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       Chronicles of Martin Hewitt, p.1

           Arthur Morrison
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Chronicles of Martin Hewitt

  Produced by Malcolm Farmer, Rory OConor and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at (Thisfile was produced from images generously made availableby Cornell University Digital Collections)

  Appletons' Town and Country Library No. 191

















  I had been working double tides for a month: at night on my morningpaper, as usual; and in the morning on an evening paper as _locumtenens_ for another man who was taking a holiday. This was an exhaustingplan of work, although it only actually involved some six hours'attendance a day, or less, at the two offices. I turned up at theheadquarters of my own paper at ten in the evening, and by the time Ihad seen the editor, selected a subject, written my leader, correctedthe slips, chatted, smoked, and so on, and cleared off, it was veryusually one o'clock. This meant bed at two, or even three, after supperat the club.

  This was all very well at ordinary periods, when any time in the morningwould do for rising, but when I had to be up again soon after seven, andround at the evening paper office by eight, I naturally felt a littleworn and disgusted with things by midday, after a sharp couple ofhours' leaderette scribbling and paragraphing, with attendant sundries.

  But the strain was over, and on the first day of comparative comfort Iindulged in a midday breakfast and the first undisgusted glance at amorning paper for a month. I felt rather interested in an inquest, begunthe day before, on the body of a man whom I had known very slightlybefore I took to living in chambers.

  His name was Gavin Kingscote, and he was an artist of a casual anddesultory sort, having, I believe, some small private means of his own.As a matter of fact, he had boarded in the same house in which I hadlodged myself for a while, but as I was at the time a late homer and afairly early riser, taking no regular board in the house, we neverbecame much acquainted. He had since, I understood, made some judiciousStock Exchange speculations, and had set up house in Finchley.

  Now the news was that he had been found one morning murdered in hissmoking-room, while the room itself, with others, was in a state ofconfusion. His pockets had been rifled, and his watch and chain weregone, with one or two other small articles of value. On the night of thetragedy a friend had sat smoking with him in the room where the murdertook place, and he had been the last person to see Mr. Kingscote alive.A jobbing gardener, who kept the garden in order by casual work fromtime to time, had been arrested in consequence of footprints exactlycorresponding with his boots, having been found on the garden beds nearthe French window of the smoking-room.

  I finished my breakfast and my paper, and Mrs. Clayton, the housekeeper,came to clear my table. She was sister of my late landlady of the housewhere Kingscote had lodged, and it was by this connection that I hadfound my chambers. I had not seen the housekeeper since the crime wasfirst reported, so I now said:

  "This is shocking news of Mr. Kingscote, Mrs. Clayton. Did you know himyourself?"

  She had apparently only been waiting for some such remark to burst outwith whatever information she possessed.

  "Yes, sir," she exclaimed: "shocking indeed. Pore young feller! I seehim often when I was at my sister's, and he was always a nice, quietgentleman, so different from some. My sister, she's awful cut up, sir, Iassure you. And what d'you think 'appened, sir, only last Tuesday? Youremember Mr. Kingscote's room where he painted the woodwork so beautifulwith gold flowers, and blue, and pink? He used to tell my sister she'dalways have something to remember him by. Well, two young fellers,gentlemen I can't call them, come and took that room (it being to let),and went and scratched off all the paint in mere wicked mischief, andthen chopped up all the panels into sticks and bits! Nice sort o'gentlemen them! And then they bolted in the morning, being afraid, Is'pose, of being made to pay after treating a pore widder's propertylike that. That was only Tuesday, and the very next day the pore younggentleman himself's dead, murdered in his own 'ouse, and him going to bemarried an' all! Dear, dear! I remember once he said----"

  Mrs. Clayton was a good soul, but once she began to talk some one elsehad to stop her. I let her run on for a reasonable time, and then roseand prepared to go out. I remembered very well the panels that had beenso mischievously destroyed. They made the room the show-room of thehouse, which was an old one. They were indeed less than half finishedwhen I came away, and Mrs. Lamb, the landlady, had shown them to me oneday when Kingscote was out. All the walls of the room were panelled andpainted white, and Kingscote had put upon them an eccentric but charmingdecoration, obviously suggested by some of the work of Mr. Whistler.Tendrils, flowers, and butterflies in a quaint convention wanderedthinly from panel to panel, giving the otherwise rather uninterestingroom an unwonted atmosphere of richness and elegance. The lamentablejackasses who had destroyed this had certainly selected the best featureof the room whereon to inflict their senseless mischief.

  I strolled idly downstairs, with no particular plan for the afternoon inmy mind, and looked in at Hewitt's offices. Hewitt was reading a note,and after a little chat he informed me that it had been left an hourago, in his absence, by the brother of the man I had just been speakingof.

  "He isn't quite satisfied," Hewitt said, "with the way the police areinvestigating the case, and asks me to run down to Finchley and lookround. Yesterday I should have refused, because I have five cases inprogress already, but to-day I find that circumstances have given me aday or two. Didn't you say you knew the man?"

  "Scarcely more than by sight. He was a boarder in the house at Chelseawhere I stayed before I started chambers."

  "Ah, well; I think I shall look into the thing. Do you feel particularlyinterested in the case? I mean, if you've nothing better to do, wouldyou come with me?"

  "I shall be very glad," I said. "I was in some doubt what to do withmyself. Shall you start at once?"

  "I think so. Kerrett, just call a cab. By the way, Brett, which paperhas the fullest report of the inquest yesterday? I'll run over it as wego down."

