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This eBook has been formatted to the highest digital standards and adjusted for readability on all devices. In The Expressman and the Detective Allan Pinkerton tells how his relatively small P.I. firm succeeded in this first big case. Tens of thousands of dollars had gone missing. The suspect was too smart for the police so the robbed company asked Pinkerton to step in. Nine detectives worked this case for ten months. The suspect did take them on a very long chase. Some of the detective travelled miles and miles following the suspect while others followed his wife.
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During the greater portion of a very busy life, I have been actively engaged in the profession of a Detective, and hence have been brought in contact with many men, and have been an interested participant in many exciting occurrences.
The narration of some of the most interesting of these events, happening in connection with my professional labors, is the realization of a pleasure I have long anticipated, and is the fulfillment of promises repeatedly made to numerous friends in by gone days.
"The Expressman and the Detective,"
and the other works announced by my publishers, are all true stories, transcribed from the Records in my offices. If there be any incidental embellishment, it is so slight that the actors in these scenes from the drama of life would never themselves detect it; and if the incidents seem to the reader at all marvelous or improbable, I can but remind him, in the words of the old adage, that "Truth is stranger than fiction."
Chicago, October, 1874.
Montgomery, Alabama, is beautifully situated on the Alabama river, near the centre of the State. Its situation at the head of navigation, on the Alabama river, its connection by rail with important points, and the rich agricultural country with which it is surrounded, make it a great commercial centre, and the second city in the State as regards wealth and population. It is the capital, and consequently learned men and great politicians flock to it, giving it a society of the highest rank, and making it the social centre of the State.
From 1858 to 1860, the time of which I treat in the present work, the South was in a most prosperous condition. "Cotton was king," and millions of dollars were poured into the country for its purchase, and a fair share of this money found its way to Montgomery.
When the Alabama planters had gathered their crops of cotton, tobacco, rice, etc., they sent them to Montgomery to be sold, and placed the proceeds on deposit in its banks. During their busy season, while overseeing the labor of their slaves, they were almost entirely debarred from the society of any but their own families; but when the crops were gathered they went with their families to Montgomery, where they gave themselves up to enjoyment, spending their money in a most lavish manner.
There were several good hotels in the city and they were always filled to overflowing with the wealth and beauty of the South.
The Adams Express Company had a monopoly of the express business of the South, and had established its agencies at all points with which there was communication by rail, steam or stage. They handled all the money sent to the South for the purchase of produce, or remitted to the North in payment of merchandise. Moreover, as they did all the express business for the banks, besides moving an immense amount of freight, it is evident that their business was enormous.
At all points of importance, where there were diverging routes of communication, the company had established principal agencies, at which all through freight and the money pouches were delivered by the messengers. The agents at these points were selected with the greatest care, and were always considered men above reproach. Montgomery being a great centre of trade was made the western terminus of one of the express routes, Atlanta being the eastern. The messengers who had charge of the express matter between these two points were each provided with a safe and with a pouch. The latter was to contain only such packages as were to go over the whole route, consisting of money or other valuables. The messenger was not furnished with a key to the pouch, but it was handed to him locked by the agent at one end of the route to be delivered in the same condition to the agent at the other end.
The safe was intended for way packages, and of it the messenger of course had a key. The pouch was carried in the safe, each being protected by a lock of peculiar construction.
The Montgomery office in 1858, and for some years previous, had been in charge of Nathan Maroney, and he had made himself one of the most popular agents in the company's employ.
He was married, and with his wife and one daughter, had pleasant quarters at the Exchange Hotel, one of the best houses in the city. He possessed all the qualifications which make a popular man. He had a genial, hearty manner, which endeared him to the open, hospitable inhabitants of Montgomery, so that he was "hail fellow, well met," with most of its populace. He possessed great executive ability and hence managed the affairs of his office in a very satisfactory manner. The promptness with which he discharged his duties had won for him the well-merited esteem of the officers of the company, and he was in a fair way of attaining a still higher position. His greatest weakness—if it may be so called—was a love for fast horses, which often threw him into the company of betting men.
