THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION: A TALE OP TRYING TIMES. CHAPTER XXV— continued. “ You are mistaken entirely in your surmises?” said the student, almost choking with indignation. “I am keeping back no circumstance which I need be ashamed to state. I was on the open street and with respectable company when my pockets were picked. I am not the stamp you take me for, and hope you will not insult me by unworthy insinuations.” “ Oh, no offence, sir; no offence intended. If you feel hurt at anything I have said, you have yourself to blame. Those who don’t speak * plump out, as to anything that happens to be taken from them, have generally some pretty good reason for being close; and if you choose to be close without any good reason at all, the fault is your own, you know, and no mistake. This is the wrong box to keep secrets in and speak of respectability. The two things don’t go together in a police-office, you may take my word for it. Please yourself, however, and we’ll do what we can to find the money. But if we do find it, you must prove it to be yours, without any doubt whatever, or you needn’t trouble yourself any more in the matter.” “ Should the money be found, I will have no further reason for reserve, and the fullest proof I can command will be forthcoming.” “ Well, master, if you will take my advice you will bring forward all the evidence you have to produce just now. It may be of more use at present that it can be any time afterwards.” “Is there much chance that, by merely proving what bank the notes I have lost were of, they would be recovered ? ” “ Why as to that I can’t flatter you there is, for the town is swarming with light-fingered gentry from all quarters, and there is no guessing which of them have found the way into your pockets, or where your money may be hidden. But if you would be only frank enough to describe the sort of people you were with—” “ I have described them already. I tell you they were highly respectable.” “ And particularly if you could identify any of them —” “Identify them ! they were my most intimate friends.” “ And bring the charge home to any of them—” “ Bring the charge home to whom ? ” “They might at least be brought to punishment, even should your money not be recovered.” “ This is really more than I can stand.” “ Very well, don’t stand it then ; but don’t try to gammon us neither. If the people you were with were so very respectable, you wouldn’t be so unwilling to name them. But I say again, master —just please yourself.” Repenting bitterly that he had ever gone on such an errand —instead of regretting, as he ought to have done, that he had not gone about it openly and without reserve —our hero was about to leave the office without deigning further reply to his inquisitor, when the latter requested him to stop a little, and he would see if anything could be done in the case after all. The lieutenant then called one of the criminal officers belonging to the Police Establishment, from another apartment, and stated to him clearly and rapidly all that the student bad communicated, taking care to place in a very striking point of view his refusal to disclose some material circumstances. “ Now,” said he, “ if you see any way of tracing the business on so slight a scent, you had belter set about it at once; but, for my part, I think it’s quite needless, unless the young gentleman chooses to tell you more than he has told me.” Here the officers -whispered together earnestly for a while—all the time eyeing Mr. Duncanson with inquisitive and suspicious looks. At length, the thief-catcher, who was a sharp-eyed, intelligent, but quiet-looking person dressed in plain clothes and without any distinctive badge, approached the student, and said, in a mild and confidential tone, “This is really a very serious case, sir, and, for your own sake, you ought not to keep back any information you can give connected with it.”
James repeated his determination rather to give up all attempts to recover the money than to make his loss known to the only parties who could give any information in addition to what he had communicated; expressing, at the same time, his belief that anything they could say would be of little consequence —for he was sure they had neither kept a memorandum of the numbers of the stolen notes, nor observed any circumstance which could lead to the detec tion of the thieves. “ But did you not observe yourself what sort of people were jostling you and your friends at the time you suppose your pockets were picked?” inquired the officer; adding—“ The illumination would surely give you light enough to to see those about you.” “ I recollect distinctly,” replied Mr. Duncanson, “ the appearance of two men who squeezed very hard against me at the time I pressed forward to save the young lady’s dress from being burnt, as I have described before. One of them was a stout-made, roundshouldered person, with the lower part of his face muffled up in a spotted handkerchief; but I did not see his features properly, and could not identify him. The other was less in size and slighter made, and I would know him again anywhere, for 1 observed his features when I was struggling to get past him. He had a flat face, a very prominent chin, and wanted one of his upper front teeth.” “Very good. That’s what I call particular enough. I think I should know both the fellows by the marks you have given, if they were natives ; but I suspect they are not; and I suppose you are not quite sure that they were the thieves.” “ By no means; only I think it highly probable.” “Just so. We must .see what can be done then, to find them out. Had you the money in a pocket-book, or case, or anything you could identify as yours ?” “Yes; in a green leather pocket-
book, with my name on it in gilt 1 .'tiers. ’
“Very well, that is something, but not much either, for your book and the cash would not be allowed to keep company long together if they fell into hands experienced in the line.” “ And do you think think there is no hope of recovering the money.” “ Not much, I confess; particularly as you are determined to keep the affair so close. A good deal will depend, though, on who the thieves maybe. If they are stranger swells, they may be off with the railway and hundreds of miles away by this time ; or, they may be in the town yet and fairly out of the way of detection. But if the cash has been prigged by any of our native gentlemen, they may be spending it freely, and it may be possible enough to ferret them out. You had better, however, come along with me and point out the chaps that squeezed so close to you last night, if you happen to get you 1" eye on them.” Mr. Duncanson was rather reluctant to comply with this request, for he thought a criminal officer strange company for a divinity student. His com panion did not propose to go far, for the High Street was becoming densely crowded with multitudes waiting in eager expectation of seeing the Queen pass on her visit to the Castle, and the officer’s object was to place himself and the student