The Detective After a Forger

A book has lately been published in London entitled “The Experiences of a Detective Officer,” which contains some interesting incidents. We extract from it the following narrative of the Detective’s journey to America in search of a forger:

Being off duty for the time, and the evening close and sultry, I was just settling myself in the open window of my lodgings, to smoke a quiet pipe, when another member of the force came to tell me that I was wanted by the superintendent. I went at once as required.

“Banks,” said the superintendent to me, when I was in his room, and the door shut, “we have got a clue at last towards finding that man Jennings.”

“Indeed, sir, I am glad to hear you say so,” answered I, and I spoke the truth. Uncommonly glad I was, for our profession like the rest, has its pride about it, and we had been a good deal twitted in the newspapers for not having succeeded, during seven months of fruitless search, in securing that particular criminal. A shy bird was that Jennings.—His doubles and twists had baffled some of the deepest heads in the police, and although we had often come upon his hiding place just after he had left it, we never could lay hands upon him. He was not a common offender. Well educated, and born in a very respectable station of life, he might have done well, and made an honest fortune, if he could but have kept straight. He was clever and a first rate accountant, and got the post of cashier to the —— Bank while still a quite young man. I need hardly repeat his story—how he forged and altered figures in passbooks; and played ducks and drakes with the floating balance of his employers. It is a common narrative—He went off at last, just when detection grew certain, and carried with him nineteen thousand pounds, besides valuable papers and securities for a large amount. Every exertion was made, no expense was spared, and many times we seemed sure of him as he prowled up and down the country in various disguises; but at last the scent grew colder and colder, and we feared Jennings had given us the slip for good and all. Five months had elapsed since the last time he had been seen or heard of, and we had given up the job as hopeless, when the superintendent sent for me, and gave me the above information.

“Yes,” said my superior, rubbing his hands together as was his way when he was thoughtful, “we gave got a clue to him at last. But he is a long way off—out of our reach, perhaps. He is in America.”

This did not surprise me in the least. The number of rogues that I have had, professionally, to hunt down, and who were on their way to America, or starting to go to America, or making up their minds to go to America, would astonish you. Why, when we hear of a runaway criminal, the first thing that comes into our heads is Liverpool and the line of packets.

“Banks,” went on my superintendent, “I intend to send you after him. But I doubt very much whether you will be able to track him out, much less to bring him and the property back to England with you.”

“I’ve very little fear abut the matter, sir, if I can but come up with him,” I answered cheerfully enough; for, you see, during the seven years I had been in my present department of the force, I had been on similar errands three times—twice to America, and once to France, and had been successful on all occasions. Not that I am a bit more expert than my comrades, nor perhaps equal to some I could name, but that an offender can generally be traced out, if a man will but give his whole heart to the work.

“Yes,” said the superintendent, “but I need not tell you that Jennings is a slippery customer, and too wide awake to fall into the errors of ordinary scoundrels. You won’t find him drinking at the bar of a Bowery tavern nor yet lodging at a waterside hotel in New York. You took your first man in New York that way, did you not, Banks?”

“Yes, sir,” I replied.

“And your second in Philadelphia, where you had an easy bargain of him. But this is a different matter. Jennings has gone South, Banks!”

“I am ready to follow him, sir,” said I.—So, after more necessary talk, the superintendent gave me the information that had come to the ears of the government, and my instructions, and money to defray my expenses, besides telling me where and how to draw for more, and handing me a warrant to apprehend the body of Caleb Jennings, properly signed by the Secretary of State. One more help was afforded me—a photographic portrait of the runaway, which had been procured with difficulty, and only a very little while before, from the artist who had taken his likeness, and who had kept a copy, as usual. Perhaps, if we had that photograph to assist us half a year back, we might have circumvented him, for we heard afterwards that he had twice seen and spoken with our officers, who took him for somebody else.

“Well, good luck to you, Banks,” said the superintendent, at parting; “and if you wanted, which I don’t believe, any further inducement to do your best in forwarding this important capture, I am in a condition to supply it. The commissioner especially selected you for this duty; adding, that in the event of success, you might expect your immediate promotion to inspector. Now, good-by, and don’t fail to bring Jennings back with you.”