On the morning of the twenty-sixth of April, 1858, the messenger from Atlanta arrived in Montgomery, placed his safe in the office as usual, and when Maroney came in, turned over to him the through pouch.
Maroney unlocked the pouch and compared it with the way-bill, when he discovered a package of four thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars for a party in Montgomery which was not down on the way-bill. About a week after this occurrence, advice was received that a package containing ten thousand dollars in bills of the Planters' and Mechanics' Bank of Charleston, S. C., had been sent to Columbus, Ga., via the Adams Express, but the person to whom it was directed had not received it. Inquiries were at once instituted, when it was discovered that it had been missent, and forwarded to Atlanta, instead of Macon. At Atlanta it was recollected that this package, together with one for Montgomery, for four thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars, had been received on Sunday, the twenty-fifth of April, and had been sent on to Montgomery, whence the Columbus package could be forwarded the next day. Here all trace of the missing package was lost. Maroney stated positively that he had not received it, and the messenger was equally positive that the pouch had been delivered to Maroney in the same order in which he received it from the Atlanta agent.
The officers of the company were completely at a loss. It was discovered beyond a doubt that the package had been sent from Atlanta. The messenger who received it bore an excellent character, and the company could not believe him guilty of the theft. The lock of the pouch was examined and found in perfect order, so that it evidently had not been tampered with. The messenger was positive that he had not left the safe open when he went out of the car, and there was no sign of the lock's having been forced.
The more the case was investigated, the more directly did suspicion point to Maroney, but as his integrity had always been unquestioned, no one now was willing to admit the possibility of his guilt. However, as no decided action in the matter could be taken, it was determined to say nothing, but to have the movements of Maroney and other suspected parties closely watched.
For this purpose various detectives were employed; one a local detective of Montgomery, named McGibony; others from New Orleans, Philadelphia, Mobile, and New York. After a long investigation these parties had to give up the case as hopeless, all concluding that Maroney was an innocent man. Among the detectives, however was one from New York, Robert Boyer, by name, an old and favorite officer of Mr. Matsell when he was chief of the New York police. He had made a long and tedious examination and finding nothing definite as to what had become of the money, had turned his attention to discovering the antecedents of Maroney, but found nothing positively suspicious in his life previous to his entering the employ of the company. He discovered that Maroney was the son of a physician, and that he was born in the town of Rome, Ga.
Here I would remark that the number of titled men one meets in the South is astonishing. Every man, if he is not a doctor, a lawyer, or a clergyman, has some military title—nothing lower than captain being admissible. Of these self-imposed titles they are very jealous, and woe be to the man who neglects to address them in the proper form. Captain is the general title, and is applied indiscriminately to the captain of a steamer, or to the deck hand on his vessel.
Maroney remained in Rome until he became a young man, when he emigrated to Texas. On the breaking out of the Mexican war he joined a company of Texan Rangers, and distinguished himself in a number of battles. At the close of the war he settled in Montgomery, in the year 1851, or 1852, and was employed by Hampton & Co., owners of a line of stages, to act as their agent. On leaving this position, he was made treasurer of Johnson & May's circus, remaining with the company until it was disbanded in consequence of the pecuniary difficulties of the proprietors—caused, it was alleged, through Maroney's embezzlement of the funds, though this allegation proved false, and he remained for many years on terms of intimacy with one of the partners, a resident of Montgomery. When the company disbanded he obtained a situation as conductor on a railroad in Tennessee, and was afterwards made Assistant Superintendent, which position he resigned to take the agency of the Adams Express Company, in Montgomery. His whole life seemed spotless up to the time of the mysterious disappearance of the ten thousand dollars.
In the fall of the year, Maroney obtained leave of absence, and made a trip to the North, visiting the principal cities of the East, and also of the Northwest. He was followed on this trip, but nothing was discovered, with the single exception that his associates were not always such as were desirable in an employé, to whose keeping very heavy interests were from time to time necessarily committed. He was lost sight of at Richmond, Va., for a few days, and was supposed by the man who was following him, to have passed the time in Charleston.
