The Eustace Diamonds, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LVII

Humpty Dumpty

The robbery at the house in Hertford Street took place on the 30th of January, and on the morning of the 28th of February Bunfit and Gager were sitting together in a melancholy, dark little room in Scotland Yard, discussing the circumstances of that nefarious act. A month had gone by and nobody was yet in custody. A month had passed since that second robbery; but nearly eight weeks had passed since the robbery at Carlisle, and even that was still a mystery. The newspapers had been loud in their condemnation of the police. It had been asserted over and over again that in no other civilised country in the world could so great an amount of property have passed through the hands of thieves without leaving some clue by which the police would have made their way to the truth. Major Mackintosh had been declared to be altogether incompetent, and all the Bunfits and Gagers of the force had been spoken of as drones and moles and ostriches. They were idle and blind, and so stupid as to think that when they saw nothing others saw less. The Major, who was a broad-shouldered, philosophical man, bore all this as though it were, of necessity, a part of the burthen of his profession: but the Bunfits and Gagers were very angry, and at their wits’ ends. It did not. occur to them to feel animosity against the newspapers which abused them. The thieves who would not be caught were their great enemies; and there was common to them a conviction that men so obstinate as these thieves — men to whom a large amount of grace and liberty for indulgence had accrued — should be treated with uncommon severity when they were caught. There was this excuse always on their lips, that had it been an affair simply of thieves, such as thieves ordinarily are, everything would have been discovered long since. But when lords and ladies with titles come to be mixed up with such an affair — folk in whose house a policeman can’t have his will at searching and browbeating — how is a detective to detect anything? Bunfit and Gager had both been driven to recast their theories as to the great Carlisle affair by the circumstances of the later affair in Hertford Street. They both thought that Lord George had been concerned in the robbery. That, indeed, had now become the general opinion of the world at large. He was a man of doubtful character, with large expenses, and with no recognised means of living. He had formed a great intimacy with Lady Eustace at a period in which she was known to be carrying these diamonds about with her, had been staying with her at Portray Castle when the diamonds were there, and had been her companion on the journey during which the diamonds were stolen. The only men in London supposed to be capable of dealing advantageously with such a property were Harter & Benjamin, as to whom it was known that they were conversant with the existence of the diamonds, and known also that they were in the habit of having dealings with Lord George. It was, moreover, known that Lord George had been closeted with Mr. Benjamin on the morning after his arrival in London. These things put together made it almost a certainty that Lord George had been concerned in the matter. Bunfit had always been sure of it. Gager, though differing much from Bunfit as to details, had never been unwilling to suspect Lord George. But the facts known could not be got to dovetail themselves pleasantly. If Lord George had possessed himself of the diamonds at Carlisle, or with Lizzie’s connivance before they reached Carlisle, then, why had there been a second robbery? Bunfit, who was very profound in his theory, suggested that the second robbery was an additional plant, got up with the view of throwing more dust into the eyes of the police. Patience Crabstick had, of course, been one of the gang throughout, and she had now been allowed to go off with her mistress’s money and lesser trinkets, so that the world of Scotland Yard might be thrown more and more into the mire of ignorance and darkness of doubt. To this view Gager was altogether opposed. He was inclined to think that Lord George had taken the diamonds at Carlisle with Lizzie’s connivance; that he had restored them in London to her keeping, finding the suspicion against him too heavy to admit of his dealing with them, and that now he had stolen them a second time, again with Lizzie’s connivance; but in this latter point Gager did not pretend to the assurance of any conviction.

