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True Stories of Crime From the District Attorney's Office (1908)
Arthur Train



    With them and all they had, 'twas lightly come and lightly go; and
    when we left them my master said to me: "This is thy first lesson,
    but to-night we shall be at Hamburgh. Come with me to the 'rotboss'
    there, and I'll show thee all our folk and their lays, and
    especially 'the loseners,' 'the dutzers,' 'the schleppers.'" ...
    "Enow!" cried I, stopping him, "art as gleesome as the evil one
    a-counting of his imps. I'll jot down in my tablet all these
    caitiffs and their accursed names; for knowledge is knowledge. But
    go among them alive or dead, that I will not with my good will."

    --THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH.



TRUE STORIES OF CRIME
FROM THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE

BY ARTHUR TRAIN

FORMERLY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
NEW YORK COUNTY





PREFACE


The narratives composing this book are literally true stories of crime.
In a majority of the cases the author conducted the prosecutions
himself, and therefore may claim to have a personal knowledge of that
whereof he speaks. While no confidence has been abused, no essential
facts have been omitted, distorted, or colored, and the accounts
themselves, being all matters of public record, may be easily verified.

The scenes recorded here are not literature but history, and the
characters who figure in them are not puppets of the imagination, but
men and women who lived and schemed, laughed, sinned and suffered, and
paid the price when the time came, most of them, without flinching. A
few of those who read these pages may profit perhaps by their example;
others may gain somewhat in their knowledge of life and human nature;
but all will agree that there are books in the running brooks, even if
the streams be turbid, and sermons in stones, though these be the hearts
of men. If in some instances the narratives savor in treatment more of
fiction than of fact, the writer must plead guilty to having fallen
under the spell of the romance of his subject, and he proffers the
excuse that, whereas such tales have lost nothing in accuracy, they may
have gained in the truth of their final impression.

ARTHUR TRAIN.

CRIMINAL COURTS BUILDING,
  NEW YORK CITY,
    April 20, 1908.




CONTENTS

I.    THE WOMAN IN THE CASE
II.   FIVE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS
III.  THE LOST STRADIVARIUS
IV.   THE LAST OF THE WIRE-TAPPERS
V.    THE FRANKLIN SYNDICATE
VI.   A STUDY IN FINANCE
VII.  THE "DUC DE NEVERS"
VIII. A FINDER OF MISSING HEIRS
IX.   A MURDER CONSPIRACY
X.    A FLIGHT INTO TEXAS
XI.   A CASE OF CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE




ILLUSTRATIONS

Envelope on the back of which Parker's forged order was written
Parker's order on Rogers, Peet & Co., in the name of Lang
A letter-head "frill" of Mabel Parker's
Examples of Mabel Parker's penmanship, regular and forged
Practice signatures of the name of Alice Kauser
The check on which the indictment for forgery was brought
Parker's copy of the signature of Alice Kauser
One of the sheets upon which Mabel Parker illustrated her skill
One of Miller's Franklin Syndicate Receipts.
Ammon's deposit slips and a receipt signed by Mrs. Ammon.
A group of H. Huffman Browne's forgeries
Last page of the forged Rice will of 1900
The forged cremation letter
Forged assignment and Rice signatures
First page of the "Black Hand" letter written by Strollo




I

The Woman in the Case


On a sultry August afternoon in 1903, a dapper, if somewhat anaemic,
young man entered the Broadway store of Rogers, Peet & Company, in New
York City, and asked to be allowed to look at a suit of clothes. Having
selected one to his fancy and arranged for some alterations, he produced
from his wallet a check for $280, drawn to the order of George B. Lang,
and signed E. Bierstadt, and remarked to the attentive salesman:

"I haven't got quite enough cash with me to pay for these, but I have
been intending to cash this check all the afternoon. Of course, you
don't know me or even that my name is Lang, but if you will forward the
check to the bank they will certify it, and to-morrow I will send for
the suit and the balance of the money."

"Certainly, Mr. Lang," replied the salesman. "I will hold the suit and
the money to await your orders."

The customer thanked him and took his departure. The check was sent to
the bank, the bank certified it, then cancelled its certification and
returned the check to Rogers, Peet & Company, and the store detectives,
having communicated with Police Headquarters, anxiously awaited the
arrival of Mr. Lang's messenger.

