Charles Dickens.

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

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going on at some wholesale houses in the City.
Directions were given for the business being
looked into ; and Straw, and Fcndall, and me,
we were all in it."

" When you received your instructions," said
we, " you went away, and held a sort of Cabinet
Council together ? "

The smooth-faced 'officer coaxingly replied,
" Ye-es. Just so. We turned it over among
ourselves a good deal. It appeared, when we
went into it, that the goods were sold by the
receivers extraordinarily cheap — much cheaper
than they could have been if they had been
honestly come by. The receivers were in the
trade, and kept capital shops — establishments of
the first respectability — one of 'em at the West-
end, one down in Westminster. After a lot of
watching and inquiry, and this and that among
ourselves, we found that the job was managed,
and the purchases of the stolen goods made, at
a little public-house near Smithfield, down by
St, Bartholomew's ; where the warehouse por-
ters, who were the thieves, took 'em for that
purpose, don't you see ? and made appoint-
ments to meet the people that went between
themselves and the receivers. This public-
house was principally used by journeymen
butchers from the country out of place, and in
want of situations ; so, what did we do but — ha,
ha, ha ! — we agreed that I should be dressed
up like a butcher myself, and go and live
there ! "

Never, surely, was a faculty of observation
better brought to bear upon a purpose than that
which had picked out this officer for the part.
Nothing in all creation could have suited him
better. Even while he spoke, he became a
greasy, sleepy, shy, good-natured, chuckle-
headed, unsuspicious, and confiding young
butcher. His very hair seemed to have suet in
it, as he made it smooth upon his head, and his
fresh complexion to be lubricated by large
quantities of animal food.

" — So I — ha, ha, ha ! " (always with the con-
fiding snigger of the foolish young butcher) —
" so I dressed myself in the regular way, made
up a little bundle of clothes, and went to the
public-house, and asked if I could have a lodg-
ing there ? They says, ' Yes, you can have a
lodging here,' antl I got a bedroom, and settled
myself down in the tap. There was a number
of people about the place, and coming back-
wards and forwards to the house ; and first one
says, and then another says, ' Are you from the
country, young man ? ' ' Yes,' I says, ' I am.
I'm come out of Northamptonshire, and I'm



quite lonely here, for I don't know London at
all, and it's such a mighty bii,' town.' ' It is a
big town,' they says. ' Oh, it's a very big
town!' I says. ' Really and truly I never was
in such a town. It (juite confuses of me!' —
and all that, you know.

" When some of the journeymen butchers

that used the house found that I wanted a
place, they says, ' Oh, we'll get you a place 1 '
And they actually took me to a sight of places,
in Newgate Market, Newport Market, Clare,
Carnaby — I don't know where all. But the
wages was — ha, ha, ha ! — was not sufficient, and
I never could suit myself, don't you see ? Some


of the queer frequenters of the house were a
little suspicious of me at first, and I was obliged
to be very cautious indeed how I communicated
with Straw or Fendall. Sometimes, when I
went out, pretending to stop and look into the
shop-windows, and just casting my eye round, I

used to see some of 'em following me ; but,
being perhaps better accustomed than they
thought for to that sort of thing, I used to leati
'em on as far as I thought necessary or con-
venient — sometimes a long way — and then turn
sharp round, and meet 'em, and say, ' Oh dear,



how glad I am to come upon you so fortunate !
This London's such a place, I'm blowed if I
an't lost again ! ' And then we'd go back all
together to the public-house, and — ha, ha, ha !
— and smoke our pipes, don't you see ?

" They were very attentive to me, I am sure.
It was a common thing, v.-hile I was living there,
for some of 'em to take me out, and show me
London. They showed me the Prisons —
showed me Newgate — and when they showed
me Newgate, I stops at the place where the
porters pitch their loads, and says, ' Oh dear, is
this where they hang the men ? Oh Lor ! '
' That ! ' they says. ' What a simple cove he
is ! That an't it ! ' And then they pointed out
which was it, and I says 'Lor !' and they says,
* Now you'll know it agen, won't you ?' And I
said I thought I should it" I tried hard — and I
assure you I kept a sharp look-out for the City
Police when we were out in this way, for if any
of 'em had happened to know me, and had
spoke to me, it would have been all up in a
minute. However, by good luck such a thing
never happened, and all went on quiet : though
the difficulties I had in communicating with my
brother officers were quite extraordinar)-.