  As I had only seen one paper that morning, I could not answer Hewitt'squestion. So we bought various papers as we went along in the cab, and Ifound the reports while Martin Hewitt studied them. Summarised, this wasthe evidence given--

  _Sarah Dodson_, general servant, deposed that she had been in service atIvy Cottage, the residence of the deceased, for five months, the onlyother regular servant being the housekeeper and cook. On the evening ofthe previous Tuesday both servants retired a little before eleven,leaving Mr. Kingscote with a friend in the smoking or sitting room. Shenever saw her master again alive. On coming downstairs the followingmorning and going to open the smoking-room windows, she was horrified todiscover the body of Mr. Kingscote lying on the floor of the room withblood about the head. She at once raised an alarm, and, on theinstructions of the housekeeper, fetched a doctor, and gave informationto the police. In answer to questions, witness stated she had heard nonoise of any sort during the night, nor had anything suspiciousoccurred.

  _Hannah Carr_, housekeeper and cook, deposed that she had been in thelate Mr. Kingscote'
s service since he had first taken Ivy Cottage--aperiod of rather more than a year. She had last seen the deceased aliveon the evening of the previous Tuesday, at half-past ten, when sheknocked at the door of the smoking-room, where Mr. Kingscote was sittingwith a friend, to ask if he would require anything more. Nothing wasrequired, so witness shortly after went to bed. In the morning she wascalled by the previous witness, who had just gone downstairs, and foundthe body of deceased lying as described. Deceased's watch and chain weregone, as also was a ring he usually wore, and his pockets appeared tohave been turned out. All the ground floor of the house was inconfusion, and a bureau, a writing-table, and various drawers wereopen--a bunch of keys usually carried by deceased being left hanging atone keyhole. Deceased had drawn some money from the bank on the Tuesday,for current expenses; how much she did not know. She had not heard orseen anything suspicious during the night. Besides Dodson and herself,there were no regular servants; there was a charwoman, who cameoccasionally, and a jobbing gardener, living near, who was called in asrequired.

  _Mr. James Vidler_, surgeon, had been called by the first witnessbetween seven and eight on Wednesday morning. He found the deceasedlying on his face on the floor of the smoking-room, his feet being abouteighteen inches from the window, and his head lying in the direction ofthe fireplace. He found three large contused wounds on the head, any oneof which would probably have caused death. The wounds had all beeninflicted, apparently, with the same blunt instrument--probably a clubor life preserver, or other similar weapon. They could not have beendone with the poker. Death was due to concussion of the brain, anddeceased had probably been dead seven or eight hours when witness sawhim. He had since examined the body more closely, but found no marks atall indicative of a struggle having taken place; indeed, from theposition of the wounds and their severity, he should judge that thedeceased had been attacked unawares from behind, and had died at once.The body appeared to be perfectly healthy.

  Then there was police evidence, which showed that all the doors andwindows were found shut and completely fastened, except the front door,which, although shut, was not bolted. There were shutters behind theFrench windows in the smoking-room, and these were found fastened. Nomoney was found in the bureau, nor in any of the opened drawers, so thatif any had been there, it had been stolen. The pockets were entirelyempty, except for a small pair of nail scissors, and there was no watchupon the body, nor a ring. Certain footprints were found on the gardenbeds, which had led the police to take certain steps. No footprintswere to be seen on the garden path, which was hard gravel.

  _Mr. Alexander Campbell_, stockbroker, stated that he had known deceasedfor some few years, and had done business for him. He and Mr. Kingscotefrequently called on one another, and on Tuesday evening they dinedtogether at Ivy Cottage. They sat smoking and chatting till nearlytwelve o'clock, when Mr. Kingscote himself let him out, the servantshaving gone to bed. Here the witness proceeded rather excitedly: "Thatis all I know of this horrible business, and I can say nothing else.What the police mean by following and watching me----"

  _The Coroner_: "Pray be calm, Mr. Campbell. The police must do whatseems best to them in a case of this sort. I am sure you would not havethem neglect any means of getting at the truth."

  _Witness_: "Certainly not. But if they suspect me, why don't they sayso? It is intolerable that I should be----"

  _The Coroner_: "Order, order, Mr. Campbell. You are here to giveevidence."

  The witness then, in answer to questions, stated that the French windowsof the smoking-room had been left open during the evening, the weatherbeing very warm. He could not recollect whether or not deceased closedthem before he left, but he certainly did not close the shutters.Witness saw nobody near the house when he left.

  _Mr. Douglas Kingscote_, architect, said deceased was his brother. Hehad not seen him for some months, living as he did in another part ofthe country. He believed his brother was fairly well off, and he knewthat he had made a good amount by speculation in the last year or two.Knew of no person who would be likely to owe his brother a grudge, andcould suggest no motive for the crime except ordinary robbery. Hisbrother was to have been married in a few weeks. Questioned further onthis point, witness said that the marriage was to have taken place ayear ago, and it was with that view that Ivy Cottage, deceased'sresidence, was taken. The lady, however, sustained a domesticbereavement, and afterwards went abroad with her family: she was,witness believed, shortly expected back to England.

  _William Bates_, jobbing gardener, who was brought up in custody, wascautioned, but elected to give evidence. Witness, who appeared to bemuch agitated, admitted having been in the garden of Ivy Cottage at fourin the morning, but said that he had only gone to attend to certainplants, and knew absolutely nothing of the murder. He however admittedthat he had no order for work beyond what he had done the day before.Being further pressed, witness made various contradictory statements,and finally said that he had gone to take certain plants away.

  The inquest was then adjourned.

  This was the case as it stood--apparently not a case presenting any verystriking feature, although there seemed to me to be doubtfulpeculiarities in many parts of it. I asked Hewitt what he thought.

