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In 1909 Edgar Wallace wrote a series of 24 short stories featuring a street-wise London Metropolitan police-constable, P.-C. Lee, for Hulton & Co.'s weekly magazine Ideas. A number of these were reprinted in Ideas in 1928-1929 (some under new titles) and in other magazines. So far as is known, only one of these stories, "Change," was collected during Edgar Wallace's lifetime; it was rewritten—without P.-C. Lee—for publication as "Mr. Sigee's Relations" in The Lady Called Nita (George Newnes, London, in 1930). The first nine of the P-C. Lee stories were later included in the posthumous collection The Undisclosed Client and Other Stories, which was published by Digit Books, London, in 1961.
RGL is proud to offer its readers the first complete P.-C. Lee collection. The e-book you are about to read presents all 24 stories in their order of publication. All of the stories include copies of the original illustrations from Ideas magazine.
THE magistrate looked over his glasses at the prisoner in the dock, and the prisoner nodded in the friendliest way.
The clerk at his little desk before the magistrate jerked his head round in the direction of the dock.
"Were you drunk last night?" he asked pointedly.
"I were in a manner of speakin' excited," said the prisoner carefully.
"You are charged with being drunk. Are you guilty or not guilty?"
"Not guilty," said the accused loudly.
The clerk nodded, and a constable made his way to the box.
A stolid-looking constable, who moved with surprising agility, and glanced at the resentful prisoner with a twinkling eye.
"P.-C. Lee 333 'D'," he began, "I was on duty last night—"
"Hold hard," said the aggressive prisoner, "let's have all this took down in black an' white."
He fished out from the depths of his mud-stained overcoat a tattered memorandum book and the stump of pencil.
"Now then," he said sternly, "what did you say your name was, me man?"
"P.-C. Lee, of 'D'," repeated the good-natured constable.
Very deliberately the accused closed his book and replaced it. He looked benevolently round, then: "Guilty," he said.
"Seven and six or five days." said the magistrate.
"The fact of it is, sir," said the accused man later—he was sitting in the waiting room whilst his wife was collecting the necessary three half-crowns—"I didn't catch your name."
"I dessay," said P.-C. Lee with a smile.
"I respect you, Mr. Lee," said the prisoner oratorically, "as if you was me own brother—hopin' there's no offence."
"None whatever," said P.-C. Lee, "an' talkin' about brothers, where's your brother Elf?"
"Elf?" said the other wonderingly, "Elf? Why, he's in Orstralia."
"I don't know a public house of that name," said P.-C. Lee reflectively. "but I dessay I shall find him."
P.-C. Lee lives quite close to me. We have met professionally when he was severely reticent and remarkably polite and respectful; we have met privately, when he was more communicative.
Inspector Fowler, to whom I mentioned the fact of our acquaintance, had nothing but praise for Lee.
"He's a remarkable chap," he said enthusiastically. "He's practically the last court of appeal in the Notting Dale district. They take him all their little disputes to settle and he holds an informal court at his lodgings."
For P.-C. Lee lives in the heart of Notting Dale, in a tiny house near Arbuckle-street, and sometimes, when he's off duty, and when there is a slack time in his arbitration court, he comes to me to smoke a pipe and talk shop.
"Crime," reflected P.-C. Lee, "ain't always murder, nor highway robbery, nor forgin' cheques for £10,000. That's the crimes authors—present company excepted—write about. It's generally a tale about how a detective with whiskers fails to discover the lost diamonds, an' a clean-shaven feller, who plays the fiddle, works it out on paper that the true robber was the Archbishop of Canterbury, But crime, as we know it in the 'D' Division, is mostly made up of 'bein' a suspected person' or 'loiterin' with intent' or 'being found on unoccupied premises for the purpose of committin' a felony'; or, as you have seen yourself, 'drunk an' usin' abusive language'.
"I've done all kinds of duty, plain clothes an' otherwise, an' although I've had my share of big cases, an' have been to the Old Bailey scores an' scores of times, the gen'ral run of life has been takin' violent an' insultin' 'drunks' to the station, an' pullin' people in for petty larceny.
"One of the most extraordinary chaps I've had to deal with was a man by the name of Simmons. He moved into 64, Highfield-street, an' I got a tip from headquarters to look after him. A quiet little man, who smoked a briar pipe, an' went about his work sayin' nothing to anybody.
"He was a bachelor so far as I could find out, an' there was an old woman, who was his aunt, who kept house for him.
"The rum thing was that he didn't associate with any of the 'heads'.
"There was a nice lot of lads in my district. Nick Moss who did seven years for armed burglary; Teddy Gail, who did five for runnin' a snide factory*; Arthur Westing, the tale-pitcher—Lord! I could fill a book with their names."
[* A counterfeit coin manufactory.]
"Somehow, they knew he was in a queer line of business, an' naturally they tried to be friendly with him—but he had nothin' to do with them, an' that made 'em wild. They tried to find out what his lay was, but he was as close as an oyster. They came to me, some of 'em, an' worked the conversation round innocently to Simmons.
"Nick Moss was the most curious.
" 'That's a queer chap in 64, Mr. Lee,' he says. 'Can't make him out.'
" 'Can't you?' says I.
" 'No,' says Nick, shakin' his head. 'Do you think he's quite straight, Mr. Lee?'
" 'I hope so,' says I. 'It'd be a dreadful thing if a dishonest feller came into this pure an' innercent neighbourhood corruptin' the morals of its upright citizens.'
" 'It would,' says Nick.
"To tell you the truth, I had no more idea of what Simmons' game was than they had. My instructions were worded rather curiously. 'Watch Simmons, but don't interfere with him.'
"I thought once that he must be a nark*, but the station Inspector told me he wasn't on the books, an' none of our C.I.D. men knew him. All I knew about him was that from time to time he used to go away for two or three days at a time carryin' his little brown bag an' smokin' his pipe. My mate, who's an energetic young chap, stopped him one night when he was coming home an' asked to see inside of his bag."
[* Police spy.]
"But there was nothin' except a paper of sandwiches an' a couple of short luggage straps. The sandwiches was wrapped up in a paper that bore the name of a Chelmsford confectioners, an' we watched for the Chelmsford report to see if there had been a burglary—but nothin' appeared. I don't know whether Simmons reported the matter; so far as we knew at the station he didn't, but a few days afterwards my mate was transferred to 'R' Division, and got a nasty letter from the Yard tellin' him not to exceed his duty.
"One night, soon after this, I was standin' on duty at the corner of Ladbroke Grove, when a woman came to me sobbin'.
"I recognised her at once. She was the wife of Crawley Hopper, a chap well known to the police as a ladder larcernist.*"
[* A "ladder larceny" is a definite form of housebreaking. Whilst a family is at dinner a ladder is placed against a bedroom window, the thief enters and clears the bedroom of portable valuables.]
" 'Mr. Lee,' she sobs, 'look at my eye!'
" 'I wouldn't mind the beatin',' she says, 'but he's took up with another girl.'
" 'Go home to your mother, Mrs. Hopper,' I says, 'He's in drink an' he'll be sorry in the morning.'
" 'He'll be sorry to-night,' she says savagely, 'because he was the man that did the Highbury job last Wednesday.'
" 'Oh!' I says—we'd been on the lookout for the man who did the Highbury job—'in that case I'll ask you for a few particulars.'
"The end of it was, I found Crawley in a little pub standin' drinks all round. He had his arm round the neck of his new girl an' I beckoned him outside.
" 'I want you, Hopper,' I says.
" 'What for?' says Hopper, as white as a sheet.
" 'The Highbury job. Come along quietly to the station.'
" 'It's a fair cop,' says Hopper, an' went like a lamb.
" 'Who gave me away?' he says.
" 'Information received,' I answered.
"He nodded his head.
" 'I think I know the lady's name,' he says, 'an' when I come out she'll know mine,' he says.
"Crawley had lots of pals, an' as soon as they found he'd been pinched, they had a whip round to get the money together for a mouthpiece (as they call a lawyer), an' naturally they went to Simmons.
"From all accounts, Nick Moss an' a feller named Peter called on him one night.
" 'We are making a collection, Mr. Simmons,' says Nick, 'for a friend of ours that got into a bit of trouble.'
" 'What kind of trouble?' says the little man.
"He stood in the doorway in his shirtsleeves smokin' his pipe most furious.
" 'To tell you the truth,' says Nick frankly, 'he's been pinched.'
" 'By the police?' says Simmons.
" 'By the police,' says Nick.
"Simmons shook his head.
" 'It's no good comin' to me,' he says. 'I don't pay a single penny to help criminals,' he says, cool as a cucumber.
" 'What?' says Nick wrathfully, 'you undersized little crook! For two pins I'd scruff you!"
"An' with that he reached out a handy left—but somehow it never reached Simmons, an' before he knew what was what a pair of hands like steel clamps caught his arm, an' he found himself chucked into the street, an' the door banged.
"Nick an' the feller Peter waited for ten minutes bangin' at the door an' askin' Simmons to be a man an' come out an' be smashed, but Simmons took no notice, an' just then I strolled up and cleared away the little crowd that had collected.
"Nick was so wild that he wouldn't go at first, but I persuaded him, first by kind words, an' then by a smack on the head. After that I got the tip that the boys were waitin' for Mr. Simmons to do him in, an' when I saw him I gave him a friendly warnin'. He smiled as though the idea of his being done in was an amusin' one, but knew our lads too well to see any joke in it.
"Sure enough they laid for him, six of the brightest boys in Nottin' Dale.
"The first I knew about it was from hearin' shouts of 'Murder!' an''Police!' an' I ran as fast as I could, blowin' my whistle.
"I found Simmons with his back to the wall, his head bleedin' but grinnin' cheerfully. He had a life-preserver his hand an' two of the lads was sleepin' peacefully on the pavement.
" 'Hullo,' says Simmons, 'just in time.'
" 'Was that you shoutin'?' I sez.
" 'Not me,' says he, with a chuckle. 'I rather think it was a gent named Moss—you'll know him by the bump on his forehead.'
"They left Simmons alone after this. They used to scowl at him, an' he used to grin at them, but they never tried any more tricks. Nick Moss was rather bitter.
" 'A little feller like that didn't ought to be strong—do he, Mr. Lee?' he says indignantly. 'It's deceptful, that's what I call it.'
"Failin' to get satisfaction in one way they tried another. They did their best to put him away. There wasn't a thief in London, nor a receivin' shop either, where they not did make inquiries to find out what Simmons' particular hobby was. But for a long time they worked without any result.
"One day this chap Peter I told you about was standin' on the arrival platform at Euston, an' he sees Simmons get out of the Manchester train. Peter was a bag-claimer an' used to do quite an extensive line of business at big railway stations, pickin' up other people's bags, beggin' pardon if they found him at it, an' he was too busy to think much about Simmons till that night when he was talking things over to Nick at the little pub.
" 'Manchester!' says Nick, quite upset. 'Lord love a duck! Why, ain't you heard the news?'
" 'No,' says Peter.
" 'The Manchester an' Salisbury Bank was cleared out last night—eight thousand pounds taken an' the chap got clear away.'
" 'He's one of the swell mob, that's what he is,' says Nick excited, 'an' if I don't put him away my name's not Nick Moss.' Which as a matter of fact," commented P.-C. Lee thoughtfully, "it wasn't."
" 'Go out an' get a late paper,' says Nick, tremblin' with excitement; 'perhaps there'll be a description of the feller that did it.'
"So Peter went out an' bought one, an' together they read it over.
" 'Here it is,' says Nick, who ain't much of a reader. "Thomas Cadaver was executed this mornin' at Manchester for—" no, that ain't it—here we are—' an' he read in the late news: "Description of the suspected man: short, strongly built, clean shaven, wearing a black bowler hat—"
'That's him for a dollar,' says Nick, an' round they came to me with the paper. I was just goin' on duty at time.
" 'Mr. Lee,' says Nick, 'we've got a good thing for you.'
"Good,' I says. 'Did you buy it or find it?'
" 'It's the Manchester Bank bloke,' says Nick, very solemn, an' handed me the paper. I read it carefully.
" 'I'll take it down to the station,' I says.
"There was a lot of news in the paper that night, but the news that mostly interested the boys was that Crawley Hopper had been found not guilty. There was some technical mistake in framin' the indictment, an' the evidence was a bit contradictory an' between the two Crawley got off.
"He was discharged at six o'clock, an' I met him at eight. He come up to me, an' I could see he'd been celebratin' the occasion, for he was what I'd call 'nasty drunk'.
" 'Hullo, P.-C. Lee,' he says, 'seen my missis?'
" 'Which one'?' I says.
" 'You know which one,' he says with an ugly look, 'the one that gave me away.'
" 'Don't talk foolish,' I says, 'nobody gave you away,'
" 'All right,' he says, turnin' to go, 'I'll know all about it very soon.'
"There are instincts that come to a man," said P.-C. Lee gravely, "that oughtn't to be suppressed. My instinct told me to arrest him—on any charge. To give him a night at the station. But I hesitated. He'd just been released from prison an' was naturally excited. I didn't want to kick a man who was down, so I let him go.
"At eleven thirty I was in Pointer-street, when I saw him comin' towards me. There was somethin' in his air that I didn't like, an' I stopped him.
" 'Where are you goin', Crawley?' I says.
"He sort of hesitated before he answered; then he ran. But I caught him in a dozen yards.
" 'Let go!' he hissed an' he struck at me.
"It was a stingin' blow in the face, an' I felt somethin' warm an' sticky. I thought he must have used a knife on me, so I took my stick to him an' that quietened him.
"With the help of another constable I got him to the station.
"My face was covered with blood, but I couldn't feel the cut, an' as soon as I got him into the steel pen the Station Inspector ordered one of the men to go for the divisional surgeon.
"Then Crawley spoke.
" 'It's all right,' he says in a matter-of-fact tone, 'he's not wounded.'
" 'Where did the blood come from?' says the Inspector.
" 'Off my hands,' says Crawley, and showed us.
" 'I've done in my missis,' he says simply.
"An' it was the truth, for we found the poor creature stone dead in her mother's house. It was one of the most dreadful things that had ever happened in our division for a long time, but it wasn't what you'd call a paper murder, for there was no mystery about it. It was just a low down, sordid wicked murder, an' Crawley's trial lasted two hours, an' he was sentenced to death. There's always a lot of mad people who'll sign a petition to get a brute like Crawley reprieved an' there was the usual procession of old ladies walkin' about askin' people to sign papers to save the life of this 'poor creature'.
"All the boys did their best in the way of gettin' mouthpieces but when it came to signin' petitions they wouldn't.
"Nick put the situation to me.
" 'I'm a thief, Mr. Lee.' he says, quite serious; 'you know all about me. I was born a thief, an' will die a thief '—but I've got no use for a man who does a thing like Crawley did. We did our best to prove him innercent, but now there's no doubt about his bein' guilty he's got to go through it.'
"I hadn't much bother with 'em on my beat durin' the weeks followin' the trial. Everybody was subdued an' upset, an' I had time to keep my eye on Simmons. I'd got a fuller account of the wanted man from the Manchester police, an' I must confess that it filled the bill so far as appearances went. We reported the matter to Scotland Yard, an' they sent one of their best men down to have a look at him.
"But he poured cold water on the idea—in fact, he was very much amused.
" 'Him!' he said. 'Don't you know who he is?'
" 'No, sir,' I says, an' I waited for him to tell me, but he didn't.
"I missed Simmons for a bit. With the Crawley business finished, an' almost forgotten, things began to liven up in our quarter, an' what with one thing an' another I didn't trouble about Simmons.
"I saw him one night. He was walkin' home briskly an' nodded to me. He passed me when suddenly he stopped an' walked back.
" 'I've got a message for you,' he says. 'Crawley told me to tell you that if he'd taken your advice he wouldn't have been where he was.'
" 'Crawley,' I says puzzled, 'Crawley's dead.'
" 'I know that,' he says quietly, 'but he told me just before he died.'
" 'How could you see him?' I says.
" 'Oh, I saw him all right,' he says, turnin' away, 'I'm the hangman!'"
ONCE I hinted delicately to P.-C. Lee that it was remarkable, considering his popularity not only with his superiors but with the man in the street equally with the man on the bench, that he had never achieved promotion. I did this with some trepidation because I feared that I might have disturbed a hornet's nest of grievances, and the best fellow in the world is a wearisome bore if he has a grievance. But P.-C. Lee was very frank. With no false shame he told me that it was a matter of education with him, and he was content to remain a first class constable.
"The force gen'rally," he said, "is filled with men who find no difficulty in passin' the stiffest educational examination you can set 'em. There isn't a better educated police force in the world, as I've heard, than the Metropolitan—unless it's the City.
"But I have not the patience to go in for schoolin'. I tried it once. Went to a private evenin' class, an' a chap wanted to teach me decimal fractions, but there didn't seem much sense in it to me, although I dessay I'm wrong. I can write a report, an' tell the truth, an' know enough about the law to know when to arrest a man, an' that's about as much as I'm anxious to know. The fact that the River Danube empties itself into the Arctic Ocean doesn't worry me, because the Arctic Ocean ain't on my beat.
"I never deny that education is a good thing—in spite of its difficulty. Lots of people think that education has increased the number of criminals, but I say it has reduced 'em. I once took a young fellow for embezzlement. He was a milkman, an' his mother cried an' carried on something dreadful.
" 'It's what a board school education has done for my poor boy,' she says, 'fillin' his head with stuff an' nonsense.'
"But my own opinion was that if he'd been better educated he'd have had more sense than try to alter the customer's account book so as to make it tally with his cash book. It's ignorance that makes criminals, having no sense to look ahead, no imagination.
"There was a feller once," reflected P.-C. Lee, "who gave a lecture at the Police Institute, an' he said a very true thing: he said 'True happiness you pay for in advance, false happiness you pay for afterwards'; and if criminals knew this there'd be no criminals. It's because a chap doesn't bother to think about tomorrow an' the policeman who's waitin' round the corner to pinch him, that he finds the easiest way to make money is to take money. There are exceptions, of course, an' a case in point, that shows how education sometimes works the wrong end first, was the case of Albert Walker.
"When I first knew Albert he was a little bare-footed boy runnin' wild in Lambeth. I was in the 'L' Division at the time. His parents were a bad lot: his father was in and out of prison most of the time, an' his mother—well, got a livin'; it wasn't much in the food line at home, but knowin' how the poor help the poor, I should say that the neighbours kept him from starvin'. Then the School Board got hold of him, an' from what I've heard he was a rare boy for learnin', an' sucked up education like a sponge till he was the best writer in the school an' the best at arithmetic an' geography.
"He was a prime favourite with the schoolmaster, who got him some old cast-off clothes to wear in place of his rags, an' helped him in many ways. The school was on my beat, an' I've often spoke to the boy, just a word of encouragement now an' then. I never used to mention his father to him, because I didn't want the kid to think I had any other reason for takin' an interest in him. He wasn't a bit shy, an' would tell me how he'd taken prizes for reg'lar attendance an' for geometry.
"The only time he ever spoke about his people was just after his father had gone down for nine months for stealin' pewter pots.
"The boy was then well up in the school; he was a sort of pupil teacher now, an' had just won a scholarship, an' I was sayin' how pleased I was. I specially bought him a little book called 'A Man of Note' which was all about a boy who rose to a wonderful position through study.
" 'Yes,' he says, after thankin' me, 'I'm glad I've got on so well at school, too. I don't want to be like father.'
" 'Quite right,' I says.
" 'Father is a strikin' example of unintelligent application,' he says—he was a rare one for usin' long words an' could spell 'Constantinople' before he was nine—'he is the unskilled labourer, for whom no real need exists. Here's father doing nine months for stealing pewter. Another man, scarcely any more intelligent, will one day get two years for converting these pewter pots into spurious coin of the realm, yet another man will probably go to prison for passing the counterfeit coin—it is inevitable.'
"He sighed regretfully.
" 'With silver at its present price,' he went on, 'there is no need at all why the coins should not be made of silver an' a handsome profit made. The chances of detection would be reduced to a minimum.'
" 'That's against the law, Albert,' I says, sternly; 'It don't matter whether the coin is made of silver or made of pewter, it's coinin'.'
"He waved his hand with a lordly air, which looked curious in a boy of his age.
" 'I am not discussin' the ethical side of the question, he says.
"That conversation made me think a bit. What with his long words an' his ready tongue, I hadn't an answer ready for him, an' I had my misgivings.
"The next thing I heard about him was that he'd gone to a trainin' college, an' that he'd passed through that with every kind of honour.
"All this time his father was in an' out. Three month' for larceny, six months for robbery from the person, twelve months for felony.
"Then his mother died. 'Chronic alcoholism' was the verdict of the coroner's jury. Albert didn't go to the funeral, but sent a beautiful wreath with a Latin inscription which, properly translated, meant 'She was all right accordin' to her lights, but her lights were pretty bad.'
"One of the masters at the school translated it to me, an' shook his head.
"I saw Albert again soon after an' he gave me his views on the subject.
" 'Bein' my mother was only an accident,' he said, very serious, 'she couldn't help it any more than me. Gen'rally speakin', I'm glad she's dead.'
" 'That's not the way for a boy to speak about his mother, however bad she was,' I says reprovingly.
" 'I'm speakin' less as a son than as a philosopher,' he says very thoughtful, then he added, 'Father looks very healthy, don't you think, Mr. Lee?'
" 'Yes,' I says, for he'd just come out of the 'College'.
"Albert shook his head.
" 'The short sentence system is wasted on father,' he says sadly, 'he'll last for ages.'
"I never saw Albert again for eight—nine—why, it must have been ten years.
"One day I was on duty in the Kensington Park-road—one summer day it was—when a cab drove up to one of the swaggerest houses an' out stepped—Albert! He was well-dressed, not showily dressed like one of the 'nuts' would have been, but quietly in dark grey, an' he recognised me instantly.
" 'Hullo, constable!' he said with a smile, 'I think we've met before?'
" 'Not Albert!' I says, astonished.
" 'He nodded. 'You can go on calling me Albert,' he says easy and affable. 'I don't want 'sir' from you.'
"He told me he lived in the big house, was goin' to be married, and was makin' money.
"His father was dead, an' he'd forgotten about the old Lambeth life.
" 'It seems a nightmare,' he says.
"He told me how he'd left school-teaching an' had gone in for business at printin' in High-street, Kensington. Started in a small way, an' worked up until he was employin' over a hundred workmen.
"He was very enthusiastic about printin'—it was as much a hobby as anything else with him. I could see his heart was in his work, an' in my mind I marked him down as bein' a brand from the burnin'.
"He must have guessed my thoughts.
" 'Honesty's the best policy, eh, Lee?' he says, smilin', 'especially in the case of the modern thief who endeavours to combat scientific safeguards with a half-digested education from which the very elements of science are absent.'
"I used to meet him occasionally, an' I got into the habit of touchin' my hat to him. At Christmas time he sent me a fiver with a little note askin' me to accept it in the spirit in which it was sent.
"He was very good to the poor, too; gave 'em dinner an' coal an' started a soup kitchen down Latimer-road way—in fact people got to look on him as a rich man, an' Nick Moss an' a pal of his named 'Copper' went down to Kensin'ton-road an' had a look at the house. Nick told me afterwards there was twenty ways of gettin' into it.
"There was a kitchen window without bars, an' a conservatory, an' a billiard room—in fact, it was the easiest crib he'd ever seen.
"So, accordingly, Nick an' his pal took their swag—nice little centre-bits an' glass cuttin' machines, an' drills—an' as we say in court 'effected an entrance'. I happened to be strolling up Kensington Park-road at about 2 a.m. smokin' a pipe, contrary to all regulations, when passin' Albert's house I tried the front gate. It was fastened all right, but as I stepped up to it I trod on something soft. I stooped down an' picked it up. It was a thin cotton glove—a new one what had never been worn.
"Now I know that all up-to-date burglars carry cotton gloves because of the fear of leavin' finger prints, an' a policeman's mind being naturally a suspicious one, I nipped over the low gate an' walked quietly up to the house. I'd got my rubber heels on an' made no noise. I put the light of the lantern over the front door. It was not marked, so I walked round to the servants' entrance. There was no sign of chisel marks, then I put up my hand to the little window that opens from the pantry. 'Opens' is a good word, for wide open it was.
"Very quietly I got back into the street again. I knew I should find P.-C. Sampson at the corner of Kensington Park Square. He came to the 'point' to time an' I called him quietly, an' together we walked back to the house.
"To cut a long story short we took Nick Moss as he came out of the servants' entrance, an' a few minutes afterwards we took his pal. I put the irons on Nick, because he was a dangerous character. Then I left Sampson to guard the two whilst I knocked up Mr. Walker. At the second knock up went a window an' out came his head.
" 'Hullo,' says he, quietly, 'what do you want?'
" 'Will you come down here for a moment?' says I.
" 'What do you want?' he asked again, so in as few words as possible I told him that his house had been broken into, an' that we had caught the man. He came down, an' opened the door cautiously. To my surprise he had a revolver in his hand—not an ordinary revolver, but one of these automatic pistols that you sometimes find in the possession of foreign anarchists.
" 'Come in,' says he, so me an' Sampson an' the two prisoners went in, an' he switched on the light of the dinin' room.
"It seemed to me that when they met face to face—the man who had been robbed an' the burglars—there a curious, eager look on Mr. Walker's face, an' a sort triumphant smile on the other's.
"Copper, his pal, was an ordinary type of lag, an' scowled from one to the other of us.
" 'I shall want you to come to the station,' I says, 'an' charge these men.'.
" 'What for?' says Mr. Walker coolly.
" 'Burglary,' I says.
" 'There's some mistake,' he says, easily. 'I discovered late last night that I'd lost the key of my safe. It would take days to get the safe opened, so knowing our friend here'—he waved his hands to Nick—'is by way of being a—er—professional, I sent for him.'
" 'What's his name?' I says quickly.
"But Nick Moss was as quick as lightnin'.
" 'Nick Moss is my name,' he says, pretending the question was addressed to him, an' Walker took the cue.
" 'Moss, of course,' he says, 'everybody knows Nick Moss.'
"Between the two of 'em they were giving each other all the information they desired, an' I was sorely puzzled to know what to do.
"I didn't believe the story, but that was nothing to do with the case. Suppose I arrested the two men. A pretty figure I should cut in court when the man who was supposed to have been burgled stood up in the witness box an' swore that the burglars were friends of his. An' mind you, it's no uncommon thing for a merchant to seek out an ex-burglar to open a safe when the combination word has gone wrong, or the keys have been lost. So I was very reluctantly compelled to take the handcuffs off Nick—it was a fishy business, but it wasn't my business.
"As me an' my mate turned to go, Albert says: 'One moment, Constable Lee,' an' took me aside.
" 'I hope you won't report this matter,' he says, an' he slipped a banknote into my hand.
" 'Thank you,' I says, an' handed it back again. 'I've done nothing that deserves payment; as to reportin' the matter, you may be sure I shall report it. If I didn't my mate would, an' he's no more to be squared than I am.'
"With that I bid him good night an' left him sitting there, in his dressin' gown, talking affably an' friendly to the two lags.
"When we got outside I looks at Sampson, an' he looks at me.
" 'Well,' says he, 'they're a bit peas-in-the-pot.'
" 'Meanin' O.T. hot?' I says. 'What do you make it?'
" 'Blessed if I know,' says Sampson, who's not what I might call a rapid thinker.
"Anyway, I reported the matter to the Station Inspector, an' he sent one of our smart young men down to make inquiries, but he learnt no more than I had.
"Then I had a little private inquiry on my own. I run across Copper an' put a few questions to him. He was close, of course, an' backed up the lie to the best of his ability. All I could get out of him was that, after I'd left, Walker an' Nick went into a private room an' had a bit a talk. He didn't know what they said, for Nick was an oyster in the way of givin' information.
" 'So you called at the house by invitation, eh?' I says.
" 'Yes,' says Copper.
" 'Then,' I says, 'what did you mean by sayin' when I arrested you "This is a laggin' stakes"?'
" 'Did I?' he says uneasily.
" 'You did,' I says. 'Now, Copper, I don't care what yarn you spin: you an' Nick went to that house to crack it, an' nobody was more surprised than you when the owner spoke up for you.'
"He made no reply.
" 'One of these days,' I says, 'you'll be sorry you was in this business,' and with that I left him.
"Soon after I saw Nick Moss. Got up to the nines, he was, with a brand new suit an' a diamond ring, an' his hat on the side of his head. Yaller gloves an' patent boots an' a pearl scarf-pin in his necktie.
" 'What ho, Lee,' he says insolently. 'How's the laggin' business?'
" 'About the same as usual, Nick,' I says; 'lots of crooks inside the bars, but a dashed sight more walkin' out in shiny boots an' dog-poisoner gloves.'
" 'You be careful,' he says, 'or I'll report you to your superiors.'
" 'An' you be careful,' I says, 'or I'll come down on you one of these fine evenin's when I'm off duty an' wipe that smile off your dial.'
"He laughed. 'Any time you are passin' my house come in an' have a glass of beer,' he says patronisingly.
"Just as I was goin' off duty the next night a motor car came dashin' up to Nottin' Hill station, an' out jumped Chief Inspector Toil from the Yard.
"With him was a foreign looking gentleman, an' they went into the Inspector's room, an' all three was talkin' together in a low tone when the constable on duty at the door said Atkins and Grant—two plain clothes men—were bringin' in a prisoner. They carried him in, for he'd collapsed in the last hundred yards, an' as they laid him on the floor of the charge room I recognised him. It was Nick. I thought at first he was dead, but he was only dead drunk.
" 'Search him, Lee.' says the Inspector, an' I put my hands over him. Besides his jewellery he had nearly twenty pounds in gold an' notes an' a print, an' I couldn't read it, but the moment Toil saw it he snatched it from my hand.
" 'A hundred rouble note—and new!' he cried.
" 'M'sieur,' he says to the foreign looking gentleman, 'what is this?'
"He hands it to the foreigner, an' he feels it carefully, then walks with it to the light.
" 'This is a forgery,' he says, 'like the others!'
"And then it came out that hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of forged Russian notes had been put in circulation, an' that they had been traced to this district.
"After they had taken Nick Moss away to the cells a light suddenly dawned on me, an' I went into the Inspector's room an' told him all I knew about Albert Walker.
" 'A printer!' he says thoughtfully, 'that theory fits very well. You may be sure if he is the man he'd do his printing at home. A burglar breaks into his house an' discovers his secret, is bribed to keep silence an'—'
" 'He jumped up. 'We haven't time to lose,' he says.
" 'Give me another man, Inspector, an' the car shall drive us to the house.'
"But we were too late.
"The house had no tenant when we got there except for an old woman who acted as servant. She told us Nick was a frequent visitor, an' had called that evenin' a little the worse for drink.
" 'She heard Nick threatenin' Walker, but afterwards they must have parted good friends, for Walker rung for wine glasses.
"Her master had left a few minutes after Nick an' that's the last she saw of him.
"It was the last anybody else ever saw of him. For though we searched England, we never discovered Mr. Albert Walker. Nick got seven years as an accomplice after an' Copper got three years for nothin'.
"About five years later a Mr. Sangarro, a very wealthy Spanish gentleman, died an' left a quarter of a million to found an educational establishment for poor boys of London. A part of his will directed that great attention should be given to teachin' the Spanish language; 'a language,' says the will—I've got a copy of it cut from the newspapers somewhere—'which is likely to be of considerable value to the hasty traveller.'
"I discovered who 'Mr. Sangarro' was when I got a legacy from his executors in the shape of a little book.
"I recognised it as one I'd once given as a present, although he'd altered the title with an ink mark into 'A Man of Notes'."
"PEOPLE get queer notions about the police," said P.-C. Lee philosophically, "but what people think doesn't matter very much. There's a gentleman who lives in Ladbroke Grove—gentleman in the auctioneerin' line of business—who was once summoned for his rates, an' has been very bitter since about police methods. He was talkin' to me the other night about undiscovered crimes.
" 'There's a murder here,' said he, 'an' a murder there, an' the police go walkin' about with their mouths open catchin' flies whilst ratepayers are shakin' in their beds—what's the remedy for that?' he said.
" 'Sleep on the floor,' I said. 'I put it to you, Mr. Sliggly, that you're a fairly 'cute gentleman?'
" 'I am,' he admitted.
" 'An' you walk about with your eyes open?'
" 'I do,' he said, 'except when I'm walkin' in me sleep.'
" 'Now,' I said, 'how often have you, in the course of your life, seen a man commit a felony—actually seen it, not heard about it or read about it? How often have you seen a man pick a pocket, or smash a jeweller's window, or comin' from the scene of a murder?'
" 'Never,' he said, after a bit.
" 'An' very few have,' said I. 'You talk about undiscovered crime! Why, the wonder is, in a big city like London or Manchester or Southampton, how so much crime is detected, not how so much remains a mystery. Policemen have only got one pair of eyes, like you, an' they can only see just as much as you can see. The difference between the average policeman an' the average citizen is that the constable only believes a quarter of what he is told, an' the average citizen believes everythin'.
"An' so it is," continued P.-C. Lee. "There was a young feller who used to live in this neighbourhood who was always gettin' into trouble with the authorities. An' one day he was taken by a plain clothes man whilst in possession of a number of articles that it didn't seem natural somehow for him to have. Fancy soaps an' toothbrushes, an' things of that description. He was pulled in, as I say, into the local police station an' charged with 'unlawful possession'. To everybody's surprise he proved he'd bought these things at a sale. It came out when the case was before the magistrate, an' the auctioneer was called to prove his statement—it was this same Mr. Sliggly I was tellin' you about. Sure enough he had bought the things an' he was discharged.
"There would have been the end of it only Sliggly started the idea that this young feller—Tom Coop was his name—was the victim of a police persecution, an' persuaded Coop to bring an action for false imprisonment. In addition to this one of the evenin' newspapers got hold of the story an' started agitatin' for a Royal Commission.
"In the thick of it I happened to see Mr. Sliggly. He stopped me one mornin', laughin' an' rubbin' his hands.
" 'Ah, ha!' said he, 'I think we'll give the police a tyin' up this time! What do you think of your friends now?' he asked.
" 'The same as ever,' I said, 'they're few an' far between.'
"He went off that night to address a meetin' in Nottingham, called by the Anti-Police Persecution Association or somethin' of the sort, an' the reception he got gave him a bit of a swelled head, because when I saw him on his way back the next mornin' he only gave me a haughty nod an' was passin' on when I stopped him.
" 'Do you wish to see me, constable?' he said coldly.
" 'About Tom Coop,' said I, but he lifted up his hand.
" 'Nothin' you can say,' said he warningly, 'can alter my opinion. You have hounded this unfortunate man from pillar to post, you have hounded him from society, an' hounded him to—'
" 'What I was goin' to say, sir,' said I, 'is that last night I hounded him into the station, having caught him houndin' hisself out of your kitchen winder with a bagful of silver.'
"It dried up Mr. Sliggly in two twinks, an' next time I saw him was at the Police Fete at the Crystal Palace standin' drinks to our inspector. It's very rum how criminal the general public is—they're always in sympathy with the wrong 'un, an' it's quite usual when I'm takin' an obstreperous rough to the station to hear some mild old gentleman on the edge of the pavement shout 'Let the man alone, you brute!' without his knowin' anythin' of the reasons for the man's arrest.
"I've been reported a dozen times for ill-treating prisoners. Once a feller bit me in the leg as I was takin' him to the station. It took two of us five minutes to make him lose hold, an' then he complained to the magistrate that owin' to our roughness we'd damaged his false teeth!
"A policeman, bein' human an' not bein' a natural born brute, likes to be as gentle as he can, an' it's a prisoner's own fault if he gets a rough house, an' the only genuine police persecution I've ever heard about was when Sam Golder an' Harry Trent—two of our young constables—caught Soapy. Soapy was a famous fit-faker—used to fall down suddenly in a crowded street foamin' at the mouth, an' when a sympathetic crowd brought him round an' had subscribed enough money to send him home in a cab, he used to stagger away to another crowded street an' go through the same performance. We called him Soapy for obvious reasons.
"One night Sam an' young Harry, bein' on plain clothes duty, made it up to follow Soapy. First of all they went to a chemist's an' got a quart bottle of stuff made up. I don't know what the stuff was, but it smelt like bad onions.
"They came upon Soapy at Notting Hill Gate in the midst of one of the most elegant fits he ever had. Everybody offerin' advice such as 'Give the man air' an' 'Bring some brandy', when Harry elbowed his way into the crowd an' said he was a medical man. Him an' Sam forced open Soapy's mouth.
" 'Brandy!' moaned Soapy.
" 'Have some of this, old feller,' says Sam, an' poured about half a pint down Soapy's throat.
"For half a second he didn't get the taste, then he jumped up with a yell an' ran like the wind.
"They follered him till he had another fit, an' the same thing happened all over again.
"The third time, the moment Soapy heard their voices he got up.
" 'It's a fair cop,' he said. 'Don't give me any more of that stuff. I'd sooner do a month.'