" The stolen goods that were brought to the
public-house by the warehouse porters were
always disposed of in a back-parlour. For a
long time, I never could get into this parlour,
or see what was done there. As I sat smoking
my pipe, like an innocent young chap, by the
tap-room fire, I'd hear some of the parties to the
robbery, as they came in and out, say softly to
the landlord, 'Who's that? What does he do
here ? ' ' Bless your soul,' says the landlord,
' he's only a ' — ha, ha, ha ! — ' he's only a green
young fellow from the country, as is looking for
a butchers sitiwation. Don't mind him! ' So,
in course of time, they were so convinced of my
being green, and got to be so accustomed to
me, that I was as free of the parlour as any of
'em, and I have seen as much as Seventy
Pounds' worth of fine lawn sold there, in one
night, that was stolen from a warehouse in
Friday Street. After the sale the buyers always
stood treat — hot supper, or dinner, or what not
— and they'd say on those occasions, ' Come
on. Butcher ! Put your best leg foremost,
young 'un, and walk into it ! ' Which I used
to do — and hear, at table, all manner of par-
ticulars that it was very important for us De-
tectives to know.

" This went on for ten weeks. I lived in the
public-house all the time, and never was out of
the butcher's dress — except in bed. At last,
when I had followed seven of the thieves, and

set 'em to rights — that's an expression of ours,
don't you see ? by which I mean to say that I
traced 'em, and found out where the robberies
were done, and all about 'em — Straw, and Ken-
dall, and I, gave one another the office, and at
a time agreed upon, a descent was made ui)on
the public-house, and the apprehensions effected.
One of the first things the officers did was to
collar me — for the parties to the robbery weren't
to suppose yet that I was anything but a butcher
— on which the landlord cries out, ' Don't take
him,' he sa3's, ' whatever you do ! He's only a
l)oor young chap from the country, and butter
wouldn't melt in his mouth!' However, they
— ha, ha, ha ! — they took me, and pretended to
search my bedroom, where nothing was found
but an old fiddle belonging to the landlord, that
had got there somehow or another. But, it
entirely changed the landlord's opinion, for when
it was produced, he says, ' My fiddle ! The
Butcher's a pur-loiner ! I give him into custody
for the robbery of a musical instrument ! '

" The man that had stolen the goods in Fri-
day Street was not taken yet. He had told me,
in confidence, that he had his suspicions there
was something wrong (on account of the City
Police having captured one of the party), and
that he was going to make himself scarce. I
asked him, ' Where do you mean to go, Mr.
Shepherdson ? ' ' Why, Butcher,' says he, ' the
Setting Moon, in the Commercial Road, is a
snug house, and I shall hang out there for a
time. I shall call myself Simpson, which ap-
pears to me to be a modest sort of a name.
Perhaps you'll give us a look in. Butcher?'
' Well,' says I, ' I think I 7C'i// give you a call'
— which I fully intended, don't you see ? be-
cause, of course, he was to be taken ! I went
over to the Setting Moon next day, with a
brother officer, and asked at the bar for Simpson.
They pointed out his room up-stairs. As we
were going up, he looks down over the banis-
ters, and calls out, ' Holloa, Butcher I is that
you ? ' ' Yes, it's me. How do you find your-
self? ' ' Bobbish,' he says ; ' but who's that with
you ?' ' It's only a young man, that's a friend
of mine,' I says. ' Come along, then,' says he,
' any friend of the Butcher's is as welcome as
the Butcher ! ' So, I made my friend acquainted
with him, and we took him into custody.

" You have no idea, sir, what a sight it was,
in Court, when they first knew that I wasn't a
butcher, after all ! I wasn't produced at the
first examination, when there was a remand;
but I was at the second. And when I stepped
into the box, in full police uniform, and the
whole party saw how they had been done, actu-



ally a groan of horror and dismay proceeded
from 'em in the dock !

" At the Old Bailey, ^vhen tlicir trials came
on, Mr. Clarkson was engaged for the defence,
and he couldiit make out how it was about the
Butcher. He thought, all along, it was a real
butcher. When the counsel for the prosecution
said, ' I will now call before you, gentlemen,
the Police-officer,' meaning myself, Mr. Clarkson
says, * Why Police-officer ? Why more Police-
officers? I don't want Police. We have had
a great deal too much of the Police. I want
the Butcher ! ' However, sir, he had the Butcher
and the Police-officer, both in one. Out of
Seven prisoners committed for trial, five were
found guilty, and some of 'em were transported.
The respectable firm at the West-end got a
term of imprisonment ; and that's the Butcher's
Story ! "