  "Quite impossible to think anything, my boy, just yet; wait till we seethe place. There are any number of possibilities. Kingscote's friend,Campbell, may have come in again, you know, by way of the window--or hemay not. Campbell may have owed him money or something--or he may not.The anticipated wedding may have something to do with it--or, again,_that_ may not. There is no limit to the possibilities, as far as we cansee from this report--a mere dry husk of the affair. When we get closerwe shall examine the possibilities by the light of more detailedinformation. One _probability_ is that the wretched gardener isinnocent. It seems to me that his was only a comparatively blamelessmanoeuvre not unheard of at other times in his trade. He came at fourin the morning to steal away the flowers he had planted the day before,and felt rather bashful when questioned on the point. Why should hetrample on the beds, else? I wonder if the police thought to examine thebeds for traces of rooting up, or questioned the housekeeper as to anyplants being missing? But we shall see."

  We chatted at random as the train drew near Finchley, and I mentioned_inter alia_ the wanton piece of destruction perpetrated at Kingscote'slate lodgings. Hewitt was interested.

  "That was curious," he said, "very curious. Was anything else damaged?Furniture and so forth?"

  "I don't know. Mrs. Clayton said nothing of it, and I didn't ask her.But it was quite bad enough as it was. The decoration was really good,and I can't conceive a meaner piece of tomfoolery than such an attack ona decent woman's property."

  Then Hewitt talked of other cases of similar stupid damage by creaturesinspired by a defective sense of humour, or mere love of mischief. Hehad several curious and sometimes funny anecdotes of such affairs atmuseums and picture exhibitions, where the damage had been so great asto induce the authorities to call him in to discover the offender. Thework was not always easy, chiefly from the mere absence of intelligiblemotive; nor, indeed, always successful. One of the anecdotes related toa case of malicious damage to a picture--the outcome of blind artisticjealousy--a case which had been hushed up by a large expenditure incompensation. It would considerably startle most people, could it beprinted here, with the actual names of the parties concerned.

  Ivy Cottage, Finchley, was a compact little house, standing in a compactlittle square of garden, little more than a third of an acre, or perhapsno more at all. The front door was but a dozen yards or so back from theroad, but the intervening space was well treed and shrubbed. Mr. DouglasKingscote had not yet returned from town, but the housekeeper, anintelligent, matronly woman, who knew of his intention to call in MartinHewitt, was ready to show us the house.

  "_First_," Hewitt said, when we stood in the smoking-room, "I observethat somebody has shut the drawers and the bureau. That is unfortunate.Also, the floor has been washed and the carpet taken
up, which is muchworse. That, I suppose, was because the police had finished theirexamination, but it doesn't help me to make one at all. Has_anything_--anything _at all_--been left as it was on Tuesday morning?"

  "Well, sir, you see everything was in such a muddle," the housekeeperbegan, "and when the police had done----"

  "Just so. I know. You 'set it to rights,' eh? Oh, that setting torights! It has lost me a fortune at one time and another. As to theother rooms, now, have they been set to rights?"

  "Such as was disturbed have been put right, sir, of course."

  "Which were disturbed? Let me see them. But wait a moment."

  He opened the French windows, and closely examined the catch and bolts.He knelt and inspected the holes whereinto the bolts fell, and thenglanced casually at the folding shutters. He opened a drawer or two, andtried the working of the locks with the keys the housekeeper carried.They were, the housekeeper explained, Mr. Kingscote's own keys. Allthrough the lower floors Hewitt examined some things attentively andclosely, and others with scarcely a glance, on a system unaccountable tome. Presently, he asked to be shown Mr. Kingscote's bedroom, which hadnot been disturbed, "set to rights," or slept in since the crime. Here,the housekeeper said, all drawers were kept unlocked but two--one in thewardrobe and one in the dressing-table, which Mr. Kingscote had alwaysbeen careful to keep locked. Hewitt immediately pulled both drawers openwithout difficulty. Within, in addition to a few odds and ends, werepapers. All the contents of these drawers had been turned overconfusedly, while those of the unlocked drawers were in perfect order.

  "The police," Hewitt remarked, "may not have observed these matters.Any more than such an ordinary thing as _this_," he added, picking up abent nail lying at the edge of a rug.

  The housekeeper doubtless took the remark as a reference to the entireunimportance of a bent nail, but I noticed that Hewitt dropped thearticle quietly into his pocket.

  We came away. At the front gate we met Mr. Douglas Kingscote, who hadjust returned from town. He introduced himself, and expressed surpriseat our promptitude both of coming and going.

  "You can't have got anything like a clue in this short time, Mr.Hewitt?" he asked.

  "Well, no," Hewitt replied, with a certain dryness, "perhaps not. But Idoubt whether a month's visit would have helped me to get anything verystriking out of a washed floor and a houseful of carefully cleaned-upand 'set-to-rights' rooms. Candidly, I don't think you can reasonablyexpect much of me. The police have a much better chance--they had thescene of the crime to examine. I have seen just such a few rooms as anyone might see in the first well-furnished house he might enter. Thetrail of the housemaid has overlaid all the others."

  "I'm very sorry for that; the fact was, I expected rather more of thepolice; and, indeed, I wasn't here in time entirely to prevent theclearing up. But still, I thought your well-known powers----"

  "My dear sir, my 'well-known powers' are nothing but common senseassiduously applied and made quick by habit. That won't enable me to seethe invisible."

  "But can't we have the rooms put back into something of the state theywere in? The cook will remember----"

  "No, no. That would be worse and worse; that would only be thehousemaid's trail in turn overlaid by the cook's. You must leave thingswith me for a little, I think."

  "Then you don't give the case up?" Mr. Kingscote asked anxiously.