[Illustration: FIG. 1.--Envelope on the back of which Parker's forged
order was written.]

Their efforts were rewarded a couple of days later by the appearance at
the store of a lad who presented a written order (Fig. 1 and Fig. 2)
inscribed upon the back of an envelope bearing a cancelled stamp and
addressed to Geo. B. Lang, No. 13 West Twenty-sixth Street, New York
City, which read as follows:

    ROGERS, PEET & Co.

    Please give to bearer the clothes I purchased on
    Tuesday--suit--pants--S. coat, and also kindly put change in
    envelope in inside coat pocket.  Trusting the alterations are
    satisfactory, and thanking you in advance for the favor and for past
    courtesies, I am,

    Resp. yours,

    GEO. B. LANG.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.--Parker's order on Rogers, Peet & Company, in the
name of Lang.]

The boy was immediately placed under arrest, and after proclaiming his
own innocence and vociferating that he was only doing an errand for a
"gent," who was waiting close by, was directed to return with his bundle
as if nothing had occurred. This he did, and Mr. George B. Lang was
soon in the clutches of the law.

Interrogated by his captors, the supposed Lang admitted that his real
name was James Parker, that he lived at 110 West Thirty-eighth Street,
and only requested that his wife be immediately notified of what had
happened. At Headquarters the prisoner was identified as a gentleman who
had been very actively engaged during the preceding months in passing
bad checks throughout the city, his more recent operations having
consisted in cashing a check on the Lincoln National Bank for $160 on
July 20th, one for $290 on the same bank on July 30th, still another for
$510.50 on August 4th, and one for $440.50 on the National Shoe and
Leather Bank, "to bearer," on August 8th. This last, in some
inexplicable way, had been cashed at the very bank itself.

Believing that the forger had at last been caught, the precinct
detectives later on, during the evening of Parker's arrest, visited no
West Thirty-eighth Street, and on inquiring for "Mrs. Parker," were
introduced to a young girl of attractive appearance to whom they
delivered their unwelcome message. Mrs. Parker seemed overwhelmed at the
news and strongly asserted her confidence in her husband's innocence of
any wrong-doing. Having performed their errand the officers departed.

A certain ineradicable jealousy has always existed between the
plain-clothes men of the various precincts and the sleuths attached to
the Central Office, and in this instance the precinct men, having gained
the credit for the arrest, it did not occur to them as necessary to
communicate the knowledge of their acquaintance with Mrs. Parker to
Detective Sergeants Peabody and Clark, originally assigned at
Headquarters to investigate the case.

It seemed, however, to Peabody very unlikely that Parker had conducted
his operations alone, and he therefore at once inquired at the Tombs
what character of visitors came to see the prisoner. The gateman replied
that as yet none had arrived. At that very instant a young girl stepped
to the wicket and asked if she could be allowed to see Mr. James Parker.
It took the detective but a moment to run across to the Criminal Courts
Building and to telephone the warden to detain her temporarily and then
to refuse her request. Five minutes later the girl emerged
disconsolately from the Tombs and boarded a car going uptown. Peabody
followed her to 110 West Thirty-eighth Street, not for an instant
supposing that the girl herself could be the forger, but believing that
possibly through her he might learn of other members of the gang and
secure additional evidence against Parker himself.

Of course, no intelligent person to-day supposes that, outside of Sir
Conan Doyle's interesting novels, detectives seek the baffling criminal
by means of analyzing cigar butts, magnifying thumb marks or
specializing in the various perfumes in favor among the fair sex, or by
any of those complicated, brain fatiguing processes of ratiocination
indulged in by our old friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. There are still,
however, genuine detectives, and some of them are to be found upon the
New York police force. The magnifying glass is not one of the ordinary
tools of the professional sleuth, and if he carries a pistol at all it
is because the police rules require it, while those cases may be
numbered upon the fingers of two hands where his own hair and whiskers
are not entirely sufficient for his purposes in the course of his
professional career.