So I went. I did not disguise from myself as I steamed pleasantly over to New York, that a difficult business lay before me. My two former trips across the Atlantic, although they had only given me a sight of two or three important northern cities, had taught me that America differed from England by long chalks, and that there was still less likeness between North and South than between the Old Country and the New. I cannot pretend to much book-knowledge, though I improve my mind when I have a chance, but I have talked to Americans a good deal, and read many of their newspapers, and kept eyes and ears open; and I knew pretty well that down South, the law was less respected than elsewhere, that duels and street rows, and stabbings, and gougings, and shootings, were only too plenty, and human life valued at a very low figure; and that shows the cunning of Jennings in taking his precious self and ill-gotten cash down South, instead of staying, as all the uneducated scamps did, among the whisky shops and fourth-rate boardinghouses of the seaports. He knew, Jennings did, how much tougher would be the work of any officer to ferret him out, and bring him back, if he were to put thousands of miles of rail and river, and unhealthy climates, and lawless places betwixt him and the usual landing places of passengers from England. Besides, in the slave states, where people’s tempers are hot and peppery, the odds were fifty to one that a Britisher would never be suffered to make a [capture]. It would be resented as an insult to the States, and I should be likely to get a leaden pill administered to me by some native boon-companion of the forger. I did not lose heart when I thought over all this, but determined I would be cautions, and not burn my fingers if I could help it. I went from New York to Norfolk, in Virginia, not that that it was believed the man was there, because he had been heard of in Nashville, Tennessee, at a later date, but because it was best to track him regularly, and rake up every scrap of information against a rainy day. That is indeed a maxim of my profession, never to neglect trifles. Nothing is a trifle to those who have patience and wit to use it.—I’ve known an old button, a torn envelope, a worn-out slipper serve to bring a rogue to justice when all else has failed.

From Norfolk, having picked up what little I could, I went off to Tennessee, to Nashville town. Well, Jennings had been there. Not under his own name; he was not such a greenhorn as that. At Norfolk he had been Mr. Smith, and at Nashville he called himself Captain Williams. These changes of name would have thrown me clear off the scent but for the portrait. I showed the photograph to a negro waiter at one of the principal hotels, and, says he: “Dat Massa Cap. Williams.” This black remembered Williams, or rather Jennings, because he had won a lot of dollars at billiards, and chucked Pompey a five dollar piece out of his winnings. But though I heard of his destination, and made out that he had gone west to Little Rock, in Arkansas state, I was less lucky when I followed him there. I was six days in Little Rock before I could hear the least word of news about him; and, as I do not want to make myself out a cleverer person than I am, nor a more knowing one, I freely own that I found myself thoroughly out in my estimate of the difficulties of my search. You see, I had heard the Yankees were very inquisitive, never at rest till they have wormed out a stranger’s business; and quite true, so they are; but they forget almost as soon as they learn, seeing they have no real interest in the matter, but just ask the questions because it is their habit and talk they must. So it came about, that when, in an American city or village, I went high and low to trace out a shy customer, the work was like hunting for a needle in a haystack.

Often and often did I sigh to be in one of those nice little market towns at home in England, where the dogs sleep all day on the pavement and the tradesmen look at one another over the half-doors of their shops—Those are places to inquire about a man in hiding. A stranger can’t go into them without setting fifty tongues gossiping; housemaids cleaning doorsteps, shop boys and their masters, nurses, children, old ladies, boys and men lounging at corners, all remark the strange face. But in America, with all the curiosity of the people, so many thousand queer persons come and go, that they pass out of sight and out of memory at once; and especially is this the case in the West and South, and a pretty source of trouble it proved to me.