  "Oh, no! I don't give it up just yet. Do you know anything of yourbrother's private papers--as they were before his death?"

  "I never knew anything till after that. I have gone over them, but theyare all very ordinary letters. Do you suspect a theft of papers?"

  Martin Hewitt, with his hands on his stick behind him, looked sharply atthe other, and shook his head. "No," he said, "I can't quite say that."

  We bade Mr. Douglas Kingscote good-day, and walked towards the station."Great nuisance, that setting to rights," Hewitt observed, on the way."If the place had been left alone, the job might have been settled oneway or another by this time. As it is, we shall have to run over to yourold lodgings."

  "My old lodgings?" I repeated, amazed. "Why my old lodgings?"

  Hewitt turned to me with a chuckle and a wide smile. "Because we can'tsee the broken panel-work anywhere else," he said. "Let's see--Chelsea,isn't it?"

  "Yes, Chelsea. But why--you don't suppose the people who defaced thepanels also murdered the man who painted them?"

  "Well," Hewitt replied, with another smile, "that would be carrying apractical joke rather far, wouldn't it? Even for the ordinary picturedamager."

  "You mean you _don't_ think they did it, then? But what _do_ you mean?"

  "My dear fellow, I don't mean anything but what I say. Come now, this israther an interesting case despite appearances, and it _has_ interestedme: so much, in fact, that I really think I forgot to offer Mr. DouglasKingscote my condolence on his bereavement. You see a problem is aproblem, whether of theft, assassination, intrigue, or anything else,and I only think of it as one. The work very often makes me forgetmerely human sympathies. Now, you have often been good enough to expressa very flattering interest in my work, and you shall have an opportunityof exercising your own common sense in the way I am always having toexercise mine. You shall see all my evidence (if I'm lucky enough to getany) as I collect it, and you shall make your own inferences. That willbe a little exercise for you; the sort of exercise I should give a pupilif I had one. But I will give you what information I have, and you shallstart fairly from this moment. You know the inquest evidence, such as itwas, and you saw everything I did in Ivy Cottage?"

  "Yes; I think so. But I'm not much the wiser."

  "Very well. Now I will tell you. What does the whole case look like? Howwould you class the crime?"

  "I suppose as the police do. An ordinary case of murder with the objectof robbery."

  "It is _not_ an ordinary case. If it were, I shouldn't know as much as Ido, little as that is; the ordinary cases are always difficult. Theassailant did not come to commit a burglary, although he was a skilledburglar, or one of them was, if more than one were concerned. The affairhas, I think, nothing to do with the expected wedding, nor had Mr.Campbell anything to do in it--at any rate, personally--nor thegardener. The criminal (or one of them) was known personally to the deadman, and was well-dressed: he (or again one of them, and I think therewere two) even had a chat with Mr. Kingscote before the murder tookplace. He came to ask for something which Mr. Kingscote was unwilling topart with,--perhaps hadn't got. It was not a bulky thing. Now you haveall my materials before you."

  "But all this doesn't look like the result of the blind spite that wouldruin a man's work first and attack him bodily afterwards."

  "Spite isn't always blind, and there are other blind things besidesspite; people with good eyes in their heads are blind sometimes, evendetectives."

  "But where did you get all this information? What makes you suppose thatthis was a burglar who didn't want to burgle, and a well-dressed man,and so on?"

  Hewitt chuckled and smiled again.

  "I saw it--saw it, my boy, that's all," he said. "But here comes thetrain."

  On the way back to town, after I had rather minutely describedKingscote's work on the boarding-house panels, Hewitt asked me for thenames and professions of such fellow lodgers in that house as I mightremember. "When did you leave yourself?" he ended.

  "Three years ago, or rather more. I can remember Kingscote himself;Turner, a medical student--James Turner, I think; Harvey Challitt,diamond merchant's articled pupil--he was a bad egg entirely, he's doingfive years for forgery now; by the bye he had the room we are going tosee till he was marched off, and Kingscote took it--a year before Ileft; there was Norton--don't know what he was; 'something in the City,'I think; and Carter Paget, in the Admiralty Office. I don't remember anymore at this moment; there were pretty frequent changes. But you can getit all from Mrs. Lamb, of course."

  "Of course; and Mrs. Lamb's exact address is--what?"

  I gave him the a
ddress, and the conversation became disjointed. AtFarringdon station, where we alighted, Hewitt called two hansoms.Preparing to enter one, he motioned me to the other, saying, "You getstraight away to Mrs. Lamb's at once. She may be going to burn thatsplintered wood, or to set things to rights, after the manner of herkind, and you can stop her. I must make one or two small inquiries, butI shall be there half an hour after you."

  "Shall I tell her our object?"

  "Only that I may be able to catch her mischievous lodgers--nothing elseyet." He jumped into the hansom and was gone.

  I found Mrs. Lamb still in a state of indignant perturbation over thetrick served her four days before. Fortunately, she had left everythingin the panelled room exactly as she had found it, with an idea of thebeing better able to demand or enforce reparation should her lodgersreturn. "The room's theirs, you see, sir," she said, "till the end ofthe week, since they paid in advance, and they may come back and offerto make amends, although I doubt it. As pleasant-spoken a young chap asyou might wish, he seemed, him as come to take the rooms. 'My cousin,'says he, 'is rather an invalid, havin' only just got over congestion ofthe lungs, and he won't be in London till this evening late. He's comin'up from Birmingham,' he ses, 'and I hope he won't catch a fresh cold onthe way, although of course we've got him muffled up plenty.' He tookthe rooms, sir, like a gentleman, and mentioned several gentlemen'snames I knew well, as had lodged here before; and then he put down onthat there very table, sir."--Mrs. Lamb indicated the exact spot withher hand, as though that made the whole thing much more wonderful--"heput down on that very table a week's rent in advance, and ses, 'That'salways the best sort of reference, Mrs. Lamb, I think,' as kind-manneredas anything--and never 'aggled about the amount nor nothing. He only hada little black bag, but he said his cousin had all the luggage comingin the train, and as there was so much p'r'aps they wouldn't get it heretill next day. Then he went out and came in with his cousin at eleventhat night--Sarah let 'em in her own self--and in the morning they wasgone--and this!" Poor Mrs. Lamb, plaintively indignant, stretched herarm towards the wrecked panels.