The next morning Peabody donned the most disreputable suit in his
wardrobe, neglected his ordinary visit to the barber, and called at 110
West Thirty-eighth Street, being, of course, at this time entirely
unaware of the fact that the girl was Parker's wife. He found her
sitting in a rocking chair in a comfortable, well-furnished room, and
reading a magazine. Assuming an expression of sheepish inanity he
informed her that he was an old pal of "Jim's" who had been so
unfortunate as to be locked up in the same cell with him at
Headquarters, and that the latter was in desperate need of morphine.
That Parker was an habitual user of the drug could be easily seen from
the most casual inspection, but that it would prove an open sesame to
the girl's confidence was, as the detective afterward testified, "a
hundred-to-one shot."

"Poor Jim!" exclaimed the girl. "Couldn't you smuggle some into the
Tombs for him?"

Peabody took the hint. Of course he could. It would be a hard job--those
turnkeys were so suspicious. But _he_ could do it for her if anybody
could. He rambled on, telling his experiences with Parker in the past,
how he had been in Elmira Reformatory and elsewhere with him, and
gaining each moment valuable information from the girl's exclamations,
questions, and expression. He soon learned that she was Parker's wife,
that they were living in comparative comfort, and that she was an
exceedingly clever and well-educated woman, but she said nothing during
the conversation which would indicate that she knew anything of her
husband's offenses or of any persons connected with them.

After a few moments the girl slipped on her coat and hat and the two
started down to the Tombs, where, by prearrangement with the officials,
the detective succeeded in convincing her that he had been able to send
in to her husband a small hypodermic syringe (commonly called "the
needles") which she had purchased at a neighboring drug store.

The apparent success of this undertaking put Mrs. Parker in excellent
humor and she invited the supposed crook to breakfast with her at the
Broadway Central Hotel. So far, it will be observed, Peabody had
accomplished practically nothing. At breakfast the girl inquired of her
companion what his particular "graft" was, to which he replied that he
was an expert "second story man," and then proceeded to indulge his
imagination in accounts of bold robberies in the brown stone districts
and clever "tricks" in other cities, which left Mrs. Parker in no doubt
but that her companion was an expert "gun" of long experience.

Then he took, as he expressed it, "another chance."

"Jim wanted me to tell you to put the gang 'wise,'" said he.

The girl looked at him sharply and contracted her brows.

"Gang?" she exclaimed. "What gang? Oh, perhaps he meant 'Dutch' and
'Sweeney.'"

Peabody bit his lip. He had had a close call.

"Don't know," he replied, "he didn't say who they were--just to put them
'wise.'"

A second time the detective had made a lucky hit, for Mrs. Parker
suddenly laid aside all pretense and asked:

"Do you want to make a lot of money?"

Peabody allowed that he did.

"Do you know what they have got Jim for?" asked the girl.

"'Phoney' paper, wasn't it?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Parker, "but Jim didn't write those checks. I wrote
them myself. If you want to go in with me, we can earn enough money to
get Jim out and you can do a good turn for yourself besides."

The detective's blood leaped in his veins but he held himself under
control as well as he could and answered indifferently.

"I guess not. I never met a woman that was very good at that sort of
game."

"Oh, you don't know _me_," she persisted. "Why, I can copy anything in a
few moments--really I can."

"Too dangerous," remarked Peabody. "I might get settled for ten years."

"No, you wouldn't," she continued. "It's the easiest thing in the world.
All you have to do is to pick the mail out of some box on a corner. I
can show you how with a copper wire and a little piece of wax--and you
are sure to find among the letters somebody's check in payment of a
bill. There at once you have the bank, and the signature. Then all you
have to do is to write a letter to the bank asking for a new check book,
saying yours is used up, and sign the name that appears on the check. If
you can fool the cashier into giving your messenger a check book you can
gamble pretty safely on his paying a check signed with the same name. In
that way, you see, you can get all the blank checks you need and test
the cashier's watchfulness at the same time. It's too easy. The only
thing you have to look out for is not to overdraw the account. Still,
you find so many checks in the mail that you can usually choose
somebody's account that will stand the strain. Do you know, I have made
_hundreds_ of checks and the banks have certified every single one!"

Peabody laughed good naturedly. Things were looking up a bit.

"What do you think I am, anyhow?" he asked. "I must look like a
'come-on.'"

"I'm giving it to you straight," she said simply. "After you have made
out a good fat check, then you go to a store, buy something, tell them
to forward the check to the bank for certification, and that you'll send
for the goods and the change the next day. The bank always certifies the
check, and you get the money."