Six days I wasted in Little Rock, and then, after all, it was the stoker of a steamboat from whom I gleaned fresh news. This man had come up from the riverside to see his sweetheart, and he reported Jennings to be living under his own name at Memphis, in the Columbian Hotel. I suppose the rascal thought, after taking so many aliases, his own name was as safe as another for a bit—However, as quick as I was in hurrying to Memphis, I found that Mr. Jennings was gone, indeed, the landlord had forgotten his personal appearance, and could only say that he was tallish and dark, which he was; but as for his being the original of the portrait, that he couldn’t say, nor could the waiters, though the barkeeper was ready to swear to it. Off I went, right up the river, to Cincinnati, in the pursuit of Mr. Jennings. At Cincinnati I lost him again, then saw his name accidentally in the books of a steamboat office; went after him to Chicago, and then to Buffalo, and then to London, Canada West; and the end of my wild-goose chase was, that just as I felt secure of victory, I came up with this Mr. Jennings, but he was not my Mr. Jennings. He turned out to be a corn dealer, and honest townsman, of London Canada West, two inches taller than the absconded cashier, and no more like him than I was. Here was a blow to my hopes. I was fairly at my wits’ end. I had to draw for money, too, and had nothing to show for what I had spent, but the fact of my having traveled over an immensity of land and water. I declare I could have cried with vexation, as I turned from the corn dealer’s door. Nor was my sorrow, I do assure you, all selfish. Of course, I knew my reputation was at stake, and my promotion to an inspectorship too; but that was not all: we detectives have a real pride and pleasure in being, in a sense, the protectors and helpers of the honest part of the community, and I hate a rogue to get off scot free—it does so encourage other rogues.

At New Orleans, I found a letter from the superintendent, bidding me keep a good heart and never slacken my endeavors, for the joint-stock company that had been defrauded were most anxious and resolute to spend anything to effect the arrest of their treacherous servant. It was not merely out of revenge, nor yet for the nineteen thousand pounds, though that is a vast sum of money, but there were papers among those he had gone off with that had been merely deposited with the bank, title deeds of estates, vouchers, and what not, and no cost was too great to get him back. The superintendent would send another officer to help me, if I chose. I didn’t choose.—After all this baffling and winding, thought I, I will run my fox to earth, if I grow gray searching for him. If he’s in America, I’ll find him. Indeed, I tried very hard to do so. I spent months in the chase, and to recount all my wanderings would be tedious.—Here I got a clue, and I followed it for a time and then it broke short off. And at another place I would get a fancied inkling of my man’s whereabouts, and find out somebody who was evidently in hiding, and get within arm’s length of the person, and find him a suspicious-eyed slinking stranger. Bless you! Jennings was not the only rogue hiding himself in the South. And New Orleans, which had been deserted ever since the summer brought the yellow fever, began to be full to overflowing. I went there now that the healthy cold wind—the norther, as they call it—had taken to blowing, and that people were crowding in for their winter’s gayety. I had a notion Jennings might be there; there were so many as bad as he, and worse, and I knew New Orleans attracted all the scamps of the country; but though I believe I went into every bar and billiard room, and cafe and gambling house in that profligate city, never a glimpse of Jennings could I get. He had been a wild fellow in England—on the sly, of course; for he was a finished hypocrite, and his masters had thought such a pious, modest, industrious young man didn’t live as their model cashier. This is why I looked for him in the haunts of gay folks. But I did not see him, could not hear of him, and began to despair. I was at Vicksburg, on the Mississippi by mere accident. I had been up to St. Louis in consequence of quite false information, and, on my return from that idle errand, the boat had run aground two miles above Vicksburg. Nobody was the worse except for the delay, and we all had to sleep at that place as best we might. Knowing the tastes of Jennings, I always went to flash, first-chop hotels, as the likeliest wherein to hear of him; but on this day I found the chief establishments crowded, and went to a decayed, second-rate hotel, kept by a snuffy old French creole. It was evening, and thought the Americans called it cool, I found it warm enough to make it pleasant to sit by an open window in the big dining saloon, where I could enjoy my brandy cobler and cigar in peace.