  "If the gentleman as you say is comin' on, sir," she pursued, "can doanything to find 'em, I'll prosecute 'em, that I will, if it costs meten pound. I spoke to the constable on the beat, but he only looked likea fool, and said if I knew where they were I might charge 'em withwilful damage, or county court 'em. Of course I know I can do that if Iknew where they were, but how can I find 'em? Mr. Jones he said his namewas; but how many Joneses is there in London, sir?"

  I couldn't imagine any answer to a question like this, but I condoledwith Mrs. Lamb as well as I could. She afterwards went on to expressherself much as her sister had done with regard to Kingscote's death,only as the destruction of her panels loomed larger in her mind, shedwelt primarily on that. "It might almost seem," she said, "thatsomebody had a deadly spite on the pore young gentleman, and wentbreakin' up his paintin' one night, and murderin' him the next!"

  I examined the broken panels with some care, having half a notion toattempt to deduce something from them myself, if possible. But I coulddeduce nothing. The beading had been taken out, and the panels, whichwere thick in the centre but bevelled at the edges, had been removed andsplit up literally into thin firewood, which lay in a tumbled heap onthe hearth and about the floor. Every panel in the room had been treatedin the same way, and the result was a pretty large heap of sticks, withnothing whatever about them to distinguish them from other sticks,except the paint on one face, which I observed in many cases had beenscratched and scraped away. The rug was drawn half across the hearth,and had evidently been used to deaden the sound of chopping. Butmischief--wanton and stupid mischief--was all I could deduce from itall.

  Mr. Jones's cousin, it seemed, only Sarah had seen, as she admitted himin the evening, and then he was so heavily muffled that she could notdistinguish his features, and would never be able to identify him. Butas for the other one, Mrs. Lamb was ready to swear to him anywhere.

  Hewitt was long in coming, and internal symptoms of the approach ofdinner-time (we had had no lunch) had made themselves felt before asharp ring at the door-bell foretold his arrival. "I have had to waitfor answers to a telegram," he said in explanation, "but at any rate Ihave the information I wanted. And these are the mysterious panels, arethey?"

  Mrs. Lamb's true opinion of Martin Hewitt's behaviour as it proceededwould have been amusing to know. She watched in amazement the antics ofa man who purposed finding out who had been splitting sticks by dint ofpicking up each separate stick and staring at it. In the end hecollected a small handful of sticks by themselves and handed them to me,saying, "Just put these together on the table, Brett, and see what youmake of them."

  I turned the pieces painted side up, and fitted them together into acomplete panel, joining up the painted design accurately. "It is anentire panel," I said.

  "Good. Now look at the sticks a little more closely, and tell me if younotice anything peculiar about them--any particular in which they differfrom all the others."

  I looked. "Two adjoining sticks," I said, "have each a smallsemi-circular cavity stuffed with what seems to be putty. Put togetherit would mean a small circular hole, perhaps a knot-hole, half an inchor so in diameter, in the panel, filled in with putty, or whatever itis."

  "A _knot-hole_?" Hewitt asked, with particular emphasis.

  "Well, no, not a knot-hole, of course, because that would go rightthrough, and this doesn't. It is probably less than half an inch deepfrom the front surface."

  "Anything else? Look at the whole appearance of the wood itself. Colour,for instance."

  "It is certainly darker than the rest."

  "So it is." He took the two pieces carrying the puttied hole, threw therest on the heap, and addressed the landlady. "The Mr. Harvey Challittwho occupied this room before Mr. Kingscote, and who got into troublefor forgery, was the Mr. Harvey Challitt who was himself robbed ofdiamonds a few months before on a staircase, wasn't he?"

  "Yes, sir," Mrs. Lamb replied in some bewilderment. "He certainly wasthat, on his own office stairs, chloroformed."

  "Just so, and when they marched him away because of the forgery, Mr.Kingscote changed into his rooms?"

  "Yes, and very glad I was. It was bad enough to have the disgracebrought into the house, without the trouble of trying to get people totake his very rooms, and I thought----"

  "Yes, yes, very awkward, very awkward!" Hewitt interrupted ratherimpatiently. "The man who took the rooms on Monday, now--you'd neverseen him before, had you?"

  "No, sir."

  "Then is _that_ anything like him?" Hewitt held a cabinet photographbefore her.

  "Why--why--law, yes, that's _him_!"

  Hewitt dropped the photograph back into his breast pocket with acontented "Um," and picked up his hat. "I think we may soon be able tofind that young gentleman for you, Mrs. Lamb. He is not a veryrespectable young gentleman, and perhaps you are well rid of him, evenas it is. Come, Brett," he added, "the day hasn't been wasted, afterall."

  We made towards the nearest telegraph office. On the way I said, "Thatputtied-up hole in the piece of wood seems to have influenced you. Is itan important link?"

  "Well--yes," Hewitt answered, "it is. But all those other pieces areimportant, too."

  "But why?"

