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what happened?"

"He sez: 'You ask for Misther Hollams, an' see nobody else. Tell him ye've
brought the sparks from Misther W.'"

I fancied I could see a sudden twinkle in Hewitt's eye, but he made no
other sign, and the Irishman proceeded.

"'Sparks?' sez I. 'Yes, sparks,' sez he. 'Misther Hollams will know; 'tis
our jokin' word for 'em; sometimes papers is sparks when they set a
lawsuit ablaze,' and he laffed. 'But be sure ye say the _sparks from
Misther W._,' he sez again, 'bekase then he'll know ye're jinuine an'
he'll pay ye han'some. Say Misther W. sez you're to have your reg'lars, if
ye like. D'ye mind that?'

"'Ay,' sez I, 'that I'm to have my reg'lars.'

"Well, sor, I tuk the bag and wint out of the station, tuk the cab, an'
did all as he towld me. I waited the foive minuts, but he niver came, so
off I druv to Misther Hollams, and he threated me han'some, sor."

"Yes, but tell me exactly all he did."

"'Misther Hollams, sor?' sez I. 'Who are ye?' sez he. 'Mick Leamy, sor,'
sez I, 'from Misther W. wid the sparks.' 'Oh,' sez he, 'thin come in.' I
wint in. 'They're in here, are they?' sez he, takin' the bag. 'They are,
sor,' sez I, 'an' Misther W. sez I'm to have me reg'lars.' 'You shall,'
sez he. 'What shall we say, now - afinnip?' 'Fwhat's that, sor?' sez I.
'Oh,' sez he, 'I s'pose ye're a new hand; five quid - ondershtand that?'"

"Begob, I did ondershtand it, an' moighty plazed I was to have come to a
place where they pay five-pun' notes for carryin' bags. So whin he asked
me was I new to London an' shud I kape in the same line av business, I
towld him I shud for certin, or any thin' else payin' like it. 'Right,'
sez he; 'let me know whin ye've got any thin' - ye'll find me all right.'
An' he winked frindly. 'Faith, that I know I shall, sor,' sez I, wid the
money safe in me pockut; an' I winked him back, conjanial. 'I've a smart
family about me,' sez he, 'an' I treat 'em all fair an' liberal.' An',
saints, I thought it likely his family 'ud have all they wanted, seein' he
was so free-handed wid a stranger. Thin he asked me where I was a livin'
in London, and, when I towld him nowhere, he towld me av a room in Musson
Street, here by Drury Lane, that was to let, in a house his fam'ly knew
very well, an' I wint straight there an' tuk ut, an' there I do be stayin'
still, sor."

I hadn't understood at first why Hewitt took so much interest in the
Irishman's narrative, but the latter part of it opened my eyes a little.
It seemed likely that Leamy had, in his innocence, been made a conveyer of
stolen property. I knew enough of thieves' slang to know that "sparks"
meant diamonds or other jewels; that "regulars" was the term used for a
payment made to a brother thief who gave assistance in some small way,
such as carrying the booty; and that the "family" was the time-honored
expression for a gang of thieves.

"This was all on Wednesday, I understand," said Hewitt. "Now tell me what
happened on Thursday - the poisoning, or drugging, you know?"

"Well, sor, I was walking out, an' toward the evenin' I lost mesilf. Up
comes a man, seemin'ly a sthranger, and shmacks me on the showldher. 'Why,
Mick!' sez he; 'it's Mick Leamy, I du b'lieve!'

"'I am that,' sez I, 'but you I do not know.'

"'Not know me?' sez he. 'Why, I wint to school wid ye.' An' wid that he
hauls me off to a bar, blarneyin' and minowdherin', an' orders dhrinks.

"Can ye rache me a poipe-loight?' sez he, an' I turned to get ut, but,
lookin' back suddent, there was that onblushin' thief av the warl' tippin'
a paperful of phowder stuff into me glass."