"You can't get it out of your head quick enough that the police persecute people without reason. Persecution is better than prosecution any day of the week, an' it's better to nag a man a little than to put him into prison an' his wife into the workhouse.
"There are lots of folk who think the police welcome an opportunity of runnin' a man, but the truth of it is that for every arrest that is made there are a dozen 'chances' given.
"One night when I was on point duty at the corner of Westbourne Grove a man came up to me. I knew him by sight—a slinkin', sly chap, whose name was Hamming, but who was better known as Ginger.
" 'Evenin', Mr. Lee,' he said. 'Do you want a good cop?'
"I looks at him. 'Are you thinkin' of givin' yourself up?' I said.
"He shuffled uncomfortably. 'You must have your joke, Mr. Lee,' he grinned, 'but this is a real thing; it's a bloke with a "brief" who ain't reported.'
" 'What's his name?'
" 'What do I get for givin' information?' he asked cunnin'ly.
" 'A thick ear, if you're ever found out,' I said. 'What's his name?'
"Well, he wouldn't tell me, but kept hagglin' an' bargainin' as to what he'd get, an' though he didn't know it, all the time I was questionin' him I was getting some idea of who the chap was an' whereabouts he lived.
"Of course, it wasn't my duty to go into the matter; I should have sent him straight to the station to see the inspector, but I was curious to know who the poor devil was he was tryin' to send back to Portland, an' by an' by it came out. It was a decent quiet man who'd got five years for falsifyin' accounts, an' who had been released on ticket of leave more than a year before. Men on 'brief' have got to report to the nearest station periodically givin' their changes of address, an' the penalty for not reportin' is that they generally are sent back to prison to complete their sentences.
"Sometimes they don't report because they've got a job an' are afraid that if the story of their imprisonment comes to the ears of their new masters they will he thrown out of employment.
"My duty as an officer was to report what Ginger had told me, but sometimes a policeman uses his discretion, an' after I'd told the informer to see me next night I went along to the Burkley Head, which is on my beat, an' passed the word to Nick Moss, who was inside, that I wanted to see him.
"Nick is what I call a 'straight thief'. He wouldn't sell a man to save his life, an' all the information the police have ever got out of Nick wouldn't have convicted a man of vagrancy.
" 'Go round to that little carpenter feller that lives in Ogshott-street,' said I. 'He's out on a "brief." Tell him on the quiet that if he doesn't want a laggin' he'd better nip round to the station an' report his change of address.'
"Nick nodded an' went.
"From what I've heard, the little carpenter reported, an' got a good talkin' to from the inspector an' there was an end of it so far as he was concerned, for the police knew he was tryin' to go straight an' took no steps to worry him.
"But it wasn't the end with Ginger, who was terribly disappointed at losin' some blood money.
"He blamed me, you can be sure, an' soon after that he started gettin' up a little surprise party for my special benefit. It was winter time, an' a cold, wretched winter was, so when one mornin' about two o'clock Ginger came out of his house—it was on my beat—an' asked me civilly whether I'd like a cup of tea, I didn't think twice about it, bein' perished with cold, but said 'Yes.'
" 'Would you come inside, Mr. Lee?' he said civilly.
" 'I'll have it outside. You're early this morning, Ginger.'
" 'Yes, Mr. Lee,' he said. 'I've got the promise of a job at Covent Garden Market, so I'm doin' the bright-an'-early act. Won't you come in?'
"I was tempted, I'll admit. It was terribly cold, an' the prospect of a cup of tea.... But I said 'No' an' Ginger went inside. By an' by he came back with a steamin' cup an' very good tea it was, as it ought to have been, seein' that it was probably stolen from some warehouse or other.
"I tasted it carefully, to see if he was up to any hanky-panky, but it was all right, an' I finished the cup.
"I had hardly handed it to him when the inspector on duty came round the corner, accompanied by the sergeant.
" 'What's this, Lee?' said the inspector.
" 'Takin' a cup of tea, sir,' I replied.
" 'Me an' the constable have been havin' a quiet talk in front of my fire,' said Ginger. 'Don't be hard on him, sir, he hasn't been in my house more than an hour.'
" 'Is this true?' asked the inspector.
" 'No, sir,' I said. I knew I could prove I'd met the constable on the next beat not ten minutes ago, but I was curious to hear what lie Ginger would tell next.
"If you expect that he told a plausible tale or that it was in any way ingenious, you'll be disappointed. Ginger was a very average type of a low down thief, an' his yarn was as bald as a baby's head.
"The inspector told me afterwards that he'd received an anonymous letter saying that P.-C. Lee was in the habit of going into Ginger's house to loaf in the middle of the night, an' that was why he'd paid his surprise visit.
"This incident wouldn't be of any interest but for the events which followed.
"At four o'clock that mornin' Detective Sergeant Fallow came up to me.
" 'I want you to walk as far as Portobello-road—I'm going to "pull in" Jewey Isaacs,' he told me.
"Jewey Isaacs lives in a street off the road, an' is well known to us as a bad character. When I say 'bad character' I mean a man who has been 'inside' half a dozen times for serious offences, an' the particular crime for which he was wanted at present was an armed burglary down in Essex.
" 'He'll give us some trouble,' said the sergeant. 'This means a lifer for Jewey, so you can expect him to shoot. Have you got your stick?'
"Yes, sergeant,' I said, an' showed him the little private truncheon I always carry. It was given to me by a gentleman I helped once, an' is made of a thick, short length of rhinoceros hide. I've only had to use it half a dozen times in my life, an' I've never struck the same man twice with it.
"We got to Jewey's little house, an' was joined by another constable.
"In a case like this, it would be a fatal mistake to knock at the door, an' a worse to break the door down, so when Sergeant Fallow produced a bunch of skeleton keys an' unlocked it I wasn't very much surprised. He knew exactly where Jewey was sleeping, an' as we made our way up the stairs as noiselessly as possible, he whispered 'First floor front!'
"We'd got to the landing when we heard the thud of Jewey's feet as he jumped out of bed.
" 'Who's there?' he shouted, an' I sprang at the door the room an' burst it open.
"Just outside the house was a street lamp, an' by its light I saw our man standin' in the middle of the room with a revolver in his hand. He fired at me an' missed me, an' the next minute I caught him a welt on the head with my stick, an' he went down like a log. We got the handcuffs on him before we started to revive him, an' the other constable lit the lamp.
"In a dazed fashion Jewey looked round. He recognised me an' smiled.
" 'Hullo, Lee,' he says, 'I wondered if it was you. Who gave me away?'
"I shook my head.
" 'Oh, I daresay,' he sneered as we helped him to his feet, 'you don't know, do you? Innercent perisher! Where was you at two o'clock this mornin', you an' the inspector, gettin' information? I piped you. Tell Mr. Ginger What's-his-name to look out!'
"It wasn't part of my business to defend Ginger—especially as I was feelin' sore with him just about then, but I've often wished that I'd said a word to explain his conduct. Not that Jewey would have believed me.
"In course of time Jewey was brought up at the Old Bailey. He had two counsels, but that was to be expected because Jewey was a big man in his line an' had hundred of pals all over London. But all the lawyers in the world couldn't have got a verdict of 'Not Guilty', for in addition to the Essex case there was a new charge, 'Shooting with intent to murder P.-C. Lee', and that was enough to put him away.
"The end of it was that the jury found him guilty, an' the judge, after talking about the duty he owed to society, said Jewey would be kept in penal servitude for the term of his natural life.
"Jewey took it smilin' and, when he was asked if he had anythin' to say, leant over the dock an' said, 'I advise the bloke who gave me away to say his prayers.'
"That was all he said, an' that was why the judge referred to him as a hardened ruffian.
"Now the rum thing was that Ginger didn't suspect that he was the gentleman Jewey spoke about. Ginger was still plannin' to get me into trouble, an' letters kept comin' to the station about my behaviour; how I used to get drunk whilst I was on duty; how I was hand-in-glove with all the thieves of Notting Dale, an' similar interestin' discoveries.
"Findin' this didn't act, he started spreadin' disagreeable stories about my morals, an' so when I was told off one evenin' by the inspector to go along to Ginger's house an' take him on a charge of 'stealin' from the person' I'd have been more than human if I hadn't been quietly pleased.
"I got to the house an' knocked, an' an old woman lodger who lived in the basement let me in an' showed me the room where Ginger lived. I tried the door an' opened it. All was dark inside, so I struck a match.
"I don't know how long he'd been dead, but whoever had the job must have done it quickly, for nobody in the house heard any noise. Probably it was a poker they used, but it looked to me as though he'd been throttled first an' bludgeoned to death afterwards.
"On the table was a newspaper, an' on the white edge of it was written in pencil: 'For Jewey's lagging.'
"The coroner's jury brought a verdict of 'Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown', an' it was added to the list of mysterious crimes.
"What struck me as being most remarkable was the mistake the murderers had made. For Jewey an' his pals had jumped to the conclusion that Ginger was the traitor because he'd been seen talkin' to me an' the inspector at two o'clock in the mornin'.
"I spoke to Detective Sergeant Fallow about it an' he rather surprised me.
" 'The man who gave Jewey away,' he said, 'did it in such a manner that he could never have been discovered. No writin' passed, an' the whole of the conversation between me an' him was carried on by the telephone—he bein' in South London an' me in the North. The blood money was left under a stone on Wanstead Common an' nobody could possibly have found out who it was.'
" 'Did you know?' I asked, an' he nodded.
" 'That is the curious thing about it,' he said, 'for it was Ginger!'"
P.-C. LEE has never struck me as being a man of unusual prejudices and superstitions, and I must confess I was greatly astonished the other day when, removing my tall hat to take some papers from its interior, I found him contemplating me with a look in which alarm and disapproval were blended.
"That is one of the things I hate to see a man do," he said solemnly. "It makes me perspire."
In proof of which he mopped his brow with a snowy handkerchief and breathed loudly in his agitation.
"Two things I can't bear," he said, "that's one, an' the other is pear drops."
He said this with such an air of gravity that I did not laugh, for what there was in that succulent morsel to disturb him I could not guess.
He was unusually silent for a while, and appeared to be thinking deeply on some subject.
"England," said Police-Constable Lee presently, "is the home of the free, an' the half-way house to liberty. That's how I size the situation. My view is a prejudiced view because I'm a policeman, but I'd like to say this: that we could do with about four penn'orth of freedom less than we've got.
"I used to know a gentleman once, in the writin' line like yourself, who used to have periods of bad luck, an' periods of rollin' in wealth. When he was out of luck, an' people pressed him for money, he took no more notice of 'em than you or me would take notice of a baby food advertisement.
"Used to invite the process servers to stay to breakfast an' tossed 'em for the conduct money. If you wanted money out of him you went through a regular routine.
"First you wrote to him; then you sent him a lawyer's letter; then you served him with a writ; then you got judgment an' served him with a judgment summons, then you got a pay-in-ten-days-or-go-to-prison committal—an' then, when the warrant officer came to arrest him, he paid.
" 'It saves me a lot of worry,' he said to me, 'to know exactly how far I can go—that's the beauty of the English law, it gives you rope.'
"It's a question to me how much rope a chap ought to have. There's a constable of ours by the name of Sankey, a highly religious man that runs a class at the Ragged School when he's off duty on Sunday. A thing like that soon gets round, an' after Sankey had quoted a few texts to some of the gay-life contingent, they started to pay out rope to themselves an' Police Constable Sankey unwound it gladly. I have told you about Police Constable Sankey before—or else I've meant to tell you—an' if I have, you'll know that when he was lashin' out lengths of rope, an' cuttin' off chunks of fine an' large talk about brotherly love, he was, in a manner of talkin', layin' up treasures of various sorts for his persecutors.
"He didn't seem to mind the public house loafers whistlin' hymns when he walked along the street, or little mock meetin's bein' held for his benefit, but he drew a line one night when he met a feller named 'Poker' carryin' a heavy sack on his back at about twelve o'clock.
"Poker was one of the chaps who'd professed to be religious when Sankey was handy, an' he started workin' the 'Onward Christian Soldiers' racket.
" 'Hullo, Poker,' said Police Constable Sankey, 'what have you got there?'
" 'There, Brother Sankey?' said Poker innocently. 'Lord bless you, dear friend, I've only got a few bits of firewood wot I've picked up during the day. Times is very hard, but a Cheerful Countenance, an' a Meek Understandin'—'
" 'Dry up,' said Police Constable Sankey, 'an' let's have a look at that sack.'
" 'I assure you, Brother—' began Poker, very earnest.
" 'Not so much of the brother,' said Police Constable Sankey short and sharp. 'Open the sack!'
" 'Well, to tell you the truth,' said Poker, very frank, 'now that I come to think of it, the goods in this sack ain't firewood at all. I've been doin' a movin' job, takin' a few goods for me brother-in-law—'
" 'Turn 'em out,' said Sankey.
" 'Don't you trust me, Brother Sankey?' he said.
" 'No, I don't,' said Brother Sankey.
" 'Is that Christian?' said Poker, reproachful.
" 'The essence of Christianity,' said Sankey cheerfully, 'is common sense. Open that sack!'
"When it was opened there was everythin' in the sack except firewood. Little silver cruets, an' drawing room clocks, silver ink-stands, an' a few spoons.
"Police Constable Sankey looked at 'em in silence.
" 'Your brother-in-law's?' he said,
" 'Yes, sir,' said Poker.
" 'All right,' said Sankey, 'I'll take you down to the station first on a charge of 'unlawful possession', an' then I'll go along an' pinch your relation.'
" 'Do you think I'm a thief?' said Poker, very indignant.
" 'I'm sure,' said Police Constable Sankey. 'I don't think anythin' at all about it.'
"On the way to the police station Poker was very bitter.
" 'After the time I've wasted,' he said, 'goin' to your meetin's when I might have been earnin' an honest livin'. I'm surprised at you, Mr. Sankey. What about turnin' the cheek to the smiter?'
" 'The less of your cheek I have,' said Police-Constable Sankey, 'the better I shall like it.'
"Poker's conviction got Sankey more respect than the good works he'd ever done, because it showed that you haven't got to be soft to be good, an' a chap can be a holy man without being an oily man. Moreover, it was a strikin' lesson of what a little rope will do, because the more Poker got to know Sankey the more liberties he took, an' the end of it was that he had the nerve to try to carry stolen property away under a policeman's nose.
"Of course, after that misguided people said that Sankey wasn't a true Christian, an' that he was a hypocrite an a wolf in sheep's clothing, but somehow Sankey bore his afflictions very well.
"Sankey was one of the few men I know who's had to do with anarchists. Not the ones you read about who spout on Tower Hill an' call on the police to protect 'em as soon as someone chucks a '92 egg at 'em, but they're gentlemen who come out of Russia because it's too cold to sleep there an' don't go back because it's too hot to live.
"The thing I'm telling you about occurred when I was in the 'L' Division, on one of the tastiest beats you can possibly imagine. It lay through some of the back streets in the vicinity of Lambeth Walk, an' in those days Lambeth could have given Notting Dale a stone an' a distance in the Sin Stakes. Sankey was on the next beat, an' we were supposed to meet every hour outside a pub called the 'Rising Moon'.
"It was about three in the mornin' when I turned up at the 'Rising Moon' as usual, but there was no Sankey—not a sign of him. I waited for about ten minutes, an' asked one of the night birds who came along if he'd seen a constable or heard any row. I wasn't very uneasy because in all probability Sankey was engaged in runnin' somebody in, so after givin' him five more minutes I walked back as far as the corner of Waterloo-road. That was a 'point' for me, an' at half past three I was to meet either the sergeant or the inspector, to report.
"They were late, too—they came together—an' the first question the inspector put to me was 'Have you seen Sankey?'
"Now, much as he would like to, a policeman cannot screen a comrade, if it is a case of screenin', because whilst by tryin' to you may save him from a reprimand, the same time you might be endangerin' his life; so I said at once that I hadn't seen Sankey since the two 'clock 'point'.
" 'With that the inspector ordered me to accompany him to Sankey's beat, an' we followed the streets he ought to pass through without findin' him until, passing under a railway arch off a little back street, I saw a man lyin' on the ground, an' puttin' my lantern over him I saw it was Sankey, his face covered with blood, an' unconscious.
" 'We carried him to a doctor's, an' rung the doctor up, an' managed to get him round. At first he couldn't tell us how he got the nasty wound in his head, but when we got him a little more collected, he told us what had happened.
"He was walkin' through Little Fisher-street—where the railway arch is—not thinkin' of anythin' particular, when a foreign-lookin' chap came towards him from the opposite direction. Sankey gave him 'Good mornin', an' passed on a few yards when he heard the man stop an' turn. Sankey did the same, an' the man came up to him.
" 'Oxscuse me,' said the feller, speakin' in very broken English, 'to which roat does this way go?'
" 'Lambeth Walk,' said Sankey.
"The foreigner stood for a bit, not sayin' a word, an' then Police Constable Sankey heard footsteps behind him. He turned his head an' saw a man comin' from the same direction as the foreigner had, an' he carried a big bag in his hand. That was all Sankey remembered, for the next minute the first foreigner whipped out a life-preserver an' struck the constable.
"We took Sankey to the station an' sent him home, an' another man was put on his beat.
"The whole affair was a mystery to me, but long before mornin' came we had two of the smartest men down from the Yard an' they gave out a theory which proved to be correct. The second man, they said, was in league with the first, an' was carryin' somethin' that they didn't want Sankey to see. What that somethin' was, we guessed, for at three o'clock that afternoon a bomb was exploded the vicinity of the Home Office. What confirmed our suspicions was the fact that a man answerin' to the description supplied by Police Constable Sankey had been seen in the neighbourhood before the machine blew up.
"You may be sure that after that Lambeth was searched as thoroughly as any place can be searched, but without result. Every chap whose name ended in 'itch' or 'ski' was pulled in for identification, but Sankey shook his head to every one.
"Scotland Yard thought they had the man once. They took a known anarchist from Soho, and brought him down to our station for Sankey to see, an' for a moment it seemed to me that Sankey hesitated before replyin'.
" 'No,' he said, after a bit. 'I can't swear that is the man.'
"Mr. Shorter, the C.I.D. man, was rather annoyed. "'I thought we'd got him,' he said. 'He's been seen in the vicinity of Lambeth, an' is a well known revolutionary. It's my belief that Sankey has got a theory of his own, an' is tryin' to work it out.'
"He rather hinted that it was like Sankey's cheek. The idea of a uniformed policeman havin' intelligence an' ingenuity naturally never occurred to a Scotland Yard man.
"Sankey talked to me about the matter after Mr. Shorter left.
" 'It isn't a question of findin' the chap who gave me a clout on the head,' he said. 'It's the bomb factory we want to find. Mr. Shorter says there's no doubt that somewhere in this division there's a little Woolwich Arsenal.'
"He paused for a minute, then took an old handkerchief out of his pocket. It was stained an' gummy.
" 'When I came to myself the other night,' he said, 'after the doctor had dressed me, I found that although my face had been washed nobody had thought of washin' my hands. They were a bit sticky, so I took my handkerchief and wiped 'em—smell that.'
"I smelt the handkerchief; there was a strong, sickly scent that was perfectly familiar to me, but which somehow or other I couldn't place.
" 'I must have caught hold of the chap when I fell,' said Police Constable Sankey, carefully folding up the handkerchief, 'an' I'm waiting now until I find another feller whose clothes smell like that—then I'll give him somethin' to nurse!'
"A week later I took over Sankey's beat, he still bein' on the sick list, an' much of my time was taken up by carryin' out instructions from headquarters. These, in a way, confirmed Sankey's words, for I was told to keep an eye on the little factories, an' report anything strange that came to my notice. At that time Lambeth was filled with little factories; it was the home of the struggling manufacturer. There were little saw mills and rubber works an' chemical works, an' sweetstuff works, every one of 'em struggling for existence.
"The rum thing was that all these factories were run by foreigners, except the sweetstuff works, which was owned by a man named Grahame, an' was in such a bad way that it only employed a couple of hands.
"I was strollin' along the road in which most of these factories are situated, wonderin' in my mind whether Gregowski, at the rubber factory, or Tilloni, at the chemical works, was the gentleman I was after, when I heard a smashin' of glass an' turned round.
"There were a number of empty houses in the road, an' it's usual for the young gentry and nobility of the neighbourhood, when they find time hangin' on their hands, to chuck a brick through a window.
"I don't know why they did it, unless it was by way of showin' their contempt for empty houses, but I sprinted after the boy that threw the stone an' caught him at the corner of the street.
"I gave him a cuff, an' asked him what he meant by it, an' he started snivelling.
"I was proceeding to get my notebook out of my pocket when somethin' about that boy made me stand stock still an' stare.
"It was the peculiar scent that Sankey had talked about!
"Yes, there it was as plain an' as distinct as though the kid had emptied a bottle of it over him; he positively reeked with it.
" 'Boy,' said I, very sternly, 'where did you get that scent?'
" 'What scent, sir?' he asked innocently.
"That horrible scent you've got on you,' I said, but he shook his head.
" 'I don't know what you mean, sir,' he whimpered.
"All this time I was tryin' to think what the scent was; it was one of those scents I've known for years. It wasn't a perfume. I recognised that, but it was the smell of some familiar article, an' it made my mouth water.
"Then it half dawned on me.
" 'What have you been eatin'?' I asked.
"His reply staggered me.
" 'Pear drops, sir,' he said.
" 'Where did you get 'em?' I asked.
" 'Please, sir,' said the boy, 'the gentleman at the sweet works gave 'em to me.'
" 'What for?'
" 'For takin' a parcel to a gentleman.'
"It was a toss up whether I'd got the right end of the stick, but I chanced it.
" 'Was it a heavy parcel?'
" 'Yes, sir; he told me to take a cab from Waterloo station, an' told me I mustn't drop the parcel or knock it because it was chocolates; an' he gave me a shillin' for myself an' a packet of sweets.'
" 'Where did you take it to?'
" 'To a place called Greek-street, an' when I got there the gentleman who'd sent me was waitin' there for me. He said he'd forgotten somethin' an' wanted to put it in the parcel.'
"I saw the whole game. They'd funked carryin' the bomb an' had given it to the kid to take, followin' him at a safe distance in another cab.
"I rushed the boy down to the station as fast as I could, an' within twenty minutes we had surrounded the sweet factory; but when we got inside 'Mr. Grahame' was not present—the place was empty.
"We found all the machinery for makin' sweetstuffs, but, more important, we found the steel cylinders, the little sticks of dynamite, the tubes of fulminate of mercury, an' the pans of nitro-glycerine we came in search of.
"We did little damage in makin' our way in, an' we attracted no attention in raidin' the place, because wanted to surprise 'Mr. Grahame' when he came back.
" 'You must be careful,' said the inspector, 'to search him as soon as you get him. He may have arms, and it's very likely he's got some explosives concealed about his person.'
"Sankey an' me was left in charge, an' Sankey spent the greater part of the night tryin' to induce me to give a day's pay for the Salvation Army self-denial week, an' if I hadn't kept awake he'd have had it too!
"Soon after daylight we heard a key grate in the lock an' we stood by.
"The door opened an' in came a man, a tall, foreign looking chap in a top hat.
"Sankey waited till he recognised him, then:
" 'Returned with thanks,' he said, an' struck at his head with his truncheon....
"I don't know exactly what happened, but when I recovered consciousness I was lyin' in one bed at Guy's Hospital an' Sankey was in the next.
"We weren't out of hospital in time to attend the inquest of Mr. Grahamestein, but we made a statement that was satisfactory to the Chief Commissioner.
"The first time I got the chance of speakin' to Sankey—it was on the day we were wheeled out into the hospital garden in our bath chairs—I asked him what he thought about the matter.
" 'I'm sorry for the chap in one way,' he said, 'but a man who carries explosives in his hat deserves all he gets.'"
"LADIES," said P.-C. Lee thoughtfully, "I know very little about, bein' a bachelor, an' havin' no female relatives worth speakin' of, an' not havin' many opportunities for seein' an' talkin' in that respect. My education has been to some extent neglected in that respect. I see 'em in a professional way, an' that's all. There isn't a mornin' but what some woman doesn't call at my house and ask to see me.
"This mornin' it was Mrs. Flynn with a black eye.
" 'I want to know, Mr. Lee,' says she, 'how long I've got to put up with that brute of mine?'
" 'Meanin' your lawful husband?' says I.
" 'Meanin' the man I work for,' she says, 'who takes the money I work hard for, an' blacks my eye. Can't I do anythin'?'
" 'You can summons him,' I said, an' she sort of sneered.
" 'Summons him!' says she. 'A fat lot of good that will do! Do you think I want to show myself up to the neighbours?'
"I looked at her eye.
" 'I should say they know all about it,' says I, 'without any assistance from a summons.'
"But apparently she'd spun the usual cuffer about havin' fallen up against the bedstead an' she was under the impression, like all the people of her class are, that she was believed.
"But Flynn being a notorious woman beater, I thought it as well to caution him, so when I ran against him next time I gave him a bit of my mind.
"A big thick-set brute is Flynn, who has never been known to do a day's work in his life. He is the sort of man who has a fresh wife every two or three months, an' it's one of the standin' wonders of my life how he gets them. As you probably know, criminals are very conservative, an' men who are engaged in one kind of crooked mess very seldom go outside their own line.
"A man who spends his life stealin' the tills of small tradesmen doesn't pick pockets, an' the burglar never goes in for coinin'.
"Flynn's line of business was robbery from the person, an' the person was usually a woman. He was the lowest down criminal I've ever met; whether it was a blind beggar, or some poor creature of the streets hoardin' her few pennies, nobody was safe from him. His last conviction was for stealin' 2s. 9d. from an old lady who kept an apple stall in Portobello-road. So I had plenty of knowledge to go upon when I tackled Flynn. He was standin' outside the Elgin Arms when I came upon him. I beckoned him aside.
" 'Flynn,' says I, 'there's been a complaint laid against you for assault.'
" 'Oh,' says Flynn carelessly, 'who by—my wife?'
" 'I can't exactly say what relation the lady is to you,' I said, 'but that is nothin' to do with it. I've got to warn you to be careful.'
" 'Look here, Mr. Lee,' says Flynn insolently, 'I'm not in the habit of allowin' slops—'
" 'I beg your pardon?' I says politely.
" 'Coppers,' says Flynn.
" 'I didn't quite catch that,' says I.
" 'Constables,' says Flynn sullenly.
" 'That's better,' I says. 'I don't like you talkin' like that, Flynn—it's against the law, too.'
" 'Oh,' says Flynn, 'I didn't know there was anything against callin' a copper a slop.'
" 'There is!' says I. 'It's called "calculated to bring about a breach of the peace", which means incitin' a policeman to smack your head.'
"After I'd given him a few words of homely wisdom an' had told him what I would do to him if I ever had to take him to the station, an' had generally talked like Uncle George, I left him.
"I believe he went to the station an' reported me to Sergeant Lindon, and that he stopped P.-C. Sankey an' told him too. Sankey threw three texts at him in rapid succession, an' followed it up by knockin' his hat over his eyes—this was in Kensington Park Gardens when nobody was about—an' Flynn went home an' took revenge upon his wife.
"I heard about this one mornin' when we paraded. It was one of the most interestin' days of my life for more reasons than one. It was the day I lost my moustache, an' it was the day I got the tip about old Miss Pilking."
Here P.-C. Lee paused with an exaggeration of solemnity and ran his hands across his smoothly shaven face. Then he went on slowly:
"Old Mrs. Pilking—did I say Miss?—was a very rich old lady with eccentric habits. Used to walk about all over Kensington, very disreputably dressed, but always had ten to twenty pounds sewn up in her skirt. I was talkin' very affably to Tim Creeter—a great pal of Flynn's—about it. 'Do you know who old Mrs. Pilking is?' I asked.
" 'No, Mr. Lee,' says Tim, 'Does she live in our district?'
" 'That,' I says, 'I've never been able to find out. She oughtn't to be allowed to walk about with so much money.'
"At this Tim pricks up his ears.
" 'No, she oughtn't,' he says. 'What is she like, Mr. Lee?'
" 'A very stout old party,' I says, 'always carries an old sack on her back like a rag-picker. I thought you would have known her, you bein' such a favourite with all these queer people.'
"Tim grinned an' looked uncomfortable, as well he might, for he'd only been out of Wormwood Scrubs a week 'for being in suspected persons' company'.
"But Tim was interested in old Mrs. Pilking; wanted to know where she could be found, who went with her, what her usual beat was, an' I had more than a suspicion that he was collectin' information for Mr. Flynn—but there are times when it's a very good lay to help a man like Flynn.
"I heard no more from Mr. Tim direct, but one of our 'unofficials' reported that both Flynn and Tim had been most industriously searchin' for old Mrs. Pilking all through Kensington. I was on duty one mornin' about ten when I saw Flynn comin' along Kensington Park-road. He crossed to me, an' was marvellously polite—for Flynn. Bid me good mornin' and 'sir'd me, an' generally was amiable an' friendly.
" 'I beg your pardon, Mr. Lee,' he says suddenly, 'but can you tell me if you have seen an old aunt of mine about?'
" 'What is she like?' I asked.
" 'A very stout old party, carries a sack over her back an' generally looks like a rag-picker.'
"I thought for a bit.
" 'There was such an old lady—name of Pilking——'
" 'That's her!' says Flynn, very eagerly.
" 'She came past here about an hour ago.'
" 'Which way did she go'?' asked Flynn, an' I pointed out the road to Notting Hill Gate.
"Away flew Flynn, an' in about two hours I saw him again.
" 'Did you find her?' I asked.
" 'No, sir,' says Flynn, and the 'sir' nearly choked him.
" 'That's queer,' says I. 'She's usually round here twice a day—once in the mornin' and once in the evenin'.'
" 'What time at night?' asked Flynn carelessly, so I told him.
"I don't think he was as grateful for the information as he ought to have been, because from what I've heard he went back to Notting Dale an' said that now I'd lost my moustache I looked like a bladder of lard."
Again P.-C. Lee stopped, and I thought there was something very sly in the glance he shot at me.
"To cut a long story short, that night Flynn car across old Mrs. Pilking as she was slinkin' through some mewses at the back of the gardens. A wretched old woman, nearly bent double, but carryin' her money loose for Flynn could actually hear it chinkin' in her pocket
"Now I have told you about Flynn that his speciality was 'woman robbery', an' I've only known him to depart from that line once. That was when he tripped up a little boy that was goin' for his mother's beer an' pinched the money. So you might say that in tacklin' old Mrs. Pilking Flynn brought an expert knowledge to bear on the subject.
"She was ahead of him when he saw her; an' he moved rapidly to overtake her. She was standin' under a lamp countin' some money in her shakin' hand, an' Flynn's heart jumped, for he saw the flash of gold. In two strides he was on her, an' she turned to him, shakin' an' tremblin'.
" 'Now then!' said Flynn, very gruffly, 'what are you doin' with all that money?'
" 'If you please, sir—' she began in a quavering voice.
" 'Don't give us so much of it,' warned Flynn. 'Hand over the brass.'
" 'You wouldn't rob an old woman,' said old Mrs. Pilking.
" 'Wouldn't I?' says Flynn. 'That shows what a fat lot you know. Hand over!'
"With that Flynn made to catch hold of her an' then a curious thing happened, for she struck out in a wild way an' caught Flynn under the jaw, an' down he went.
" 'Oh dear, oh dear!' says the poor old lady, 'I do hope I haven't hurt you, sir.'
" 'Hurt me!' growls Flynn, pickin' himself up. 'I'll kill you for that.'
" 'Help!' screams the old lady, weakly startin' to run, an' along comes Flynn after her. In the darkest part of the mews she turns again.
" 'Don't hurt me,' she begs.
" 'I'll break every bone in your body,' roars Flynn, and came at her.
"It must have been the most remarkable accident in the world, for just as Flynn reached her she threw out her hands to ward off his blow an' caught him another terrible whack—an' down he went again. He got up this time a bit dazed.
" 'Please, sir, have I hurt you?' she says anxiously, but Flynn wasn't in a mood for conversation. He contented himself with cursin' her an' sayin' what he would do to her an' the old lady, after holdin' her hands to her ears as if to shut out Mr. Flynn's horrid conversation, started amblin' away as fast as she could.
"Flynn didn't follow her. He'd been hurt. This was the first time he'd ever handled a woman as awkward as old Mrs. Pilking. Other ladies he had hit hadn't put up their hands to protect themselves, an' old Mrs. Pilking's carelessness had nearly dislocated his jaw.
"Although he was frightened that she might get nervous an' avoid that locality in the future, he took the risk of waitin' for her another night. They brought me the news but I took no notice. Curiously enough, I was quite confident that old Mrs. Pilking could look after herself. Not even when I got the tip that Flynn was gatherin' two of his brightest pals to assist in the ceremony. I'm a great believer in lettin' certain kinds of trouble work themselves out their own way.
"I knew that they were watchin' for the old lady an' that Jack 'Snippy' was in it, an''Pig' Rawsons. I mentioned the matter in a confidential way to P.-C. Sankey, an' he was a bit alarmed.
" 'They'll kill the poor old woman,' he said, but I told him all that I knew about her, an' that quietened him down.
"That night it rained, an' was the very kind of evening for such a job as Flynn set out upon. Him an' his pals spotted the old lady in Ladbroke Grove an' followed her. She went under the railway arch, turned round in the direction of the Scrubs, an' they followed. They themselves didn't dare to hope that she'd go on to the Scrubs but to their delight she did, goin' up by the pathway an' striking across to the loneliest part. Just before she left the main road she was joined by another old lady.
" 'There's two of 'em,' says Flynn to his pals. 'I'll bet they've both got money—we're in luck, Pig!'
"Even Flynn could see what a mad thing the old woman was doing crossing that patch of deserted land—an' Wormwood Scrubs are deserted on such a night as this. The men let them get well away out of earshot of anybody who happened to be on the road.
" 'We'll get 'em before they reach the jug,' says Flynn, for he knew that outside the prison wall is a constable on point duty. At a word from Flynn the three broke into a run, an' the two old women turned an' huddled together.
" 'Ah!' says Flynn, very jubilant. 'Here we are! Now then, turn over that money.'
" 'Have mercy on two poor old women,' whined Mrs. Pilking.
" 'I'll mercy you.' says Flynn between his teeth. 'At 'em, boys!'
"The three jumped forward together. Pig Rawsons went down with a punch on the jaw, an' Snippy went over all of a heap, an 'then Mrs. Pilking reached out an' aught Flynn by the throat. 'Don't hurt me,' she says, shakin' him like a rat. 'Don't harm a poor old woman, you wife-beatin' thief!'
" 'Let go,' gasped Flynn.
" 'Don't injure an unprotected female,' says old Mrs. Pilking, throwin' him down an' bangin' his head on the muddy ground, 'who's over eighty,' she says, smackin' his head till his teeth rattled.
" 'For the Lord's sake, missus, let me get up,' begged Flynn.
" 'Let you get up,' says Mrs. Pilking, 'an' me in terror of my life. Not me,' she says, kneeling on his chest, 'I'm afraid to.'
"Just then Snippy came back to life with a groan, an' the other old lady kicked him to his feet.
" 'Get out of this!' she says, an' Snippy got up.
"Then Pig got up, a bit shaky, an' was turned loose with a belt on his head that didn't do him any good at all.
"Suddenly Flynn looked up at Mrs. Pilking with a gasp. Her grey wig had got a bit crooked, an' in the faint light, such as it was, he could see her face.
" 'Let me get up,' he says sulkily. 'It's a fair cop, P.-C. Lee—I ought to have known you didn't shave off your dashed beard for nothin'. Who's the other blighter—Sankey?'
" 'That's me,' says P.-C. Sankey, taking off his skirt."
"THE police force," said P.-C. Lee, "is just as good and just as bad as the men make it. There's a popular idea that the police hang together, that they're a united family all engaged in tryin' to do one another a good turn, but whilst I'm willin' to admit the best friends policemen have are policemen, I must confess that the worst enemies they have are policemen too.
"It isn't the dangerous criminal that a policeman's afraid of; it isn't the armed burglar, or the rough with the iron bar in his trousers pocket. What sweats him an' troubles him, an' generally worries him to death, is some pig-minded sergeant anxious to bring himself to his superiors' notice, an' who doesn't mind goin' out of his way to do some low down thing so long as he can get a little credit for doin' it.
"This doesn't apply to the reg'lar run of sergeants an' superiors generally, but there are quite enough to be unpleasant, an' I doubt whether there's a single station throughout the Metropolis that isn't cursed by at least one officer whose one ambition in life is to make police work hell for the policemen.
"There was a sergeant in a certain division called Sergeant Runimill. It's a curious name for a London policeman to have, an' what's the most curious thing about it is the fact that he's English.
"We used to call him Sergeant Run-a-mile; an' that fitted him, for whilst he'd run a mile to get you into trouble, he'd run a mile to get out of the way of trouble himself.
"When I was put under him the other fellers warned me about him. He'd once got his name an' picture in the papers as 'an active an' intelligent officer', an' he'd never quite recovered from it. His hobby was to take the part of the public against the police.
