The Loss Of Sammy Crockett
It was, of course, always a part of Martin Hewitt's business to be
thoroughly at home among any and every class of people, and to be able to
interest himself intelligently, or to appear to do so, in their various
pursuits. In one of the most important cases ever placed in his hands he
could have gone but a short way toward success had he not displayed some
knowledge of the more sordid aspects of professional sport, and a great
interest in the undertakings of a certain dealer therein.
The great case itself had nothing to do with sport, and, indeed, from a
narrative point of view, was somewhat uninteresting, but the man who alone
held the one piece of information wanted was a keeper, backer, or "gaffer"
of professional pedestrians, and it was through the medium of his
pecuniary interest in such matters that Hewitt was enabled to strike a
bargain with him.
The man was a publican on the outskirts of Padfield, a northern town,
pretty famous for its sporting tastes, and to Padfield, therefore, Hewitt
betook himself, and, arrayed in a way to indicate some inclination of his
own toward sport, he began to frequent the bar of the Hare and Hounds.
Kentish, the landlord, was a stout, bull-necked man, of no great
communicativeness at first; but after a little acquaintance he opened out
wonderfully, became quite a jolly (and rather intelligent) companion, and
came out with innumerable anecdotes of his sporting adventures. He could
put a very decent dinner on the table, too, at the Hare and Hounds, and
Hewitt's frequent invitation to him to join therein and divide a bottle of
the best in the cellar soon put the two on the very best of terms. Good
terms with Mr. Kentish was Hewitt's great desire, for the information he
wanted was of a sort that could never be extracted by casual questioning,
but must be a matter of open communication by the publican, extracted in
what way it might be.
"Look here," said Kentish one day, "I'll put you on to a good thing, my
boy--a real good thing. Of course you know all about the Padfield 135
Yards Handicap being run off now?"
"Well, I haven't looked into it much," Hewitt replied. "Ran the first
round of heats last Saturday and Monday, didn't they?"
"They did. Well"--Kentish spoke in a stage whisper as he leaned over and
rapped the table--"I've got the final winner in this house." He nodded his
head, took a puff at his cigar, and added, in his ordinary voice. "Don't
"No, of course not. Got something on, of course?"
"Rather! What do you think? Got any price I liked. Been saving him up for
this. Why, he's got twenty-one yards, and he can do even time all the way!
Fact! Why, he could win runnin' back'ards. He won his heat on Monday
like--like--like that!" The gaffer snapped his fingers, in default of a
better illustration, and went on. "He might ha' took it a little easier,
I think; it's shortened his price, of course, him jumpin' in by two
yards. But you can get decent odds now, if you go about it right. You take
my tip--back him for his heat next Saturday, in the second round, and for
the final. You'll get a good price for the final, if you pop it down at
once. But don't go makin' a song of it, will you, now? I'm givin' you a
tip I wouldn't give anybody else."
"Thanks, very much; it's awfully good of you. I'll do what you advise. But
isn't there a dark horse anywhere else?"
"Not dark to me, my boy, not dark to me. I know every man runnin' like a
book. Old Taylor--him over at the Cop--he's got a very good lad at
eighteen yards, a very good lad indeed; and he's a tryer this time, I
know. But, bless you, my lad could give him ten, instead o' taking three,
and beat him then! When I'm runnin' a real tryer, I'm generally runnin'
something very near a winner, you bet; and this time, mind this time,
I'm runnin' the certainest winner I ever run--and I don't often make a
mistake. You back him."
"I shall, if you're as sure as that. But who is he?"
"Oh, Crockett's his name--Sammy Crockett. He's quite a new lad. I've got
young Steggles looking after him--sticks to him like wax. Takes his little
breathers in my bit o' ground at the back here. I've got a cinder-sprint
path there, over behind the trees. I don't let him out o' sight much, I
can tell you. He's a straight lad, and he knows it'll be worth his while
to stick to me; but there's some 'ud poison him, if they thought he'd
spoil their books."
Soon afterward the two strolled toward the taproom. "I expect Sammy'll be
there," the landlord said, "with Steggles. I don't hide him too
much--they'd think I'd got something extra on if I did."
In the tap-room sat a lean, wire-drawn-looking youth, with sloping
shoulders and a thin face, and by his side was a rather short, thick-set
man, who had an odd air, no matter what he did, of proprietorship and
surveillance of the lean youth. Several other men sat about, and there was
loud laughter, under which the lean youth looked sheepishly angry.
"'Tarn't no good, Sammy, lad," some one was saying, "you a-makin' after
Nancy Webb--she'll ha' nowt to do with 'ee."
"Don' like 'em so thread-papery," added another. "No, Sammy, you aren't
the lad for she. I see her----"
"What about Nancy Webb?" asked Kentish, pushing open the door. "Sammy's
all right, any way. You keep fit, my lad, an' go on improving, and some
day you'll have as good a house as me. Never mind the lasses. Had his
glass o' beer, has he?" This to Raggy Steggles, who, answering in the
affirmative, viewed his charge as though he were a post, and the beer a
recent coat of paint.