The company now gave up all hope of recovering the money; but as Maroney's habits were expensive, and they had lost, somewhat, their confidence in him, they determined to remove him and place some less objectionable person in his place.
Maroney's passion for fine horses has already been alluded to. It was stated about this time that he owned several fast horses; among others, "Yankee Mary," a horse for which he was said to have paid two thousand five hundred dollars; but as he had brought seven thousand five hundred dollars with him when he entered the employ of the company, this could not be considered a suspicious circumstance.
It having been determined to remove Maroney, the Vice-President of the company wrote to the Superintendent of the Southern Division of the steps he wished taken. The Superintendent of the Southern Division visited Montgomery on the twentieth of January, 1859, but was anticipated in the matter of carrying out his instructions, by Maroney's tendering his resignation. The resignation was accepted, but the superintendent requested him to continue in charge of the office until his successor should arrive.
This he consented to do.
Previous to Maroney's trip to the North, Mr. Boyer held a consultation with the Vice-President and General Superintendent of the company. He freely admitted his inability to fathom the mystery surrounding the loss of the money, and thought the officers of the company did Maroney a great injustice in supposing him guilty of the theft. He said he knew of only one man who could bring out the robbery, and he was living in Chicago.
Pinkerton was the name of the man he referred to. He had established an agency in Chicago, and was doing a large business. He (Boyer) had every confidence in his integrity and ability, which was more than he could say of the majority of detectives, and recommended the Vice-President to have him come down and look into the case.
This ended the case for most of the detectives. One by one they had gone away, and nothing had been developed by them. The Vice-President, still anxious to see if anything could be done, wrote a long and full statement of the robbery and sent it to me, with the request that I would give my opinion on it.
I was much surprised when I received the letter, as I had not the slightest idea who the Vice-President was, and knew very little about the Adams Express, as, at that time, they had no office in the West.
I, however, sat down and read it over very carefully, and, on finishing it, determined to make a point in the case if I possibly could. I reviewed the whole of the Vice-President's letter, debating every circumstance connected with the robbery, and finally ended my consideration of the subject with the firm conviction that the robbery had been committed either by the agent, Maroney, or by the messenger, and I was rather inclined to give the blame to Maroney.
The letter was a very long one, but one of which I have always been proud. Having formed my opinion, I wrote to the Vice-President, explained to him the ground on which I based my conclusions, and recommended that they keep Maroney in their employ, and have a strict watch maintained over his actions.
After sending my letter, I could do nothing until the Vice-President replied, which I expected he would do in a few days; but I heard nothing more of the affair for a long time, and had almost entirely forgotten it, when I received a telegraphic dispatch from him, sent from Montgomery, and worded about as follows:
"Allan Pinkerton: Can you send me a man—half horse and half alligator? I have got 'bit' once more! When can you send him?"
The dispatch came late Saturday night, and I retired to my private office to think the matter over. The dispatch gave me no information from which I could draw any conclusions. No mention was made of how the robbery was committed, or of the amount stolen. I had not received any further information of the ten thousand dollar robbery. How had they settled that? It was hard to decide what kind of a man to send! I wanted to send the very best, and would gladly go myself, but did not know whether the robbery was important enough to demand my personal attention.
I did not know what kind of men the officers of the company were, or whether they would be willing to reward a person properly for his exertions in their behalf.
At that time I had no office in New York, and knew nothing of the ramifications of the company. Besides, I did not know how I would be received in the South. I had held my anti-slavery principles too long to give them up. They had been bred in my bones, and it was impossible to eradicate them. I was always stubborn, and in any circumstances would never abandon principles I had once adopted.
Slavery was in full blossom, and an anti-slavery man could do nothing in the South. As I had always been a man somewhat after the John Brown stamp, aiding slaves to escape, or keeping them employed, and running them into Canada when in danger, I did not think it would do for me to make a trip to Montgomery.
I did not know what steps had already been taken in the case, or whether the loss was a heavy one. From the Vice-President's saying he wanted a man "half horse, half alligator," I supposed he wanted a man who could at least affiliate readily with the inhabitants of the South.
