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XXVII The Last Week: Monday

IN the morning's papers I discovered an announcement that poor Edward's funeral would take place that afternoon at three o'clock. No letter arrived from May during the morning, so I had to conclude that she had been too much occupied to write.

I attended the funeral in a cab, and took up an unobtrusive place in the rear of the procession. Mr. and Mrs. Shaw and Miss Denton followed the hearse in a closed carriage. I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Shaw's face, it was wild and haggard. May was weeping behind her veil. Poor Mr. Shaw looked at death's door. He tottered as he walked to and from the carriage. I told myself that I had wrecked the lives of the sweetest old couple in the world, and my remorse was a constant agony.

My poor friend was buried in Waverley Cemetery. I watched the ceremony from within my cab outside the railings; I dared not enter on account of Mrs. Shaw. A surpliced minister read the burial service over the remains. I heard the earth rattle on the coffin, wishing it had been mine. I saw the grave filled, and at the last Mrs. Shaw cast herself upon the mound with a cry which tore my heart. I could stand no more; I drove off, always urging speed, like one possessed.

A gentleman was waiting for me at my cottage. The servant gave me his card. “Mr. David Green!” “A stranger,” I muttered.




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A tall, thin man; well, rather than fashionably dressed, rose to greet me as I entered the library; he held out a large strong hand, covered with diamond rings, and gave me a metallic grip, literally, for his rings cut my fingers. I swiftly decided that he was not a gentleman.

“Glad to meet you, Mr. Rowe.”

“I haven't the honour,” I suggested. He seemed to be a Scotchman; he had very high cheekbones, a sweeping yellow moustache, a powerful chin, and keen blue-grey eyes.

For answer he opened his vest, and showed me, pinned within the lapel, a small silver badge, surmounted with a crown.

“I beg your pardon,” I said. “I fear I must be stupid. I don't catch you.”

“I am a detective, Mr. Rowe, and have charge of the Shaw case; that (and he tapped the badge) is my credential.”

I begged him to take a seat, and shut the door. Presently we faced each other, separated only by my writing-table. He eyed me up and down as though taking my measure, or a mental photograph.

“You have come?” I suggested.

“For a chat with you, Mr. Rowe. This is a strange case, a very strange case; indeed, I may say the most strange and difficult which has ever come beneath my notice, Mr. Rowe. Now of course I have the reports and the evidence taken at the inquest to go upon, but I always make it a practice never to depend upon the work of other people, however skilful they may be, especially in a difficult case like this. Personal impressions are most valuable; most valuable, Mr. Rowe.”

I nodded. “I quite understand.”

“Pre-cisely. I may tell you that I am the chief of the N.S. Wales detectives, under Mr. Fosbery, Mr. Rowe, and I believe I owe my present position to the method I have mentioned.”

“Quite so.”

“Well, I should like you to tell me all you know of this sad affair, if you will, Mr. Rowe.”




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“Certainly!” said I, and without further parley I recounted exactly how poor Ned's murder had been discovered by me, and how he had involuntarily taken my place.

He listened with the greatest attention, and his glance did not once waver from mine.

He sighed when I had concluded. “Hum! ah! a very sad affair, Mr. Rowe, and I can quite understand your feelings; a terrible position for you to be in as regards his family. Hum! ah! by the way, you are an Englishman, are you not, Mr. Rowe?” His eyes gave a sudden steely glitter as he put the question. I felt, in a flash of inspiration, that it behoved me to be careful, perhaps candid.

“I am not,” I replied.

Mr. Green looked disappointed. “There is that impression abroad,” he said.

“I created it, and purposely,” I replied.

“Ah!”

“You doubtless know my antecedents,” I suggested.

He smiled. “To be frank, I do. You are related to Daniel Rowe of Miller's Point; a sad rascal, I am afraid, Mr. Rowe, though a clever one.”

I nodded. “Knowing him you can understand why it is that I do not wish the relationship made public, especially as I am engaged to be married to Miss Denton.”