"There's always a sort of 'police scandal' on—from the public point of view. Usually it takes the form of a 'persecution'.
"A constable arrests a ladylike woman for bein' too friendly disposed to the world at large, an' along comes her husband with her marriage lines in a gold frame to prove that she's a lady born an' bred, an' then there's a Royal Commission during the confusion of which the lady makes her escape.
"You could always bet your coat to your whistle, in a case like that, Run-a-mile would be the first to say that the constable had exceeded his duty.
"He was just achin' for pop'lar approval.
"Now there was a mate of mine named Gold—commonly called 'Ginger' Gold—a man of sixteen years' service, stout, slow an' not noticeably clever.
"But Ginger had one great line, an' that was children.
"You've seen a miserable couple trudgin' through the streets on a cold day. Blue-nosed father, shiverin' with cold, carryin' a pale baby, an' a couple of boxes of matches in his grimy hand; a wretched lookin' woman carryin' another baby, lookin' mighty sick; an' two dirty, unhappy little kids trudgin' along holdin' her skirt. They don't beg, they don't say a word to the passers-by; they just walk on through the fashionable part of the town lookin' extremely poor.
"These were the people Ginger used to specialise in.
"There isn't a kinder hearted man in the force than him, an' where children are concerned he's soft to the point of bein' foolish.
"Ginger was on point duty at Nottin' Hill Gate when along came a bunch of misery. Blue-nosed father, who hadn't shaved for a week, dressed like an agricultural labourer; sad an' sick-lookin' mother; two dirty little babies an' a tiny girl in rags runnin' alongside.
"They were walkin' on, takin' no notice of anybody, when Ginger stopped 'em.
" 'Hullo,' he said, 'on the road?'
" 'Yessir,' said the man.
" 'Where have you come from?'
"The man hesitated. 'Windsor,' he said.
" 'These your children, ma'am?'
" 'Yes, sir,' she whines.
" 'How old are they?'
"He pointed to the babies, an' she didn't reply for a bit.
" 'One's a year an' the other's eighteen months,' says she.
" 'Ho?' says Ginger, 'what happened, a miracle?'
"The woman looked here an' there.
" 'How old is the little girl?' says Ginger.
" 'All your children?'
"The woman hesitated again. 'In a manner of speakin'.' she says.
" 'That's good enough for me,' says Ginger. 'You can come along with me to the station.'
" 'What for'?' says the man. 'We ain't beggin'.'
" 'Exposin' children,' says Ginger, an' he runs 'em in.
"Of course, it comes out when he gets 'em before the magistrate that the children aren't theirs. They've been borrered for the day at threepence a head from a lady who does quite a big business in that line.
"The magistrate sent the pair down for a month, there bein' certain previous convictions, an' Ginger was complimented. Worse than that, some of the newspapers published his picture with the title 'A Friend of Children' an' I suppose Run-a-mile got a bit stung over the notoriety Ginger was gettin', for he immediately began to take steps to take down a small packet of trouble from his private shelf an' hand out small doses to Ginger.
"There are hundreds of ways a sergeant can worry a policeman, an' Run-a-mile worked off ninety eight of 'em on my poor mate, till he began to seriously consider whether he should retire honourably an' quietly or go out in a blaze of glory, with the sergeant with a nice bandaged head givin' evidence against him before the Commissioner.
"As it turned out there was no necessity to do either.
"Run-a-mile had a young lady, one of the nicest little girls in the district. Pretty, demure, quietly dressed, a lady every inch, an' much too good for the sergeant—this was the verdict of our section.
"The sergeant might easily have become popular over that young lady if he'd given himself a chance, for she was always very nice an' polite to us. She hadn't been in the neighbourhood very long when Run-a-mile made her acquaintance.
"She lived in a little flat near Elgin Crescent, an' gave music lessons, an' had a bit of money of her own.
"From what we heard, she introduced the sergeant to her brother—a very gentlemanly man who lived in the south of London, an' this feller had a very high opinion of Run-a-mile, so high that he used to invite him to dinner an' talk to him by the hour.
"But these little outings were nipped in the bud when Colonel Bassy's home in Colville Gardens was burgled, an' that was followed up by the ransackin' of Corbells, the jewellers, an' the burglary at 905 Kensington Park Gardens.
"A regular epidemic of burglary set in, an' strangely enough it always happened on Ginger's beat, an' in the hours of the night when Ginger was on duty.
"They shifted him from beat to beat, but the burglar followed him, until Run-a-mile hinted pretty broadly that the burglar must be a pal of Ginger's if it wasn't Ginger himself.
"There was a private departmental inquiry after the third case, an' poor old Ginger was so upset that it was a toss-up whether he chucked the force or chucked himself in the canal.
" 'It's somebody who knows all about me,' he said bitterly, 'somebody who knows exactly where I'll be every minute I'm on duty, an' uses his information to get away without comin' into contact with me or Jilks.' That was the constable who was on the adjoinin' beat at the time of the last burglary.
"Ginger's view was the view taken by Detective Inspector Jade, who came down from the Yard. He was one of those sensible, quiet men who'd risen to the top of the tree without gettin' a swollen head, an' when Sergeant Run-a-Mile started workin' off his theories about poor Ginger, he pooh-poohed 'em.
" 'Don't talk nonsense, sergeant.' he said, 'an' don't be so ready to think ill of your comrades. By the way, where were you on the night of the burglary?'
" 'In my office, sir,' says Run-a-mile, huffily. 'You don't think that I—'
" 'Where were you on the night of the previous burglary?'
" 'In my office, sir.' The sergeant got red an' angry.
" 'An' the burglary before that?'
" 'In my office too,' says Run-a-mile. 'You don't suspect me, sir?' he says, horrified.
"The Inspector smiled. 'I would just as soon suspect you as I would the constable,' he says.
"Now there were certain features about these crimes that struck me at the time as bein' curious, an' I think they struck the Detective Inspector the same way.
"In the first place they'd all happened within a radius of half a mile; secondly, the burglar wasn't seen by any constable, an' nobody who looked as though he might have been the burglar had been seen. This pointed to the fact that he lived close handy, an' could get home without bein' seen. Thirdly, none of our own lads had anythin' to do with it.
"I spoke to Nick Moss, an' I was sure of this. If it had been one of Nick's friends he wouldn't have given him away, of course, but he would have told me so with a stolid face that would have betrayed his knowledge. But Nick was most earnest.
" 'It's none of our chaps, Mr. Lee,' he said. 'It's too high-class for any of the fellers that live in this part of London. It's swell-mob work. Why, they pinched a valuable picture at Colonel Bassy's; no chap of ours would' do that.'
"He told me somethin' that interested me.
" 'There's an old lag livin' near me who says that it's Cannett's work—him that got a laggin' for the Streatham job. But Cannett's in America by all accounts, so it can't be him.'
"The next time I met the Inspector I repeated this.
" 'That's queer,' he said thoughtfully, 'it struck me, too, that it looked like Cannett. Do you remember the case, constable?'
" 'No, sir,' says I.
" 'Cannett used to do the same sort of thing. Receive mysterious information regardin' police movements. Had a sort of timetable made of all the beats, an' knew to a second how long he could afford to take over any job. It came out afterwards that his wife, a very pretty girl, had bamboozled a young constable into tellin' her these things—pretended she was single, an' got him to fall in love with her.'
" 'Good Lord, sir!' said I suddenly, 'I wonder if it's Run-a-mile's girl?'
"I must say that I didn't really suspect her, but the coincidence was strange, an' the Inspector listened, an' after I'd finished he sent for the sergeant.
"From all the knowledge of life I've ever got from books I should have suspected Run-a-mile to have been indignant, to have defended his girl against all corners, to have told the Inspector to go to blazes, an' generally to have cut up rough.
"But that wasn't his way.
"His first consideration was to be thought well of by the Yard. He wanted promotion, an' it didn't matter a dab to him who suffered so long as he got on. An' like the dog he was, his first thoughts were about himself an' his chance of makin' the rank of Inspector. He admitted he had told the girl a lot about police work, though he couldn't remember havin' given her any tips about the time of the beats. He gave a description of her brother, an' generally laid himself out to trap her.
"If there was any excuse for him it lay in the fact that he'd been fooled an' wanted to get back on her.
"The brother was comin' to the sister's flat that night, an' Run-a-mile arranged that it should be a case of walk-into-my-parlour.
" 'I hope, sir,' said Run-a-mile eagerly, 'that you'll make plain to the Commissioner that I've been an innocent dupe, an' that my first thoughts are for the public service—'
" 'An' Sergeant Runimill,' says the Inspector dryly.
"That night the sergeant, in plain clothes, went to the flat. A few minutes later a gentleman drove up in a car an' entered an' went upstairs, an' then a strong force of police closed round the house. Run-a-mile we upstairs an' the little maid of all work admitted him.
"He was burstin' with importance, was Run-a-mile; he was out to play a part, an' he played it, bein' quite affectionate to the young lady an' cordial to her 'brother' when he came in.
"Then he started to get official.
" 'By the way, Janet,' he says carelessly, 'do you remember me tellin' you about that thick-headed of constable ours—Ginger?'
" 'Yes,' she says.
" 'Tellin' you about his beat?'
" 'Yes—I remember askin' what the poor men do for shelter on those cold nights,' says she, innocently.
" 'You asked me that at tea one afternoon?' he says impressively.
" 'I did,' says she, 'I remember it; Mary Ann was handin' round the bread an' butter, an'—'
" 'Never mind about Mary Ann,' says Run-a-mile in tone that made the girl an' her brother open their eyes. 'You've told me that when I married your sister, you'd set me up with five hundred pounds?'
" 'I did,' says the brother.
" 'Well,' says Run-a-mile sarcastically, 'I'm afraid you'll have to put off that weddin', Cannett, because I'm going to take you into custody on a charge of burglary, an' as to you, miss,' he says politely to the white-faced girl, 'I shall take you as an accessory.'
"With that he blew his whistle an' we came in an' took 'em.
"I never saw people more surprised in my life. The girl was in a state of collapse, but we got them both to the station an' put them in the steel dock.
"As we did so in came the Inspector—Jade.
" 'Hullo,' he says in astonishment, 'this isn't Cannett!'
" 'What!' says the sergeant.
" 'An' it isn't the burglar,' says the Inspector, an' just then two of our men brought a strange man into the station. 'Here he is,' says the Inspector cheerfully, 'caught in the act.'
"The girl in the dock leaned forward. 'Why, it's Mary Ann's sweetheart!' she says.
"The Inspector nodded. 'Yes, miss—it's your servant's sweetheart,' he said, 'who got all the information from Mary Ann; an' she got it from you, sergeant,' he says to Run-a-mile, who stood with his mouth wide open.
" 'Me?' he gasped.
" 'Yes,' says the Inspector. 'If you go courtin' again, do not speak so openly before your fiancé's servants.'
"But Sergeant Run-a-mile didn't go courtin' again—at any rate, not with the pretty little music teacher."
I WAS wondering in my mind whether P.-C. Lee would say as policemen are popularly supposed to say, "I arrest you in the name of the law" or whether he would get very angry (as I should have done) and bang the annoying Mr. Jarvis on the head.
Police methods have always interested me, so I waited, and listened to the dialogue that ensued.
Mr. Jarvis (defiantly): 'I've et better men than you, Lee.'
P.-C. Lee (suavely); 'I dessay—but you'd better go home now an' eat something that'll agree with you.
Mr. Jarvis (more defiantly): 'I shall go home when I think.'
P.-C. Lee (coaxingly); 'Now be a sensible fellow an' go away.'
Mr. Jarvis (noisily): 'I'll see you—!'
P.-C. Lee, (to crowd): 'Pass away, please—now, Jarvis, off you go!'
Mr. Jarvis (striking a pugilistic attitude)... !——!
P.-C. Lee (grabbing him by the scruff of his neck and his arm): 'All right—if you won't go home, I'll take you to my home!'
Mr. Jarvis (struggling): 'Leggo!' (Violently) 'Leggo, you perishin' slop!'
P.-C. Lee: 'Are you goin' quietly?'
Mr. Jarvis at this point aims a well-intentioned kick, which is skilfully avoided; the next minute there is the sound of a mighty 'smack!' and Mr. Jarvis goes down to the ground.
Voice in crowd: 'Shime! You ought to know better than hit a man, p'liceman!'
P.-C. Lee: 'Are you going to be sensible, Jarvis?'
Mr. Jarvis (feebly): 'You hit me unawares.'
P.-C. Lee: 'Are you comin' quietly?'
Mr. Jarvis (meekly): 'Certainly, sir.'
I followed the little crowd to the station, and stood by the inspector's desk whilst Mr. Jarvis was 'charged' in the conventional terminology of the force.
Later in the evening, I was to witness yet another violent assault by P.-C. Lee. The incident, commonplace as it was, is worth recording.
It began when a group of loudly-talking men and women assembled outside a little beer-shop in the Portobello-road. When hasty and bitter recriminations followed, a loud, aggressive voice said, "Hit him, Bill!" several times, and then two men detaching themselves from the group took the middle of the road, striking wildly.
At an inopportune moment a woman forced her way between the two men, and was instantly knocked down by one of the combatants, who thoughtfully kicked her as she lay. I did not see P.-C. Lee arrive at a run, nor did the kicker. I saw a policeman come from nowhere in particular; I saw his leg of mutton fist dealing punishment discriminately, heard somebody yell "Copper!" as he fled, and heard a shrill whistle. Later, in a calmer moment, I came upon P.-C. Lee standing at the corner of Elgin Crescent, reflectively chewing a match stalk.
"Did you see that feller I clouted?" he asked me reflectively. "Name of Moker, commonly called 'Artful Mo', although he's not of that religious persuasion, or any other so far as I know."
He paused, as is his wont before beginning one of his interesting biologies, and stared blankly along the deserted length of Ladbroke Grove.
"Artful Mo," he began slowly, "is so called because of his great artfulness in gettin' out of trouble an' gettin' other fellows into it. This is the first time, in a manner of speakin'," said P.-C. Lee carefully, "that Mo has properly given himself away, because just at this very particular minute he's 'inside' wonderin' how it happened.
"Artful Mo's lay is very simple; he's an 'egger'; that is to say, he eggs people on to do things they wouldn't otherwise do. You heard someone say 'hit him, Bill'?—well, that was Mo.
"Mo isn't one of the criminal classes—that would be a bit too high class for him; the only charge you could put against him is the charge of 'being in suspected company', which is always an unsatisfactory charge to bring against a man, an' may mean anythin' or nothin'. Yet Mo has been in more big cases than you'd imagine, for he's a highly ingenious chap who reads the newspapers, an' is always in touch with all the big jobs goin'.
"I've seen him sittin' on his chair in front of his house on nice sunny mornings with his spectacles perched on his nose, a-readin' the Mornin' Post like a gentleman. He used to keep an old exercise book, an' paste little cuttin's in. His great line was weddin's, an' as soon as he saw 'A marriage has been arranged' he read day by day most careful until he found out what day the people were goin' to pull it off. Then, in a way, his work was done, an' he used to pass the information on. He never worried about the big West End weddin's where there would he lashin's of presents, an' special detectives to watch 'em day an' night, but what he liked best was the little country weddin's, such as: 'A marriage has been arranged between Muriel, eldest daughter of Major O. Smitter (late Wagshires) and Henry Arthur Somper, youngest son of the late Gabriel Somper of Somper, Custer and Jones, wine merchants.'
"Nice little jobs where the presents would be worth say a couple of hundred pounds, an' they'd be all nicely laid out on a couple of tables, with little cards: 'Fish knives, with Mrs. Smith-Tanker's best wishes.''Cruet, with Miss Pipkin's hopes and fears of the future,' an' things like that.
"Every mornin' you'd see Mo goin' carefully through the paper—a penny a day it used to cost him, too—snippin' out a bit here, an' a bit there, an' pastin' it in his little copy book.
"Now you can't charge a man with readin' the Mornin' Post; it isn't sense, an' besides the Mornin' Post people might object an' have you up for libel, so although we very well knew what the little game was, we couldn't stop him doin' what he was doin'.
"That was his artfulness.
"I remember once he had the impudence to offer the book to me for my inspection.
" 'It's a nobby, Mr. Lee,' says he innocently. 'I get my pleasure in life out of doin' a little thing like this.'
" 'What did you cut this out for?' I asked, an' pointed to a bit about the Lady Augusta Sharloes, whose father had given her a tiara as a birthday present.
"I don't know how that crept in,' he says thoughtful. As a rule I'm only interested in the unitin' of young 'arts, bless 'em!'
"About a week after that the Lady Augusta's tiara was stolen, taken by means of a 'ladder larceny' whilst the family was at dinner at their country residence, 'High Meath'.
"When I read this, I thought it was an excellent chance of connectin' Mo with the robbery; but bless you, you might as well have tried to connect the Archbishop of Canterbury.
" 'If you think,' he says, 'that I'd demean myself by associatin' with low, pinchin' people, you're a bit out of focus, Mr. Lee.'
"Those were his very words, an' I put their classiness down to the fact that he was always readin' the fashionable newspapers.
"I could never be sure who was the man who worked on the information supplied by Mo, but I've got an idea that Nick Moss was one, an' of one thing I'm certain, an' that is that Mo got his full share of the swag without, as you might say, in any way sharin' the danger. Well, he did so well, so remarkably well, that he got a lot of people jealous of him, an' one of these was a feller named Len Cox—one of the most conceited criminals I've ever been brought into contact with. Len was a stoutish young feller with a big face an' a tiny moustache, he always wore his hair parted in the middle, an' what completed his attractiveness, he wrote a beautiful fist. Like print, his writin' was, an' if his spellin' had only been up to sample, he might have made a fine lawyer's clerk.
"Len was always a great man with the ladies, an' he had a way of raisin' his hat to housemaids that always made a job—he was a housebreaker by trade—very easy. To carry the reference to ladies further, I might say that the only two laggin's Len ever got was through his perliteness to women.
"I believe that when the idea of runnin' an opposition show to Mo's occurred to Len, was when he was sharin' out the benefits of a little job at Croydon—a master builder's daughter had recently married, an' the weddin' had been rather lavish.
" 'You get your money easy,' says Len to Mo.
" 'Think so?' says Mo, clinkin' the gold.
" 'I do,' says Len, 'it's the snuggest an' easiest lay I've ever struck. I'm goin' to try it myself.'
" 'Do,' says Mo, who's a rare one for eggin' people on to destruction. 'I'll tell you how I do it.'
"But Len didn't want any advice. He'd got an idea of his own, an' I might say like a good many other people who take a lot for granted, he thought because he wrote a copperplate hand he'd got copper-plate brains, an' that was where he fell into all kinds of trouble. In the first place, after he established his education bureau, he decided that readin' the papers took too long, so he wrote off to a press cuttin' agency whose advertisement he'd read ('Cuttin's supplied on every conceivable subject') an' asked to he supplied—but I've got his letter. This is how it runs:
Having seen your bit in the paper about sending cuts from papers, please send about 100 cuts about jobs near London, where mostly silver.
—Yours respectfully, Len Cox.'
"He sent along a post office order for five shillin's, an' by reply he got back about a hundred cuttin's an' a letter. It said:
We have your favour. Although we do not know what you mean by 'mostly silver', we do not doubt that employers would be willing to pay in silver if so desired. 100 jobs herewith.'
"Len looked at the cuttin's.
"Some of 'em began 'Respectable man wanted—used to cows', an' others 'Man wanted for work on farm', an' it began to dawn on Len that his letter didn't quite express all that he had wanted.
"By the aid of a lady friend, Len wrote another letter in another name, an' managed to get the cuttin's he wanted, an' it really looked as though he was goin' to put Mo out of business, for some of the weddin's that Len got to know about Mo had never heard of. There was one about a weddin' that was to take place from the bride's house at Mowbray—'Groot Haus' was the name of the house—an' it seemed snug. So Nick Moss an' a pal went down to Melton Mowbray an' spent two days lookin' for the place, without success. They had a narrow escape of gettin' pinched for bein' suspicious persons in possession of housebreakin' instruments, an' then came back to Len very wild.
" 'Hullo,' he says, when he saw 'em at his little house in Ransom-street. 'Got the stuff?'
" 'No,' says Nick shortly.
" 'There ain't no such house in Mowbray,' says Nick.
"Len smiled in a superior way an' dug out the cuttin'.
" 'Here you are,' he says; 'newspapers can't lie,' an' handed it over to Nick.
"Nick looked at it.
" 'Why, you fool!' he roars. 'This is cut from The Cape Times—it's Mowbray in South Africa!'
"An' so it was. It nearly broke up Len's business, an' would have too, only Len by a great stroke of luck managed to put the brothers Ely on to a rich crib down in Streatham—an' that sort of revived the industry, an' it wasn't long before Mo began to feel the pinch of competition.
"There was a young woman who was very much gone on Len. She was one of those big-built girls of the gipsy type, an it so happened that she met Mo one night near Latimer-road Station, an' began chippin' him about how Len was gettin' on.
"Mo was most polite, an' said he wished Len all the luck in the world.
" 'The only thing, Mrs. Cox,' says Mo, regretfully, 'the only thing about it is, I'm afraid bein' so interested in marriages won't do him any good.'
" 'What d'ye mean?' she says, quick.
" 'Well,' says Mo, carefully, 'so far as I'm concerned, it don't worry me, for I always was a woman hater, an' readin' about marriages don't put ideas into my head—'
" 'If you means to say,' she flames, 'you miserable little lob-crawler, that my Len—'
" 'I don't mean to say anythin',' says Mo.
" 'He's married to me already.' she says.
" 'I dessay,' says Mo politely. 'You know your own business best.'
"After that, Mo had a sort of horrible fascination for the girl, an' she used to go out of her way to meet him an' tell him what she thought of him, an' all the time Artful Mo was gettin' in a word here an' there about the danger of readin' too much about marriages. Mo knew women—especially women like her—and it began to leak out that Mr. and Mrs. Cox wasn't as happy as they might have been.
"One night Len was lookin' over his cuttin's an' saw an account that pleased him very much. A little weddin' in Guildford. Soon after that, he got his tools from the coal hole an' began pickin' out his kit.
" 'What's the game?' says Mrs. Cox.
" 'This one's too good to give away,' says Len. 'I'm goin' to do it myself.'
"She tried to persuade him, but he was a difficult man to persuade, an' off he started.
"Now the curious thing about Len was his sentimental character. He was a great chap for songs about angels, an' orphans, an' when he's been at a friendly-lead he's been so affected after a couple of drinks that he's had to be assisted home.
"Therefore this story of what happened to Len is quite understandable to me. Of course, at the time I knew nothin' whatever about his plans, you may be sure, but by all accounts he was back again in London the evenin' after he started, empty handed. He met Mo an' told him about it, an Mo, bein' a very artful feller, advised him to tell his missis.
"So home sailed Len, mightily pleased with himself, an' got into his house just as Mrs. Cox was sittin' down to tea.
" 'Hullo!' she says. 'Did you get the swag?'
" 'No,' says Len, with a beautiful smile.
" 'Didn't you get in?'
" 'I did,' says Len.
" 'Wasn't the stuff there?'
" 'It was,' says Len, 'it was in the bride's room, an' I nearly took it when,' he says, almost cryin', 'I saw her lyin' there, like an innercent snowdrop with her childlike face on the piller, more like a beautiful angel she was! I says to myself: What! rob that fair child, on what I might call the threshold of life! No, I says, Len Cox may be a burglar but he's got an 'art.'
" 'I see,' says Mrs. Cox quietly.
" 'When I thought,' Len went on dreamily, 'of the happiness of bein' properly married, when I thought of—'
"She left him thinkin', for she got up an' took her shawl an' came to me.
" 'Mr. Lee,' she says, 'do you want a cop?'
" 'I do,' says I.
" 'There's one at 64 Ransom-street,' she says, bitterly. 'It's time he had a laggin'—he's got some silly ideas in his head.'"
"ONE of the rummiest fellers I've ever had to do with," said P.-C. Lee, "is young Sigee."
With some caution I inquired which one, for the Sigee family is well known to me, and I have had occasion before now to refer to this extraordinary clan.
"It is Albert," said P.-C. Lee with the faintest of smiles, and his amusement found reflection on my face, for Albert Sigee I shall always regard as being one of the most interesting characters I have ever met.
Himself as honest as the day—he has a little fur and feather shop off Kensington High-street where you may buy white mice or badgers, ferrets or rabbits—his position in the family is unique, for there is not one of them but has seen the interior of the 'jug'.
I've never quite understood his relations. I know that he regards their peculiar habits with a certain amount of pride; I know, too, that he retails the exploits of his innumerable brothers, cousins and uncles with that modest reserve which may be taken as a sign of approval, yet notwithstanding these indications of his goodwill I have never yet met, in the little bird and beast shop over which Mr. Sigee presides, a single member of the family other than Albert himself.
It would seem that ample opportunity exists, did Mr. Sigee desire to employ an odd man or so.
Were he fired with the reformer's zeal and anxious to provide honest, if casual, employment for his larcenous relatives, he might set their minds on the dignity of labour at little cost to himself. For there are bird cages to be mended, hutches to be manufactured, aquaria to be tended, dogs to be cleaned, and a thousand and one odd tasks to be performed.
"I often see Albert," said P.-C. Lee, "an' whilst he never gives any of his relations away, he's always willin' to tell you the inside story of things when they've given theirselves away.
"I was talkin' to him yesterday on the question of relations an' he told me about his uncle's laggin'."
P.-C. Lee has amongst other accomplishments the gift of mimicry, and his voice instantly became Albert's tired, piping voice that I knew so well.
"Relations, Mr. Lee," said Albert, "are best apart."
"I've got an uncle. All this trouble is about my uncle.
"When I say 'uncle' he's a sort of first husband to my Aunt Bella—who's one of them fellers that's all for harmony.
"One of the pleasantest chaps the police have ever had to deal with is my uncle. You know that yourself, Mr. Lee.
"S'pose a couple of splits call at his house one night about twelve, down comes his daughter Em with a shawl over her, an' opens the door.
" 'Hullo, Emma,' says the chief split, 'father in?'
" 'Yes, sir,' says Em. 'Want him?'
" 'Yes, Emma,' says the split, an' in they go, into the old man's room, sleepin' away as peaceful as a perfec' angel. He wakes up and sees the splits.
" 'Good evenin',' he says as polite as can be. 'Do you want me, Mr. Simmons?'
" 'A little matter of a pony and cart what was left outside the Blue Lion,' says the split.
" 'Oh, that?' says my uncle, gettin' up an' dressin', 'I thought it was something serious.'
"All the time he's dressing he's as polite an' talkative as possible.
" 'I'm afraid I've kep' you out of bed,' he says.
" 'I wish I'd known, I'd have walked round to the station an' explained matters, Em,' he says, 'send my breakfast round to the station tomorrer, an' if I'm put away see that I get my tea before the van goes—six o'clock, ain't it, Mr. Simmons?'
" 'Five, 'says the split.
" 'You surprise me,' says my uncle. 'What changes we see goin' on all round, don't we, Mr. Simmons?'
" 'Hurry up, father,' says Em, 'I'm gettin' cold.'
"It got to be quite a sayin' in the 'D' Division that a child could take Ropey—that was my uncle's name at the time—an' they used to give the job to a young split who wanted gentle practice.
"He used to go so quietly that some of my cousins thought he wasn't quite right in his head, an' when he came out after doin' six munse for a ladder larceny, they got up a sort of friendly-lead to get him enough to go away, into the country.
"They arst me to go an' I went—that's why I say relations are better apart.
"The friendly-lead was held in a little pub called 'The Frozen Artichoke' in Camden Town, an' my brother Ern got some cards printed.
" 'Many can help one, but one can't help many' the card says, an' asked one an' all to rally round George Ropey (better known as 'Ginger') who had recently suffered a severe bereftment. What they didn't put on the cards, an' what they might have put, was: 'One can't help many, but he can help hisself'.
"For they helped themselves pretty handily to a silver watch an' chain that was give me by a seafarin' man in liquor.
"I won't go as far as to say that any of my relations did the 'click', but a few days after that my father got run for bein' in possession of a silver watch an' chain, an' not bein' able to give an account of where he got it from.
"I was in a manner of speakin' tore between love an' duty, for if I claimed the watch I'd own up to my father bein' a thief an' if I didn't he'd get a month.
" 'Honour thy father,' says I to meself, so I let him do the month. I'd have let him do six munse.
"Well, to go on about my uncle with the gentlemanly manner.
"About a year ago, he come roun' to see me about Emma. She's a nice, perky little girl, an' she knows just about as much as most respectable people know when they get to be a hundred.
" 'Bert,' says my uncle, 'I've been thinkin' about Em. She's a good girl.'
" 'You've been thinkin' too deep,' says I. 'In fact you've been dreamin'.'
" 'She's a good girl,' he says, very firm, 'an' she'll make a good wife.'
" 'I dessay,' I says, 'it's not for me to deny miracles.'
" 'What do you say?' he says.
" 'Nothin',' I says, 'except if I happen to see a likely chap goin' cheap I'll buy him—there's nothin' in the monkey house just now except the baby chimpanzee, an' it struck me he was feelin' lonely.'
" 'What do you say to yourself?' he says.
" 'My prayers mostly,' I says, 'an' my private opinion of me pore relations.'
" 'Plain and plump,' says Uncle Ropey, 'will you marry my girl?'
" 'Not,' I says, 'so long as I keep from drink an' am responsible for my actions.'
" 'Well, lend us a shillin',' says my Uncle Ropey, an we parted good friends—me an' the shillin'.
"I didn't see him again for a week or more, an' then him an' young Ern came in to see me.
" 'Thought we'd look you up, Bert,' says my brother. 'I don't think brothers ought to lose touch of each other,' he says.
" 'No more do I,' I says, 'but if you've come to touch me, it's me early closin' day an' I've just paid the rent.'
"Ern said he'd got a chance of makin' a couple of quid honest on a profitable deal, an' all he wanted was half a sovereign for stock money.
" 'What race does it run in?' I says. I've lent stock money to Ern before now an' seen the profitable deal stop to lick at the wrong side of the winnin' post. But Ern took his oath that this was real toil an' trouble business, buyin' an' sellin' a horse.
" 'I can buy it for half a sovereign,' he says. 'It belongs to a butcher who thinks it's got spavins.'
"He was so serious about it, an' told me so much about the butcher, an' the butcher's brother who got married to a girl down in Essex, an' what sort of a house the butcher lived in when he was at home, that I parted with the ten.
"I was a bit surprised the next day when Ern came an' brought the money back in silver, an' offered me a couple of shillin's interest. But I'm not the sort of fellow to take Interest from a brother, so I sold 'im a chaffinch for the two bob—it was worth two bob to a man who likes birds that don't sing.
"A few days after that him an' Uncle Ropey came again. It 'appens they'd seen a light kind of cart that they could buy for a pound an' sell for three pounds, an' would I be so kind?
"I noticed that when they came the second time they stood at the door an' did most of their talkin' an' I had to ask 'em to come in, because I didn't want my shop to get a bad name. Although this place is only a little 'un, I do a big trade, an' it's a poor day when I don't take a couple of pounds, an' so I had the money to hand over. Next day punctual to the minute they brought hack the money—eight half-crowns—and asked me to have a drink.
"Three days later I saw Ern walk past the shop very quick, an' I gave him a bit of a nod an' he sort of hesitated.
"He didn't come in, but stood outside.
" 'How's business?' says Ern.
" 'So-so,' I says. 'Where's uncle?'
" 'He's round the corner,' says Ern, very eager. 'He's talkin' to a man about a set of 'arness he wants to buy—the chap won't take less than two pounds, but I know where we can sell it for five.'
" 'Go an' see how he's got on,' I says, an' away he nipped, an' presently back he come with Uncle Ropey.
" 'It's all right, Bert,' says Ern, 'we can get it for two—can you lend us the money?'
"So I fished out two sovereigns an' Ern had tears in his eyes when he took 'em.
" 'You're a true brother, Bert,' he says, 'an' you've helped me to get an honest livin'—ain't he, uncle?'
" 'Yes,' says Uncle Ropey, 'I've always said that Bert was the pick of the bunch.'
"They went away, tellin' me how I'd saved 'em from sinkin' to the level of the rest of the family.
"About eleven o'clock Em come an' knocked me up.
" 'Father's pinched,' she says, 'an' so's young Ern.'
" 'What for?' I says.
" 'For passin' counterfeit gold,' she says, 'two sovereigns.'
"She shook her head, very disgusted.
" 'It's father's own fault,' she says, 'an' it comes of not keepin' his word. He said he was goin' to pass all the snide money on to a mug. Borrer a good sov'reign an' return eight snide half-crowns, an' let the mug do the circulatin' act.
" 'What surprises me,' she says, 'is their tryin' to pass gold. Dad always works silver—he gets it from a man in Middlesex-street. Where d'ye think he got the bad quids from?' she asked.
" 'I dunno,' I says, 'probably from the mug.'"
THERE was a Minister of France—was it Necker?—who suggested on a memorable occasion that the people should eat grass. He was no vegetarian, he was just being rude; and when, on a subsequent occasion, an indignant populace slew him, in some grim way they decorated the body significantly.
If it should happen that the lawless folk of Notting Dale should ever fall upon Police Constable Lee, I doubt not that the jibe with which they will assail him will have some reference to "sparrows," for to the mysterious agency of the "little sparrow" is due a great deal of the worthy officer's unpopularity amongst a certain class of people in his salubrious district.
P.-C. Lee, in mufti, stepped round to the marine store of Cokey Salem, and asked to see the proprietor.
Cokey, so-called because of the commodity he runs as a side line to the rag-and-bone business, was not at home.
He shouted down the stairs to his frowsy wife to that effect and P.-C. Lee was not convinced.
After a while, Cokey was induced to come down into the evil-smelling shop, and he did this with an ill grace.
"Hullo," he said, gruffly, "what's this—water rates?"
"To be exact," said P.-C. Lee, gently, "it's a question of lead pipin', feloniously removed from unoccupied premises, to wit, 914, Kensington Park-road."
"Ho!" said the defiant Cokey, "an' what's that gotter do with me?"
"If you'll kindly step round to the station," said the police-constable, "I daresay you can explain the whole matter to our inspector in a few words."
"Suppose I don't?"
"In that case," said the thoughtful constable, "I shall be under the painful necessity of takin' you."
Cokey choked back a wicked word, put on his coat and hat, and accompanied the constable.
"Where did you nose this job?' he asked, vulgarly.
"A little sparrer," said the reflective P.-C., "happened—"
"I'd like to get hold of that sparrer of yours," said Cokey, between his teeth, "I'd wring his blanky neck."
On the occasion under review, Cokey did not convince a sceptical inspector of his innocence. Nor had he any better luck with a frozen-faced magistrate, who listened dispassionately to Cokey's somewhat involved story. According to Cokey the lead piping found on his premises had
"Fallen like the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath."
This magistrate, who had never been known to smile, relaxed when Cokey adduced his crowning argument that the piping had been placed in his yard by the police, and committed Cokey to the Middlesex Sessions.
The Chairman of that Court, aided by a bored jury, found Cokey guilty of receiving, and the Chairman having, figuratively speaking, said it would be as much as his place was worth to give him less, sent Cokey to prison with hard labour for nine calendar months.
Whereupon the prisoner, affectionately addressing P.-C. Lee, said that on some future occasion he would have the heart, lungs, and important blood vessels of the impassive officer—though exactly what he would do with them he did not say.
I saw P.-C. Lee some nine months later, and knowing that Cokey was at liberty, I expressed my surprise at finding him still alive.
P.-C. Lee smiled.
"If the Government would give prisoners leave of absence on the day they are sentenced," he said, "I daresay he might have caused me inconvenience; but barrin' that, I shall die a natural death. If a chap who had been sentenced heavily suddenly found himself pardoned, he'd be so overjoyed that he wouldn't have any time to hate me or any other constable, an' even a man who goes to a long term soon loses all the bad feelin' he ever had, an' comes out of 'stir' full of a peace-on-earth-an'-good-will feelin'.
"In prison you've got a lot of time to think, an' if a man isn't a lunatic, he works out the situation reasonably an' comes to the conclusion that the constable has only done his duty, an' by the time the sentence is worked out, he's lost all his dislike for the man who lagged him.
"The only time I ever knew a man to bear animosity was in the case of the Newton Lane Robbery.
"If you don't remember the case. I'll give it to you in a few words. A cashier from one of the Ladbroke Grove shops was goin' back to his premises from the bank at Notting Hill Gate, when he was set upon by half-a-dozen roughs, knocked down an' robbed. All this happened in broad daylight, but in an unfrequented little turning, an' the assailants got away.
"It so happened that I was off duty (I was in X Division at the time), but I got to hear of the case when I reported for duty that night.
"The young fellow who was robbed had been taken to the hospital, but as he wasn't so badly hurt, he was allowed to go home. Accordin' to him, he wouldn't be able to recognise any of the party.
"Now, the detection of crime, as I see it, is a simple matter. The criminal is the obvious person. Don't you believe these detective stories that tell you that the feller found with the diamonds in his pocket is the innocent hero—he's only the innocent hero in story books. In real life he's the feller that did the robbery.
