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Chapter 18: Ditti-Box and 達acca-Box

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Author Topic: Chapter 18: Ditti-Box and 達acca-Box  (Read 37 times)
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« on: May 27, 2023, 10:04:06 am »

SILVERMORE turned up at Preece痴 one afternoon in company with a little elderly man who had all the unmistakable signs of the seafarer on him. Preece brought the two of them up to Trace痴; we could talk more freely there, he said, than in his cottage, where there were women-folk about. And Silvermore introduced his companion as Silas Cushion.

典he man that pledged that ditty-box with me, he explained. 滴e痴 been knocking about all over the world since then, and has only just come back. And---he痴 been reading the papers, and came to see me in consequence. There isn稚 much those newspaper chaps have left out, I think!

Silvermore was right there. The newspaper reporters, or correspondents, or whatever they called themselves, had made the most of what they termed the South Downs Mystery. It constituted a fine story, and they had given every detail they could lay hands on about it. I think the police authorities encouraged them, under the impression that publicity of the widest sort would be a good thing.

添es? said Preece. He sized up Silas Cushion with a comprehensive inspection. 典hat ditty-box, now? he continued. 的 suppose you know all about it? Previous history, eh?

Cushion was one of those men who appear to be always chewing something. It may have been that he had a quid of tobacco in his cheek, but his jaws were for ever working. This gave him a meditative expression.

展ell, he answered ruminatingly, 吐rom the time I got it. Not before---though, to be sure, I know where it came from.

典hat痴 just what we壇 like to know, said Preece. 展here did it come from?

典o me, replied Cushion, 吐rom a man that I knew years ago. Him and me was shipmates. In the Pacific, that was. Merchant vessel---from Valparaiso to Sydney. He was took bad, uncommon bad, just before we made Sydney. And, of course, they put him in hospital. I used to go to see him there. But he was mostly past speech. Never got nothing much out of him, nohow. Nothing about his private affairs, you understand. And one day when I goes up to the hospital, they tells me he壇 died. In the night---a bit sudden, at the last. There was a few things of his that had been taken to the hospital with him. The hospital folks, they give 弾m to me, d馳e see, as being the only man that knew anything about him. That ditty-box, it was amongst 弾m.

展hat was this man痴 name? asked Preece.

鼎ossin---Dave Cossin. Name I knew him by, anyway. Some of 弾m, of course, has a many names in a lifetime. But from what I see of him, I should say that was his right name.

展hat like was he, can you say? demanded Macpherson eagerly. 展as he a tall, dark, spare fellow, now?

But Cushion shook his head---with signs of a decided negative.

哲o, mister, he was not! he answered. 滴e was a little, sandy, weechy sort of a chap! I never rightly knew whether he was Scotch or Irish---one of 弾m. I did hear him say once he was born in Liverpool. But there痴 a sight of Irish there---and Scotch too. No!---he wasn稚 at all what you say. An offal sort o little man.

泥id he ever tell you where he got that ditty-box, or what was in it? enquired Preece.

滴e did not. Never mentioned it to me, as I remember. I never see it, neither, till it was give to me by the hospital folks, when he was dead. You see, when they took him off from the ship to the hospital, I reckon they bundled up all the bits o things he had in his locker, and sent 弾m with him, and the ditty-box was amongst 弾m. No, I never had no word from him about it.

Macpherson was obviously intensely disappointed to find that the man who died in hospital at Sydney did not answer to the description of either Kit Flinch or Ralph Charlesworth, and he muttered something about an impasse. But Preece, as became an intelligent policeman who had kept his ears open at quarter-sessions and assizes, proceeded with his examination-in-chief.

展ell, you eventually pledged that ditty-box with Mr. Silvermore there, at Portsmouth, didn稚 you? he suggested. 添ou, yourself?

徹h, I pledged it! said Cushion. 展ith other matters. A bit down on my luck at that time, I was. Yes!

展ell, now, Mr. Silvermore says there were a lot of small articles, curiosities, and the like, in the box. Were they all what you壇 found in it, when it was given to you after Cossin痴 death?

哲o! Some were what was in it then; some was what I put into it time and again. Bits o things. Such as a man what uses the sea picks up, you understand.