"Not always," said Peabody with a grin.

"No, not always," acquiesced Mrs. Parker. "But Jim and I have been
averaging over a hundred dollars a day for months."

"Good graft, all right," assented the detective. "But how does the one
who lays down the check identify himself? For instance, suppose I go
into Tiffany's and pick out a diamond, and say I'm Mr. John Smith, of
100 West One Hundredth Street, and the floorwalker says, 'Sorry, Mr.
Smith, but we don't know you,' what then?"

"Just flash a few letters on him," said the girl. "Letters and
envelopes."

"Where do you get 'em?" asked Peabody.

"Just write them, silly, and send them to yourself through the mail."

"That's all right," retorted the "second story man." "But how can I mail
myself a letter to 100 West One Hundredth Street _when I don't live
there_?"

Mrs. Parker smiled in a superior manner.

"I'm glad I can put you wise to a new game, I invented it myself. You
want letters of identification? In different names and addresses on
different days? Very good. Buy a bundle of stamped envelopes and write
your own name and address on them _in pencil_. When they arrive rub off
the pencil address. Then if you want to be John Smith of 100 West One
Hundredth Street, or anybody else, just address the cancelled envelope
_in ink_."

"Mabel," said Peabody with admiration, "you've got the 'gray matter' all
right. You can have _me_, if you can deliver the rest of the goods."

[Illustration: FIG.3.--A letter-head frill of Mabel Parker's.]

"There's still another little frill," she continued, pleased at his
compliment, "if you want to do the thing in style. Maybe you will find a
letter or bill head in the mail at the same time that you get your
sample check. If you do, you can have it copied and write your request
for the check book and your order for the goods on paper printed
exactly like it. That gives a sort of final touch, you know. I remember
we did that with a dentist named Budd, at 137 West Twenty-second
Street." (Fig. 3.)

"You've got all the rest whipped to a standstill," cried Peabody.

"Well, just come over to the room and I'll show you something worth
while," exclaimed the girl, getting up and paying their bill.

"Now," said she, when they were safely at no West Thirty-eighth Street,
and she had closed the door of the room and drawn Peabody to a desk in
the bay window. "Here's my regular handwriting."

She pulled towards her a pad which lay open upon the desk and wrote in a
fair, round hand:

"Mrs. James D. Singley." (Fig. 4.)

"This," she continued, changing her slant and dashing off a queer
feminine scrawl, "is the signature we fooled the Lincoln National Bank
with--Miss Kauser's, you know. And this," she added a moment later,
adopting a stiff, shaky, hump-backed orthography, "is the signature that
got poor Jim into all this trouble," and she inscribed twice upon the
paper the name "E. Bierstadt." "Poor Jim!" she added to herself.

"By George, Mabel," remarked the detective, "you're a wonder! See if
you can copy _my_ name." And Peabody wrote the assumed name of William
Hickey, first with a stub and then with a fine point, both of which
signatures she copied like a flash, in each case, however, being guilty
of the lapse of spelling the word Willia_m_ "Willia_n_."

The pad now contained more than enough evidence to convict twenty women,
and Peabody, with the remark, "You don't want to leave this kind of
thing lying around, Mabel," pretended to tear the page up, but
substituted a blank sheet in its place and smuggled the precious bit of
paper into his pocket.

"Yes, I'll go into business with you,--sure I will!" said Peabody.

"And we'll get enough money to set Jim free!" exclaimed the girl.

They were now fast friends, and it was agreed that "Hickey" should go
and make himself presentable, after which they would dine at some
restaurant and then sample a convenient mail box. Meantime Peabody
telephoned to Headquarters, and when the two set out for dinner at six
o'clock the supposed "Hickey" was stopped on Broadway by Detective
Sergeant Clark.

"What are you doing here in New York?" demanded Clark. "Didn't I give
you six hours to fly the coop? And who's this woman?"

[Illustration: Fig. 4--The upper signature is an example of Mabel
Parker's regular penmanship; the next two are forgeries from memory; and
the last is a dashing imitation of her companion's handwriting.]

"I was going, Clark, honest I was," whined "Hickey," "and this lady's
all right--she hasn't done a thing."

"Well, I guess I'll have to lock you up at Headquarters for the night,"
said Clark roughly. "The girl can go."

