The Case Of Mr Foggatt
Almost the only dogmatism that Martin Hewitt permitted himself in regard
to his professional methods was one on the matter of accumulative
probabilities. Often when I have remarked upon the apparently trivial
nature of the clews by which he allowed himself to be guided--sometimes,
to all seeming, in the very face of all likelihood--he has replied that
two trivialities, pointing in the same direction, became at once, by their
mere agreement, no trivialities at all, but enormously important
considerations. "If I were in search of a man," he would say, "of whom I
knew nothing but that he squinted, bore a birthmark on his right hand, and
limped, and I observed a man who answered to the first peculiarity, so far
the clue would be trivial, because thousands of men squint. Now, if that
man presently moved and exhibited a birthmark on his right hand, the
value of that squint and that mark would increase at once a hundred or
a thousand fold. Apart they are little; together much. The weight of
evidence is not doubled merely; it would be only doubled if half the men
who squinted had right-hand birthmarks; whereas the proportion, if it
could be ascertained, would be, perhaps, more like one in ten thousand.
The two trivialities, pointing in the same direction, become very strong
evidence. And, when the man is seen to walk with a limp, that limp
(another triviality), re-enforcing the others, brings the matter to the
rank of a practical certainty. The Bertillon system of identification--what
is it but a summary of trivialities? Thousands of men are of the same
height, thousands of the same length of foot, thousands of the same girth
of head--thousands correspond in any separate measurement you may name. It
is when the measurements are taken together that you have your man
identified forever. Just consider how few, if any, of your friends
correspond exactly in any two personal peculiarities." Hewitt's dogma
received its illustration unexpectedly close at home.
The old house wherein my chambers and Hewitt's office were situated
contained, besides my own, two or three more bachelors' dens, in addition
to the offices on the ground and first and second floors. At the very top
of all, at the back, a fat, middle-aged man, named Foggatt, occupied a set
of four rooms. It was only after a long residence, by an accidental remark
of the housekeeper's, that I learned the man's name, which was not painted
on his door or displayed, with all the others, on the wall of the
Mr. Foggatt appeared to have few friends, but lived in something as nearly
approaching luxury as an old bachelor living in chambers can live. An
ascending case of champagne was a common phenomenon of the staircase, and
I have more than once seen a picture, destined for the top floor, of a
sort that went far to awaken green covetousness in the heart of a poor
The man himself was not altogether prepossessing. Fat as he was, he had a
way of carrying his head forward on his extended neck and gazing widely
about with a pair of the roundest and most prominent eyes I remember to
have ever seen, except in a fish. On the whole, his appearance was rather
vulgar, rather arrogant, and rather suspicious, without any very
pronounced quality of any sort. But certainly he was not pretty. In the
end, however, he was found shot dead in his sitting-room.
It was in this way: Hewitt and I had dined together at my club, and late
in the evening had returned to my rooms to smoke and discuss whatever came
uppermost. I had made a bargain that day with two speculative odd lots at
a book sale, each of which contained a hidden prize. We sat talking and
turning over these books while time went unperceived, when suddenly we
were startled by a loud report. Clearly it was in the building. We
listened for a moment, but heard nothing else, and then Hewitt expressed
his opinion that the report was that of a gunshot. Gunshots in residential
chambers are not common things, wherefore I got up and went to the
landing, looking up the stairs and down.
At the top of the next flight I saw Mrs. Clayton, the housekeeper. She
appeared to be frightened, and told me that the report came from Mr.
Foggatt's room. She thought he might have had an accident with the pistol
that usually lay on his mantel-piece. We went upstairs with her, and she
knocked at Mr. Foggatt's door.
There was no reply. Through the ventilating fanlight over the door it
could be seen that there were lights within, a sign, Mrs. Clayton
maintained, that Mr. Foggatt was not out. We knocked again, much more
loudly, and called, but still ineffectually. The door was locked, and an
application of the housekeeper's key proved that the tenant's key had been
left in the lock inside. Mrs. Clayton's conviction that "something had
happened" became distressing, and in the end Hewitt pried open the door
with a small poker.
Something had happened. In the sitting-room Mr. Foggatt sat with his
head bowed over the table, quiet and still. The head was ill to look at,
and by it lay a large revolver, of the full-sized army pattern. Mrs.
Clayton ran back toward the landing with faint screams.
"Run, Brett!" said Hewitt; "a doctor and a policeman!"