But Gager at the present moment had achieved a triumph in the matter which he was not at all disposed to share with his elder officer. Perhaps, on the whole, more power is lost than gained by habits of secrecy. To be discreet is a fine thing, especially for a policeman; but when discretion is carried to such a length in the direction of self-confidence as to produce a belief that no aid is wanted for the achievement of great results, it will often militate against all achievement. Had Scotland Yard been less discreet and more confidential, the mystery might perhaps have been sooner unravelled. Gager at this very moment had reason to believe that a man whom he knew could — and would, if operated upon duly — communicate to him, Gager, the secret of the present whereabouts of Patience Crabstick! That belief was a great possession, and much too important, as Gager thought, to be shared lightly with such a one as Mr. Bunfit — a thick-headed sort of man, in Gager’s opinion, although no doubt he had by means of industry been successful in some difficult cases.

“‘Is lordship ain’t stirred,” said Bunfit.

“How do you mean — stirred, Mr. Bunfit?”

“Ain’t moved nowheres out of London.”

“What should he move out of London for? What could he get by cutting? There ain’t nothing so bad when anything’s up against one as letting on that one wants to bolt. He knows all that. He’ll stand his ground. He won’t bolt.”

“I don’t suppose as he will, Gager. It’s a rum go, ain’t it? the rummiest as I ever see.” This remark had been made so often by Mr. Bunfit, that Gager had become almost weary of hearing it.

“Oh — rum; rum be b ——. What’s the use of all that? From what the governor told me this morning, there isn’t a shadow of doubt where the diamonds are.”

“In Paris, of course,” said Bunfit.

“They never went to Paris. They were taken from here to Hamburg in a commercial man’s kit — a fellow as travels in knives and scissors. Then they was recut. They say the cutting was the quickest bit of work ever done by one man in Hamburg. And now they’re in New York. That’s what has come of the diamonds.”

“Benjamin, in course,” said Bunfit, in a low whisper, just taking the pipe from between his lips.

“Well — yes. No doubt it was Benjamin. But how did Benjamin get ’em?”

“Lord George — in course,” said Bunfit.

“And how did he get ’em?”

“Well — that’s where it is; isn’t it?” Then there was a pause, during which Bunfit continued to smoke. “As sure as your name’s Gager, he got ’em at Carlisle.”

“And what took Smiler down to Carlisle?”

“Just to put a face on it,” said Bunfit.

“And who cut the door?”

“Billy Cann did,” said Bunfit.

“And who forced the box?”

“Them two did,” said Bunfit.

“And all to put a face on it?”

“Yes — just that. And an uncommon good face they did put on it between ’em — the best as I ever see.”

“All right,” said Gager. “So far, so good. I don’t agree with you, Mr. Bunfit; because the thing, when it was done, wouldn’t be worth the money. Lord love you, what would all that have cost? And what was to prevent the lady and Lord George together taking the diamonds to Benjamin and getting their price? It never does to be too clever, Mr. Bunfit. And when that was all done, why did the lady go and get herself robbed again? No — I don’t say but what you’re a clever man, in your way, Mr. Bunfit; but you’ve not got a hold of the thing here. Why was Smiler going about like a mad dog — only that he found himself took in?”

“Maybe he expected something else in the box — more than the necklace — as was to come to him,” suggested Bunfit.

“Gammon.”

“I don’t see why you say gammon, Gager. It ain’t polite.”

“It is gammon — running away with ideas like them, just as if you was one of the public. When they two opened that box at Carlisle, which they did as certain as you sit there, they believed as the diamonds were there. They were not there.”

“I don’t think as they was,” said Bunfit.

“Very well; where were they! Just walk up to it, Mr. Bunfit, making your ground good as you go. They two men cut the door, and took the box and opened it, and when they’d opened it, they didn’t get the swag. Where was the swag?”

“Lord George,” said Bunfit again.

“Very well, Lord George. Like enough. But it comes to this. Benjamin, and they two men of his, had laid themselves out for the robbery. Now, Mr. Bunfit, whether Lord George and Benjamin were together in that first affair, or whether they weren’t, I can’t see my way just at present, and I don’t know as you can see yours — not saying but what you’re as quick as most men, Mr. Bunfit. If he was — and I rayther think that’s about it — then he and Benjamin must have had a few words, and he must have got the jewels from the lady over night.”

