Charles Dickens.

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

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says he. ' He's a most respectable young man,
and if his father was to hear of it, it would be
the ruin of him ! ' ' I'm very sorry for it,' says I,
'but I must take him into custody.' 'Good
Heaven ! ' says Mr. Phibbs again ; ' can nothing
be done?' ' Nothing,' says I. ' Will you allow
me to call him over here,' says he, ' that his
father may not see it done ? ' 'I don't object
to that,' says I ; ' but unfortunately, Mr. Phibbs,
I can't allow of any communication between
you. If any was attempted, I should have to
interfere directly. Perhaps you'll beckon him
over here ? ' Mr. Phibbs went to the door and
beckoned, and the young fellow came across the
street directly ; a smart, brisk young fellow.

" ' Good morning, sir,' says I. ' Good morn-
ing, sir,' says he. • Would you allow me to in-
quire, sir,' says I, ' if you ever had any acquaint-
ance with a party of the name of Grimwood ? '
' Grimwood ! Grimwood ! ' says he. ' No ! '
' You know the Waterloo Road ? ' ' Oh ! of
course I know the Waterloo Road ! ' ' Happen
to have heard of a young woman being murdered
there ? ' ' Yes, I read it in the paper, and very
sorry I was to read it.' ' Here's a pair of gloves
belonging to you.' that I found under her pillow
the morning afterwards ! '

" He was in a dreadful state, sir ; a dreadful
state ! ' Mr. Wield,' he says, ' upon my solemn
oath I never was there. I never so much as saw
her, to my knowledge, in my life ! ' 'I am very
sorry,' says I. 'To tell you the truth, I don't
think you ai-e the murderer, but I must take you
to Union Hall in a cab. However, I think it's
a case of that sort, that, at present, at all events,
the magistrate will hear it in private.'

" A private examination took place, and then
it came out that this young man was acquainted
with a cousin of the unfortunate Eliza Grim-
wood, and that, calling to see this cousin a day
or two before the murder, he left these gloves
upon the table. Who should come in, shortly
afterwards, but Eliza Grimwood ! ' Whose gloves
are these ? ' she says, taking 'em up. ' Those are
Mr. Trinkle's gloves,' says her cousin. ' Oh ! '



says she, ' they are very dirty, and of no use to
him, I am sure. I shall take 'em away for my
girl to clean the stoves with.' And she put 'em
in her pocket. The girl had used 'em to clean
the stoves, and, I have no doubt, had left 'em
lying on the bedroom mantel-piece, or on the
drawers, or somewhere ; and her mistress, look-
ing round to see that the room was tidy, had
caught 'em up and put 'em under the pillow
where I found 'em.

" That's the story, sir."

ir. — THE ARTFUL TOUCH.

" One of the most beautiful things that ever was
done, perhaps," said Inspector Wield, empha-
sising the adjective, as preparing us to expect
dexterity or ingenuity rather than strong interest,
" was a move of Sergeant Witchem's. It was a
lovely idea !

"Witchem and me were down at Epsom one
Derby Day, waiting at the station for the Swell
Mob. As I mentioned, when we were talking
about these things before, we are ready at thu
station when there's races, or an Agricultural
Show, or a Chancellor sworn in for an university,
or Jenny Lind, or anything of that sort ; and as
the Swell Mob come down, we send 'em back
again by the next train. But some of the Swell
Mob, on the occasion of this Derby that I refer
to, so far kiddied us as to hire a horse and shay ;
start away from London by Whitechapel, and
miles round ; come into Epsom from the oppo-
site direction ; and go to work, right and left, on
the course, while we were waiting for 'em at the
Rail. That, however, ain't the point of what
I'm going to tell you.