Most luckily, there was a big screen of stamped and gilded Spanish leather which cut my slice of the room off from the rest, and shut me up as completely as if I had been in a box of one of our old taverns in the city of London. I had got half-way through my glass of delicious iced beverage—and why they are not as common at home I do not know—when in came two young men and sat down at a distant table, and called for refreshments which the black waiter brought them. I took a peep at them through a crack in the screen. I had never seen them before. By what they said, I guessed them to be overseers of plantations somewhere up the country; or, one might have been an overseer, and the other a bookkeeper. Believing themselves to be alone, they began to talk very freely. They talked of New Orleans, and gambling and duels, and conquests over the fair sex, and the like profitable discourse, and then of negroes, crops, and cotton, till I nearly dropped asleep. And yet I listened. You see I made it my duty to listen, for, who knows! Queer things do come out sometimes. At last one young fellow began to rally the other about his being “smitten” with a certain Miss Linwood, the daughter of a planter, which the other laughingly denied, “Kate Linwood is pretty enough,” said he; “but if little Kitty cares for anybody, it’s Harvey Vaughan.”

“What! That naval fellow—second lieutenant of the Vesputius frigate, ain’t he?” yawned the other.

“Yes,” said the overseer. “A good looking chap enough, and no nonsense about him, but he’ll find himself cut out when he returns from his cruise. Old Linwood swears his daughter will take that new overseer of his, for better for worse, though the girl hates the skunk; and quite right, too.”

“Is that the fellow,” asked the other, “that Linwood hired when Bill Brown cut the place?”

“The identical individual,” was the answer. “He’s flush of the rhino, it seems, and has lent old Linwood no end of dollars on mortgage. A precious ass he must be, for the Lesmoines plantation is worn out, and every nigger worth a cent has been sold at New Orleans. But perhaps the scamp did it to buy pretty Kate.”

“What’s his name? A Canadian, ain’t he?”

“He says his name’s Duff, and he hails from Canada, but, to my mind, he has the cut of a Britisher born—a dark, slim chap, that shows his teeth, when he smiles, in the funniest possible way, just like a dog grinning.”

“By Jove,” thought I, “that’s my man!”

Of the importance of my recent discovery I had very little doubt. To be sure, it might turn out to be moonshine, like the story of the Canadian corn-dealer, who had led me such a dance through the northwest, but I felt pretty sure that this Duff, the rich overseer, was no other than the runaway cashier. And very sharp of Jennings too, very sharp and clever: to adopt a regular calling so popular in the South as that of an overseer, was a stroke of which a great many poor rogues would have been incapable. But to get a hold on his insolvent employer, marry the daughter of the house, and become a landholder in due time, allied to a respectable family—that was about the most prudent thing he could have done. How could he guess I should ever be sitting in a hotel at Vicksburg, listening to the talk of these two lads? It was by mere accident the boat grounded, by mere accident the other houses were full, and yet see how it checkmated all his excellent precautions!

When the young men were gone, I slipped out and made inquiries, in a guarded way, about the Lesmoines plantation and Mr. Linwood. First, one couldn’t tell me; then another thought the estate was down-stream a hundred miles; next, I was roundly asked what I wanted to know for, and whether I was a tarnation thief of an abolition spy, wanting to steal away niggers. But I pretended I was traveling for a Manchester house and had some book-debts to look up. I heard at length, that Lesmoines property lay back a little distance from the river, hard by a town called Princeton, which is built on the bank of a stream, just at the angle where three states meet. Those states are Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. I dare say it pleased Jennings all the better on that account, increasing as it did the chances of escape.

I lost no time in going up to Princeton, and there I put up in a little boardinghouse kept by a Swiss, and where foreigners mostly lodged. Hitherto. I had been traveling in the printed calico line, but now I had to sing a different song. Having partly served my time as a locksmith and bell-hanger, in my native place, years before I entered the force, I took up the trade again. I bought a basketful of tools at Vicksburg, second-hand, except one or two chisels, because it would never do to have everything bran new and bright, as if I were a sham smith. A little oil and charcoal dust on my hands and clothes, and I really made up the character very fairly, though my old master would have started to see me in a shabby suit of black, with a swallow-tailed coat, cut for evening wear, and a black stock, but that is an American fashion. I gave myself out for an English workman, seeking employment, and who had been a twelve month at New Orleans.