"Oh, Mr. Clark, do come and have dinner with us first!" exclaimed Mrs.
Parker. "Mr. Hickey has been very good to me, and he hasn't had anything
to eat for ever so long."

"Don't care if I do," said Clark. "I guess I can put up with the company
if the board is good."

The three entered the Raleigh Hotel and ordered a substantial meal. With
the arrival of dessert, however, the girl became uneasy, and apparently
fearing arrest herself, slipped a roll of bills under the table to
"Hickey" and whispered to him to keep it for her. The detective,
thinking that the farce had gone far enough, threw the money on the
table and asked Clark to count it, at the same tune telling Mrs. Parker
that she was in custody. The girl turned white, uttered a little scream,
and then, regaining her self-possession, remarked as nonchalently as you
please:

"Well, clever as you think you are, you have destroyed the only evidence
against me--my handwriting."

"Not much," remarked Peabody, producing the sheet of paper.

The girl saw that the game was up and made a mock bow to the two
detectives.

"I take off my hat to the New York police," said she.

At this time, apparently, no thought of denying her guilt had entered
her mind, and at the station house she talked freely to the sergeant,
the matron and the various newspaper men who were present, even drawing
pictures of herself upon loose sheets of paper and signing her name,
apparently rather enjoying the notoriety which her arrest had
occasioned. A thorough search of her apartment was now made with the
result that several sheets of paper were found there bearing what were
evidently practice signatures of the name of Alice Kauser. (Fig. 5.)
Evidence was also obtained showing that, on the day following her
husband's arrest, she had destroyed large quantities of blank check
books and blank checks.

Upon the trial of Mrs. Parker the hand-writing experts testified that
the Bierstadt and Kauser signatures were so perfect that it would be
difficult to state that they were not originals. The Parker woman was
what is sometimes known as a "free hand" forger; she never traced
anything, and as her forgeries were written by a muscular imitation of
the pen movement of the writer of the genuine signature they were almost
impossible of detection. When Albert T. Patrick forged the signature of
old Mr. Rice to the spurious will of 1900 and to the checks for $25,000,
$65,000 and $135,000 upon Swenson's bank and the Fifth Avenue Trust Co.,
the forgeries were easily detected from the fact that as Patrick had
_traced_ them they were _all almost exactly alike and practically could
be superimposed one upon another, line for line, dot for dot_.[1]

[Footnote 1: See _Infra_, p. 304.]

[Illustration: FIG. 5.--Practice signatures of the name of Alice
Kauser.]

Mabel Parker's early history is shrouded in a certain amount of
obscurity, but there is reason to believe that she was the offspring of
respectable laboring people who turned her over, while she was still an
infant, to a Mr. and Mrs. Prentice, instructors in physical culture in
the public schools, first of St. Louis and later of St. Paul, Minnesota.
As a child, and afterwards as a young girl, she exhibited great
precocity and a considerable amount of real ability in drawing and in
English composition, but her very cleverness and versatility were the
means of her becoming much more sophisticated than most young women of
her age, with the result that while still in her teens she gave her
adopted parents ground for considerable uneasiness. Accordingly they
decided to place her for the next few years in a convent near New York.
By this time she had attained a high degree of proficiency in writing
short stories and miscellaneous articles, which she illustrated herself,
for the papers and inferior magazines. Convent life proved very dull for
this young lady, and accordingly one dark evening, she made her exit
from the cloister by means of a conveniently located window.

Waiting for her in the grounds below was James Parker, twenty-seven
years old, already of a large criminal experience, although never yet
convicted of crime. The two made their way to New York, were married,
and the girl entered upon her career. Her husband, whose real name was
James D. Singley, was a professional Tenderloin crook, ready to turn his
hand to any sort of cheap crime to satisfy his appetites and support
life; the money easily secured was easily spent, and Singley, at the
time of his marriage, was addicted to most of the vices common to the
habitués of the under world. His worst enemy was the morphine habit and
from her husband Mrs. Singley speedily learned the use of the drug. At
this time Mabel Prentice-Parker-Singley was about five feet two inches
in height, weighing not more than 105 or 110 pounds, slender to
girlishness and showing no maturity save in her face, which, with its
high color, brilliant blue eyes, and her yellow hair, often led those
who glanced at her casually to think her good looking. Further
inspection, however, revealed a fox-like expression, an irregularity in
the position of the eyes, a hardness in the lines of the mouth and a
flatness of the nose which belied the first impression. This was
particularly true when, after being deprived of morphine in the Tombs,
her ordinary high color gave way at her second trial to a waxy paleness
of complexion. But the story of her career in the Tenderloin would
prove neither profitable nor attractive.