  "Because there are no holes in them." He looked quizzically at mywondering face, and laughed aloud. "Come," he said, "I won't puzzle youmuch longer. Here is the post-office. I'll send my wire, and then we'llgo and dine at Luzatti's."

  He sent his telegram, and we cabbed it to Luzatti's. Among actors,journalists, and others who know town and like a good dinner, Luzatti'sis well known. We went upstairs for the sake of quietness, and took atable standing alone in a recess just inside the door. We ordered ourdinner, and then Hewitt began:

  "Now tell me what _your_ conclusion is in this matter of the Ivy Cottagemurder."

  "Mine? I haven't one. I'm sorry I'm so very dull, but I really haven't."

, I'll give you a point. Here is the newspaper account (tornsacrilegiously from my scrap-book for your benefit) of the robberyperpetrated on Harvey Challitt a few months before his forgery. Readit."

  "Oh, but I remember the circumstances very well. He was carrying twopackets of diamonds belonging to his firm downstairs to the office ofanother firm of diamond merchants on the ground-floor. It was a quiettime in the day, and half-way down he was seized on a dark landing, madeinsensible by chloroform, and robbed of the diamonds--five or sixthousand pounds' worth altogether, of stones of various smallishindividual values up to thirty pounds or so. He lay unconscious on thelanding till one of the partners, noticing that he had been rather longgone, followed and found him. That's all, I think."

  "Yes, that's all. Well, what do you make of it?"

  "I'm afraid I don't quite see the connection with this case."

  "Well, then, I'll give you another point. The telegram I've just sentreleases information to the police, in consequence of which they willprobably apprehend Harvey Challitt and his confederate, Henry Gillard,_alias_ Jones, for the murder of Gavin Kingscote. Now, then."

  "Challitt! But he's in gaol already."

  "Tut, tut, consider. Five years' penal was his dose, although for thefirst offence, because the forgery was of an extremely dangerous sort.You left Chelsea over three years ago yourself, and you told me that hisdifficulty occurred a year before. That makes four years, at least. Goodconduct in prison brings a man out of a five years' sentence in thattime or a little less, and, as a matter of fact, Challitt was releasedrather more than a week ago."

  "Still, I'm afraid I don't see what you are driving at."

  "Whose story is this about the diamond robbery from Harvey Challitt?"

  "His own."

  "Exactly. His own. Does his subsequent record make him look like aperson whose stories are to be accepted without doubt or question?"

  "Why, no. I think I see--no, I don't. You mean he stole them himself?I've a sort of dim perception of your drift now, but still I can't fixit. The whole thing's too complicated."

  "It is a little complicated for a first effort, I admit, so I will tellyou. This is the story. Harvey Challitt is an artful young man, anddecides on a theft of his firm's diamonds. He first prepares ahiding-place somewhere near the stairs of his office, and when theopportunity arrives he puts the stones away, spills his chloroform, andmakes a smell--possibly sniffs some, and actually goes off on thestairs, and the whole thing's done. He is carried into the office--thediamonds are gone. He tells of the attack on the stairs, as we haveheard, and he is believed. At a suitable opportunity he takes hisplunder from the hiding-place, and goes home to his lodgings. What is heto do with those diamonds? He can't sell them yet, because the robberyis publicly notorious, and all the regular jewel buyers know him.

  "Being a criminal novice, he doesn't know any regular receiver of stolengoods, and if he did would prefer to wait and get full value by anordinary sale. There will always be a danger of detection so long as thestones are not securely hidden, so he proceeds to hide them. He knowsthat if any suspicion were aroused his rooms would be searched in everylikely place, so he looks for an unlikely place. Of course, he thinks oftaking out a panel and hiding them behind that. But the idea is soobvious that it won't do; the police would certainly take those panelsout to look behind them. Therefore he determines to hide them _in_ thepanels. See here--he took the two pieces of wood with the filled holefrom his tail pocket and opened his penknife--the putty near the surfaceis softer than that near the bottom of the hole; two different lots ofputty, differently mixed, perhaps, have been used, therefore,presumably, at different times."

  "But to return to Challitt. He makes holes with a centre-bit indifferent places on the panels, and in each hole he places a diamond,embedding it carefully in putty. He smooths the surface carefully flushwith the wood, and then very carefully paints the place over, shadingoff the paint at the edges so as to leave no signs of a patch. Hedoesn't do the whole job at once, creating a noise and a smell of paint,but keeps on steadily, a few holes at a time, till in a little while thewhole wainscoting is set with hidden diamonds, and every panel isapparently sound and whole."

  "But, then--there was only one such hole in the whole lot."

  "Just so, and that very circumstance tells us the whole truth. Let metell the story first--I'll explain the clue after. The diamonds liehidden for a few months--he grows impatient. He wants the money, and hecan't see a way of getting it. At last he determines to make a bolt andgo abroad to sell his plunder. He knows he will want money forexpenses, and that he may not be able to get rid of his diamonds atonce. He also expects that his suddenly going abroad while the robberyis still in people's minds will bring suspicion on him in any case, so,in for a penny in for a pound, he commits a bold forgery, which, had itbeen successful, would have put him in funds and enabled him to leavethe country with the stones. But the forgery is detected, and he ishaled to prison, leaving the diamonds in their wainscot setting.

  "Now we come to Gavin Kingscote. He must have been a shrewd fellow--thesort of man that good detectives are made of. Also he must have beenpretty unscrupulous. He had his suspicions about the genuineness of thediamond robbery, and kept his eyes open. What indications he had toguide him we don't know, but living in the same house a sharp fellow onthe look-out would probably see enough. At any rate, they led him to thebelief that the diamonds were in the thief's rooms, but not among hismovables, or they would have been found after the arrest. Here was hischance. Challitt was out of the way for years, and there was plenty oftime to take the house to pieces if it were necessary. So he changedinto Challitt's rooms.