“Of course he did; and Smiler and Billy Cann knew as they weren’t there.”

“There you are, all back again, Mr. Bunfit, not making your ground good as you go. Smiler and Cann did their job according to order — and precious sore hearts they had when they’d got the box open. Those fellows at Carlisle — just like all the provincials — went to work open mouthed, and before the party left Carlisle it was known that Lord George was suspected.”

“You can’t trust those fellows any way,” said Mr. Bunfit.

“Well — what happens next? Lord George, he goes to Benjamin, but he isn’t goin’ to take the diamonds with him. He has had words with Benjamin or he has not. Any ways he isn’t goin’ to take the necklace with him on that morning. He hasn’t been goin’ to keep the diamonds about him, not since what was up at Carlisle. So he gives the diamonds back to the lady.”

“And she had ’em all along?”

“I don’t say it was so, but I can see my way upon that hypothesis.”

“There was something as she had to conceal, Gager. I’ve said that all through. I knew it in a moment when I seed her ‘aint.”

“She’s had a deal to conceal, I don’t doubt. Well, there they are — with her still — and the box is gone, and the people as is bringing the lawsuit, Mr. Camperdown and the rest of ’em, is off their tack. What’s she to do with ’em?”

“Take ’em to Benjamin,” said Bunfit with confidence.

“That’s all very well, Mr. Bunfit. But there’s a quarrel up already with Benjamin. Benjamin was to have had ’em before. Benjamin has spent a goodish bit of money, and has been thrown over rather. I dare say Benjamin was as bad as Smiler, or worse. No doubt Benjamin let on to Smiler, and thought as Smiler was too many for him. I dare say there was a few words between him and Smiler. I wouldn’t wonder if Smiler didn’t threaten to punch Benjamin’s head — which well he could do it — and if there wasn’t a few playful remarks between ’em about penal servitude for life. You see, Mr. Bunfit, it couldn’t have been pleasant for any of ’em.”

“They’d’ve split,” said Bunfit.

“But they didn’t, not downright. Well, there we are. The diamonds is with the lady. Lord George has done it all. Lord George and Lady Eustace — they’re keeping company, no doubt, after their own fashion. He’s a-robbing of her, and she has to do pretty much as she’s bid. The diamonds is with the lady, and Lord George is pretty well afraid to look at ’em. After all that’s being done there isn’t much to wonder at in that. Then comes the second robbery.”

“And Lord George planned that too?” asked Bunfit.

“I don’t pretend to say I know, but just put it this way, Mr. Bunfit. Of course the thieves were let in by the woman Crabstick?”

“Not a doubt.”

“Of course they was Smiler and Billy Cann?”

“I suppose they was.”

“She was always about the lady, a-doing for her in everything. Say she goes to Benjamin and tells him as how her lady still has the necklace, and then he puts up the second robbery. Then you’d have it all round.”

“And Lord George would have lost ’em? It can’t be. Lord George and he are thick as thieves up to this day.”

“Very well. I don’t say anything against that. Lord George knows as she has ’em; indeed he’d given ’em back to her to keep. We’ve got as far as that, Mr. Bunfit.”

“I think she did ‘ave ’em.”

“Very well. What does Lord George do then? He can’t make money of ’em. They’re too hot for his fingers, and so he finds when he thinks of taking ’em into the market. So he puts Benjamin up to the second robbery.”

“Who’s drawing it fine, now, Gager; eh?”

“Mr. Bunfit, I’m not saying as I’ve got the truth beyond this, that Benjamin and his two men were clean done at Carlisle, that Lord George and his lady brought the jewels up to town between ’em, and that the party who didn’t get ’em at Carlisle tried their hand again, and did get ’em in Hertford Street.” In all of which the ingenious Gager would have been right if he could have kept his mind clear from the alluring conviction that a lord had been the chief of the thieves.

“We shall never make a case of it now,” said Bunfit despondently.