To pass myself off for a Yankee I knew to be hopeless; in fact, I had tried it, and could not imitate the twang so as to impose on those who were born to it. Besides, I was a deal too sturdy and round-faced, and not tall enough, for anyone to imagine me a New Englander, much less a Southern man. So I just took the character I have spoken of, and which secured me from suspicion. I was not silly enough to begin chattering directly about Lesmoines plantation and the affairs of its proprietor. But I heard Mr. Linwood canvassed more than once in conversations I listened to, and the general opinion was, that he was a ruined man. But what I heard about Miss Katherine, his daughter, interested me a good deal. There were two voices about her; everyone said she was good and pretty, and going to be sold to the new overseer, who had got such influence over her weak father; and folks swore it was a shame. She had been, as I understood, regularly engaged to Lieutenant Hervey Vaughan, of the United States Navy, and he was absent in the full faith that she was true to him, and when he came back a first lieutenant, they should be married. But the poor young officer was likely to find the girl he loved the wife of another man; for Duff or Jennings could twist old Linwood round his finger. He had lent the planter money—a most unusual thing for an overseer to do—but people guessed he had got the cash by some speculation of gambling hazard. The land of Lesmoines was good, but mostly exhausted;—there was plenty of virgin ground yet that grew noting but weeds and wild cane, but there were no hands to break it up, and why? Because old Linwood, a self-indulgent, careless person, with a taste for cards and claret, had gradually sold off all his best slaves to pay debts of honor and pressing bills, and could hardly get on at all. In this reckless, ruinous course, he had been encouraged by his last two overseers, who had lined their pockets with their share of the purchase money, having been commissioned to manage the sale of the field hands at New Orleans City. Everybody said that Duff was playing a still bolder game, since, by marrying his master’s only child, he was sure to be owner of Lesmoines one day; and a vigorous owner might restore the property to its original value. All people agreed that Kate Linwood detested Duff, and loved the absent lieutenant, but that her father, who was a violent man, for all his easy ways about money, had terrified her into a reluctant consent.

It took me a fortnight, or more, to make out even this confirmation of the news I had picked up at Vicksburg, and, sharp as my watch was, I could never get a glance at the designing overseer. He never came into town at all. He had friends in Princeton, or perhaps I should say associates, who now and then rode out to Lesmoines; but for a month or more he had not been seen in the place. I could guess why. He had his suit to press and his influence to keep up. At last I heard that a day had actually been fixed for the wedding. Impatience is a poor quality in most vocations, but it is fatal to the usefulness of a police officer. Still, I got impatient. I strolled to the boundary of Lemoines estate twice over, and I was almost tempted to talk to the poor old negroes that were hoeing or rail-mending, but I luckily let them alone; I say luckily, because a Britisher, even a plain workman, cannot speak to a black field hand without drawing on himself suspicion and ill will. But just as I was getting weary of waiting, and ready to run some risk, chance stood my friend. Into the town came riding, on a tall bay horse, a dark, slim, well-looking chap, genteelly dressed, and wearing a Panama straw hat for the sun. I was in the verandah of the boardinghouse smoking, but directly I clapped eyes on the horseman, a sort of flutter ran through me, and I felt as nervous as a young girl when she sees her sweetheart coming toward the house in his Sunday clothes. Down I went into the garden, among the thick magnolia and coffee bushes, and peeped out through the branches that screened me nicely. The man rode close by the palings; I whipped out the photograph from the inner pocket where I kept it, opened the case, and compared the portrait with the rider. Yes, it was Duff, alias Jennings; I was sure it was; and yet he was so much browner and older-looking, I half doubted, and the Panama hat made a difference. I slipped out and followed. He rode about the town, first to the saddlers, for a whip-lash, and to talk about a set of new girths, then to a general store, to order matters for the negroes—Osnaburg cloth, bacon, and so forth; and next he went to the tailor’s. Off he got, tied up his horse to one of the white wooden pillars of the piazza, and went in. I guess he was ordering his wedding clothes. A fine time he was about it. At last he came out, adjusting his gloves—he was a desperate dandy—and took hold of the reins of his horse, untied the knot in them, and leisurely mounted. As he did so, something tickled his fancy, and he smiled a very peculiar dog-smile, that curled up his lips and showed his teeth queerly. Often had I heard of that look in Jennings, and my heart leaped, for I knew then for certain he was the right man. He never observed me, but rode to a few more stores, and I lounged after him, with my hands in my pocket, and a careless saunter. It was a funny thing, the absconded cashier of the —— Bank riding like a lord through Princeton streets, and myself strolling after him, with my face as stupid as a young yokel’s at a fair. By and by, I saw him riding up to the very boardinghouse where I lodged, and I drew near too, and out came the landlord, and talked to him. The landlord spies he out, and holloes and beckons, and up I sauntered.