I bounced down the stairs half a flight at a time. "First," I thought, "a
doctor. He may not be dead." I could think of no doctor in the immediate
neighborhood, but ran up the street away from the Strand, as being the
more likely direction for the doctor, although less so for the policeman.
It took me a good five minutes to find the medico, after being led astray
by a red lamp at a private hotel, and another five to get back, with a
Foggatt was dead, without a doubt. Probably had shot himself, the doctor
thought, from the powder-blackening and other circumstances. Certainly
nobody could have left the room by the door, or he must have passed my
landing, while the fact of the door being found locked from the inside
made the thing impossible. There were two windows to the room, both of
which were shut, one being fastened by the catch, while the catch of the
other was broken--an old fracture. Below these windows was a sheer drop of
fifty feet or more, without a foot or hand-hold near. The windows in the
other rooms were shut and fastened. Certainly it seemed suicide--unless it
were one of those accidents that will occur to people who fiddle
ignorantly with firearms. Soon the rooms were in possession of the police,
and we were turned out.
We looked in at the housekeeper's kitchen, where her daughter was reviving
and calming Mrs. Clayton with gin and water.
"You mustn't upset yourself, Mrs. Clayton," Hewitt said, "or what will
become of us all? The doctor thinks it was an accident."
He took a small bottle of sewing-machine oil from his pocket and handed it
to the daughter, thanking her for the loan.
* * * * *
There was little evidence at the inquest. The shot had been heard, the
body had been found--that was the practical sum of the matter. No friends
or relatives of the dead man came forward. The doctor gave his opinion as
to the probability of suicide or an accident, and the police evidence
tended in the same direction. Nothing had been found to indicate that any
other person had been near the dead man's rooms on the night of the
fatality. On the other hand, his papers, bankbook, etc., proved him to be
a man of considerable substance, with no apparent motive for suicide. The
police had been unable to trace any relatives, or, indeed, any nearer
connections than casual acquaintances, fellow-clubmen, and so on. The jury
found that Mr. Foggatt had died by accident.
"Well, Brett," Hewitt asked me afterward, "what do you think of the
I said that it seemed to be the most reasonable one possible, and to
square with the common-sense view of the case.
"Yes," he replied, "perhaps it does. From the point of view of the jury,
and on their information, their verdict was quite reasonable.
Nevertheless, Mr. Foggatt did not shoot himself. He was shot by a rather
tall, active young man, perhaps a sailor, but certainly a gymnast--a young
man whom I think I could identify if I saw him."
"But how do you know this?"
"By the simplest possible inferences, which you may easily guess, if you
will but think."
"But, then, why didn't you say this at the inquest?"
"My dear fellow, they don't want any inferences and conjectures at an
inquest; they only want evidence. If I had traced the murderer, of course
then I should have communicated with the police. As a matter of fact, it
is quite possible that the police have observed and know as much as I
do--or more. They don't give everything away at an inquest, you know. It
"But, if you are right, how did the man get away?"
"Come, we are near home now. Let us take a look at the back of the house.
He couldn't have left by Foggatt's landing door, as we know; and as he
was there (I am certain of that), and as the chimney is out of the
question--for there was a good fire in the grate--he must have gone out by
the window. Only one window is possible--that with the broken catch--for
all the others were fastened inside. Out of that window, then, he went."
"But how? The window is fifty feet up."
"Of course it is. But why will you persist in assuming that the only way
of escape by a window is downward? See, now, look up there. The window is
at the top floor, and it has a very broad sill. Over the window is nothing
but the flat face of the gable-end; but to the right, and a foot or two
above the level of the top of the window, an iron gutter ends. Observe, it
is not of lead composition, but a strong iron gutter, supported, just at
its end, by an iron bracket. If a tall man stood on the end of the
window-sill, steadying himself by the left hand and leaning to the right,
he could just touch the end of this gutter with his right hand. The full
stretch, toe to finger, is seven feet three inches. I have measured it. An
active gymnast, or a sailor, could catch the gutter with a slight spring,
and by it draw himself upon the roof. You will say he would have to be
very active, dexterous, and cool. So he would. And that very fact helps
us, because it narrows the field of inquiry. We know the sort of man to
look for. Because, being certain (as I am) that the man was in the room, I
know that he left in the way I am telling you. He must have left in some
way, and, all the other ways being impossible, this alone remains,
difficult as the feat may seem. The fact of his shutting the window behind
him further proves his coolness and address at so great a height from the
All this was very plain, but the main point was still dark.