展ell, about this map, continued Preece, producing his pocket-book. 添ou致e read about it in the newspapers? Just so! Was it in the ditty-box when that came into your possession?

徹h yes---the map was there! Lying at the bottom---a lot o little things atop of it.

滴ad you any idea as to what it meant---what it was about?

哲ot I! I致e seen that sort o thing before. I thought it was something Cossin had drawed out, or somebody壇 drawed out for him---知aginary stuff, I reckoned! I never gave no particular heed to it.

釘ut you left it in the box?

哲ever took it out but once, when I examined what was in the box. I put it back then, and t弛ther articles on top of it. There it stuck, and there it was when I pledges it at Mr. Silvermore痴.

展ould you know it again if you saw it, Cushion?

徹h I should know it---remember it, and how it was drawed, well enough!

Preece produced the map from his pocket-book, and spread it on the parlour table.

的s that it? he asked.

徹h, that痴 it, right enough! declared Cushion. 泥on稚 look no worse, neither.

添ou can swear that痴 the map you found in the ditty-box at Sydney?

鉄wear to it, yes! No doubt about it!

Preece put the map away again.

滴ave you ever known a man named Kest? he asked abruptly.

哲ot as I知 aware of, replied Cushion. 的致e read about him, of course, in these here newspaper pieces, but I can稚 recall him nohow. He may ha been known to me at some time or other, under another name, d馳e see? But as Kest---no, don稚 know him at all.

泥id you ever talk to anybody, any of your shipmates, anybody at all, about this map?

的 can稚 recollect as I ever did. I don稚 remember doing so at any time. You see, I never attached no importance to it. I thought it was just a trifle that Cossin had picked up---sailor-men has a habit of picking up and keeping things that landsmen 置d throw aside. No---I never talked about it.

That was all we learnt from Silas Cushion. The problem arising out of it, discovered at length by Macpherson when Preece and his visitors had gone, was---who was the man Cossin?---how did he get hold of that map?---was he a man who originally hailed from these parts?---he might have been in these parts at some time or other, said Macpherson, even though he was born in Liverpool.

展ell, there痴 one thing certain, Macpherson, said Trace. 滴e wasn稚 Kit Flinch, and he wasn稚 Ralph Charlesworth, the two men you池e anxious to know more about. He was a little, sandy, weechy man! That settles you!

的t痴 but another obstacle, replied Macpherson. 的t can be overcome. I think Cossin got that map from the man called Smarto. Maybe he stole it. Maybe he bought it. Maybe he found it. But anyway, Trace, I知 sure it came from Smarto. And Smarto was one or other of those dark, spare fellows that went away from this quarter after the murder of Dan Welgrave the younger! Man, I contend that bit by bit we池e progressing to the grand climacteric!

展e certainly keep learning a bit! agreed Trace.

We heard a bit more, two or three days later---again through Preece. Preece, in company with another local policeman, put in an hour or two now and then in examining the surroundings of Chissick痴 house. That house, as I have said, stood in a lonely situation: at least a hundred yards from its nearest neighbour. It had a garden in front, a flower garden, well shielded from the lane by thick hedges; there was another garden at the back, also well hedged, in which Chissick grew vegetables and cultivated fruit-trees. And there was a fenced-off yard, in which there were two refuse-bins, one reserved for stuff thrown out of the kitchen by the charwoman, Mrs. Watson, another sacred to ashes, waste paper, and the like. Preece took it into his head to examine this ash-bin and its contents; he had already gone through a waste-paper basket in Chissick痴 parlour, and had also raked out the parlour grate, without finding anything. It was difficult to imagine his finding anything, it seemed to me. But one day he turned up at Trace痴 with a small parcel in his hand, carefully done up in brown paper.

鉄ee here! he said, as he set it down on the sitting-room table. 的f this isn稚 a find, I don稚 know what could be! Unearthed this, myself, in a refuse-bin at Chissick痴 back door, amongst a lot of torn-up paper and stuff that he壇 evidently emptied out of a waste-paper basket. If this doesn稚 refer to that business of forty years ago that you池e always nosing into, Mr. Macpherson, I知 a Dutchman! And I知 not a Dutchman!