"When the police find a little sub-post-office has been robbed, an' the postmaster lyin' bound an' gagged, or when they see a bank clerk lyin' on the floor with the smell of chloroform hangin' round an' the safe open, they know it's 33 to 1 that they've got the robber first pop, an' that the enterprisin' burglar, as the song says, is the young feller found in such a romantic attitude.
"Unprofessional criminals spend too much of their time in preparin' picturesque scenes, an' professional criminals spend too much time in gettin' ready alibis, an' between one an' the other the police have a fairly easy time.
"So that it was only natural that our first suspicions fastened on the feller that had been robbed, an' there were certain features of it that made this view likely. Nobody had seen him attacked, nobody had seen men comin' away from the scene of the crime, an' if he hadn't been so badly injured there would have been no doubt whatever that he was the robber himself, an' the whole 'outrage' a fake.
"This might have been the case with the young cashier, only there was a remarkable flaw in the theory. He'd left the bank with five notes for a hundred pounds (which had been drawn for the purpose of sendin' to Russia to settle an account), an' this he placed in a big handbag which he carried, an' which was found open an' empty.
"He was carefully searched, but no money was on him when he was found. He had been seen enterin' the little street. One of the bank clerks, who happened to leave the bank at the same time, had walked with him to the entrance of the street, an' nobody had been seen to leave at either end before he was discovered. If he'd stolen 'em himself—what had happened to the banknotes? He couldn't bury 'em. There was no place in the street itself where they could have been hidden—you may be sure that we searched every possible hidin' place—an' the police were forced to believe that his story was true.
"The only thing against the man was that his firm had lost money before from their office. Ten, twenty, an' fifty pound notes had vanished, but the cashier was so above suspicion, an' had always insisted upon bein' the first to be searched, that they had never dreamt of connectin' him with any theft, an' had discharged clerk after clerk in consequence.
"It was such an interestin' case that the Yard sent down Mr Angel—you wrote about him didn't you?—a rare nice gentleman, who's always pullin' your leg, but very pleasant with it.
"Our inspector was asked to tell off a man to accompany Mr Angel, an' to my surprise I was chosen instead of some of our smart fellers.
" 'Lee,' says the inspector, 'you go round with Mr Angel, an' introduce him to some of the "head" in your neighbourhood.' So, in a manner of speakin', I was put in charge of Angel.
"But, bless you, he didn't want any introducin'! He knew all the toughs: knew Nick Moss, an' Percy Steel, an' Jim the Fence; knew 'em as if he'd been brought up with 'em—an' they knew him.
"We might have saved ourselves the trouble, because we learnt very little from these chaps, except from Nick Moss.
" 'Hullo, Nick," says Angel, Esquire, most cheerfully, "how is the ladder larceny business?"
"Nick grinned a bit sheepish.
" 'I'm straight now, Mr Angel," he says; "the other game's a mug's game."
" 'Cutting out all your blessed platitudes," says Angel, "which of your college companions did this last little job?"
" 'If I never move from here," says Nick, most solemn, "if I die this very minute, if—"
" 'Havin' been duly sworn," says Mr Angel, "it is unnecessary to go any further—I gather from your interestin', but altogether unnecessary, protestation that you don't know."
" 'That's right, sir," says Nick.
"Mr Angel told me later that he quite believed Nick didn't know for sure, but he thought that he had a suspicion.
"We examined the street where the robbery was committed. It is a street with stables on one side an' little houses on the other, an' connects Portobello-road with Pembridge-road.
"Nobody could give us any information about the robbery; in the majority of cases the first they knew about it was when the cashier had been found lyin' on the side-walk. Next we made a few inquiries about the cashier an' found that he was a most respectable man, with money of his own in the bank, a churchwarden, an' a member of the Young Men's Christian Association. What was most important was, he'd got money of his own in the bank.
"I'm afraid, Lee," says Mr Angel, "that this case must go down to history as 'The Notting Hill Mystery,'" and so it might have done but for the fact that one of the most curious coincidences happened that you could ever imagine.
"You've heard me talk about my 'little sparrow?' It's a wheeze I work on the lads who want to know where I get all my valuable information from. This 'cod' of mine got round to Mr Angel's ears, an' he remarked to me, in that jokin' way of his:
" 'What a pity, Lee, your feathered friend can't supply us with a brilliant word picture of what happened—"
"He stopped short sudden, an' frowned thoughtfully.
" 'By George!" says he, "I wonder if that is possible?"
"I couldn't see what he was gettin' at, so I waited.
" 'We'll go round an' see our cashier friend," says Angel, so off we went to a neat little house near Wormwood Scrubbs.
"He was a bachelor, but rented a house, an' he opened the door to us himself, an' invited us in.
"It was a comfortably furnished sittin'-room, an' I saw Angel give a quick glance round as though sizing up the place. The only thing I noticed was that Mr Killun—that was his name—made a hasty attempt to fold up a newspaper that he'd been readin'.
"Killun was a pale-faced youth with uneven features an' a shifty eye, an' I disliked him from the first.
" 'Readin', Mr Killun?" says Angel.
" 'Yes," says Killun, quickly, "I'm naturally interested in learnin' if the police have any clue as to the people who robbed me."
"Angel, Esquire nodded, but said nothin'.
"By-an'-bye, he asked carelessly: 'By the way, what are Southern Pacific Preferred?'
" 'Sixty-four," said Killun, quick—then checked himself—"at least, I believe so—I don't take much interest in Stock Exchange transactions."
" 'I suppose not," says Angel, an' went on talkin' about the robbery an' about things in general. He touched on the Lincoln Handicap, but Mr Killun said he knew nothin' about racin', an' that was probably so, because Angel referred to the Lincoln as a two mile race, an' no racin' man could have resisted the temptation to correct him.
"We left, an' Angel went away to London to make a few inquiries. He came back that night, an' together we went to Killun's house.
" 'I want to see the bag you carried the notes in," says Angel.
"To my surprise the man produced it. I was surprised, because the bag ought to have been in the possession of the police, an' it only shows you how we are sometimes caught nappin', for without that bag the robber might never have been caught.
"Angel took the bag and examined it.
" 'This is an enormous bag to carry five hundred pound notes in?"
" 'It's the only one I've got," said the man, a little sullenly.
"Angel took it under the light an' inspected the inside. Then he laid a sheet of paper on the table an' shook out the contents. There was nothin' in it, except a few crumbs of tobacco, a little dust, an' somethin' that Angel, Esquire picked up an' examined carefully.
"It was a tiny grey feather, an' he nodded slowly.
"Then he turned to Killun.
" 'I shall take you into custody," he said, "on a charge of stealin' five hundred pounds, the property of your employer."
" 'It's a lie!" said Killun, hoarsely, an' tried to bolt. But I caught him, an' as he was inclined to be a little bit fresh, I put the handcuffs on him.
"We took him down to the station, an' then went back an' searched the house. On the roof, in a cage, we found a pigeon.
" 'There's your little bird, Lee,' says Angel, with a chuckle. 'That's one of the little birds that was in Mr Killun's big bag. Not this chap, but others like him. A hundred-pound note fastened with an elastic band round each leg—an' whiff!—goes five hundred. He must have sent three birds.'
"Angel spent some time that night concoctin' a message. He wrote it on a slip of thin paper an' fitted it to the pigeon's leg. Then he flew the pigeon.
"Next mornin', at eleven o'clock, we arrested an eminent bucket-shop* keeper, who turned up outside the Mansion House by appointment—Angel made the appointment.
[* Bucket-shop: A fraudulent brokerage operation in which orders to buy and sell are accepted but no executions take place. Instead, the operators expect to profit when customers close out their positions at a loss.]
"This," said P.-C. Lee, impressively, "proves my words, that the real criminal is the obvious criminal. Killun had been speculatin' an' had got into difficulties with the bucket-shop. The man that ran the shop wanted the money, an' bein' a bit of a pigeon fancier, had suggested a way of gettin' Killun out of his difficulties.
"Killun would take the birds in his bag to the office, an' whenever he could lay his hands on paper money, would nip out into the cloakroom, fix the note, an' fly the bird through a window, an' be back at his desk before anybody noticed his absence."
SIX years ago I sat in the stuffy, little Old Bailey Court throughout a trial for murder. I sat there from the very beginning—from the moment when an official chanted monotonously to the jury a rhymeless verse that ran:
You will well and truly try,
And true deliverance make
In this case before the Court
Between our Sovereign Lord the King
And the prisoner at the Bar,
And a true verdict give
In accordance with the evidence,
So help you God—
Until the judge adjusted with some deliberation a square of dull black silk upon his wig, and looking over his spectacles at the stricken man in the dock said, "After a patient trial ...guilty ...only sentence that the law allows...You shall be taken hence to the place from which you came, and from thence to a place of execution, and you shall be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and your body shall afterwards be buried within the precincts of the gaol...."
I saw the warders close round the huddled man, saw them vanish down the narrow stairway that led to the cells—to oblivion, and shivered a little, because I was one of the twelve men who had sent him to his death.
I was speaking to P.-C. Lee on the responsibilities of jurymen and he accepted my comments without prejudice.
Perhaps I rhapsodised over the system, for P.-C. Lee smiled—a large and amused smile that dawned slowly as I warmed to the subject.
"Coincidences," he said solemnly, when I had finished "are things I never care to talk about, because, truth bein' stranger than fiction, people who get their idea of life out of story books aren't too willin' to believe in the life that's goin' on under their noses.
"What is a coincidence? Well, if you happened to be locked up at Lee in Kent, an' the constable's name's Lee, an' the magistrate is a Mr. Lee—that constitutes what I might call an unbelievable coincidence that no author would dare put in his book. There's no real reason, for instance, why the hero of a story shouldn't be named Smith, an' the villain be named Smith, an' the girl too, but it would be too monotonous an' lifelike.
"I should call the Sobbity case one of the most remarkable instances of coincidences that ever happened.
"Chimmy Sobbity was a crook, an' one of the worst. A hard, tough, sour man who was known to be a dangerous character. He'd been run in once or twice, but somehow we never managed to get a conviction. It was the usual charge, 'a suspected person', but the evidence we mostly relied on wasn't there when we wanted it.
"Outwardly, Sobbity was a most respectable feller. He lived in a nice, clean-lookin' house, paid some thirty pounds a year rent, had the best of everythin' on his table—an' did no work.
"Me an' Sobbity were always on good terms, an' he'd give me 'good mornin'' civilly, an' would stop an' have a chat whenever he got the opportunity.
" 'Well, Chimmy,' says I one evenin' I happened to run across him, 'I hear they pulled you in the other night.'
" 'Yes, Mr. Lee,' he says with a hard little laugh, 'on information received.'
"I knew what he meant.
"You have heard about there bein' honour amongst thieves—well, so there is to a certain extent. But generally speakin' there's less loyalty in that profession than in any I know.
"Chimmy, as I've said, wasn't a popular man in our district, neither with the police nor with the lads. He was too ready with his fists for one thing, an' too close with his money for another, an' there were certain people waitin' to spot Chimmy's 'click' in order to introduce him to the simple life at Portland.
"The man who hated him worst was a feller called Tiddly Parkes. Tiddly was a rotten bad lot, an' that's the only way to describe him. He'd got a dozen convictions against him, an' not all for the same class of offence—breakin' an' enterin'—it was all one to Tiddly.
"The real feud started one night at the Nottall Arms, when Chimmy dropped in for his evenin' pint an' Tiddly, tried to chum up with him.
"He'd got as far as sayin' that pals ought to stick together, when Chimmy put out his big hand an' pushed Tiddly away.
" 'Break away, you,' says Chimmy, 'an' the next time you lay your dirty paws on me, I'll tread on you.'
"This annoyed Tiddly.
" 'Ain't I as good as you?' he says.
" 'Not,' says Chimmy, 'by a jugful, so don't get silly ideas in your head.'
"He also said other things about Tiddly's way of earnin' a livin', and the evenin' ended unpleasantly.
"Now, I knew 'from information received' that Tiddly set to work to trap Chimmy Sobbity, an' I wasn't surprised when one night Tiddly came round to see me at any lodgin's an' asked me whether I wanted a fine cop.
"It appeared from what Tiddly said that the other feller was one of a gang of South London burglars, an' that they'd done up a place at Clapham an' got away with a regular cartload of stuff.
" 'What's more,' says Tiddly impressively, 'he's got the stuff in his house.'
"Of course I reported this, but our people didn't like movin' in the matter. It was only a month before that we'd taken Chimmy on a similar charge, an' it didn't do us any good when the magistrate said that there wasn't any justification whatever for his arrest.
"But we got a search warrant an' raided his house, an' to our surprise we found, underneath a sack in the back garden, quite a little stock of articles that Chimmy couldn't have had any use for whatever.
"Of course we snaffled Chimmy, an' likewise of course he said, he knew nothin' about the matter an' was just as much surprised as we was.
" 'As a matter of fact, Mr. Lee,' he says quietly, 'burglary ain't my line at all. I'm a pickpocket.'
"I didn't take any notice of this. Chimmy was in for a laggin', an' it didn't matter to him what lie he told to get out of it.
"The feller who was most interested in the arrest was Tiddly. He was absolutely beside himself with joy, though I couldn't understand why this was' so. I knew him to be a mean little skunk, but I didn't know how mean he was.
"The one thing that puzzled me most was his constant questions about the trial.
" 'Do you think they'll settle the matter this week?' he says anxiously, referrin' to the police court proceedin's.
" 'I think so, Tiddly,' says I.
" 'There won't be no more remands?'
" 'I don't suppose so, but why are you worryin' about that—you're not a witness.'
'"But Tiddly wouldn't give me any information on the subject an' left me to draw my own conclusions—which were wrong.
"As it happened Chimmy's case was settled, so far as the police court was concerned, at the next hearin', when he was committed to take his trial at the North London Sessions.
"When Tiddly heard this he was overjoyed.
"He rubbed his hands.
"Now that's not the sort of conduct I like to see a man indulge in, so I spoke a bit severe.
" 'Tiddly,' says I, 'I'm surprised to see you go on like this. Don't you know that it's not by any means certain that Chimmy will be convicted?'
" 'Oh, Mr. Lee,' says Tiddly, very interested, 'why not?'
" 'Because,' I says, 'there's no owner been found for the stuff; you can't convict a man on the evidence we've got.'
"Tiddly was a bit upset by what I said, an' went away lookin' very thoughtful.
"Just about then, I might say, Tiddly was on the books as a Reformed Character. It was more than five years since he'd had a conviction, an' he was now a householder an' so far as I knew quite respectable.
"I was therefore a bit surprised when our inspector asked me to keep a friendly eye on him.
"The inspector said this with a quiet smile, an' I was puzzled.
" 'What's he been doin', sir?' I asked.
" 'Nothin', Lee,' said the inspector, 'but I've got an idea that this last lay of his is the limit to his respectabillty.'
"I didn't want to plague him with questions so I just waited to see what the game was, but I didn't tumble to it till I attended North London Sessions.
"The jury was bein' called.
" 'Thomas Parkes,' called the clerk, an' into the jury box walked Mr. Tiddly in a clean collar an' a virtuous smile.
"Then I tumbled. As a respectable householder he'd been summoned on this jury, an' his anxiety to know whether Chimmy would be committed in time to come before him was explained.
"I was still gaspin' in my astonishment when he kissed the book with a smack you could hear throughout the court. The judge took his seat, an' the first case was called—the Crown against Sobbity.
"I saw Chimmy's eyes range the jury, an' saw his lips twitch when he caught sight of Tiddly's grinnin' mug, an' then the case went on.
"The gentleman who appeared for the Crown was half way through his address when Tiddly, who'd been fidgetin' in his seat, leant over an' said:
" 'All right, me lord—he's guilty, ain't he, mates?'
"The judge was quite taken aback, an' so was counsel.
" 'Be quiet, sir,' said his lordship sternly.
" 'What for?' says Tiddly, very indignant. 'What's the good of bein' on the jury if I can't say he's guilty?'
"The other jurymen got him quiet an' the judge havin' said that he'd commit Tiddly to prison if he had any more of his lip, the case proceeded.
" 'It appears from a statement recently made by the prisoner,' counsel went on, 'that the silver articles found on his premises are things he bought cheap at the Caledonian Market, an' not knowin' the value of them, he left them in his garden.'
" 'Don't you believe it, me lord!' said Tiddly. Getting' up in the box in a state of great agitation, 'Don't you believe one word of it.'
" 'Will you be quiet, sir?' thunders the judge. 'I have never seen such extraordinary conduct in my life!'
"Tiddly's interruption nearly stopped the case, but after some kind of order was restored I went into the box an' gave my evidence.
"Then the inspector gave evidence, an' said that no owner had been found for the goods.
"Then Chimmy called a witness—a feller who sells odds and ends at the Caledonian Market.
"This chap said he remembered sellin' a few odds an' ends to Chimmy about a year before, but he could not swear what they were. He thought they were brass candleticks, or it might have been that they were carriage lamps.
"But he couldn't say for certain.
"All the time he was givin' evidence Tiddly wriggled in his seat, an' just as he was leavin' the box Tiddly says:
" 'Here, hold hard! Can I ask this young feller a few questions, me lord?'
" 'Yes,' says the judge, very shortly.
" 'Very well,' says Tiddly, 'now I'd like to ask you how much Chimmy Sobbity has paid you to come here an' tell lies.'
" 'Stop, sir!' says the judge, very angry. 'You must not ask such a question. I have never met such a biased juryman—never. Gentlemen,' he says to the jury, 'you will return a verdict of "Not guilty".'
" 'What!' yells Tiddly, dancin' about on first one leg an' then the other. 'What! I'll see you—'
"They got him out to the retirin' room, an' I don't know what argument they used, but at the end of half an hour the jury returned with Tiddly's nose bleedin' an' returned a verdict of 'not guilty'.
" 'You are discharged,' says the judge to Chimmy.
" 'I beg pardon, me lord,' says Chimmy from the dock, but may I have my property back?'
" 'What property?'
" 'The silver,' says Chimmy.
" 'Certainly,' says the judge.
"This was too much for Tiddly. He jumped up.
" 'Your silver!' he roars. 'Why, you perjurin' hound, it's my silver! I put it in your back yard with me own hands to get you a laggin'!'
" 'I shall commit you to prison for twenty one days for contempt of court,' says the judge. 'You can settle the ownership of the silver when you come out. Swear in another juryman.'"
"A POLICEMAN," said P.-C. Lee, "is a favourite character for actors who want to be comic. Policemen are supposed to have big feet, to eat rabbit pie an' to court nursemaids.
"There used to be an old lady that lived in Ladbroke Gardens, who used to make pies for the men on that beat, an' serve 'em up hot in the middle o' the night. She wasn't quite right in her head, but the pies were fine. I've also known a constable who wore [illegible word] but he was an exceptional case, and he was famous throughout the Metropolitan area, bein' the feller who lost a prisoner, an' after looking everywhere for him, discovered he was standin' on him.
"There are all sorts of other jokes about constables, but the principal one is about his not being in a hurry to go to the scene of a disturbance.
"When a feller rushes up to a policeman an' ses—'Come at once! There's a man knocking his wife about somethin' cruel,' he expects the constable to break into a run, an' is very much hurt when he only saunters along very leisurely. That's because the policeman knows a great deal about human nature. He knows that no wife really an' truly wants her husband pinched, an' if he runs he will get out of breath for no reason at all.
"There was a young constable named Gully, who was put on point duty near some big warehouses near Latimer-road owin' to the number of robberies that had occurred there. One night a woman came runnin' up shoutin' blue murder at the top of her voice, an' said that the gentleman next door was killin' the lady who lived with him, an' that if Gully run he would be just in time to take her dying depositions.
"Gully was a terrible sprinter, an' he dashed off the the street where the murder was takin' place—about 300 yards away—an' tried to locate the house. He wasn't very successful, for nobody knew the slightest thing about the horrid tragedy, an' Gully walked back an' looked for the woman who had sent him. He didn't find her, an' he didn't find the goods that had been pinched from the warehouse in his absence.
"It was the of thing, as the poet says, to embitter the whole existence of a man, an' Gully, who was engaged to a very nice lady in the dress-makin' line of business, chucked her up an' became a confirmed bachelor at the age of twenty-three.
"I've often heard his wife talk about it—he married the dress-makin' lady six months later—an' she says it only shows how the innocent have got to suffer for the guilty.
"There was an American feller over here just then, a sort of inspector—I think he was a captain—who was studying English police methods, an' he was mightily amused. I heard him speakin' to the superintendent. He said that Gully was 'soft goods,' 'an 'easy money'; an' reckoned it was a good thing that he hadn't any men like him in the 'precinct'—I think that's the words,
" 'See here, Mr. Superintendent,' says he, 'if your fellas had to deal with the tough crowd of citizens I have to deal with they wouldn't be in business for a week.'
"The super was a bit narked, an' showed it.
" 'I should like to say, Mr. Murphy," he says, very cold, 'that our Nottin' Dale boys could take the toughest tough that was ever fired out of New York, an' make rings round him.'
"We were very proud of our bad characters, an' it sort of hurt the superintendent's feelin's to be told there were any worse characters, or artfuller characters anywhere else in the world.
"It was just about the time of the American Invasion of the Turf, when owners an' trainers an' jockeys were coming here by the hundred, an' with them some of the biggest crooks that ever happened,
"Regular smart chaps they were, who knew the law from A to Z—only, it was American law that they knew, an' that is where some of 'em came a purler.
"But this tale I'm goin' to tell you isn't about the law, but about a chap named Chicago Harry.
"The first we knew about him we learnt from Captain Murphy.
"He was very pleased when he found that Chicago Harry had arrived, because Harry had got the better of the Chicago police, an' the New York police, an' he was curious to see how the London police would tackle him.
"Now, there is a curious difference between English crooks an' American crooks," explained P.-C. Lee, "so far as I been able to judge. The American crook talks, an' the English crook is as dumb as an oyster. There isn't a more silent man on earth than the 'lad' or the 'not,' an' that is why police work is so difficult in this country.
"On the other hand, the American chap likes to boast of what he's done, an' swagger his cleverness for the benefit of his envious pals, an' the first thing that we found out about Harry was that he'd worked the confidence trick on a young Colonial with more money than sense, an' had bagged five hundred of the brightest an' best. It was the old story. The Colonial, walking down the Strand, was met by another Colonial-lookin' gentleman, who gave him the glad hand, said he'd met him in Capetown, an' called him by his name. There was nothin' mysterious about that, because of the gang had been watching the arrival of the South African mail train at Waterloo, an' had read the chap's name on his luggage, an' had shadowed him to his hotel in Norfolk-street, havin' got the feller to have a drink, the rest was easy, an' when the Scotland Yard people got to work, the money was gone, an' the Colonial refused to give any information, not wantin' to appear a fool. We mightn't have heard about it at all, as I say, only Chicago Harry started talkin'.
"The next thing we heard was that he'd pulled off another coup by representing himself to be an owner of race-horses, an' once more, try as hard as they could, the Yard didn't succeed in getting' the jay to prosecute or to help the police prosecute.
"Captain Murphy, who was attached to our division at the time, was simply chortlin', an' Superintendent Gray was glum. He did some tall talkin' by himself, an' one evening' when I was off duty he surprised me by turnin' up at my lodgin's.
" 'Lee,' says he, 'somethin' ought to be done about Chicago Harry.' (I forgot to tell you that the last case of Chicago Harry happened in our division, an' Gray was in charge of the 'D.')
"We talked the matter over for a bit, an' bye an' bye he told me the object of his visit
" 'There isn't a man, Lee' he said, 'in the whole of X Division that knows the "boys" better than you, so I'm goin' to get you to pass the word to a few of 'em that the Yankees are puttin' 'em out of business.' I saw his game in a minute. Next morning, meeting Nick Moss, I casually mentioned the fact that some of the American crowd was makin' money hand over fist, an' I could see, by the way that Nick bit it, that the good work was goin' forward apace.
"I am not quite sure what Nick did, but I've got an idea he had a sort of cabinet council with some of the young gentlemen in Notting Dale. The rest of the story I can only tell you as it was told me.
"Chicago Harry had a fine suite of rooms at a swagger hotel called the 'Sojourn,' an' that is where he used to entertain his pals. That's what worried our people, because they knew that he was not over to work the gold-brick turn upon unsuspectin' colonials, but he was out after bigger stuff. Through the C.I.D. it was discovered that Chicago Harry had a very important job in view, an' you may be sure that the Yard was as keen as razors on stoppin' him.
"It appears that Harry's coup has somethin' to do with to do with racin', an' that he had come over from America with a lot of capital to carry out his plan.
"Harry's plan was to keep clear of anythin' like big hauls, an' concentrate his giant mind, in a manner o' speakin', on the easy money.
"So one day—a Saturday it was—after he'd done himself well with a big lunch—he was walkin' along the Strand smoking' a big cigar, when a young gentleman stopped him, an' asked him which was the nearest way to the Bank of Africa.
" 'Hullo,' say Harry to himself, 'this is providence—nett."
"So he got into conversation with the young gentleman, an' learnt he was a squatter from New South Wales, an' had arrived that mornin' overland from Italy. They got wonderfully friendly in no time, especially as this young gent was so open an' frank about the money he'd made by squattin'. Chicago Harry didn't know much about it, but he asked polite questions an' got a lot of information on subjects he'd never heard of before.
"So Harry asked this young squatter chap to dinner, an' after dinner they played a game of cards, an' Harry lost a fiver just to see how the young gentleman took his luck.
"When the other chaps had gone, those two fellers got very confidential indeed. The squatter told Harry he'd brought over three thousand pounds as a result of a successful year, an' that was goin' to get rid of it to see how money looked at a distance.
"Not to be outdone, Harry opened a private drawer in his steamer trunk, an' showed the young gent rolls of notes an' gold.
"Before they parted that night, Harry says to the squatter: 'I see that you're a true sportsman, an' that you like a game of cards.'
" 'That's true,' says the young squatter.
" 'Now suppose,' says Harry, 'you meet me to-morrow night. I've got a friend with pots of money who thinks he can play cards, but from what I've seen of you, you'll play his head off.'
" 'It don't seem fair,' says the squatter.
" 'Never mind about that,' says Harry, 'but, of course, there's a chance that he'll win your money. You won't blame me, will you?'
" 'Not a bit,' says the young squatter.
" 'He plays very high."
"I'll bring about two thousand,' said the young gent, an' Harry went to bed that night resolved to buy a house an' settle down in England, where money can be had for the askin'.
"What made him cocksure was that the young gent wasn't too well educated, dropped his 'h's,' an' was one of them 'sure an' certain' fellows that are so easy to get over.
"Punctual to the minute next night the squatter turned up by appointment at the corner Piccadilly Circus.
" 'I've only brought a thousand,' he said vary apologetic. 'I mislaid the key of me cash-box, an' besides,' says he, 'I don't suppose I'll want money, for I'm one of the best nap players down our way—in Australia.'
"Harry introduced him to his pal, an' to another man, an' they all four set off for a house in London, N.W., an' after a drink or two they sat down to play.
"The squatter pulled out a sovereign. Harry was a bit took back.
" 'What's that for, Mr. de Smythe?'—that was the squatter's name.
" 'That's just to show I've got money on me,' says Mr. de Smythe.
" 'But why not put out the whole of the money just to show my friend you can trust him?'
" 'Why?' says Mr. de Smythe; 'I don't want to trust anybody, any more than anybody wants to trust me.'
" 'That's where you're wrong,' says Harry, very firm, 'my friend would trust you with everythin' he's got—wouldn't you, George?'
" 'Yes,' says George.
"This argument about trustin' went on for nearly an hour, an' at last it was decided that, in order to show Mr. de Smythe how much he was trusted, the other fellers would hand over their money to him, an' allow him to go outside with it. Then, to show his confidence in them they were to take his money an' go outside with that. It was a great idea, an' perfectly original, an' after some natural hesitation. Mr. de Smythe agreed. They handed over their money—about three hundred pounds.
" 'I don't like doin' it,' he says, as he stood in the doorway; 'suppose I run away?'
" 'That's all right,' says Harry.
" 'When I give my money to you,' says the squatter, still hesitating, 'how do I know—'
" 'Don't say it,' says Harry, very much hurt; 'don't turn the milk of human kindness into gall an' wormwood,' he says.
" 'Well,' says the squatter, reluctantly, 'when I hand over my thousand pounds to your friend, will you promise to stay with me?'
" 'I will,' says Harry.
"So on those terms the squatter went outside with the three hundred belongin' to Harry's friend.
" 'He's easy,' whispers Harry, as soon as he'd disappeared, 'he's the easiest chap I've ever tackled.'
"So him an' his pal arranged when they'd meet the next day to square the squatter's swag, an' they sat down an' waited for the squatter to come back.
"They waited, an' waited, an' waited—but he didn't turn up.
"Harry got pale.
" 'He can't have bunked,' says Harry, 'he's too soft for that.'
"But that squatter chap never turned up.
"Poor Chicago Harry was upset, but nothin' to what he was when he got back to his swagger hotel, for durin' his absence somebody had been in his room an' cleared out every penny.
"They say that Chicago Harry fainted, an' that it took nearly half a bottle of brandy to bring him round. He sent for the police, an' told them that he'd met a suspicions character in the Strand, an' described the young squatter.
" 'When did you meet him?' asked the inspector who bad been called.
" 'About two hours ago,' says Chicago Harry, an' felt for his watch. It was gone!"
I MET Nick Moss a few nights after this. He was beautifully dressed.
" 'Where did you get that watch from?' I says suspiciously.
"Nick pulled it out very proudly.
" 'Me uncle sent it to me,' he says, 'me uncle who's a squatter down Australia way.'"
"TALKIN' about foreigners," said P.C. Lee, who was in one of his communicative moods, "has it ever struck you how the average English bad character always gives the foreign bad character a wide berth? It's the fear of the knife an' the fear of the bullet. If it was a question of hands, our lads would hold their own, for what they can't do with their fists, they can do with a bit of old iron. Murderous attacks in England are always done with a poker or the leg of a chair. If you read about a man attackin' another man with a knife or a razor you can bet he's either mad or Italian.
"One of the few times in my life that I've been, so to speak, in deadly peril, was in the days of the 'Musical Micks.' They were a gang that used to infest this neighbourhood, an' were so called because they always had two or three of 'em who could play the mouth-organ very well indeed. They used to do route marches, like the Territorials; pay visits to other gangs, an', providin' they caught 'em unprepared, would wipe up the street so effectively that the scavengers had no work to do when they came round in the mornin'.
"They paralysed the 'Leary Boys' an' played blazes with the 'Latimer Laners,' an' even went so far afield as to try a cut at the 'Silver Bugle' gang in the City road.
"Mostly they were made up of overgrown boys, with a sprinklin' of rotten bad criminals amongst them, an' they soon had the Nottin' Dale district terrorised.
"Departin' from the healthy traditions—if I may call 'em such—of carryin' half bricks in pocket handkerchiefs, an' copper sticks stuck down their trouser legs, they went in for knives an' cheap Belgian revolvers, an' there was scarcely ever a raid but what one or two of 'em wasn't badly hurt owin' to their revolvers explodin' or their trippin' up an' fallin' on the sharp edges of their deadly daggers.
"Our 'regulars' only used to laugh at their goin's on, an' Nick Moss said that if they was left alone long enough they'd all die accidental deaths, but after one or two old ladies an' gentlemen of Nottin' Hill had been half-frightened out of their lives, we began to take a serious view of the situation, an' orders came from headquarters that the 'Musical Micks' had to be broken up.
"So the next time I saw the 'Micks' comin' in procession along my beat, I warned 'em. They were quite orderly. Two or three of 'em was playin' 'Jolly good luck to the girl who loves the soldier' an' other stirrin' airs on the mouth-organ, an' the rest of 'em was keepin' in step, when I stopped 'em.
"The leader was a fattish chap with a big head an' great big hands, an' he was flabbergasted when I stopped him.
"I just warned him that the gang was gettin' a bit of a nuisance, an' told him that we were goin' to stop it. He was a bit of a lawyer, was the fat-headed chap, an' he started on to argue the point, but I shut him up quick. Then he got saucy an' I gave him a slight smack on the jaw, an' that ended the discussion.
"They couldn't have had their fightin' boots on that night, for they took their captain's smackin' wonderfully quietly. The next morning, though, I received a postcard. There was a skull an' cross-bones on it, a neat coffin, an' a pair of daggers in a bleedin' heart. Not bein' Valentine's Day, I wondered where it had come from, till it occurred to me that it was from the 'Musical Micks.'
"I took no notice, an' the next day I got a letter which started, 'This is written in blood.' As a matter of fact, it was written in red ink with a pen that had been used for black ink. It went on to say that I was 'dommed', an' that a 'lott' had been drawn as to who should kill me, an' that 'Black Alf' had 'copped lucky.' I went about without any great fear for my life, even when I found another blood letter pushed under my door with 'be wear' written on, but meetin' the fat-headed captain, I told him that if I got any more correspondence from his funny society, I should take the first opportunity I had of givin' him a lift under the ear.
"All this was very amusin', up to a point, but the 'Musical Micks' got past that point one night when they met a young constable in the 'X' division an', bein' checked for the row they were makin', fell on him an' well nigh booted him to death.
"We sent out officers to find the leaders, an' found 'em sittin' with an alibi in both hands. We roped 'em into the station, but it was very evident that we had no case, an' they were released in the early mornin'. That night, before I went on duty, another letter come for me. It was signed, 'Black Death,' an' told me that I had until closin' time to clear up my earthly account. I took no notice of it beyond mentionin' the matter to the sergeant an' went on duty.
"Now, as I've said, there's a point where a joke stops an' serious business begins There are people who pull chairs away from under other people, in consequence of which piece of comicality a feller may break his neck; other folks point guns that aren't loaded at people—an' there's a comical funeral.
"That night, whilst I was smilin' to myself about the 'Musical Micks,' the 'Musical Micks' was smilin' about me, an' rehearsin' the Dead March softly on their mouth-organs.
"It was about two o'clock in the mornin' when they came upon me, a dozen of 'em, in masks. I saw them comin', an' saw the masks in the light of a street lamp, an' had time to get my 'stick' out an' my whistle in my mouth.
"I don't exactly know what happened, but I've an idea I floored a couple, an' then my light went out, an' when I woke up I was in a police-ambulance on my way to the West London Hospital with a noise in my head.
"I was three weeks in hospital an' it was durin' that three weeks that I worked out the situation, an' decided that the whack I'd got on the head—in addition to other things—had absolutely upset my sense of humour.
"It was several days before I could think without gettin' a pain at the back of my head, but when I did give the matter a few minutes' painful thought, I decided that there was more serious purpose in the 'Musical Micks' combination than I had given it credit tor.
"People who aren't acquainted with police ways an' methods would think that as soon as I got out of hospital I would go straight to work to find out who had 'done me in'—but all the inquiries necessary had already been made an' there was no evidence whatsoever to prove that any particular person had been guilty.
"The first night I was back on duty I met the fat-headed leader, lookin' about as innercent as a moon calf.
" 'Hullo, Mr. Lee,' he says; 'glad to see you back—we've missed you.'
" 'I dessay,' says I.
" 'We thought of gettin' a subscription up for you—as a mark of our respect,' he says.
" 'I've got all the marks I want,' I says, 'an' they were presented to me by generous subscribers who prefer to remain anonymous.'
" 'What's anonymous?' says the fat-headed chap, puzzled.
" 'Doggo,' says I, 'to use plain English.'
"From all that I managed to pick up, from various sources, I found out that my young friends were mightily pleased with themselves at havin' messed up two policemen in one week, an' were goin' stronger than ever. Two or three little outrages were reported, an' one evenin', hearin' a whistle blowin', I sprinted in the direction of the sound to find that Sergeant Boyles had been 'outed' by the same gang that had put me to sleep. By good luck we found evidence that pointed to the fat-headed leader, an' we scooped him in. He was remanded for a week, durin which time the gang made preparations to prove an alibi.
"Their idea was to make a fine example of another policeman to prove that the good work went on, even though the accused man was in prison—they thought that this would prove that he had nothin' to do with it.
"Lookin' around for a likely victim, they chose P.C. Lee, an' one night, turnin' out of Byston Mews, seven or eight of 'em with masks on suddenly pounced on me, snatched my whistle, chucked me down an' sat on me, stuffed a bit of cotton waste in my mouth an' dragged me into the dark mews.
"They'd evidently planned the whole thing, which was to tie me up to a lamp post an' take all my clothes away, an' I'm ready to admit that the idea was ingenious.
"But at the last minute they had to change their plans. The lamp-post they'd chosen was too public an' there was too much light. One of 'em, skirmishin' round, had found a short iron post at the further end of the mews, and to this they dragged me. They ripped off my coat, an' fastened me to the post.
" 'I hope, Lee,' says one of 'em in a solemn voice, 'that this'll be a lesson to you.'
"Havin' a bunch of cotton waste in my mouth I said nothin'.