  "How long it took him to find the stones we shall never know. Heprobably tried many other places first, and, I expect, found thediamonds at last by pricking over the panels with a needle. Then camethe problem of getting them out without attracting attention. He decidednot to trust to the needle, which might possibly leave a stone or twoundiscovered, but to split up each panel carefully into splinters so asto leave no part unexamined. Therefore he took measurements, and had anumber of panels made by a joiner of the exact size and pattern of thosein the room, and announced to his landlady his intention of painting herpanels with a pretty design. This to account for the wet paint, and evenfor the fact of a panel being out of the wall, should she chance tobounce into the room at an awkward moment. All very clever, eh?"


  "Ah, he was a smart man, no doubt. Well, he went to work, taking out apanel, substituting a new one, painting it over, and chopping up the oldone on the quiet, getting rid of the splinters out of doors when thebooty had been extracted. The decoration progressed and the little heapof diamonds grew. Finally, he came to the last panel, but found that hehad used all his new panels and hadn't one left for a substitute. Itmust have been at some time when it was difficult to get hold of thejoiner--Bank Holiday, perhaps, or Sunday, and he was impatient. So hescraped the paint off, and went carefully over every part of thesurface--experience had taught him by this that all the holes were ofthe same sort--and found one diamond. He took it out, refilled the holewith putty, painted the old panel and put it back. _These_ are pieces ofthat old panel--the only old one of the lot.

  "Nine men out of ten would have got out of the house as soon as possibleafter the thing was done, but he was a cool hand and stayed. That madethe whole thing look a deal more genuine than if he had unaccountablycleared out as soon as he had got his room nicely decorated. I expectthe original capital for those Stock Exchange operations we heard ofcame out of those diamonds. He stayed as long as suited him, and leftwhen he set up housekeeping with a view to his wedding. The rest of thestory is pretty plain. You guess it, of course?"

  "Yes," I said, "I think I can guess the rest, in a general sort ofway--except as to one or two points."

  "It's all plain--perfectly. See here! Challitt, in gaol, determines toget those diamonds when he comes out. To do that without being suspectedit will be necessary to hir
e the room. But he knows that he won't beable to do that himself, because the landlady, of course, knows him, andwon't have an ex-convict in the house. There is no help for it; he musthave a confederate, and share the spoil. So he makes the acquaintanceof another convict, who seems a likely man for the job, and whosesentence expires about the same time as his own. When they come out, hearranges the matter with this confederate, who is a well-mannered (andpretty well-known) housebreaker, and the latter calls at Mrs. Lamb'shouse to look for rooms. The very room itself happens to be to let, andof course it is taken, and Challitt (who is the invalid cousin) comes inat night muffled and unrecognisable.

  "The decoration on the panel does not alarm them, because, of course,they suppose it to have been done on the old panels and over the oldpaint. Challitt tries the spots where diamonds were left--there arenone--there is no putty even. Perhaps, think they, the panels have beenshifted and interchanged in the painting, so they set to work and splitthem all up as we have seen, getting more desperate as they go on.Finally they realize that they are done, and clear out, leaving Mrs.Lamb to mourn over their mischief.

  "They know that Kingscote is the man who has forestalled them, becauseGillard (or Jones), in his chat with the landlady, has heard all abouthim and his painting of the panels. So the next night they set off forFinchley. They get into Kingscote's garden and watch him let Campbellout. While he is gone, Challitt quietly steps through the French windowinto the smoking-room, and waits for him, Gillard remaining outside.

  "Kingscote returns, and Challitt accuses him of taking the stones.Kingscote is contemptuous--doesn't care for Challitt, because he knowshe is powerless, being the original thief himself; besides, knows thereis no evidence, since the diamonds are sold and dispersed long ago.Challitt offers to divide the plunder with him--Kingscote laughs andtells him to go; probably threatens to throw him out, Challitt being thesmaller man. Gillard, at the open window, hears this, steps in behind,and quietly knocks him on the head. The rest follows as a matter ofcourse. They fasten the window and shutters, to exclude observation;turn over all the drawers, etc., in case the jewels are there; go to thebest bedroom and try there, and so on. Failing (and possibly beingdisturbed after a few hours' search by the noise of the acquisitivegardener), Gillard, with the instinct of an old thief, determines theyshan't go away with nothing, so empties Kingscote's pockets and takeshis watch and chain and so on. They go out by the front door and shut itafter them. _Voila tout._"

  I was filled with wonder at the prompt ingenuity of the man who in thesefew hours of hurried inquiry could piece together so accurately all thematerials of an intricate and mysterious affair such as this; but more,I wondered where and how he had collected those materials.

  "There is no doubt, Hewitt," I said, "that the accurate and minuteapplication of what you are pleased to call your common sense has becomesomething very like an instinct with you. What did you deduce from? Youtold me your conclusions from the examination of Ivy Cottage, but nothow you arrived at them."

  "They didn't leave me much material downstairs, did they? But in thebedroom, the two drawers which the thieves found locked wereransacked--opened probably with keys taken from the dead man. On thefloor I saw a bent French nail; here it is. You see, it is twice bent atright angles, near the head and near the point, and there is the faintmark of the pliers that were used to bend it. It is a very usualburglars' tool, and handy in experienced hands to open ordinary drawerlocks. Therefore, I knew that a professional burglar had been at work.He had probably fiddled at the drawers with the nail first, and then hadthrown it down to try the dead man's keys.