He was plainly highly elated at his discovery, and he enjoyed our suspense and curiosity as he undid the wrappings of his parcel. Eventually, having stripped off various folds of brown paper, he revealed an old tin box, about five inches in length, three in width, and two in depth. It bore unmistakable signs of age and of rust, but the lettering on it, in block letters, not on a paper label, but on the lid itself, was still plain enough. And that was: Soldans and Sandberg, Tobacconists and Cigar Merchants, 85, Alderley Street, Cape Town.

The depth of Macpherson痴 delight at the sight of this ancient relic---for it was obvious to all that the box was by no means of recent manufacture---was evidenced by the way in which he seized on the thing.

溺an, Preece! he exclaimed, his voice hoarse with emotion, 土e致e made a most important discovery!---the most important, in my opinion, of any that痴 been made in the whole procedure of investigation into this truly amazing mystery! Man!---this is a grand day!

鄭ye---and how do you make all that out, Mr. Macpherson? asked Preece, with a wink at me and Trace. 鉄omething---perhaps a good deal---in it, no doubt, but----

鉄omething in it, you say? interrupted Macpherson excitedly. 溺an!---do you tell me that you don稚 see what痴 in it? Man!---I知 telling you! This is the box yon Dan Welgrave carried his diamonds in when he came to the inn down below! This is the box was taken off him when he was murdered! This is the box was hidden by the murderer under yon old oak tree up the hill-side, where Chissick built his bit shed! This is the box Chissick dug out o that hole he made in the floor of the corner of the shed! Losh, man!---I see it all as plain as I see your fat face, Preece! And the great question, great, great question---I cannot presume to describe how Macpherson rolled his r痴, and broadened his o痴 and a痴 during this speech---妬s---where are the diamonds?

He gazed from one to the other of us as if demanding an instant reply. But Preece and I only stared at him. Trace, however, who had got into a way of chaffing him about his newly developed passion for sleuth-work, smiled good-humouredly.

釘etter theorise a bit more, Macpherson! he said. 的t痴 amusing!

哲o, but I知 serious, Captain, protested Macpherson. 溺an!---it痴 a very serious matter! And ye値l get no practical result in anything, in my opinion, unless you theorise first. Now, it痴 my theory that whoever killed Dan Welgrave forty-two years ago found this very box containing diamonds on him. They may have been uncut; they may have been cut. I think they were uncut. Didn稚 he tell his cronies at the inn that he壇 come straight from the diamond-fields? Anyway, this box and its contents o diamonds was found by the murderer; he didn稚 know exactly what to do with them then, and he buried the box for safety. Now, I argue that the diamonds were in the box when Chissick dug it up, and that Chissick took them out of the box in the privacy of his own house, and flung away the box where friend Preece here has just discovered it. Then Chissick put the diamonds in his own pocket! And now I値l just ask you to recall a highly important matter. D馳e recollect, all of you, what yon charwoman body, Mrs. Watson, told us when the lad Tom here fetched her to Chissick痴 house that morning he was found murdered? Whether it痴 escaped your poor mem池ies or not, it痴 no escaped mine! What did yon woman say Chissick had told her that Saturday morning she last had speech of him? That he was going to Brighton! Aye, but that was his usual custom; there was nothing in that. But more---from Brighton he was going to London, on the Monday, and might be away till the Tuesday or Wednesday. What for was Chissick going to London---which, as I致e made out, was not usual with him? Man alive!---I could take my oath on what he was going for! He was going to London to sell those diamonds!

I am sure that Preece and myself were vastly impressed by Macpherson; we saw it all as plainly as if it had been printed in a book. And even Trace seemed struck.

摘xcellent theory, excellent, Macpherson! he said. 添ou壇 make a detective, I think. And----

But that caused Preece to interrupt.

展hy, talking about detectives, Captain, he remarked, 溺r. Macpherson値l be glad to hear that we池e going to do just what he advised some little time ago. There痴 a still bigger man coming down from Scotland Yard to-morrow, to take special charge of this Chissick case---the famous Detective-Sergeant Parkapple.

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