"You say you know that another man was in the room," I said; "how do you
"As I said, by an obvious inference. Come, now, you shall guess how I
arrived at that inference. You often speak of your interest in my work,
and the attention with which you follow it. This shall be a simple
exercise for you. You saw everything in the room as plainly as I myself.
Bring the scene back to your memory, and think over the various small
objects littering about, and how they would affect the case. Quick
observation is the first essential for my work. Did you see a newspaper,
"Yes. There was an evening paper on the floor, but I didn't examine it."
"On the table there was a whisky decanter, taken from the tantalus-stand
on the sideboard, and one glass. That, by the by," I added, "looked as
though only one person were present."
"So it did, perhaps, although the inference wouldn't be very strong. Go
"There was a fruit-stand on the sideboard, with a plate beside it
containing a few nutshells, a piece of apple, a pair of nut-crackers, and,
I think, some orange peel. There was, of course, all the ordinary
furniture, but no chair pulled up to the table, except that used by
Foggatt himself. That's all I noticed, I think. Stay--there was an
ash-tray on the table, and a partly burned cigar near it--only one cigar,
"Excellent--excellent, indeed, as far as memory and simple observation go.
You saw everything plainly, and you remember everything. Surely now you
know how I found out that another man had just left?"
"No, I don't; unless there were different kinds of ash in the ash-tray."
"That is a fairly good suggestion, but there were not--there was only a
single ash, corresponding in every way to that on the cigar. Don't you
remember everything that I did as we went down-stairs?"
"You returned a bottle of oil to the housekeeper's daughter, I think."
"I did. Doesn't that give you a hint? Come, you surely have it now?"
"Then I sha'n't tell you; you don't deserve it. Think, and don't mention
the subject again till you have at least one guess to make. The thing
stares you in the face; you see it, you remember it, and yet you won't
see it. I won't encourage your slovenliness of thought, my boy, by telling
you what you can know for yourself if you like. Good-by--I'm off now.
There's a case in hand I can't neglect."
"Don't you propose to go further into this, then?"
Hewitt shrugged his shoulders. "I'm not a policeman," he said. "The case
is in very good hands. Of course, if anybody comes to me to do it as a
matter of business, I'll take it up. It's very interesting, but I can't
neglect my regular work for it. Naturally, I shall keep my eyes open and
my memory in order. Sometimes these things come into the hands by
themselves, as it were; in that case, of course, I am a loyal citizen, and
ready to help the law. Au revoir!"
* * * * *
I am a busy man myself, and thought little more of Hewitt's conundrum for
some time; indeed, when I did think, I saw no way to the answer. A week
after the inquest I took a holiday (I had written my nightly leaders
regularly every day for the past five years), and saw no more of Hewitt
for six weeks. After my return, with still a few days of leave to run, one
evening we together turned into Luzatti's, off Coventry Street, for
"I have been here several times lately," Hewitt said; "they feed you very
well. No, not that table"--he seized my arm as I turned to an unoccupied
corner--"I fancy it's draughty." He led the way to a longer table where a
dark, lithe, and (as well as could be seen) tall young man already sat,
and took chairs opposite him.
We had scarcely seated ourselves before Hewitt broke into a torrent of
conversation on the subject of bicycling. As our previous conversation had
been of a literary sort, and as I had never known Hewitt at any other time
to show the slightest interest in bicycling, this rather surprised me. I
had, however, such a general outsider's grasp of the subject as is usual
in a journalist-of-all-work, and managed to keep the talk going from my
side. As we went on I could see the face of the young man opposite
brighten with interest. He was a rather fine-looking fellow, with a dark,
though very clear skin, but had a hard, angry look of eye, a prominence of
cheek-bone, and a squareness of jaw that gave him a rather uninviting
aspect. As Hewitt rattled on, however, our neighbor's expression became
one of pleasant interest merely.
"Of course," Hewitt said, "we've a number of very capital men just now,
but I believe a deal in the forgotten riders of five, ten, and fifteen
years back. Osmond, I believe, was better than any man riding now, and I
think it would puzzle some of them to beat Furnivall as he was, at his
best. But poor old Cortis--really, I believe he was as good as anybody.
Nobody ever beat Cortis--except--let me see--I think somebody beat Cortis
once--who was it now? I can't remember."
"Liles," said the young man opposite, looking up quickly.
"Ah, yes--Liles it was; Charley Liles. Wasn't it a championship?"
"Mile championship, 1880; Cortis won the other three, though."
