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women and honourable men; and the detective who beguiles him to his end does such a service to society as must doubtless counterbalance the treachery of the means by which it is done. The days of Jonathan Wild and his compeers are over, and the thief-taker no longer begins life as a thief. The detective officer is as honest as he is intrepid and astute, and it is not his own fault if the dirty nature of all crime gives him now and then dirty work to do.
But Mr. Stephen Hargraves did not give the opportunity for which Tom Chivers had been bidden to lie in wait; he sat sullen, silent, stupid, unapproachable; and as Tom's orders were not to furce himself upon his companion, he was fain to abandon all thought of worming himself into the Softy's good graces. This made the task of watching him all the more difficult. It is not such a very easy matter to follow a man without seeming to follow him.
It was market-day too, and the town was crowded with noisy country people. Mr. Grimstone suddenly remembered this, and the recollection by no means added to his peace of mind.
“ Chivers never did sell me,” he thought, "and surely be won't do it now. I dare say they're safe enough, for the matter of that, in some other public. I'll slip out and look after them.”
Mr. Grimstone had, as I have said, already made himself acquainted with all the haunts affected by the Softy. It did not take him long, therefore, to look in at the three or four public-houses where Steeve Hargraves was likely to be found, and to discover that he was not there.
“He's slouching about the town somewhere or other, I dare say,” thought the detective,“ with my mate close upon his heels. I'll stroll towards the market-place, and see if I can find them any where that way.”
Mr. Grimstone turned out of the hy-street in which he had been walking, into a narrow alley leading to the broad open square upon which the market-place stands.
The detective went his way in a leisurely manner, with his hands in his pockets and a cigar in his mouth. He had perfect confidence in Mr. Thomas Chivers, and the crowded state of the market-place and its neighbourhood in no way weakened his sense of security.
“Chivers will stick to him through thick and thin,” he thought; “ he'd keep an eye upon his man if he had to look after him between Charing Cross and Whitehall when the Queen was going to open Parliament. He's not the man to be flummused by a crowd in a country market-place.”
Serene in this sense of security, Mr. Grimstone amused himself hy looking about him, with an expression of somewhat supercilious wonder, at the manners and customs of those indigenæ who, upon market-day, make their inroad into the quiet town. He paused upon the edge of a little sunken flight of worn steps leading down to the stage-door of the theatre, and read the fragments of old bills mouldering upon the door
posts and lintel. There were glowing announcements of dramatic performances that bad long ago taken place; and above the rain and mudstained relics of the past, in bold black lettering, appeared the record of a drama as terrible as any that had ever been enacted in that provincial theatre. The bill-sticker bad posted the announcement of the reward offered by John Mellish for the discovery of the murderer in every available spot, and had not forgotten this position, which commanded one of the entrances to the market-place.
“It's a wonder to me,” muttered Mr. Grimstone, “ that that blessed bill shouldn't have opened the eyes of these Doncaster noodles. But I dare say they think it's a blind; a planned thing to throw 'em off the scent their clever noses are sticking to so determined. If I can get my man before they open
their eyes, I shall have such a haul as I haven't met with lately."
Musing thus pleasantly, Mr. Grimstone turned his back upon the theatre, and crossed over to the market. Within the building the clamour of buying and selling was at its height: noisy countrymen chaffering in their northern patois upon the value and merits of poultry, butter, and eggs; dealers in butchers' meat bewildering themselves in the endeavour to simultaneously satisfy the demands of half-a-dozen sharp and bargainloving housekeepers; while from without there came a confused clatter of other merchants and other customers, clamouring and bustling round the stalls of greengrocers, and the slimy barrows of blue-jacketed fishmongers. In the midst of all this bustle and confusion, Mr. Grimstone came suddenly upon his trusted ally, pale, terror-stricken, and — ALONE !
The detective's mind was not slow to grasp the full force of the situation.