“Ex-actly; but er—excuse me, does not your conduct resemble er—ah—a sort of sailing under false colours, eh?”

“If you refer to Miss Denton, you are mistaken.”

“I beg your pardon, I referred to the public.”

“In that case I cannot agree with you. The public can have no concern in my private affairs; it is, at most, an innocent deception which I have practised upon them. I am an ambitious man, Mr. Green. You who know my antecedents must be aware that my father was a gentleman. Well, I wish to rise in the world. I come from a gentlemanly stock, however unfortunately, and it was not my fault that I was born with the bar sinister. I wish to make myself a gentleman. I propose to enter the law, and carve out an honourable name for myself—honestly. Such a thing would be impossible were I weighed down with the


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obloquy which must attach to me if my origin were publicly known. Surely my ambition is a legitimate one, an honest one. I injure no one by my deception. It surely cannot enter into your plans to betray me and so cause my ruin.”

He threw out his hands. “By no means, Mr. Rowe, by no manner of means. I would be the last in the world to cast a stone unnecessarily at any man, especially one like you, who are honestly striving to succeed. I admire your ambition, Mr. Rowe; believe me, I admire it. And I assure you your confidence in me will not do you any harm!”

“Why did you bring up the subject, sir?”

“Ah, Mr. Rowe, in a case, a difficult case like this, an intelligent officer before committing himself to any theory of the crime, first exhausts every possibility. Now there is a possibility in my mind regarding you—I beg your pardon, of course not in any criminal fashion—and with your permission I shall ask you a few questions.”

“I am at your service.”

“Well, sir, it is within my knowledge that a disreputable secret society, calling itself the Dogs' Push, has its head centre in Miller's Point, and I am by no means sure that your uncle—ahem, Dan—excuse me, Mr. Daniel Rowe, is not concerned with them. Now, by any chance before you came into your fortune, some three years ago, Mr. Rowe, did you in any way incur the enmity of any of these vagabonds?”

“No, Mr. Green. I did not. I never mixed myself with the larrikins at all. I was a studious lad, and always kept strictly to myself. In fact, I detested the larrikins, and also feared them too much to ever be anything but friendly to them.”

“Ex-actly; that fact is well known. Your life in that quarter did you great credit, Mr. Rowe. But you must have been aware that such a Push existed.”

“Oh, yes, I knew that; everyone knew it!”

“Did you ever by any chance hear the name of their king mentioned, Mr. Rowe?” His eyes were like twin gimlets.

I affected to reflect. After a moment I replied, looking at him quite frankly:




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“I'm afraid, Mr. Green, I can't help you there. I believe it is their practice to change their kings every year. I think one year a man named Dwyer was the king, but I could not swear to it. They never spoke to me of those matters, and in any case I fear I would not have paid any attention. I was not in the least interested in them, you see.”

For a second time Mr. Green looked disappointed.

“Do you know if your uncle is a member?” he asked.

“Well, he often spoke about them, Mr. Green, but generally to their discredit, as if he despised their brutal methods. But whether or not that was merely a blind——” I shrugged my shoulders expressively.

“Hum—er—ah. Your uncle occasionally visits you, Mr. Rowe. He was here last night?”

“You are quite right, sir; he is the curse of my life.”

“Blackmail, I suppose?”

“It was hard to satisfy him, Mr. Green.”

“And situated as you are, you can neither prosecute him nor defend yourself. I sincerely sympathise with you, Mr. Rowe. Hum—er—ah! are his demands excessive?”

“Rather constant than excessive, sir.”

“You find it perhaps sometimes impossible to comply with his requests?”

“Sometimes,” I admitted.

“Lately?”

“Of late he has been more reasonable, for some cause or another. Last night he did not ask me for any money at all, but came out merely to state he would want something done for him later on.”

“To give you timely warning, I suppose.”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“Has he ever threatened you?” pursued Mr. Green.