“Gland I’ve found you, Banks,” says the Swiss; “you’d have lost a job else, for here’s a gentleman inquiring for a locksmith.”

You must know, there were only two locksmiths in town, a German and me. The German was a sad drunkard, in liquor half the week, and just then I knew he could not have held his head up, if the president had wanted him. I was therefore hardly surprised; but it was Jennings that required my services, I was more pleased than I chose to show.

Jennings looked at me with a sort of superfine, haughty air. He had caught up the feeling of contempt with which the “mean whites” are regarded in the South. “Ah, you’re a locksmith, my man?” said he, cutting at the coffee bushes with his long-lashed whip.

Now, if I had been passing for a Yankee, I’d have given my reply as saucily as the question had been asked, but being known for an Englishman, I put up a forefinger to my hat, and answered, “Yes, sir; can I do anything for you?” quite civil.

“You’re a Britisher, I calculate,” says Jennings, affecting to talk through his nose, and looking very keenly at me the while—he had his own reasons for mistrusting a countryman.

I answered the truth, I was a Briton, and I’d come out to follow my trade, and was ready for a job.

So Jennings told me to come up that afternoon to Lesmoines, where there was plenty to do. There was a cellaret key to make, and doors and cupboards to look to, and the storeroom lock to file and oil, and a lot more. “And,” says Jennings, as he wheeled his horse to ride off, “I had nearly forgot: Miss Kate wants a new lock to her desk, or bureau, or something; so be sure you attend first to that. Always give ladies the preference!” And I quite hated him for the odious smirk on his face as he nodded and went away.

But sure I went up to the house quite punctual, though the walk was long, and the sun hot enough to raise blisters on my face as I trudged along, for all it was the cold time of the year. I chuckled to myself as I went, thinking how little Jennings knew who it was he’d called in. But I had only come to the beginning of my task, and the battle was not won yet. To collar Jennings, and walk him off, may seem a simple operation enough, but in the South that’s a dangerous game. He had but to bawl for help, and call me an abolitionist, or talk about the hospitality of the States, and twenty rowdies would take up his quarrel. My work was not quite such plain sailing. As I went through the estate, I saw none but old feeble men and women, or quite raw boys and girls at work, the fences were all to pieces, the cattle strayed where they liked, corn and cotton were choked with weeds, and the brushwood sprouted where it pleased. Everything was going to rack and ruin, and the road had ruts in it to bury a wagon wheel. But there was a creek of deep water from the river, running very near the house, and a mouldering wharf they used to ship the cotton. The house was a fine big one, Spanish style, with flat roof and shady verandahs, and a garden in better order than I expected. But the paint was peeled off, the wood was all cracked and warped with the sun, and half the windows had lost their glass panes. The hall door was ajar, but when I knocked, out came an old crippled negro, and three or four barking spaniels. I was expected, for the old black man grinned and let me in.

