On the evening of the same day on which this daring robbery
occurred, and as I was preparing to leave my agency for the day, a
telegram was handed to me by the superintendent of my Chicago
office, Mr. Frank Warner. The message read as follows:
This was all. There was no detail of particulars, no statement
of the means employed, only a simple, concise and urgent appeal for
my services. As for myself, realizing the importance of promptness
and despatch in affairs of this nature, and fully appreciating the
anxiety of the bank officials, I resolved to answer their call as
speedily as possible. But few words of consultation were required
for the subject, and in a short time I had selected the man for the
preliminary investigation, and requested his presence in my office.
John Manning was the operative chosen for this task, an
intelligent, shrewd and trusty young man of about thirty years of
age, who had been in my employ for a long time. Well educated, of
good address, and with a quiet, gentlemanly air about him that
induced a favorable opinion at a glance. Frequently, prior to this,
occasions had presented themselves for testing his abilities, and I
had always found him equal to any emergency. Sagacious and skillful
as I knew him to be, I felt that I could implicitly rely upon him
to glean all the information that was required in order to enable
me to devise an intelligent plan of detection, and which would, as
I hoped, lead to eventual success.
Giving John Manning full instructions as to his mode of
proceeding, and cautioning him to be particular and thorough in all
his inquiries, I directed him to proceed as soon as possible to the
scene of the robbery, and enter at once upon the performance of his
In a very short time Manning had made his preparations, and at
eight o'clock that evening he was at the depot awaiting the
departure of the train that was to bear him to his new field of
After a journey of several hours, in which the detective
endeavored to snatch as much comfort as possible, the train drew up
at the neat little station at Geneva, and Manning was upon the
It was two o'clock in the morning when he arrived, consequently
there were but few people stirring, and the station was almost
entirely deserted. Two or three passengers who were awaiting the
train, the persons connected with the railroad, and the runners of
the two hotels (Geneva boasted of two of these very necessary
establishments), were the only persons who greeted him upon his
Having never been to Geneva before, and being entirely ignorant
of the accommodations afforded by either of these houses of
entertainment, Manning, at a hazard, selected the "Geneva Hotel" as
his place of abode. Consigning his valise to the care of the
waiting porter, he was soon on his way to that hostelrie, and
serenely journeyed along through the darkness, all unconscious of
the reception that awaited him. On arriving at their destination,
he perceived through the glimmering light that hung over the
doorway, that the "Geneva Hotel" was an old, rambling frame
structure, which stood in the midst of an overgrowth of bushes and
shrubbery. So dense was the foliage that the detective imagined the
air of the place was damp and unwholesome in consequence. Certain
it was, as he discovered afterward, the air and sunshine had a
desperate struggle almost daily to obtain an entrance into the
building, and after a few hours engaged in the vain attempt, old
Sol would vent his baffled rage upon the worm-eaten old roof, to
the decided discomfort of the lodgers in the attic story.
Ceremony was an unheard-of quality at the "Geneva House," and
the railway porter performed the multifarious duties of night
clerk, porter, hall boy and hostler. As they entered the hotel, the
porter lighted a small lamp with the aid of a stable lantern, and
without further parley led the detective up two flights of stairs
which cracked and groaned under their feet, as if complaining of
their weight, and threatening to precipitate them to the regions
below. Opening the door of a little box of a room, out of which the
hot air came rushing like a blast from a furnace fire, the porter
placed the lamp upon a dilapidated wash-stand and the valise upon
the floor, and without uttering a word, took himself off.
With all its progressiveness, it was evident that Geneva was far
behind the age in regard to her hotel accommodations; at least so
thought Manning as he gazed disconsolately around upon his
surroundings. The room was small, close and hot, while the
furniture exceeded his powers of description. The unpainted
wash-stand seemed to poise itself uneasily upon its three remaining
legs—the mirror had evidently been the resort of an army of
self-admiring flies, who had left their marks upon its leaden
surface until reflection was impossible—two hard and
uncomfortable-looking chairs—and a bed, every feature of which was
a sonorous protest against being slept upon—completed the
provisions which had been made for his entertainment and comfort.