"While Witchem and me were waiting at the
station, there comes up one Mr. Tatt ; a gentle-
man formerly in the public line, quite an amateur
Detective in his way, and very much respected.
' Halloa, Charley Wield ! ' he says. ' What are
you doing here ? On the look out for some of
your old friends?' 'Yes, the old move, Mr.
Tatt.' ' Come along,' he says, ' you antl
Witchem, and have a glass of sherry.' ' We
can't stir from the place,' says I, ' till the next
train comes in ; but after that we will with plea-
sure.' Mr. Tatt waits, and the train comes in,
and then Witchem and me go off with him to
the Hotel. Mr. Tatt he's got up, quite regard-
less of expense, for the occasion ; and in his
shirt-front there's a beautiful diamond prop, cost
him fifteen or twenty i)Ound — a very handsome
pin indeed. We drink our sherry at the bar,
and have had our three or four glasses, when
Witchem cries suddenly, ' Look out, Mr. Wield •



THREE ''DETECTIVE'' ANECDOTES.



stand fast ! ' and a dash is made into the place
by the swell mob — four of 'em — that have come
down as I tell you, and in a moment Mr. Tatt's
prop is gone ! Witchem he cuts 'em off at the
door. I lay about me as hard as I can, Mr. Tatt
shows fight like a good 'un, and there we are,
all down together, heads and heels, knocking
about on the floor of the bar — perhaps you
never see such a scene of confusion ! However,
we stick to our men (Mr. Tatt being as good as
any officer), and we take 'em all, and carry 'em
off to the station. The station's full of people,
who have been took onShe course ; and it's a
precious piece of work to get 'em secured. How-
ever, we do it at last, and we search 'em ; but
nothing's found upon 'em, and they're locked
up ; and a pretty state of heat we are in by that
time, I assure you !

" I was very blank over it myself, to think
that the prop had been passed away ; and I said
to Witchem, when we had set 'em to rights, and
w^re cooling ourselves along with Mr. Tatt,
' We don't take much by tJiis move, anyway, for
nothing's found upon 'em, and it's only the brag-
gadocia * after all.' ' What do you mean, Mr.
Wield ? ' says Witchem. ' Here's the diamond
pin !' and in the palm of his hand there it was,
safe and sound ! ' Why, in the name of wonder,'
says me and Mr. Tatt in astonishment, ' how did
you come by that ? ' ' I'll tell you how I come
by it,' says he. ' I saw which of 'em took it ;
and when we were all down on the floor together,
knocking about, I just gave him a little touch on
the back of his hand, as I knew his pal would ;
and he thought it was his pal ; and gave it me ! '
It w-as beautiful, beau-ti-ful !

" Even that was hardly the best of the case,
for that chap was tried at the Quarter Sessions
at Guildford. You know what Quarter Sessions
are, sir. "Well, if you'll believe me, while them
slow justices were looking over the Acts of Par-
liament to see what they could do to him, I'm
blowed if he didn't cut out of the dock before
their faces ! He cut out of the dock, sir, then
and there ; swam across a river ; and got up into
a tree to dry himself. In the tree he was took —
an old woman having seen him climb up — and
Witchem's artful touch transported him ! "



III. — THE SOFA.

" What young men will do, sometimes, to ruin
themselves and break their friends' hearts," said
Sergeant Domton, " it's surprising ! I had a
case at St. Blank's Hospital which was of this
sort. A bad case, indeed, with a bad end !

* Three months' imprisonment as reputed thieves.



" The Secretary, and the House .Surgeon, and
the Treasurer of St. Blank's Hospital came to
Scotland Yard to give information of numerous
robberies having been committed on the students.
The students could leave nothing in the pockets
of their great-coats, while the great-coats were
hanging at the hospital, but it was almost cer-
tain to be stolen. Property of various descriptions
was constantly being lost; and the gentlemen
were naturally uneasy about it, and an.xious, for
the credit of the institution, that the thief or
thieves should be discovered. The case was
intrusted to me, and I went to the hospital.

" ' Now, gentlemen,' said I, after we had talked
it over; 'I understand this property is usually
lost from one room.'