" 'You'll stay here till mornin',' sez the feller, an' just then I got one of my hands loose an' began feelin' about. The tyin' was clumsy an' I don't doubt that I could have got completely loose in three minutes, but that wasn't my game. What I wanted to do was to bag this gentleman, an' I thought I could do it.
"They helped theirselves to destruction, for findin' that there wasn't any pleasure in a one-sided conversation, they took the waste out of my mouth, one of 'em showin' me a cobbler's knife an' tellin' me where I would go to if I made a noise. I'm inclined to think he was wrong, because I've always been a regular church-goer.
" 'This'll learn you a lesson,' said the leader, 'not to interfere with the "Terrors of the North".'
" 'There's one thing I'd like to ask,' I says politely, 'an' that is, would you kindly break my lantern?'
" 'What for?' says the leader, suspicious.
" 'Because,' I says, 'I don't want my superiors to think I gave in without a fight.'
" 'This amused 'em highly, an' one went to fetch the lantern.
" 'Break it here,' I says, 'lift it up an' smash it on the ground.'
" 'He wants to make a noise to attract attention,' says one of the fellers, but I told 'em how silly that was. There was only stables in the mews, an' they were mostly empty, an' at the end there was a little toy warehouse. So one of 'em went to the open end of the mews—it was a blind thoroughfare—had a good look round an' come back to say the coast was clear.
"Then they smashed the lantern. They took a lot of pleasure in smashin' it—an' it took a lot of smashin'. The air, so to speak, was filled with the noise of breakin' glass, an' at last, havin' jumped on it, an' kicked it, an' generally made a wreck of it, they turned to go.
" 'Good-night,' says the leader, 'I hope you'll report to your pals in the mornin' that the "Silver Hatchet Avengers" are not to be played with. I hope——'
" 'You go on hopin',' I says, 'we'll have all of you inside before the week's out.'
" 'Ho!' says the feller, 'gettin' saucy, are you?
" 'Look here, Mr. bloomin' Lee. The copper was never born that could snaffle one of "The Death-Dealers"——'
" 'Beer-stealers,' I says.
" 'Death-Dealers,' says the chap, 'that bein' the name of our band. An' moreover——'
"He got so far, when somewhere up the street came a clangin' of a gong an' a shoutin' of 'Hi! Hi!'
"They stood paralysed for a minute, wonderin' what was happenin'. The gong an' the shouts came nearer, with a roarin' of wheels, then suddenly, an' before they realised what had happened, a fire engine swung into the mews, an' the whole scene was revealed in the engines' lights. Eight young fellers in masks, an' me tied up to a fire alarm!"
"The 'Death-Dealers' an' 'The Silver Hatchets' showed fight, but they were no match for fierce firemen who'd been called up in the middle of the night out of their beds. We walked 'em down to the station very dazed an' very bewildered.
"I saw the leader in the cells:
" 'There's one question I'd like to ask you, Mr. Lee,' he says, 'What was the game about smashin' the lantern——oh, lord!'
"For he suddenly remembered that about the time he was breakin' the lantern I was breakin' the glass of the fire-alarm."
"GENIUS," said P.-C. Lee, "is what I should call a disputable word. A genius isn't everybody's money, an' it entirely depends on the point of view of a person whether a feller who's natural gifted is regarded as mad or only just silly. Generally speakin' a genius isn't admired until he gets into trouble.
"I knew a little chap named Martin, who had a smatterin' of engineerin' knowledge, who laid himself out to invent a turbine engine that was worked by petrol. Used to spend the valuable time he might have been employin' in drinkin' in makin' drawin's an' models, an', naturally enough, people down my way used to say he wasn't quite right in his head. People, who lived next door, used to look over their backyard wall an' see him potterin' about in the yard, an' old Mrs. McCuddy, after watchin' him spend a whole solid hour in twistin' one little wheel, made him a custard an' sent it in to him, with her best respects, an' hopin' that he would feel better in the mornin'.
"Daft Martin they used to call him, an' they'd shake their heads whenever he passed an' say 'Poor feller,' an' even the landlord, an' the chap who kept the White Hart public-house round the corner used to speak about him as though he was only kept out of Colney Hatch because there was no accommodation for him inside.
"After spendin' all the money he had or could borrow on his invention, Martin chucked it up in despair, an' went crooked.
"He went in for house-breakin', an' invented a new way of openin' a window catch with a bradawl.
"He was caught at it, taken up to the sessions an' put under the Probation Act, which is a respectable form of ticket-of-leave.
"But Daft Martin got tired of reportin' himself at church every month, an' havin' invented a new method of window glass cuttin', he was re-arrested an' charged. That's when his true merit was recognised.
" 'Here's a man of genius,' says the judge, who, if he'd turn his ability in the right direction, might have made a comfortable income.'
"The jury found him guilty, an' added a rider to the effect that it was very sad to see a man of genius in his position, an' if he'd only turned his ability in the right direction....
"The chaplain who came to see him in gaol shook his head very melancholy.
" 'What a pity, Martin,' says he, 'that you didn't turn that genius of yours in a more honourable direction. A man with your powers——'
"Martin got very wild at that.
" 'Look here, sir,' he says; 'I've been turnin' this bloomin' genius of mine in fifty proper directions! An it cost me every penny that I had. There ain't any profitable direction for genius except housebreakin', burglary, coinin', an' the confidence trick.'
"Martin found out what I found out years before, an' that is that the police court is the home of cheap reputations.
"I suppose it is that indifferent accomplishments shine in that place. They are just like indifferent jokes by contrast with the general surroundin's, an' the only man whose genius wasn't properly appreciated when he was hiked before the beak, was the genius by the name o' 'Toppy White.'
"Toppy was in a line of business particularly his own. He used to wait until City men had gone to their office, watch 'em safely into the suburban train, wait half-an-hour; go back to their house very agitated, an' ask the lady if she'd be kind enough to give him Mr. So-and-so's overcoat what he'd left behind.
"Toppy always chose a suitable day, when it was ten chances to one that a man might have thought twice on his way to the station whether he oughtn't to have taken his coat, an' Toppy was always careful to pick out a gentleman who had gone out without one.
"One day he had a bright idea. It happened when he was in court, listenin' to the particulars of a few low thievin' cases, that he heard the magistrate say to the clerk, 'What's the time, Mr. Tims? I foolishly forgot to bring my watch away from home.'
"That was enough for Toppy. He dashed off to the nearest Free Library, got out a directory, an' found where the magistrate lived, darted after an' caught the first rattler,* an' made his way to the magistrate's house."
[*Rattler = Train]
"When the maid came to the door, Toppy, looking very severe, ses, 'I am the under-bailiff, Miss, from the court, an' His Worship has sent me to say that he has left his watch behind, on the dressin' table.' (Toppy made a guess at this.) 'An' will you give it to me at once, please?'
"Of course, the girl hadn't any idea that there was a feller in the world who'd commit what I might call sacrilege in a magistrate's house, so Toppy got the watch all right, an' he'd sold it an' spent the money before we scooped him in.
"The magistrate, who was a rare chap for jokin' on the bench, didn't, somehow, see the humour of the situation, nor the genius of it, either. Toppy went down to the jug for six months.
"Curiously enough, he didn't get the public reputation for that job that he ought to have got, because the magistrate asked the reporters to keep it dark, but he got a most tremendous reputation amongst his pals, an' was highly respected ever after.
"Why I am talkin' about genius at the police courts—an' more especially Toppy's—is because of a strange thing that happened last week.
"About a month ago Toppy's name appeared on our released convicts' list. He'd been doin' twelve months for felony, an' was expected home within a few days. I did not know, as a matter of fact, that he had been convicted, an' when I looked it up I found that he'd been convicted for a crime at Nottingham, but had given his address in our district. We got his name amongst others.
"Toppy, in addition to bein' a 'tale teller,' was a very handy man with his fists, an' over his last job he only just escaped the cat by the skin of his teeth.
"I knew where to find him, so after I had got the word that he'd been welcomed home by lovin' friends, an' that there had been rare jollifications in his street, I took the trouble to call round an' see him."
" 'Hello, Mr. Lee!' he ses, cheerful.
" 'Where have you been?' I ses.
" 'At the seaside,' ses Toppy; 'in me villa on the South Coast, commandin' a fine view of the shippin', extensive grounds, secluded apartments, an' meals at regular hours.'
" 'Where was this?' ses I. 'Lewes Gaol?'
" 'It was,' ses Toppy, very cheerful.
"He went on to tell me that he was goin' straight in the future. He had to say that, because it was part of his graft, so to speak. I never met a man who had been released from prison who was not goin' straight in the future. I gave him all the good advice that he could hold, an' he listened very respectful, but I don't think he was very greatly affected.
"After I had finished he ses to me, very earnest:
" 'Mr. Lee, suppose Walker's, the drapers shop in the High Street, was broke into to-night an' a lot of silk mufflers pinched, who would you look for?'
" 'Harry Time,' I ses without a moments hesitation.
" 'An' suppose a feller took furnished lodgin's up Kensington Park way, an' disappeared at night with all the silver, leavin' behind an old trunk full of bricks, who would you rope in?'
" 'Hockey Carter,' I ses.
" 'An' suppose,' ses Toppy, 'a house on your beat was entered whilst the family was at dinner, by means of a ladder put up to one of the bedroom windows, who would you snaffle?'
" 'Little Jinks,' I ses prompt, an' Toppy nodded.
" 'That's it,' ses he, slowly. 'That's the whole secret of the profession's bloomin' downfall. There are too many specialists on the job, an' they are too well known. There ain't enough general practitioners in our line of business,' he ses, 'we are all bloomin' experts, an' that's why we are pinched.'
" 'That's so,' ses I.
" 'Now, I give you me word,' ses Toppy, speakin' very serious, 'that I am goin' to drop tale pitchin'. I am goin' to show you what genius can do.'
"I gave him a lot of unnecessary advice an' left him, an' nothin' happened for a few days.
"Then a complaint was brought into the station that a stout old gentleman, who lived in Ladbroke-crescent had been violently assaulted about midnight on his way home, his watch an' chain stolen, an' his hat bashed in over his eyes.
"Now, the only man that could have done that, so far as we knew, was Jim Hart, who was doin' time, so he couldn't have been the man, an' although we made careful inquiries, we couldn't find another man in the same line of business on our ground.
"The very next night, there was a ladder larceny in Kensington Park Gardens, an' we consequently asked, who was the man, if it wasn't Little Jinks?
"But at the time the robbery was committed, Little Jinks proved that he was takin' coal tickets from the Kensington Benevolent Society.
"We went an' searched for another likely man, but he had an alibi, too.
"The next day there was a till stolen from a little shop in Portobello-road—pinched in broad daylight—an' nobody saw the man.
"Now, we hadn't any doubt at all that we knew this chap, because the only lob crawler* in the district was a fellow named Fatty, an' down went our detective-sergeant immediately to pull Fatty into the fire, but Fatty wasn't guilty. Fatty was away at a meetin' of the unemployed on Tower Hill, an' brought three orators to prove that at the time the till was stolen he was sayin' 'hear, hear' to a number of fine sentiments about confiscation of property, that was the subject of the meetin.'
[*Lob-crawling = Till-stealing]
"Of course, I had my own idea, which was almost a certainty, an' that idea was the gentleman responsible was my young friend Toppy.
"I mentioned the fact to our inspector, an' he pooh-poohed it.
" 'Toppy,' he said. 'Why, that's not in Toppy's line. He is tale-teller. Don't you know that, Lee? I would no more dream of accusin' Toppy than I should of accusin' you.'
"It shows that the police business is carried on, on the same conservative lines as any other old-established industry.
"For the next two months crime after crime occurred on every beat, but not once did we manage to catch the criminal. It was not only ladder larcenies, lob crawlin', but it was pewter claimin', an' snide passin'.*
[*Pewter-claiming = Pot-stealing; snide-passing = the passing of counterfeit coin.]
"Havin' my own theory, as I said before, I went round to see Toppy. He was smilin' an' affable, an' was very much surprised to see me.
" 'What's wrong, Mr. Lee?' ses he, as innercent as a child.
" 'Everythin', ses I. 'Housebreakin', pewter claimin', an' larceny of all kinds.'
" 'Dear me!' ses Toppy, very shocked, 'what an awful lot of depravity there is in the world, isn't there, Mr. Lee?'
" 'You can shut down the guff,' I ses sternly, 'we've just pulled in Harry Time for a draper's robbery in Westbourne-grove.'
" 'The villain!' ses Toppy, highly virtuous.
" 'Up to a point you're right,' I ses, 'but unfortunately he isn't the villain of the piece, because we've got evidence that he couldn't have committed the robbery. We've released him an' he's very wild——'
" 'He ought to be very thankful,' ses Toppy, indignantly.
" 'Well, he's not,' I ses, 'he's very wild at the chap who's been poachin' on his ground, an' swears he'll get even with him for all the trouble he's caused him. Now, let me warn you, Toppy——'
" 'Me?' ses Toppy scandalised, 'warn me? What have I done?'
" 'You know jolly well what you have done,' I ses, 'an' take my advice an' don't do it again.'
"I left him very hurt.
"One night there was a particular darin' robbery in a jeweller's shop in Westbourne-grove. It was a bit misty, an' there were very few people in the street, an' the jeweller was thinkin' of closin' up for the night, when, suddenly he heard a smash of glass, an' dashed out to find somebody had put a stone through his window, an' taken a big handful of rings an' watches, an' disappeared. He yelled for help, an' the constable, who was on point duty a little way up the street, came runnin' down, but there was no sign of the thief.
"This happened at exactly five past eight, an' the report came into the station, an' an A.S.* sent round London. We were discussin' it in the parade room just before goin' on duty, when a very agitated old gentleman came in an' said he had been robbed. It appears that his grown-up son an' daughter had gone off to the theatre that night in their carriage, an' about half an hour after they had gone, a man dressed in what looked like the livery of a commissionaire, came to the door, rang the bell, an' asked to see the old feller. He said he had come from the son, who had found he'd forgotten to take any money with him, an' would the old gentleman send a couple of pounds at once. He mentioned the name of the theatre they were goin' to, an' bein', as he was, in a sort of uniform the old gentleman didn't doubt that he was genuine.
[*A.S. = All Stations]
"So he parted with two of the brightest an' best, an' the commissionaire touched his hat an' went away. A few minutes later the son came back in a cab.
"He said he'd gone away without any money an' had only found it out when he got to the Tube an' was goin' to pay his fare, but he thought he'd go on to the West End an' fix up a cheque. But when he got to the theatre he found he'd left his tickets behind, too, an' that was why he'd come back. When the old man told him about the commissionaire, he gasped, for he hadn't sent anybody.
"The old man told the story an' the inspector took it down in writin'. After the old boy had gone, the inspector says:
" 'I'm tired of these things goin' on without any arrest, but I think I've got the right man this time. Lee, go round to Harry Time, an' pull him in for the jewellery robbery. When you've got him there, go round an' take Toppy; we'll see what evidence we can get.'
"So I took another constable with me, an' round we went. We found Harry Time just goin' to bed.
" 'I want you, Harry,' I ses.
" 'All right,' he ses, 'done a cop. I'll go quiet. I was a fool to do it; I ought to have known I'd be spotted.'
"He dressed himself quickly.
" 'What's it for?' he ses.
" 'For smashin' Erstein's window an' stealin' watches——'
" 'What!' he gasps; 'well, I'm blowed!'
"I searched the house but found no watches, but under the bed I found a commissionaire's coat.
"I took Toppy out of a public-house.
" 'What's up?' he ses.
" 'The old thing,' I ses; 'you're wanted, an' I'm goin' to take you into custody.'
" 'So you've spotted me at last, have you?—What's the charge?'
" 'Tale pitchin',' ses I; 'obtainin' £2 by means of a trick——'
" 'Good heavens!' ses Toppy, excitedly, 'I haven't pitched a tale for a month.'
"We searched his house. Under the mattress were seven watches, nine gold Alberts, an' four rings."
THEY got nine months apiece an' was very bitter about it.
" 'I'm punished for another man's crime,' ses Toppy; 'do you think I'd tell a tale as clumsy as that?'
" 'I've got a laggin' innercent,' ses Harry Time; 'any fool ought to know that I wouldn't pinch clocks* with so many brooches in the window. This comes of tryin' another feller's lay.'"
WHEN people talk of crime they think in jemmies, dark lanterns, and revolvers. P.C. Lee and I think less romantically in trousers and in rolls of flannel.
There are all sorts of methods which may be adopted to bring about a decrease in Metropolitan crime. High-minded people talk of the Borstal system of segregation, of home influence, of visitation and the like, but I think—and P.-C. Lee agrees with me—that what is badly required is a law preventing shop-keepers from exposing goods for sale outside their shops.
"Snatchin'," said P.-C. Lee on the subject, "is a regular profession for some of the people I know. They snatch their beef for dinner, an' their boots to wear. They snatch hats, caps, trousers, an' greatly-reduced-millinery, because its easier than burglarin', an' because there is the stuff waitin' invitin'ly an' sayin', 'come an' pinch me.'
"It's a terrible temptation, an' it's pretty difficult to overcome. There used to be a greengrocer's shop in Portobello-road that had a big bulgin' stall outside, full of ripe apples, an' I could never pass that shop without a most horrible feelin' comin' over me that if I didn't pinch an apple I should bust.
"Accomplishments like snatchin' seem to run in families, an' the finest instance of that was the history of 'Cobbler' King's family.
"I don't know one of 'em that hadn't done time for some kind of snatchin' or other. Cobbler was an M.A. Portland, an' young Cobbler, his son, graduated at Borstal University on the short-sentence system. Mrs. Cobbler, bein' a well-dressed lady, used to be a kleptomaniac, an' used to excite a great deal of sympathy an' pity until she was found out, an' then she became the ordinary shop-lifter, an' did her six months with the best of 'em; an' little Sarah Cobbler used to steal from stalls anythin' she could lay her hands on, an' altogether they were the finest instance of genius runnin' in the family that I know.
"The curious thing about 'em, an' where they differed from every other kind of bad character, was that they never stayed in the same district for longer than a year. Once they got a conviction against 'em they borrowed a barrer, put their furniture on it, an' moved to a new neighbourhood. This used to be mistaken for pride, but, as a matter of fact, they knew how the police worked, an' they knew that it was much better to clear off a ground where they were well known, an' try a new field.
"They started at Nottin' Dale, an' after five years' wanderin's through the wilds of Hampstead, Highgate, Stratford, Deptford, an' similar foreign places, they exhausted the whole of London an' came back to Nottin' Dale again. I was on duty in Carshowe-road when they turned up, pushin' their barrer.
"Old man Cobbler was between the shafts, Mrs. Cobbler was pushin' up behind, an' Master Cobbler an' Miss Cobbler were carryin' suspicious-lookin' bundles.
"I suppose if I had done my duty I would have jugged them then an' there, but I believe in givin' a feller a chance, so instead of searchin' the bundles for stolen property, which I was pretty sure was there, I gave him good-day.
" 'Good-mornin', Mr. Lee,' he ses, as polite as possible; 'fine weather for this time of the year.'
" 'Back again?' ses I.
" 'Yes,' he ses, puttin' down the legs of the barrer, an' stoppin' to wipe the perspiration off his forehead; 'we've come from Deptford, a very low neighbourhood, Mr. Lee.'
" 'So I'm told,' I ses.
" 'It is, indeed,' he ses earnestly. 'Nothin' but low, thievin' people, an' innercent chaps gettin' the blame for what they do.'
" 'That's bad,' I ses, without battin' an eyelid; 'I hope now you've come into this beautiful country village you'll have better luck: an' I hope,' I went on, 'that if there's any snatchin' done in this neighbourhood that the guilty parties will be discovered.'
"He looked a bit old-fashioned at that.
" 'I didn't say anythin' about snatchin', Mr. Lee,' he ses, shortly.
" 'I thought you did,' ses I.
"Just about the time Cobbler came back to the dear old home, we had another arrival on my beat. There was a shop at the unfashionable part o' Portobello-road, that had been to let for a long time, an' this was taken by a smart young feller named Simmy. He was going to open it as a cheap draper's, an' accordin' to what he told me, he was goin' to show Nottin' Hill how a business ought to be run. He hadn't been in business before, but he had lots o' theories. He was very contemptuous about other shopkeepers.
" 'They've been goin' along in a groove,' he ses, 'an' they can't get out of it. No business ideas, no acumen——'
" 'How much?' I says.
" 'Acumen,' he says.
" 'What's that?' ses I—'a new kind of gas-mantle?'
" 'What they want,' ses Mr. Simmy, 'is Push an' Go, an' Advertisement. Now, I'd like to bet, he went on, 'that none of these chaps know anythin' about Advertisin'.'
"He smiled in a superior way.
" 'You'd be surprised to learn, constable,' he ses, carelessly, 'that I've taken a five-guinea course of ad. writin'—an' passed out at the head of my class.'
" 'How many in the class, sir?' I ses.
" 'That's beside the question,' ses Mr. Simmy a little annoyed, 'though, as a matter of fact there was three, but I want to point a moral in a manner of speakin'.'
"He then went on to show me how advertisements ought to be written. How the wrong way was to say:—
H. W. SIMMY,
DRAPER AND OUTFITTER.
ALL KINDS OF WEAR AND UNDERWEAR.
MODERATE PRICER AND GOOD QUALITY.
"And the right way ran like this:—
THIS IS SIMMY'S!
HELP YOURSELF TO EVERYTHING YOU REQUIRE.
WE CAN SUPPLY YOUR EVERY NEED.
" 'That'll attract 'em,' ses Mr. Simmy, triumphantly showin' me the advertisement.
" 'It will,' I ses, 'especially that bit about helpin' yourself. I know one gentleman who's arrived to-day on a visit to these parts who'll be tremendously attracted.'
"So I told him about Cobbler, the Snatcher, but he only laughed.
" 'That's where brains come in,' he ses. 'I've got an idea of me own. I'm goin' to fix an arrangement to all the goods I show outside, whereby nobody can pinch anythin'.'
"That was the kind of man Mr. Simmy was; he knew all there was to be known, an' wasn't open to receivin' information—because it was unnecessary.
"A week later he had his name up over the shop:—
WILLIAM HERBERT SIMMY
JONES AND NIGGINS
An' the neighbourhood was flooded with handbills that started:—
DO YOU WANT SHIRTS FOR NOTHING?
"On the followin' Saturday he opened for business, an' I must say he made a very fine show, both inside the shop an' outside. His stock bulged out into the street, an' I could see that, unless his wonderful invention worked better than most wonderful inventions, he was goin' to have a bad stock-takin'.
"I thought it advisable to warn 'im again, but he hinted that if I minded my business, he'd mind his, 'an' I accordin'ly left him alone—which is my readin' of answerin' a fool accordin' to his folly.
"I came strollin' down the Portobello-road about closin' time that night an' stopped to pass a word with him. He was very pleased with himself, because trade had been pretty brisk, the brass band he had playin' in the front parlour upstairs—the windows bein' open—havin' attracted a lot of custom.
" 'Lost anythin',' I said.
"He laughed at the idea.
" 'No, constable,' he ses, 'I'll explain my invention to you. Attached to all the bales an' bundles outside, I've got an electric wire. The moment they are disturbed in any way, a bell rings in the shop—see?'
" 'A very good idea,' I ses, an' just then the assistant came up.
" 'I beg your pardon, sir,' ses he to Mr. Simmy, 'but I can't find that roll of American cloth anywhere.'
" 'What roll?' ses Simmy.
" 'The one marked "cheap at half the price."'
" 'Nonsense,' ses Simmy, 'it must he there.'
"But it wasn't; they searched everywhere, but 'cheap at half the price was gone.'
" 'It couldn't have gone without the electric thief-catcher soundin' a warnin' note,' says Simmy, poetically.
"But it had gone, an', although they turned the shop inside out, they couldn't find it. Then he discovered that somebody had most carefully cut the wires of the thief-catcher, an' that sort of cheered him up.
" 'It wasn't the fault of my invention,' he ses. 'If the thievin' scoundrels hadn't interfered with that they'd have been caught.'
"Whilst he was takin' further stock to see what else had been pinched, I continued my way. At the corner of Colville Gardens, who should I run up against but Cobbler.
" 'Hullo, Cob,' ses I, 'what have you been doin' with yourself this evenin'?'
" 'Just strollin' round Mr. Lee,' he ses.
" 'You didn't happen to meet a roll of American cloth in your travels, I suppose,' ses I. 'You didn't see a poor, misguided piece of cloth runnin' away from a comfortable home?'
" 'No, Mr. Lee,' he ses, as blandly as a baby; 'have you lost one?'
" 'No,' I ses, 'but if I had I think I should know where to find it.'
"Simmy wasn't at all discouraged by his thief-catcher goin' wrong. He had a lot of faith in Simmy, an' the next time I saw him, he'd got an extra special arrangement fixed.
"But he had a lot of trouble over it, because there were quite a lot of honest people who touched the goods outside, an' naturally a customer sortin' over the basket of boys' caps that stood on the pavement outside, resented Simmy runnin' out with a coke hammer, an' shoutin' 'Police!' at the top of his voice. He was rather glum about it, but I tried to cheer him up.
" 'What you want, sir,' I ses, 'is an invention that takes no notice of honest an' genuine customers, but sounds what I might call a clarion peal as soon as the snatcher gets within ten yards of the goods.'
"He looked at me suspiciously, as though he guessed I was pullin' his leg, an' if he'd guessed again, he'd have been wrong.
"I saw Cobbler off an' on, an' Mrs. Cobbler, too. I was called once to eject 'em from a public-house, an' from their high spirits an' the names they called the landlord I gathered that things were goin' well with 'em.
"An' so they were, for poor Mr. Simmy's outside stock used to go with great rapidity, in spite of all his patent precautions.
"Rolls of print would vanish, an' nobody see who took 'em; gloves, hats, blouses, an' babies' clothes—they sort of melted away.
"Then me an' Simmy hit upon a great scheme. He'd tried everythin' he could think of without success, an' he came down to my lodgin's specially to get advice.
"He wasn't a bad little chap, though given to bein' a bit bumptious, an' I wanted to help him all I could.
" 'Mr. Lee,' he ses, very solemnly, 'this pinchin' business has got to stop, or else I've got to shut up shop. I've tried everythin', an' yesterday I put on a brand new alarm.'
" 'Last night,' he went on, with tears in his eyes, 'they came an' stole a roll of flannelette, an' what's worse, they stole the whole bloomin' thief alarm that cost me 30s. the day before!'
"This floored me, an' we sat for a few minutes lookin' across the table at one another in silence.
"Then the idea of my life struck me.
" 'Suppose,' I ses, 'I get you a watcher, a man to stand outside your shop?'
" 'They're no good,' ses poor Mr. Simmy, 'I've tried 'em, but the goods go.'
" 'They won't go with this man,' I ses; 'will you pay him a pound a week?'
" 'I'll pay him twenty-five shillings,' ses Simmy, 'an glad to, if my goods aren't stolen.'
"Then next day I went down to call on Cobbler. His missus opened the door, an' as soon as she saw me she said:
" 'There's nothin' in this house, Mr. Lee, except what's lawfully come by.'
" 'Make your mind easy, Mrs. Cobbler,' I ses, 'I only want your old man.'
" 'You can't prove nothin' against him,' she ses quick.
"Then I explained to her that I wasn't on police business, an' the matter was private, an' she invited me in.
"Cobbler listened to what I had to say to him in astonishment.
" 'What's that?' he ses suspiciously, 'want me to mind a shop—what's the game?'
" 'The game is this, Cobbler,' I ses. 'This Mr. Simmy is losin' his stuff. It's bein' snatched, an' I want to get him a man who knows the ways o' snatchin' to look after the business.'
"The novelty of the idea struck him all of a heap. I don't suppose he'd ever been offered an honest job in his life, an' the thought of 25s. a week regular took his fancy.
"The long an' the short of it was, I introduced him to Mr. Simmy, an' he went about his duties like a boy who'd got a job pickin' apples.
"He was the greatest success you could imagine. Not a thing was stolen; he detected a young snatcher named Hikey Wood, an' jolly nearly killed him; he kept every thief an' sneak at bay, an' Mr. Simmy was so delighted that he raised his salary half-a-crown a week.
"He could afford to do it, because as soon as the worry of losin' his goods was taken off his mind, he devoted himself to business, an' began to branch out.
" 'What I can't understand, Mr. Lee,' he ses to me one evenin', 'is the way my profits are increasin'. An' another thing is how I managed to have the luck to get the very things I want to compete with my rivals.'
" 'How so?' I ses, not understandin' him.
" 'Well,' he ses, 'the other day I noticed that Hoggs an' Manes, the big drapers in Westbourne Grove, were doin' a big line in red-striped serge. My customers asked me for it, so I knew that it was a line that had caught on.
" 'I happened to mention the matter to that watcher o' mine, an' said what a pity it was we hadn't got that serge in stock. Next day, what do you think happened? Why, Mr. Cobbler went through my warehouse an' actually found a roll o' that very serge!'
"This made me very thoughtful.
" 'He did, did he?' I ses, an' then I went in search of Cobbler.
" 'Cobbler,' I ses, sternly, 'where did that red serge come from?'
"He looked a little uncomfortable.
" 'Well, Mr. Lee,' he ses, 'the guv'nor said he wanted it, an' I happened to be walkin' up Westbourne Grove an' there was Hogg an' Manes' shop with the red serge outside, an' nobody lookin' after it, an'——'
" 'Don't tell me any more,' I ses, hastily. 'I respect you for tryin' to help your master, but there's such a thing as overdoin' it.'"
"MYSTERIES, such as you read about, an' certain people who write about" (P.-C. Lee shot a significant glance at me) "very seldom come the way of the police. When you read in the newspapers, 'Another Mystery: Police Baffled,' it's pots to pints that what is a mystery to the general public, ain't much of a mystery to the police, nor to the Press either.
"By my way of lookim' at things, a journalist often has to sit down an' write 'Police Baffled' when he knows that if he wrote the truth he would say, 'I know who committed the murder an' so does the police, but I can't mention his name for fear of libel, an' the police can't arrest him because there is an important link missin' in the evidence.
"So when you hear of chaps like D. S. Windell robbin' a bank an' gettin' clear away with the stuff, don't imagine that the police don't know who did it; don't imagine that they're not watchin' him an' his accomplices day an' night, waitin' for the opportunity of nabbin' him, because if you do, you're mistaken. Some day he'll be taken, an' then the public will realise that the things they've lost sight of, the police keep under their eye, an' the things they've forgotten all about, the police remember.
"There always will be a certain percentage of mysteries turnin' up, that simply won't untwist themselves, but the mystery that I'm thinkin' of particularly is the Wexford Brothers' Industrial Society, which unravelled itself in a curious fashion," said P.-C. Lee.
"If you don't happen to know the Wexford Brothers, I can tell you that you haven't missed much. It was a sort of religious sect, only more so, because these chaps didn't smoke, an' didn't drink or eat meat, or enjoy themselves like ordinary human bein's, an' they belonged to the anti-gamblin', anti-imperial, anti-life-worth-livin' folks.
"They were all fairly well-to-do people, retired merchants, an' retired Army people, an' there was a fair sprinklin' of old maids. They had a little meeting place off the Bayswater-road, where they used to meet three times a week an' discuss the horrible condition of the world. They never tried to make it any better, an' they got depressed if it looked so.
"The chief chap was Brother Samsin, a white-faced gentleman with black whiskers. He was a sort of class-leader, an' it was through him that the Duke started his Wexford Brothers' Industrial Society.
"The Duke wasn't a bad character, in spite of his name, which was given to him by the lads of Nottin' Dale. He was a bright, talkative, an' plausible young feller, who'd spent a lot of time in the Colonies, an' had come back to London broke to the world owin' to speculation.
"Why I know so much about him is that he used to lodge in my house. He was a gentleman with very nice manners, an' when Brother Samsin called on me one afternoon an' met the Duke, the brother was so impressed with the respect an' reverence with which the Duke treated him that he asked him home to tea.
"To cut a long story short, this bright young man came to know all the brothers and sisters of the society an' became quite a favourite.
"I thought at first he had thoughts of joinin' the Brotherhood, but he soon corrected that.
" 'No, Lee,' ses he, 'that would spoil the whole thing. At present I'm attracted to them because I'm worldly and wicked. If I became a brother, I'd be like one of them. At present they've no standard to measure me by, an' so I'm unique.'
"What interested the brothers most was the Duke's stories of his speculations in the Colonies, of how you can make a thousand pounds in the morning, lose two thousand in the evening, an wake up next mornin' to find that you've still got a chance of makin' all you've lost an' a thousand besides.
"At any rate, this is how his yarns always sounded to me. I don't say they weren't true. Anythin' might happen in the Colonies, an' I don't doubt that the Duke was tellin' the truth.
"Well, anyway, he got the brothers interested, an' after a lot of palaver an' all sorts of secret meetin's, it was decided to start the Industrial Society, an' make the Duke chief organiser an' secretary.
"The idea was to subscribe a big sum of money, an allow the Duke to use it to the best of his ability 'on legitimate enterprises'—those were the words in the contract.
"The Duke took a little office over a barber's shop near the Nottin' Hill Gate Station, an' started work. Nothin' happened for a month. There were directors' meetin's an' money was voted, but in the second week of April, two months after the society was formed, the Duke said the society was now flourishin' an' declared a dividend of twenty per cent. What is more, the money was paid, an' you may be sure the brothers were delighted.
"A fortnight later, he declared another dividend of 30 percent, an' the next week a dividend of 50 percent, an' the brothers had a solemn meetin' an' raised his salary. Throughout that year hardly a week passed without a dividend bein' declared and paid.
"Accordin' to his agreement the Duke didn't have to state where the money came from. On the books of the society were two assets:
Gold mine... £1,000
Silver mine... £500
an' from one or the other the dividends came.
"All went well to the beginning of this year. You would think that the brothers, havin' got their capital back three times over, would be satisfied to sit down an' take their 'divvies,' but of all true sayin's in this world the truest is that 'the more you get, the more you want.'
"From what I hear, the Duke paid no more dividends at all from the end of November to the end of February, an' only a beggarly 10 per cent, in March. So the directors had a meetin' an' passed a vote of censure on the secretary.
"He wasn't the kind of man to get worried over a little affair like that, but he was annoyed.
" 'What these perishers don't understand,' he ses to me, 'is that the gold mine doesn't work in the winter.'
" 'Where is it?' I asked.
"He thought a bit. 'In the Klondike,' he ses, thoughtful.
" 'An' where's the silver mine?'
" 'In the never-never land,' he ses, very glib.
"He got the brothers quiet again by the end of March, for he declared a dividend of 20 percent, but somehow or other all those weeks of non-payment got their backs up, an' they wasn't so friendly with him as they used to be.
"Mr. Samsin asked me to call round an' see him, an' I went.
"When I got to his house, I was shown into the parlour, an' to my surprise, I found about a dozen of the brothers all sittin' round a table very solemn an' stern.
" 'We've asked you to come, Mr. Lee,' ses Samsin, 'because bein' a constable, an' acquainted with law, an' moreover,' he ses with a cough, 'acquainted with our dear young friend who's actin' as secretary to our society, you may be able to give us advice.'
" 'Cheap advice,' ses one of the brothers.
" 'Cheap advice,' ses Brother Samsin, 'our brothers not believin' in paid lawyers, about a certain matter.'
He looked around to seen if the door was closed.
" 'You must know,' he ses, mysteriously, 'that for three months no dividends have been forthcomin' to our society.'
" 'We have wondered why,' he ses, 'but have never suspected one whom we thought was above suspicion.'
" 'Meanin', the Duke?' I ses.
" 'Meanin' Mr. Tiptree,' ses Brother Samsin. Tiptree was the Duke's private name.
" 'We have made a discovery,' ses Samsin, impressively, 'an' when I say "we" I mean our dear Brother Lawley.'
"A very pale gent in spectacles nodded his head.
" 'Brother Lawley,' ses Samsin, 'was addressin' a meetin' on Lincoln racecourse—he bein' the vice-president of the Anti-Race-League—an' whilst runnin' away from a number of misguided sinners, who pursued him with contumely—"
" 'An' bricks,' ses Brother Lawley.
" 'An' bricks,' Samsin went on, 'he saw Tiptree!'
He paused, and there was a hushed silence.
" 'He was bettin!' ses Brother Samsin.
" 'Now,' he adds, 'I don't want to be uncharitable, but I've got an idea where our dividends have gone to.'
" 'Stolen,' ses I.
" 'Stolen an' betted,' ses the brother, solemnly.
" 'Well,' ses I, 'if you report the matter to me, an' you've got proof, an' you'll lay information, I'll take it to my superior, but if you ask me anythin' I'll tell you that you haven't much of a case. It's no offence to bet—'
" 'It's an offence against our sacred principles,' ses Brother Samsin.
"The upshot of this conversation was—they asked me to watch the Duke an' report any suspicious movement, an' this I flatly refused to do.
" 'I'm a police officer,' I ses, 'not a private detective. If you charge the Duke an' make an affadavit, he'll be arrested, but I'm not goin' to stick my nose into business that doesn't concern me.'