"What did you do?" Hewitt asked.

"I knocked the dhirty face av him, sor, an' can ye blame me? A mane scutt,
thryin' for to poison a well-manin' sthranger. I knocked the face av him,
an' got away home."

"Now the next misfortune?"

"Faith, that was av a sort likely to turn out the last of all misfortunes.
I wint that day to the Crystial Palace, bein' dishposed for a little
sphort, seein' as I was new to London. Comin' home at night, there was a
juce av a crowd on the station platform, consekins of a late thrain.
Sthandin' by the edge av the platform at the fore end, just as thrain came
in, some onvisible murdherer gives me a stupenjus drive in the back, and
over I wint on the line, mid-betwixt the rails. The engine came up an'
wint half over me widout givin' me a scratch, bekase av my centraleous
situation, an' then the porther-men pulled me out, nigh sick wid fright,
sor, as ye may guess. A jintleman in the crowd sings out: 'I'm a medical
man!' an' they tuk me in the waitin'-room, an' he investigated me, havin'
turned everybody else out av the room. There wuz no bones bruk, glory be!
and the docthor-man he was tellin' me so, after feelin' me over, whin I
felt his hand in me waistcoat pockut.

"'An' fwhat's this, sor?' sez I. 'Do you be lookin' for your fee that
thief's way?'

"He laffed, and said: 'I want no fee from ye, me man, an' I did but feel
your ribs,' though on me conscience he had done that undher me waistcoat
already. An' so I came home."

"What did they do to you on Saturday?"

"Saturday, sor, they gave me a whole holiday, and I began to think less of
things; but on Saturday night, in a dark place, two blayguards tuk me
throat from behind, nigh choked me, flung me down, an' wint through all me
pockuts in about a quarter av a minut."

"And they took nothing, you say?"

"Nothing, sor. But this mornin' I got my worst dose. I was trapesing along
distreshful an' moighty sore, in a street just away off the Strand here,
when I obsarved the docthor-man that was at the Crystial Palace station
a-smilin' an' beckonin' at me from a door.

"'How are ye now?' sez he. 'Well,' sez I, 'I'm moighty sore an' sad
bruised,' sez I. 'Is that so?' sez he. 'Sthep in here.' So I sthepped in,
an' before I could wink there dhropped a crack on the back av me head that
sent me off as unknowledgable as a corrpse. I knew no more for a while,
sor, whether half an hour or an hour, an' thin I got up in a room av the
place, marked 'To Let.' 'Twas a house full av offices, by the same token,
like this. There was a sore bad lump on me head - see ut, sor? - an' the
whole warl' was shpinnin' roun' rampageous. The things out av me pockuts
were lyin' on the flure by me - all barrin' the key av me room. So that the
demons had been through me posseshins again, bad luck to 'em."

"You are quite sure, are you, that everything was there except the key?"
Hewitt asked.

"Certin, sor? Well, I got along to me room, sick an' sorry enough, an'
doubtsome whether I might get in wid no key. But there was the key in the
open door, an', by this an' that, all the shtuff in the room - chair,
table, bed, an' all - was shtandin' on their heads twisty-ways, an' the
bedclothes an' every thin' else; such a disgraceful stramash av
conglomerated thruck as ye niver dhreamt av. The chist av drawers was
lyin' on uts face, wid all the dhrawers out an' emptied on the flure.
'Twas as though an arrmy had been lootin', sor!"

"But still nothing was gone?"

"Nothin', so far as I investigated, sor. But I didn't shtay. I came out to
spake to the polis, an' two av them laffed at me - wan afther another!"

"It has certainly been no laughing matter for you. Now, tell me - have you
anything in your possession - documents, or valuables, or anything - that
any other person, to your knowledge, is anxious to get hold of!"

"I have not, sor - divil a document! As to valuables, thim an' me is the
cowldest av sthrangers."