The story done, the chuckle-headed Butcher
again resolved himself into the smooth-faced
Detective. But, he was so extremely tickled by
their having taken him about, when he was that
Dragon in disguise, to show him London, that
he could not help reverting to that point in his
narrative ; and gently repeating with the Butcher
snigger, " ' Oh dear,' I says, ' is that where they
hang the men ? Oh Lor ! ' * That I ' says they.
' What a simple cove he is ! ' "

It being now late, and the party very modest
in their fear of being too diffuse, there were
some tokens of separation ; when Sergeant Dorn-
ton, the soldierly- looking man, said, looking
round him with a smile :

" Before we break up, sir, perhaps you might
have some amusement in hearing of the adven-
tures of a Carpet Bag. They are very short ;
and, I think, curious.'

We welcomed the Carpet Bag as cordially as
Mr. Shepherdson welcomed the false Butcher
at the Setting Moon. Sergeant Dornton pro-

" In 1847, I "^^'^^ dispatched to Chatham, in
search of one Mesheck, a Jew. He had been
carrying on, pretty heavily, in the bill-stealing
way, getting acceptances from young men of
good connections (in the army chiefly) on pre-
tence of discount, and bolting with the same.

" Mesheck was off before I got to Chatham.
All I could learn about him was, that he had
gone, probably to London, and had with him —
a Carpet Bag.

" I came back to town by the last train from
Blackwall, and made inquiries concerning a Jew
passenger with — a Carpet Bag.

" The office was shut up, it being the last
train. There were only two or three porters

left. Looking after a Jew with a Carpet Bag,
on the Blackwall Railway, which was then the
high-road to a great Military Depot, was worse
than looking after a needle in a hayrick. But
it happened that one of these porters had carried,
for a certain Jew, to a certain public-house, a
certain — Carpet Bag.

" I went to the public-house, but the Jew had
only left his luggage there for a few hours, and
had called for it in a cab, and taken it away. I
put such questions there, and to the porter, as I
thought prudent, and got at this description of
— the Carpet Bag.

" It was a bag which had, on one side of it,
worked in worsted, a green parrot on a stand.
A green parrot on a stand was the means by
Avhich to identify that — Carpet Bag.

" I traced Mesheck, by means of this green
parrot on a stand, to Cheltenham, to Birming-
ham, to Liverpool, to the Atlantic Ocean. At
Liverpool he was too many for me. He had
gone to the United States, and I gave up all
thoughts of Mesheck, and likewise of his — Car-
pet Bag.

" Many months afterwards — near a year after-
wards — there was a bank in Ireland robbed of
seven thousand pounds, by a person of the name
of Dr. Dundey, who escaped to America ; from
which country some of the stolen notes came
home. He was supposed to have bought a farm
in New Jersey. Under proper management, that
estate could be seized and sold, for the benefit
of the parties he had defrauded. I was sent off
to America for this purpose.

" I landed at Boston. I went on to New
York. I found that he had lately changed New
York paper-money for New Jersey paper-money,
and had banked cash in New Brunswick. To
take this Dr. Dundey, it was necessary to entrap
him into the State of New York, which required
a deal of artifice and trouble. At one time, he
couldn't be drawn into an appointment. At
another time, he appointed to come to meet me,
and a New York officer, on a pretext I made ;
and then his children had the measles. At last
he came, per steamboat, and I took him, and
lodged him in a New York prison called the
Tombs, which I dare say you know, sir ? "

Editorial acknowledgment to that effect.

" I went to the Tombs, on the morning after
his capture, to attend the examination before
the magistrate. I was passing through the
magistrate's private room, when, happening to
look round me to take notice of the place, as we
generally have a habit of doing, I clapped my
eyes, in one corner, on a — Carpet Bag.

" What did I see upon that Carpet Bag, if



you'll believe me, but a green parrot on a stand,
as large as life !

" ' That Carpet Bag, with the representation
of a green parrot on a stand,' said I, ' belongs
to an English Jew, named Aaron Mesheck,
and to no other man, alive or dead ! '

" I give you my word the New York police-
ofiicers were doubled up with surprise.

" ' How do you ever come to know that ? '
said they.

