The Case Of The Dixon Torpedo





Hewitt was very apt, in conversation, to dwell upon the many curious

chances and coincidences that he had observed, not only in connection with

his own cases, but also in matters dealt with by the official police, with

whom he was on terms of pretty regular, and, indeed, friendly,

acquaintanceship. He has told me many an anecdote of singular happenings

to Scotland Yard officials with whom he has exchanged experiences. Of

Inspector Nettings, for instance, who spent many weary months in a search

for a man wanted by the American Government, and in the end found, by the

merest accident (a misdirected call), that the man had been lodging next

door to himself the whole of the time; just as ignorant, of course, as was

the inspector himself as to the enemy at the other side of the party-wall.

Also of another inspector, whose name I can not recall, who, having been

given rather meager and insufficient details of a man whom he anticipated

having great difficulty in finding, went straight down the stairs of the

office where he had received instructions, and actually fell over the

man near the door, where he had stooped down to tie his shoe-lace! There

were cases, too, in which, when a great and notorious crime had been

committed, and various persons had been arrested on suspicion, some were

found among them who had long been badly wanted for some other crime

altogether. Many criminals had met their deserts by venturing out of their

own particular line of crime into another; often a man who got into

trouble over something comparatively small found himself in for a

startlingly larger trouble, the result of some previous misdeed that

otherwise would have gone unpunished. The ruble note-forger Mirsky might

never have been handed over to the Russian authorities had he confined his

genius to forgery alone. It was generally supposed at the time of his

extradition that he had communicated with the Russian Embassy, with a view

to giving himself up--a foolish proceeding on his part, it would seem,

since his whereabouts, indeed even his identity as the forger, had not

been suspected. He had communicated with the Russian Embassy, it is

true, but for quite a different purpose, as Martin Hewitt well understood

at the time. What that purpose was is now for the first time published.



* * * * *



The time was half-past one in the afternoon, and Hewitt sat in his inner

office examining and comparing the handwriting of two letters by the aid

of a large lens. He put down the lens and glanced at the clock on the

mantel-piece with a premonition of lunch; and as he did so his clerk

quietly entered the room with one of those printed slips which were kept

for the announcement of unknown visitors. It was filled up in a hasty and

almost illegible hand, thus:



Name of visitor: F. Graham Dixon.



Address: Chancery Lane.



Business: Private and urgent.



"Show Mr. Dixon in," said Martin Hewitt.



Mr. Dixon was a gaunt, worn-looking man of fifty or so, well, although

rather carelessly, dressed, and carrying in his strong, though drawn, face

and dullish eyes the look that characterizes the life-long strenuous

brain-worker. He leaned forward anxiously in the chair which Hewitt

offered him, and told his story with a great deal of very natural

agitation.



"You may possibly have heard, Mr. Hewitt--I know there are rumors--of the

new locomotive torpedo which the government is about adopting; it is, in

fact, the Dixon torpedo, my own invention, and in every respect--not

merely in my own opinion, but in that of the government experts--by far

the most efficient and certain yet produced. It will travel at least four

hundred yards farther than any torpedo now made, with perfect accuracy of

aim (a very great desideratum, let me tell you), and will carry an

unprecedentedly heavy charge. There are other advantages--speed, simple

discharge, and so forth--that I needn't bother you about. The machine is

the result of many years of work and disappointment, and its design has

only been arrived at by a careful balancing of principles and means, which

are expressed on the only four existing sets of drawings. The whole thing,

I need hardly tell you, is a profound secret, and you may judge of my

present state of mind when I tell you that one set of drawings has been

stolen."



"From your house?"



"From my office, in Chancery Lane, this morning. The four sets of drawings

were distributed thus: Two were at the Admiralty Office, one being a

finished set on thick paper, and the other a set of tracings therefrom;

and the other two were at my own office, one being a penciled set,

uncolored--a sort of finished draft, you understand--and the other a set

of tracings similar to those at the Admiralty. It is this last set that

has gone. The two sets were kept together in one drawer in my room. Both

were there at ten this morning; of that I am sure, for I had to go to that

very drawer for something else when I first arrived. But at twelve the

tracings had vanished."



"You suspect somebody, probably?"



"I can not. It is a most extraordinary thing. Nobody has left the office

(except myself, and then only to come to you) since ten this morning, and

there has been no visitor. And yet the drawings are gone!"



"But have you searched the place?"