"Just call to mind, now, the face of the man who tried to put powder in
your drink, and that of the doctor who attended to you in the railway
station. Were they at all alike, or was either like anybody you have seen
before?"

Leamy puckered his forehead and thought.

"Faith," he said presently, "they were a bit alike, though one had a beard
an' the udther whiskers only."

"Neither happened to look like Mr. Hollams, for instance?"

Leamy started. "Begob, but they did! They'd ha' been mortal like him if
they'd been shaved." Then, after a pause, he suddenly added: "Holy saints!
is ut the fam'ly he talked av?"

Hewitt laughed. "Perhaps it is," he said. "Now, as to the man who sent you
with the bag. Was it an old bag?"

"Bran' cracklin' new - a brown leather bag."

"Locked?"

"That I niver thried, sor. It was not my consarn."

"True. Now, as to this Mr. W. himself." Hewitt had been rummaging for some
few minutes in a portfolio, and finally produced a photograph, and held it
before the Irishman's eye. "Is that like him?" he asked.

"Shure it's the man himself! Is he a friend av yours, sor?"

"No, he's not exactly a friend of mine," Hewitt answered, with a grim
chuckle. "I fancy he's one of that very respectable _family_ you heard
about at Mr. Hollams'. Come along with me now to Chelsea, and see if you
can point out that house in Gold Street. I'll send for a cab."

He made for the outer office, and I went with him.

"What is all this, Hewitt?" I asked. "A gang of thieves with stolen
property?"

Hewitt looked in my face and replied: "_It's the Quinton ruby_!"

"What! The ruby? Shall you take the case up, then?"

"I shall. It is no longer a speculation."

"Then do you expect to find it at Hollams' house in Chelsea?" I asked.

"No, I don't, because it isn't there - else why are they trying to get it
from this unlucky Irishman? There has been bad faith in Hollams' gang, I
expect, and Hollams has missed the ruby and suspects Leamy of having taken
it from the bag."

"Then who is this Mr. W. whose portrait you have in your possession?"

"See here!" Hewitt turned over a small pile of recent newspapers and
selected one, pointing at a particular paragraph. "I kept that in my mind,
because to me it seemed to be the most likely arrest of the lot," he said.

It was an evening paper of the previous Thursday, and the paragraph was a
very short one, thus:

"The man Wilks, who was arrested at Euston Station yesterday, in
connection with the robbery of Lady Quinton's jewels, has been released,
nothing being found to incriminate him."

"How does that strike you?" asked Hewitt. "Wilks is a man well known to
the police - one of the most accomplished burglars in this country, in
fact. I have had no dealings with him as yet, but I found means, some time
ago, to add his portrait to my little collection, in case I might want it,
and to-day it has been quite useful."

The thing was plain now. Wilks must have been bringing his booty to town,
and calculated on getting out at Chalk Farm and thus eluding the watch
which he doubtless felt pretty sure would be kept (by telegraphic
instruction) at Euston for suspicious characters arriving from the
direction of Radcot. His transaction with Leamy was his only possible
expedient to save himself from being hopelessly taken with the swag in his
possession. The paragraph told me why Leamy had waited in vain for "Mr.
W." in the cab.

"What shall you do now?" I asked.

"I shall go to the Gold Street house and find out what I can as soon as
this cab turns up."

There seemed a possibility of some excitement in the adventure, so I
asked: "Will you want any help?"

Hewitt smiled. "I _think_ I can get through it alone," he said.

"Then may I come to look on?" I said. "Of course I don't want to be in
your way, and the result of the business, whatever it is, will be to your
credit alone. But I am curious."

"Come, then, by all means. The cab will be a four-wheeler, and there will
be plenty of room."

* * * * *

Gold Street was a short street of private houses of very fair size and of
a half-vanished pretension to gentility. We drove slowly through, and
Leamy had no difficulty in pointing out the house wherein he had been paid
five pounds for carrying a bag. At the end the cab turned the corner and
stopped, while Hewitt wrote a short note to an official of Scotland Yard.