“You've lost him !" he whispered fiercely, seizing the unfortunate Mr. Chivers by the collar, and pinning him as securely as if he had serious thoughts of making him a permanent fixture upon the stone-flags of the market-place. “You've lost him, Tom Chivers !” he continued, hoarse
“ with agitation. “You've lost the party that I told you was worth more to me than
gave you the office for. You've lost me the best chance I've ever had since I've been in Scotland Yard, and yourself too; for I should have acted liberal by you," added the detective, apparently oblivious of that morning's reverie, in which he had predetermined offering his assistant ten pounds, in satisfaction of all his claims,—“I should have acted very liberal by you, Tom. But what's the use of standing jawing here? You come along with me; you can tell me how it happened as we go.”
With his powerful grasp still on the underling's collar, Mr. Grimstone walked out of the market-place, neither looking to the right nor the left, though many a pair of rustic eyes opened to their widest as he passed, attracted no doubt by the rapidity of his pace and the obvious determination of his manner. Perhaps those rustic bystanders thought that the stern-looking gentleman in the black frock-coat had arrested the shabby little man in the act of picking his pocket, and was bearing him off to deliver him straight into the hands of justice.
Mr. Grimstone released his grasp when he and his companion had got clear of the market-place.
“Now," he said breathless, but not slackening his pace,—“now I suppose you can tell me how you come to make such an"-inadmissible adjective—“fool of yourself? Never you mind where I'm goin'. I'm goin' to the railway-station. Never you mind why I'm goin' there. You'd guess why if you weren't a fool. Now tell me all about it, can't you ?”
“It ain't much to tell,” the humble follower gasped, his respiratory functions sadly tried by the pace at which his superior went over the ground. “It ain't much. I followed your instructions faithful. I tried, artful and quiet-like, to make acquaintance with him; but that warn’t a bit o' good. He was as surly as a bull terrier, so I didn't force him to it; but kept an eye upon him, and let out before him as it was racin' business as had brought me to Doncaster, and as I was here to look after a horse, what was in trainin' a few miles off, for a gent in London; and when he left the public, I went after him, but not conspikiwous. But I think from that minute he was fly, for he didn't go
without lookin' back, and he led me such a chase as made my legs tremble under me, which they trembles at this moment; and then he gets me into the market-place, and he dodges here, and he dodges there, and wherever the crowd's thickest he dodges most, till he gets me at last in among a ring of market-people round a couple a coves a millin' with each other, and there I loses him. And I've been in and out the market, and here and there, until I'm fit to drop, but it ain't no good; and you've no call to lay the blame on me, for mortal man couldn't have done more.”
Mr. Chivers wiped the perspiration from his face in testimony of his exertions.
Dirty little streams were rolling down his forehead and trickling upon his poor faded cheeks. He mopped up these evidences of his fatigue with a red-cotton handkerchief, and gave a deprecatory sigh.
“If there's any body to lay blame on, it ain't me,” he said mildly. " I said all along you ought to have had help. A man as is on his own ground, and knows his own ground, is more than a match for one cove, however hard he
work." The detective turned fiercely upon his meek dependent.
“Who's blaming you ?” he cried impatiently. “I wouldn't cry out before I was hurt, if I were you.”
They had reached the railway-station by this time.
“How long is it since you missed him ?” asked Mr. Grimstone of the penitent Chivers.
“ Three-quarters of a hour, or it may be a hour,” Tom added doubtfully.
“I dare say it is an hour," muttered the detective.
He walked straight to one of the chief officials, and asked what trains had left within the last hour.
“Two, both market trains : one eastward, Selby way; the other for Penistone, and the intervening stations.”
The detective looked at the time-table, running his thumb-nail along the names of the stations.
“ That train will reach Penistone in time to catch the Liverpool train, won't it?" he asked.
The clocks had struck three as Mr. Grimstone made his way to the station.
“Half an hour ago,” muttered the detective. “He'd have had ample time to catch the train after giving Chivers the slip."
He questioned the guards and porters as to whether any of them had seen a man answering to the description of the Softy : a white-faced, hump-backed fellow, in corduroys and a fustian jacket; and even penetrated into the ticket-clerk's office to ask the same question.