"Of course I have! It was twelve o'clock when I first discovered my loss,

and I have been turning the place upside down ever since--I and my

assistants. Every drawer has been emptied, every desk and table turned

over, the very carpet and linoleum have been taken up, but there is not a

sign of the drawings. My men even insisted on turning all their pockets

inside out, although I never for a moment suspected either of them, and it

would take a pretty big pocket to hold the drawings, doubled up as small

as they might be."



"You say your men--there are two, I understand--had neither left the

office?"



"Neither; and they are both staying in now. Worsfold suggested that it

would be more satisfactory if they did not leave till something was done

toward clearing the mystery up, and, although, as I have said, I don't

suspect either in the least, I acquiesced."



"Just so. Now--I am assuming that you wish me to undertake the recovery of

these drawings?"



The engineer nodded hastily.



"Very good; I will go round to your office. But first perhaps you can tell

me something about your assistants--something it might be awkward to tell

me in their presence, you know. Mr. Worsfold, for instance?"



"He is my draughtsman--a very excellent and intelligent man, a very smart

man, indeed, and, I feel sure, quite beyond suspicion. He has prepared

many important drawings for me (he has been with me nearly ten years now),

and I have always found him trustworthy. But, of course, the temptation in

this case would be enormous. Still, I can not suspect Worsfold. Indeed,

how can I suspect anybody in the circumstances?"



"The other, now?"



"His name's Ritter. He is merely a tracer, not a fully skilled

draughtsman. He is quite a decent young fellow, and I have had him two

years. I don't consider him particularly smart, or he would have learned a

little more of his business by this time. But I don't see the least reason

to suspect him. As I said before, I can't reasonably suspect anybody."



"Very well; we will get to Chancery Lane now, if you please, and you can

tell me more as we go."



"I have a cab waiting. What else can I tell you?"



"I understand the position to be succinctly this: The drawings were in the

office when you arrived. Nobody came out, and nobody went in; and yet

they vanished. Is that so?"



"That is so. When I say that absolutely nobody came in, of course I except

the postman. He brought a couple of letters during the morning. I mean

that absolutely nobody came past the barrier in the outer office--the

usual thing, you know, like a counter, with a frame of ground glass over

it."



"I quite understand that. But I think you said that the drawings were in a

drawer in your own room--not the outer office, where the draughtsmen

are, I presume?"



"That is the case. It is an inner room, or, rather, a room parallel with

the other, and communicating with it; just as your own room is, which we

have just left."



"But, then, you say you never left your office, and yet the drawings

vanished--apparently by some unseen agency--while you were there in the

room?"



"Let me explain more clearly." The cab was bowling smoothly along the

Strand, and the engineer took out a pocket-book and pencil. "I fear," he

proceeded, "that I am a little confused in my explanation--I am naturally

rather agitated. As you will see presently, my offices consist of three

rooms, two at one side of a corridor, and the other opposite--thus." He

made a rapid pencil sketch.






"In the outer office my men usually work. In the inner office I work

myself. These rooms communicate, as you see, by a door. Our ordinary way

in and out of the place is by the door of the outer office leading into

the corridor, and we first pass through the usual lifting flap in the

barrier. The door leading from the inner office to the corridor is

always kept locked on the inside, and I don't suppose I unlock it once in

three months. It has not been unlocked all the morning. The drawer in

which the missing drawings were kept, and in which I saw them at ten

o'clock this morning, is at the place marked D; it is a large chest of

shallow drawers in which the plans lie flat."



"I quite understand. Then there is the private room opposite. What of

that?"



"That is a sort of private sitting-room that I rarely use, except for

business interviews of a very private nature. When I said I never left my

office, I did not mean that I never stirred out of the inner office. I was

about in one room and another, both the outer and the inner offices, and

once I went into the private room for five minutes, but nobody came either

in or out of any of the rooms at that time, for the door of the private

room was wide open, and I was standing at the book-case (I had gone to

consult a book), just inside the door, with a full view of the doors

opposite. Indeed, Worsfold was at the door of the outer office most of the

short time. He came to ask me a question."



"Well," Hewitt replied, "it all comes to the simple first statement. You

know that nobody left the place or arrived, except the postman, who

couldn't get near the drawings, and yet the drawings went. Is this your

office?"



The cab had stopped before a large stone building. Mr. Dixon alighted and

led the way to the first-floor. Hewitt took a casual glance round each of

the three rooms. There was a sort of door in the frame of ground glass

over the barrier to admit of speech with visitors. This door Hewitt pushed

wide open, and left so.



He and the engineer went into the inner office. "Would you like to ask

Worsfold and Ritter any questions?" Mr. Dixon inquired.