"An' with that I left 'em.
"I don't know what they would have done, only suddenly the society began to pay dividends. Especially the gold mine, which paid a bigger dividend every week.
"So the brothers decided to overlook the Duke's disgraceful conduct, especially in view of the fact that Brother Lawley was preparin' for one of the most terrible attacks on horse-racin' that had ever been known.
"I got to hear about it afterwards. Brother Lawley was all for bein' a martyr to the cause. He said he wanted to draw attention to the horrible gamblin' habits of the nation, but there were lots of people who said that the main idea was to call attention to Brother Lawley.
"Be that as it may, he thought out a great plan an' he put it into execution on the day before Derby Day.
"A number of our fellows were drafted down for the races, an' amongst them was me, an' it's because I happened to play what you night call a leadin' part an' was present when it happened, I'm able to tell you this story.
"On the Monday, as I went down on the Tuesday, I saw the Duke. He still lodged in my house, although he was fairly prosperous, an' happenin' to want to borrow the evenin' paper to see what young Harry Bigge got for a larceny I was interested in, I went to his room.
"He was sittin' in front of a table, an' was polishin' up the lenses of a pair of race-glasses, an' I stopped dead when I remembered my conversation with the brothers.
" 'Hullo!' I ses, 'you an' me are apparently goin' to the same place.'
" 'Epsom? Yes,' ses he, coolly. 'An' if you take my tip you'll back Belle of Maida Vale in the second race.'
" 'I never bet,' I ses, 'an' I take no interest in horse-racin' an', moreover,' I ses, 'she can't give Bountiful Boy seven pounds over a mile an' a quarter.'
"When I got downstairs I went over her 'form.' She was a consistent winner. The year before she'd won eight races at nice prices, an' I decided to overcome my aversion to bettin' an back her, although I'd made up my mind to have my week's salary on Bountiful Boy.
"There was the usual Tuesday crowd at Epsom, an' I got a glimpse of Brother Lawley holdin' his little meetin'. He was on his own. It wasn't like the racecourse Mission, that does its work without offence, but Lawley's mission was all brimstone an' heat.
"We cleared the course for the first race, an' after it was over I casually mentioned to Big Joe France, the Bookmaker, that if Belle of Maida Vale was 20 to 1 I'd back her.
" 'I'm very sorry, Mr. Lee,' he ses, 'but you'll have to take a shorter price—I'll lay you sixes.'
"I took the odds to 30s., an' laid half of it off with Issy Jacobs a few minutes later at threes.
"The course was cleared again for the second race, an' it was whilst the horses were at the post that I saw Brother Lawley leanin' over the rails near the winnin' post. He looked very white an' excited, but I didn't take much notice of him, because that was his natural condition.
"In the rings the bookies were shoutin' 'Even money on Belle of Maida Vale', an' it looked as if somebody was havin' a rare gamble on her.
"The bell rang, an' there was a yell. 'They're off!'
"I was on the course, near the judge's box, an' could see nothin' of the race till the field came round Tattenham Corner with one horse leadin'—and that one the Belle.
"Well out by herself she was, an' there she kept right along the straight to the distance. There was no chance of the others catchin' her an' they were easin' up when suddenly from the rails came a report like the snap of a whip, an' the Belle staggered, swerved, an' went down all of a heap.
"For a moment there was a dead silence, an' then such a yell as I've never heard before.
"They would have lynched Brother Lawley, with his smokin' pistol in his hand, but the police were round him in a minute.
" 'I've done it!' he yelled. 'I've drawn attention to the curse—'
" 'Shut up!' I said, 'an' come along before the people get you.'
"NEXT day there was a special meetin' of the Wexford Brothers' Industrial Society, an' the Duke attended by request.
"Brother Samsin was in the chair.
" 'We are gathered,' he ses, 'to consider what can be done for the defence of our sainted Brother Lawley, who's in the hands of the myrmidons of the law. I propose that we vote a sum out of the society—'
" 'Hold hard,' ses the Duke, roughly, 'you can't vote any money—because there ain't any.'
" 'Explain yourself,' ses Brother Samsin. 'What of the gold mine?'
" 'The gold mine,' ses the Duke sadly, 'was a horse called Belle of Maida Vale, that I bought out of the society's funds—she's dead.'
" 'An' the silver mine?" faltered Samsin.
" 'That was the Belle of Maida Vale, too,' ses the Duke. 'A good filly, she was. She won regularly every month at a nice price—but she won't win any more dividends.'"
[This story in true: it happened less than six months ago in London, and I know most of the actors in this curious tragedy. E.W.]
I SAT down with some enjoyment in the perusal of the little red-covered "Cautionary List" which "Truth," in its wisdom, issues periodically. There were quite a number of my old friends enshrined in its pages.
"1017. Ballen, C. T. alias 'Gimp,' president of the Notting Dale Munificence League. A notorious swindler and professional begging-letter writer."
Gimp, of course, I knew, so, also, am I acquainted with Cogs, or as the list prints him:—
"1473. Coggins, L.Y., a touting photographer, who canvasses poor neighbourhoods, collecting money for photographs that are never taken."
In my mind's eye, I see the inhabitants of Garden Row, separately and severally, standing in picturesque attitudes before their front doors, whilst Cogs manipulates a small tin biscuit-box, painted black, asking them (with a serious face) to remain perfectly still while he removes the blackened lid of a coffee tin from the "lens." I see him collecting shillings with his bogus camera wrapped in a cloth under his arm, and I see Garden Row waiting for the arrival of the "proofs," and waiting and waiting.
But where, oh where, is Mouldy the Scrivener.
I searched the book from end to end, for the offensive biography of this great man, and at last carried the volume to P-.C. Lee.
"Mouldy isn't there," said P-.C. Lee complacently. "Nobody really knows why except me. I daresay," he interrupted hastily and a little tactlessly, "that you think you know because you had dealin's with him, but the real inside history of him you know nothing' about, an' you don't know why Mouldy the Scrivener isn't heard of nowadays.
"Lots of people run away with the idea that Mouldy started life as a beggin'-letter writer, though, as a matter of fact, he came out as a stable-larcenist—stealin' whips, an' bits of harness whenever he could lay his paws on them. This was the line of business he stuck to until, happenin' to see in a Sunday newspaper and advertisement in which it was announced that for twelve stamps the writer would send a beautiful bronze medallion of His Majesty the King. Cog, bein' a patriot, sent along his twelve stickers, an' back came a new penny packed in a pill-box.
"That's what opened the eyes of Mouldy to what I might call the possibilities of the public Press, an' bein' a bit of a writer, he sat down to think out ways by which he could drag the stuff out of the gentle an' confidin' public. He tried his hand on a local paper, the Notting Dale Monitor, an' sent in an advertisement:
" 'Widowed lady has some rabbits for sale owin' to bereavement in family. Send 6 stamps.'
"He gave as his address a little tobacco shop, where they take letters in, an' out of his first advertisement he made somethin' like ten pounds. He told me afterwards that everybody in London seemed to buy sixpenny rabbits, an' if Mouldy could have kept the address another couple of weeks he'd have made a little fortune. But people who didn't get their rabbits began to make a fuss, an' Mouldy changed his address, an' his style of advertisement. His next attempt was more ambish. He put a couple of lines in a London paper:
" 'Young married couple wishes to sell clock, having no use for same. Price 6s.'
"But this didn't bring in any money, only a lot of questions about the clock; what was it made of, an' when could it be seen? Not bein' gifted with a great deal of imagination, Mouldy wasn't able to give suitable replies. Talkin' to me some time afterwards, after the Kalliski affair, Mouldy admitted that he had made a mistake in re clocks.
" 'They ain't like rabbits,' he ses; 'there's only one kind of rabbit, but there's millions of clocks. When you say rabbit the public know what to expect, but when you say "clock" it might mean Big Ben, or it might mean one of them patent affairs that you buy for 1s. 6d. that wakes you up in the middle of the night to see what time it is.'
"So he turned his attention to eggs, an' for a long time he was: 'Young farmer will send 12 new-laid eggs post-free for 9 stamps.'
"He gave his address at a restaurant at Chalk Farm, because, he said, it was more life-like. On the question of eggs, Mouldy got into a bit of trouble. I was attached for duty to the C.I.D. at the time, an' one mornin' my super sent for me.
" 'Do you happen to know a young man in your district that speculates in eggs?' ses he.
"At this time all that I knew about Mouldy, I'd picked up here an' there, an' as a matter of fact' I didn't know anythin' about the egg side of the business, but I did know Mouldy as an adventurer, so I walked down to his house, called him outside an' asked him if he had any nice new-laid eggs to sell at about 9d. a dozen including' postage.
"He looked at me a bit old-fashioned for a second, an' he ses: 'It's a cop, Mr. Lee,' an' I took him down to the station an' duly charged him with obtainin' money by a trick, to wit, eggs. He got six months for that, an' about a year later he got another nine months for bein' 'a young widow lady desiring' to part with a silver cruet.'
"He was now fairly launched on the advertisement lay, an' naturally couldn't be prised off it. There's a true sayin' that birds of a feather are froze in cold weather, an' what froze Mouldy, with his one long, curlin' feather, was the Kalliski gang that worked down in the East End of London.
"Kalliski was a sort of long firm swindler, who'd been found out, 'an owin' to the warmth of the climate round Leman-street way, he an' his crowd moved to Nottin' Dale for the benefit of the sea air an' the golf links on Wormwood Scrubbs.
"Mouldy an' Issy Kalliski struck up a sort of a friendship, an' eventually went into partnership. Their new lay was one of the most beautiful you can imagine, for they were, in all the advertisements:
" 'GRAHAMS AND SMITH,
Private Detectives an' Crime Investigators
to the Nobility an' Gentry.'
"Now, it's no crime to be a detective, but there was somethin' about this new combination that smelt like Billin'sgate, an' it was my duty to warn Mouldy that the right eye of the Metropolitan Police Force was firmly fixed on him, an' the left hand of the 'D' Division was waitin' to catch him by the scruff of his neck an' put him where the dogs wouldn't bite him.
"He was very indignant, was Mouldy.
" 'This comes of tryin' to earn an honest livin', he ses, bitterly; 'here's me an' poor Kill' tryin' to put our talents to the best advantage—like a magistrate told us—an' all the thanks we get—it's positively sickenin,' he ses mournful.
"The world," ruminated P.-C. Lee, "is made up of mugs an' flat-catchers, an' it wasn't long before the new firm found clients. Publicans who wanted their barmen watched, wives who wanted to know where their husbands spent their evenin's, an' Mouldy took kindly to the new work.
"Everythin' might have gone on well, an' the firm might easily have developed into a flourishin' business, only one night, Killiski was employed to watch the guests at a big house, an' after he went away a lot of stuff—silver spoons an' nick-nacks that could be slipped into the pocket were found to have gone, too.
"They didn't suspect the honest detective, but called in the police, an' the police did all the suspectin' that was necessary, an' Kalliski was pinched as he was comin' out of his house, with six spoons in each pocket an' a silver milk-jug concealed in his hat.
"We couldn't prove anything' against Mouldy, so he was discharged. But the firm was broken up, an' Mouldy went back to advertisement writin', an' became 'an elderly clergyman whose life depends upon a change, earnestly solicits the loan of a sovereign.'
" 'It's a mug's game, Mr. Lee,' he ses to me. I was takin' him to the station—owin' to a slight error he made tellin' a gent who lent him sovereign that he'd been a bishop, but had been reduced for strikin' a dean, 'it's a proper mug's game. Owin' to me havin' done two trainin's in the Militia, I naturally thought that parsons was like officers. If ever I come out of the "jug" alive, I'm goin' to live an honest life.'
"I took very little notice of this, because I'm pretty well used to that sort of death-bed repentance, an' when Mouldy was sent down at Sessions to twelve months' hard labour, I forgot all about him. But rum things happen, an' Mouldy was as good as his word, for he chucked up the old life, an' came out of prison a changed man.
"Kalliski was out before him, an' went down to the prison gates to meet him.
" 'Hullo, Mouldy,' he ses, when the screw opened the little wicket door an' set Mouldy at liberty. 'Glad to see you.' Mouldy looked at him.
" 'I'm glad to see you, he ses, quietly, 'but I don't want to see you again.'
" 'What?' ses Kalliski. 'You're jokin'?'
" 'No,' ses Mouldy. 'I've chucked up the other game an' all the chaps that play the other game.'
" 'It don't seem true' ses Kalliski, mournful, 'that a feller with your natural abilities should do this thing.'
"I'd got the office that Mouldy was tryin' to go straight. I don't know why it was, but he'd worn out the silly part of his life, an' suddenly had come upon a big serious streak, an' try as Kalliski would, he didn't succeed in gettin' Mouldy back to the old life.
"This narked Kill'—an' for two reasons. One was Mouldy bein' so useful, an' for the other, he was afraid that now Mouldy had turned over a new leaf, he might split about certain things of which the police knew nothin'. So he set himself to work back old Mouldy to the broad path that leadeth to the Sessions.
"He nagged him an' worried him, an' even went as far as comin' to me with a yarn that Mouldy was workin' a new racket in the advertisement way. Fortunately, I happened to know the truth, an' sent him packin'.
"Kalliski was a mean lookin' little chap, very dark an' sleek an' oily, an' gettin' more an' more desperate as he saw Mouldy earnin' an honest livin', he laid an information against him concernin' a certain job the two had done together—so Kalliski said.
"On the information, we could only do one thing. We took Mouldy as he was comin' out of chapel one Sunday night. Two C.I.D. chaps took him without any fuss, an' he was brought before the magistrate an' remanded.
"The principal witness, was Kalliski, who produced some of the stolen property (it was a 'click' they'd done when they were workin' the detective business), an' on his evidence I knew Mouldy would go down, though I was just as sure that he was innocent.
"The case came on the followin' week, an' the beak sentenced poor Mouldy to nine months' imprisonment with hard labour.
"He stood in the dock very white an' trembling'—although that wasn't the way he used to take his punishment, an' looked at Kalliski standin' near the witness-box.
" 'Kill',' he ses, very solemn, 'you done a wicked thing, but I forgive you because the hand of the Lord is on you, an' His vengeance is nigh.'
"He'd got that way of talkin' since he was converted, an' Kalliski grinned.
"He came up to me that night, did Kill'.
" 'Rum thing about Mouldy,' he ses.
"I made no reply.
" 'Fancy him cuttin' up like that,' he ses, wonderingly—'that shows what religion does to a feller.'
" 'Why did you lie against him?' I ses.
" 'Lie, Mr. Lee,' he ses. 'Why, if I die to-night every word I said was gospel, if—'
"Suddenly I saw his face go white, an' a strange look come into it. He staggered like a drunken man against the wall.
" 'What's up?' he ses, like a man in a dream; 'the hand of the Lord—'
"Then he went down all of a heap, an' when I laid him out flat an' loosened his collar he was quite still."
"AT the inquest they talked a lot about heart disease an' the effects of his bad life, but I knew that Mouldy, workin' out his sentence in the Scrubbs, must have been gifted with sight that was denied to us, an' that the hand of the Lord was on Kalliski."
P.-C. LEE has, I know to my sorrow, a heavy hand. In a scrimmage that had to do with the arrest of a gentleman who called at my house under the impression that I was out and asked for my overcoat, I happened to get in the way of P.-C. Lee's right fist, and I wasn't certain at the time whether I'd been hit, or whether it was merely the end of the world.
You must not judge a stoutish man too hastily, any more than you should be over-ready to take liberties with a little man, for the fat man will, in all probability, fall on you and smash you flat, and the little man, disdaining your face, will land a half-arm hook in the region of your light lunch that will give you the peculiar sensation that you are dancing the Dream Waltz to the tune of Chopin's Marche funèbre.
I remember a prize-fighter, whose name at the time was Elfog. That is what it sounded like, because Mr. Alfred Hogg pronounced his patronymic carelessly and his friends followed suit.
Having some grievance against P.-C. Lee, he awaited him one night in a lonely place and prepared scientifically to "do him in."
But, alas! P.-C. Lee was not scientific. P.-C. Lee did not spar, or waggle his head or dance round. He just handed out without any warning and caught Elfog a clip under the jaw that laid him out, and before he could rise P.-C. Lee had him by the collar and was unscientifically banging his head on the hard, hard paving stones.
Bitterest blow of all, when Elfog woke to consciousness he found himself in a cell, charged with—assaulting the police!
"Fightin'," said P.-C Lee, discussing this matter, "is a game with too many rules. I couldn't learn 'em. Besides which, I can't write well enough an' I can't talk enough. That's what strikes me about flghtin'. You must talk. You've got to be interviewed an' say you never felt better in your life an' that when you meet the yellow dog (the other chap) you'll make him sorry he didn't stick to the coal business. Then you've got to have your photograph taken striking' attitudes, there bein' nobody else present to strike, an' then at the last minute, when everythin's settled, you're got to back out unless the stakes are increased to £500,000, an a silver cup.
"A policeman who knows his work," pursued P.-C. Lee, reflectively, "depends upon gettin' his blow in first, an' if it comes to a rough mob that he has to deal with, he's either got to use his stick, or put in some very pretty foot-work, runnin' or kickin'.
"Though, as a matter of fact, I've only known one policeman that ever deliberately ran away from a fight, an' that was me," he confessed, "an' even then I didn't run, but what you might call cantered.
"Down Nottin' Hill way there used to be a widow lady named Flindin, a weak, helpless sort of creature, with two pretty daughters an' a son who'd never been seen, owin' to the fact that he'd run away from home when he was a boy an' was in South America. He'd had a row with his father, an' when the father died, he used to send money home—big money, too, I believe—to keep the home goin'.
"Bein' a foolish woman, instead of livin' quietly on a little annuity she had, an' the monthly allowance from her son, she looked round for a way of makin' her livin' independent, an' hit upon the startling' novelty of takin' in boarders.
"I often used to speak to her—she had a very nice house near Colville-terrace, an' sometimes she'd come to the door an' pass a word with me in the evening's. We got quite on speakin' terms, an' that's how I came to know so much about her plans.
" 'I'm a very good business woman, constable,' she ses—that was one of her delusions, as it's the delusion of hundreds of others—'an' I don't see why I should sit still an' depend on charity.'
" 'Quite right, ma'am' I ses; 'though it isn't exactly charity.'
" 'It is,' she ses, very firm, 'an' I've worked it out on paper—I'm very good at figures—that I can live rent free by takin' in three boarders.'
"She was so sure about it, though she didn't know what keepin' boarders meant, that I didn't, argue with her. One night, I happened to meet Miss Flindin', the eldest, an' as pretty a girl as you could wish to meet.
" 'Good-evenin', constable,' she said, 'have you heard about our boarders?'
" 'No, miss,' ses I.
"She laughed a little bitterly.
" 'Mother's such a good judge of character that she doesn't require references, so she took in a gentleman from Birmingham last week—because he had a kind face.'
" 'Well, miss?'
" 'He hadn't references, an' he hadn't luggage; he said it was comin' on by Carter Paterson—he went sway this mornin' with mother's watch an' my necklet.'
" 'Oh!' I ses, rather interested, 'have you reported the matter to the police?'
"No,' ses Miss Flindin, 'mother ses that when the poor man finds he's taken the articles away by mistake he'll come back with them'
"I thought for a little while.
" 'Was he a reddish-faced man with a wart on his chin?' I asked, an' Miss Flindin looked surprised.
" 'Yes,' she ses, 'Have you seen him?'
"I hadn't, but I knew Bossy Nipper, one of the three specialists in that line of business, an' before night we'd sent an 'All Stations' message round, an' Bossy was taken in the New Cut with the necklet in his pocket.
"Mrs. Flindin never forgave me for bringin' her into court, an' said she didn't want to press the charge. Only, unfortunately, we did, an' Bossy got nine months for that job. All that I heard afterwards came to me through the daughter. How the old lady had taken in two boarders who left without payin', how they took in a married lady an gentleman an' how the gentleman looked different every night, an' how, subsequently, it was proved that he was different, bein' another gentleman altogether, an' then I found out about Mr. Horace Elbow.
"I knew Horace an' yet I didn't know him. He'd never been through our hands, an' yet he was the sort of goods we were always expectin'. A tall, flashy man, with diamond pin an' gold watch-guard, he was always well dressed, always flush of money—an' nobody exactly knew how he got it.
"He did a little bettin', spent his evening's at the Long Bar in Piccadilly, an', accordin' to Mrs. Flindin, paid his rent regularly. In fact, he was the only satisfactory boarder they had, or would have been, only that the two girls took a violent dislike to him.
"One never knows why women dislike men, but of one thing you may be sure, an' that is, if a good woman, for no reason at all, except from pure instinct, goes against a man, you are safe in givin' that man a pretty wide berth.
"This was the attitude the girls adopted toward Mr. Horace Elbow, an' bein' an intelligent attitude, you can bet that Mrs. F. took exactly the opposite view, an' looked on Horace as 'the goods.'
"Horace was the dear young man—she called him 'Mr. Horace'—an' he was the patent-model-look-on-this-picture-an-look-on-that young man of Nottin' Hill.
"Horace bein' as wide—as wide as Broad-street, but not as wide as Scotland Yard—wasn't slow to learn all there was to be learnt in the house, but bein' of a financial turn of mind, he made sure to discover how Mrs. F. stood in the matter of 'ready.' So he learnt all that there was to be learnt about the son's allowance an' the annuity, an' the cash in the bank against a rainy day, an' before you could say knife, this unconvicted thief had proposed to the widow an' was accepted.
"The girls were absolutely beside themselves with sorrow an' anger, an' I could well understand their feelin's. Well, to cut a long story short, Horace married the widow, an' within three weeks of the weddin' the house was a Pink Edition of Hell.
"Horace dropped all his good-young-man tactics, an' the poor woman woke up from a silly dream to find her angel was what he was—a bullyin', cunnin', tailor-made sneak-thief.
"He threw off his pretext of bein' a little gentleman, an' one night, as I was passin' that house out rushed the eldest of the girls, Miss Judith, in her night things, an' after her came Horace, mad drunk.
"He came sprawlin' down the steps, an' made a grab at her as she came up to me, an' then he fell down."
P.-C. Lee coughed in some embarrassment as I caught his eye.
"He fell, an' I picked him up, only my hand slipped an' he fell again; then me an P.-C. Sankey lifted him an' took him inside the house. I never handled a chap so carelessly in my life, for half way up the stairs I'm blessed if we didn't let him fall again!
"I didn't ask the young lady anythin' about what had happened, for I could guess. Horace always had an eye for a pretty girl....
"He was quiet for a week or two, in fact for the greater part of a month, an' then he started his games again.
"One night he came home—the same day that Smother was pipped on the post for the Molesey Handicap, an half the heads in London went broke—an' he came in, in a black temper.
" 'Now then!' he roars, standin' in the hall, 'where's somebody to take my coat. Where are those cursed girls—Judith, Marie!'
"Nobody came, so he stamped through the hall an' his wife met him at the door of the drawin'-room.
" 'Horace—" she ses, timidly.
'"Don't Horace me!' he bellows, an' pushin' her aside he steps into the drawin'-room—an' stops dead.
"A tall, brown-lookin' young man was standin' by the fireplace lookin' at him, curiously.
" 'Hullo,' ses Horace, 'I thought I said we wouldn't have any more boarders—out you go!'
" 'Pardon me,' ses the young man, politely, 'you are makin' a mistake. I am your wife's son.'
" 'Oh, you are, are you?' ses Horace, 'well, there's the door!'
" 'I see it,' ses the young man. 'I saw it years ago, when you were still at a reformatory school.'
" 'Are you goin'?' ses Horace.
" 'Am I—?' ses the young man, very calm, but very emphatic, 'I'm your lovin' son just come back from America.'
"An' with that he catches Horace a clout that sent him reelin' back into the passage.
"Horace was out of the street door in a jiffy, an' that is where I came into the picture, for happenin' to be on point duty at the corner of the square, Horace saw me an' ran up.
" 'I want you, P.-C. Lee,' he ses, breathlessly; 'there's a young man in my house who won't go—an' what's more, he's assaulted me; I give him in charge.'
"I walked slowly back to give the chap a chance of escapin', an' walked slowly up the passage to let him get away at the back door, an' slowly stepped into the drawin'-room, in case there was a window he could drop out of.
"When I saw the young man, he smiled an' I smiled, too, for I could see the likeness to his sisters. He was there by himself, for he'd sent his mother an' sisters upstairs.
" 'P.-C. Lee,' he ses, an' I nodded, 'my sister wrote to me about you an' I'm very much obliged to you—'
" 'I charge that man,' ses Horace. 'Constable, do your duty.'
" 'Constable,' ses the young man, very earnest, 'if you could think of another engagement for the moment I'd be obliged. Though I don't believe in interferin' between man an' wife, I've got a few things to say to him—when I've cleared this table out of the centre of the room.'
" 'Arrest him!' yells Horace, but I shook my head.
" 'Now you come to mention it,' I ses to the young man, 'I remember that there's a house afire in the next street—'
" 'Don't leave me, constable,' ses Horace, all of a twitter as I made for the door.
" 'I'm leavin' you,' I ses, 'in good hands an' so I was, for this young chap had fists like legs of mutton.
"I shut the door behind me an' run, for I didn't want to witness any unlawful proceedin's."
"LIKELY enough," said P.C. Lee, "you've heard me tell about Captain Kintock. He wasn't the sort of man you'd expect a police constable to have much to do with, because he was of the higher class of bad lot, but owin' to his livin' on my ground—a very fine house he had in Ladbroke Gardens—an' owin' to my knowin' Baine, that did most of his dirty work, I got a fair inside knowledge of what happened at Epsom.
"In a sense, this story I'm goin' to tell you is a racin' story, though I don't want you to run away with the idea that I know much about it.
"When people tell you that racin' is a game that is only followed by thieves an' blackguards, by sharps an' flats, do not believe them. Some of the worst men in England go racin', but then, again, some of the best go, too.
"The bulk lie between the two extremes, an' are sane, decent citizens, who love the sport for the sport's sake.
"But the bad men are very bad, because they are clever, an' a clever bad man is a dangerous animal.
"Kintock was one the 'Heads.' He'd had money enough to sink a ship, at one time or another. A gambler born an' bred, he would bet on anything from horses to windmills.
"But Kintock was a crook, it was against his nature to go straight an' when it was a question of an easy honest way of doin' a thing, an' a hard, dishonest way, he always chose the latter for the sheer devilry of it.
"Rumly enough, he never took to horses till he'd run through every other form of gamblin', but when he did, he took to it colossal scale. He bought bloodstock in every direction, bought horses at the sales, an' out of sellin' races, an' took a lease of an old trainin' establishment down in Wiltshire, an' spent half his time between there an' Kensin'ton. Everybody knew he was a crook, but nobody knew enough about him to point to any definite act he had committed, an' so, somehow, he managed to get the Jockey Club to give him a licence to train.
"He was an extraordinarily fascinatin' man. Tall, lean-limbed, with a face like one of those Greek gods you see at the British Museum, an' a head of brown, curly hair that was goin' grey.
"So far as I could find out, he'd come into a lot of money—somethin' well into six figures—when he was twenty-one. He lived for a year at the rate of £500 a day, went into bankruptcy, an' was sent abroad. He made a fortune in the Argentine an' lost it in South Africa, floated a bogus company in Egypt, got concessions from the Turkish Government in Syria, an' turned up smilin' in England a rich man for the second time.
"Then he disappeared suddenly, an' about the same time a lot of excited shareholders made the discovery that the concession in Syria wasn't worth the paper it was written on, an' the assets of the Egyptian company were just worth the market value of a roller-top desk an' an easy chair, which formed the furniture of the company's office in Mincin' Lane. I don't know how they settled it, but I rather think that some of his rich relations paid up an' liquidated the company, an' a year later Kintock was in Monte Carlo with enough banknotes to stuff a portmanteau. Soon after this it was that he came to England to work the horses.
"I don't know how he froze on to Baine, but I can guess. Baine used to call himself a commission agent, had a house in Nottin' Dale, an' was a wrong 'un through an' through. A little bullet-headed man with an enormous slit of a mouth an' bow legs that were always done up in horsey-lookin' gaiters, he was well known at small meetin's an' made his livin' by chummin' up to inexperienced young men an' "tellin' the tale". His modus operandi was to get them to invest a few sovereigns on a horse that hadn't got an earthly chance of winnin'. He would take the few sovereigns an' 'invest' them by puttin' the money in his pocket. When the horse lost he'd come back to the 'mug' an' spin a beautiful yarn about how the horse would have won if he hadn't been interfered with at the start.
"Just about this time there was a young chap livin' in Kensin'ton Gardens by the name of Hite. He was one of those fellows who suffer from havin' too much money, an' naturally he turned to racin' as a cure for the disease. His father was one of them scientific fellows who don't take any notice of money, but spend their lives lookin' through a microscope to see the little bugs in the blood. A professor at Oxford he was, an' so young Sanderson Hite, who wasn't scientific, except with a book of form, got into touch with Baine.
"Baine noticed him at one or two race meetin's, an' particularly noticed that he was always alone, an' so he struck up a sort of acquaintance with him, an' told him 'the tale.'
"It was about the winner of the Newbury Spring Cup, an' Sandy took it all in, very eagerly.
"Only when it came to the question of partin' with five pounds he hesitated an' said he'd put the money on himself.
"To Baine's annoyance he went into the ring an' backed the horse which hadn't a hundred to one chance—for £250!
"Baine absolutely gnashed his teeth when he saw all this good money goin' into the bookmaker's pocket, but he nearly died with amazement when this "dead" horse he'd recommended won the race by a short head, beatin' a hot favourite.
"Two thousand pounds young Sandy cleared, an' he handed over a hundred to Baine for his information. After that, Baine couldn't do wrong so far as Sandy Hite was concerned. Seein' that he'd got hold of the original golden egg-layin' goose, Baine clamped himself on to it, an' laid himself out to get bona fide information, an' for weeks these two reaped in a fine harvest.
"The Captain was beginnin' to win a few races just then, but was bettin' very light, for him, so that when Baine mentioned 'Sandy' an' asked if he could put him 'on' to a good thing that the Captain was runnin', he said he didn't mind.
"Now, the most curious feature of the whole business was this, that Kintock never met Sandy, not even when he marked the boy down for pluckin'. He preferred to do it through Baine, an' what is more, he never touched Sandy for a penny until the great Highbury Boy bet.
"Highbury Boy was a two-year-old, the property of Lord Horling. Entered for all the classic races an' tried, almost as a yearlin', to be well above the average, Kintock purchased the colt, with his engagements, for ten thousand pounds.
"If ever there was a man who knew a horse, that man was the Captain, an' when he said that Highbury Boy would win the Derby, Baine believed him.
"He ran him in a couple of his engagements an' ran a 'bye.' The colt could have won on both occasions, but the jockey, ridin' to orders, contrived to get himself shut in.
"Then he brought him out for the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, an' the Captain betted. He went into the ring, an' threw the money about as though he were bettin' on the most certain of certainties, an' Highbury Boy startin' at 2 to 1 a strong favourite, won in a common canter.
"That was the last race of his two-year-old days, an' when, just before Christmas of that year, bettin' on the next year's Derby began to creep into the papers, he would have been installed a hot favourite but for the disquietin' news published in the sportin' press, that he had trained off, accordin' to the papers.
"Baine was very prosperous in those days—I think he was on the Captain's pension list—an' I don't doubt that some of the exclusive information published in the London sportin' papers came from him.
"I saw him one day—Highbury Boy bein' at 20 to 1 an' me havin' backed him at sixes I was a bit upset.
" 'What about this horse of yours, Baine?' I ses.
" 'Highbury Boy?' ses he, innocent, 'oh, he's trained off accordin' to the papers.'
" 'I know all about the papers,' I ses; 'are you their special correspondent?'
" 'Without the word of a lie,' he ses, very frank, 'I am.'
"The Craven Stakes, the first race in which Highbury Boy was entered as a three-year-old, came, an' the 'Boy' was scratched; the Two Thousand Guineas, won by Bel Mere (who also won the Craven), passed without the colt's puttin' in an appearance. He ran at Kempton for the Jubilee Handicap an' finished tenth, an' he went right out of the Derby list an' was spoken of as a doubtful starter.
"On public form it looked a thousand pounds to an orange pip on Bel Mere, an' money was laid on him, an' the first an' most enthusiastic of his supporters was Sandy.
"He was very jubilant, an' very confident, because he'd had a good season the year before, an' he'd come into somethin' like £40,000 by the death of an aunt.
" 'Baine,' ses he one day when we were all in the tea-room at Newbury, 'if these were the old days when one could bet in ten thousands, I could double my fortune on Bel Mere.'
" 'What do you mean by old days, Mr. Hite?' ses Baine. 'It is just as easy to get a bet on for ten thousand, or one of even twenty thousand for the matter of that, as it ever was.'
"Then he went on to tell him of Captain Kintock, of what a fine, generous 'better' he was, an' how, even though Highbury Boy was a physical wreck, he was so cocksure that it would beat Bel Mere that he'd stake his life on it.
"Sandy bit at the bait quicker than Baine thought possible.
" 'Would he?' he said eagerly. 'What! After the Jubilee runnin'? I wish to goodness he would!'
"If you wonder why this young man was prepared to make such a huge bet, you have got to remember that Bel Mere was extraordinarily superior to any other horse in that race except Highbury Boy, an' that Highbury Boy was popularly supposed to be a cripple on crutches. Well, the long an' the short of the discussion was that Baine promised to see the Captain an' ask him if he was prepared to back Highbury Boy against Bel Mere, an' after a lot of palaver an' an exchange of polite letters, the Captain expressed himself as willin' to lay one bet of £15,000 against Bel Mere beatin' Highbury Boy.
"I heard all this afterwards.
"Derby Day came nearer, an' then I believe there was some more correspondence, an' the £15,000 bet was increased to £25,000, an' then the Captain had a bit of bad luck, for the story of this wager got into the papers, an' the first thing that happened was old Mr. Sanderson Hite got to hear of the foolish tricks that his son was playin', an' puttin' aside his microscope an' his test-tubes an' his electric batteries, he came down to see Kintock, one simple old man with no worldly knowledge worth speakin' about—an' Kintock so wise an' cunnin' an' glib.
"It was a gorgeous spring mornin' when he arrived at Epsom. Kintock had rented a house just outside the town, an' Highbury Boy was in the stable, guarded day an' night by a couple of men.
"They were sittin' out on the lawn takin' eleven o'clock tea—he was a very abstemious man was the Captain—when old Mr. Hite was announced.
"He came up the garden path, by Baine's account, a neat old figure dressed with scrupulous care. Spotless linen, perfectly fittin' frock coat, an' a big old-fashioned satin bow to his wing collar. His fashion was the fashion of forty years ago, he might have stepped out of an 1874 fashion plate.
"He got straight to business with Kintock with an old-fashioned quietness of speech an' courtesy that was very puzzlin' to Baine. Without any preliminary he started in about Highbury Boy.
" 'I have taken the trouble,' he ses, 'to study the form—is that the word?—of Highbury Boy, an' to my surprise I find that it is quite possible to anticipate winners from the study of a horse's performances. If Highbury Boy were in good health, would he win the Derby, Mr. Kintock?'
"The Captain hesitated.
" 'Yes,' he admitted after a pause.
" 'Is he well?'
"The old man sat bolt upright in his chair, his thin white hands crossed upon his stick, an' the question was hurled at Kintock with a sudden ferocity that was surprisin'.
"Baine saw the Captain shift uneasily at the directness of the attack.
"Then the old man went on.
" 'You have told me all I want to know,' he ses. 'I have made diligent search for the origin of the stories of your horse's illness, an' I have traced the rumours an' head shakin's an' whispered reports. Now, I ask you, sir,' he went on, 'to do me a favour.'
" 'I shall be happy to do anythin' in reason,' said Kintock.
" 'I ask you to take your bettin' book an' run your pen through the bets my son has made with you concernin' your horse.'
" 'That I shall not do,' he said calmly.
"The old man rose with a little inclination of his head.
" 'Then your horse will not win,' he said with such an air of confidence that the Captain was startled. 'I have given you a chance, an' you have refused to take it. I do not care a straw how much money you may make from your other dupes, I am satisfied that the foolish young man who is my son shall be saved from his folly.'
"Then Kintock got wild at the old man's confidence, an' did a foolish thing, for he lost his temper an' spoke frankly.
" 'My horse will win,' he said angrily, 'that's the truth, an' you might as well know it. Win! Why, Bel Mere will not see the way the Boy will go! An' as for your son, I hold him to his bargain. If he doesn't pay I'll post him, yes, by—'
"The old man turned to go; then he hesitated an' came back.
" 'Would it be askin' too much if I asked your permission to see this wonderful horse of yours?' Then, as a suspicious frown gathered on Kintock's face, he went on, with a wry smile, 'My interest is not an unnatural one, is it?'
"But Kintock's suspicions were aroused.
" 'You may see the horse,' he said, 'but at a distance.'