"Yes, so he did. I saw Cortis when he first broke the old 2.46 mile
record." And straightway Hewitt plunged into a whirl of talk of bicycles,
tricycles, records, racing cyclists, Hillier, and Synyer and Noel Whiting,
Taylerson and Appleyard--talk wherein the young man opposite bore an
animated share, while I was left in the cold.
Our new friend, it seems, had himself been a prominent racing bicyclist a
few years back, and was presently, at Hewitt's request, exhibiting a neat
gold medal that hung at his watch-guard. That was won, he explained, in
the old tall bicycle days, the days of bad tracks, when every racing
cyclist carried cinder scars on his face from numerous accidents. He
pointed to a blue mark on his forehead, which, he told us, was a track
scar, and described a bad fall that had cost him two teeth, and broken
others. The gaps among his teeth were plain to see as he smiled.
Presently the waiter brought dessert, and the young man opposite took an
apple. Nut-crackers and a fruit-knife lay on our side of the stand, and
Hewitt turned the stand to offer him the knife.
"No, thanks," he said; "I only polish a good apple, never peel it. It's a
mistake, except with thick-skinned foreign ones."
And he began to munch the apple as only a boy or a healthy athlete can.
Presently he turned his head to order coffee. The waiter's back was
turned, and he had to be called twice. To my unutterable amazement Hewitt
reached swiftly across the table, snatched the half-eaten apple from the
young man's plate and pocketed it, gazing immediately, with an abstracted
air, at a painted Cupid on the ceiling.
Our neighbor turned again, looked doubtfully at his plate and the
table-cloth about it, and then shot a keen glance in the direction of
Hewitt. He said nothing, however, but took his coffee and his bill,
deliberately drank the former, gazing quietly at Hewitt as he did it, paid
the latter, and left.
Immediately Hewitt was on his feet and, taking an umbrella, which stood
near, followed. Just as he reached the door he met our late neighbor, who
had turned suddenly back.
"Your umbrella, I think?" Hewitt asked, offering it.
"Yes, thanks." But the man's eye had more than its former hardness, and
his jaw muscles tightened as I looked. He turned and went. Hewitt came
back to me. "Pay the bill," he said, "and go back to your rooms; I will
come on later. I must follow this man--it's the Foggatt case." As he went
out I heard a cab rattle away, and immediately after it another.
I paid the bill and went home. It was ten o'clock before Hewitt turned up,
calling in at his office below on his way up to me.
"Mr. Sidney Mason," he said, "is the gentleman the police will be wanting
to-morrow, I expect, for the Foggatt murder. He is as smart a man as I
remember ever meeting, and has done me rather neatly twice this evening."
"You mean the man we sat opposite at Luzatti's, of course?"
"Yes, I got his name, of course, from the reverse of that gold medal he
was good enough to show me. But I fear he has bilked me over the address.
He suspected me, that was plain, and left his umbrella by way of
experiment to see if I were watching him sharply enough to notice the
circumstance, and to avail myself of it to follow him. I was hasty and
fell into the trap. He cabbed it away from Luzatti's, and I cabbed it
after him. He has led me a pretty dance up and down London to-night, and
two cabbies have made quite a stroke of business out of us. In the end he
entered a house of which, of course, I have taken the address, but I
expect he doesn't live there. He is too smart a man to lead me to his den;
but the police can certainly find something of him at the house he went in
at--and, I expect, left by the back way. By the way, you never guessed
that simple little puzzle as to how I found that this was a murder, did
you? You see it now, of course?"
"Something to do with that apple you stole, I suppose?"
"Something to do with it? I should think so, you worthy innocent. Just
ring your bell; we'll borrow Mrs. Clayton's sewing-machine oil again. On
the night we broke into Foggatt's room you saw the nutshells and the
bitten remains of an apple on the sideboard, and you remembered it; and
yet you couldn't see that in that piece of apple possibly lay an important
piece of evidence. Of course I never expected you to have arrived at any
conclusion, as I had, because I had ten minutes in which to examine that
apple, and to do what I did with it. But, at least, you should have seen
the possibility of evidence in it.