"Presently. Those are their coats, I take it, hanging just to the right of

the outer office door, over the umbrella stand?"



"Yes, those are all their things--coats, hats, stick, and umbrella."



"And those coats were searched, you say?"



"Yes."



"And this is the drawer--thoroughly searched, of course?"



"Oh, certainly; every drawer was taken out and turned over."



"Well, of course I must assume you made no mistake in your hunt. Now tell

me, did anybody know where these plans were, beyond yourself and your two

men?"



"As far as I can tell, not a soul."



"You don't keep an office boy?"



"No. There would be nothing for him to do except to post a letter now and

again, which Ritter does quite well for."



"As you are quite sure that the drawings were there at ten o'clock,

perhaps the thing scarcely matters. But I may as well know if your men

have keys of the office?"



"Neither. I have patent locks to each door and I keep all the keys myself.

If Worsfold or Ritter arrive before me in the morning they have to wait to

be let in; and I am always present myself when the rooms are cleaned. I

have not neglected precautions, you see."



"No. I suppose the object of the theft--assuming it is a theft--is pretty

plain: the thief would offer the drawings for sale to some foreign

government?"



"Of course. They would probably command a great sum. I have been looking,

as I need hardly tell you, to that invention to secure me a very large

fortune, and I shall be ruined, indeed, if the design is taken abroad. I

am under the strictest engagements to secrecy with the Admiralty, and not

only should I lose all my labor, but I should lose all the confidence

reposed in me at headquarters; should, in fact, be subject to penalties

for breach of contract, and my career stopped forever. I can not tell you

what a serious business this is for me. If you can not help me, the

consequences will be terrible. Bad for the service of the country, too, of

course."



"Of course. Now tell me this: It would, I take it, be necessary for the

thief to exhibit these drawings to anybody anxious to buy the secret--I

mean, he couldn't describe the invention by word of mouth."



"Oh, no, that would be impossible. The drawings are of the most

complicated description, and full of figures upon which the whole thing

depends. Indeed, one would have to be a skilled expert to properly

appreciate the design at all. Various principles of hydrostatics,

chemistry, electricity, and pneumatics are most delicately manipulated and

adjusted, and the smallest error or omission in any part would upset the

whole. No, the drawings are necessary to the thing, and they are gone."



At this moment the door of the outer office was heard to open and somebody

entered. The door between the two offices was ajar, and Hewitt could see

right through to the glass door left open over the barrier and into the

space beyond. A well-dressed, dark, bushy-bearded man stood there carrying

a hand-bag, which he placed on the ledge before him. Hewitt raised his

hand to enjoin silence. The man spoke in a rather high-pitched voice and

with a slight accent. "Is Mr. Dixon now within?" he asked.



"He is engaged," answered one of the draughtsmen; "very particularly

engaged. I am afraid you won't be able to see him this afternoon. Can I

give him any message?"



"This is two--the second time I have come to-day. Not two hours ago Mr.

Dixon himself tells me to call again. I have a very important--very

excellent steam-packing to show him that is very cheap and the best of the

market." The man tapped his bag. "I have just taken orders from the

largest railway companies. Can not I see him, for one second only? I will

not detain him."



"Really, I'm sure you can't this afternoon; he isn't seeing anybody. But

if you'll leave your name----"



"My name is Hunter; but what the good of that? He ask me to call a little

later, and I come, and now he is engaged. It is a very great pity." And

the man snatched up his bag and walking-stick, and stalked off,

indignantly.



Hewitt stood still, gazing through the small aperture in the doorway.



"You'd scarcely expect a man with such a name as Hunter to talk with that

accent, would you?" he observed, musingly. "It isn't a French accent, nor

a German; but it seems foreign. You don't happen to know him, I suppose?"



"No, I don't. He called here about half-past twelve, just while we were in

the middle of our search and I was frantic over the loss of the drawings.

I was in the outer office myself, and told him to call later. I have lots

of such agents here, anxious to sell all sorts of engineering appliances.

But what will you do now? Shall you see my men?"



"I think," said Hewitt, rising--"I think I'll get you to question them

yourself."



"Myself?"



"Yes, I have a reason. Will you trust me with the 'key' of the private

room opposite? I will go over there for a little, while you talk to your

men in this room. Bring them in here and shut the door; I can look after

the office from across the corridor, you know. Ask them each to detail his

exact movements about the office this morning, and get them to recall each

visitor who has been here from the beginning of the week. I'll let you

know the reason of this later. Come across to me in a few minutes."