But what class was he to mix with? Did he want a man to mix with the rough element, or to pass among gentlemen? I could select from my force any class of man he could wish. But what did he wish?
I was unaware of who had recommended me to the Vice-President, as at that time I had not been informed that my old friend Boyer had spoken so well of me. What answer should I make to the dispatch? It must be answered immediately!
These thoughts followed each other in rapid succession as I held the dispatch before me.
I finally settled on Porter as the proper man to send, and immediately telegraphed the Vice-President, informing him that Porter would start for Montgomery by the first train. I then sent for Porter and gave him what few instructions I could. I told him the little I knew of the case, and that I should have to rely greatly on his tact and discretion.
Up to that time I had never done any business for the Adams Express, and as their business was well worth having, I was determined to win.
He was to go to Montgomery and get thoroughly acquainted with the town and its surroundings; and as my suspicions had become aroused as to the integrity of the agent, Maroney, he was to form his acquaintance, and frequent the saloons and livery stables of the town, the Vice-President's letter having made me aware of Maroney's inclination for fast horses. He was to keep his own counsel, and, above all things, not let it become known that he was from the North, but to hail from Richmond, Va., thus securing for himself a good footing with the inhabitants. He was also to dress in the Southern style; to supply me with full reports describing the town and its surroundings, the manners and customs of its people, all he saw or heard about Maroney, the messengers and other employés of the company; whether Maroney was married, and, if so, any suspicious circumstances in regard to his wife as well as himself—in fact, to keep me fully informed of all that occurred. I should have to rely on his discretion until his reports were received; but then I could direct him how to act. I also instructed him to obey all orders from the Vice-President, and to be as obliging as possible.
Having given him his instructions, I started him off on the first train, giving him a letter of introduction to the Vice-President. On Porter's arriving in Montgomery he sent me particulars of the case, from which I learned that while Maroney was temporarily filling the position of agent, among other packages sent to the Montgomery office, on the twenty-seventh of January, 1859, were four containing, in the aggregate, forty thousand dollars, of which one, of two thousand five hundred dollars, was to be sent to Charleston, S. C., and the other three, of thirty thousand, five thousand, and two thousand five hundred respectively, were intended for Augusta. These were receipted for by Maroney, and placed in the vault to be sent off the next day. On the twenty-eighth the pouch was given to the messenger, Mr. Chase, and by him taken to Atlanta. When the pouch was opened, it was found that none of these packages were in it, although they were entered on the way-bill which accompanied the pouch, and were duly checked off. The poor messenger was thunder-struck, and for a time acted like an idiot, plunging his hand into the vacant pouch over and over again, and staring vacantly at the way-bill. The Assistant Superintendent of the Southern Division was in the Atlanta office when the loss was discovered, and at once telegraphed to Maroney for an explanation. Receiving no reply before the train started for Montgomery, he got aboard and went directly there. On his arrival he went to the office and saw Maroney, who said he knew nothing at all of the matter. He had delivered the packages to the messenger, had his receipt for them, and of course could not be expected to keep track of them when out of his possession.
Before Mr. Hall, the route agent, left Atlanta he had examined the pouch carefully, but could find no marks of its having been tampered with. He had immediately telegraphed to another officer of the company, who was at Augusta, and advised him of what had happened. The evening after the discovery of the loss the pouch was brought back by the messenger from Atlanta, who delivered it to Maroney.
Maroney took out the packages, compared them with the way-bill, and, finding them all right, he threw down the pouch and placed the packages in the vault.
In a few moments he came out, and going over to where Mr. Hall was standing, near where he had laid down the pouch, he picked it up and proceeded to examine it. He suddenly exclaimed, "Why, it's cut!" and handed it over to Mr. Hall. Mr. Hall, on examination, found two cuts at right angles to each other, made in the side of the pouch and under the pocket which is fastened on the outside, to contain the way-bill.