The house was almost as ramshackle and out of order inside as out—paint and paper all very old and ragged, and the furniture costly, but uncommonly old and moth-eaten. I saw old Mr. Linwood in the room where I had the cellaret lock to take off—a portly, big-boned man of sixty, with a face I thought foolish, rather than bad or cruel. He was lounging in a rocking chair, with a yellow silk handkerchief tied round his head. He bade me, with many oaths, be sure and make a good key, and be quick, for those damned nigger robbers drank his wine as fast as he opened it. He got very excited in telling me this, and then dropped back quite languid again. He was dressed in nankins, as many planters are thereabouts, and may have been a good-looking gentleman when younger, but he was none the handsomer for years of self-indulgence. There were pictures on the walls of the rooms—one of them I took for the deceased Mrs. Linwood. Poor lady, it’s no wonder her eyes had that sad look, with such a home and husband. Presently I was called by an old negress, who said that Missy Kate was asking for me. In ascending the stairs, which were wide enough for a coach and six, with tremendous balustrades of solid Honduras mahogany, carved into grapes and leaves. I got a peep out of the window, and saw a small house in a garden, with a stable and paddock, and beyond it a row of huts. Said I to the old grinning negress who was leading me, and who chattered and made faces like a great baboon, “Who lives there?” And she answered, “Massa busha live dar.” I guessed she meant the overseer when she said that; but I did not know then that “busha” meant overseer in the language of African-born blacks, till a gentleman told me so on the homeward passage. So that was Jennings’ house. I fond the young lady in a sort of morning room, leading into her bed chamber, and where her books and pictures of her own doing in water colors, and other jimcracks were. I thought as she was showing me the desk, the lock of which was injured, that I had seldom seen such a sweet pretty girl before as this planter’s child. Very young, perhaps nineteen, perhaps less, with dark hair and blue eyes like her mother’s, and a delicate complexion, she was a gentle-eyed, modest darling, any father might have been proud of. But she had rather a scared look, and a dark circle under her eyes, as if she had been crying her little heart out. With all that, she did not look silly, nor yet a coward. I should say that she gave in to her father out of duty, somehow, but she looked far from happy. The old negress lingered a long time, but at last, to my great joy, she went away. I lost no time; but still bending over the desk, with my screwdriver in my hand, I begged the young lady not to be frightened, to believe me to be a friend to her, and an enemy to the man who was persecuting her with his selfish love, and, in short, I told her the whole story—Jennings’ real name, and the whole state of the case. She bore it very well; she didn’t scream, nor yet flop down in a faint. At first, she was rather angry, thinking me an impertinent meddler, but presently she got quite interested. And when I finished, if she didn’t take hold of my broad grimy hand in her own pretty white one, and wanted to kiss it, and called me her preserver! I never was so ashamed in my life.—“Miss,” says I, “I’m only doing my duty. But I do assure you that since I’ve heard this shameful story of the cheat put on your good father and yourself, and since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you, I would take that Jennings, if all the scamps in Princeton were to help him. I’m not in the habit of making speeches, but that’s the truth.” But the young lady, bless her kind heart, was wiser than me for the time, and would not hear of anything rash. So we cast about for a way of setting things square, I all the time pretending to be at work on the desk, speaking low, for fear of some of the black servants, who are more inquisitive than the white ones, even being within ear shot. At last Miss Linwood exclaimed with quite a light of joy in her face; “I forgot; how stupid! Hervey can help us, now he is come back!” And then she blushed like a rose, for no doubt she thought I had never heard of Lieut. Hervey Vaughan at all, but I quickly reassured her on that point. And right glad was I to hear that the Vesputius was lying in the roads, below New Orleans, and that Miss Kate had received a note from her lover that very morning.

