Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

should like to have all details, from first to last."

"Don't you think," said Mr. Tatlow, kindly-" don't you think I might look in some other time, sir?-you don't seem very strong just now; and it's no use a man trying his nerves when there is no occasion for it."

[ocr errors]

"Thank you," said Humphrey Statham, "I would sooner hear the story now. I have been ill, and am going out of town, and it may be some little time before I return, and I should like, while I am away, to be able to think over what has to know about tell me please at once." "The story is not a long one, sir," said Mr. Tatlow, "and when you see how plain and clear it tells, I dare say you will think the case was not a difficult one, for all it took so long to work out; but you see this is fancy-work, as I may call it, that one has to take up in the intervals of regular business, and to lay aside again, whenever a great robbery or a murder crops up, and just as one is warm and interested in it, one may be sent off to Paris, or New York, and when you come back you have almost to begin again. There was one advantage in this case, that I had it to myself from the start, and hadn't to work up anybody else's line. I began," continued Mr. Tatlow, after a momentary pause, taking a note-book from his pocket and reading from its pages, "at the very beginning, and first saw the draper people at Leeds, where Miss Mitchell was employed; they spoke very highly of her, as a good, industrious girl, and were very sorry when she went away. She gave them a regular month's notice, stating that she had an opportunity of bettering herself by getting an engagement at a first-class house in London. Did the Leeds drapers, Hodder by name, say anything to Miss M.'s friends? No, they did not," continued Mr. Tatlow, answering himself; "most likely they would have mentioned it if the uncle had been alive—a brisk, intelligent man-but he was dead at that time, and no one was left but the bedridden old woman. After her niece's flight she sent down to Hodder and Company, and they told her what Miss M. had told them, though the old woman and her friends plainly did not believe it. It was not until some weeks afterwards that one of Hodder's girls had a letter from a friend of hers, who had previously been with their firm, but was now engaged at Mivenson's, the great drapers in Oxfordstreet, London, to say that Emily Mitchell

[ocr errors]

had joined their establishment; she was passing under the name of Moore, but this girl knew her at once, and agreed to keep her confidence. Now to page fortynine. That's only a private memorandum for my own information," said Mr. Tatlow, turning over the leaves of his book. Page forty-nine. Here you are! Mivenson's, in Oxford-street-old gentleman out of town laid up with the gout-saw eldest son, partner in the house- recollected Miss Moore perfectly, and had come to them with some recommendation-never took young persons into their house unless they were properly recommended, and always kept register of reference. Looking into register found Emily M. had been recommended by Mrs. Calverley, one of their customers, most respectable lady, living in Great Walpole-street. Made inquiry myself about Mrs. C., and made her out to be a prim, elderly, evangelical party, wife of City man in large way of business. Emily M. did not remain long at Mivenson's. Not a strong girl; had had a fainting fit or two while in their employ, and one day she wrote to say she was too ill to come to work, and they never saw her again. Could they give him the address from which she wrote? Certainly. Address-book sent for; 143, Great Collegestreet, Camden Town. Go to page sixty. Landlady at Great College-street perfectly recollected Miss Moore. Quiet, delicate girl, regular in her habits; never out later than ten at night; keeping no company, and giving no trouble. Used to be brought home regular every night by a gentleman

always the same gentleman, landlady thought, but couldn't swear, as she had never made him out properly, though she had often tried. Seen from the area, landlady remarked, people looked so different. Gentleman always took leave of Miss Moore at the door, and was never seen again in the neighbourhood until he brought her back the next night. Landlady recollected Miss Moore's going away. When she gave notice about leaving, explained to landlady that she was ill and was ordered change of air; didn't seem to be any worse than she had been all along, but, of course, it was not her (the landlady's) place to make any objection. At the end of the week a cab was sent for, Miss Moore's boxes were put into it, and she drove away. Did the landlady hear the address given to the cabman ? She did. Waterloo Station, Richmond line!' That answer seemed to me to screw up the whole proceedings;


trying to find the clue to a person, who, months before, had gone away from the Waterloo Station, seemed as likely as feeling for a threepenny-piece in a corn-sack. I made one or two inquiries but heard nothing, and had given the whole thing up for as good as lost when let me see, page two hundred and one.