Hewitt took the key and passed through the outer office into the corridor.



Ten minutes later Mr. Dixon, having questioned his draughtsmen, followed

him. He found Hewitt standing before the table in the private room, on

which lay several drawings on tracing-paper.



"See here, Mr. Dixon," said Hewitt, "I think these are the drawings you

are anxious about?"



The engineer sprang toward them with a cry of delight. "Why, yes, yes," he

exclaimed, turning them over, "every one of them! But where--how--they

must have been in the place after all, then? What a fool I have been!"



Hewitt shook his head. "I'm afraid you're not quite so lucky as you think,

Mr. Dixon," he said. "These drawings have most certainly been out of the

house for a little while. Never mind how--we'll talk of that after. There

is no time to lose. Tell me--how long would it take a good draughtsman to

copy them?"



"They couldn't possibly be traced over properly in less than two or two

and a half long days of very hard work," Dixon replied with eagerness.



"Ah! then it is as I feared. These tracings have been photographed, Mr.

Dixon, and our task is one of every possible difficulty. If they had been

copied in the ordinary way, one might hope to get hold of the copy. But

photography upsets everything. Copies can be multiplied with such amazing

facility that, once the thief gets a decent start, it is almost hopeless

to checkmate him. The only chance is to get at the negatives before copies

are taken. I must act at once; and I fear, between ourselves, it may be

necessary for me to step very distinctly over the line of the law in the

matter. You see, to get at those negatives may involve something very like

house-breaking. There must be no delay, no waiting for legal procedure, or

the mischief is done. Indeed, I very much question whether you have any

legal remedy, strictly speaking."



"Mr. Hewitt, I implore you, do what you can. I need not say that all I

have is at your disposal. I will guarantee to hold you harmless for

anything that may happen. But do, I entreat you, do everything possible.

Think of what the consequences may be!"



"Well, yes, so I do," Hewitt remarked, with a smile. "The consequences to

me, if I were charged with house-breaking, might be something that no

amount of guarantee could mitigate. However, I will do what I can, if only

from patriotic motives. Now, I must see your tracer, Ritter. He is the

traitor in the camp."



"Ritter? But how?"



"Never mind that now. You are upset and agitated, and had better not know

more than is necessary for a little while, in case you say or do something

unguarded. With Ritter I must take a deep course; what I don't know I must

appear to know, and that will seem more likely to him if I disclaim

acquaintance with what I do know. But first put these tracings safely away

out of sight."



Dixon slipped them behind his book-case.



"Now," Hewitt pursued, "call Mr. Worsfold and give him something to do

that will keep him in the inner office across the way, and tell him to

send Ritter here."



Mr. Dixon called his chief draughtsman and requested him to put in order

the drawings in the drawers of the inner room that had been disarranged by

the search, and to send Ritter, as Hewitt had suggested.



Ritter walked into the private room with an air of respectful attention.

He was a puffy-faced, unhealthy-looking young man, with very small eyes



and a loose, mobile mouth.



"Sit down, Mr. Ritter," Hewitt said, in a stern voice. "Your recent

transactions with your friend Mr. Hunter are well known both to Mr. Dixon

and myself."



Ritter, who had at first leaned easily back in his chair, started forward

at this, and paled.



"You are surprised, I observe; but you should be more careful in your

movements out of doors if you do not wish your acquaintances to be known.

Mr. Hunter, I believe, has the drawings which Mr. Dixon has lost, and, if

so, I am certain that you have given them to him. That, you know, is

theft, for which the law provides a severe penalty."



Ritter broke down completely and turned appealingly to Mr. Dixon.



"Oh, sir," he pleaded, "it isn't so bad, I assure you. I was tempted, I

confess, and hid the drawings; but they are still in the office, and I can

give them to you--really, I can."



"Indeed?" Hewitt went on. "Then, in that case, perhaps you'd better get

them at once. Just go and fetch them in; we won't trouble to observe your

hiding-place. I'll only keep this door open, to be sure you don't lose

your way, you know--down the stairs, for instance."



The wretched Ritter, with hanging head, slunk into the office opposite.

Presently he reappeared, looking, if possible, ghastlier than before. He

looked irresolutely down the corridor, as if meditating a run for it, but

Hewitt stepped toward him and motioned him back to the private room.



"You mustn't try any more of that sort of humbug," Hewitt said with

increased severity. "The drawings are gone, and you have stolen them; you

know that well enough. Now attend to me. If you received your deserts, Mr.