[Illustration: FIG. 6.--The check on which the indictment for forgery
was brought.]

The subsequent history of the Parker case is a startling example of the
credulity of the ordinary jury. The evidence secured was absolutely
conclusive, but unfortunately juries are generally unwilling to take the
uncorroborated word of a policeman against that of a
defendant--particularly if the defendant be a young and pretty woman.
Here at the very outset was a complete confession on the part of Mrs.
Parker, supplemented by illustrations from her own pen of what she could
do. Comparison showed that the signatures she had written without a
model upon the Peabody sheet were identical with those upon the forged
checks (Fig. 6) and with Mr. Bierstadt's and Miss Kauser's handwriting.
When Mrs. Parker's case, therefore, came on for pleading, her counsel,
probably because they could think of nothing else to do, entered a plea
of _insanity_. It was also intimated that the young woman would probably
plead guilty, and the case was therefore placed upon the calendar and
moved for trial without much preparation on the part of the prosecution.
Instead of this young person confessing her guilt, however, she amused
herself by ogling the jury and drawing pictures of the Court, the
District Attorney and the various witnesses.

Probably no more extraordinary scene was ever beheld in a court of law
than that exhibited by Part II of the General Sessions upon Mabel
Parker's first trial for forgery. Attired in a sky blue dress and
picture hat, with new white gloves, she sat jauntily by the side of her
counsel throughout the proceedings toying with her pen and pencil and in
the very presence of the jury copying handwriting which was given her
for that purpose by various members of the yellow press who crowded
close behind the rail. From time to time she would dash off an aphorism
or a paragraph in regard to the trial which she handed to a reporter. If
satisfactory this was elaborated and sometimes even illustrated by her
for the evening edition of his paper.

The Assistant District Attorney complained that this was clearly a
contempt of court, particularly as the defendant had drawn a picture
not only of himself, but of the presiding justice and a witness, which
had appeared in one of the evening papers. The Court, however, did not
see that anything could be done about it and the girl openly continued
her literary and artistic recreation. The Court itself was not a little
amused at the actions of the defendant, and when Detective Peabody was
called to the stand the general hilarity had reached such a pitch that
he was unable to give his testimony without smiling. The natural result,
therefore, at the first trial, was that the detective succeeded in
giving the unqualified impression that he was drawing the long bow in a
most preposterous fashion.

At the conclusion of the People's case the evidence that Mrs. Parker had
forged the checks amounted simply to this: That an officer who was
greatly interested in her conviction had sworn to a most astonishing
series of facts from which the jury must infer that this exceedingly
astute young person had not only been entirely and completely deceived
by a detective, but also that at almost their first meeting she had
confessed to him in detail the history of her crimes. Practically the
only other evidence tending to corroborate his story were a few
admissions of a similar character made by her to newspaper men, matrons
and officers at the police station. Unless the jury were to believe that
Mrs. Parker had actually written the signatures on "the Peabody sheet"
there was no evidence that she was the actual forger; hence upon
Peabody's word alone depended the verdict of the jury. The trouble with
the case was that it was _too_ strong, _too_ good, to be entirely
credible, and had there been no defense it is exceedingly probable that
the trial would have resulted in an acquittal, since the prosecution had
elected to go to the jury upon the question of whether or not the
defendant had actually signed the checks herself.

Mrs. Parker, however, had withdrawn her plea of insanity and determined
to put in a defense, which proved in its turn to be even more
extraordinary than the case against her. This, in brief, was to the
effect that she had known Peabody to be a police officer all along, but
that it had occurred to her that if she could deceive him into believing
that it was she _herself_ who had committed the forgeries her husband
might get off, and that later she might in turn establish her own
innocence. She had therefore hastily scratched her name on the top of a
sheet already containing her husband's handwriting and had told Peabody
that the signatures had been written by herself. That the sheet had been
written in the officer's presence she declared to be a pure invention
on his part to secure her conviction. She told her extremely illogical
story with a certain winsome naïveté which carried an air of
semi-probability with it. From her deportment on the stand one would
have taken her for a boarding school miss who in some inconsequent
fashion had got mixed up in a frolic for which no really logical
explanation could be given.