"Take this note," he instructed Leamy, "to Scotland Yard in the cab, and
then go home. I will pay the cabman now."

"I will, sor. An' will I be protected?"

"Oh, yes! Stay at home for the rest of the day, and I expect you'll be
left alone in future. Perhaps I shall have something to tell you in a day
or two; if I do, I'll send. Good-by."

The cab rolled off, and Hewitt and I strolled back along Gold Street. "I
think," Hewitt said, "we will drop in on Mr. Hollams for a few minutes
while we can. In a few hours I expect the police will have him, and his
house, too, if they attend promptly to my note."

"Have you ever seen him?"

"Not to my knowledge, though I may know him by some other name. Wilks I
know by sight, though he doesn't know me."

"What shall we say?"

"That will depend on circumstances. I may not get my cue till the door
opens, or even till later. At worst, I can easily apply for a reference as
to Leamy, who, you remember, is looking for work."

But we were destined not to make Mr. Hollams' acquaintance, after all. As
we approached the house a great uproar was heard from the lower part
giving on to the area, and suddenly a man, hatless, and with a sleeve of
his coat nearly torn away burst through the door and up the area steps,
pursued by two others. I had barely time to observe that one of the
pursuers carried a revolver, and that both hesitated and retired on seeing
that several people were about the street, when Hewitt, gripping my arm
and exclaiming: "That's our man!" started at a run after the fugitive.

We turned the next corner and saw the man thirty yards before us, walking,
and pulling up his sleeve at the shoulder, so as to conceal the rent.
Plainly he felt save [safe?] from further molestation.

"That's Sim Wilks," Hewitt explained, as we followed, "the 'juce of a
foine jintleman' who got Leamy to carry his bag, and the man who knows
where the Quinton ruby is, unless I am more than usually mistaken. Don't
stare after him, in case he looks round. Presently, when we get into the
busier streets, I shall have a little chat with him."

But for some time the man kept to the back streets. In time, however, he
emerged into the Buckingham Palace Road, and we saw him stop and look at a
hat-shop. But after a general look over the window and a glance in at the
door he went on.

"Good sign!" observed Hewitt; "got no money with him - makes it easier for
us."

In a little while Wilks approached a small crowd gathered about a woman
fiddler. Hewitt touched my arm, and a few quick steps took us past our man
and to the opposite side of the crowd. When Wilks emerged, he met us
coming in the opposite direction.

"What, Sim!" burst out Hewitt with apparent delight. "I haven't piped your
mug[A] for a stretch;[B] I thought you'd fell.[C] Where's your cady?"[D]

[Footnote A: Seen your face.]

[Footnote B: A year.]

[Footnote C: Been imprisoned.]

[Footnote D: Hat.]

Wilks looked astonished and suspicious. "I don't know you," he said.
"You've made a mistake."

Hewitt laughed. "I'm glad you don't know me," he said. "If you don't, I'm
pretty sure the reelers[A] won't. I think I've faked my mug pretty well,
and my clobber,[B] too. Look here: I'll stand you a new cady. Strange
blokes don't do that, eh?"

[Footnote A: Police.]

[Footnote B: Clothes.]

Wilks was still suspicious. "I don't know what you mean," he said. Then,
after a pause, he added: "Who are you, then?"

Hewitt winked and screwed his face genially aside. "Hooky!" he said. "I've
had a lucky touch[A] and I'm Mr. Smith till I've melted the pieces.[B] You
come and damp it."

[Footnote A: Robbery.]

[Footnote B: Spent the money.]

"I'm off," Wilks replied. "Unless you're pal enough to lend me a quid," he
added, laughing.

"I am that," responded Hewitt, plunging his hand in his pocket. "I'm
flush, my boy, flush, and I've been wetting it pretty well to-day. I feel
pretty jolly now, and I shouldn't wonder if I went home cannon.[A] Only a
quid? Have two, if you want 'em - or three; there's plenty more, and you'll
do the same for me some day. Here y'are."