Dixon would send for a policeman this moment, and have you hauled off to

the jail that is your proper place. But, unfortunately, your accomplice,

who calls himself Hunter--but who has other names besides that--as I

happen to know--has the drawings, and it is absolutely necessary that

these should be recovered. I am afraid that it will be necessary,

therefore, to come to some arrangement with this scoundrel--to square him,

in fact. Now, just take that pen and paper, and write to your confederate

as I dictate. You know the alternative if you cause any difficulty."



Ritter reached tremblingly for the pen.



"Address him in your usual way," Hewitt proceeded. "Say this: 'There has

been an alteration in the plans.' Have you got that? 'There has been an

alteration in the plans. I shall be alone here at six o'clock. Please

come, without fail.' Have you got it? Very well; sign it, and address the

envelope. He must come here, and then we may arrange matters. In the

meantime, you will remain in the inner office opposite."



The note was written, and Martin Hewitt, without glancing at the address,

thrust it into his pocket. When Ritter was safely in the inner office,

however, he drew it out and read the address. "I see," he observed, "he

uses the same name, Hunter; 27 Little Carton Street, Westminster, is the

address, and there I shall go at once with the note. If the man comes

here, I think you had better lock him in with Ritter, and send for a

policeman--it may at least frighten him. My object is, of course, to get

the man away, and then, if possible, to invade his house, in some way or

another, and steal or smash his negatives if they are there and to be

found. Stay here, in any case, till I return. And don't forget to lock up

those tracings."



* * * * *



It was about six o'clock when Hewitt returned, alone, but with a smiling

face that told of good fortune at first sight.



"First, Mr. Dixon," he said, as he dropped into an easy chair in the

private room, "let me ease your mind by the information that I have been

most extraordinarily lucky; in fact, I think you have no further cause for

anxiety. Here are the negatives. They were not all quite dry when I--well,

what?--stole them, I suppose I must say; so that they have stuck together

a bit, and probably the films are damaged. But you don't mind that, I

suppose?"



He laid a small parcel, wrapped in a newspaper, on the table. The engineer

hastily tore away the paper and took up five or six glass photographic

negatives, of a half-plate size, which were damp, and stuck together by

the gelatine films in couples. He held them, one after another, up to the

light of the window, and glanced through them. Then, with a great sigh of

relief, he placed them on the hearth and pounded them to dust and

fragments with the poker.



For a few seconds neither spoke. Then Dixon, flinging himself into a

chair, said:



"Mr. Hewitt, I can't express my obligation to you. What would have

happened if you had failed, I prefer not to think of. But what shall we do

with Ritter now? The other man hasn't been here yet, by the by."



"No; the fact is I didn't deliver the letter. The worthy gentleman saved

me a world of trouble by taking himself out of the way." Hewitt laughed.

"I'm afraid he has rather got himself into a mess by trying two kinds of

theft at once, and you may not be sorry to hear that his attempt on your

torpedo plans is likely to bring him a dose of penal servitude for

something else. I'll tell you what has happened.



"Little Carton Street, Westminster, I found to be a seedy sort of

place--one of those old streets that have seen much better days. A good

many people seem to live in each house--they are fairly large houses, by

the way--and there is quite a company of bell-handles on each doorpost,

all down the side like organ-stops. A barber had possession of the ground

floor front of No. 27 for trade purposes, so to him I went. 'Can you tell

me,' I said, 'where in this house I can find Mr. Hunter?' He looked

doubtful, so I went on: 'His friend will do, you know--I can't think of

his name; foreign gentleman, dark, with a bushy beard.'



"The barber understood at once. 'Oh, that's Mirsky, I expect,' he said.

'Now, I come to think of it, he has had letters addressed to Hunter once

or twice; I've took 'em in. Top floor back.'



"This was good so far. I had got at 'Mr. Hunter's' other alias. So, by way

of possessing him with the idea that I knew all about him, I determined to

ask for him as Mirsky before handing over the letter addressed to him as

Hunter. A little bluff of that sort is invaluable at the right time. At

the top floor back I stopped at the door and tried to open it at once, but

it was locked. I could hear somebody scuttling about within, as though

carrying things about, and I knocked again. In a little while the door

opened about a foot, and there stood Mr. Hunter--or Mirsky, as you

like--the man who, in the character of a traveler in steam-packing, came

here twice to-day. He was in his shirt-sleeves, and cuddled something

under his arm, hastily covered with a spotted pocket-handkerchief.



"'I have called to see M. Mirsky," I said, 'with a confidential

letter----'



"'Oh, yas, yas,' he answered hastily; 'I know--I know. Excuse me one

minute.' And he rushed off down-stairs with his parcel.