Then the door in the back of the court room opened and James Parker was
led to the bar, where in the presence of the jury he pleaded guilty to
the forgery of the very signature for which his wife was standing trial.
(Kauser check, Fig. 6.) He was then sworn as a witness, took the stand
and testified that _he_ had written all the forged signatures to the
checks, including the signatures upon "the Peabody sheet."

The District Attorney found himself in an embarrassing position. If
Parker was the forger, why not challenge him to write the forged
signatures upon the witness stand and thus to prove his alleged capacity
for so doing? The obvious objection to this was that Parker, in
anticipation of this test, had probably been practicing the signature in
the Tombs for months. On the other hand if the District Attorney did not
challenge him to write the signatures, the defense would argue that he
was afraid to do so, and that as Parker had sworn himself to be the
forger it was not incumbent upon the defense to prove it further--that
that was a matter for cross examination.

With considerable hesitation the prosecuting attorney asked Parker to
write the Kauser signature, which was the one set forth in the
indictment charging the forgery, and after much backing and filling on
the part of the witness, who ingeniously complained that he was in a bad
nervous condition owing to lack of morphine, in consequence of which his
hand trembled and he was in no condition to write forgeries, the latter
took his pen and managed to make a very fair copy of the Kauser
signature from memory, good enough in fact to warrant a jury in forming
the conclusion that he was in fact the forger. (Fig. 7.) This closed the
case.

The defense claimed that it was clear that James Parker was the forger,
since he had admitted it in open court, pleaded guilty to the indictment
and proved that he had the capacity. The prosecution, upon the other
hand, argued that the evidence was conclusive that the defendant herself
was the writer of the check. The whole thing boiled down to whether or
not the jury was going to believe that Mrs. Parker had written "the
Peabody sheet" in the presence of the detective, when her husband
claimed that, with the exception of Mabel's signature, he had done it
himself and carelessly left the paper in his desk in the room.

[Illustration: FIG. 7.--Parker's copy of the signature of Alice Kauser,
made in court in an attempt to shield his wife.]

The prosecuting attorney was at his wits' end for an argument to meet
the fact that Parker had written a sample forgery of the Kauser
signature before the very eyes of the jury. He found it at last in an
offer on his own part in open court during his "summing up" to write for
the jury from memory a better forgery of the Kauser signature than that
written by Parker himself, and thus to show how simple a matter it was
to learn to do so. He had taken up his pen and was about to give a
sample of his handiwork in this respect when the defendant grasped her
counsel's arm and whispered: "For God's sake, don't let him do it!"
whereupon the lawyer arose and objected, saying that such evidence was
improper, as the case was closed. As might have been expected under the
circumstances, considering the blunders of the prosecution and the
ingenuous appearance of the defendant, the trial ended in a
disagreement, the jury standing eight to four for acquittal.

The District Attorney's office now took up a thorough investigation of
the case, with the result that on a second prosecution Mrs. Parker was
confronted with a mass of evidence which it was impossible for her to
refute. A boy named Wallace Sweeney, sentenced to the Elmira
Reformatory, was found to have been an active accomplice of the Parkers
for several years, and he was accordingly brought down to New York,
where he gave a complete history of his relations with them. His story
proved beyond any doubt that Mrs. Parker was the forger of the checks in
the possession of the District Attorney, and of many others beside, some
of them for very large amounts. The evidence of Sweeney was of itself
quite sufficient to warrant a conviction. To make assurance doubly sure,
however, the District Attorney upon the second trial moved a new
indictment, setting forth as the forgery a check signed "E. Bierstadt,"
so that when Parker took the stand, as he had done in the former trial
and testified that he was the forger, he found himself unable to write
this new signature, and hence his testimony went for nothing.