Here you are! Memoranda in the case of Benjamin Biggs, cashier in the Limpid Water Company, charged with embezzlement. Fine game he kept up, did Mr. Biggs! Salary about two hundred a year, and lived at the rate of ten thousand. Beautiful place out of town, just opposite Bobbington Lock, horses, carriages, and what you please. I was engaged in Biggs's matter, and I had been up to Bobbington one afternoon-for there was a notion just then that Biggs hadn't got clear off and might come home again so I thought I'd take a lodging and hang about the village for a week or two. It was pleasant summer weather, and I've a liking for the river and for such a place as Bushey Park, though not with many opportunities of seeing much of either. I had been through Biggs's house, and was standing in Messenger's boat-yard, looking at the parties putting off on to the water, when a voice, close to my ear, says, 'Hallo, Tatlow! What's up?' and looking round I saw Mr. Netherton Whiffle, the leading junior at the Bailey, and the most rising man at the C. C. C. I scarcely knew him at first, for he had got on a round straw hat instead of his wig, and a tight-fitting jersey instead of his gown, and when I recognised him and told him what business I had come down upon, he only laughed, and said that Biggs knew more than me and all Scotland-yard put together; and the best thing that I could do was to go into the Anglers and put my name to what I liked at his expense. He's a very pleasant fellow, Mr. Whiffle, and while I was drinking something iced I told him about my wanting a lodging, and he recommended me to a very respectable little cottage kept by the mother of his gardener. A pretty place it was too, not looking on the river, but standing in a nice neatly-kept garden, with the big trees of Bushey Park at the back of you, and the birds singing beautiful! I fancy when I am superannuated I should like a place of that sort for myself and Mrs. T. Nice rooms too, the lodgings, a bedroom and sitting-room, but a cut above my means. I was saying so to the old woman-motherly old creature she was—

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

as we were looking round the bedroom, when I caught sight of something which fixed my attention at once. It was an old black box, like a child's school-trunk, with, on the outside lid, 'E. M.' in brass letters, and a railway label of the G. N. R., 'Leeds to London,' still sticking on it. Something told me I had ‘struck ile,' as the Yankees say, and I asked the old woman to whom that box belonged. To her,' she said, she supposed, leastways it had been there for many months, left behind by a lodger who had gone away and never sent for it.' It took a little hot rum-and-water to get the lodger's story out of that old lady, sir; not a refreshing drink on a summer's day, but required to be gone through in the course of duty, and it was worth it, as you will see.

"In the previous summer the rooms had been taken by a gentleman who gave the name of Smith, and who, the next day, brought down the young lady and her boxes. She was pretty, but very delicatelooking, and seemed to have very bad health. He came down three or four times a week, and then she brightened up a bit and seemed a little more cheerful; but when she was alone she was dreadfully down, and the landlady had seen her crying by the hour together. They lived very quietly; no going out, no water-parties, no people to see them, bills of lodging paid for every week; quite the regular thing. This went on for two or three months; then the gentleman's visits grew less frequent, he only came down once or twice a week, and, on more than one occasion, the old woman sitting in the kitchen thought she heard high words between them. One Saturday afternoon, when Mr. Smith had gone away, about an hour after his departure, the lady packed all her things, paid up the few shillings which remained after his settlement, and ordered a fly to take her to the station. There was no room on the fly for the little box which I had seen, and she said she would send an address to which it could be forwarded. On the Monday evening Mr. Smith came down as usual; he was very much astonished to find the lady gone, but, after reading a letter which she had left for him, he seemed very much agitated, and sent out for some brandy; then he paid the week's rent, which was demanded instead of the notice, and left the place. The box had never been sent for, nor had the old woman ever heard anything further of the lady or the gentleman.

"The story hangs together pretty well,

don't it, sir? E. M., and the railway ticket on the box (I forgot to say I looked inside, and saw the maker's name, 'Hudspeth, of Boar-lane, Leeds'), looked pretty much like Emily Mitchell, and the old woman's description of Mr. Smith tallied tolerably with that given by the lodging-house keeper in Camden Town, who used to notice the gentleman from the area. But there we were shut up tight again! The flyman recollected taking the lady to the station, but no one saw her take her ticket, and there was I at a standstill.

"It is not above a fortnight ago, sir," said Mr. Tatlow, in continuation, "that I struck on the scent again, not that I had forgotten it, or hadn't taken the trouble to pull at anything which I thought might be one of its threads when it come in my way. A twelvemonth ago I was down at Leeds, after a light-hearted chap who had forgotten his own name, and written his master's across the back of a three-and-sixpenny bill-stamp, and I thought I'd take the opportunity of looking in at Hodder's, the draper's, and ask whether anything had been heard of Miss M. The firm hadn't heard of her, and was rather grumpy about being asked, but I saw the girl from whom I had got some information before-she, you recollect, sir, who had a friend at Mivenson's, in Oxford-street, and told me about E. M. being there-and I asked her and her young man to tea, and set the pumps agoing. But she was very bashful and shamefaced, and would not say a word, though evidently she knew something; and it was only when she had gone up to put her bonnet on that I got out of the young man that Emily Mitchell had been down there, and had been seen in the dusk of the evening going up to the old cottage at Headingley, and carrying a baby in her


"A baby!" cried Humphrey Statham.