"Here was a noble chance. For a moment I thought of following him, in case

there might be something interesting in the parcel. But I had to decide in

a moment, and I decided on trying the room. I slipped inside the door,

and, finding the key on the inside, locked it. It was a confused sort of

room, with a little iron bedstead in one corner and a sort of rough

boarded inclosure in another. This I rightly conjectured to be the

photographic dark-room, and made for it at once.



"There was plenty of light within when the door was left open, and I made

at once for the drying-rack that was fastened over the sink. There were a

number of negatives in it, and I began hastily examining them one after

another. In the middle of this our friend Mirsky returned and tried the

door. He rattled violently at the handle and pushed. Then he called.



"At this moment I had come upon the first of the negatives you have just

smashed. The fixing and washing had evidently only lately been completed,

and the negative was drying on the rack. I seized it, of course, and the

others which stood by it.



"'Who are you, there, inside?' Mirsky shouted indignantly from the

landing. 'Why for you go in my room like that? Open this door at once, or

I call the police!'



"I took no notice. I had got the full number of negatives, one for each

drawing, but I was not by any means sure that he had not taken an extra

set; so I went on hunting down the rack. There were no more, so I set to

work to turn out all the undeveloped plates. It was quite possible, you

see, that the other set, if it existed, had not yet been developed.



"Mirsky changed his tune. After a little more banging and shouting I could

hear him kneel down and try the key-hole. I had left the key there, so

that he could see nothing. But he began talking softly and rapidly through

the hole in a foreign language. I did not know it in the least, but I

believe it was Russian. What had led him to believe I understood Russian I

could not at the time imagine, though I have a notion now. I went on

ruining his stock of plates. I found several boxes, apparently of new

plates, but, as there was no means of telling whether they were really

unused or Avere merely undeveloped, but with the chemical impress of your

drawings on them, I dragged every one ruthlessly from its hiding-place and

laid it out in the full glare of the sunlight--destroying it thereby, of

course, whether it was unused or not.



"Mirsky left off talking, and I heard him quietly sneaking off. Perhaps

his conscience was not sufficiently clear to warrant an appeal to the

police, but it seemed to me rather probable at the time that that was what

he was going for. So I hurried on with my work. I found three dark

slides--the parts that carried the plates in the back of the camera, you

know--one of them fixed in the camera itself. These I opened, and exposed

the plates to ruination as before. I suppose nobody ever did so much

devastation in a photographic studio in ten minutes as I managed.



"I had spoiled every plate I could find, and had the developed negatives

safely in my pocket, when I happened to glance at a porcelain washing-well

under the sink. There was one negative in that, and I took it up. It was

not a negative of a drawing of yours, but of a Russian twenty-ruble

note!"



This was a discovery. The only possible reason any man could have for

photographing a bank-note was the manufacture of an etched plate for the

production of forged copies. I was almost as pleased as I had been at the

discovery of your negatives. He might bring the police now as soon as he

liked; I could turn the tables on him completely. I began to hunt about

for anything else relating to this negative.



"I found an inking-roller, some old pieces of blanket (used in printing

from plates), and in a corner on the floor, heaped over with newspapers

and rubbish, a small copying-press. There was also a dish of acid, but not

an etched plate or a printed note to be seen. I was looking at the press,

with the negative in one hand and the inking-roller in the other, when I

became conscious of a shadow across the window. I looked up quickly, and

there was Mirsky hanging over from some ledge or projection to the side of

the window, and staring straight at me, with a look of unmistakable terror

and apprehension.



"The face vanished immediately. I had to move a table to get at the

window, and by the time I had opened it there was no sign or sound of the

rightful tenant of the room. I had no doubt now of his reason for carrying

a parcel down-stairs. He probably mistook me for another visitor he was

expecting, and, knowing he must take this visitor into his room, threw the

papers and rubbish over the press, and put up his plates and papers in a

bundle and secreted them somewhere down-stairs, lest his occupation should

be observed.



"Plainly, my duty now was to communicate with the police. So, by the help

of my friend the barber down-stairs, a messenger was found and a note sent

over to Scotland Yard. I awaited, of course, for the arrival of the

police, and occupied the interval in another look round--finding nothing

important, however. When the official detective arrived, he recognized at

once the importance of the case. A large number of forged Russian notes

have been put into circulation on the Continent lately, it seems, and it

was suspected that they came from London. The Russian Government have been

sending urgent messages to the police here on the subject.