“Occasionally he has.”

“In a criminal way?”

“I scarcely understand you. His favourite threat, if I do not at once comply with his demands, is to publish our connection. Not that I think he ever would; he is too canny, and would not dream of killing the goose that lays golden eggs for him.”

For a third time Mr. Green looked very disappointed.




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“Another theory slain,” he disgustedly announced. “I may inform you, Mr. Rowe, that I had entertained the idea that your uncle, defied by you, had planned to kill you, and mistaken his victim in the dark.”

I shuddered. “That was a very terrible idea, sir, and pardon me if I say rather far fetched. It seems almost certain that the motive of the crime was robbery.”

Mr. Green favoured me with a pitying smile. “Robbery is often a cloak, Mr. Rowe. In my experience—but there, I shall not bore you. I am now, I may say, forced back on to the theory of the coroner, that some sailor-men murdered Mr. Shaw.”

“Have the ships in the harbour been searched?” I demanded.

“Every plank and corner, Mr. Rowe.”

“And nothing discovered?”

“We have made several arrests, but we cannot detain the men long. They have all brought up sufficient alibis already. The whole affair is shrouded in mystery. However, I shall do my best.”

He rose to his feet.

“It is a terrible case!” I said, quietly, “and it is not the only one of its kind. I do hope, Mr. Green (pardon me for saying such a thing, but Edward Shaw was my dearest friend), I do hope that even should your efforts prove for a long time unavailing, that you will not give up the quest. One hears nothing now of any effort being made to trace the murderers of poor Senior Constable Tobin. I think it is a terrible thing that those brutes should be allowed to rest.”

Mr. Green struck an attitude. “No good policeman,” he declared, “ever gives up his quest in a murder case. There is blood on the earth crying aloud for justice. We are paid to discover crime, and, apart from that, we take a professional interest in our work. If we fail at first, we persevere, whether our labours are made public or not; be sure of that, Mr. Rowe.”

“I am glad to hear you say it,” I replied; “but what of your ultimate success? ‘Murder will out’ is not a true saying, is it?”




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“There are some crimes, Mr. Rowe, which from their very nature baffle all human ingenuity. No one saw them committed but the Almighty, and the murderers left no clue. I refer to such cases as the Balmain stabbing case, the kicking to death of a man by larrikins at Woolloomooloo, the murder of a man in the Domain, the murder of constable Tobin, and others, all of which have occurred within the last few years. In such we are helpless, and can only wait, watch, and hope. Then, again, there are crimes which, though passing publicly as undiscovered, are not really so. In some arrests are made, and though we know we have captured the criminal, the evidence is insufficient for a jury to convict. In others, though every man in the force is morally certain that he can put his hand on the murderer, the details that can be proved are insufficient to justify placing the accused on trial! The police cannot perform miracles, Mr. Rowe, and the greatest detective who ever lived cannot create evidence where none exists.”

“Or where it is locked up in the breasts of desperate men,” I muttered.

“Exactly so. I shall promise you, however, never to let this case drop till I have unravelled it.”

“I wish to God I could help you,” I exclaimed, and the cry came from my heart.

Mr. Green took my hand between his huge fingers, and pressed it firmly. “I wish you could,” he said. “I am glad to have met you, Mr. Rowe, and I thank you for treating me so frankly; you won't regret it. Your secret is perfectly safe with me, and if ever I can help you in any way, you have only to command my services.”