"First, now, the apple was white. A bitten apple, as you must have
observed, turns of a reddish brown color if left to stand long. Different
kinds of apples brown with different rapidities, and the browning always
begins at the core. This is one of the twenty thousand tiny things that
few people take the trouble to notice, but which it is useful for a man in
my position to know. A russet will brown quite quickly. The apple on the
sideboard was, as near as I could tell, a Newtown pippin or other apple of
that kind, which will brown at the core in from twenty minutes to half an
hour, and in other parts in a quarter of an hour more. When we saw it, it
was white, with barely a tinge of brown about the exposed core. Inference,
somebody had been eating it fifteen or twenty minutes before, perhaps a
little longer--an inference supported by the fact that it was only partly
"I examined that apple, and found it bore marks of very irregular teeth.
While you were gone, I oiled it over, and, rushing down to my rooms, where
I always have a little plaster of Paris handy for such work, took a mold
of the part where the teeth had left the clearest marks. I then returned
the apple to its place for the police to use if they thought fit. Looking
at my mold, it was plain that the person who had bitten that apple had
lost two teeth, one at top and one below, not exactly opposite, but nearly
so. The other teeth, although they would appear to have been fairly sound,
were irregular in size and line. Now, the dead man had, as I saw, a very
excellent set of false teeth, regular and sharp, with none missing.
Therefore it was plain that somebody else had been eating that apple. Do
I make myself clear?"
"Quite! Go on!"
"There were other inferences to be made--slighter, but all pointing the
same way. For instance, a man of Foggatt's age does not, as a rule, munch
an unpeeled apple like a school-boy. Inference, a young man, and healthy.
Why I came to the conclusion that he was tall, active, a gymnast, and
perhaps a sailor, I have already told you, when we examined the outside of
Foggatt's window. It was also pretty clear that robbery was not the
motive, since nothing was disturbed, and that a friendly conversation had
preceded the murder--witness the drinking and the eating of the apple.
Whether or not the police noticed these things I can't say. If they had
had their best men on, they certainly would, I think; but the case, to a
rough observer, looked so clearly one of accident or suicide that possibly
"As I said, after the inquest I was unable to devote any immediate time to
the case, but I resolved to keep my eyes open. The man to look for was
tall, young, strong and active, with a very irregular set of teeth, a
tooth missing from the lower jaw just to the left of the center, and
another from the upper jaw a little farther still toward the left. He
might possibly be a person I had seen about the premises (I have a good
memory for faces), or, of course, he possibly might not.
"Just before you returned from your holiday I noticed a young man at
Luzatti's whom I remembered to have seen somewhere about the offices in
this building. He was tall, young, and so on, but I had a client with me,
and was unable to examine him more narrowly; indeed, as I was not exactly
engaged on the case, and as there are several tall young men about, I took
little trouble. But to-day, finding the same young man with a vacant seat
opposite him, I took the opportunity of making a closer acquaintance."
"You certainly managed to draw him out."
"Oh, yes; the easiest person in the world to draw out is a cyclist. The
easiest cyclist to draw out is, of course, the novice, but the next
easiest is the veteran. When you see a healthy, well-trained-looking man,
who, nevertheless, has a slight stoop in the shoulders, and, maybe, a
medal on his watch-guard, it is always a safe card to try him first with a
little cycle-racing talk. I soon brought Mr. Mason out of his shell, read
his name on his medal, and had a chance of observing his teeth--indeed, he
spoke of them himself. Now, as I observed just now, there are several
tall, athletic young men about, and also there are several men who have
lost teeth. But now I saw that this tall and athletic young man had lost
exactly two teeth--one from the lower jaw, just to the left of the
center, and another from the upper jaw, farther still toward the left!
Trivialities, pointing in the same direction, became important
considerations. More, his teeth were irregular throughout, and, as nearly
as I could remember it, looked remarkably like this little plaster mold of
He produced from his pocket an irregular lump of plaster, about three
inches long. On one side of this appeared in relief the likeness of two
irregular rows of six or eight teeth, minus one in each row, where a deep
gap was seen, in the position spoken of by my friend. He proceeded:
"This was enough at least to set me after this young man. But he gave me
the greatest chance of all when he turned and left his apple (eaten
unpeeled, remember!--another important triviality) on his plate. I'm
afraid I wasn't at all polite, and I ran the risk of arousing his
suspicions, but I couldn't resist the temptation to steal it. I did, as
you saw, and here it is."
He brought the apple from his coat-pocket. One bitten side, placed against
the upper half of the mold, fitted precisely, a projection of apple
filling exactly the deep gap. The other side similarly fitted the lower
"There's no getting behind that, you see," Hewitt remarked. "Merely
observing the man's teeth was a guide, to some extent, but this is as
plain as his signature or his thumb impression. You'll never find two men
bite exactly alike, no matter whether they leave distinct teeth-marks or
not. Here, by the by, is Mrs. Clayton's oil. We'll take another mold from
this apple, and compare them."