"He called Baine aside, an' told him to watch the old man closely, an' if he made any movement that threatened the horse's safety to grip him.
"He went to the stables himself, an' by-an'-by came back to invite the professor into the little meadow that adjoined the house, an' after a while the two grooms come in leadin' Highbury Boy.
"The old man stood with his 'ands behind him watchin' the beautiful bay as they led him up an' down.
"There never was a more perfect-lookin' colt than the Boy, an' somethin' like pride came into Kintock's face as he watched the horse movin'.
"Then the old man spoke.
" 'Once more, Mr. Kintock, will you cancel my son's bet?'
" 'No,' said Mr. Kintock briefly, an' the old man nodded.
"Baine was watchin' him as a cat watches a mouse, but he made no sign. Still, with his hands clasped behind him, he stood like one lost in thought. Then he roused himself.
" 'Very well,' was all he said, an' with bent head an' knitted brows he accompanied us back to the garden.
" 'I have one thing to say to you,' he said to Kintock, 'have you ever heard of a sayin', falsely ascribed to the Jesuits, that a man may do harm that good may come?'
" 'I have heard that very frequently,' said Kintock. 'Moreover, that has been my creed.'
" 'Suppose,' the old man said slowly, 'suppose somebody got into the stable of this fine horse of yours, an'—'
" 'Nobbled it?' smiled Kintock.
" 'I think that is the word I have read in connection with similar occurrences,' said Mr. Hite; 'suppose this happened—suppose I sent my friends—"
" 'Try,' said Kintock with an ugly smile; 'if you or they succeed in gettin' at Highbury Boy they're welcome. I shall not complain. If that is your hope of preventin' him winnin', you are buildin' upon sand. Good-morning.'
" 'We shall see,' said old Mr. Sanderson Hite, an' he walked down the path to the gate.
"Baine went round to see the Boy boxed for the day, an' after Kintock had issued his orders to the grooms, who were devoted to him body an' soul, he walked back across the meadow.
"The Captain had already shaken off his annoyance, an' was laughin' quietly at the old man an' his threat.
" 'He is certainly an original, an' if young Sandy had half his brains—hullo!'
"He stopped suddenly an' picked up a matchbox—he was the tidiest man I ever knew.
" 'Who dropped this?' he said. Then he looked at the box an' whistled. On the outside was printed in red letters—Tompkins, Tobacconist, Cambridge. 'The old man dropped that,' he said with a frown, 'he was standin' close to this spot. He is not the sort of man to carry an empty matchbox about for fun, he didn't look like a smoker; now, what is the meanin' of this?'
"Somehow old Mr. Hite's threat had a depressin' effect upon Kintock, an' he must have taken him more seriously than did Baine, for he ordered his bed to be taken to the room above the stables, an' had a square hole cut in the floor immediately over Highbury Boy's box, an' a pane of glass fitted. He was thus able to see all that was happenin' in the stable from the room above. He went farther than this, for he went to the police an' got a couple of officers specially detailed to watch the outside of the stable for the two nights that intervened between Mr. Hite's visit an' Derby Day. I was one of 'em, an' that's how I come to know all about this story.
"The Epsom summer meetin' begins on the Tuesday, an' it was on the Tuesday that Kintock started to bet. Highbury Boy stood at 50 to 1 in the list when Kintock started operations. He was a clever gambler, for he never showed his hand thoroughly. He had an agent in Holland backin' the horse, whilst he was simultaneously gettin' the odds from the biggest bookmakers on the course, an' by night Highbury Boy had been 'backed down' to 4 to 1 an' was co-favourite with Bel Mere.
"Kintock's great fear had been that his foolish outburst might have been taken advantage of by old Hite; that he would spoil his market, an' he put a man on to watch the old fellow.
"The Captain came home to dinner the night before the Derby jubilant.
" 'He's gone back to Cambridge,' he said, with a triumphant laugh, 'an' to think I was worryin' about him!'
" 'He's thrown up the sponge,' said Baine.
" 'Capitulated without firin' a shot,' smiled Kintock, 'but it may be a ruse to throw us off our guard. The Boy must not be left out of our sight.'
"Nothin' happened that night so far as I know, an' Derby Day dawned with me sittin' on a chair outside the favourite's stable smokin' a pipe.
"It was a glorious May day, with bright sunshine, an' a fleck or two of white cloud in the sky, an' the Downs were crowded. The people stood in a solid black mass up the hill, an' ten deep from the startin' gate, round Tattenham Corner, to the winnin' post. In the paddock, big as it is, there was scarcely room to walk about, but we found a corner where the crowd was thin, an' there we saddled Highbury Boy an' gave him his final preparation.
"Kerslake was the jockey, a lad who had won two Derbies, an' knew exactly every inch of the course.
"The bell rang, an' Kerslake mounted.
"Kintock had a few words with him, an' what the jockey said, I think, restored some of the Captain's assurance.
" 'I stand to win £60,000,' he said to me, as he an' Baine walked back to the rings, me an' Baine to Tattersalls, an' he to the Members' enclosure, 'an' that old man got on my nerves.'
" 'Is he still at Cambridge?' says Baine, an' Kintock nodded.
" 'I've had a man watchin' him there, an' I received a wire from him only half an hour ago, sayin' that Hite was lecturin' this mornin' at eleven, an' he had seen him a few minutes before he sent the wire.'
"There was the usual parade an' canter, the usual string of horses pickin' a slow way across the Downs to the startin' gate, the usual delay, an' then—
" 'They're off!'
"A roar from the stands an' an answerin' roar from the packed course as the bell rang, an' away went the field in a perfect line.
"Baine was on the rails just behind me, an' was readin' the race through his glasses.
" 'Bel Mere is makin' the runnin' from Handy Lad, Mosempions, Highbury Boy, an' Cattino,' he said.
"They breasted the hill in a bunch, an' came sweepin' to the left to the famous corner.
"They were all together when they turned into the straight, an' then without any glasses I saw Kerslake prepare to take his position.
"Bel Mere was leadin' an' already stands an' course resounded with the yell: 'Bel Mere wins!'
"Then Kerslake went after the leader, caught him an' passed him in with one run an' down below in the ring a bookmaker shouted: 'I'll back Highbury Boy!'
"Up went the whip of Bel Mere's rider, but he could get no nearer, an' Highbury Boy came with his devastatin' strides nearer an' nearer the post.
"Then he stopped....
"There is no other word to describe what happened.
"Stopped as dead as that horse did that was shot by the anti-gamblin' fanatic; then swerved right across the course, stopped again an' went down all of a heap as Bel Mere flashed past the post an easy winner.
"I saw Kintock's white face on the Members' stand as I ran across to the horse.
"Baine was at the horse's side first, an' with another policeman helped to lift the unconscious jockey. He was badly shaken by his fall, but was not seriously injured.
"But Highbury Boy was finished, you could see that, long before the vet came with the horse ambulance.
"Kintock, very quiet and self-possessed, directed operations.
"As it happened there were two famous veterinary surgeons on the course an' they accompanied us back to the house—the Captain, Baine, Inspector Carbury an' me.
"Highbury Boy was taken from the ambulance an' collapsed on the grass as we gathered round him.
"Very carefully one of the surgeons made his examination.
" 'Has he been shot?' asked Kintock, but the doctor shook his head.
"He continued his examination; then asked if we had a microscope.
"Baine went into the town to borrow one, whilst the vet applied one or two rough an' ready remedies to the horse. By-an'-by he rose an' stood by the horse, eyein' him thoughtfully.
" 'Remarkable, very remarkable,' he ses; then he asked if he might see the stable.
"He went in by himself an' was there ten minutes, an' when he came out he held in his hand—a matchbox!
"Kintock started back with an oath.
" 'Where did you get that?' he demanded.
"The surgeon looked surprised.
" 'Out of my pocket,' he said, an' just then Baine came back with the microscope.
"The veterinary surgeon took a little blood from the horse with the point of a needle an' adjourned to the house.
"He was back in five minutes.
" 'Have you had any person here interested in tropical diseases?' he asked.
"A slow light dawned on Kintock's face an' he nodded.
" 'Because,' said the vet, 'whoever it was must have inadvertently left behind him, these.'
"He opened the matchbox he still held in his hand an' produced two dead flies.
They were a little larger than the house-fly, of a dark-brown colour, an' their wings were folded over their backs in the shape of scissors.
" 'This,' said the vet, 'is the fly which is known to science as the Glossina morsitans, or as it is commonly called the "tsetse fly." Its bite is almost certain death to a horse, though, curiously enough, the usual symptoms peculiar to the disease are absent in your horse. Do you know who brought the flies here?'
" 'I can guess,' ses the Captain with a grim smile."
"LAWYERS," said P.-C. Lee, shaking his head ominously, "I've never had any use for. I'd sooner do the worst kind of duty than go into the witness-box, an' I'd sooner go into the dock than stand up in front of Rufus Isaacs with his nice, quiet gentlemanly way of callin' you a liar an' makin' you feel it. An' I'd sooner do any of these things than get one of Mr. Justice O'Connor's inside-out cross-examinations.
"The greatest cross-examination I ever heard in my life was in the Fohleigh Copse murder trial, which was before your time, an' that was the first time I ever heard his lordship Mr. O'Connor as he was then.
"In a way, he's a friend of mine, if I may say so without disrespect. When I was a young constable, he had lodgin's on my beat, an' a nice young man he was."
P.-C. Lee said this in a tone that left no doubt whatever that so far from being a "nice young man" the eminent judge in his youth had been a little wild. P.-C. Lee confirmed that view.
"O.T. Mustard, he was," he said, yet with a certain reverence, 'an' many's the mornin' I've helped him out of his hansom, he bein' too tired to walk. What with bachelor parties, an' things of that sort, it looked rather as if he was goin' to finish where he began. He never got many briefs in those days except now an' again at a county court, an' it was only by luck that he came into the Fohleigh Copse trial,
"Fohleigh Copse was just on the borders of London, down Blackheath an' Charlton way, an' there one night a man—a moneylender named Hilary—was shot dead, an' a chap named Stanford, who owed him a bit, was charged. Circumstantial evidence would have convicted Stanford alone, for he was seen comin' from the little wood, but what settled him was the fact that the murder was witnessed by a gentleman named Cadaver, who saw the whole thing, an' was the principal witness for the Crown.
"It so happened that Mr. O'Connor was a friend of Stanford's people, an' they, not knowin' about the bachelor parties, an' thinkin' he was a young lord chancellor, persuaded the solicitors to brief him—much against their will, for the solicitors hadn't any illusions about Mr. O'Connor.
"I suppose the responsibility of the case sobered the young lawyer, for when I saw him one mornin' early, standin' on the steps of his house, an' said, 'Good-night, Mr. O'Connor,' he laughed.
" 'Good-mornin', constable,' ses he, 'I've just got up.'
" 'I beg your pardon, sir,' I ses, 'I thought you was just goin' to bed!'
"He then up an' told me all about the case. How he'd been down to Fohleigh Copse an' the place where Stanford lived an' made investigations.
" 'The rum thing is,' he ses, 'that the witness Cadaver ses he didn't know the murdered man, only slightly, an' only knew Stanford by sight, whereas I've found he knew 'em both very well.'
" 'I daresay, sir,' I ses, obligin'ly.
"I was at the Old Bailey in the Recorders' Court givin' evidence in a case of impersonation, an' when my man had got his twelve months I strolled over to the other court to see how the youngster shaped.
"I asked one of the constables in the court how the trial had gone on.
" 'Rotten for the prisoner,' he ses; 'he's as good as hung.'
"The examination of the principal witness had just finished when I arrived in court, an' I can see him now, a smart, smooth man with little side whiskers, standin' easily in the box, in a quiet confident, manner, an' I can see young O'Connor, as he go up on his feet to start the most hopeless cross-examination that has ever been attempted in a court of law. (Hopeless it looked, but it turned put to be the most wonderful piece of cross-examination that was ever heard, an' it made O'Connor what he is to-day, a judge of the High Court.)
"He opened very quietly, askin' simple questions; then all of a sudden he introduced a girl's name that nobody had ever heard of before.
" 'Is the prisoner a friend of yours?'
" 'No, I only know him.'
" 'Do ye like him?' (he had a curious brogue.)
" 'I don't know about likin'. I'm not sufficiently interested in him to like of dislike him.'
" 'Do you hate him?'
" 'I tell you I am not interested in him.'
" 'Do you know that he is engaged to Miss Sybil Desmond?'
" 'I have heard so.'
" 'Do you know it?" demanded O'Connor sharply.
" 'I believe—'
" 'On your oath, do you know it?'
" 'Yes,' ses the chap with a shrug.
" 'Are you in love with Miss Desmond?'
" 'I might have fancied I was in love.'
" 'A passin' fancy?`O'Connor's eyebrows rose.
" 'Yet it was strong enough to make you propose to her two years ago?"
" 'I may have done so.'
" 'Did you?'
" 'I may have done.'
" 'Did you?' shouted O'Connor, an' the man answered sullenly.
" 'An' repeated your proposal a year later?'
" 'Two years ago you proposed an' were rejected, a year later you proposed again, three mouths ago you once more asked her to marry you—you were very persistent?'
" 'I did not give up hope.'
"I saw O'Connor's eyebrows go up.
" 'Hope of what?'
" 'That she would marry me.'
" 'Yet she persistently rejected you.'
" 'I wasn't goin' to give up without a struggle.'
" 'Give up what?'
"The witness made no reply.
" 'Did you love her as much as that?' he asked quietly, but the man was silent.
" 'Are you so ashamed of your love for a woman that you cannot confess it. You loved her?' Still no answer.
" 'An' love her still?' He paused. 'She was the one desirable thing in the world for you?' He paused again expectantly. 'She has given her love to another?'
" 'Yes.' There was no mistakin' the bitterness in the tone.
" 'An' you knew it?'
" 'An' still persisted in your attentions?'
"With a cry was mas almost a snarl the man in the box turned.
" 'An why not?' he says, breathin' quickly. 'What is he, or his happiness, to me? Why should I give up to him the one thing in the world that makes life worth livin'?'
" 'But she loved him. Loved him as a woman loves a man. Thought of him by day an' night, dreamt of him, listened for his footsteps, cherished the sweet memories of his caresses, his kisses—'
"The man in the box writhed. 'Stop!' he ses, raisin' his hands to his eyes as if to shut out some picture. 'Curse him!'
"O'Connor leant forward: 'You hate him?'
" 'By God, I hate him!'
"A sort of thrill went through the court at this admission.
"Then O'Connor went on to talk about the dead man, Hilary. Did the witness know him? Yes, ses the chap after some hesitation, he knew him slightly. Question after question O'Connor put. Did he ever meet him? Had witness ever dined with him? An' the witness said he had.
" 'Where?' says O'Connor, an' the witness answered off-handedly: 'At home.'
" 'At home! Then you stayed with him?'
"Cadaver hesitated. 'Yes, once or twice I slept at the house.'
" 'Spent week-ends.'
" 'An' he was not a friend of yours?'
" 'Merely and acquaintance?"
" 'I could explain—'
" 'Explain later,' ses O'Connor, harshly.
" 'When did you spend the last week-end with him.'
" 'I forget—some months ago.'
" 'How long before the murder?'
" 'I really cannot remember—'
" 'A month?'
" 'About that.'
" 'Let us say a week?'
" 'It might have been; I should have thought it was longer.'
" 'Did be invite you, or did you invite yourself?'
" 'I suppose I invited myself.'
" 'He wouldn't object?' The question was put in an airy way.
" 'Oh, no,' ses the witness quick.
" 'You took an intimate friend's privilege?'
" 'He was, of course,' ses counsel, carelessly, 'an intimate friend?'
"The witness saw the trap an' was dumb.
" 'Now, tell me,' O'Connor went on, 'what happened: you arrived at his house at what hour?'
" 'Three in the afternoon.'
" 'At three. You sent your bags up to your room, of course?'
" 'How many?'
" 'Oh, a couple—'
" 'Then I suppose you strolled into Mr. Hilary's room an' said—er "Hullo! here I am," or somethin' of that sort—'
" 'No; he was busy in the library when I arrived; I did not see him until five.'
" 'Busy, was he? What was he doin' this Saturday afternoon?'
" 'I believe he was goin' through his pass-book.'
" 'His bank-book? Was that his usual Saturday afternoon's occupation?'
" 'So his conduct was unusual?'
" 'Was it not at the request of his bank manager?'
" 'I don't know.'
" 'Had not two forged cheques been discovered?'
" 'I cannot say—I should hardly think so.'
" 'Yet, if I put the bank manager in the witness-box an' he swears to that effect you will accept his word?'
" 'Oh, yes—but it is strange that Hilary did not mention the fact to me.'
" 'He didn't—not the next day?'
" 'I left immediately after the interview.'
" 'It was only a flyin' visit: I had not intended stayin'.'
" 'An' yet you brought your trunk with you?'
" 'Yes,' reluctantly.
" 'An' sent them up to your room?'
" 'I changed my mind at the last moment, an' went straight home.'
" 'Now, about this interview you had with him: what did you say?'
" 'I told him I couldn't stay an' that I should be only a nuisance just then when he was so worried.'
" 'Was he very much upset?'
" 'Yes, he was, rather.'
" 'About what?'
" 'Why, about the forged cheques—'
"I saw a frown gather on O'Connor's face, an' the witness suddenly bit his lip.
" 'But you told us you knew nothin' of the forged cheques: you said, "It is strange that Hilary did not mention the matter to me." '
"The witness was silent again.
" 'We now know from your evidence,' O'Connor continued slowly, 'that George Hilary arrived in the neighbourhood of Fohleigh Copse on the evenin' of October 14th; that for some reason or other he went straight to the little wood; that for some reason he was murdered at 9 o'clock that night. That murder was witnessed by you. You say the man who fired the fatal shot was the prisoner at the bar.'
" 'All this is in your evidence: your story is supported by independent evidence to this extent—that the prisoner was in the Copse when the murder was committed. He states that much. He ses so here in his statement made after his arrest: I will read it:—
"I was takin' a short cut through the fields to Eltham. My way lay through the little wood that is known as Fohleigh Copse. When I was half way through I heard a shot an' a man's voice say, 'Oh, my God—you coward!' I made my way to where I had heard the noise, but must have missed the path, for I blundered about the wood for five minutes before two gamekeepers an' Edward Cadaver came to me, an' on Cadaver's statement I was arrested. The story Cadaver told is a lie from beginnin' to end. I had not seen the deceased man, Hilary, that day nor for a month previous. I had no feelin' against him, although it is true he held a mortgage on my farm, on which through his agent he had threatened to foreclose. Fortunately, only a few days before I had secured the money to release the mortgage."
" 'You hear that?'
" 'You may say that the prisoner's statement is untrue?'
" 'That it is, in fact, his word against yours?'
"Then O'Connor took the witness through the events of the day, how he had spent it. He led him step by step till be came to the evenin'.
" 'What did you do after lunch?'
" 'I did some writin', had a cup of tea, an' walked towards Eltham.'
" 'The Eltham road leads past Fohleigh Copse?'
" 'Yes. The copse is half-a-mile from the road.'
" 'At what hour did you turn back?'
" 'About five.'
" 'An' you reached Fohleigh Copse at—'
" 'A quarter past six.'
" 'Fohleigh Copse lay out of your way?'
" 'Yes, but I was in a ramblin' humour, an' I was feelin' tired: I thought I would sit down for a few minutes.'
" 'Why did you not sit down by the side of the road?"
" 'There are fallen trees in the Copse, an' on the edge of the wood, that make comfortable seats.'
" 'Yes—an' you sat down?'
" 'I sat on the ground with my back to a tree trunk.'
" 'An' went to sleep?'
" 'An' went to sleep.'
" 'What time was this?'
" 'About six.' O'Connor jotted a note on his pad.
" 'It must have been dusk then?'
" 'Yes, but it was quite warm.'
" 'An' when you woke?'
" 'It was dark, save for the moon. I was pullin' myself together an' preparin' to rise when I heard voices.'
" 'The prisoner's an' Hilary's?'
" 'Yes, they were raised in anger. Hilary was accusin' the prisoner of attemptin' to evade payment of somethin'—I did not quite catch what he said.'
" 'He wasn't by any chance accusin' him of bein' the author of the forged cheques?'
"The question was asked carelessly.
" 'No—I heard the prisoner say, "If you press me an' foreclose I will kill you," an' then I raised my head an' saw them.'
" 'Where were they?'
" 'In a little clearin' near the edge of the wood.'
" 'Go on: you say you saw the prisoner raise his hand: you saw a flash an' heard a report an' saw Hilary fall.'
" 'You have sworn to this.'
" 'Yes—an' I will swear to it again.'
" 'You are perfectly certain you made no mistake?'
" 'Perfectly certain.'
" 'That you recognised the murderer as the prisoner at the bar?'
" 'I am certain.'
" 'You saw his face distinctly?'
" 'There can be no mistake?'
" 'None.' He pronounced the last word emphatically an' O'Connor slowly nodded. Then all of a sudden his voice became very solemn.
" 'You know that you are the principal witness for the Crown?' he said, almost gently, 'an' your evidence, if unshaken, will convict the prisoner?'
" 'I know that.'
" 'That your word will send him to the gallows?'
" 'Yes,' ses the witness defiantly.
" 'An' you still swear it was he who fired the shot?'
" 'I still swear it.'
" 'God knows the truth,' said O'Connor, in a low solemn voice. 'Cadaver, I have shaken your testimony on every point of evidence except this. I have had independent witnesses ready to refute your other statements, but I come now to a place where it is your word against the prisoner's, for no other mortal eye saw what happened in the wood. You, an' he, an' God, know. In the presence of your fellow men, in the face of your Maker, did the man in the dock shoot George Hilary?'
"The man stood rigidly in the box, like a soldier standin' to attention. He raised his hand in affirmation as he said:
" 'He did, he did, I swear it.'
" 'Ah!' O'Connor stood leanin' forward over the table watchin' the other an' for a time neither man spoke.
"Then O'Connor began again: 'In October the leaves have fallen,' he said, quietly.
" 'But the trees are not bare'
" 'It would be dark in the Copse?' He turned his head as though to hear the reply the better.
" 'Fairly dark—but this was a little clearin'.
" 'The road is half-a-mile away?'
" 'An' the nearest house?'
" 'A mile.'
" 'Are there lamps on the road?'
" 'There is one.'
" 'How far away from the Copse?'
" 'A mile.'
" 'Was that the nearest light?'
" 'Did either of the men strike matches?'
" 'An' yet you recognised them?'
" 'By the light of the moon.'
" 'In this dark wood: in a clearin' surrounded by trees with no artificial light to assist you, you distinctly saw the prisoner's face?'
" 'By the light of the moon,' said the other, doggedly, 'it was a clear night.'
" 'In your evidence you say that you were ten feet away, an' yet you saw all this?'
" 'Saw the prisoner raise his pistol?'
" 'Saw him fire?'
" 'Saw the prisoner's face?'
" 'By the light of the moon?'
"With every question O'Connor had leant a little further over his desk, until he was almost bent double. Suddenly, as the last word was spoken, he jerked himself erect.
" 'You lie, you perjured villain!' his voice was hoarse but triumphant, 'there was no moon on the night of the 14th October!' No sound broke the deathly silence of the court.
" 'I—' stammered Cadaver, his face livid.
" 'You have lied throughout—there was no moon! Here is the nautical almanac to prove it.' He tossed a little book on to the table.
" 'The prisoner was not there!' he cried.
" 'He was not there!' his voice rose to a shout.
" 'I saw—'
" 'Hilary did not meet him.'
" 'I saw—'
" 'Hilary came to meet the man who forged his name!'
" 'It's false—'
" 'Because the man had written to him beggin' his forgiveness an' offerin' reparation.'
" 'I did not—'
" 'An' the man came with murder in his heart.'
" 'It's false, false!' screamed the man in the box.
" 'An' met his victim an' murdered him in cold blood.'
" 'An' that man was you—you—you!'
"Cadaver reeled back, his hand at his throat. He said somethin': nobody heard what he said, then he sprang forward to the edge of the box, his face contorted with an insane rage, he stretched out his hands to the black-robed accuser.
" 'Damn you. Damn you!' he hissed. 'I killed him. Yes, I killed him!'
"An' then the police closed round him."
I take this opportunity of thanking my friend, the Inspector, for telling me this true story of "Tanks." I must add that "Tanks" who came out of Wandsworth, in December, is now only a memory of Notting Dale, he having been expatriated to Canada, where, I understand, he holds the position of door-keeper to a Western Estate Agent. He is thus in his element, and fulfils the dictum of the criminologist who said: "There is no kind of theft in the world that cannot be carried on in a perfectly legal fashion if the thief has the intelligence to choose his profession wisely."—E.W.
ROUGHS there are, as is well-known, who, not satisfied with the stuff they pinch themselves, pinch, so to speak, the pinchings. Such a man was Tanks.
I have never been able to understand why Tanks was so called. The suggestion that it stood as a diminutive of "Tankard," or that it indicated his ability to store vast quantities of liquid, I dismiss, because Tanks was, like all professional criminals, a moderate drinker.
Since, moreover, he stole on too modest a scale to be an outside broker, I dismissed also the facetious suggestion that his patronymic may have come from operations in Tanganyika.
I was following an investigation into the history of the Sigee family for my little book on Congenital Crime when I came upon traces of Tanks. There was, as the learned Mr. Allison says, a "nick" of Sigee blood in Tanks' family, which may have been the cause of Tanks' rare flashes of genius, and whilst I pursued my pursuit of the Sigee antecedents I kept the corner of my eye for Tanks. He was an elusive, unsatisfactory subject, and in my despair at reaching a solution that would put him in the picture, I called in P-C. Lee, and that active and intelligent officer sketched out the life of the mysterious one in a few bold and vigorous phrases.
"There's very few people know why he's called Tanks," said P.-C. Lee, "but me an' a friend o' mine by the name of P.-C. Sankey could tell you."
He chuckled, as a man pleased with some esoteric joke.
"There's three kinds of crocodiles," he went on. "There's them that don't eat men, an' them that do eat men, an' them that eat men an' crocodiles, an' Tanks is one of the last variety.
"Somehow he never got caught, but that was because he'd chosen the easiest way of makin' a livin'—for he robbed people who couldn't complain to the police, an' who, moreover, wasn't gifted with the brains of normal folks.
"For suppose a thief breaks into a house an' gets away with the stuff—it's 99 chances to one he's robbin' a man whose got a lot of intelligence.
"All property-holders are smart—or they wouldn't be holdin' property, an' if they're not clever, then they're cunnin', which is worse.
"If a rich man's stuff is stolen he's got sufficient sense to take steps to get it back. He's used to havin' money an lookin' after it, an' makin' it, so naturally he's well equipped for gettin' it back.
"But the poor man, who's never had a large sum in his life, doesn't know how to hide it or hang on to it.
"If he gets it honest, he wants to show it round to all his friends; if he gets it on the cross, he hides it in the fowl-house an' puts up a notice 'Roosters are requested not to scratch the silver.'
"That's why the thief is the easiest chap to rob, an' that's why Tanks specialised in that kind of robbery.
"Bein' well in with all the best people in London, Larnby, the 'fence,' an' 'Young Harry,' an' several other gents who are at the head of the profession, Tanks got to know about the 'clicks' that were done in London, an' made his arrangements accordin'.
"When Darkie Moses cleared out the Cannon-street jewellers, he got clear away with about £600 worth of stuff, an' actin' on information received, me an' Inspector Snowberry went down to Darkie's house one night, an' took him just as he was sittin' down to supper.
" 'It's a cop,' ses Darkie quietly, 'I'll go pleasant.'
" 'Where's the stuff?' ses the Inspector.
" 'In the backyard,' ses Darkie, 'behind the rabbit hutch.'
"So I went out an' put my lamp over the rabbit hutch, but all I could find was a little gold bracelet with the words, 'From Harry to Violet in memory of a Silver Idyll.'
"This was one of the stolen articles belonging to a city gentleman who wanted his name kept out because his wife's name didn't happen to be Violet.
" 'Where's the rest of the stuff?' ses the inspector when I came with the report, an' poor Darkie's face was a picture of astonishment.
" 'Rest of the stuff?' he ses, bewildered, why, it's all there, ain't it?
"At the court, an' at the New Bailey, Darkie swore that he know nothin' about the disappearance of the swag.
"Of course, nobody believed him, not even the old hands, an' when Mr. Justice Darlin' sent him away for three years, people thought he'd got off light, considerin' that he'd still got the stuff.
"But soon after this another labourer in the good cause got a shock. This was Nick Moss himself.
"He got away with about two hundred pounds from a pawnbroker's shop one Saturday night—got clear away an' hid the money in a water spout outside his bedroom window. Nobody saw him hide it, he said (though I found out afterwards that Tanks, who lived in the street at the back of Nick's house had watched Nick stow it) an' when one day, the affair havin' blown over, Nick went to his savin's bank to draw a little on account, he was a bit annoyed to find it gone, an' in its place a bit of paper which said;
"'Honesty's the best policy.'
"Those were only two incidents in Tanks' early career, but there was lots of others. It got so bad in our neighbourhood that one or two chaps gave up stealin', an' got work at the jam factory.
"Nobody suspected Tanks, an' that wasn't surprisin', because he was one of the first to complain of bein' robbed an', what's more, he had the impudence to come to me an' report the affair.
"He knew he could do this because none of the goods that he described could be traced to anybody—havin' invented 'em himself.
"The thing about old Tanks in those days was his wonderful way of adaptin' himself to circumstances. If he got to know of a click, an' where he could lay his hands on the valuables, he was after 'em. Sometimes it was a roll of flannel, sometimes easy stuff like watches an' chains, but the day young Toby stole a horse an' pair outside the Bricklayers' Arms, down came Tanks an' bold as brass, took the lot out of the stable in Somers Town, where they'd been hid, an' drove 'em over to Finchley. He spent one day in paintin' out the name of the chap the cart belonged to an' two days after sold the lot at Barnet Fair, whilst poor Toby was wanderin' about lookin' for the stolen cart.
"What proved to be the undoin' of Tanks was the affair that he got his name over.
"There was a little French chap moved into the house next door. He was a quiet little feller who didn't shave himself very regular, so got the character of bein' a desperate feller.
"Some of the lads discussin' him down at the 'Nottin' Head' said he'd had to run away from France owin' to breakin' into a bank, but there wasn't any real information about him.
"Tanks was very curious, seein' in the Frenchman a new client, an' tried to chum up to him. But the Frenchman didn't know much English, an' Tanks got fed up with tryin' to get his confidence.
"But one night, after watchin' him very close, he saw him come home in a hurry, an' soon after he saw a feller come pantin' into the street, an' look round.
" 'Hullo,' ses Tanks to himself, 'Frenchy's on the cross,' an' he felt very comfortable about makin' the discovery.
"Next day Tanks had to go away into the country to see a friend. The chap he went to see was a feller at Erith, who did a bit of buyin', an' the reason Tanks went was because of somethin' that Frenchy had said to him over the garden wall.
"When the 'fence' heard what our friend had to say he looked a little bit doubtful.
" 'Tanks,' he ses. 'What's the good of tanks. I can't buy things like that.'
" 'You bought the cart-wheels I found,' ses Tanks.
" 'That's different,' ses the 'fence.' 'Cart-wheels you can get rid of—but tanks—'
"From what Tanks told the 'fence' it appears that this Frenchy had been pinchin' tanks for years.
" 'He's got hundreds an' thousands of 'em,' ses Tanks enthusiastic.
" 'What sort of tanks are they?' ses the 'fence.' But Tanks couldn't tell him, so the chap at Erith ses he'd buy 'em at old-iron prices, an' Tanks went away to get further information. It took a lot to knock any confidence into the Frenchman, an' a lot to get him to see Tanks' idea.
" 'Don't you understand,' ses Tanks, 'comprenny voo—I can sell your tanks at knock-out prices. Why,' ses Tanks virtuous, 'why run the risk of the police finding 'em? Eh?'
"The Frenchman didn't seem to understand, but 'Tanks,' he says.
" 'Quite right, Tanks,' ses the other. 'I can sell 'em.'
" 'Thousand tanks!' ses the other, very warm.
" 'Ten thousand if you like,' ses Tanks, 'or twenty thousand. I got a friend of mine in the country who's a reg'lar tank specialist who'll take the lot at a price.'
" 'I not onderstand Anglaise,' ses the Frenchy. 'Tanks—onderstand—to-morrow? I tell you.'
"An' Tanks went away feelin' quite pleased with himself.
"Now, it so happened that the very same night an 'all-station' message came in tellin' everybody to keep their eyes skinned for an anarchist named Godel.
"It appears that he'd been in London for several days, an' the fact was only discovered through the French police havin' sent over one of their own men to watch him, an' the French detective havin' reported his presence to Scotland Yard.
"Godel an' his pals had spotted the French detective, an' we got information at the Yard that left no doubt whatever that the detective's life was in danger. Accordin'ly, I'd hardly been on duty an hour when I was relieved an' went back to the station to find the superintendent awaitin' me.
" 'Get into plain clothes, Lee,' he ses, 'go down to 48, Arbuckle-street, an' take up your quarters with Monsieur du Croix. He's a member of the French police force, an' you'll be responsible for his life whilst he's in the house. I'll have another man watchin' the house from the outside who'll follow Mons. du Croix when he's out.'
"So I nipped home to change an' off I went to the 'tank-stealer.' He was very pleasant an' smilin', an' made me comfortable, but he wasn't much of a conversationalist. He went to bed at 10 o'clock, an' I sat up in his little kitchen in the dark, waitin' for anarchists.
"I nearly fell asleep at about two o'clock when I heard the 'whish' of a diamond on the glass of the kitchen window, an' waited.
"I saw a hand come in, unfasten the catch, saw the window open an' a man squeeze through.
"He was talkin' softly to himself—a rare habit of Tanks—an' I smiled to myself as I heard him.
" 'I'm bound to find some letters or something',' he muttered. 'He can't store tanks in his back-yard.'
"Then I laid my hand on his shoulder, an' he nearly died of fright.
"Just then I heard a devil of a skirmish just outside the front door an' the voice of the detective callin', so I let go of Tanks, an' bolted outside in time to catch the man who had got the Yard man down an' was tryin' to throttle him.
"We all went down to the station together, the would-be assassin—who was Godel himself—Monsieur du Croix, Tanks, and the detective.
"Tanks was sort of dazed when we put him into the dock an' charged him with bein' on premises for the purpose of committin' a felony. He could not keep his eyes off Monsieur du Croix, an' the French detective was very much amused when our superintendent explained who Tanks was.
" 'I thought,' said the Frenchman in his own language, 'that he was tryin' to warn me about somethin'—but I couldn't understand him.'
"The superintendent questioned Tanks, who blurted out the whole story, an' I thought the 'super' would have died of laughin'.
"He explained to the Frenchman, an' then he said a word to Tanks.
" 'What!' shouts Tanks very indignant, 'd'ye mean to tell me that he meant "thanks"?'
" 'That's it,' ses the 'super.'
" 'An' do you mean to say,' ses Tanks very wrathful, 'that I've been wastin' my valuable time over a French "split"?'
" 'That's it,' ses the 'super again.
" 'Well, all I can say is,' ses Tank', quite upset, 'that before a feller starts detectivisin' he ought to learn English. The number of blanky people in the smoke who can't rumble a plain chant, is positively disgustin'.'"
"THE art of bein' a policeman," said P.-C. Lee, thoughtfully, "is to keep your mouth shut at the right moment. Nothin' upsets a chap who wants to argue the point like remainin' silent, an' lookin' him over like a prize pig. It frightens him, because he thinks you're goin' to say somethin' that most likely you never thought of, an' havin', so to speak, a guilty conscience, he's ready to put thoughts into your head which you don't harbour.
"There was a young constable in 'R' Division, when I was down that way, that made a point of never sayin' anythin' when he was on duty. If people asked him the way to so-an'-so, he used to point; if they asked him the time, he showed 'em his watch; an' it got about in Deptford that he wasn't quite right in his head; an' all the nuts gave him a wide berth, because he didn't look like a chap who was soft, but more resemblin' a lunatic of the dangerous sort.
"By continuin' to do the deaf an' dumb act he got more convictions than any other chap in the division.
"He'd be standin' at the corner of the street doin' nothin' in particular, when, for want of a more beautiful sight, he'd look at some young man standin' idly about.
"For a bit, the young chap wouldn't take no notice, then as P.-C. Hirley went on lookin'—havin' nothin' better to do—the young chap would shuffle about very uneasy, an' at last, not able to stand it any longer, over he'd come to the Worm—we used to call him the Hirley Worm—an' say:
" 'I s'pose you're lookin' at my boots?'
"P.-C. Hirley would say nothin'.
" 'They are army boots, I'll admit,' the feller would way, 'but I bought 'em off a militia-man.'
"Still, P.-C. Hirley only looked at the boots.
" 'If you thinks I'm a deserter,' the chap would go on, very agitated, 'you're jolly well mistook.'
"But P.-C. Hirley kept mum.