On Sunday the General Superintendent arrived in Montgomery, when a strict investigation was made, but nothing definite was discovered, and the affair seemed surrounded by an impenetrable veil of mystery. It was, however, discovered that on the day the missing packages were claimed to have been sent away, there were several rather unusual incidents in the conduct of Maroney.
After consultation with Mr. Hall and others, the General Superintendent determined that the affair should not be allowed to rest, as was the ten thousand dollar robbery, and had Maroney arrested, charged with stealing the forty thousand dollars.
The robbery of so large an amount caused great excitement in Montgomery. The legislature was in session, and the city was crowded with senators, representatives and visitors. Everywhere, on the streets, in the saloons, in private families, and at the hotels, the great robbery of the Express Company was the universal topic of conversation. Maroney had become such a favorite that nearly all the citizens sympathized with him, and in unmeasured terms censured the company for having him arrested. They claimed that it was another instance of the persecution of a poor man by a powerful corporation, to cover the carelessness of those high in authority, and thus turn the blame on some innocent person.
Maroney was taken before Justice Holtzclaw, and gave the bail which was required—forty thousand dollars—for his appearance for examination a few days later; prominent citizens of the town actually vieing with one another for an opportunity to sign his bail-bond.
At the examination the Company presented such a weak case that the bail was reduced to four thousand dollars, and Maroney was bound over in that amount to appear for trial at the next session of the circuit court, to be held in June. The evidence was such that there was little prospect of his conviction on the charge unless the company could procure additional evidence by the time the trial was to come off.
It was the desire of the company to make such inquiries, and generally pursue such a course as would demonstrate the guilt or the possible innocence of the accused. It was absolutely necessary for their own preservation to show that depredations upon them could not be committed with impunity. They offered a reward of ten thousand dollars for the recovery of the money, promptly made good the loss of the parties who had entrusted the several amounts to their charge, and looked around to select such persons to assist them as would be most likely to secure success. The amount was large enough to warrant the expenditure of a considerable sum in its recovery, and the beneficial influence following the conviction of the guilty party would be ample return for any outlay securing that object. The General Superintendent therefore telegraphed to me, as before related, requesting me to send a man to work up the case.
Mr. Porter had a very rough journey to Montgomery, and was delayed some days on the road. It was in the depth of winter, and in the North the roads were blockaded with snow, while in the South there was constant rain. The rivers were flooded, carrying away the bridges and washing out the embankments of the railroads, very much impeding travel.
On his arrival in Montgomery he saw the General Superintendent and presented his letter. He received from him the particulars of the forty thousand dollar robbery, and immediately reported them to me.
The General Superintendent directed him to watch—"shadow" as we call it—the movements of Maroney, find out who were his companions, and what saloons he frequented.
Porter executed his duties faithfully, and reported to me that Montgomery was decidedly a fast town; that the Exchange Hotel, where Maroney boarded, was kept by Mr. Floyd, former proprietor of the Briggs House, Chicago, and, although not the leading house of the town, was very much liked, as it was well conducted.
From the meagre reports I had received I found I had to cope with no ordinary man, but one who was very popular, while I was a poor nameless individual, with a profession which most people were inclined to look down upon with contempt. I however did not flinch from the undertaking, but wrote to Porter to do all he could, and at the same time wrote to the General Superintendent, suggesting the propriety of sending another man, who should keep in the background and "spot" Maroney and his wife, or their friends, so that if any one of them should leave town he could follow him, leaving Porter in Montgomery, to keep track of the parties there.
There were, of course, a number of suspicious characters in a town of the size of Montgomery, and it was necessary to keep watch of many of them.
Maroney frequented a saloon kept by a man whom I will call Patterson. Patterson's saloon was the fashionable drinking resort of Montgomery, and was frequented by all the fast men in town. Although outwardly a very quiet, respectable place, inwardly, as Porter found, it was far from reputable. Up stairs were private rooms, in which gentlemen met to have a quiet game of poker; while down stairs could be found the greenhorn, just "roped in," and being swindled, at three card monte. There were, also, rooms where the "young bloods" of the town—as well as the old—could meet ladies of easy virtue. It was frequented by fast men from New Orleans, Mobile, and other places, who were continually arriving and departing.