" Yes, they said. It was.

" ' I should wish, if you please,' said I, ' to see
the room.'

" It was a good-sized bare room down-stairs,
with a few tables and forms in it, and a row of
pegs all round for hats and coats.

" ' Next, gentlemen,' said I, ' do you suspect
anybody ? '

" Yes, they said. They did suspect somebody.
They were sorry to say, they suspected one of
the porters.

" ' I should like,' said I, ' to have that man
pointed out to me, and to have a litde time to
look after him.'

" He was pointed out, and I looked after him,
and then I went back to the hospital, and said,
' Now, gentlemen, it's not the porter. He's,
unfortunately for himself, a little too fond of
drink, but he's nothing worse. ]\Iy suspicion is,
that these robberies are committed by one of
the students ; and if you'll put me a sofa into that
room where the pegs are — as there's no closet —
I think I shall be able to detect the thief. I
wish the sofa, if you please, to be covered with
chintz, or something of that sort, so that I may
lie on my chest, underneath it, without being
seen.'

"The sofa was provided, and next day at
eleven o'clock, before any of the students came,
I went there, with those gentlemen, to get under-
neath it. It turned out to be one of those old-
fashioned sofas with a great cross-beam at the bot-
tom, that would have broken my back in no
time if I could ever have got below it. We had
quite a job to break all this away in the time;
however, I fell to work, and they fell to work,
and we broke it out, and made a clear place for
me. I got under the sofa, lay down on my
chest, took out my knife, and made a convenient
hole in the chintz to look through. It was then
settled between me and tlie gentlemen that



UNDER THE SOFA.



203



when the students were all up in the wards, one
of the gentlemen should come in, and hang up a
great-coat on one of the pegs \ and that tliat
great-coat should have, in one of the pockets, a
pocket-book containing marked money.

" After I had been there some time, the
students began to drop into the room by ones,
and twos, and threes, and to talk about all sorts
of things, little thinking there was anybody under
the sofa — and then to go up-stairs. At last there
came in one who remained until he was alone in
the room by himself. A tallish, good-looking
young man of one or two and twenty, with a
light whisker. He went to a particular hat-peg,
took off a good hat that was hanging there, tried
it on, hung his own hat in its place, and hung
that hat on another peg, nearly opposite to me.
I then felt quite certain that he was the thief, and
would come back by-and-by.

" When they were all up-stairs, the gentleman
came in with the great-coat. I showed him where
to hang it, so that I might have a good view of
it ; and he went away ; and I lay under the
sofa on my chest, for a couple of hours or so,
waiting.

"At last, the same young man came down.
He walked across the room, whistling — stopped
and listened— took another walk and whistled —
stopped again, and listened — then began to go
regularly round the pegs, feeling in the pockets of
all the coats. When he came to the great-coat,
and felt the pocket-book, he was so eager and
so hurried that he broke the strap in tearing it
open. As he began to put the money in his
pocket, I crawled out from under the sofa, and
his eyes met mine.

" j\Iy face, as you may perceive, is brown now,
but it was pale at that time, my health not being
good ; and looked as long as a horse's. Besides
which, there was a great draught of air from the
door, underneath the sofa, and I had tied a hand-
kerchief round my head ; so what I looked like,
altogether, I don't know. He turned blue —
literally blue — when he saw me crawling out,
and I couldn't feel surprised at it.

" ' I am an ofiicer of the Detective Police,' said
I, ' and have been lying here since you first came
in this morning. I regret, for the sake of your-
self and your friends, that you should have done
what you have ; but this case is complete. You
have the pocket-book in your hand and the money
upon you ; and I must take you into custody.'

" It was impossible to make out any case in
his behalf, and on his trial he pleaded guilty.
How or when he got the means I don't know ;
but while he was awaiting his sentence, he
poisoned himself in Newgate."