"Has two glasses of mild a day," the landlord said to Hewitt. "Never puts
on flesh, so he can stand it. Come out now." He nodded to Steggles, who
rose and marched Sammy Crockett away for exercise.
* * * * *
On the following afternoon (it was Thursday), as Hewitt and Kentish
chatted in the landlord's own snuggery, Steggles burst into the room in a
great state of agitation and spluttered out: "He--he's bolted; gone away!"
"Sammy--gone! Hooked it! I can't find him."
The landlord stared blankly at the trainer, who stood with a sweater
dangling from his hand and stared blankly back. "What d'ye mean?" Kentish
said, at last. "Don't be a fool! He's in the place somewhere. Find him!"
But this Steggles defied anybody to do. He had looked already. He had left
Crockett at the cinder-path behind the trees in his running-gear, with the
addition of the long overcoat and cap he used in going between the path
and the house to guard against chill. "I was goin' to give him a bust or
two with the pistol," the trainer explained, "but, when we got over
t'other side, 'Raggy,' ses he, 'it's blawin' a bit chilly. I think I'll
ha' a sweater. There's one on my box, ain't there?' So in I coomes for the
sweater, and it weren't on his box, and, when I found it and got back--he
weren't there. They'd seen nowt o' him in t' house, and he weren't
Hewitt and the landlord, now thoroughly startled, searched everywhere, but
to no purpose. "What should he go off the place for?" asked Kentish, in a
sweat of apprehension. "'Tain't chilly a bit--it's warm. He didn't want no
sweater; never wore one before. It was a piece of kid to be able to clear
out. Nice thing, this is. I stand to win two years' takings over him.
Here--you'll have to find him."
"Ah, but how?" exclaimed the disconcerted trainer, dancing about
distractedly. "I've got all I could scrape on him myself. Where can I
Here was Hewitt's opportunity. He took Kentish aside and whispered. What
he said startled the landlord considerably. "Yes, I'll tell you all about
that," he said, "if that's all you want. It's no good or harm to me
whether I tell or no. But can you find him?"
"That I can't promise, of course. But you know who I am now, and what I'm
here for. If you like to give me the information I want, I'll go into the
case for you, and, of course, I shan't charge any fee. I may have luck,
you know, but I can't promise, of course."
The landlord looked in Hewitt's face for a moment. Then he said: "Done!
It's a deal."
"Very good," Hewitt replied; "get together the one or two papers you have,
and we'll go into my business in the evening. As to Crockett, don't say a
word to anybody. I'm afraid it must get out, since they all know about it
in the house, but there's no use in making any unnecessary noise. Don't
make hedging bets or do anything that will attract notice. Now we'll go
over to the back and look at this cinder-path of yours."
Here Steggles, who was still standing near, was struck with an idea. "How
about old Taylor, at the Cop, guv'nor, eh?" he said, meaningly. "His lad's
good enough to win with Sammy out, and Taylor is backing him plenty. Think
he knows any thing o' this?"
"That's likely," Hewitt observed, before Kentish could reply. "Yes. Look
here--suppose Steggles goes and keeps his eye on the Cop for an hour or
two, in case there's anything to be heard of? Don't show yourself, of
Kentish agreed, and the trainer went. When Hewitt and Kentish arrived at
the path behind the trees, Hewitt at once began examining the ground. One
or two rather large holes in the cinders were made, as the publican
explained, by Crockett, in practicing getting off his mark. Behind these
were several fresh tracks of spiked shoes. The tracks led up to within a
couple of yards of the high fence bounding the ground, and there stopped
abruptly and entirely. In the fence, a little to the right of where the
tracks stopped, there was a stout door. This Hewitt tried, and found ajar.
"That's always kept bolted," Kentish said. "He's gone out that way--he
couldn't have gone any other without comin' through the house."
"But he isn't in the habit of making a step three yards long, is he?"
Hewitt asked, pointing at the last footmark and then at the door, which
was quite that distance away from it. "Besides," he added, opening the
door, "there's no footprint here nor outside."
The door opened on a lane, with another fence and a thick plantation of
trees at the other side. Kentish looked at the footmarks, then at the
door, then down the lane, and finally back toward the house. "That's a
licker!" he said.
"This is a quiet sort of lane," was Hewitt's next remark. "No houses in
sight. Where does it lead?"
"That way it goes to the Old Kilns--disused. This way down to a turning
off the Padfield and Catton road."
Hewitt returned to the cinder-path again, and once more examined the
footmarks. He traced them back over the grass toward the house.
"Certainly," he said, "he hasn't gone back to the house. Here is the
double line of tracks, side by side, from the house--Steggles' ordinary
boots with iron tips, and Crockett's running pumps; thus they came out.
Here is Steggles' track in the opposite direction alone, made when he went
back for the sweater. Crockett remained; you see various prints in those
loose cinders at the end of the path where he moved this way and that, and
then two or three paces toward the fence--not directly toward the door,
you notice--and there they stop dead, and there are no more, either back
or forward. Now, if he had wings, I should be tempted to the opinion that
he flew straight away in the air from that spot--unless the earth
swallowed him and closed again without leaving a wrinkle on its face."
Kentish stared gloomily at the tracks and said nothing.