No; none of them had seen Mr. Stephen Hargraves. Two or three of them recognised him by the detective's description, and asked if it was one of the stable-men from Mellish Park that the gentleman was inquiring after. Mr. Grimstone rather evaded any direct answer to this question. Secrecy was, as we know, the principle upon which he conducted his affairs.
“ He may have contrived to give 'em all the slip,” he said confidentially to his faithful but dispirited ally. “He may have got off without any of 'em seeing him. He's got the money about him, I'm all but certain of that; and his game is to get off to Liverpool. His inquiries after the trains yesterday proves that. Now I might telegraph, and have him stopped at Liverpool--supposing him to have given us all the slip, and gone off there-if I like to let others into the game; but I don't. I'll play to win or lose; but I'll play single-banded. He may try another dodge, and get off Hull way by the canal boats that the market-people use, and then slip across to Hamborough, or something of that sort; but that ain't likely,—these fellows always go one way.
It seems as if the minute a man has taken another man's life, or forged his name, or embezzled his money, his ideas gets fixed in one groove, and never can soar higher than Liverpool and the American packou.
Mr. Chivers listened respectfully to his patron's communications. He was very well pleased to see the serenity of his employer's mind gradually returning
“Now, I'll tell you wbat, Tom," said Mr. Grimstone. “If this chap has given us the slip, why he's given us the slip, and he's got a start of us, which we shan't be able to pick up till half-past ten o'clock to night, When there's a train that'll take us to Liverpool. If he hasn't given us the slip, there's only one way he can leave Doncaster, and that's by this station; so you stay here patient and quiet till you see me, or hear from me. If he is in Doncaster, I'm jiggered if I don't find him.”
With which powerful asseveration Mr. Grimstone walked a vay, leav
, ing his scout to keep watch for the possible coming of the Softy.
TALBOT BULSTRODE MAKES ATONEMENT FOR THE PAST. John Mellish and Talbot Bulstrode walked to and fro upon the lawn before the drawing-room windows on that afternoon on which the detective and bis underling lost sight of Stephen Hargraves. It was a dreary time, this period of watching and waiting, of uncertainty and apprehension; and poor Jolin Mellish chafed bitterly under the burden which he had to bear.
Now that his friend's common sense had come to his relief, and that a few plain out-spoken sentences had dispersed the terrible cloud of mystery, now that he himself was fully assured of his wife's innocence, he had no patience with the stupid country-people who held themselves aloof from the woman he loved. He wanted to go out and do battle for his slandered wife; to hurl back every base suspicion into the faces that had scowled upon his idolised Aurora. How could they dare, these foulminded slanderers, to harbour one base thought against the purest, the most perfect of women? Mr. Mellislı of course quite forgot that he, the rightful defender of all this perfection, had suffered his mind to be for a time obscured beneath the black shadow of that vile suspicion.
He hated the old friends of his youth for their base avoidance of him; the servants of his household for a half-doubtful, half-solemn expression of face, which h4 knew had relation to that growing suspicion, that horrible suspicion, which seemed to grow stronger with every hour. He broke out into a storm of rage with the gray-haired butler, who had carried bim pick-a-back in his infancy, because the faithful retainer tried to hold back certain newspapers which contained dark allusions to the Mel lish mystery.
“Who told you I didn't want the Manchester Guardian, Jarvis?" he cried fiercely; “ who gave you the right to dictate what I'm to read or what I'm to leave unread? I do want to-day's Guardian ; to-day's, and yesterday'e, and to-morrow's, and every other newspaper that comes into this house! I won't have them overbauled by you, or any one, to see whether they're pleasant reading or not, before they're brought to me. Do you think I'm afraid of any thing these penny-a-liner fellows can write ?" roared the young squire, striking his open hand upon the table at which he sat. “Let them write their best or their worst of me. But let them write one word that can be twisted into an insinuation upon the purest and truest woman in all Christendom, and, by the Heaven above me, I'll give them such a thrashing-penny-a-liners, printers, publishers, and every man-Jack of them as shall make them remember the business to the last hour of their lives !"
Mr. Mellish said all this in despite of the restraining presence of