We inquired of this officer, on the conclusion

of the foregoing anecdote, whether the time ap-
peared long, or short, when he lay in that con-
strained position under the sofa ?

"Why, you see, sir," he replied, "if he hadn't
come in the first time, and I had not been quite
sure he was the thief, and would return, the time
Avould have seemed long. But, as it was, I
being dead certain of my man, the time seemed
pretty short."




ON DUTY WITH INSPECTOR FIELD.

OW goes the night? St. Giles's
clock is striking nine. The weather
is dull and wet, and the long lines
of street lamps are blurred, as if we
saw them through tears. A damp
wind blows, and rakes the pieman's fire
out when he opens the door of his little
furnace, carrying away an eddy of
sparks.

St. Giles's clock strikes nine. We are punc-
tual. Where is Inspector Field ? Assistant
Commissioner of Police is already here, en-
wrapped in oil-skin cloak, and standing in the
shadow of St. Giles's steeple. Detective Ser-
geant, weary of speaking French all day to
foreigners unpacking at the Great Exhibition,
is already here. Where is Inspector Field ?

Inspector Field is, to-night, the guardian
genius of the British Museum. He is bringing
his shrewd eye to bear on every corner of its
solitary galleries, before he reports " all right."
Suspicious of the Elgin marbles, and not to be
done by cat-faced Egyptian giants with their
hands upon their knees, Inspector Field, saga-
cious, vigilant, lamp in hand, throwing mon-
strous shadows on the walls and ceilings, passes
through the spacious rooms. If a mummy
trembled in an atom of its dusty covering,
Inspector Field would say, " Come out of that,
Tom Green. I know you!" If the smallest
" Gonoph '' about town were crouching at the
bottom of a classic bath. Inspector Field would
nose him with a finer scent than the ogre's,
when adventurous Jack lay trembling in his
kitchen copper. But all is quiet, and Inspector
Field goes warily on, making little outward
show of attending to anything in particular,
just recognising the Ichthyosaurus as a familiar
acquaintance, and wondering, ])erhaps, how the
detectives did it in the days before the Flood.

Will Inspector Field be long about this work ?
He may be half an hour longer. He sends his



204



O.V DUTY WITH IiMSPTlCTOR FIELD.



compliments by police constable, and proposes
that we meet at St. Giles's Station-house, across
the road. Good. It were as well to stand by
the fire there, as in the shadow of St. Giles's
steeple.

Anything doing here to-night? Not much.
We are very quiet. A lost boy, extremely calm
and small, sitting by the fire, whom we now
confide to a constable to take home, for the
child says that if you show him Newgate Street,
he can show you where he lives — a raving
drunken woman in the cells, who has screeched
her voice away, and has hardly i:)ower enough
left to declare, even with the passionate help of
her feet and arms, that she is the daughter of a
British officer, and, strike her blind and dead,
but she'll write a letter to the Queen ! but who
is soothed with a drink of water — in another
cell, a quiet woman with a child at her breast,
for begging — in another, her husband in a
smock-frock, with a basket of water-cresses —
in another a pickpocket — in another, a meek
tremulous old pauper man who has been out
for a holiday, "and has took but a little drop,
but it has overcome him arter so many months
in the house " — and that's all as yet. Presently,
a sensation at the Station-house door. Mr.
Field, gentlemen.

Inspector Field comes in, wiping his fore-
head, for he is of a burly figure, and has come
fast from the ores and metals of the deep mines
of the earth, and from the Parrot Gods of the
South Sea Islands, and from the birds and
beetles of the tropics, and from the Arts of
Greece and Rome, and from the Sculptures of
Nineveh, and from the traces of an elder world,
when these Avere not. Is Rogers ready ? Rogers
is ready, strapped and great-coated, with a
flaming eye in the middle of his waist, like a
deformed Cyclops. Lead on, Rogers, to Rats'
Castle.