“I mean to try it on all the same. There’s Smiler about town as bold as brass, and dressed to the nines. He had the cheek to tell me as he was going down to the Newmarket Spring to look after a horse he’s got a share in.”

“I was talking to Billy only yesterday,” added Bunfit. “I’ve got it on my mind that they didn’t treat Billy quite on the square. He didn’t let on anything about Benjamin; but he told me out plain, as how he was very much disgusted. ‘Mr. Bunfit,’ said he, ‘there’s that roguery about, that a plain man like me can’t touch it. There’s them as’d pick my eyes out while I was sleeping, and then swear it against my very self,’ Them were his words, and I knew as how Benjamin hadn’t been on the square with him.”

“You didn’t let on anything, Mr. Bunfit?”

“Well, I just reminded him as how there was five hundred pounds going a-begging from Mr. Camperdown.”

“And what did he say to that, Mr. Bunfit?”

“Well, he said a good deal. He’s a sharp little fellow, is Billy, as has read a deal. You’ve heard of ‘Umpty Dumpty, Gager? ‘Umpty Dumpty was a hegg.”

“All right.”

“As had a fall, and was smashed, and there’s a little poem about him.”

“I know.”

“Well; Billy says to me: ‘Mr. Camperdown don’t want no hinformation; he wants the diamonds.’ Them diamonds is like ‘Umpty Dumpty, Mr. Bunfit. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put ‘Umpty Dumpty up again.”

“Billy was about right there,” said the younger officer, rising from his seat.

Late on the afternoon of the same day, when London had already been given over to the gaslights, Mr. Gager, having dressed himself especially for the occasion of the friendly visit which he intended to make, sauntered into a small public-house at the corner of Meek Street and Pineapple Court, which locality, as all men well versed with London are aware, lies within one minute’s walk of the top of Gray’s Inn Lane. Gager, during his conference with his colleague Bunfit, had been dressed in plain black clothes; but in spite of his plain clothes he looked every inch a policeman. There was a stiffness about his limbs, and, at the same time, a sharpness in his eyes, which, in the conjunction with the locality in which he was placed, declared his profession beyond the possibility of mistake. Nor, in that locality, would he have desired to be taken for anything else. But as he entered the “Rising Sun” in Meek Street, there was nothing of the policeman about him. He might probably have been taken for a betting man, with whom the world had latterly gone well enough to enable him to maintain that sleek, easy, greasy appearance which seems to be the beau ideal of a betting man’s personal ambition. “Well, Mr. Howard,” said the lady at the bar, “a sight of you is good for sore eyes.”

“Six penn’orth of brandy — warm, if you please, my dear,” said the pseudo-Howard, as he strolled easily into an inner room, with which he seemed to be quite familiar. He seated himself in an old-fashioned wooden arm-chair, gazed up at the gas lamp, and stirred his liquor slowly. Occasionally he raised the glass to his lips, but he did not seem to be at all intent upon his drinking. When he entered the room, there had been a gentleman and a lady there, whose festive moments seemed to be disturbed by some slight disagreement; but Howard, as he gazed at the lamp, paid no attention to them whatever. They soon left the room, their quarrel and their drink finished together, and others dropped in and out. Mr. Howard’s “warm” must almost have become cold, so long did he sit there, gazing at the gas lamps rather than attending to his brandy and water. Not a word did he speak to any one for more than an hour, and not a sign did he show of impatience. At last he was alone; but had not been so for above a minute when in stepped a jaunty little man, certainly not more than five feet high, about three or four and twenty years of age, dressed with great care, with his trousers sticking to his legs, with a French chimneypot hat on his head, very much peaked fore and aft and closely turned up at the sides. He had a bright-coloured silk-handkerchief round his neck, and a white shirt, of which the collar and wristbands were rather larger and longer than suited the small dimensions of the man. He wore a white greatcoat tight buttoned round his waist, but so arranged as to show the glories of the coloured handkerchief; and in his hand he carried a diminutive cane with a little silver knob. He stepped airily into the room, and as he did so he addressed our friend the policeman with much cordiality.

