Martin Hewitt, Investigator - Arthur Morrison - ebook

Martin Hewitt, Investigator ebook

Arthur Morrison

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Martin Hewitt, Investigator” is a collection of late Victorian short stories linked by the protagonist, Martin Hewitt. This book chronicles seven of Hewitt’s cases, and gave rise to his reputation as England’s „second-best-detective”. They are tales of impossible to solve crimes that Hewitt was able to crack by piecing together a few clues where the police detectives had failed. Like the Holmes stories, the author did not want the detective to talk about his own cases in the first person, so he created a sidekick who does the writing, the journalist Brett. Unlike Holmes, however, Martin Hewitt runs an investigative business, is a very personable gentleman, works well with the police force and easily makes friends. Novel and imaginative in subject matter, meticulously plotted, and smoothly written, these stories will captivate mystery lovers.

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Liczba stron: 283

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Contents

I. THE LENTON CROFT ROBBERIES

II. THE LOSS OF SAMMY CROCKETT

III. THE CASE OF MR. FOGGATT

IV. THE CASE OF THE DIXON TORPEDO

V. THE QUINTON JEWEL AFFAIR

VI. THE STANWAY CAMEO MYSTERY

VII. THE AFFAIR OF THE TORTOISE

I. THE LENTON CROFT ROBBERIES

THOSE who retain any memory of the great law cases of fifteen or twenty years back will remember, at least, the title of that extraordinary will case, “Bartley v. Bartley and others,” which occupied the Probate Court for some weeks on end, and caused an amount of public interest rarely accorded to any but the cases considered in the other division of the same court. The case itself was noted for the large quantity of remarkable and unusual evidence presented by the plaintiff’s side–evidence that took the other party completely by surprise, and overthrew their case like a house of cards. The affair will, perhaps, be more readily recalled as the occasion of the sudden rise to eminence in their profession of Messrs. Crellan, Hunt & Crellan, solicitors for the plaintiff–a result due entirely to the wonderful ability shown in this case of building up, apparently out of nothing, a smashing weight of irresistible evidence. That the firm has since maintained–indeed enhanced–the position it then won for itself need scarcely be said here; its name is familiar to everybody. But there are not many of the outside public who know that the credit of the whole performance was primarily due to a young clerk in the employ of Messrs. Crellan, who had been given charge of the seemingly desperate task of collecting evidence in the case.

This Mr. Martin Hewitt had, however, full credit and reward for his exploit from his firm and from their client, and more than one other firm of lawyers engaged in contentious work made good offers to entice Hewitt to change his employers. Instead of this, however, he determined to work independently for the future, having conceived the idea of making a regular business of doing, on behalf of such clients as might retain him, similar work to that he had just done with such conspicuous success for Messrs. Crellan, Hunt & Crellan. This was the beginning of the private detective business of Martin Hewitt, and his action at that time has been completely justified by the brilliant professional successes he has since achieved.

His business has always been conducted in the most private manner, and he has always declined the help of professional assistants, preferring to carry out himself such of the many investigations offered him as he could manage. He has always maintained that he has never lost by this policy, since the chance of his refusing a case begets competition for his services, and his fees rise by a natural process. At the same time, no man could know better how to employ casual assistance at the right time.

Some curiosity has been expressed as to Mr. Martin Hewitt’s system, and, as he himself always consistently maintains that he has no system beyond a judicious use of ordinary faculties, I intend setting forth in detail a few of the more interesting of his cases in order that the public may judge for itself if I am right in estimating Mr. Hewitt’s “ordinary faculties” as faculties very extraordinary indeed. He is not a man who has made many friendships (this, probably, for professional reasons), notwithstanding his genial and companionable manners. I myself first made his acquaintance as a result of an accident resulting in a fire at the old house in which Hewitt’s office was situated, and in an upper floor of which I occupied bachelor chambers. I was able to help in saving a quantity of extremely important papers relating to his business, and, while repairs were being made, allowed him to lock them in an old wall-safe in one of my rooms which the fire had scarcely damaged.

The acquaintance thus begun has lasted many years, and has become a rather close friendship. I have even accompanied Hewitt on some of his expeditions, and, in a humble way, helped him. Such of the cases, however, as I personally saw nothing of I have put into narrative form from the particulars given me.

“I consider you, Brett,” he said, addressing me, “the most remarkable journalist alive. Not because you’re particularly clever, you know, because, between ourselves, I hope you’ll admit you’re not; but because you have known something of me and my doings for some years, and have never yet been guilty of giving away any of my little business secrets you may have become acquainted with. I’m afraid you’re not so enterprising a journalist as some, Brett. But now, since you ask, you shall write something–if you think it worth while.”

This he said, as he said most things, with a cheery, chaffing good-nature that would have been, perhaps, surprising to a stranger who thought of him only as a grim and mysterious discoverer of secrets and crimes. Indeed, the man had always as little of the aspect of the conventional detective as may be imagined. Nobody could appear more cordial or less observant in manner, although there was to be seen a certain sharpness of the eye–which might, after all, only be the twinkle of good humor.

I did think it worth while to write something of Martin Hewitt’s investigations, and a description of one of his adventures follows.