" ' I think I ought to know that green parrot
by this time,' said I ; ' for I have had as pretty
a dance after that bird, at home, as ever I had
in all my life ! ' "

" And was it Mesheck's ? " we submissively

" Was it, sir? Of course it was ! He was in
custody for another offence, in that very identi-
cal Tombs, at that very identical time. And
more than that ! Some memoranda, relating to
the fraud for which I had vainly endeavoured to
take him, were found to be at that moment,
lying in that very same individual — Carpet
Bag ! "

Such are the curious coincidences, and such
is the peculiar ability, always sharpening and
being improved by practice, and always adapt-
ing itself to every variety of circumstances, and
opposing itself to every new device that per-
verted ingenuity can invent, for which this im-
portant social branch of the public service is
remarkable ! For ever on the watch, with their
wits stretched to the utmost, these officers have,
from day to day and year to year, to set them-
selves against every novelty of trickery and
dexterity that the combined imaginations of all
the lawless rascals in England can devise, and
to keep pace with every such invention that
comes out. In the Courts of Justice, the mate-
rials of thousands of such stories as we have
narrated — often elevated into the marvellous
and romantic by the circumstances of the case
— are drily compressed into the set phrase, " In
consequence of information I received, I did so
and so." Suspicion was to be directed, by
careful inference and deduction, upon the
right person ; the right person was to be taken,
wherever he had gone, or whatever he was
doing to avoid detection : he is taken ; there he
is at the bar ; that is enough. From informa-
tion I, the officer, received, I did it; and,
according to the custom in these cases, I say
no more.

These games of chess, played with live pieces,
are played before small audiences, and are
chronicled nowhere. The interest of the game

supports the player. Its results are enough for
Justice. To compare great things with small,
suppose Leverrier or Adams informing the
public that from information he had received
he had discovered a new planet ; or Columbus
informing the public of his day that, from in-
formation he had received, he had discovered a
new continent ; so the Detectives inform it that
they have discovered a new fraud or an old
offender, and the process is unknown.

Thus, at midnight, closed the proceedings of
our curious and interesting party. But one
other circumstance finally wound up the even-
ing, after our Detective guests had left us. One
of the sharpest among them, and the officer best
acquainted with the Swell Mob, had his pocket
picked going home !



T'S a singular story, sir," said In-
spector Wield, of the Detective
Police, who in company with Ser-
geants Dornton and Mith, paid us
another twilight visit one July even-
ing ; " and I've been thinking you
might like to know it.

" Ifs concerning the murder of the
young woman, Eliza Grimwood, some years ago,
over in the Waterloo Road. She was commonly
called The Countess, because of her handsome
appearance and her proud way of carrying her-
self; and when I saw the poor Countess (I had
known her well to speak to), lying dead with
her throat cut, on the floor of her bodroom,
you'll believe me that a variety of reflections
calculated to make a man rather low in his
spirits came into my head.

" That's neither here nor there. I went to
the house the morning after the murder, and
examined the body, and made a general obser-
vation of the bedroom where it was. Turning
down the pillow of the bed with my hand, I
found, underneath it, a pair of gloves. A pair
of gentleman's dress gloves, very dirty; and
inside the lining, the letters Tr, and a cross.

" Well, sir, I took them gloves away, and I
showed 'em to the magistrate, over at Union
Hall, before whom the case was. He says,
* Wield,' he says, ' there's no doubt this is a
discovery that may lead to something very im-
portant ; and what you have got to do, Wield^
is, to find out the owner of these gloves.'


" I was of the same opinion of course, and I
went at it immediately. I looked at the gloves
pretty narrowlj', and it was my opinion that they
had been cleaned. There was a smell of sulphur
and rosin about 'em, you know, which cleaned
gloves usually have, more or less. I took 'em
over to a friend of mine at Kennington, who
was in that line, and I put it to him. ' What
do you say now ? Have these gloves been
cleaned?' 'These gloves have been cleaned,'
says he. ' Have you any idea who cleaned
them ? ' says I. ' Not at all,' says he ; ' I've a
very distinct idea who didn't clean 'em, and
that's myself. But I'll tell you what, ^Vield,
there ain't above eight or nine reg'lar glove-
cleaners in London,' — there were not at that
time, it seems, — 'and I think I can give you
their addresses, and you may find out, by that
means, who did clean 'em.' Accordingly, he
gave me the directions, and I went here, and I
went there, and I looked up this man, and I
looked up that man ; but, though they all agreed
that the gloves had been cleaned, I couldn't find
the man, woman, or child, that had cleaned that
aforesaid pair of gloves.