"However," Hewitt resumed, "I think I'll take a little walk now and think
over it. You go into the house and show yourself at the bar. If anybody
wants to know how Crockett is, he's pretty well, thank you. By the by, can
I get to the Cop--this place of Taylor's--by this back lane?"
"Yes, down to the end leading to the Catton road, turn to the left and
then first on the right. Any one'll show you the Cop," and Kentish shut
the door behind the detective, who straightway walked--toward the Old
In little more than an hour he was back. It was now becoming dusk, and the
landlord looked out papers from a box near the side window of his
snuggery, for the sake of the extra light. "I've got these papers together
for you," he said, as Hewitt entered. "Any news?"
"Nothing very great. Here's a bit of handwriting I want you to recognize,
if you can. Get a light."
Kentish lit a lamp, and Hewitt laid upon the table half a dozen small
pieces of torn paper, evidently fragments of a letter which had been torn
up, here reproduced in fac-simile:
hi, hate his, lane wr]
The landlord turned the scraps over, regarding them dubiously. "These
aren't much to recognize, anyhow. I don't know the writing. Where did
you find 'em?"
"They were lying in the lane at the back, a little way down. Plainly they
are pieces of a note addressed to some one called Sammy or something very
like it. See the first piece, with its 'mmy'? That is clearly from the
beginning of the note, because there is no line between it and the smooth,
straight edge of the paper above; also, nothing follows on the same line.
Some one writes to Crockett--presuming it to be a letter addressed to him,
as I do for other reasons--as Sammy. It is a pity that there is no more of
the letter to be found than these pieces. I expect the person who tore it
up put the rest in his pocket and dropped these by accident."
Kentish, who had been picking up and examining each piece in turn, now
dolorously broke out:
"Oh, it's plain he's sold us--bolted and done us; me as took him out o'
the gutter, too. Look here--'throw them over'; that's plain enough--can't
mean anything else. Means throw me over, and my friends--me, after what
I've done for him! Then 'right away'--go right away, I s'pose, as he has
done. Then"--he was fiddling with the scraps and finally fitted two
together--"why, look here, this one with 'lane' on it fits over the one
about throwing over, and it says 'poor f' where its torn; that means 'poor
fool,' I s'pose--me, or 'fathead,' or something like that. That's nice.
Why, I'd twist his neck if I could get hold of him; and I will!"
Hewitt smiled. "Perhaps it's not quite so uncomplimentary, after all," he
said. "If you can't recognize the writing, never mind. But, if he's gone
away to sell you, it isn't much use finding him, is it? He won't win if he
doesn't want to."
"Why, he wouldn't dare to rope under my very eyes. I'd--I'd----"
"Well, well; perhaps we'll get him to run, after all, and as well as he
can. One thing is certain--he left this place of his own will. Further, I
think he is in Padfield now; he went toward the town, I believe. And I
don't think he means to sell you."
"Well, he shouldn't. I've made it worth his while to stick to me. I've put
a fifty on for him out of my own pocket, and told him so; and, if he won,
that would bring him a lump more than he'd probably get by going crooked,
besides the prize money and anything I might give him over. But it seems
to me he's putting me in the cart altogether."
"That we shall see. Meantime, don't mention anything I've told you to any
one--not even to Steggles. He can't help us, and he might blurt things out
inadvertently. Don't say anything about these pieces of paper, which I
shall keep myself. By-the-by, Steggles is indoors, isn't he? Very well,
keep him in. Don't let him be seen hunting about this evening. I'll stay
here to-night and we'll proceed with Crockett's business in the morning.
And now we'll settle my business, please."
* * * * *
In the morning Hewitt took his breakfast in the snuggery, carefully
listening to any conversation that might take place at the bar. Soon after
nine o'clock a fast dog-cart stopped outside, and a red-faced, loud-voiced
man swaggered in, greeting Kentish with boisterous cordiality. He had a
drink with the landlord, and said: "How's things? Fancy any of 'em for the
sprint handicap? Got a lad o' your own in, haven't you?"
"Oh, yes," Kentish replied. "Crockett. Only a young un not got to his
proper mark yet, I reckon. I think old Taylor's got No. 1 this time."
"Capital lad," the other replied, with a confidential nod. "Shouldn't
wonder at all. Want to do anything yourself over it?"
"No, I don't think so. I'm not on at present. Might have a little flutter
on the grounds just for fun; nothing else."
There were a few more casual remarks, and then the red-faced man drove
"Who was that?" asked Hewitt, who had watched the visitor through the
"That's Danby--bookmaker. Cute chap. He's been told Crockett's missing,
I'll bet anything, and come here to pump me. No good, though. As a matter
of fact, I've worked Sammy Crockett into his books for about half I'm in
for altogether--through third parties, of course."
Hewitt reached for his hat. "I'm going out for half an hour now," he said.
"If Steggles wants to go out before I come back, don't let him. Let him go
and smooth over all those tracks on the cinder-path, very carefully. And,
by the by, could you manage to have your son about the place to-day, in
case I happen to want a little help out of doors?"
"Certainly; I'll get him to stay in. But what do you want the cinders
Hewitt smiled, and patted his host's shoulder. "I'll explain all my tricks
when the job's done," he said, and went out.