Casting a dismal look upon his uninviting quarters, but being
thoroughly tired, the detective threw himself upon the couch, which
rattled and creaked under him like old bones, and in a few moments
was sound asleep.
How long he might have remained in this somnolent condition if
left to himself, it is impossible to state, for a vigorous alarm
upon his door cut short his slumbers, and startled him from his
Imagining that the hotel had taken fire, or that the porter had
eloped with the silver ware, he jumped hastily out of bed and
opened the door.
"It's late and breakfast is waitin'," was the laconic message
delivered to him by the porter of the night before, as he started
With a muttered malediction upon this ruthless destroyer of his
rest, the detective donned his clothing, and, feeling as tired and
unrefreshed as though he had not slept at all, descended to the
dining-room. If his experiences of the previous evening had been
distressing, the breakfast which was set before him was positively
heart-rending. A muddy-looking liquid which they called
coffee—strong, soggy biscuits, a beefsteak that would rival in
toughness a piece of baked gutta percha, and evidently swimming in
lard, and potatoes which gave decided tokens of having been served
on more than one previous occasion. With a smothered groan he
attacked the unsavory viands, and by dint of great effort managed
to appease his hunger, to the serious derangement of his digestive
organs. After he had finished his repast he lighted a cigar, and as
the hour was still too early for a conference with the bank
officials, he resolved to stroll about the town and ascertain the
locality of the Geneva bank, before entering upon the duties of the
His stroll, however, was not a very extended one, for as he
started from the hotel he noticed upon the opposite side of the
street the sign of the bank. The building in which it was located
was a large, square brick structure, occupied in part by the bank,
and in part as a store for the sale of hardware and agricultural
implements. The upper floor was used as an amusement hall, and was
called the "Geneva Opera House." Here the various entertainments of
a musical and dramatic nature were given, to the intense delight of
the people of the village.
There was no notice of the bank having suspended operations on
account of the loss they had sustained, and the operative inferred
from this, that business was being transacted as usual.
When the doors were at length opened the operative entered the
banking room, and requesting to see Mr. Silby, was ushered into the
private office of the president. As he passed through the room he
took a passing inventory of the young assistant cashier, Mr.
Pearson, who was busily engaged upon his books. He appeared to be a
young man of about twenty-four years of age; of a delicate and
refined cast of countenance and about medium height. His hair and a
small curly mustache were of a light brown shade, and his
complexion was as fair as a woman's. The young lady who had been
the other victim of the assault was not present, and the detective
concluded that she was as yet unable to attend to her duties.
These thoughts and impressions passed through his mind as he
walked through the banking room into the office of the president.
As he entered this apartment, he found several gentlemen evidently
awaiting his appearance, all of whom wore a thoughtful, troubled
look, as though they keenly felt the losses they had sustained and
were resolved to bear up manfully under their misfortune.
Mr. Silby, the president, a tall, fine-looking gentleman in the
prime of life, arose as the detective entered. Mr. Silby was one of
those persons who instinctively impress the beholder, with a
confidence closely approaching to veneration. Of a commanding
presence, a broad noble face surmounted with a wealth of hair in
which the silvery touch of time has left many traces, while his
deep blue eyes were as bright as those of a youth of twenty. There
was such an air of rugged and uncompromising honesty, of kindly
feeling and warm-heartedness about the man, that even before he had
spoken the detective experienced a strong impulse of regard for
him, and a corresponding determination to perform his full duty in
this investigation and to devote all the energy of his being to the
task before him.
Presenting his letter of introduction, Mr. Silby hastily ran his
eyes over the contents, and then extending his hand he gave the
detective a most cordial greeting, and introduced him to the other
gentlemen present, all of whom received him warmly.
"Take a seat, Mr. Manning," said Mr. Silby, drawing up a chair.
"You find us anxiously awaiting your arrival, and prepared to give
you any information you desire."
"Thanks," responded the operative, taking the proffered chair.