[ocr errors]

Yes, sir," said Mr. Tatlow, "a female child of a few weeks old. She was going up to her aunt, no doubt, but the old woman was dead. When they heard at Hodder's that Emily was about the place, and with a child too, the firm was furious, and gave orders that none of their people should speak to or have any communication with her; but this girl-Mary Keith, she's called, I made a note of her name, sir, thinking you would like to know itshe found out where the poor creature was, and offered to share her wages with her and the child to save them from starva


"Good God!" groaned Humphrey Sta tham. "Was she in want, then?"

"Pretty nearly destitute, sir," said Tatlow; "would have starved probably, if it had not been for Mary Keith. She owned up to that girl, sir, all her story, told her everything, except the name of the child's father, and that she could not get out of her anyhow. She spoke about you too, and said you were the only person in the world who had really loved her, and that she had treated you shamefully. Miss Keith wanted her to write to the child's father, and tell him how badly off she was; but she said she would sooner die in the streets than ask him for money. What she would do, she said, would be to go to you-she wanted to see you once more before she died—and to ask you to be a friend to her child! She knew you would do it, she said, though she had behaved to you so badly, for the sake of the old days.


I shan't have to try you with very much more, sir," said Tatlow, kindly, as he heard a deep groan break from Humphrey Statham's lips, and saw his head sink deeper on his breast. "Miss Keith advised E. M. to write to you; but she said no she wanted to look upon your face again before she died, she said, and she knew that event was not far off. So she parted with her old friend, taking a little money, just enough to pay her fare up to town. She must have changed her mind about that, from what I learned afterwards. I made inquiries here and there for her in London in what I thought likely places, but I could hear nothing of her, and so the scent grew cold, and still my case was incomplete. I settled it up at last, as I say, about a fortnight ago. I had occasion to make some inquiries at Hendon workhouse about a young man who was out on the tramp, and who, as I learned, had slept there for a night or two in the previous week; and I was talking matters over with the master, an affable kind of man, with more common sense than one usually finds in officials of his sort, who are for the most part pig-headed and bad tempered. The chap that I was after had been shopman to a grocer in the City, and had run away with his master's daughter, having all the time another wife, and this I suppose led the conversation to such matters, and I, always with case your floating in my head, asked him whether there were many instances of fondlings, and such like, being left upon their hands? He said no, that they had been very lucky

only had one since he had been master there, and that one they had been lucky enough to get rid of. How was that, I asked him, what was the case? Case of a party"and here Mr. Tatlow referred to his notebook again-"found the winter before last by Squire Mullins's hind, lying against a haystack, in the four-acre meadow, pressing her baby to her breast-both of them half frozen. She was taken to the workhouse, but only lived two days, and never spoke during that time. Her shoes were worn very thin, and she had parted with most of her clothing, though what she kept had been good, and still was decent. No wedding-ring, of course. One thing she hadn't parted with the master's wife saw the old woman try to crib it from the dead body round whose neck it hung, and took it from her hand. It was a tiny gold cross -yes, sir, I see, you know it all nowinscribed, H. to E., 30th of March, 1864' --the very trinket which you had described to our people, and when I heard that, I knew I had tracked Emily Mitchell home at last."

Mr. Tatlow ceased speaking, but it was some minutes before Humphrey Statham raised his head. When at length he looked up there were traces of tears on his cheeks, and his voice was broken with emotion as he said, "The child-what about it did it live ?"

"Yes, sir," replied Tatlow, "the child lived, and fell very comfortably upon its legs. It was a bright, pretty little creature, and one day it attracted the notice of a lady who had no children of her own, and, after some inquiries, persuaded her husband to adopt it.'

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

tremulous despite their closely interlaced fingers, and the shudder which from time to time ran through his massive frame, he knew what silent anguish was being bravely undergone, and would on no account have allowed the sufferer to imagine that his mental tortures were either seen or understood. When Humphrey Statham at length raised his head, he found his visitor intently watching the feeble gyrations of a belated fly, and apparently perfectly astonished at hearing his name mentioned.

"Mr. Tatlow," said Humphrey, in a voice which, despite his exertions to raise it, sounded low and muffled, "I am very much your debtor; what I said at the commencement of our interview about the delay which, as I imagined, had occurred in clearing up this mystery, was spoken in ignorance, and without any knowledge of the real facts. I now see the difficulties attendant upon the inquiry, and I am only astonished that they should have been so successfully surmounted, and that you should have been enabled to clear up the case as perfectly as you have done. That the result of your inquiries has been to arouse in me the most painful memories, and to-and to reduce me in fact to the state in which you see me-is no fault of yours. You have discharged your duty with great ability and wondrous perseverance, and I have to thank you more than all for the delicacy which you have shown during the inquiry, and during the narration to me of its results."