How many people may there be in London,
who, if we had brought them deviously and
blindfold to this street, fifty paces from the
Station-house, and within call of St. Giles's
Church, would know it for a not remote part of
the city in which their lives are passed ? How
many who, amidst this compound of sickening
smells, these heaps of filth, these tumbling
houses, with all their vile contents, animate and
inanimate, slimily overflowing into the black
road, would believe that they breathe t/iis air ?
How much Red Tape may there be that could
look round on the faces which now hem us in —
for our appearance here has caused a rush from
all points to a common centre — the lowering
foreheads,_ the sallow cheeks, the brutal eyes,



the matted hair, the infected, vermin-haunted
heaps of rags — and say, " I have thought of
this ; I have not dismissed the thing ; I have
neither blustered it away, nor frozen it away,
nor tied it up and put it away, nor smoothly
said pooh, pooh ! to it, when it has been shown
to me ? "

This is not what Rogers wants to know, how-
ever. What Rogers wants to know is, whether
you will clear the way here, some of you, or
whether you won't ; because if you don't do it
right on end, he'll lock you up ! What ! You
are there, are you, Bob Miles ? You haven't
had enough of it yet, haven't you ? You want
three months more, do you ? Come away from
that gentleman ! What are you creeping round
there for ?

"What am I a doing, thinn, Mr. Rogers?"
says Bob Miles, appearing, villainous, at the end
of a lane of light made by the lantern.

" I'll let you know pretty quick, if you don't
hook it. Will you hook it ? "

A sycophantic murmur rises from the crowd.
" Hook it, Bob, when Mr. Rogers and Mr.
Field tells you ! Why don't you hook it when
you are told to ?"

The most importunate of the voices strikes
familiarly on Mr. Rogers's ear. He suddenly
turns his lantern on the owner.

"What! You are there, are you, INIister
Click? You hook it too — come!"

" What for ?" says Mr. Click, discomfited.

" You hook it, will you ? " says Mr. Rogers
with stern emphasis.

Both Click and Miles do ''■ hook it," without
another word, or, in plainer English, sneak
away.

" Close up there, my men ! " says Inspector
Field to two constables on duty who have
followed. " Keep together, gentlemen ; we are
going down here. Heads ! "

St. Giles's Church strikes half-past ten. We
stoop low, and creep down a precipitous flight
of steps into a dark close cellar. There is a
fire. There is a long deal table. There are
benches. The cellar is full of company-,
chiefly very young men in various conditions of
dirt and raggedness. Some are eating supper.
There are no girls or women present. Welcome
to Rats' Castle, gentlemen, and to this company
of noted thieves !

" Well, my lads ! How are you, my lads ?
What have you been doing to-day ? Here's
some company come to see you, my lads !
There's a plate of beef-steak, sir, for the supper
of a fine young man ! And Uiere's a mouth for
a steak, sir ! Why, I should be too proud of



RATS' CASTLE.



205



such a mouth as that, if I had it myself! Stand
up and show it, sir ! Take off your cap.
There's a fine young man for a nice httle party,
sir ! An't he ?"

Inspector Field is the busthng speaker. In-
spector Field's eye is the roving eye that searches
every corner of the cellar as he talks. Inspector
Field's hand is the well-known hand that has
collared half the people here, and motioned
their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, male
and female friends, inexorably to Ncav South
Wales. Yet Inspector Field stands in this den,
the Sultan of the place. Every thief here cowers
before him, like a school-boy before his school-
master. All watch him, all answer him when
addressed, all laugh at his jokes, all seek to pro-
pitiate him. This cellar-company alone — to say
nothing of the crowd surrounding the entrance
from the street above, and making the steps
shine with eyes — is strong enough to murder us
all, and willing enough to do it ; but, let In-
spector Field have a mind to pick out one thief
here, and take him ; let him produce that ghostly
truncheon from his pocket, and say, with his
business air, " My lad, I want you ! " and all
Rats' Castle shall be stricken with paralysis,
and not a finger moved against him, as he fits
the handcuffs on !