  "But I knew this professional burglar didn't come for a burglary, fromseveral indications. There was no attempt to take plate, the first thinga burglar looks for. Valuable clocks were left on mantelpieces, andother things that usually go in an ordinary burglary were notdisturbed. Notably, it was to be observed that no doors or windows werebroken, or had been forcibly opened; therefore, it was plain that thethieves had come in by the French window of the smoking-room, the onlyentrance left open at the last thing. _Therefore_, they came in, or onedid, knowing that Mr. Kingscote was up, and being quitewilling--presumably anxious--to see him. Ordinary burglars would havewaited till he had retired, and then could have got through the closedFrench window as easily almost as if it were open, notwithstanding thethin wooden shutters, which would never stop a burglar for more thanfive minutes. Being anxious to see him, they--or again, _one_ ofthem--presumably knew him. That they had come to _get_ something wasplain, from the ransacking. As, in the end, they _did_ steal his money,and watch, but did _not_ take larger valuables, it was plain that theyhad no bag with them--which proves not only that they had not come toburgle, for every burglar takes his bag, but that the thing they came toget was not bulky. Still, they could easily have removed plate or clocksby rolling them up in a table-cover or other wrapper, but such a bundle,carried by well-dressed men, would attract attention--therefore it wasprobable that they were well dressed. Do I make it clear?"

  "Quite--nothing seems simpler now it is explained--that's the way withdifficult puzzles."

  "There was nothing more to be got at the house. I had already in my mindthe curious coincidence that the panels at Chelsea had been broken thevery night before that of the murder, and determined to look at them inany case. I got from you the name of the man who had lived in thepanelled room before Kingscote, and at once remembered it (although Isaid nothing about it) as that of the young man who had beenchloroformed for his employer's diamonds. I keep things of that sort inmy mind, you see--and, indeed, in my scrap-book. You told me yourselfabout his imprisonment, and there I was with what seemed now a hopefulcase getting into a promising shape.

  "You went on to prevent any setting to rights at Chelsea, and I madeenquiries as to Challitt. I found he had been released only a few daysbefore all this trouble arose, and I also found the name of another manwho was released from the same establishment only a few days earlier. Iknew this man (Gillard) well, and knew that nobody was a more likelyrascal for such a crime as that at Finchley. On my way to Chelsea Icalled at my office, gave my clerk certain instructions, and looked upmy scrap-book. I found the newspaper account of the chloroform business,and also a photograph of Gillard--I keep as many of these things as Ican collect. What I did at Chelsea you know. I saw that one panel was ofold wood and the rest new. I saw the hole in the old panel, and I askedone or two questions. The case was complete."

  We proceeded with our dinner. Presently I said: "It all rests with thepolice now, of course?"

  "Of course. I should think it very probable that Challitt and Gillardwill be caught. Gillard, at any rate, is pretty well known. It will berather hard on the surviving Kingscote, after engaging me, to have hisdead brother's diamond transactions publicly exposed as a result, won'tit? But it can't be helped. _Fiat justitia_, of course."

  "How will the police feel over this?" I asked. "You've rather cut themout, eh?"

  "Oh, the police are all right. They had not the information I had, yousee; they knew nothing of the panel business. If Mrs. Lamb had gone toScotland Yard instead of to the policeman on the beat, perhaps I shouldnever have been sent for."

  The same quality that caused Martin Hewitt to rank as mere"common-sense" his extraordinary power of almost instinctive deduction,kept his respect for the abilities of the police at perhaps a higherlevel than some might have considered justified.

  We sat some little while over our dessert, talking as we sat, whenthere occurred one of those curious conjunctions of circumstances thatwe notice again and again in ordinary life, and forget as often, unlessthe importance of the occasion fixes the matter in the memory. A youngman had entered the dining-room, and had taken his seat at a cornertable near the back window. He had been sitting there for some littletime before I particularly observed him. At last he happened to turn histhin, pale face in my direction, and our eyes met. It was Challitt--theman we had been talking of!

  I sprang to my feet in some exci

  "That's the man!" I cried. "Challitt!"

  Hewitt rose at my words, and at first attempted to pull me back.Challitt, in guilty terror, saw that we were between him and the door,and turning, leaped upon the sill of the open window, and dropped out.There was a fearful crash of broken glass below, and everybody rushed tothe window.

  Hewitt drew me through the door, and we ran downstairs. "Pity you letout like that," he said, as he went. "If you'd kept quiet we could havesent out for the police with no trouble. Never mind--can't help it."

  Below, Challitt was lying in a broken heap in the midst of a crowd ofwaiters. He had crashed through a thick glass skylight and fallen, backdownward, across the back of a lounge. He was taken away on a stretcherunconscious, and, in fact, died in a week in hospital from injuries tothe spine.

  During his periods of consciousness he made a detailed statement,bearing out the conclusions of Martin Hewitt with the most surprisingexactness, down to the smallest particulars. He and Gillard had partedimmediately after the crime, judging it safer not to be seen together.He had, he affirmed, endured agonies of fear and remorse in the few dayssince the fatal night at Finchley, and had even once or twice thought ofgiving himself up. When I so excitedly pointed him out, he knew at oncethat the game was up, and took the one desperate chance of escape thatoffered. But to the end he persistently denied that he had himselfcommitted the murder, or had even thought of it till he saw itaccomplished. That had been wholly the work of Gillard, who, listeningat the window and perceiving the drift of the conversation, suddenlybeat down Kingscote from behind with a life-preserver. And so HarveyChallitt ended his life at the age of twenty-six.

  Gillard was never taken. He doubtless left the country, and has probablysince that time become "known to the police" under another name abroad.Perhaps he has even been hanged, and if he has been, there was nomiscarriage of justice, no matter what the charge against him may havebeen.

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