at the point of the greatest pressure, where in all probability the light fingered fraternity would have a few representatives. This point was exactly at the Cross, where a barrier was thrown across the street, at which the mock ceremony of presenting her Majesty with the keys of the city was to be performed. There, in a slightly raised temporary erection in front of the Salamander Land (a tenement so called because of its having stood unscathed when the neighboring houses were consumed in the great fire of 1824), the officer recommended Mr. Duncanson to take his station, and keep a sharp look out, while he himself moved about in the near vicinity, with a vigilance which nothing could escape. The scene was highly imposing. The street seemed a solid mass of human beings, except where an open way in the centre was kept by constables and military, for the passage of the royal cortege. The tall houses on either side were stuck full of gaily dressed people who squeezed themselves from every window, and clustered on every balcony and projection on which a footing could be obtainedJ The terraced roof of St. Giles wal loaded with hundreds of old an<* young, sitting huddled together eve* up to the highest ridge, as if they ha« taken refuge there from a deluge. O* platforms, erected for their accomodsH tion, various public bodies were a» sembled; and the boys and girls of thl principal public charities had conspicuß ous positions assigned to them. I* the immediate neighborhood of thd barrier, the Magistrates and Town” Council, in their official robes and insignia, occupied a raised gallery ; the Celtic society in their splendid tartans stood near; while both to the right and left, as far as the eye could see, the bright helmets and drawn swords of the Epniskillen Dragoons glittered in the sun. As may be well supposed, the student was not in a state of mind for sight-seeing, and the brilliant spectacle afforded him little gratification. He looked in vain among the many thousands before him for any countenance resembling the man with the flat face and protruding chin, or any person like his broad-built round-shouldered companion of the night before.
At length the Castle guns announced the Queen’s approach, and all eyes were strained towards Holyrood, except those of our hero and the thieftaker, which were wandering searchingly on every side, but all to no purpose. No person answering the description already given could be seen. On came the royal carriage, preceded by a detachment of cavalry, and guarded by the Scottish Archers. Then followed ether carriages containing Sir Robert Peel, Lord Aberdeen, and a number of the highest nobility. The shouts which rent the air were incessant and deafening—louder probably than any which had echoed in the closes of the Lawnmarket for centuries before. A Queen reigning in her own right now received the keys of Edinburgh for the first time since they were presented to Mary Stuart on her arrival from France. The pressure at the barrier to witness this ceremony was tremendous, and offered the fairest opportunities to the industrious individuals whose fingers are most at work while other people are all abroad at eyes and ears. And possibly there might be more than one chevalier d'lndustrie in the crowd ; but not the least appearance of the individuals specially wanted could be seen.
After hearing the Lord Provost’s address, and most graciously returning the keys to him, the Queen moved on to the Castle, and the living torrent which rolled along High Street swept past to flood the Castle Hill, the Mound, West Prince’s Street, and every point where the royal lady might again be seen. Mr. Duncanson was disposed to give up the task he was employed in as hopeless, but the emissary of justice who accompanied him insisted strongly on making another attempt before the crowd should finally disperse for the day. Pie proposed that they should next proceed to the foot of the Mound, and there take up a position -commanding the turning into Prince’s Street, as he knew the concourse of people at that point would be great, immediately on the Queen’s departure from the Castle. Thither then they went, and found the crowd immense, and every moment increasing. An extensive and high raised gallery, which had been in part erected only the same morning, occupied the corner of Prince’s Street Gardens, facing both towards Prince s Street and the Mound, and was so completely crammed that they could obtain no footing on it, and it was not easy to find any place so well fitted for their purpose. They, however, succeeded in getting on a stair right opposite, whence they could see to advantage all that was passing. Here they commenced their scrutiny, and the officer directed Mr. Duncanson’s attention to several individuals whom he knew to be suspicious characters, but none of them resembled in the least the persons he supposed had robbed him. While casting his eyes around him on all
sides, in his anxious but fruitless seach, the student happened to look right across the gallery just mentioned, and observed on it Miss Montgomery and her aged father with • Mr. and Mrs. Calmsough. The sight of his Agnes rendered him thenceforth incapable of exercising much vigilance in any other direction. He knew it was next to impossible that he could be seen by her, or those she was along with ; and at ease on this point, he forgot for the time all else in gazing on her lovely face, which he did, till his Argus-eyed neighbor noticed the intentness of his looks, and inquired—“ Do you see the scamps yonder, think you?” “No, indeed, Ido not,” was the reply. This by no means satisfied the thief-taker, who said in a grumbling tone —“Well, I think you should leave off staring at the pretty girls for the present; you may have a peep of them any day, but if you don’t get your eye now on the chaps we’re seeking, you may look a while againbefore you find them.”
The justice of this rebuke made the young man blush to the ears, and he resumed his scrutiny of the faces around him.
The Queen and suite were by-and-by seen on the ramparts of the Castle; and, soon after, a second discharge of the guns announced that her Majesty was again in motion. Immediately the royal cortege came down the Mound, and t sweeping round into Prince’s Street, proceeded westward at a rapid pace, amidst the acclamations of the assembled thousands. At this moment, James looked again towards to the Queen of his Affections to see how the scene affected her ;• and no sooner had his eye singled her out from the surrounding throng, than, horrible to tell, the gallery on which she sat broke down, and precipitated its precious freight of human beings in a confused heap among the ruins. The student was stunned with horror, and for a few moments could neither see, nor hear, nor speak. (To be continued—commenced on July 26.)
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 158, 28 September 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 158, 28 September 1880
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