* * * * *
On the lane from Padfield to Sedby village stood the Plough beer-house,
wherein J. Webb was licensed to sell by retail beer to be consumed on the
premises or off, as the thirsty list. Nancy Webb, with a very fine color,
a very curly fringe, and a wide smiling mouth revealing a fine set of
teeth, came to the bar at the summons of a stoutish old gentleman in
spectacles who walked with a stick.
The stoutish old gentleman had a glass of bitter beer, and then said in
the peculiarly quiet voice of a very deaf man: "Can you tell me, if you
please, the way into the main Catton road?"
"Down the lane, turn to the right at the cross-roads, then first to the
The old gentleman waited with his hand to his ear for some few seconds
after she had finished speaking, and then resumed in his whispering voice:
"I'm afraid I'm very deaf this morning." He fumbled in his pocket and
produced a note-book and pencil. "May I trouble you to write it down? I'm
so very deaf at times that I--Thank you."
The girl wrote the direction, and the old gentleman bade her good-morning
and left. All down the lane he walked slowly with his stick. At the
cross-roads he turned, put the stick under his arm, thrust his spectacles
into his pocket, and strode away in the ordinary guise of Martin Hewitt.
He pulled out his note-book, examined Miss Webb's direction very
carefully, and then went off another way altogether, toward the Hare and
Kentish lounged moodily in his bar. "Well, my boy," said Hewitt, "has
Steggles wiped out the tracks?"
"Not yet; I haven't told him. But he's somewhere about; I'll tell him
"No, don't. I don't think we'll have that done, after all. I expect he'll
want to go out soon--at any rate, some time during the day. Let him go
whenever he likes. I'll sit upstairs a bit in the club-room."
"Very well. But how do you know Steggles will be going out?"
"Well, he's pretty restless after his lost protege, isn't he? I don't
suppose he'll be able to remain idle long."
"And about Crockett. Do you give him up?"
"Oh, no! Don't you be impatient. I can't say I'm quite confident yet of
laying hold of him--the time is so short, you see--but I think I shall at
least have news for you by the evening."
Hewitt sat in the club-room until the afternoon, taking his lunch there.
At length he saw, through the front window, Raggy Steggles walking down
the road. In an instant Hewitt was down-stairs and at the door. The road
bent eighty yards away, and as soon as Steggles passed the bend the
detective hurried after him.
All the way to Padfield town and more than half through it Hewitt dogged
the trainer. In the end Steggles stopped at a corner and gave a note to a
small boy who was playing near. The boy ran with the note to a bright,
well-kept house at the opposite corner. Martin Hewitt was interested to
observe the legend, "H. Danby, Contractor," on a board over a gate in the
side wall of the garden behind this house. In five minutes a door in the
side gate opened, and the head and shoulders of the red-faced man emerged.
Steggles immediately hurried across and disappeared through the gate.
This was both interesting and instructive. Hewitt took up a position in
the side street and waited. In ten minutes the trainer reappeared and
hurried off the way he had come, along the street Hewitt had considerately
left clear for him. Then Hewitt strolled toward the smart house and took a
good look at it. At one corner of the small piece of forecourt garden,
near the railings, a small, baize-covered, glass-fronted notice-board
stood on two posts. On its top edge appeared the words, "H. Danby. Houses
to be Sold or Let." But the only notice pinned to the green baize within
was an old and dusty one, inviting tenants for three shops, which were
suitable for any business, and which would be fitted to suit tenants.
Hewitt pushed open the front gate and rang the door-bell. "There are some
shops to let, I see," he said, when a maid appeared. "I should like to see
them, if you will let me have the key."
"Master's out, sir. You can't see the shops till Monday."
"Dear me, that's unfortunate, I'm afraid I can't wait till Monday. Didn't
Mr. Danby leave any instructions, in case anybody should inquire?"
"Yes, sir--as I've told you. He said anybody who called about 'em must
come again on Monday."
"Oh, very well, then; I suppose I must try. One of the shops is in High
Street, isn't it?"
"No, sir; they're all in the new part--Granville Road."
"Ah, I'm afraid that will scarcely do. But I'll see. Good-day."
Martin Hewitt walked away a couple of streets' lengths before he inquired
the way to Granville Road. When at last he found that thoroughfare, in a
new and muddy suburb, crowded with brick-heaps and half-finished streets,
he took a slow walk along its entire length. It was a melancholy example
of baffled enterprise. A row of a dozen or more shops had been built
before any population had arrived to demand goods. Would-be tradesmen had
taken many of these shops, and failure and disappointment stared from the
windows. Some were half covered by shutters, because the scanty stock
scarce sufficed to fill the remaining half. Others were shut almost
altogether, the inmates only keeping open the door for their own
convenience, and, perhaps, keeping down a shutter for the sake of a little
light. Others, again, had not yet fallen so low, but struggled bravely
still to maintain a show of business and prosperity, with very little
success. Opposite the shops there still remained a dusty, ill-treated
hedge and a forlorn-looking field, which an old board offered on building
leases. Altogether a most depressing spot.
