search, he quietly re-embarked
in the Government steamer alongside, and
steamed home again with the intelligence.

When we have exhausted these subjects, too,
which occupy a considerable time in the discus-
sion, two or three leave their chairs, whisper
Sergeant Witchem, and resume their seats.
Sergeant Witchem, leaning forward a little, and
placing a hand on each of his legs, then mo-
destly speaks as follows :

" Aly brother officers wish me to relate a little
account of my taking Tally-ho Thompson. A
man oughtn't to tell what he has done himself; but
still, as nobody was with me, and consequently,
as nobody but myself can tell it, I'll do it in the
best way I can, if it should meet your approval."

We assure Sergeant Witchem that he will
oblige us very much, and we all compose our-
selves to listen with great interest and attention.

"Tally-ho Thompson," says Sergeant Witchem,
after merely wetting his lips with his brandy-and-
water, " Tally-ho Thompson was a famous horse-
stealer, couper, and magsman. Thompson, in
conjunction with a pal that occasionally worked
with him, gammoned a countryman out of a good
round sum of money, under pretence of getting
him a situation — the regular old dodge — and
was afterwards in the ' Hue and Cry' for ahorse
— a horse that he stole, down in Hertfordshire.
I had to look after Thompson, and I applied
myself, of course, in the first instance, to dis-
covering where he was. Now, Thompson's wife
lived, along with a little daughter, at Chelsea.
Knowing that Thompson was somewhere in the
country, I Avatched the house — especially at
post-time in the morning — thinking Thompson
was pretty likely to write to her. Sure enough,
one morning the postman comes up, and de-
livers a letter at Mrs. Thompson's door. Little
girl opens the door, and takes it in. We're not
always sure of postmen, though the people at
the post-offices are always very obliging. A
postman may help us, or he may not, — just as
it happens. However, I go across the road,
and I say to the jjostman, after he has left the
letter, * Good morning ! how are you ? ' ' How
2x^ youV says he. 'You've just delivered a
letter for Mrs. Thompson.' ' Yes, I have.' ' You
didn't happen to remark what the post-mark
was, perhaps?' ' No,' says he, ' I didn't.' 'Come,'
says I, ' I'll be plain with you. I'm in a small

way of business, and I have given Thompson
credit, and I can't afford to lose what he owes
me. I know he's got money, and I know he's
in the country, and if you could tell me what
the post-mark was, I should be very much obliged
to you, and you'd do a service to a tradesman
in a small way of business that can't afford a
loss.' ' Well,' he said, ' I do assure you that I
did not observe what the post-mark was ; all I
know is, that there was money in the letter —
I should say a sovereign.' This was enough for
me, because of course I knew that Thompson
having sent his wife money, it was probable
she'd write to Thompson, by return of post, to
acknowledge the receipt. So I said ' Thankee '
to the postman, and I kept on the watch. In
the afternoon I i^aw the little girl come out. Of
course I followed her. She went into a sta-
tioner's sliop, and I needn't say to you that I
looked in at the window. She bought some
writing-paper and envelopes, and a pen. I
think to myself, ' That'll do !' — watch her home
again — and don't go away, you may be sure,
knowing that Mrs. Thompson was writing her
letter to Tally-ho, and that the letter would be
posted presently. In about an hour or so, out
came the little girl again, with the letter in her
hand. I went up, and said something to the
child, whatever it might have been; but I
couldn't see the direction of the letter, because
she held it with the seal upwards. However, I
observed that on the back of the letter there
was what we call a kiss — a drop of wax by the
side of the seal — and again, you understand, that
was enough for me. I saw her post the letter,
waited till she w^as gone, then went into the
shop, and asked to see the master. When he
came out, I told him, ' Now, I'm an Officer in
the Detective Force ; there's a letter witli a kiss
been posted here just now, for a man that I'm
in search of; and what I have to ask of you is,
that you will let me look at the direction of that
letter.' He was very civil — took a lot of letters
from the box in the window — shook 'em out on
the counter with the faces downwards — and
there among 'em was the identical letter with
the kiss. It was directed, Mr. Thomas Pigeon,

Post Office, B , to be left till called for.