He oiled the apple, heaped a little plaster in a newspaper, took my
water-jug, and rapidly pulled off a hard mold. The parts corresponding to
the merely broken places in the apple were, of course, dissimilar; but as
to the teeth-marks, the impressions were identical.
"That will do, I think," Hewitt said. "Tomorrow morning, Brett, I shall
put up these things in a small parcel, and take them round to Bow Street."
"But are they sufficient evidence?"
"Quite sufficient for the police purpose. There is the man, and all the
rest--his movements on the day and so forth--are simple matters of
inquiry; at any rate, that is police business."
* * * * *
I had scarcely sat down to my breakfast on the following morning when
Hewitt came into the room and put a long letter before me.
"From our friend of last night," he said; "read it."
This letter began abruptly, and undated, and was as follows:
"TO MARTIN HEWITT, ESQ.
"SIR: I must compliment you on the adroitness you exhibited this evening
in extracting from me my name. The address I was able to balk you of for
the time being, although by the time you read this you will probably have
found it through the Law List, as I am an admitted solicitor. That,
however, will be of little use to you, for I am removing myself, I think,
beyond the reach even of your abilities of search. I knew you well by
sight, and was, perhaps, foolish to allow myself to be drawn as I did.
Still, I had no idea that it would be dangerous, especially after seeing
you, as a witness with very little to say, at the inquest upon the
scoundrel I shot. Your somewhat discourteous seizure of my apple at first
amazed me--indeed, I was a little doubtful as to whether you had really
taken it--but it was my first warning that you might be playing a deep
game against me, incomprehensible as the action was to my mind. I
subsequently reflected that I had been eating an apple, instead of taking
the drink he first offered me, in the dead wretch's rooms on the night he
came to his merited end. From this I assume that your design was in some
way to compare what remained of the two apples--although I do not presume
to fathom the depths of your detective system. Still, I have heard of many
of your cases, and profoundly admire the keenness you exhibit. I am
thought to be a keen man myself, but, although I was able, to some extent,
to hold my own to-night, I admit that your acumen in this case alone is
something beyond me.
"I do not know by whom you are commissioned to hunt me, nor to what extent
you may be acquainted with my connection with the creature I killed. I
have sufficient respect for you, however, to wish that you should not
regard me as a vicious criminal, and a couple of hours to spare in which
to offer you an explanation that will convince you that such is not
altogether the case. A hasty and violent temper I admit possessing; but
even now I can not forget the one crime it has led me into--for it is, I
suppose, strictly speaking, a crime. For it was the man Foggatt who made a
felon of my father before the eyes of the world, and killed him with
shame. It was he who murdered my mother, and none the less murdered her
because she died of a broken heart. That he was also a thief and a
hypocrite might have concerned me little but for that.
"Of my father I remember very little. He must, I fear, have been a weak
and incapable man in many respects. He had no business abilities--in fact,
was quite unable to understand the complicated business matters in which
he largely dealt. Foggatt was a consummate master of all those arts of
financial jugglery that make so many fortunes, and ruin so many others, in
matters of company promoting, stocks, and shares. He was unable to
exercise them, however, because of a great financial disaster in which he
had been mixed up a few years before, and which made his name one to be
avoided in future. In these circumstances he made a sort of secret and
informal partnership with my father, who, ostensibly alone in the
business, acted throughout on the directions of Foggatt, understanding as
little what he did, poor, simple man, as a schoolboy would have done. The
transactions carried on went from small to large, and, unhappily from
honorable to dishonorable. My father relied on the superior abilities of
Foggatt with an absolute trust, carrying out each day the directions given
him privately the previous evening, buying, selling, printing
prospectuses, signing whatever had to be signed, all with sole
responsibility and as sole partner, while Foggatt, behind the scenes
absorbed the larger share of the profits. In brief, my unhappy and foolish
father was a mere tool in the hands of the cunning scoundrel who pulled
all the wires of the business, himself unseen and irresponsible. At last
three companies, for the promotion of which my father was responsible,
came to grief in a heap. Fraud was written large over all their history,
and, while Foggatt retired with his plunder, my father was left to meet
ruin, disgrace, and imprisonment. From beginning to end he, and he only,
was responsible. There was no shred of evidence to connect Foggatt with
the matter, and no means of escape from the net drawn about my father. He
lived through three years of imprisonment, and then, entirely abandoned by
the man who had made use of his simplicity, he died--of nothing but shame
and a broken heart.