[Footnote A: Drunk.]

Hewitt had, of a sudden, assumed the whole appearance, manners, and
bearing of a slightly elevated rowdy. Now he pulled his hand from his
pocket and extended it, full of silver, with five or six sovereigns
interspersed, toward Wilks.

"I'll have three quid," Wilks said, with decision, taking the money; "but
I'm blowed if I remember you. Who's your pal?"

Hewitt jerked his hand in my direction, winked, and said, in a low voice:
"He's all right. Having a rest. Can't stand Manchester," and winked again.

Wilks laughed and nodded, and I understood from that that Hewitt had very
flatteringly given me credit for being "wanted" by the Manchester police.

We lurched into a public house, and drank a very little very bad whisky
and water. Wilks still regarded us curiously, and I could see him again
and again glancing doubtfully in Hewitt's face. But the loan of three
pounds had largely reassured him. Presently Hewitt said:

"How about our old pal down in Gold Street? Do anything with him now? Seen
him lately?"

Wilks looked up at the ceiling and shook his head.

"That's a good job. It 'ud be awkward if you were about there to-day, I
can tell you."

"Why?"

"Never mind, so long as you're not there. I know something, if I _have_
been away. I'm glad I haven't had any truck with Gold Street lately,
that's all."

"D'you mean the reelers are on it?"

Hewitt looked cautiously over his shoulder, leaned toward Wilks, and said:
"Look here: this is the straight tip. I know this - I got it from the very
nark[A] that's given the show away: By six o'clock No. 8 Gold Street will
be turned inside out, like an old glove, and everyone in the place will
be - - " He finished the sentence by crossing his wrists like a handcuffed
man. "What's more," he went on, "they know all about what's gone on there
lately, and everybody that's been in or out for the last two moons[B] will
be wanted particular - and will be found, I'm told." Hewitt concluded with
a confidential frown, a nod, and a wink, and took another mouthful of
whisky. Then he added, as an after-thought: "So I'm glad you haven't been
there lately."

[Footnote A: Police spy.]

[Footnote B: Months.]

Wilks looked in Hewitt's face and asked: "Is that straight?"

"_Is_ it?" replied Hewitt with emphasis. "You go and have a look, if you
ain't afraid of being smugged yourself. Only _I_ shan't go near No. 8 just
yet - I know that."

Wilks fidgeted, finished his drink, and expressed his intention of going.
"Very well, if you _won't_ have another - - " replied Hewitt. But he had
gone.

"Good!" said Hewitt, moving toward the door; "he has suddenly developed a
hurry. I shall keep him in sight, but you had better take a cab and go
straight to Euston. Take tickets to the nearest station to
Radcot - Kedderby, I think it is - and look up the train arrangements. Don't
show yourself too much, and keep an eye on the entrance. Unless I am
mistaken, Wilks will be there pretty soon, and I shall be on his heels. If
I _am_ wrong, then you won't see the end of the fun, that's all."

Hewitt hurried after Wilks, and I took the cab and did as he wished. There
was an hour and a few minutes, I found, to wait for the next train, and
that time I occupied as best I might, keeping a sharp lookout across the
quadrangle. Barely five minutes before the train was to leave, and just as
I was beginning to think about the time of the next, a cab dashed up and
Hewitt alighted. He hurried in, found me, and drew me aside into a recess,
just as another cab arrived.

"Here he is," Hewitt said. "I followed him as far as Euston Road and then
got my cabby to spurt up and pass him. He had had his mustache shaved off,
and I feared you mightn't recognize him, and so let him see you."

From our retreat we could see Wilks hurry into the booking-office. We
watched him through to the platform and followed. He wasted no time, but
made the best of his way to a third-class carriage at the extreme fore end
of the train.

"We have three minutes," Hewitt said, "and everything depends on his not
seeing us get into this train. Take this cap. Fortunately, we're both in
tweed suits."