" 'All right,' at last the chap would say, 'it's a cop; I'll go quietly. I deserted from the West Kents last Christmas time owin' to a row with my girl.'
"An' all that P.-C. Hirley did was to say nothin' but run the chap in.
"Some of our fellers thought he must be a hypnotist, he had such a way of influencin' people, but I put it down to the fact that a silent man is a very terrifyin' thing. Hirley is a divisional Inspector now, an' all the fellers under him are in mortal terror for fear he'll be sayin' somethin' to them that he's never likely to say.
"But Hirley didn't get his promotion for not talkin', as you know. But the finest instance of his silence was in connection with the Kensin'ton mystery, which you may remember.
"It was ten years ago, when we got a portrait an' description of the man Pilsnert, one of the most famous blackmailers in the world.
"He'd been to America, but suddenly reappeared in England, an' by all accounts was goin' stronger than ever.
"Anyway, the C.I.D. got the tip that he was workin' his 'speciality.'
"This was to get some woman who had a bit of a past, known only to a few people, an' make her pay up, threatenin' to tell her husband or her son, as the case may be, all about what happened at Brighton in '91, so to speak.
"So, in consequence of information received, we began to look for Pilsnert on our ground, but unfortunately we stuck too close to Nottin' Dale, thinkin' he'd be in hidin' in the poorer part.
"Our superintendent, Mr. Carylon, as nice a gentleman as ever breathed, knowin' that I was well acquainted with all the toughs of Nottin' Dale district, sent for me, an' I went to his house. As a matter of fact, it was a beautiful little flat that he'd taken when he married. It was, as I say, a beautiful little flat, full of taste an' artistic feelin', with lots of photographs of Mrs. Carylon as Ophelia, and Desdemona (she used to be quite a tip-top actress), an' very beautiful pictures they were, for Mrs. Carlyon was one of the loveliest women I've ever seen.
" 'Come in, Lee,' ses the super, 'only don't make a noise, my wife is very seedy, an' has been in bed for three days with some sort of rheumatism.'
"Then he asked me a few questions about my people, an' I told him all that I knew.
" 'You'll have to keep an eye open for Pilsnert,' he ses. 'Up at the Yard they're just frantic to get him. He's been blackmailin' the Countess of Cursax an' somebody else. We know all about the countess's case, because she's come straight to the police an' told 'em; but the other poor creature hasn't had the courage, an' we can't find out who she is—except the countess has told the Yard that she is sure there is somebody else.'
"I left him, determined to get some of my own bright boys to work.
"That night I was on duty in Ladbroke Gardens. A stiflin' hot summer's night it was in June, an' my clothes fairly stuck to me.
"I was walkin' very slowly up towards Kensin'ton Park-road when a cab drove up, almost abreast of me, an' a young gentleman in evenin' dress jumped out. I couldn't see his face, but he was a slight built youth of about 17 or 18, near as I could judge, an' he stepped back a pace when he saw me, hesitated a moment, then handin' the cabby his fare, he walked up the steps of a house an' opened the door with a latchkey.
"I gave him 'Good-night,' as he passed; but beyond a nod he said nothin'.
"Somehow, I knew he was a stranger in these parts, for although I wasn't exactly acquainted with everybody who lived in the gardens, yet I knew instinctively that he was a new-comer.
"The cab drove off, an' I walked on to the corner, met the sergeant, told him nothin' had happened, an' started to walk back along the way I'd come.
"As I reached the house where I'd seen the young fellow go in, I looked up carelessly, an' to my astonishment the door was wide open.
" 'Hullo,' ses I. 'What's up?'
"I put the light of my lantern into the hall, an' it was empty.
"I waited a little, thinkin', perhaps, the young chap had gone out to post a letter; but nobody appeared, so I walked up the steps an' knocked.
"I knocked three or four times without gettin' an answer, an' then I stepped inside.
"I stepped back quick enough, for from a room above came a most awful yell, that absolutely froze my blood.
"Up the stairs I sprang, three at a time.
"There was a door open on the landin', an' I ran into the room.
"It was pitch dark, but puttin' my lantern over it I saw it was a sort of study.
"The first thing I saw was a man's body all huddled up in a corner of the room.
"I flashed my lantern on him, an' I saw that he was dead. Dead he was, with a bullet-hole in the middle of his forehead.
"I jumped downstairs, three at a time, an blew my whistle, an' in a few minutes up ran P.-C. Hirley—we'd both been transferred to this division—an' I told him in a few words what was wrong, an' sent him peltin' for a doctor
"He hadn't been gone long before the sergeant came, an' another constable, an' together we made an inspection of the house.
"It was a curious house, believe me, for it was half furnished, an' what furniture there was wouldn't have fetched £20 in the open market. The best room was the one with the body in it.
"There appeared to be no servants, nor no accommodation for them, an' after makin' an inspection of the house we came back to where we started, an' had a look at the man who was killed.
"He was not a pleasant-lookin' sight—an elderly man, with a face that looked evil even in death. I remembered havin' seen him before, an' then it flashed across me that this must be the celebrated Mr. Pilsnert.
"A few minute later in came Mr. Carylon, the super, an' the moment he saw the body he whistled. We put lights on, an' all five of us started to systematically search the house all over again.
"The great mystery was, who was it that yelled when I entered? It couldn't have been the dead man, because I'd have heard the shot, an' besides, the doctor said he must have been killed instantly.
" 'It's an extraordinary thing,' said the super, shakin' his head; 'the most extraordinary feature of the case. I can understand how the murderer came, an' how he got away. He was the young man you saw, an' likely as not the poor girl this scoundrel has been blackmailin', dressed up as man. But who was it that shouted?'
"But this mystery wasn't the greatest mystery after all; an' if the story I'm tellin' you was a proper detective story I'd keep you waitin' for the solution till the end.
"But we found out all about it in less than no time. We all went to the front door to reconstruct the scene.
" 'Stand where you were when you walked into the passage,' ses the super.
"So I acted it all over again.
"I stepped into the hall, took a pace, an' jumped back, for from the top of the stairs came that awful yell that I had heard.
" 'Come back,' ses the super; but I didn't want any tellin'
" 'Now, step forward again.'
"I carried out instructions—an' again came that terrible cry.
" 'Sounds a bit mechanical,' ses the super, as cool as ice. 'We'll go upstairs again.'
"On the landin' was a little cabinet that I'd noticed. The super walked straight to this, pulled open the door, an' inside was a sort of clockwork arrangement.
"This was the first time I'd ever seen a phonograph; but the chief knew what it was.
" 'There's a loose board in the hall,' he ses, 'an' I daresay an electrical connection. When you step on that you start the machine goin'. Pilsnert expected visitors, an' wanted to frighten 'em.'
"Satisfied with this explanation—it was a true one, we found—we went upstairs to search the room.
" 'Keep all the papers together,' ses the super, 'an' don't disturb 'em more than you can help.'
"I saw Hirley examinin' a bundle, saw him frown as he glanced at 'em, then, to my amazement I saw him slip the letters up his sleeve.
"I gasped, because he was the straightest man I know; but I said nothin'.
"Well, to cut a long story short, we found nothin' that would indicate who the murderer was. We found the cabby who drove the young 'man' to the house, an' he could give us no information either; an' the Ladbroke Gardens murder is a mystery to this day.
"But that ain't the only mystery.
"Sometime after this Hirley was specially promoted for a very fine capture of burglars in Kensin'ton, an' went out of the district. I didn't see him again till a lot of us went down to Tilbury to see off Mr. and Mrs. Carylon to South America. The super had got a very good appointment in the foreign department of the C.I.D. at Buenos Ayres.
"After the ship had sailed, Hirley—Divisional Inspector he was then—ses to me:
" 'Nice woman, Mrs. Carylon.'
" 'Yes,' I ses.
" 'A little wild as a young girl,' he ses.
" 'Was she?' I ses in surprise. 'I'd never heard of it.'
" 'Do you remember the night Pilsnert was killed?' he ses.
" 'I do,' I ses.
" 'Well,' ses Hirley, slowly, 'she was ill in bed, unable to move.'
" 'She was, now I come to think of it,' I ses, an' waited for him to go on.
" 'That's all,' he ses, an' what he meant is a mystery to me to this day."
"SAVAGES!" said P.-C. Lee, scornfully. "Why, there ain't a savage not in all Darkest Africa within a mile of some of the savages I've seen an' helped to handle. When you read in your newspapers about a feller standin' up in the dock sayin' how sorry he was he bit the policeman's nose, you only get a dim idea of what kind of customers you have to deal with in the force.
"That's what I always say: the adventurous side of police work isn't arrestin' foreign forgers in evening dress, or raidin' a dynamite factory run by a chap called Osslivski, but it mainly consists of dodgin' the hob-nailed boots of a drunk and disorderly party.
"I know men who want half a division to take 'em, an' others who'll eat from your hand an' follow you like a tame dog; but the rummiest feller I've ever had to pinch was a young chap in the music-hall line of business, named Professor Ivan Toboscoff, but whose real name was Harry. He was one of those clever young fellers that people was always expecting to do somethin', and whilst he usually did it, it wasn't the sort of somethin' they expected; in fact, he was the most unexpected kind of young feller.
"One week he'd be singin' on the music-hall stage, another week he'd be makin' a book at the races, an' another week he'd disappear altogether. This would generally be the week after he made the book. I don't know how he started the professor lay, but it must have been on for a couple of years.
"There came into Prong-street, Nottin' Dale, a queer old foreign gentleman with long hair an' last Sunday's collar. He an' Harry struck up a sort of friendship, happenin' to live next door to one another, an' they became fast pals.
"About this time Harry was runnin' a little book. Used to stand at the corner of the streets watchin' the white clouds sailin' overhead, whilst people were slippin' shillin's an' bits of paper into his hand 'Orby 1s. to win, any to come all on Elfin Revel and Master Hopson,' an' Harry was makin' it pay, because the Street Bettin' Act wasn't in operation just then, an' the most you could get for a first offence was a fine of a fiver. I pulled him in once, just to keep my hand in, an' he got the usual fine.
"He was very civil about it, an' told me that he knew I was only doing my duty, an' the sort of slop you hear on occasions like this, but I got an idea that he was waitin' for me.
"Well, Harry dropped the bettin' business soon after the foreign gent came to Prong-street. He dropped it a bit hurried over a 2s. accumulator that came off. Harry found that he had to pay £43 for his 2s. bet, and he gave up bettin'.
"The chap who won the money wanted him to give up the £43, but Harry said that givin' up bettin' was enough of a wrench without addin' to the misery.
"Then there was a little interval when he went about regularly with Nick Moss, and I rather suspected him of bein' in a couple of small larcenies, but we couldn't get evidence to convict, so we dropped the case.
"A little while after this, I was on duty in the early hours of the mornin' in Ladbroke Grove, when I spotted Harry walkin' along briskly with a parcel under his arm.
"I stopped him as a matter of course, an' casually asked him what he was carryin'.
" 'My bills,' he ses, as proud as Punch. 'That's why I'm late; me an' a few of me brother professionals have been celebratin' my comin' out.'
" 'Comin' out?' I ses; 'I didn't know you'd been convicted.'
" 'Cease your merriment, constable,' he ses—he had a habit of talkin' like that, havin' been on the music-hall stage. 'Cease your merriment. When I say comin' out, I mean I'm makin' my de-but.' An' with that he opened the parcel, an' showed me a lot of bills.
PROFESSOR IVAN TOBOSCOFF,
The Imperial Wonder of the Age.
who Cured the Czar (Nicholas I.) of
Toothache with one Glance of His
" 'Who's that?' I ses.
" 'Me,' ses Harry. 'It's me gift.'
"An' then he up an' told me how the foreign party who lived next door had taught him, an' how he'd got a week's engagement at the Nottin' Hill Empire.
" 'How do you work the fake?' I ses, an' he was very indignant.
" 'It's not a fake,' he ses; 'it's genuine.'
" 'Push off,' I ses, an' he pushed.
"A few days after I saw his name on all the hoardin's, an' after the first night I met one of our men who'd seen the show. Accordin' to him what Harry did was simply marvellous, for he put people to sleep with a wave of his hand, stuck pins into 'em, an' generally was very amusin'.
"But I'd seen all that sort of thing done before, an' I know the chap who has the pins through him usually gets ten shillin's a night, an' has to pay for his own stickin' plaster. But the public liked him, an' he was re-engaged for a long run with a big salary, an' it didn't seem five minutes after I'd stopped him in his shabby suit with a parcel under his arm, that he blossomed out into a fur-lined coat, an' was smokin' long cigars, an' talkin' about 'our profession.'
"He cured people of little things like toothache and neuralgia, an' his reputation began to grow. He moved out of Prong-street, into Elgin Crescent, and began to live at the rate of a pound a minute.
"But with all the money he earned he got hard up, for easy money doesn't keep. It's like the beautiful poppy that blooms in the mornin' and wilts in the evenin', an' is dead the next mornin'. He got into debt, an' looked round for relief. He must have found it quicker than he'd expected, for two days afterwards we got a description of a man wanted for takin' six hundred pounds in notes from an old gentleman in the city—an' the description fitted Harry.
"We sent our report to headquarters, an' down came the old gentleman, very sorry for himself at losin' the money, but more sorry that he'd got to face the music of a police court.
"I heard him tell the inspector how it happened. He'd met an engagin' young fellow in a railway carriage, an' found himself chattin' away pleasantly.
"That's all he remembered, for he suddenly fell asleep, an' when he woke up he'd been robbed. Well, this old gentleman, what with his agitation an' his wantin' to be kept out of the police court, was so confused an' contradictory that he altered his description of the wanted man not once but a dozen times, an' when we confronted him with Harry, he had a good look at him an' said promptly, 'This isn't the chap.'
"It was rather a smack in the eye for us, because we felt sure that Harry was the man, the more so since he'd been very flush of money since the robbery.
"However, we could do nothing. Harry was turned out, threatenin' everybody with actions for false imprisonment, an' nothing more was heard of the case.
"Then his engagement came to an end owin' to the manager havin' lost a diamond pin while Harry was conductin' some private experiments, an' he found himself broke again to the world.
"Soon after that, Alf Mogg, the celebrated bookmaker gentleman, met with severe losses. Harry walked up to him on the course an' asked to be paid £480 he'd won, an' Mr. Mogg parted without sayin' a word.
"It appears from what he said, that as soon as Harry fixed his lamps on him, he was sure that he had won, an' it was only when he looked through his books that night that he couldn't find any mention of Harry's name or bet.
"He came to see Harry to get the money back but Harry just looked at him.
" 'Don't you remember me havin' 480 to 60 King's Courtship?' he ses.
" 'Yes,' ses poor Mr. Mogg, in a dazed way. 'I remember it perfectly.' An' the curious was, that he did remember it whilst he was with Harry, but forgot all about it when he went away. He was so upset that he came to the station an' told the inspector.
" 'It's hypnotism,' he ses.
" 'Bosh!' ses the inspector. 'It's all fake. Look here, you swear an affidavit, an' I'll send one of my men to pull him in.'
"So next mornin', after takin' a night to think about it, Mogg swore an affidavit, an' a warrant was issued.
" 'Obtainin' money by a trick,' was the charge, an' Gabbin, one of our best men, was sent to execute the warrant. He came back in half-an-hour singin' 'I'm to be Queen of the May, mother,' an' the inspector gasped.
" 'What the devil's wrong with you?' he ses.
" 'If you're wakin', call me early, call me early, mother dear,' ses Gabbin.
" 'Are you drunk?' ses the inspector.
" 'It's a poor heart that never rejoices,' ses Gabbin, burstin' forth into song like a bloomin' canary.
" 'Listen to me, you fool,' roars the inspector, 'did you see the accused?'
" 'I did,' ses Gabbin, 'an' a nice, kind gentleman he is—he told me I was Queen of the May. I didn't know it before! Fancy!' ses Gabbin, in a dreamy kind of voice, 'all these years I've been done out of me just dues—'
"They took Gabbin away to be medically examined, and sent Day and Carlett, two plain clothes officers, to arrest Harry. They was gone an hour, an' came back lookin' very solemn.
" 'Well,' ses the inspector, 'did you find him?'
" 'Find who, sir?' ses Day.
" 'Young Harry,' ses the inspector.
"Day shook his head.
" 'There ain't no such person,' he ses.
" 'What!' ses the inspector.
" 'There ain't no such person,' ses Day.
"The inspector gasped.
" 'Who told you so?' he ses.
" 'Young Harry himself,' ses Day, as solemn as an owl, 'an' he ought to know.'
"I thought the inspector would have had a fit. He ramped an' raved up an' down the charge room, an' at last he ses to the sergeant, 'I'll go myself,' he ses, 'give me a pair of handcuffs;' an' off he went.
"I heard all about this when I came in a few minutes after, an' hung about the charge room waitin' to see what would happen next. In about half-an-hour I heard a row in the street an' looked out, an' the sight nearly took my breath away. The inspector was comin' along the pavement very dignified an' very white, followed by a crowd. I wondered at first why they followed him, but by an' by I saw, for he was handcuffed. He walked straight into the room, crossed over to the sergeant's desk an' nodded.
" 'Good day, sergeant,' he ses, sadly, 'I've come to give myself up.'
" 'Beg pardon, sir?' ses the sergeant, bewildered.
" 'I've come to give myself up,' ses the inspector; 'I'm Charlie Peace.'
"This was the last straw. Whilst the sergeant was tryin' to get the handcuffs off, I ran upstairs to P.-C. Sankey's quarters.
" 'Sankey,' I ses, 'quick, come along with me.'
" 'What's up?' he ses.
" 'There's a bloke with a magnetic eye doing dirt to the police,' I ses, an' explained everything in a few words. We hurried down to Harry's house, an' a servant opened the door.
" 'Hullo!' she ses, 'how many more of you?'
" 'Where's your master?' I ses.
" 'Packin' up,' she ses. 'You'll be in time to see him.'
" 'I ran up the stairs, followed by Sankey, an' we went into what we judged rightly was Harry's bedroom.
"He turned as we entered.
" 'Good mornin' all,' he ses, lookin' me full in the face.
"I could feel a sort of creepy sensation come over me when he fixed his eyes on me, but I shut my eyes tight, an' so did Sankey.
" 'Harry,' I ses, 'are you goin' quietly?'
" 'I don't understand,' he ses, an' tried to slip past me, but I caught him by the collar, an' P.-C. Sankey took his arm an' swung him round.
" 'Keep your fascinatin' dial the other way,' he ses, 'or I'll face-wipe you.'
"We got him down to the station congratulatin' ourselves, an' found the inspector lookin' foolish.
" 'Very well done, P.-C. Lee,' he ses.
"Harry was brought up before the beak next mornin', formal evidence was given, an' he was remanded. Two hours later I could have sworn he passed me in the street, but that was impossible, for bail was refused."
P.-C. Lee stopped, put his hand into his coat-tail pocket, brought forth a fat pocket-book, and extracted a newspaper cutting.
"Impossible!" he repeated, bitterly; "read that!"
I took the cutting and read.
"The charge against Harry Sink, alias Professor Toboscoff collapsed in a remarkable manner yesterday. After the hearing and a formal remand, the prisoner requested a private interview with the magistrate, which his worship granted. The result of that interview was dramatic, for on return to court, his worship announced that the prisoner was discharged, and granted him £5 from the poor-box."
"That's the solemn truth," said P.-C. Lee, "an' we never saw Harry again."
FOR this story I am indebted to P.-C. Sankey. P.-C. Sankey is a good man and a religious man, but there is little in his composition that savours of the milksop. I think I should explain this to you, because you might take a wrong view of the sentimentality which permeates and enclouds every action of this officer. I know him to be a tower of strength to the Notting Dale Mission, a man who gladly gives up his spare evenings to the cause of humanity, and moreover a friend of women and children. Another side of this police constable is his ability to hit straight and frequently, and, with the exception of P.-C. Lee, no man has less trouble in taking an obstreperous evil-doer to the station. I explain P.-C. Sankey in advance, because I am jealous of his reputation. He is neither hypocrite, prig, or softy; and whilst I hold no brief for the soundness of his theology, yet I know few men from whom I would rather take the heads of a sermon.
"P.-C. Lee," said Sankey—he had a robust delivery, and conveyed the impression that he was given to dogmatising—"P.-C. Lee is a man with an understandin' heart (second of Kings that expression comes from, unless I'm greatly mistaken), an' bein' naturally of a kindly disposition he makes friends an' in a manner o' speakin', inspires confidence. Policemen are tough members of society, bein' used to divers artfulness, an' the heart bein' desperately wicked, as the Book tells you, it stands to reason that a lot of its wickedness comes our way.
"P.-C. Lee was on duty one night in the Portobello-road when one of our narks came up to him an' gave him the office that there was an old lag movin' into the district who hadn't notified his change of address. This chap was a carpenter by trade, an' on ticket-o'-leave; an' to change your address without notifyin' same to the police is a serious offence. Instead o' reportin' the matter, P.-C. Lee nipped round to this chap's house, and found the man was in good employment, an' hadn't reported for fear of his employer gettin' to know that he was an old lag. He was tryin' to go straight an' live an honest life for the sake of his daughter, a very pretty girl—though to my mind female beauty is only one of them treasures that 'moth an' rust do corrupt'—an', what's more important, as good as gold.
"I'm no judge o' beauty," admitted P.-C. Sankey, modestly, "but this girl was straight an' slim, with big sorrowful eyes, an' a complexion like milk. She knew all about her father, an' there always seemed in those eyes of hers the shadow of fear that hunted people have.
"Anyhow, P.-C. Lee went round to the house, gave the man a good blowin' up, saw the inspector, an' got things put right—much to the annoyance of the nark.
"It was no fault of the police that the employers of the carpenter, whose real name was Sapton, got to hear about his bein' in prison, an' sacked him. Accordin' to his lights, the employer was right, but he might have borne in mind the words of Paul. . . However, he didn't, an' poor Sapton was 'pushed.' When a man's down an' luck's against him, unless he's got them holy supports that saints have—though I can't say I've ever had 'em myself—he's pretty sure to go a bit wrong. It's partly because he can't help himself, for whatever job he does is bound to turn out for the worst, an' Sapton was no exception to the rule.
"He grew sulky an' sullen, an' we got the tip to watch him. Sapton lived in a tiny house in Little Grafton-street, an' the first thing that happened was, he got behind with his rent. This worried him at first, for his landlord had the reputation of bein' a cruel, hard man. Mr. Mealie his name was—a tall feller, with one of them soft beards that went out of fashion when people gave up keepin' goats as household pets. A great spouter at little tea-meetin's, havin' the kind o' religion which finds its way out in believin' in hell.
"Now, what puzzled me was the fact that Mr. Mealie was quite mild when Sapton fell behind with his rent. Didn't give 'em notice, but just handed Sapton a tract an' gave the girl a fatherly pat on the head. Sapton told P.-C. Lee, with tears in his eyes, that it made him respect Christians more than ever he had done before but P.-C. Lee sniffed, knowin' Mealie.
"Livin' rent free is very pleasant, but it doesn't keep a man from hunger, an' Sapton began to look round for food. He tried to get work an' failed: then he went back to some of his old pals an' they lent him enough to get on with. I think he meant to go straight, an', anyway, I know that he tried, but everythin' was against him an' he grew poorer an' poorer. Then he fell from grace. Did a house-breakin' job up Hampstead way an' got away with about ten pounds worth of stuff. But he'd lost his dash or his nerve or somethin', for he'd no sooner got home safely than his conscience began to prick him.
"One night me an' P.-C. Lee got an order to go down to Little Grafton-street an' take him, so down we went. His daughter opened the door to us, an' when she saw us she turned white an' would have fallen, only Lee caught her arm.
" 'What do you want?' she ses, faintly.
" 'We want your father, my dear,' ses Lee, kindly, an' she turned an' led the way into the kitchen.
"Sapton stood up as we entered an' nodded slowly.
" 'It's all right Mr. Lee,' he ses; 'I know what you want.'
"We walked him to the station an' on the way he said:
" 'I can't understand how you found out—the only person who knew beside me is Mr.—' he checked himself, 'is a certain good gentleman I went and made a clean breast to,' he said.
" 'Then you're a bigger fool than I thought,' said P.-C. Lee gruffly.
"A week later Sapton was sentenced to five years' penal servitude an' to complete the remainder of his sentence. I didn't see the girl for a month after, but when I did, her face shocked me, for if ever I saw a fellow creature in mortal fear an' agony, it was she.
" 'What on earth's wrong with you?' I asked, but she would not say.
"It was one o'clock in the mornin' a few days after this, that P.-C. Lee, goin' slowly along Kensin'ton Park-road, came face to face with Mary Sapton. She was dressed as if she was goin' a long journey, an' Lee saw that she was cryin'.
"All that he could get her to say was that she was in debt; owed rent (that was the surprisin' thing), an' she wished she was dead.
" 'That's all right,' ses P.-C. Lee, turnin' to walk with her; 'but it doesn't explain why you're wanderin' in the wilds of Kensin'ton at 1 a.m.'
"She wouldn't tell him, but he found out. At the corner of one of the streets they came upon a brougham, an' walkin' impatiently up an' down was Mr. Mealie.
" 'Come along, come along,' he ses impatiently, an then he saw P.-C. Lee walkin' in his silent boots in the shadow of the trees—it was by one of the gardens.
" 'What do you want?' he ses.
" 'I want some information,' ses P.-C. Lee, 'Where are you takin' this girl?'
" 'That's no business of yours.' snarls Mr. Mealie. 'I've been a good friend to her——'
" 'Never mind about blowin' your trumpet,' ses P.-C. Lee. 'Where are you takin' her?'
" 'Oh, let me go,' ses the girl. 'What does it matter?' she started sobbin'.
" 'Let her go, you fool!' ses Mealie. 'What future has she got? Her father's a convict—'
" 'I know all about that,' ses Lee, 'an' I know who sent him to Dartmoor—in the meanwhile I'm goin' to look after her—will you come with me, Mary?' he ses, an' she hesitated.
" 'As what?' ses Mealie with a sneer.
" 'As my wife,' ses P.-C. Lee, soberly.
"She nodded, an' took his arm with a little sob.
"An' that," said P.-C. Sankey, "is the true story of how P.-C. Lee came to be married."
"THE thing you've got to remember," said P.-C. Lee cautiously, and correcting my views on stewards, "is what I might call the progress of the age."
It was outside the Albert Hall, from whence had been ejected, with no little brutality, a party of militant Suffragists. I had come out to find P.-C. Lee on special duty, and my caustic comments on the heroism of Welsh stewards had produced his remark.
"Puttin' aside the Welsh chaps," said P.-C. Lee, "who, bein' poetical, are naturally bad tempered, an' takin' humanity at large, you don't have to go far to see that the average man much prefers hittin' a woman, to hittin' somethin' in trousers that might be reasonably expected to hit back. That's the history of to-day. Ninety per cent of the murders committed are women murdered— it's safer.
"There was a time down Nottin' Dale way when two chaps who had a bit of an argument would whip off their shirts an' settle the matter in the roadway in a highly bloody way, but it's long ago, an' now the world's made up of anaemic young men, with ginger moustaches, who are mighty pretty talkers, but are in the reserves when it comes to fightin'.
"Of all the temptations in the world the one that is hardest to get over is the temptation to hit somethin' that won't, or can't, retaliate, so when you see eight strong stewards heroically chargin' an old lady of ninety an' chuckin' her down the stairs, you've got to say, 'Thank the Lord for free education that has taught these noble fellers that there's a time to be fierce an' a time to be baby mutton'.
"I never sneer at education, as I've told you before. I could have done with a little bit more of it myself, but when men learnt to talk correctly, they got so pleased with hearin' themselves speak that they gave up fightin' then an' there.
"There was an old feller named Jim Landsford down Nottin' Dale way who was, in his prime, the toughest thing in middle-weights that ever wore skin gloves. A nice, well-conducted man he always was, an' one of the sensible ones, for he put part of his earnin's into a life annuity, an' consequently he's always got a sovereign in his pocket— an' knows where the next one's comin' from.
"Like all good fighters he was a quiet man, an' would sooner cross the road than run the risk of gettin' into an argument with any of the famous orators who live in my part of the world.
"The consequence was that the boys began to talk about him as a thing of the past, an' it was 'poor old Jim this,' 'poor old thing-of-the-past that,' till from pityin' him, they got to despisin' him, an' from despisin' him they got to bein' rude about him, an' his face.
"There was a rare swaggerin' bully of a chap named Hoggy. I don't know whether that was his real name, or whether it as a bit of word-paintin' on the part of the 'nuts,' but it suited him, for, bar the fact that he didn't have a curly tail, an' wasn't always sober, he was Hoggy to the life. A broad-shouldered man, about middle height, with arms big enough to fill out a bishop's sleeve, he was respected in Nottin' Dale by everybody except me an' Nick Moss an' old Jim Landsford.
"Hoggy tried the bullyin game on Nick, but Nick wasn't standin' it. One night Hoggy wiped the floor of the Glasgow Arms with Nick—who was a very slight chap— but he didn't repeat the dose, for that same night Nick met him on his way home an' laid him out with the leg of a cheap bedstead, an' Hoggy was attendin' the West London Hospital for months after.
"When he stopped attendin' hospital he decided that Nick was the wrong kind of little chap to worry owin' to his scientific knowledge of hardware fightin', so he turned his attention to the extinct volcano, Jimmy.
"He used to kid Jimmy to tell the stories of his past fights, an' all the time the old prize-fighter was yarnin', Hoggy would be winkin' at the company an' pullin' the old man's leg. But Jimmy didn't see it. He was slow to take offence, bein', as I say, a man of very mild views an' ways, an' bein' very simple with it.
"I don't know how it came about, but probably as a result of these talks, the idea got into Hoggy's thick head that there was somethin' in the fightin' game, an' he went into trainin' with a gentleman named Nosey Watts. Before we knew where we was, Hoggy was a fightin' man, had fought a couple of fights with Young Harry of Ogston, an' Pete Gully of Rotherhithe, an' had knocked 'em both out.
" 'It reads like old times, Mr. Lee,' ses old Jim wistfully. He had a copy of a sportin' paper in his hands. 'I never gave Hoggy credit for bein' such a man.'
"Hoggy made money as a fightin' man. Started wearin' check suits that you hear from Kensin'ton Church to Wormwood Scrubbs, got a big gold albert an' a swanky diamond ring to match, an' Nottin' Dale got a bit too small to hold him. The only chap who didn't curse his luck was Jim. He was as delighted with the blighter's success as if it had been his own, an' when Hoggy one day, in a fit of intoxication, said he'd got his idea of fightin' from hearin' Jim talk, the delight of the old man was pathetic.
" 'I'm goin' to give that boy a few tips,' he ses. 'I'm goin' to teach him a punch what they don't know anythin' about in these days. He's goin' to meet Ikey McNeill, the heavy-weight champion.'
" 'Take my tip, Jimmy,' ses I, 'an leave alone; he won't thank you.' But he went every day to Hoggy's trainin' quarters, an' sometimes my lord condescended to put the gloves on, an' pretended to be interested, but more often than not, he used to send word out that he was restin' or walkin', or takin' nourishment.
"He would not have stood old Jim at all, in my opinion, only some of the swells who were backin' him, knew Jimmy an' respected him.
" 'I've been to see the boy to-day,' ses Jim, very enthusiastic; 'he's doin' fine: he'll put that Scotchman to sleep in two rounds.'
" 'Did you teach him your punch?' ses I.
"Jimmy hesitated an' then very reluctantly he ses, 'No.'
" 'As a matter of fact,' he ses, 'I don't think I ought to have offered. You see, the new way of fightin' is different to the old. I don't suppose our old-fashioned tactics would suit nowadays. There's more leg work than arm work about the fightin'.'
"But he still went regularly to Hoggy an' when the flash fightin' man got a bit short with him, an' as good as told him that he didn't want to see his old dial, Jimmy turned it off with a laugh.
" 'That's trainin,' he ses. 'When a man's fine-trained it always puts him off his edge. I was the same meself. Couldn't bear anybody near me— Hoggy's the same.'
"The night of the fight came, an' to my surprise Hoggy knocked out his man in the third round. He'd have been champion of the world, only there was about forty other champions of the world all busily engaged in writin' letters to the paper explainin' why they couldn't find it convenient to fight one another, an' Hoggy wasn't enough of a scholar to be a proper champion.
"But a lot of the fancy got together to give Hoggy a dinner to celebrate his victory, an' old Jim was one of the first to get an invitation. He got it, as I happen to know, through a gentleman at the National Sportin' Club who'd seen him at Hoggy's trainin' quarters, but Jimmy didn't know this, an' put his ticket down to the credit of Hoggy.
" 'That's what I call kind, Mr. Lee,' he ses very grateful. 'The young fightin' man, an' the old fightin' man; it's what I call a pretty compliment, an' I appreciate it.'
"It wasn't for me to upset his dreams, so I shut up an' said nothin'. The dinner was to be held at a big public-house in Kensin'ton High Road, an' two or three days before my inspector called me into his office.
" 'Lee,' he ses, 'you an' your pal Sankey will be for plain clothes duty at this dinner they're givin' to the prize-fighter. I don't want to say anythin' against the fancy, but I know when these gentlemen get together there's usually a lot of bad blood, an' mad talkin', an' we want no impromptu prize-fights in this division. I've got a couple of tickets for you, so that you can go without bein' conspicuous. You understand that your duty will be to stop anythin' that looks like a sparrin' match.'
"So accordin'ly me an' Sankey turned up at the dinner an' as most of the chaps present came from strange ground, nobody recognised us, except old Jim. Hoggy would have done so, but he was too big in the head to notice anythin' as common as us, an' even if he had, he'd probably have thought that we had been sent as a deputation from the police force to congratulate him.
"It was a fine dinner, as dinners go, an' everybody was happy, especially Hoggy with his big white shirt front all a-glitter with diamonds. There were several swells present, an' after dinner had been goin' for some time, one of these got up an' proposed the health of the hero, Hoggy.
"Everybody cheered like mad, especially old Jim. The swell went on to say that Hoggy was one of the greatest fighters that ever lived. 'I dare say,' he ses, 'our friend has learnt a little from the old champion, Jimmy Landsford— (cheers)— who he was very glad to see present.' (As this was the swell that sent Jimmy his ticket I can quite understand he wasn't greatly surprised).
"So after we'd all drunk Hoggy's health, an' cheered him, an' sung 'He's a jolly good feller,' the hero rose to reply.
" 'Gents,' he ses, 'I'm much obliged. I put the Scotchman out in a couple of rounds. He wasn't good enough for me. I'm glad to hear the gent who sat down say I'm the greatest fighter in the world, because I am. As for old Jimmy— — '
" 'You listen!' whispers Jimmy, rubbin' his hands with delight, 'the old fighter an' the young fighter— hear what he's a-goin' to say.'
" 'As to old Jimmy,' ses Hoggy with a grin, 'he's not the sort of bloke that could learn me anythin'. He's a has-been— I've forgotten more than he ever knew. He's not a bad old sort, but he's finished, an' I ain't likely to get tips from him.'
"There was a sort of silence fell on the room at this. Hoggy was a brute from the top of his shaven head to his big feet, but I didn't know that he was such a brute as this.
"An' then Jimmy got up, an' the old man's face was as white as death, an' his hands were shakin' a bit. He was hit cruel hard, an' hurt worse than any man had hurt him.
" 'Hoggy,' he ses, in a low voice, 'what did you fight M'Neill for? £500, wasn't it?'
" 'It was,' ses Hoggy.
" 'I've got a bit more than £500 put by,' ses Jimmy, 'an' young as you are— I'll fight you for it.'
"You could have heard a pin drop.
" 'When?' ses Hoggy, with an amused smile.
" 'Now,' ses Jimmy, an' stripped his coat.
"I had an inspiration at that moment, an' turned to Sankey.
" 'Get out of this,' I whispers, 'as quick as you can.'
" 'What are you goin' to do?' he ses.
" 'My duty,' I ses, 'my duty to old Jimmy.'
" 'Are you goin' to stop the fight?' he ses.
" 'Not,' I ses, 'if I get chucked out of the force for allowin' it,' I ses, an' Sankey cleared.
"Some of the swells tried to make peace, but the men were for fightin'. They locked the door of the room an' pushed the tables back, an' made a ring, an' the men squared.
" 'This is your own fault,' ses Hoggy; 'you're an old man, an' you ain't got my science.'
" 'I don't want your science,' ses old Jimmy, between his teeth. 'I want your blood, you hound.'
"There wasn't any science in it. The old man was fightin' as he fought in '75, an' Hoggy couldn't live with him. As the big man fell for the second time with a punch from the old man's fist that would have smashed a table, I heard the inspector's voice outside, an' opened the door.
" 'Why, Lee!' he ses, 'is this how you carry out instructions— this is a fight.'
" 'In a sense it is, sir,' I ses, helpin' to pick up the senseless Hoggy, 'an' in a sense it's an exhibition of what I might call valuable antiques.'
"I got shifted from the division for that, but it was worth it. I often wanted to see how the old boxers fought— an' I saw."
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