I advised the General Superintendent that it would be best to have Porter get in with the "bloods" of the town, make himself acquainted with any ladies Maroney or his wife might be familiar with, and adopt generally the character of a fast man.
As soon as the General Superintendent received my letter he telegraphed to me to send the second man, and also requested me to meet him, at a certain date, in New York.
I now glanced over my force to see who was the best person to select for a "shadow". Porter had been promoted by me to be a sort of "roper".
Most people may suppose that nearly any one can perform the duties of a "shadow", and that it is the easiest thing in the world to follow up a man; but such is not the case. A "shadow" has a most difficult position to maintain. It will not do to follow a person on the opposite side of the street, or close behind him, and when he stops to speak to a friend stop also; or if a person goes into a saloon, or store, pop in after him, stand staring till he goes out, and then follow him again. Of course such a "shadow" would be detected in fifteen minutes. Such are not the actions of the real "shadow", or, at least, of the "shadow" furnished by my establishment.
I had just the man for the place, in Mr. Roch, who could follow a person for any length of time, and never be discovered.
Having settled on Roch as the proper man for the position, I summoned him to my private office. Roch was a German. He was about forty-five years old, of spare appearance and rather sallow or tanned complexion. His nose was long, thin and peaked, eyes clear but heavy looking, and hair dark. He was slightly bald, and though he stooped a little, was five feet ten inches in height. He had been in my employ for many years, and I knew him thoroughly, and could trust him.
I informed him of the duties he was to perform, and gave him minute instructions how he was to act. He was to keep out of sight as much as possible in Montgomery. Porter would manage to see him on his arrival, unknown to any one there, and would point out to him Maroney and his wife, and the messenger, Chase, who boarded at the Exchange; also Patterson, the saloon keeper, and all suspected parties. He was not to make himself known to Floyd, of the Exchange, or to McGibony, the local detective. I had also given Porter similar instructions. I suggested to him the propriety of lodging at some low boarding house where liquor was sold.
He was to keep me fully posted by letter of the movements of all suspected parties, and if any of them left town to follow them and immediately inform me by telegraph who they were and where they were going, so that I could fill his place in Montgomery.
Having given him his instructions, I selected for his disguise a German dress. This I readily procured from my extensive wardrobe, which I keep well supplied by frequent attendance at sales of old articles.
When he had rigged himself up in his long German coat, his German cap with the peak behind, and a most approved pair of emigrant boots, he presented himself to me with his long German pipe in his mouth, and I must say I was much pleased with his disguise, in which his own mother would not have recognized him. He was as fine a specimen of a Dutchman as could be found.
Having thoroughly impressed on his mind the importance of the case and my determination to win the esteem of the company by ferreting out the thief, if possible, I started him for Montgomery, where he arrived in due time.
At the date agreed upon I went to New York to meet the General Superintendent. I had never met the gentlemen of the company and I was a little puzzled how to act with them.
I met the Vice-President at the express office, in such a manner that none of the employés were the wiser as to my profession or business, and he made an appointment to meet me at the Astor House in the afternoon. At the Astor House he introduced me to the President, the General Superintendent of the company, and we immediately proceeded to business.
They gave me all the particulars of the case they could, though they were not much fuller than those I had already received from Porter's reports. They reviewed the life of Maroney, as already related, up to the time he became their agent, stating that he was married, although his marriage seemed somewhat "mixed".
As far as they could find out, Mrs. Maroney was a widow, with one daughter, Flora Irvin, who was about seven or eight years old. Mrs. Maroney was from a very respectable family, now living in Philadelphia or its environs. She was reported to have run away from home with a roué, whose acquaintance she had formed, but who soon deserted her. Afterwards she led the life of a fast woman at Charleston, New Orleans, Augusta, Ga., and Mobile, at which latter place she met Maroney, and was supposed to have been married to him.
After Maroney was appointed agent in Montgomery he brought her with him, took a suite of rooms at the Exchange, and introduced her as his wife.
On account of these circumstances the General Superintendent did not wish to meet her, and, when in Montgomery, always took rooms at another hotel.
The Vice-President said he had nearly come to the conclusion that Maroney was not guilty of the ten thousand dollar robbery; but when my letter reached him, with my comments on the robbery, he became convinced that he was the guilty party.
He was strengthened in this opinion by the actions of Maroney while on his Northern tour, and by the fact that immediately on his return the fast mare "Yankee Mary" made her appearance in Montgomery and that Maroney backed her heavily. It was not known that he was her owner, it being generally reported that Patterson and other fast men were her proprietors.
This was all the Vice-President and General Superintendent had been able to discover while South, and they were aware that I had very little ground on which to work.
I listened to all they had to say on the subject and took full memoranda of the facts. I then stated that although Maroney had evidently planned and carried out the robbery with such consummate ability that he had not left the slightest clue by which he could be detected, still, if they would only give me plenty of time, I would bring the robbery home to him.
I maintained, as a cardinal principle, that it is impossible for the human mind to retain a secret. All history proves that no one can hug a secret to his breast and live. Everyone must have a vent for his feelings. It is impossible to keep them always penned up.
This is especially noticeable in persons who have committed criminal acts. They always find it necessary to select some one in whom they can confide and to whom they can unburden themselves.
We often find that persons who have committed grave offenses will fly to the moors, or to the prairies, or to the vast solitudes of almost impenetrable forests, and there give vent to their feelings. I instanced the case of Eugene Aram, who took up his abode on the bleak and solitary moor, and, removed from the society of his fellow-men, tried to maintain his secret by devoting himself to astronomical observations and musings with nature, but who, nevertheless, felt compelled to relieve his overburdened mind by muttering to himself details of the murder while taking his long and dreary walks on the moor.
If Maroney had committed the robbery and no one knew it but himself, I would demonstrate the truth of my theory by proving that he would eventually seek some one in whom he thought he could confide and to whom he would entrust the secret.
My plan was to supply him with a confidant. It would take time to execute such a plan, but if they would have patience all would be well. I would go to Montgomery and become familiar with the town. I was unknown there and should remain so, only taking a letter to their legal advisers, Watts, Judd & Jackson, whom I supposed would cheerfully give me all the information in their power. I also informed them that it would be necessary to detail more detectives to work up the case.
I found the officers of the company genial, pleasant men, possessed of great executive ability and untiring energy, and felt that my duties would be doubly agreeable by being in the interests of such men.
They ended the interview by authorizing me to employ what men I thought proper; stating that they had full confidence in me, and that they thought I would be enabled to unearth the guilty parties ere long. They further authorized me to use my own judgment in all things; but expected me to keep them fully informed of what was going on.
I started for Montgomery the same day, but was as unfortunate in meeting with delay as were my detectives. The rivers were filled with floating ice and I was ice-bound in the Potomac for over thirty hours. I was obliged to go back to Alexandria, where I took the train and proceeded, via West Point and Atlanta, to Montgomery. On the journey I amused myself reading Martin Chuzzlewit, which I took good care to throw away on the road, as its cuts at slavery made it unpopular in the South. At the various stations planters got aboard, sometimes conveying their slaves from point to point, sometimes travelling with their families to neighboring cities. I did not converse with them, as I was not sure of my ability to refrain from divulging my abolition sentiments. On my arrival in Montgomery I took up my quarters at the Exchange and impressed upon Mr. Floyd the necessity of keeping my presence a secret. He had no idea that I was after Maroney, but supposed I was merely on a visit to the South.
I took no notice of Maroney, but managed to see Porter and Roch privately. They informed me that they had discovered little or nothing. Maroney kept everything to himself. He and his wife went out occasionally. He frequented Patterson's, sometimes going into the card rooms, drove out with a fast horse, and passed many hours in his counsel's office. This was all Porter knew.