"Of course I said nothing about your business; but, while I was talking

with the Scotland Yard man, a letter was left by a messenger, addressed to

Mirsky. The letter will be examined, of course, by the proper authorities,

but I was not a little interested to perceive that the envelope bore the

Russian imperial arms above the words 'Russian Embassy.' Now, why should

Mirsky communicate with the Russian Embassy? Certainly not to let the

officials know that he was carrying on a very extensive and lucrative

business in the manufacture of spurious Russian notes. I think it is

rather more than possible that he wrote--probably before he actually got

your drawings--to say that he could sell information of the highest

importance, and that this letter was a reply. Further, I think it quite

possible that, when I asked for him by his Russian name and spoke of 'a

confidential letter,' he at once concluded that I had come from the

embassy in answer to his letter. That would account for his addressing me

in Russian through the key-hole; and, of course, an official from the

Russian Embassy would be the very last person in the world whom he would

like to observe any indications of his little etching experiments. But,

anyhow, be that as it may," Hewitt concluded, "your drawings are safe now,

and if once Mirsky is caught, and I think it likely, for a man in his

shirt-sleeves, with scarcely any start, and, perhaps, no money about him,

hasn't a great chance to get away--if he is caught, I say, he will

probably get something handsome at St. Petersburg in the way of

imprisonment, or Siberia, or what not; so that you will be amply avenged."



"Yes, but I don't at all understand this business of the drawings even

now. How in the world were they taken out of the place, and how in the

world did you find it out?"



"Nothing could be simpler; and yet the plan was rather ingenious. I'll

tell you exactly how the thing revealed itself to me. From your original

description of the case many people would consider that an impossibility

had been performed. Nobody had gone out and nobody had come in, and yet

the drawings had been taken away. But an impossibility is an

impossibility, after all, and as drawings don't run away of themselves,

plainly somebody had taken them, unaccountable as it might seem. Now, as

they were in your inner office, the only people who could have got at them

besides yourself were your assistants, so that it was pretty clear that

one of them, at least, had something to do with the business. You told me

that Worsfold was an excellent and intelligent draughtsman. Well, if such

a man as that meditated treachery, he would probably be able to carry away

the design in his head--at any rate, a little at a time--and would be

under no necessity to run the risk of stealing a set of the drawings. But

Ritter, you remarked, was an inferior sort of man. 'Not particularly

smart,' I think, were your words--only a mechanical sort of tracer. He

would be unlikely to be able to carry in his head the complicated details

of such designs as yours, and, being in a subordinate position, and

continually overlooked, he would find it impossible to make copies of the

plans in the office. So that, to begin with, I thought I saw the most

probable path to start on.



"When I looked round the rooms, I pushed open the glass door of the

barrier and left the door to the inner office ajar, in order to be able to

see any thing that might happen in any part of the place, without

actually expecting any definite development. While we were talking, as it

happened, our friend Mirsky (or Hunter--as you please) came into the outer

office, and my attention was instantly called to him by the first thing he

did. Did you notice anything peculiar yourself?"



"No, really, I can't say I did. He seemed to behave much as any traveler

or agent might."



"Well, what I noticed was the fact that as soon as he entered the place he

put his walking-stick into the umbrella-stand over there by the door,

close by where he stood, a most unusual thing for a casual caller to do,

before even knowing whether you were in. This made me watch him closely. I

perceived with increased interest that the stick was exactly of the same

kind and pattern as one already standing there, also a curious thing. I

kept my eyes carefully on those sticks, and was all the more interested

and edified to see, when he left, that he took the other stick--not the

one he came with--from the stand, and carried it away, leaving his own

behind. I might have followed him, but I decided that more could be

learned by staying, as, in fact, proved to be the case. This, by the by,

is the stick he carried away with him. I took the liberty of fetching it

back from Westminster, because I conceive it to be Ritier's property."



Hewitt produced the stick. It was an ordinary, thick Malacca cane, with a

buck-horn handle and a silver band. Hewitt bent it across his knee and

laid it on the table.



"Yes," Dixon answered, "that is Ritter's stick. I think I have often seen

it in the stand. But what in the world----"



"One moment; I'll just fetch the stick Mirsky left behind." And Hewitt

stepped across the corridor.



He returned with another stick, apparently an exact fac-simile of the

other, and placed it by the side of the other.



"When your assistants went into the inner room, I carried this stick off

for a minute or two. I knew it was not Worsfold's, because there was an

umbrella there with his initial on the handle. Look at this."