Down I went to B (a hundred and twenty

miles or so) that night. Early next morning I
went to the post-office ; saw the gentleman in
charge of that department ; told him who I was ;
and that my object was to see, and track, the
l)arty that should come for the letter for
Mr. Thomas Pigeon. He was very polite,
and said, ' You shall have every assistance we
can give you; you can wait inside the office;



and we'll take care to let you know when any-
body comes for the letter.' Well, I waited
there days and began to think that nobody ever
would come. At last the clerk whispered to me,
' Here ! Detective ! Somebody's come for the
letter ! ' ' Keep him a minute,' said I, and I
ran round to the outside of the office. There
I saw a young chap, with the appearance of an
hostler, holding a horse by the bridle — stretch-
ing the bridle across the pavement, while he
waited at the post-office window for the letter.
I began to pat the horse, and that ; and I said
to the boy, ' Why, this is Mr. Jones's mare ! '
' No, it an't.' * No ? ' said I. ' She's very like
Mr. Jones's mare ! ' 'She an't Mr. Jones's mare,
anyhow,' says he. ' It's Mr. So-and-so's, of the
Warwick Arms.' And up he jumped, and off
he went — letter and all. I got a cab, followed
on the box, and was so quick after him that I
came into the stable-yard of the Warwick Arms
by one gate, just as he came in by another. I
went into the bar, where there was a young
woman serving, and called for a glass of brandy-
and-water. He came in directly, and handed
her the letter. She casually looked at it, with-
out saying anything, and stuck it up behind the
glass over the chimney-piece. What was to be
done next ?

" I turned it over in my mind while I drank
my brandy-and-water (looking pretty sharp at
the letter the while), but I couldn't see my way
out of it at all. I tried to get lodgings in the
house, but there had been a horse-fair, or some-
thing of that sort, and it was full. I was obliged
to put up somewhere else, but I came backwards
and forwards to the bar for a couple of days, and
there was the letter always behind the glass. At
last I thought I'd write a letter to Mr. Pigeon
myself, and see what that would do. So I
wrote one, and posted it, but I purposely ad-
dressed it, Mr. John Pigeon, instead of ]\Ir.
Thomas Pigeon, to see what tfiat would do. In
the morning (a very wet morning it was) I
watched the postman down the street, and cut
into the bar just before he reached the Warwick
Arms. In he came presently with my letter.
' Is there a Mr. John Pigeon staying here ? '
* No ! — stop a bit though,' says the barmaid ;
and she took down the letter behind the glass.
' No,' says she, ' it's Thomas, and he is not stay-
ing here. Would you do me a favour, and post
this for me, as it is so wet ? ' The postman said
Yes ; she folded it in another envelope, directed
it, and gave it him. He put it in his hat, and
away he went.

" I had no difficulty in finding out the di-
rection of that letter. It was addressed Mr.
Edwin Drood, Etc, 13.

Thomas Pigeon, Post Office, R , Northamp-
tonshire, to be left till called for. Off I started
directly for R ; I said the same at the post-
office there as I had said at B ; and again

I waited three days before anybody came. At
last another chap on horseback came. ' Any
letters for Mr. Thomas Pigeon?' 'Where do

you come from ? ' ' New Inn, near R .' He

got the letter, and away he went at a canter,

" I made my inquiries about the New Inn,

near R , and hearing it was a solitary sort

of house, a little in the horse line, about a couple
of miles from the station, I thought I'd go and
have a look at it. I found it what it had been
described, and sauntered in to look about me.
The landlady was in the bar, and I was trying
to get into conversation with her ; asked her
how business was, and spoke about the wet
weather, and so on ; when I saw, through an
open door, three men sitting by the fire in a
sort of parlour, or kitchen ; and one of those
men, according to the description I had of him,
was Tally-ho Thompson !

" I went and sat down among 'em, and tried
to make things agreeable ; but they were very
shy — wouldn't talk at all — looked at me, and at
one another, in a way quite the reverse of so-
ciable. I reckoned 'em up, and finding that they
were all three bigger men than me, and con-
sidering that their looks were ugly — that it was
a lonely place — railroad station two miles off —
and night coming on — thought I couldn't do
better than have a drop of brandy-and-water to
keep my courage up. So I called for my
brandy-and-water; and as I was sitting drinking
it by the fire, Thompson got up and went out.