Mr. Tatlow bowed, but said nothing.

"For the ordinary charges of the investigation," continued Humphrey Statham, "your travelling expenses and such like, I settle, I believe, with the people at Scotland-yard; but," he added, as he took his cheque - book from the right-hand drawer of his desk, "I wish you to accept for yourself this cheque for fifty pounds, together with my hearty thanks.'

He filled up the cheque, tore it from the book, and pushed it over to the detective as he spoke, at the same time holding out his hand.

Mr. Tatlow rose to his feet, looking somewhat embarrassed. It had often been his good fortune to be well paid for his services, but to be shaken hands with by a man in the position of Mr. Statham, had not previously come in his way. He was confused for an instant, but compromised the matter by gravely saluting after the military fashion with his left hand, while he gave his right to his employer.

"Proud, sir, and grateful," he said. "It has been a long case, though not a particularly stiff one, and I think it has been worked clean out to the end. I could have wished-but, however, that is neither here nor there," said Mr. Tatlow, checking himself with a cough. "About the child, sir; don't you wish any further particulars about the child ?"

"No," said Humphrey Statham, who was fast relapsing into his moody state; "no, nothing now, at all events. If I want any further information I shall send to you, Tatlow, direct; you may depend upon that. Now, once more, thanks, and good-bye."

Half an hour had elapsed since Mr. Tatlow had taken his departure, and still Humphrey Statham sat at his desk buried in profound reverie, his chin resting on his breast, his arms plunged almost elbow-deep into his pockets. At length he roused himself, locked away the cheque-book which lay fluttering open before him, and passing his hands dreamily through the fringe of hair on his temples, muttered to himself:

"And so there is an end of it! To die numbed and frozen in a workhouse bed! To bear a child to a man for whom she ruined my life, and who in his turn ruined hers-my Emily perishing with cold and want! I shall meet him yet, I know I shall! Long before I heard of this story, when I looked upon him only as a successful rival, who was living with her in comfort and luxury, and laughing over my disappointment, even then I felt convinced that the hour would come when I should hold him by the throat and make him beg his miserable life at my hands! Now, when I know that his treatment of her has been worse even than his treatment of me, he will need to beg hard indeed for mercy if I once come across his path! Calverley, eh?" he continued, after a moment's pause, and in a softer voice, "the husband of the lady who has adopted the child is a partner. in Calverley's house, Tatlow said. That is the house for which Tom Durham has gone out as agent. How strangely things come about? For surely Mrs. Calverley, doubtless the wife of the senior partner of the firm, is the mother of my old friend Martin Gurwood? What two totally different men! Without doubt unacquainted with each other, and yet with this curious link of association in my mind. Her child! Emily's child within a couple of hours' ride! I could easily find some

excuse to introduce myself to this Mrs. Claxton, and to get a glimpse of the girl she is Emily's flesh and blood, and most probably would be like her! I have half a mind to No, I am not well enough for any extra excitement or exertion, and the child, Tatlow says, is happy and well cared for; I can see her on my return-I can then manage the introduction in a more proper and formal manner; I can hunt up Martin Gurwood, and through him and his mother I can obtain an introduction to this partner in Calverley's house, and must trust to my own powers of making myself agreeable to continue the acquaintance on a footing of intimacy, which will give me constant opportunities of seeing Emily's child. Now, there is more than ever necessity to get out of this at once! All clear now, except these two packets; one, Tom Durham's memorandum, which must be kept anyhow, so in it goes into the safe. The other, the instructions for Tatlow-that can be destroyed-no, there is no harm ia keeping that for a little, one never knows how things may turn out-in it goes too." And as he spoke he placed the two packets in the drawer, closed and locked the safe.

Collins !" he called, and the confidential clerk appeared. "You have all that you want-the cheques, the duplicate key of the safe, the pass-book ?"

"Yes, sir," said Collins; "everything except your address."

"By Jove!" said Humphrey Statham, "I had forgotten that; even now I am undecided. Tossing shall do it. Heads the Drumnovara snipe-bog, tails the Tresco pilot-boat. Tails it is! the pilot-boat has won. So, Collins, my address-never to be used except in most urgent necessity-is,

P.O., Tresco, Scilly,' left till called for. Now you have my traps in the outer office; tell them to put them on a hansom cab, and you will see no more of me for six weeks."

glided out of the Paddington Station, As the four-fifty "galloper" for Exeter was seated in it, Humphrey Statham leisurely cutting the leaves of the evening paper which he had just purchased. The first paragraph which met his eye ran as


[blocks in formation]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »