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CHAPTER I.

Some forty-three years ago a wealthy banker, a Mr. Binkie, was travelling from London to Woodstock, when the progress of his carriage was arrested by two gentlemen of the road, who made the usual demand of “Your money or your life!” The banker instantly complied, and dropped a purse, containing gold and bank-notes, amounting to £70, into the hand which one of the gentlemen (both of them were masked) put into the carriage window. The hand, thus stretched forth, was ungloved, and while the banker was finding his purse, he could not help taking particular notice of it. There is something certainly in the shape of a hand. I do not mean to say that it is always a criterion


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of a man's or woman's birth; but, generally speaking, from looking at the hand, a very fair estimate may be formed of the owner's condition in life. Now, the hand into which the banker dropped his purse was a very peculiar hand. It was not particularly small; but it was soft and white, and the fingers were so long as to be seemingly out of proportion. The nails were carefully pared, and there was a pinkish hue about them. On the inner part of the thumb there was a scar, or mark rather, such a mark as would remain after a wound caused by the application of a piece of red-hot iron. The shape of this scar was that of a half-moon, and its size about half an inch in length, with the proportionate breadth. The gentleman of the road, while holding out his hand, was compelled to stretch his body over the shoulder of his horse, and while in this position the banker had a good view of the back part of his neck, a portion of his hair, and the lower part of his right ear; for the mask that he wore covered only the features—the face. It would be a hard thing to swear to a man, by seeing only a small portion of the back part of his neck, and an ear; but so very peculiar was the formation in this case, that the banker felt convinced that whenever, or wherever, he might see them again, he would be able instantly to recognize them. What was this peculiar formation? It was this: Behind the ear there was no back part of the head, or, in the parlance of phrenologists, “no development of the animal passions.” There was, also, another peculiarity. The skin of that portion of the neck which was visible was as smooth and white as that of some delicate high-born damsel; while the ear, in its size, and the delicacy of its shape, was far more like that of a woman than a man. In stature, this gentleman of the road was about five feet ten inches in height, and rather slight in figure. His dress was not like that in which Jack Sheppard, Tom King, and other notorious highwaymen of bygone days were to delight, but more like that of a country


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squire, with the exception of a slouched hat, and a short black cloth cloak, such a one as Hamlet usually wears on the stage.

The banker was not asked for his watch or other valuables. As soon as his purse was pocketed, the postboy was commanded by the highwayman to “go on.” It was about ten miles from Woodstock that this robbery took place; and as soon as it had been completed, as above described, the two gentlemen of the road leaped their horses into a field, and galloped across the country towards a town some six miles distant. The season of the year was winter — the hour, half-past three in the afternoon — and by the time that they arrived in the town towards which they galloped it was quite dark.

The banker had very urgent business in Woodstock, and was anxious to return to town with all speed; so urgent, indeed, was this business, that he would not speak about the robbery lest it should break in upon his time, which was of so much consequence. He was, therefore, silent on the subject until after his arrival in London, on the following day, when a formal intimation of the facts was forwarded to the police authorities, who inserted the usual advertisement in the “Hue and Cry.”

The bank to which the gentleman who had been robbed belonged was a bank that issued its own notes, and it was a portion of their notes that had fallen into the hands of the highwayman. Five “fives;” the numbers were known, but the banker, for reasons of his own, did not furnish the police with those numbers. A memorandum, however, was made upon a card, and hung up inside the rails of every little desk in the counting-house — “53-12” to “53-16.” Ere long every one connected with the house, partners, clerks, and even the porters and other servants, had their numbers by heart, and whenever they saw a “flyer” of the firm, looked into the corner of it instanter. Upwards of a year elapsed ere one of these lost ones was handed across the counter.




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“53-14” came in one morning amongst a roll of other notes — representing a very large sum of money — as a payment from a banking-house in the west end of London. In pursuance of instructions that had been given in respect to this matter, the clerk who received “53-14” said nothing, but took it quietly to the partner from whom it had been stolen. Mr. Binkie examined it very minutely, and, with a smile on his countenance — for the hand and the neck, and the ear, and the form of the highwayman came very vividly before him at that moment — ejaculated “Humph!” This note had evidently travelled a good deal since the day that it was stolen. It was crumpled, worn, and almost filthy; but there was only one name written upon the back of it — “William Giles.” If the present detective force had been then in existence, it would have been sufficient to have handed the note over to one of the inspectors; but the force did not then exist, and the banker was therefore induced to institute, by private means, those inquiries which he deemed necessary. The great questions were — “Who is William Giles? Where did he get this bit of paper from? When? How?”

The bankers from whom it was received in payment had received it from another banker, who had taken it from a banker in the country, who had received it from a grazier, who took it from a butcher in Gosport in part payment of some sheep. The butcher when the note was shown to him by a clerk of the banking-house of Binkie and Co. — a Mr. Martin — remembered it perfectly, “owing to the name of ‘Giles’ on the back of it, and a cross in red ink, which he had himself made upon it; likewise a stain, which was caused by its falling on a bit of fat, when the gentleman who gave it him threw it on the block in payment of his bill.”

“And what was the gentleman's name?” inquired Mr. Martin.

“His name, sir? Why, Mr. Grafton, who lives up here.”

“And who is Mr. Grafton?”




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“A gentleman of large property, and a nephew of Lord Banetree.”

Mr. Martin waited upon Mr. Grafton; and, exhibiting the five-pound note, represented what the butcher had stated. “It is perfectly true,” replied Mr. Grafton; “I did pay him that note. I remember the note perfectly; it was in my possession for several weeks.”

“Do you know from whom you took it, sir?”

“Yes; from the landlord of a hotel in Bath. He gave it to me as part of the change for a twenty-pound note, after deducting the amount of his bill.”

“Have you any objection to give me a letter to the landlord, sir?”

“Not the least.” And Mr. Grafton sat down and wrote, not exactly a letter, but a declaration, which answered the same purpose. Armed with this document, Mr. Martin journeyed to Bath, saw the landlord, presented Mr. Grafton's declaration, and produced the five-pound note.

The landlord also “remembered the note perfectly;” and had, he said, a reason for so doing, which was this: that a tradesman in the town had refused to give gold for it, because he thought the firm that issued it was rather shaky.

“Shaky!” exclaimed Mr. Martin, rather indignantly. “Really, sir, I am at a loss to — ”

“Well, I hope you will excuse me, sir, if I have given any offence,” said the fat, jovial, and good-tempered landlord. “I intended no offence, I assure you, sir. You asked me for particulars, and I have given you one, at all events.”

“And may I ask from whom you received the note, sir?”

“Yes, sir, from a gentleman.”

“What gentleman?”

“The gentleman whose name is written on the back of the note. You must not be offended, but to tell you the truth, I at that time had some misgivings about the firm —


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for rumours were abroad, sir — and I took the note from Mr. Giles, who was staying here for several days with a friend of his, on the express condition that if the firm failed before I parted with it, he would consider himself my debtor for the sum. But, sir, I took four other £5 notes, similar to this, from Mr. Giles.”

“And what has become of these notes?”

“I parted with them in the usual course of business, sir. They are not forgeries, I hope?”

“Oh, dear, no. Were they new when you received them?”

“To the best of my recollection, they were. At all events, they were not so dirty as this is.”

“And who is Mr. Giles?”

“Well, sir, he was a gentleman who came and stayed here for some days with a friend.”

“And what is Mr. Giles?”

“Well, I should say he was a gentleman of independent means, and one who lived up to his income.”

“And where does he reside?”

“By referring to my books, I can tell you, sir; for, previous to going away he, at my request, left his address. Yes; here it is. ‘George Giles, Esq., Eagle Lodge, near Exeter, Devon.’”

“What kind of a person was Mr. Giles?”

“Well, sir, I have told you that he was a gentleman.”

“But are you sure that he was a gentleman?”

“For twenty-one years, sir, I was the head butler of a nobleman of distinction, who entertained, both at his town house, and at his country seat, the best society in the kingdom; and since his lordship's death I have been the landlord of this hotel, which is not the smallest in the place, sir. Now, with that amount of experience, I think it would be very hard indeed if I did not know a gentleman when I spoke to him, or he spoke to me. Yes, sir, Mr. Giles was, and, if living, is a gentleman; well born and well bred sir.


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If he had represented himself to me as a duke or a marquis, I should not have doubted his word for one moment. His conversation, manners, bearing, and address, sir, were quite sufficient for me.”

“But the name of Giles is not a particularly aristocratic one,” suggested Mr. Martin.

“Perhaps not, sir,” replied the landlord. “But, as families now intermarry, there is not much in names, sir. There is, at this moment, in the house a gentleman whose name is Smith, sir. Nevertheless, he is, to my knowledge, the grandson of one of England's proudest dukes. Names, sir? Why, the name of the boots of this hotel (and I have seen his baptismal register) is Augustus Philip Howard, and that of the head waiter, Alfred Montmorenci. Howard's father was a shoemaker; Montmorenci's a small greengrocer, who lived in Black Boy Alley all his life.”

Mr. Martin having thanked the landlord for his information, and having dined at the hotel, took a post-chaise and departed for Exeter, where he inquired for Mr. Giles. No one had heard of such a gentleman in the neighbourhood. Eagle Lodge? there was no such place.

The clue to the discovery having ended at this point, Mr. Martin returned to London, and detailed to his employers the particulars of his journey. When Mr. Binkie had heard the description given of Mr. Giles, he grinned sardonically, and exclaimed: “Humph! I thought as much. A gentleman, eh?” Another year passed away, and all hope of discovering by whom he had been robbed had departed from the breast of the banker, when one afternoon, while walking up New Bond Street, he saw before him a gentleman-like looking person, but whose ear and neck (the back part thereof) made a great impression upon him. He followed this person, and was often as close to him as possible — so close, that he could distinctly see the texture of his skin. When in Piccadilly, nearly opposite to the White Horse, the banker made an experiment: “Mr. Giles!” said


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he, in a gentle tone. The person whom he was following started suddenly, turned round, looked at the banker with a rather vacant countenance, and then walked on. The banker now more boldly accosted the person, of whose identity he was now quite certain. Walking by his side, he said: “Surely, Mr. Giles, you remember me?”

“No, sir, I do not,” was the reply, and he stopped.

“No?”

“No, sir! You have the advantage of me.”

“Perhaps so, in this crowded street under existing circumstances; but the last time we met, Mr. Giles, you had the advantage — and a very decided advantage — over me. You then offered me your hand. Will you now accept mine?” and the banker removed his glove, and extended his palm.

“I tell you, sir, that you are mistaken,” said the person accosted, folding his arms tightly across his chest. “In the first place, sir, how do you know that I am Mr. Giles?”

“That is the very point. Satisfy my curiosity. Tell me who you really are, and I promise you, on my word and honour as a gentleman, that our acquaintance here shall end, never again to be renewed.”

“What do you mean, sir?”

“What I have said. But I have another condition to impose — which is, that you restore to me a small silver coin of the reign of Charles I, which was for many, many years in my possession, and subsequently came into yours. It has a hole in it, and the value of the coin is, intrinsically, less than sixpence.”

“The only conclusion, sir, at which I can arrive is, that you are a maniac; and if a constable were at hand, I should not hesitate to give you into custody.”

“Then I will be beforehand with you,” cried the banker; and seizing the person whom he addressed by the collar of his coat, he held him firmly, calling aloud, “Help—help—help! A thief—a thief—a thief!”

A crowd was speedily collected around them; and ere


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long a constable came up and took “the gentleman” into custody on a charge of highway robbery. Upon being asked his name, he remarked, pointing to the banker, “This person says my name is Giles. Be it Giles.”

On the following day there was an examination at the police-office in Bow Street. The banker, who was permitted to look at the right hand of the accused, swore positively that he was the person who, upon a certain date, had stopped him on the king's highway, and took from him a purse containing £70 in bank-notes and gold, and a silver coin of the reign of Charles I. On being asked for his address, the prisoner declined to give any, which was considered very much against him; and he was remanded, in order that the evidence of the landlord at the Bath hotel might be taken. There was another circumstance, besides his refusal to give an address, which was construed greatly to his prejudice, or to use a more homely phrase, which “told against him.” When apprehended he had upon his finger a signet ring; but between Piccadilly and the lockup he had contrived to part with it. When searched, a pocket-book was found upon him, and a purse. The former contained a number of memoranda in cipher, and unintelligible to those who examined them; the latter contained two bank notes of £10 each, four guineas in gold, and a few shillings in silver. His linen, which was unmarked, and his apparel, including his hat and his boots, were such as only gentlemen in those days ever dreamt of wearing. To use a popular expression current that day in the police-office — “Whether he had faked the swag or not, he was a tip-top nob, and no flies about it.”

The moment that the landlord of the Bath hotel was confronted with the prisoner, he unhesitatingly recognized him as Mr. Giles, the gentleman from whom he had taken the bank-notes, the one of which (No. 53-14) was then produced in court. The magistrate having no kind of doubt about the case, fully committed the prisoner, “George


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Giles” to take his trial at the Old Bailey at the ensuing sessions.

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