After some consultation, we agreed that I should send a telegram to the lieutenant from Princeton, summoning him on special business connected with Miss Linwood’s safety and happiness; and, to make sure of his believing me, I was to use a special phrase, no matter what it was now, which was a kind of free-masonry between the lovers. “There would be no time for a letter,” said the poor girl, trembling as though the thought crossed her, and I knew why. Thanks to old Linwood’s violence and authority, the day for her hateful marriage with Jennings was fixed. Well, I finished my work abut the house, to avert suspicion, and then away I went. In the avenue I met Jennings on horseback. He nodded to me, and I gave him as respectful a salute as I would to the lord Mayor of London. I sent off the message, the minute the office was opened in the morning. It was quite night before I got a return message to say all was well, and Lieutenant Vaughan had leave of absence, and was on his way. Late in the afternoon of the next day, he arrived, and luckily he had had the sense to bring a couple of sailors from the Vesputius, picked men, with him. He did not know what was the matter, but he knew Southern ways, and that the help of two resolute fellows was valuable. A fine dashing fellow was the lieutenant, quite the gentleman and as bold as a lion. We had a long talk—a council of war, he called it. He was too hot at first; I had to preach at him a long time, but Miss Kate’s name was enough to make him prudent, and let me settle matters. We sent up a note to let Miss Linwood know; the young gentleman wrote it, and I got a black boy to carry it, putting a key inside to make believe it was about locks. Then, at eight in the evening, we went up the creek to the wharf of Lesmoines, in a boat hired at Princeton, and rowed by the two men-of-war’s men. We landed quietly, and the young officer—he was just made first lieutenant—and I made our way to the overseer’s house. There were lights burning. I knocked at the door; the lieutenant hid himself behind a tree. A half-naked negro lad opened the door. I said I was come to speak with Mr. Duff, and he ushered me in, the lieutenant following on tiptoe. In the parlor was Jennings, sitting at a table, on which were a bottle of spirits, a glass, a cigar case, and a gun, for he had been shooting wild ducks. I picked up the gun, took off the caps, and threw them away. He looked on, gasping with astonishment.

“Curse you, you scoundrel, you are drunk!” he cried.

I quietly pulled out my little staff with the brass crown, and took him by the collar.

“Caleb Jennings,” says I, “you are my prisoner, in the name of her Majesty, Queen Victoria. If you want to see the warrant, you can, but you’d best come quietly.”

He looked at me a moment, and then sprang up, with a horrible curse, and pulled out a bowie knife to stab me. But I wrestled with him, and Lieutenant Vaughan gave him such a blow on the wrist as sent the knife spinning across the room. In a second more, I had the handcuffs on his arms; snap! They went with the most satisfactory sound I ever heard. His negro servants must have hated him for they gave no alarm, though he bawled like a bull. We had to gag him, ay, and to tie his legs, and carry him bound like a calf, to the boat. The sailors gave way with a will, and pulled down the creek. Just as we were rounding the point, a handkerchief waved, and a clear, sweet voice called to us. It was Miss Kate, on her pony, with the black boy who had saddled it, standing near, and rolling his eyes at the spectacle of the overseer tied neck and heels at the bottom of the boat, and visible enough in the bright moonlight. Lieutenant Vaughan bade the sailors pull in to the bank, and he jumped ashore, and talked for a time to Miss Kate, all in whispers, and she bent her pretty head till all her dark hair almost touched the young man’s bronzed cheek—quite a picture to see. But Jennings writhed as if the sight tortured him. Miss Kate gave me her white hand as I stood up in the boat, and thanked and bade me good-bye very kindly. The lieutenant sprang on board again, and off we went, Miss Kate waving her handkerchief to the last. At Princeton, Lieutenant Vaughan proved worth a gold mine. He got a warrant, and a State marshal to execute it. Bless you, the judge and sheriff wouldn’t have minded me, but a State’s officer was different. He and his men helped to guard Jennings all the way to New Orleans, where I took berths on board an English vessel bound homewards. We got home safe. Jennings was convicted at the Central Criminal Court, and got a long term of penal servitude; and quite right too. I became inspector; and only the other day a kind letter from Lieutenant Vaughan announced that he was married to Miss Kate, had left the navy, and that old Mr. Linwood had given up the management of Lesmoines to the young couple. I hope they’ll do well there.

 

The Berkshire County Eagle, November 7, 1861