He had bought a couple of tweed cricket caps, and these we assumed,
sending our "bowler" hats to the cloak-room. Hewitt also put on a pair of
blue spectacles, and then walked boldly up the platform and entered a
first-class carriage. I followed close on his heels, in such a manner that
a person looking from the fore end of the train would be able to see but
very little of me.

"So far so good," said Hewitt, when we were seated and the train began to
move off. "I must keep a lookout at each station, in case our friend goes
off unexpectedly."

"I waited some time," I said; "where did you both go to?"

"First he went and bought that hat he is wearing. Then he walked some
distance, dodging the main thoroughfares and keeping to the back streets
in a way that made following difficult, till he came to a little tailor's
shop. There he entered and came out in a quarter of an hour with his coat
mended. This was in a street in Westminster. Presently he worked his way
up to Tothill Street, and there he plunged into a barber's shop. I took a
cautious peep at the window, saw two or three other customers also
waiting, and took the opportunity to rush over to a 'notion' shop and buy
these blue spectacles, and to a hatter's for these caps - of which I regret
to observe that yours is too big. He was rather a long while in the
barber's, and finally came out, as you saw him, with no mustache. This was
a good indication. It made it plainer than ever that he had believed my
warning as to the police descent on the house in Gold Street and its
frequenters; which was right and proper, for what I told him was quite
true. The rest you know. He cabbed to the station, and so did I."

"And now perhaps," I said, "after giving me the character of a thief
wanted by the Manchester police, forcibly depriving me of my hat in
exchange for this all-too-large cap, and rushing me off out of London
without any definite idea of when I'm coming back, perhaps you'll tell me
what we're after?"

Hewitt laughed. "You wanted to join in, you know," he said, "and you must
take your luck as it comes. As a matter of fact there is scarcely anything
in my profession so uninteresting and so difficult as this watching and
following business. Often it lasts for weeks. When we alight, we shall
have to follow Wilks again, under the most difficult possible conditions,
in the country. There it is often quite impossible to follow a man
unobserved. It is only because it is the only way that I am undertaking it
now. As to what we're after, you know that as well as I - the Quinton ruby.
Wilks has hidden it, and without his help it would be impossible to find
it. We are following him so that he will find it for us."

"He must have hidden it, I suppose, to avoid sharing with Hollams?"

"Of course, and availed himself of the fact of Leamy having carried the
bag to direct Hollams's suspicion to him. Hollams found out by his
repeated searches of Leamy and his lodgings, that this was wrong, and this
morning evidently tried to persuade the ruby out of Wilks' possession with
a revolver. We saw the upshot of that."

Kedderby Station was about forty miles out. At each intermediate stopping
station Hewitt watched earnestly, but Wilks remained in the train. "What I
fear," Hewitt observed, "is that at Kedderby he may take a fly. To stalk a
man on foot in the country is difficult enough; but you _can't_ follow one
vehicle in another without being spotted. But if he's so smart as I think,
he won't do it. A man traveling in a fly is noticed and remembered in
these places."

He did _not_ take a fly. At Kedderby we saw him jump out quickly and
hasten from the station. The train stood for a few minutes, and he was out
of the station before we alighted. Through the railings behind the
platform we could see him walking briskly away to the right. From the
ticket collector we ascertained that Radcot lay in that direction, three
miles off.

To my dying day I shall never forget that three miles. They seemed three
hundred. In the still country almost every footfall seemed audible for any
distance, and in the long stretches of road one could see half a mile
behind or before. Hewitt was cool and patient, but I got into a fever of
worry, excitement, want of breath, and back-ache. At first, for a little,
the road zig-zagged, and then the chase was comparatively easy. We waited
behind one bend till Wilks had passed the next, and then hurried in his


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Online LibraryArthur MorrisonMartin Hewitt, Investigator → online text (page 9 of 13)