There was little difficulty in identifying the three shops offered for
letting by Mr. H. Danby. They were all together near the middle of the
row, and were the only ones that appeared not yet to have been occupied. A
dusty "To Let" bill hung in each window, with written directions to
inquire of Mr. H. Danby or at No. 7. Now No. 7 was a melancholy baker's
shop, with a stock of three loaves and a plate of stale buns. The
disappointed baker assured Hewitt that he usually kept the keys of the
shops, but that the landlord, Mr. Danby, had taken them away the day
before to see how the ceilings were standing, and had not returned them.
"But if you was thinking of taking a shop here," the poor baker added,
with some hesitation, "I--I--if you'll excuse my advising you--I shouldn't
recommend it. I've had a sickener of it myself."
Hewitt thanked the baker for his advice, wished him better luck in future,
and left. To the Hare and Hounds his pace was brisk. "Come," he said, as
he met Kentish's inquiring glance, "this has been a very good day, on the
whole. I know where our man is now, and I think we can get him, by a
"Where is he?"
"Oh, down in Padfield. As a matter of fact, he's being kept there against
his will, we shall find. I see that your friend Mr. Danby is a builder as
well as a bookmaker."
"Not a regular builder. He speculates in a street of new houses now and
again, that's all. But is he in it?"
"He's as deep in it as anybody, I think. Now, don't fly into a passion.
There are a few others in it as well, but you'll do harm if you don't keep
"But go and get the police; come and fetch him, if you know where they're
keeping him. Why----"
"So we will, if we can't do it without them. But it's quite possible we
can, and without all the disturbance and, perhaps, delay that calling in
the police would involve. Consider, now, in reference to your own
arrangements. Wouldn't it pay you better to get him back quietly, without
a soul knowing--perhaps not even Danby knowing--till the heat is run
"Well, yes, it would, of course."
"Very good, then, so be it. Remember what I have told you about keeping
your mouth shut; say nothing to Steggles or anybody. Is there a cab or
brougham your son and I can have for the evening?"
"There's an old hiring landau in the stables you can shut up into a cab,
if that'll do."
"Excellent. We'll run down to the town in it as soon as it's ready. But,
first, a word about Crockett. What sort of a lad is he? Likely to give
them trouble, show fight, and make a disturbance?"
"No, I should say not. He's no plucked un, certainly; all his manhood's in
his legs, I believe. You see, he ain't a big sort o' chap at best, and
he'd be pretty easy put upon--at least, I guess so."
"Very good, so much the better, for then he won't have been damaged, and
they will probably only have one man to guard him. Now the carriage,
Young Kentish was a six-foot sergeant of grenadiers home on furlough, and
luxuriating in plain clothes. He and Hewitt walked a little way toward the
town, allowing the landau to catch them up. They traveled in it to within
a hundred yards of the empty shops and then alighted, bidding the driver
"I shall show you three empty shops," Hewitt said, as he and young Kentish
walked down Granville Road. "I am pretty sure that Sammy Crockett is in
one of them, and I am pretty sure that that is the middle one. Take a look
as we go past."
When the shops had been slowly passed, Hewitt resumed: "Now, did you see
anything about those shops that told a tale of any sort?"
"No," Sergeant Kentish replied. "I can't say I noticed anything beyond the
fact that they were empty--and likely to stay so, I should think."
"We'll stroll back, and look in at the windows, if nobody's watching us,"
Hewitt said. "You see, it's reasonable to suppose they've put him in the
middle one, because that would suit their purpose best. The shops at each
side of the three are occupied, and, if the prisoner struggled, or
shouted, or made an uproar, he might be heard if he were in one of the
shops next those inhabited. So that the middle shop is the most likely.
Now, see there," he went on, as they stopped before the window of the shop
in question, "over at the back there's a staircase not yet partitioned
off. It goes down below and up above. On the stairs and on the floor near
them there are muddy footmarks. These must have been made to-day, else
they would not be muddy, but dry and dusty, since there hasn't been a
shower for a week till to-day. Move on again. Then you noticed that there
were no other such marks in the shop. Consequently the man with the muddy
feet did not come in by the front door, but by the back; otherwise he
would have made a trail from the door. So we will go round to the back
It was now growing dusk. The small pieces of ground behind the shops were
bounded by a low fence, containing a door for each house.
"This door is bolted inside, of course," Hewitt said, "but there is no
difficulty in climbing. I think we had better wait in the garden till
dark. In the meantime, the jailer, whoever he is, may come out; in which
case we shall pounce on him as soon as he opens the door. You have that
few yards of cord in your pocket, I think? And my handkerchief, properly
rolled, will make a very good gag. Now over."
They climbed the fence and quietly approached the house, placing
themselves in the angle of an outhouse out of sight from the windows.
There was no sound, and no light appeared. Just above the ground about a
foot of window was visible, with a grating over it, apparently lighting a
basement. Suddenly Hewitt touched his companion's arm and pointed toward
the window. A faint rustling sound was perceptible, and, as nearly as
could be discerned in the darkness, some white blind or covering was
placed over the glass from the inside. Then came the sound of a striking
match, and at the side edge of the window there was a faint streak of
"That's the place," Hewitt whispered. "Come, we'll make a push for it. You
stand against the wall at one side of the door and I'll stand at the
other, and we'll have him as he comes out. Quietly, now, and I'll startle
He took a stone from among the rubbish littering the garden and flung it
crashing through the window. There was a loud exclamation from within, the
blind fell, and somebody rushed to the back door and flung it open.