"Of this I knew nothing at the time. Again and again, as a small boy, I
remember asking of my mother why I had no father at home, as other boys
had--unconscious of the stab I thus inflicted on her gentle heart. Of her
my earliest, as well as my latest, memory is that of a pale, weeping
woman, who grudged to let me out of her sight.
"Little by little I learned the whole cause of my mother's grief, for she
had no other confidant, and I fear my character developed early, for my
first coherent remembrance of the matter is that of a childish design to
take a table-knife and kill the bad man who had made my father die in
prison and caused my mother to cry.
"One thing, however, I never knew--the name of that bad man. Again and
again, as I grew older, I demanded to know, but my mother always withheld
it from me, with a gentle reminder that vengeance was for a greater hand
"I was seventeen years of age when my mother died. I believe that nothing
but her strong attachment to myself and her desire to see me safely
started in life kept her alive so long. Then I found that through all
those years of narrowed means she had contrived to scrape and save a
little money--sufficient, as it afterward proved, to see me through the
examinations for entrance to my profession, with the generous assistance
of my father's old legal advisers, who gave me my articles, and who have
all along treated me with extreme kindness.
"For most of the succeeding years my life does not concern the matter in
hand. I was a lawyer's clerk in my benefactors' service, and afterward a
qualified man among their assistants. All through the firm were careful,
in pursuance of my poor mother's wishes, that I should not learn the name
or whereabouts of the man who had wrecked her life and my father's. I
first met the man himself at the Clifton Club, where I had gone with an
acquaintance who was a member. It was not till afterward that I understood
his curious awkwardness on that occasion. A week later I called (as I had
frequently done) at the building in which your office is situated, on
business with a solicitor who has an office on the floor above your own.
On the stairs I almost ran against Mr. Foggatt. He started and turned
pale, exhibiting signs of alarm that I could not understand, and asked me
if I wished to see him.
"'No,' I replied, 'I didn't know you lived here. I am after somebody else
just now. Aren't you well?'
"He looked at me rather doubtfully, and said he was not very well.
"I met him twice or thrice after that, and on each occasion his manner
grew more friendly, in a servile, flattering, and mean sort of way--a
thing unpleasant enough in anybody, but doubly so in the intercourse of a
man with another young enough to be his own son. Still, of course, I
treated the man civilly enough. On one occasion he asked me into his rooms
to look at a rather fine picture he had lately bought, and observed
casually, lifting a large revolver from the mantel-piece:
"'You see, I am prepared for any unwelcome visitors to my little den! He!
He!' Conceiving him, of course, to refer to burglars, I could not help
wondering at the forced and hollow character of his laugh. As we went down
the stairs he said: 'I think we know one another pretty well now, Mr.
Mason, eh? And if I could do anything to advance your professional
prospects, I should be glad of the chance, of course. I understand the
struggles of a young professional man--he! he!' It was the forced laugh
again, and the man spoke nervously. 'I think,' he added, 'that if you will
drop in to-morrow evening, perhaps I may have a little proposal to make.
"I assented, wondering what this proposal could be. Perhaps this eccentric
old gentleman was a good fellow, after all, anxious to do me a good turn,
and his awkwardness was nothing but a natural delicacy in breaking the
ice. I was not so flush of good friends as to be willing to lose one. He
might be desirous of putting business in my way.
"I went, and was received with cordiality that even then seemed a little
over-effusive. We sat and talked of one thing and another for a long
while, and I began to wonder when Mr. Foggatt was coming to the point that
most interested me. Several times he invited me to drink and smoke, but
long usage to athletic training has given me a distaste for both
practices, and I declined. At last he began to talk about myself. He was
afraid that my professional prospects in this country were not great, but
he had heard that in some of the colonies--South Africa, for
example--young lawyers had brilliant opportunities.
"'If you'd like to go there,' he said, 'I've no doubt, with a little
capital, a clever man like you could get a grand practice together very
soon. Or you might buy a share in some good established practice. I should
be glad to let you have L500, or even a little more, if that wouldn't
satisfy you, and----'
"I stood aghast. Why should this man, almost a stranger, offer me L500, or
even more, 'if that wouldn't satisfy' me? What claim had I on him? It was
very generous of him, of course, but out of the question. I was, at least,
a gentleman, and had a gentleman's self-respect. Meanwhile, he had gone
maundering on, in a halting sort of way, and presently let slip a sentence
that struck me like a blow between the eyes.