“My dear Mr. ‘Oward,” he said, “this is a pleasure. This is a pleasure. This is a pleasure.”

“What is it to be?” asked Gager.

“Well; ay, what? Shall I say a little port wine negus, with the nutmeg in it rayther strong?” This suggestion he made to a young lady from the bar, who had followed him into the room. The negus was brought and paid for by Gager, who then requested that they might be left there undisturbed for five minutes. The young lady promised to do her best, and then closed the door. “And now, Mr. ‘Oward, what can I do for you?” said Mr. Cann, the burglar.

Gager, before he answered, took a pipe-case out of his pocket, and lit the pipe. “Will you smoke, Billy?” said he.

“Well — no, I don’t know that I will smoke. A very little tobacco goes a long way with me, Mr. ‘Oward. One cigar before I turn in; that’s about the outside of it. You see, Mr. ‘Oward, pleasures should never be made necessities, when the circumstances of a gentleman’s life may perhaps require that they shall be abandoned for prolonged periods. In your line of life, Mr. ‘Oward, which has its objections, smoking may be pretty well a certainty.” Mr. Cann, as he made these remarks, skipped about the room, and gave point to his argument by touching Mr. Howard’s waistcoat with the end of his cane.

“And now, Billy, how about the young woman?”

“I haven’t set eyes on her these six weeks, Mr. ‘Oward. I never see her but once in my life, Mr. ‘Oward; or, maybe, twice, for one’s memory is deceitful; and I don’t know that I ever wish to see her again. She ain’t one of my sort, Mr. ‘Oward. I likes ’em soft, and sweet, and coming. This one, she has her good p’ints about her, as clean a foot and ankle as I’d wish to see; but, laws, what a nose, Mr. ‘Oward. And then for manner; she’s no more manner than a stable dog.”

“She’s in London, Billy?”

“How am I to know, Mr. ‘Oward?”

“What’s the good, then, of your coming here?” asked Gager, with no little severity in his voice.

“I don’t know as it is good. I ‘aven’t said nothing about any good, Mr. ‘Oward. What you wants to find is them diamonds?”

“Of course I do.”

“Well; you won’t find ’em. I knows nothing about ’em, in course, except just what I’m told. You know my line of life, Mr. ‘Oward?”

“Not a doubt about it.”

“And I know yours. I’m in the way of hearing about these things, and for the matter of that, so are you too. It may be, my ears are the longer. I ‘ave ‘eard. You don’t expect me to tell you more than just that. I ‘ave ‘eard. It was a pretty thing, wasn’t it? But I wasn’t in it myself, more’s the pity. You can’t expect fairer than that, Mr. ‘Oward?”

“And what have you heard?”

“Them diamonds is gone where none of you can get at ’em. That five hundred pounds as the lawyers ‘ave offered is just nowhere. If you want information, Mr. ‘Oward, you should say information.”

“And you could give it; eh, Billy?”

“No — no —” He uttered these two negatives in a low voice, and with much deliberation. “I couldn’t give it. A man can’t give what he hasn’t got; but perhaps I could get it.”

“What an ass you are, Billy. Don’t you know that I know all about it?”

“What an ass you are, Mr. ‘Oward. Don’t I know that you don’t know; or you wouldn’t come to me. You guess. You’re always a-guessing. But guessing ain’t knowing. You don’t know; nor yet don’t I. What is it to be, if I find out where that young woman is?”

“A tenner, Billy.”

“Five quid now, and five when you’ve seen her?”

“All right, Billy.”

“She’s a-going to be married to Smiler next Sunday as ever is down at Ramsgate; and at Ramsgate she is now. You’ll find her, Mr. ‘Oward, if you’ll keep your eyes open, somewhere about the ‘Fiddle with One String.’ “

This information was so far recognised by Mr. Howard as correct, that he paid Mr. Cann five sovereigns down for it at once.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43