Instantly Kentish let fly a heavy right-hander, and the man went over like
a skittle. In a moment Hewitt was upon him and the gag in his mouth.
"Hold him," Hewitt whispered, hurriedly. "I'll see if there are others."
He peered down through the low window. Within Sammy Crockett, his bare
legs dangling from beneath his long overcoat, sat on a packing-box,
leaning with his head on his hand and his back toward the window. A
guttering candle stood on the mantel-piece, and the newspaper which had
been stretched across the window lay in scattered sheets on the floor. No
other person besides Sammy was visible.
They led their prisoner indoors. Young Kentish recognized him as a
public-house loafer and race-course ruffian, well known in the
"So it's you, is it, Browdie?" he said. "I've caught you one hard clump,
and I've half a mind to make it a score more. But you'll get it pretty
warm one way or another before this job's forgotten."
Sammy Crockett was overjoyed at his rescue. He had not been ill-treated,
he explained, but had been thoroughly cowed by Browdie, who had from time
to time threatened him savagely with an iron bar by way of persuading him
to quietness and submission. He had been fed, and had taken no worse harm
than a slight stiffness from his adventure, due to his light under-attire
of jersey and knee-shorts.
Sergeant Kentish tied Browdie's elbows firmly together behind, and carried
the line round the ankles, bracing all up tight. Then he ran a knot from
one wrist to the other over the back of the neck, and left the prisoner,
trussed and helpless, on the heap of straw that had been Sammy's bed.
"You won't be very jolly, I expect," Kentish said, "for some time. You
can't shout and you can't walk, and I know you can't untie yourself.
You'll get a bit hungry, too, perhaps, but that'll give you an appetite. I
don't suppose you'll be disturbed till some time to-morrow, unless our
friend Danby turns up in the meantime. But you can come along to jail
instead, if you prefer it."
They left him where he lay, and took Sammy to the old landau. Sammy walked
in slippers, carrying his spiked shoes, hanging by the lace, in his hand.
"Ah," said Hewitt, "I think I know the name of the young lady who gave you
Crockett looked ashamed and indignant. "Yes," he said, "they've done me
nicely between 'em. But I'll pay her--I'll----"
"Hush, hush!" Hewitt said; "you mustn't talk unkindly of a lady, you know.
Get into this carriage, and we'll take you home. We'll see if I can tell
you your adventures without making a mistake. First, you had a note from
Miss Webb, telling you that you were mistaken in supposing she had
slighted you, and that, as a matter of fact, she had quite done with
somebody else--left him--of whom you were jealous. Isn't that so?"
"Well, yes," young Crockett answered, blushing deeply under the
carriage-lamp; "but I don't see how you come to know that."
"Then she went on to ask you to get rid of Steggles on Thursday afternoon
for a few minutes, and speak to her in the back lane. Now, your running
pumps, with their thin soles, almost like paper, no heels and long spikes,
hurt your feet horribly if you walk on hard ground, don't they?"
"Ay, that they do--enough to cripple you. I'd never go on much hard ground
"They're not like cricket shoes, I see."
"Not a bit. Cricket shoes you can walk anywhere in!"
"Well, she knew this--I think I know who told her--and she promised to
bring you a new pair of slippers, and to throw them over the fence for you
to come out in."
"I s'pose she's been tellin' you all this?" Crockett said, mournfully.
"You couldn't ha' seen the letter; I saw her tear it up and put the bits
in her pocket. She asked me for it in the lane, in case Steggles saw it."
"Well, at any rate, you sent Steggles away, and the slippers did come
over, and you went into the lane. You walked with her as far as the road
at the end, and then you were seized and gagged, and put into a carriage."
"That was Browdie did that," said Crockett, "and another chap I don't
know. But--why, this is Padfield High Street?" He looked through the
window and regarded the familiar shops with astonishment.
"Of course it is. Where did you think it was?"
"Why, where was that place you found me in?"
"Granville Road, Padfield. I suppose they told you you were in another
"Told me it was Newstead Hatch. They drove for about three or four hours,
and kept me down on the floor between the seats so as I couldn't see where
we was going."
"Done for two reasons," said Hewitt. "First, to mystify you, and prevent
any discovery of the people directing the conspiracy; and second, to be
able to put you indoors at night and unobserved. Well, I think I have told
you all you know yourself now as far as the carriage.
"But there is the Hare and Hounds just in front. We'll pull up here, and
I'll get out and see if the coast is clear. I fancy Mr. Kentish would
rather you came in unnoticed."
In a few seconds Hewitt was back, and Crockett was conveyed indoors by a
side entrance. Hewitt's instructions to the landlord were few, but
emphatic. "Don't tell Steggles about it," he said; "make an excuse to get
rid of him, and send him out of the house. Take Crockett into some other
bedroom, not his own, and let your son look after him. Then come here, and
I'll tell you all about it."