"'I shouldn't like you to bear ill-will because of what has happened in
the past,' he said. 'Your late--your late lamented mother--I'm afraid--she
had unworthy suspicions--I'm sure--it was best for all parties--your
father always appreciated----'
"I set back my chair and stood erect before him. This groveling wretch,
forcing the words through his dry lips, was the thief who had made another
of my father and had brought to miserable ends the lives of both my
parents! Everything was clear. The creature went in fear of me, never
imagining that I did not know him, and sought to buy me off--to buy me
from the remembrance of my dead mother's broken heart for L500--L500 that
he had made my father steal for him! I said not a word. But the memory of
all my mother's bitter years, and a savage sense of this crowning insult
to myself, took a hold upon me, and I was a tiger. Even then I verily
believe that one word of repentance, one tone of honest remorse, would
have saved him. But he drooped his eyes, snuffled excuses, and stammered
of 'unworthy suspicions' and 'no ill-will.' I let him stammer. Presently
he looked up and saw my face; and fell back in his chair, sick with
terror. I snatched the pistol from the mantel-piece, and, thrusting it in
his face, shot him where he sat.
"My subsequent coolness and quietness surprise me now. I took my hat and
stepped toward the door. But there were voices on the stairs. The door was
locked on the inside, and I left it so. I went back and quietly opened a
window. Below was a clear drop into darkness, and above was plain wall;
but away to one side, where the slope of the gable sprang from the roof,
an iron gutter ended, supported by a strong bracket. It was the only way.
I got upon the sill and carefully shut the window behind me, for people
were already knocking at the lobby door. From the end of the sill, holding
on by the reveal of the window with one hand, leaning and stretching my
utmost, I caught the gutter, swung myself clear, and scrambled on the
roof. I climbed over many roofs before I found, in an adjoining street, a
ladder lashed perpendicularly against the front of a house in course of
repair. This, to me, was an easy opportunity of descent, notwithstanding
the boards fastened over the face of the ladder, and I availed myself of
"I have taken some time and trouble in order that you (so far as I am
aware the only human being beside myself who knows me to be the author of
Foggatt's death) shall have at least the means of appraising my crime at
its just value of culpability. How much you already know of what I have
told you I can not guess. I am wrong, hardened, and flagitious, I make no
doubt, but I speak of the facts as they are. You see the thing, of course,
from your own point of view--I from mine. And I remember my mother!
"Trusting that you will forgive the odd freak of a man--a criminal, let us
say--who makes a confidant of the man set to hunt him down, I beg leave to
be, sir, your obedient servant,
I read the singular document through and handed it back to Hewitt.
"How does it strike you?" Hewitt asked.
"Mason would seem to be a man of very marked character," I said.
"Certainly no fool. And, if his tale is true, Foggatt is no great loss to
"Just so--if the tale is true. Personally I am disposed to believe it is."
"Where was the letter posted?"
"It wasn't posted. It was handed in with the others from the front-door
letter-box this morning in an unstamped envelope. He must have dropped it
in himself during the night. Paper," Hewitt proceeded, holding it up to
the light, "Turkey mill, ruled foolscap. Envelope, blue, official shape,
Pirie's watermark. Both quite ordinary and no special marks."
"Where do you suppose he's gone?"
"Impossible to guess. Some might think he meant suicide by the expression
'beyond the reach even of your abilities of search,' but I scarcely think
he is the sort of man to do that. No, there is no telling. Something may
be got by inquiring at his late address, of course; but, when such a man
tells you he doesn't think you will find him, you may count upon its being
a difficult job. His opinion is not to be despised."
"What shall you do?"
"Put the letter in the box with the casts for the police. Fiat justitia,
you know, without any question of sentiment. As to the apple, I really
think, if the police will let me, I'll make you a present of it. Keep it
somewhere as a souvenir of your absolute deficiency in reflective
observation in this case, and look at it whenever you feel yourself
growing dangerously conceited. It should cure you."
* * * * *
This is the history of the withered and almost petrified half apple that
stands in my cabinet among a number of flint implements and one or two
rather fine old Roman vessels. Of Mr. Sidney Mason we never heard another
word. The police did their best, but he had left not a track behind him.
His rooms were left almost undisturbed, and he had gone without anything
in the way of elaborate preparation for his journey, and without leaving a
trace of his intentions.
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