" What with this person not being at home,
and that person being expected home in the
afternoon, and so forth, the inquiry took me
three days. On the evening of the third day,
coming over Waterloo Bridge from the Surrey
side of the river, quite beat, and very much
vexed and disappointed, I thought I'd have a
shilling's worth of entertainment at the Lyceum
Theatre to freshen myself up. So I went into
the pit at half-price, and I sat myself down next
to a very quiet, modest sort of young man. See-
ing I was a stranger (which I thought it just as
well to appear to be), he told me the names of
the actors on the stage, and we got into conver-
sation. When the play was over, we came out
together, and I said, ' We've been very com-
panionable and agreeable, and perhaps you
wouldn't object to a drain ? ' ' Well, you're
very good,' says he ; 'I shouldn't object to a
drain.' Accordingly, we went to a public-
house near the theatre, sat ourselves down in
a quiet room up-stairs on the first floor, and
called for a pint of half-and-half apiece, and a

" Well, sir, we put our pipes aboard, and we
drank our half-and-half, and sat a talking very
sociably, when the young man says, ' You must
excuse me stopping very long,' he says, ' because
I'm forced to go home in good time. I must
be at work all night.' ' At work all night ? '
says I. 'You ain't a baker?' 'No,' he says,
laughing, ' I ain't a baker.' ' I thought not,'

says I, ' you haven't the looks of a baker.' ' No,'
says he, ' I'm a glove-cleaner.'

" I never was more astonished in my life than
when I heard them words come out of his lips.
' You're a glove-cleaner, are you ? ' says I.
' Yes,' he says, ' I am.' 'Then perhaps,' says 1,
taking the gloves out of my pocket, ' you can
tell me who cleaned this pair of gloves ? It's a
rum story,' I says. ' I was dining over at Lam-
beth the other day, at a free-and easy — quite
promiscuous — with a public company — when
some gentleman he left these gloves behind him.
Another gentleman and me, you see, we laid a
wager of a sovereign that I wouldn't find out
who they belonged to. I've spent as much as
seven shillings already, in trying to discover;
but if you could help me, I'd stand another
seven and welcome. You see there's Tr and a
cross inside.' ' / see,' he says. ' Bless you, /
know these gloves very well. I've seen dozens
of pairs belonging to the same party.' 'No?'
says I. ' Yes,' says he. ' Then you know who
cleaned 'em ? ' says I. ' Rather so,' says he.
' My father cleaned 'em.'

" ' Where does your father live ? ' says I. ' Just
round the corner,' says the young man, ' near
Exeter Street, here. He'll tell you who they
belong to directly.' ' Would you come round
with me now ? ' says I. ' Certainly,' says he,
' but you needn't tell my father that you found
me at the play, you know, because he mightn't
like it.' ' All right ! ' We went round to the
place, and there we found an old man in a white
apron, with two or three daughters, all rubbing
and cleaning away at lots of gloves, in a front
parlour. 'Oh, father!' says the young man,
' here's a person been and made a bet about the
ownership of a pair of gloves, and I've told him
you can settle it.' ' Good evening,' sir,' says I to
the old gentleman. ' Here's the gloves your son
speaks of. Letters Tr, you see, and a cross.'
' Oh yes,' he says, ' I know these gloves very
well ; I've cleaned dozens of pairs of 'em. They
belong to Mr. Trinkle, the great upholsterer in
Cheapside.' ' Did you get 'em from Mr. Trinkle
direct,' says I, ' if you'll excuse my asking the
question ? ' ' No,' says he ; ' Mr. Trinkle always
sends 'em to Mr. Phibbs's, the haberdasher's,
opposite his shop, and the haberdasher sends
'em to me.' ' Perhaps yoti wouldn't object to a
drain?' says I. 'Not in the least!' says he.
So I took the old gentleman out, and had a little
more talk with him and his son over a glass, and
we parted ex-cellent friends.

" This was late on a Saturday night. First
thing on the Monday morning I went to the
haberdasher's shop, opposite Mr. Trinkle's, the



great upholsterer's in Cheapside. * Mr. Phibbs
in the way?' ' My name is Phibbs.' * Oh ! I
beheve you sent this pair of gloves to be
cleaned ?' ' Yes, I did, for young Mr. Trinkle
over the way. There he is, in the shop ! ' ' Oh !
that's him in the shop, is it ? Him in the green
coat?' 'The same individual.' 'Well, Mr.
Phibbs, this is an unpleasant affair; but the fact
is, I am Inspector Wield of the Detective Police,
and I found these gloves under the pillow of the
young woman that was murdered the other day,
over in the Waterloo Road.' ' Good Heaven ! '

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 38 of 103)