Where's the Earl of Warwick ? — Here he is,
Mr. Field ! Here's the Earl of Warwick, Mr.
Field ! — Oh, there you are, my Lord. Come
for'ard. There's a chest, sir, not to have a clean
shirt on. An't it ? Take your hat off, my Lord.
Why, I should be ashamed if I was you — and an
Earl, too — to show myself to a gentleman with
my hat on ! — The Earl of Warwick laughs and
uncovers. All the company laugh. One pick-
pocket, especially, laughs wnth great enthusiasm.
Oh, what a jolly game it is when Mr. Field comes
down — and don't want nobody !

So, you are here, too, are you, you tall, grey,
soldierly-looking, grave man, standing by the
fire? — Yes, sir. Good evening, Mr. Field! —
Let us see. You lived servant to a nobleman
once ? — Yes, Mr. Field. — And what is it you do
now; I forget? — ^Vell, Mr. Field, I job about as
well as I can. I left my employment on account
of delicate health. The family is still kind to
me. Mr. Wix of Piccadilly is also very kind to
me when I am hard up. Likewise Mr. Nix of
Oxford Street. I get a trifle from them occa-
sionally, and rub on as well as I can, Mr. Field.
Mr. Field's eye rolls enjoyingly, for this man is
a notorious begging-letter writer. — Good night,
my lads ! — Good night, Mr. Field, and thankee,
sir !

Clear the street here, half a thousand of you !



Cut it, Mrs. Stalker — none of that — we don't
want you ! Rogers of the flaming eye, lead on
to the tramps' lodging-house.

A dream of baleful faces attends to the door.
Now, stand back all of you ! In the rear De-
tective Sergeant plants himself, composedly
whistling, with his strong right arm across the
narrow passage. Mrs. Stalker, I am something'd
that need not be written here, if you won't get
yourself into trouble in about half a minute, if
I see that face of yours again !

St. Giles's Church clock, striking eleven, hums
through our hand from the dilapidated door of
a dark out-house as we open it, and are stricken
back by the pestilent breath that issues from
within. Rogers, to the front with the light, and
let us look !

Ten, twenty, thirty — who can count them ?
Men, women, children, for the most part naked,
heaped upon the floor like maggots in a cheese !
Ho ! In that dark corner yonder ! Does any-
body lie there ? Me, sir, Irish me, a widder,
with six children. And yonder? Me, sir, Irish
me, with me wife and eight poor babes. And
to the left there ? Me, sir, Irish me, along with
two more Irish boys as is me friends. And to
the right there ? Me, sir, and the Murphy fam'ly,
numbering five blessed souls. And what's this,
coiling, now, about my foot? Another Irish
me, pitifully in want of shaving, Avhom I have
awakened from sleep — and across my other foot
lies his wife — and by the shoes of Inspector
Field lie their three eldest — and their three
youngest are at present squeezed between the
open door and the wall. And why is there no
one on that little mat before the sullen fire?
Because O'Donovan, with his wife and daughter,
is not come in from selling Lucifers ! Nor on
the bit of sacking in the nearest corner ? Bad
luck ! Because that Irish family is late to-night,
a cadging in the streets !

They are all awake now, the children excepted,
and most of them sit up to stare. Wheresoever
Mr. Rogers turns the flaming eye, there is a
spectral figure rising, unshrouded, from a grave
of rags. ^Vho is the landlord here ? — I am, Mr,
Field ! says a bundle of ribs and parchment
against the wall, scratching itself. — Will you
spend this money fairly, in the morning, to buy
coffee for 'em all ? — Yes, sir, I will ! — Oh, he'll
do it, sir, he'll do it fair. He's honest ! cry the
spectres. And with thanks and Good Night sink
into their graves again.

Thus, we make our New Oxford Streets, and



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 39 of 103)