"As I have come here for the purpose of making an examination into
this case, I shall require all the information that is possible to
"Very well," said Mr. Silby. "Now, what do you desire
"A full statement as to how the robbery was committed," answered
the detective, promptly.
"Mr. Welton," said Mr. Silby, turning to a gentleman at his
right, who had been introduced to the detective as the cashier of
the bank, "perhaps you can relate the particulars better than I
"Excuse me," interrupted the detective, "but were you present at
the time the robbery occurred?"
"No, sir, I was not present," replied Mr. Welton. "Mr. Pearson,
our assistant cashier, and Miss Patton, were the only persons in
the bank at that time."
"Then," said the detective, "suppose we have Mr. Pearson in at
once, and hear the story from him. We always prefer," he added,
with a smile, "to receive the particulars of these affairs from
The other gentlemen nodded a cordial assent to this proposition,
and Mr. Welton arose, and going to the door, requested Mr. Pearson
to enter the consulting room.
The young man entered the office, and upon being introduced,
greeted the detective with an air of frank earnestness, and
signified his readiness to relate all that he knew about the
He remained standing, and from his statement the facts were
elicited which I have given in the preceding chapter. As he
finished, he pointed to a scar upon his forehead, which he stated
was the result of the blow he received at the time from the robber
who attacked him. The wound did not appear to be a very serious
one, although the skin had been broken and blood had evidently
"Mr. Pearson," inquired the detective, after the young man had
concluded, "do you remember having seen either of those men
The assistant cashier darted a quick glance at the detective,
and then answered:
"Yes, sir; about three o'clock yesterday afternoon, a
well-dressed gentleman came into the bank, carrying a small valise
in his hand, which he requested permission to leave here until the
next morning. I asked him if it was of any value, and he replied
no. Informing him that I would then place it in the office, the man
thanked me, and went away. When the two men entered the bank at six
o'clock in the evening, I instantly recognized one of them as the
man who had called in the afternoon. He was, however, dressed very
roughly on the occasion of this last visit, and had evidently
changed his clothes for the purpose of escaping detection or
"Which one of the men attacked you?" now asked the
"The one who left the valise in the afternoon. While the tallest
of the two was struggling with Miss Patton, who was screaming
loudly, the other one came behind the counter and struck me upon
the head with the butt end of his revolver. I became insensible
after this, and knew nothing until I found myself in the
"How did you extricate yourself from this dilemma?" inquired
"Well, sir," began Pearson; and the detective imagined that he
noticed a hesitancy in his manner, which was not apparent before,
"when I recovered consciousness, I found myself locked up in the
vault, with Miss Patton lying beside me. When she recovered, we
both shouted loudly for help, and beat with our hands upon the iron
doors, in the hope of attracting attention. This failed, and we
were nearly desperate. Just then, however, my foot came in contact
with some loose silver upon the floor, and on stooping to pick them
up, I found that they were ten-cent pieces. Instantly, the idea
occurred to me, to attempt to remove the screws which fastened the
lock to the inside of the door, and of using one of these coins for
the purpose. To my intense joy the screws yielded to my efforts,
and in a short time the heavy door swung open, and we were free. I
have told you already what followed."
As John Manning jotted these recitals down in his note-book, he
could not repress nor account for, a feeling of doubtfulness which
crept over him at this point. He looked up into the young man's
face, but there he saw only the evidence of serious truthfulness,
and honest frankness; but still that lingering doubt was upon him
and he could not shake it off.
At his request, young Pearson then furnished him with a
description of the two men, as nearly as his memory would serve
him, and these the detective noted down for future use.
At length, finding that he had obtained all the information
which could be afforded him here, he thanked the gentlemen for
their assistance, and promised to call again in the course of the
"Remember, Mr. Manning," said Mr. Silby, "we rely entirely upon
the resources of Mr. Pinkerton's agency, and that we are confident
that you will succeed."
"I cannot promise that," returned Manning, "but you may be
assured that if success is possible, we will accomplish it."
So saying, he shook hands with the gentlemen, and left the bank.
He betook himself at once to the hotel to prepare himself for
further action in this investigation.