*     *

*

At the head of the first flight of a dingy staircase leading up from an ever-open portal in a street by the Strand stood a door, the dusty ground-glass upper panel of which carried in its center the single word “Hewitt,” while at its right-hand lower corner, in smaller letters, “Clerk’s Office” appeared. On a morning when the clerks in the ground-floor offices had barely hung up their hats, a short, well-dressed young man, wearing spectacles, hastening to open the dusty door, ran into the arms of another man who suddenly issued from it.

“I beg pardon,” the first said. “Is this Hewitt’s Detective Agency Office?”

“Yes, I believe you will find it so,” the other replied. He was a stoutish, clean-shaven man, of middle height, and of a cheerful, round countenance. “You’d better speak to the clerk.”

In the little outer office the visitor was met by a sharp lad with inky fingers, who presented him with a pen and a printed slip. The printed slip having been filled with the visitor’s name and present business, and conveyed through an inner door, the lad reappeared with an invitation to the private office. There, behind a writing-table, sat the stoutish man himself, who had only just advised an appeal to the clerk.

“Good-morning, Mr. Lloyd–Mr. Vernon Lloyd,” he said, affably, looking again at the slip. “You’ll excuse my care to start even with my visitors–I must, you know. You come from Sir James Norris, I see.”

“Yes; I am his secretary. I have only to ask you to go straight to Lenton Croft at once, if you can, on very important business. Sir James would have wired, but had not your precise address. Can you go by the next train? Eleven-thirty is the first available from Paddington.”

“Quite possibly. Do you know any thing of the business?”

“It is a case of a robbery in the house, or, rather, I fancy, of several robberies. Jewelry has been stolen from rooms occupied by visitors to the Croft. The first case occurred some months ago–nearly a year ago, in fact. Last night there was another. But I think you had better get the details on the spot. Sir James has told me to telegraph if you are coming, so that he may meet you himself at the station; and I must hurry, as his drive to the station will be rather a long one. Then I take it you will go, Mr. Hewitt? Twyford is the station.”

“Yes, I shall come, and by the 11.30. Are you going by that train yourself?”

“No, I have several things to attend to now I am in town. Good-morning; I shall wire at once.”

Mr. Martin Hewitt locked the drawer of his table and sent his clerk for a cab.

At Twyford Station Sir James Norris was waiting with a dog-cart. Sir James was a tall, florid man of fifty or thereabout, known away from home as something of a county historian, and nearer his own parts as a great supporter of the hunt, and a gentleman much troubled with poachers. As soon as he and Hewitt had found one another the baronet hurried the detective into his dog-cart. “We’ve something over seven miles to drive,” he said, “and I can tell you all about this wretched business as we go. That is why I came for you myself, and alone.”

Hewitt nodded.

“I have sent for you, as Lloyd probably told you, because of a robbery at my place last evening. It appears, as far as I can guess, to be one of three by the same hand, or by the same gang. Late yesterday afternoon–”

“Pardon me, Sir James,” Hewitt interrupted, “but I think I must ask you to begin at the first robbery and tell me the whole tale in proper order. It makes things clearer, and sets them in their proper shape.”

“Very well! Eleven months ago, or thereabout, I had rather a large party of visitors, and among them Colonel Heath and Mrs. Heath–the lady being a relative of my own late wife. Colonel Heath has not been long retired, you know–used to be political resident in an Indian native state. Mrs. Heath had rather a good stock of jewelry of one sort and another, about the most valuable piece being a bracelet set with a particularly fine pearl–quite an exceptional pearl, in fact–that had been one of a heap of presents from the maharajah of his state when Heath left India.

“It was a very noticeable bracelet, the gold setting being a mere feather-weight piece of native filigree work–almost too fragile to trust on the wrist–and the pearl being, as I have said, of a size and quality not often seen. Well, Heath and his wife arrived late one evening, and after lunch the following day, most of the men being off by themselves–shooting, I think–my daughter, my sister (who is very often down here), and Mrs. Heath took it into their heads to go walking–fern-hunting, and so on. My sister was rather long dressing, and, while they waited, my daughter went into Mrs. Heath’s room, where Mrs. Heath turned over all her treasures to show her, as women do, you know. When my sister was at last ready, they came straight away, leaving the things littering about the room rather than stay longer to pack them up. The bracelet, with other things, was on the dressing-table then.”

“One moment. As to the door?”

“They locked it. As they came away my daughter suggested turning the key, as we had one or two new servants about.”

“And the window?”

“That they left open, as I was going to tell you. Well, they went on their walk and came back, with Lloyd (whom they had met somewhere) carrying their ferns for them. It was dusk and almost dinner-time. Mrs. Heath went straight to her room, and–the bracelet was gone.”

“Was the room disturbed?”

“Not a bit. Everything was precisely where it had been left, except the bracelet. The door hadn’t been tampered with, but of course the window was open, as I have told you.”

“You called the police, of course?”

“Yes, and had a man from Scotland Yard down in the morning. He seemed a pretty smart fellow, and the first thing he noticed on the dressing-table, within an inch or two of where the bracelet had been, was a match, which had been lit and thrown down. Now nobody about the house had had occasion to use a match in that room that day, and, if they had, certainly wouldn’t have thrown it on the cover of the dressing-table. So that, presuming the thief to have used that match, the robbery must have been committed when the room was getting dark–immediately before Mrs. Heath returned, in fact. The thief had evidently struck the match, passed it hurriedly over the various trinkets lying about, and taken the most valuable.”

“Nothing else was even moved?”

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