Sammy Crockett was undergoing a heavy grooming with white embrocation at
the hands of Sergeant Kentish when the landlord returned to Hewitt. "Does
Danby know you've got him?" he asked. "How did you do it?"
"Danby doesn't know yet, and with luck he won't know till he sees Crockett
running to-morrow. The man who has sold you is Steggles."
"Steggles it is. At the very first, when Steggles rushed in to report
Sammy Crockett missing, I suspected him. You didn't, I suppose?"
"No. He's always been considered a straight man, and he looked as startled
"Yes, I must say he acted it very well. But there was something suspicious
in his story. What did he say? Crockett had remarked a chilliness, and
asked for a sweater, which Steggles went to fetch. Now, just think. You
understand these things. Would any trainer who knew his business (as
Steggles does) have gone to bring out a sweater for his man to change for
his jersey in the open air, at the very time the man was complaining of
chilliness? Of course not. He would have taken his man indoors again and
let him change there under shelter. Then supposing Steggles had really
been surprised at missing Crockett, wouldn't he have looked about, found
the gate open, and told you it was open when he first came in? He said
nothing of that--we found the gate open for ourselves. So that from the
beginning I had a certain opinion of Steggles."
"What you say seems pretty plain now, although it didn't strike me at the
time. But, if Steggles was selling us, why couldn't he have drugged the
lad? That would have been a deal simpler."
"Because Steggles is a good trainer, and has a certain reputation to keep
up. It would have done him no good to have had a runner drugged while
under his care; certainly it would have cooked his goose with you. It
was much the safer thing to connive at kidnapping. That put all the active
work into other hands, and left him safe, even if the trick failed. Now,
you remember that we traced the prints of Crockett's spiked shoes to
within a couple of yards from the fence, and that there they ceased
"Yes. You said it looked as though he had flown up into the air; and so it
"But I was sure that it was by that gate that Crockett had left, and by no
other. He couldn't have got through the house without being seen, and
there was no other way--let alone the evidence of the unbolted gate.
Therefore, as the footprints ceased where they did, and were not repeated
anywhere in the lane, I knew that he had taken his spiked shoes
off--probably changed them for something else, because a runner anxious as
to his chances would never risk walking on bare feet, with a chance of
cutting them. Ordinary, broad, smooth-soled slippers would leave no
impression on the coarse cinders bordering the track, and nothing short of
spiked shoes would leave a mark on the hard path in the lane behind. The
spike-tracks were leading, not directly toward the door, but in the
direction of the fence, when they stopped; somebody had handed, or thrown,
the slippers over the fence, and he had changed them on the spot. The
enemy had calculated upon the spikes leaving a track in the lane that
might lead us in our search, and had arranged accordingly.
"So far so good. I could see no footprints near the gate in the lane. You
will remember that I sent Steggles off to watch at the Cop before I went
out to the back--merely, of course, to get him out of the way. I went out
into the lane, leaving you behind, and walked its whole length, first
toward the Old Kilns and then back toward the road. I found nothing to
help me except these small pieces of paper--which are here in my
pocket-book, by the by. Of course this 'mmy' might have meant 'Jimmy' or
'Tommy' as possibly as 'Sammy,' but they were not to be rejected on that
account. Certainly Crockett had been decoyed out of your ground, not taken
by force, or there would have been marks of a scuffle in the cinders. And
as his request for a sweater was probably an excuse--because it was not at
all a cold afternoon--he must have previously designed going out.
Inference, a letter received; and here were pieces of a letter. Now, in
the light of what I have said, look at these pieces. First, there is the
'mmy'--that I have dealt with. Then see this 'throw them ov'--clearly a
part of 'throw them over'; exactly what had probably been done with the
slippers. Then the 'poor f,' coming just on the line before, and seen, by
joining up with this other piece, might easily be a reference to 'poor
feet.' These coincidences, one on the other, went far to establish the
identity of the letter, and to confirm my previous impressions. But then
there is something else. Two other pieces evidently mean 'left him,' and
'right away,' perhaps; but there is another, containing almost all of the
words 'hate his,' with the word 'hate' underlined. Now, who writes 'hate'
with the emphasis of underscoring--who but a woman? The writing is large
and not very regular; it might easily be that of a half-educated woman.
Here was something more--Sammy had been enticed away by a woman.
"Now, I remembered that, when we went into the tap-room on Wednesday, some
of his companions were chaffing Crockett about a certain Nancy Webb, and
the chaff went home, as was plain to see. The woman, then, who could most
easily entice Sammy Crockett away was Nancy Webb. I resolved to find who
Nancy Webb was and learn more of her.
"Meantime, I took a look at the road at the end of the lane. It was damper
than the lane, being lower, and overhung by trees. There were many
wheel-tracks, but only one set that turned in the road and went back the
way it came, toward the town; and they were narrow wheels--carriage
wheels. Crockett tells me now that they drove him about for a long time
before shutting him up; probably the inconvenience of taking him straight
to the hiding-place didn't strike them when they first drove off.