Martin Hewitt gave the handle a twist and rapidly unscrewed it from the

top. Then it was seen that the stick was a mere tube of very thin metal,

painted to appear like a Malacca cane.



"It was plain at once that this was no Malacca cane--it wouldn't bend.

Inside it I found your tracings, rolled up tightly. You can get a

marvelous quantity of thin tracing-paper into a small compass by tight

rolling."



"And this--this was the way they were brought back!" the engineer

exclaimed. "I see that clearly. But how did they get away? That's as

mysterious as ever."



"Not a bit of it! See here. Mirsky gets hold of Ritter, and they agree to

get your drawings and photograph them. Ritter is to let his confederate

have the drawings, and Mirsky is to bring them back as soon as possible,

so that they sha'n't be missed for a moment. Ritter habitually carries

this Malacca cane, and the cunning of Mirsky at once suggests that this

tube should be made in outward fac-simile. This morning Mirsky keeps the

actual stick, and Ritter comes to the office with the tube. He seizes the

first opportunity--probably when you were in this private room, and

Worsfold was talking to you from the corridor--to get at the tracings,

roll them up tightly, and put them in the tube, putting the tube back into

the umbrella-stand. At half-past twelve, or whenever it was, Mirsky turns

up for the first time with the actual stick and exchanges them, just as he

afterward did when he brought the drawings back."



"Yes, but Mirsky came half an hour after they were--Oh, yes, I see. What a

fool I was! I was forgetting. Of course, when I first missed the tracings,

they were in this walking-stick, safe enough, and I was tearing my hair

out within arm's reach of them!"



"Precisely. And Mirsky took them away before your very eyes. I expect

Ritter was in a rare funk when he found that the drawings were missed. He

calculated, no doubt, on your not wanting them for the hour or two they

would be out of the office."



"How lucky that it struck me to jot a pencil-note on one of them! I might

easily have made my note somewhere else, and then I should never have

known that they had been away."



"Yes, they didn't give you any too much time to miss them. Well, I think

the rest pretty clear. I brought the tracings in here, screwed up the sham

stick and put it back. You identified the tracings and found none missing,

and then my course was pretty clear, though it looked difficult. I knew

you would be very naturally indignant with Ritter, so, as I wanted to

manage him myself, I told you nothing of what he had actually done, for

fear that, in your agitated state, you might burst out with something that

would spoil my game. To Ritter I pretended to know nothing of the return

of the drawings or how they had been stolen--the only things I did know

with certainty. But I did pretend to know all about Mirsky--or

Hunter--when, as a matter of fact, I knew nothing at all, except that he

probably went under more than one name. That put Ritter into my hands

completely. When he found the game was up, he began with a lying

confession. Believing that the tracings were still in the stick and that

we knew nothing of their return, he said that they had not been away, and

that he would fetch them--as I had expected he would. I let him go for

them alone, and, when he returned, utterly broken up by the discovery that

they were not there, I had him altogether at my mercy. You see, if he had

known that the drawings were all the time behind your book-case, he might

have brazened it out, sworn that the drawings had been there all the time,

and we could have done nothing with him. We couldn't have sufficiently

frightened him by a threat of prosecution for theft, because there the

things were in your possession, to his knowledge.



"As it was he answered the helm capitally: gave us Mirsky's address on the

envelope, and wrote the letter that was to have got him out of the way

while I committed burglary, if that disgraceful expedient had not been

rendered unnecessary. On the whole, the case has gone very well."



"It has gone marvelously well, thanks to yourself. But what shall I do

with Ritter?"



"Here's his stick--knock him down-stairs with it, if you like. I should

keep the tube, if I were you, as a memento. I don't suppose the

respectable Mirsky will ever call to ask for it. But I should certainly

kick Ritter out of doors--or out of window, if you like--without delay."



Mirsky was caught, and, after two remands at the police-court, was

extradited on the charge of forging Russian notes. It came out that he had

written to the embassy, as Hewitt had surmised, stating that he had

certain valuable information to offer, and the letter which Hewitt had

seen delivered was an acknowledgment, and a request for more definite

particulars. This was what gave rise to the impression that Mirsky had

himself informed the Russian authorities of his forgeries. His real intent

was very different, but was never guessed.



* * * * *



"I wonder," Hewitt has once or twice observed, "whether, after all, it

would not have paid the Russian authorities better on the whole if I had

never investigated Mirsky's little note factory. The Dixon torpedo was

worth a good many twenty-ruble notes."





The Case Of Mr Foggatt The Case Of The Pocket Diary Found In The Snow facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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