And thus Mr. Green left me, having no suspicion that at my instance he had abandoned the only proper clue which existed whereby he might have tracked to death the murderers of Edward Shaw. I felt a criminal in misleading him, but I dared do nothing else. My misery was sufficient punishment for an even greater crime. Throughout the day no letter came to me from my sweetheart. There seemed no comfort in the world. I paced my room, seeing no one, though many called, until two hours before midnight. Then I issued forth, and took a train to Balmain. At


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Darling Street. I got out, and descended the hill to the Darling Street wharf. There I hired a boat, and having, much to the waterman's astonishment, dismissed him, rowed myself across the harbour. It was my design to search for, and discover, the orifice of the old pump stream, which I knew emitted its waters underneath one of the wharves of Miller's Point. My plan was, having found the entrance, to fasten my boat to a pile, and then enter the dark tunnel of the stream, and wade along its bed, until I should reach the cross tunnels leading between my uncle's shop and John Robin's foundry. For this purpose I had provided myself with a small lantern of the bull's-eye pattern, and had donned very old clothes. I had not the least idea where my uncle kept the “Push Book,” but it seemed to me most probable that it should be hidden in some secret receptacle in the cellar beneath my old bedroom, or else concealed, perhaps buried, in the walls of one of the secret passages. I resolved to explore the whole place thoroughly.

The night was very dark, but the sky was clear, and there was no wind. I rowed as silently as I could as I approached the point. Luckily I was so familiar with the topography that I easily distinguished landmarks in spite of the gloom. Judging a point equidistant between my uncle's shop and the foundry, I cautiously glided under the first line of wharves. Several large vessels were drawn up at their piers. Some were dark and silent, others were ablaze with light, and noisily loading or unloading cargoes. The tide was very low, and still on ebb. I lighted my lantern and flashed it upon the sea-wall, but it was a blank as far as I could see. Drawing my sculls into the boat, I pushed my way from pile to pile, making not the slightest noise. I found the entrance at last, about ten feet from the side of a huge iron ship. Tying the boat's painter to a pile above my head, I sculled the stern round, and, standing up, forced it into the orifice as far as I could; then touching bottom I stepped over the side, and found myself standing in slime to my knees. With great difficulty, for at every step I slipped, I pulled up the boat several feet, until it rested on its side, firmly held in the filthy harbour mud. Then, lantern in hand, I started up the tunnel. The ascent was fairly


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steep and fearfully unsafe, and the smell was horrible. Slimy creatures writhed under my feet, and once an eel wriggled and twisted round my leg. I almost screamed out, the sensation was so revolting. Presently I opened wide the lantern slide, and looked about me. I stood by then in the pump stream itself, and was glad enough to rinse my muddy extremities in its crystal waters. Proceeding up stream I strode along fairly swiftly for about a hundred yards, when it suddenly struck me that I had gone too far. I returned, narrowly scanning every foot of the cemented walls both left and right, but no opening rewarded my search. And yet I remembered that, as my uncle and I had turned from the pump stream into John Robin's passage, I could distinctly hear the swish of the waves. I once more ascended the stream, this time for quite two hundred paces; still no opening. It became convincingly evident that either there must be two pump streams, or else the Push, for some csoteric reason, had carefully filled up the passages. I proceeded to test the latter assumption, and after half an hour's minute examination, discovered on the right hand side of the tunnel, facing the exit, unmistakable traces of recent masonic work. A patch of almost fresh cement, about four feet high by two across, stood out in distinguishable relief from the more ancient masses of the wall. I tested it with my boot-heel and the butt of my revolver, but it was spread upon a solid backing, and rang as true as any other portion of the stone. Further down I encountered an exactly similar occurrence. There was only one conclusion to arrive at. The Push had blocked up the passages. It was, therefore absolutely impossible for me to steal a march upon my uncle, and secretly enter his domains to seek the precious “Book.” Thoroughly dejected, I returned to the boat, and pushing out to sea, rowed back to Balmain. It was so late when I arrived there that the trams had all stopped, and neither cab nor public conveyance could I find. The six-mile walk to my cottage did not alleviate the gloom of my misfortunate condition. Not only had I failed in my mission, but not a glimmer of hope remained to me of its possible accomplishment, unless I were to try and wrest the book from the possession of the assembled gang, a wild idea,


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which I confess I shrank from; for not one of the Push but would have cheerfully committed the blackest crime in its defence.

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