"A few inquiries soon set me in the direction of the Plough and Miss Nancy
Webb. I had the curiosity to look around the place as I approached, and
there, in the garden behind the house, were Steggles and the young lady in
"Every conjecture became a certainty. Steggles was the lover of whom
Crockett was jealous, and he had employed the girl to bring Sammy out. I
watched Steggles home, and gave you a hint to keep him there.
"But the thing that remained was to find Steggles' employer in this
business. I was glad to be in when Danby called. He came, of course, to
hear if you would blurt out anything, and to learn, if possible, what
steps you were taking. He failed. By way of making assurance doubly sure I
took a short walk this morning in the character of a deaf gentleman, and
got Miss Webb to write me a direction that comprised three of the words on
these scraps of paper--'left,' 'right,' and 'lane'; see, they correspond,
the peculiar 'f's,' 't's,' and all.
"Now, I felt perfectly sure that Steggles would go for his pay to-day. In
the first place, I knew that people mixed up with shady transactions in
professional pedestrianism are not apt to trust one another far--they know
better. Therefore Steggles wouldn't have had his bribe first. But he would
take care to get it before the Saturday heats were run, because once they
were over the thing was done, and the principal conspirator might have
refused to pay up, and Steggles couldn't have helped himself. Again I
hinted he should not go out till I could follow him, and this afternoon,
when he went, follow him I did. I saw him go into Danby's house by the
side way and come away again. Danby it was, then, who had arranged the
business; and nobody was more likely, considering his large pecuniary
stake against Crockett's winning this race.
"But now how to find Crockett? I made up my mind he wouldn't be in Danby's
own house. That would be a deal too risky, with servants about and so on.
I saw that Danby was a builder, and had three shops to let--it was on a
paper before his house. What more likely prison than an empty house? I
knocked at Danby's door and asked for the keys of those shops. I couldn't
have them. The servant told me Danby was out (a manifest lie, for I had
just seen him), and that nobody could see the shops till Monday. But I got
out of her the address of the shops, and that was all I wanted at the
"Now, why was nobody to see those shops till Monday? The interval was
suspicious--just enough to enable Crockett to be sent away again and cast
loose after the Saturday racing, supposing him to be kept in one of the
empty buildings. I went off at once and looked at the shops, forming my
conclusions as to which would be the most likely for Danby's purpose. Here
I had another confirmation of my ideas. A poor, half-bankrupt baker in one
of the shops had, by the bills, the custody of a set of keys; but he, too,
told me I couldn't have them; Danby had taken them away--and on Thursday,
the very day--with some trivial excuse, and hadn't brought them back. That
was all I wanted or could expect in the way of guidance. The whole thing
was plain. The rest you know all about."
"Well, you're certainly as smart as they give you credit for, I must say.
But suppose Danby had taken down his 'To Let' notice, what would you have
"We had our course, even then. We should have gone to Danby, astounded him
by telling him all about his little games, terrorized him with threats of
the law, and made him throw up his hand and send Crockett back. But, as it
is, you see, he doesn't know at this moment--probably won't know till
to-morrow afternoon--that the lad is safe and sound here. You will
probably use the interval to make him pay for losing the game--by some of
the ingenious financial devices you are no doubt familiar with."
"Ay, that I will. He'll give any price against Crockett now, so long as
the bet don't come direct from me."
"But about Crockett, now," Hewitt went on. "Won't this confinement be
likely to have damaged his speed for a day or two?"
"Ah, perhaps," the landlord replied; "but, bless ye, that won't matter.
There's four more in his heat to-morrow. Two I know aren't tryers, and the
other two I can hold in at a couple of quid apiece any day. The third
round and final won't be till to-morrow week, and he'll be as fit as ever
by then. It's as safe as ever it was. How much are you going to have on?
I'll lump it on for you safe enough. This is a chance not to be missed;
it's picking money up."
"Thank you; I don't think I'll have anything to do with it. This
professional pedestrian business doesn't seem a pretty one at all. I don't
call myself a moralist, but, if you'll excuse my saying so, the thing is
scarcely the game I care to pick tap money at in any way."
"Oh, very well! if you think so, I won't persuade ye, though I don't think
so much of your smartness as I did, after that. Still, we won't quarrel;
you've done me a mighty good turn, that I must say, and I only feel I
aren't level without doing something to pay the debt. Come, now, you've
got your trade as I've got mine. Let me have the bill, and I'll pay it
like a lord, and feel a deal more pleased than if you made a favor of
it--not that I'm above a favor, of course. But I'd prefer paying, and
that's a fact."
"My dear sir, you have paid," Hewitt said, with a smile. "You paid in
advance. It was a bargain, wasn't it, that I should do your business if
you would help me in mine? Very well; a bargain's a bargain, and we've
both performed our parts. And you mustn't be offended at what I said just
"That I won't! But as to that Raggy Steggles, once those heats are over
It was on the following Sunday week that Martin Hewitt, in his rooms in
London, turned over his paper and read, under the head "Padfield Annual
135 Yards Handicap," this announcement: "Final heat: Crockett, first;
Willis, second; Trewby, third; Owen, 0; Howell, 0. A runaway win by nearly
Next: The Case Of Mr Foggatt
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