Roch was to do nothing but "spot" the suspected parties and follow any one of them who might leave town. He was to be a Dutchman, and he acted the character to perfection. He could be seen sitting outside of his boarding-house with his pipe in his mouth, and he apparently did nothing but puff, puff, puff all day long. There was a saloon in town where lager was sold and he could, occasionally, be found here sipping his lager; but although apparently a stupid, phlegmatic man, taking no notice of what was going on around him, he drank in, with his lager, every word that was said.
I found that Mrs. Maroney was a very smart woman, indeed, and that it would be necessary to keep a strict watch over her. I therefore informed the Vice-President that I would send down another detective especially to shadow her, as she might leave at any moment for the North and take the forty thousand dollars with her.
I had no objections to her taking the money to the North. On the contrary, I preferred she should do so, as I would much rather carry on the fight on Northern soil than in the South.
I found Messrs. Watts, Judd & Jackson, the company's lawyers, were excellent men, clear-headed and accommodating. They gladly furnished me with what little information they possessed.
Before I left Montgomery on my return to the North, I became acquainted with the local detective, McGibony, without letting him know who I was. In accordance with a plan which I always carry out, of watching the actions of those around me, I kept my eye on him, and found that he was quite "thick" with Maroney. He boarded at the Exchange, drank with Maroney in saloons, and even passed with him into the card-room at Patterson's.
At this time McGibony had in his charge a distinguished prisoner, being no less a personage than the old planter whom Johnson H. Hooper so graphically described as "Simon Suggs;" by which name I will continue to call him.
Suggs had been arrested for the commission of a series of misdemeanors, but, as he was a great favorite, he was allowed the freedom of the city, and was joyfully welcomed at the hotels and saloons.
Simon was about fifty-six years old, the dryest kind of a wit, and extremely fond of his bitters. He lived about forty miles out from Montgomery, on the Coosa river, but about a week prior to the time I saw him, had come to Montgomery to see his friends. Simon's morality was not of the highest order, and the first place he visited was Patterson's saloon. Here he met a few congenial spirits, took several drinks with them, and then, being "flush,"—a very unusual thing for him—he proceeded to "buck the tiger." Like too many others, he bucked too long, and soon found himself penniless. Not to be outdone, however, he rushed out and borrowed one hundred dollars from a friend, promising to return it the first thing in the morning. With this money he returned to the unequal contest, but before long was again strapped.
In the morning, as he was walking along the street, in a very penitential mood, he was accosted by his friend, who demanded of him the one hundred dollars he had borrowed. Simon put on a very important air, and in a tone of confidence which he was far from feeling, assured him he should have the money before he left town.
As Simon strolled along, puzzling his brain as to how he could raise the necessary funds to pay off his friend, he saw the tall, ungainly form of a backwoods planter shuffling down the street towards him.
The planter was dressed in a suit of butternut, which had become very much shrunken, from exposure to all kinds of weather. His coat sleeves did not reach far below his elbows, and there was a considerable space between the bottom of his breeches and the top of his shoes. He was as "thin as a rail," and if he stood upright would have been very tall, but he was bent nearly double. He had a slouched hat on, which partly concealed his long, lantern-jawed visage, while his shaggy, uncombed hair fell to his shoulders, and gave one a feeling that it contained many an inhabitant, like that which caused Burns to write those famous lines containing the passage:
"Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as ithers see us!"
As he came down the street he stopped occasionally and gawked around.
Simon was always ready for fun, and determined to see what the planter was up to. Accordingly, as they met, Simon said, "Good mornin'!"
"Good mornin'!" replied the gawky.
"Have yer lost summat?" asked Simon.
"Wal, no, stranger, but I wants to git some money changed, and I'll be durned if I can diskiver a bank in this yar village."
"Bin sellin' niggers, eh?"
"You're out thar," replied the planter. "I've bin sellin' cotton."
"I'm jist the man to help yer! I'm gwine to my bank. Gin me yer money, and come along with me and I'll change it for yer!"
The gawky was much pleased at Simon's kind attention, and remarking that "he reckoned he was the squarest man he had met," he turned over his money—some four hundred dollars—to Simon, and they started off together to get it changed.
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