" Now the difficulty of it was, that I wasn't
sure it was Thompson, because I had never set
eyes on him before; and what I had wanted was
to be quite certain of him. However, there was
nothing for it now but to follow, and put a bold
face upon it. I found him talking, outside in
the yard, with the landlady. It turned out
at"terwards that he was wanted by a Northamp-
ton officer for something else, and that, knowing
that officer to be pock-marked (as I am myself),
he mistook me for him. As I have observed, I
found him talking to the landlady outside. I
put my hand upon his shoulder — this way — and
said, ' Tally-ho Thompson, it's no use. I know
you. I'm an officer from London, and I take
you into custody for felony ! ' ' That be d — d,'
says Tally-ho Thompson.

" We went back into the house, and the two
friends began to cut up rough, and their looks
didn't please me at all, I assure you. ' Let the
man go. What are you going to do with him ? '



' I'll tell you what I am going to do with him.
I'm going to take him to London to-night, as
sure as I'm alive. I'm not alone here, whatever
you may think. You mind your own business,
and keep yourselves to yourselves. It'll be better
for you, for I know you both very well.' I'd
never seen or heard of 'em in all my life, but my
bouncing cowed 'em a bit, and they kept off
while Thompson was making ready to go. I
thought to myself, however, that they might be
coming after m.e on the dark road, to rescue
Thompson ; so I said to the landlady, ' What
men have you got in the house, missis ? ' ' We
haven't got no men here,' she says sulkily.
' You have got an hostler, I suppose ? ' ' Yes,
we've got an hostler.' ' Let me see him.'
Presently he came, and a shaggy-headed young
fellow he was. ' Now attend to me, young
man,' says I; 'I'm a Detective . Officer from
London. This man's name is Thompson. I
have taken him into custody for felony. I'm
going to take him to the railroad station. I call
upon you in the Queen's name to assist me ;
and mind you, my friend, you'll get yourself into
more trouble than you know of, if you don't ! '
You never saw a person open his eyes so wide.
^ Now, Thompson, come along ! ' says I. But
when I took out the handcuffs, Thompson cries,
" No ! None of that ! I won't stand them !
I'll go along with you quiet, but I won't bear
none of that ! ' ' Tally-ho Thompson,' I said,

* I'm willing to behave as a man to you, if you
are willing to behave as a man to me. Give me
your word that you'll come peaceably along, and
I don't want to handcuff you.' ' I will,' says
Thompson, ' but I'll have a glass of brandy first.'

* I don't care if I've another,' said I. ' We'll
have two more, missis,' said the friends, ' and
confound you, constable, you'll give your man
a drop, won't you ? ' I was agreeable to that,
so we had it all round, and then my man and I
took Tally-ho Thompson safe to the railroad, and
I carried him to London that night. He was
afterwards acquitted, on account of a defect in
the evidence ; and I understand he always
praises me up to the skies, and says I'm one of
the best of men."

This story coming to a termination amidst
general applause. Inspector Wield, after a little
grave smoking, fixes his eye on his host, and
thus delivers himself:

" It wasn't a bad plant that of mine on Fikey,
the man accused of forging the Sou'-Western
Railway debentures — it was only t'other day —
because the reason why? I'll tell you.

" I had information that Fikey and his brother
kept a factory over yonder there," — indicating any

region on the Surrey side of the river, — " where
he bought second-hand carriages ; so after I'd
tried in vain to get hold of him by other means,
I wrote him a letter in an assumed name, saying
that I'd got a horse and shay to dispose of, and
would drive down next day that he might view
the lot, and make an offer — very reasonable it
was, I said — a reg'lar bargain. Straw and me
then went off to a friend of mine that's in the
livery and job business, and hired a turn-out for
the day — a precious smart turn-out it w'as —
quite a slap-up thing ! Down we drove ac-
cordingly, with a friend (who's not in the Force
himself) ; and leaving my friend in the shay
near a public-house, to take care of the horse,
we went to the factory, which was some little
way off. In the factory, there was a number of
strong fellows at work, and after reckoning 'em
up it was clear to me that it wouldn't do to try
it on there. They were too many for us. We
must get our man out of doors. ' Mr. Fikey at
home?' 'No, he ain't' 'Expected home
soon ? ' ' Why, no, not soon.' ' Ah ! is his
brother here ? ' ' /'m his brother.' ' Oh ! well,
this is an ill-conwenience, this is. I wrote him
a letter yesterday, saying I'd got a little turn-out
to dispose of, and I've took the trouble to bring
the turn-out down a purpose, and now he ain't
in the way.' ' No, he ain't in the way. You
couldn't make it convenient to call again, could
you ? ' ' Why, no, I couldn't. I want to sell ;
that's the fact ; and I can't put it off. Could
you find him anywheres ? ' At first he said No,
he couldn't, and then he wasn't sure about it,
and then he'd go and try. So at last he went
up-stairs, where there was a sort of loft, and
presently down comes my man himself, in his

" ' Well,' he says, ' this seems to be rayther a
pressing matter of yours.' ' Yes,' I says, ' it is
rayther a pressing matter, and you'll find it a bar-
gain — dirt-cheap'.' ' I ain't in partickler want
of a bargain just now/ he says, ' but where is
it ? ' ' Why,' I says, ' the turn-out's just outside.
Come and look at it.' He hasn't any suspi-
cions, and away we go. And the first thing
that happens is that the horse runs away with
my friend (who knows no more of driving than
a child) when he takes a little trot along the
road to show his paces. You never saw such a
game in your life !

" When the bolt is over, and the turn-out has
come to a stand-still again, Fikey walks round
and round it as grave as a judge — me too.
'There, sir!' I says. 'There's a neat thing!'
' It ain't a bad style of thing,' he says. * I
believe you,' says I. ' And there's a horse 1' —



for I saw him looking at it. ' Rising eight ! ' I
says, rul)bing his fore-legs. (Bless you, there
ain't a man in the world knows less of horses
than I do, but I'd heard my friend at the livery
stables say he was eight year old, so I says, as
knowing as possible, ' Rising Eight.') * Rising
eight, is he ? ' says he. ' Rising eight,' says I.
'Well,' he says, 'what do you want for it?'
' Why, the first and last figure for the whole
concern is five-and-twenty pound ! ' ' That's
very cheap ! ' he says, looking at me. ' Ain't
it ? ' I says. ' I told you it was a bargain !
Now, without any higgling and haggling about
it, what I want is to sell, and that's my price.
Further, I'll make it easy to you, and take half
the money down, and you cau do a bit of stift"*
for the balance.' ' Well,' he says again, ' that's
very cheap.' ' I believe you,' says I ; ' get in
and try it, and you'll buy it. Come ! take a
trial ! '

" Ecod, he gets in, and we get in, and we
drive along the road, to show him to one of the
railway clerks that was hid in the public-house
window to identify him. But the clerk was
bothered, and didn't know whether it was him
or wasn't — because the reason why ? I'll tell
you, — on account of his having shaved his
whiskers. 'It's a clever little horse,' he says,
' and trots well ; and the shay runs light.' ' Not
a doubt about it,' I says. ' And now, Mr.
Fikey, I may as well make it all right, without
wasting any more of your time. The fact is,
I'm Inspector Wield, and you're my prisoner.'
'You don't mean that?' he says. 'I do, in-
deed.' ' Then burn my body,' says Eikey, ' if
this ain't too bad ! '

" Perhaps you never saw a man so knocked
over with surprise. ' I hope you'll let me have
my coat ? ' he says. ' By all means.' ' Well,
then, let's drive to the factory.' ' Why, not
exactly that, I think,' said I ; ' I've been there
once before to-day. Suppose we send for it.'
He saw it was no go, so he sent for it, and put
it on, and we drove him up to London, com-
fortable." /

This reminiscence is in the height of its suc-
cess, when a general proposal is made to the
fresh-complexioned, smooth-faced ofticer, with
the strange air of simplicity, to tell the
" Butcher's Story."

The fresh-complexioned, smooth-faced officer,
with the strange air of simplicity, began, with a
rustic smile, and in a soft, wheedling tone of
voice, to relate the Butcher's Story, thus :

" It's just about six years ago, now, since
information was given at Scotland Yard of there
* Give a bill,

being extensive robberies of lawns and silks

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 37 of 103)