But even the testimony of Sweeney was that of an accomplice, requiring
corroboration, while that of Peabody remained the evidence of "a mere
policeman," eager to convict the defendant and "add another scalp to his
official belt." With an extraordinary accumulation of evidence the case
hinged on the veracity of these two men, to which was opposed the denial
of the defendant and her husband. It is an interesting fact that in the
final analysis of the case the jury were compelled to determine the
issue by evidence entirely documentary in character. It is also an
illustration of what tiny facts stamp whole masses of testimony as true
or false.

On her examination Mrs. Parker had sworn among other things: (1) That
she had no knowledge of the envelope, the back of which had been used by
Parker for the purpose of directing Rogers, Peet & Co. to deliver the
clothes and money to his messenger--and, of course, that the words "Mr.
Geo. B. Lang" were not in her handwriting. This was one of the envelopes
claimed by the prosecution to have been originally addressed in pencil
and sent to themselves by the Parkers through the mail for this precise
purpose. (2) That she had never seen the "Kauser practice sheets," and
that the words "Alice Kauser," repeated hundreds of times thereon, were
not in her handwriting. For some reason unknown to the District
Attorney, however, she admitted having written the words "I am upstairs
in the bath-room" upon a similar sheet, but claimed that at the time
this was done the reverse of the paper was entirely blank.

Microscopic examination showed that among the words "Alice" and "Kauser"
on the practice sheets some one had written a capital "M." One of the
legs of the "M" crossed and was superimposed upon a letter in the word
"Alice." Hence, whoever wrote the "M" knew what was on the practice
sheet. An enlargement of this "M" and a comparison of it with the "M" in
the defendant's signature to her formal examination in the police court,
with the "M" in "_Mr._" in the address on the envelope and with that in
the "Mrs." on the "Peabody sheet," rendered it obvious that they were
all written by one and the same hand. Therefore it was clear that the
defendant was familiar with the contents of the practice sheets (Fig.
8.), even if she had not written them herself and had not told the truth
in this regard.

Moreover, it was fairly easy to see that the same hand that had written
the words "I am upstairs in the bath-room" upon the second practice
sheet had at the same time and with the same pen written the rest of the
sheet. This was clearly perceptible on examining the "e's" and "a's."

A comparison of the address "Mr. Geo. B. Lang" (on Fig. 1) with the name
Mrs. James D. Singley (on Fig. 4) also shows clearly that one and the
same person wrote them both. And to the accuracy of all these
self-evident propositions a leading handwriting expert in New York added
his unqualified opinion.

Thus, but for a little carelessness in failing to destroy odd scraps of
paper and to disguise her penmanship which it seemed to her quite
unnecessary to do, as in the address of the "Lang" envelope, Mrs. Parker
might well have gone free after all.

It is impossible to describe all the varied dramatic features of this
interesting case. No one who was present is likely to forget the
impression made by the defendant at her second trial, when in defiance
of overwhelming proof she still struggled to vindicate herself.

Her counsel contended throughout the trial that she was a hitherto
innocent young woman led astray and started upon a criminal career by a
rascally husband, whom she still loved devotedly and for whose sake
she had prepared to confess herself a criminal. That James Parker
introduced his wife to a life of crime there can be no doubt, but that
she had a natural predilection for it must be equally obvious. It is
probably true that Mabel Parker's affection for her convict husband was
unfeigned and deep. The natural repugnance of the American jury for
convicting a woman was shown when in spite of the overwhelming proof
upon the Parker woman's second trial the jury remained out eight hours
and then found her guilty of "uttering only," with a strong
recommendation for mercy. She was sentenced to the Bedford Reformatory.

[Illustration: Fig. 8--One of the loose sheets upon which Mabel Parker
illustrated her methods and her skill as a penman to the supposed
ex-convict "Hickey."]




II

Five Hundred Million Dollars


This story, which ends in New York, begins in the Department of the
Gironde at the town of Monségur, seventy-five kilometers from Bordeaux,
in the little vineyard of Monsieur Emile Lapierre--"landowner." In 1901
Lapierre was a happy and contented man, making a good living out of his
modest farm. To-day he is--well, if you understand the language of the
Gironde, he will tell you with a shrug of his broad shoulders that he
might have been a Monte Cristo had not _le bon Dieu_ willed it
otherwise. For did he not almost have five hundred million dollars--two
and a half _milliards_ of francs--in his very hands? _Hein_? But he did!
Does M'sieu' have doubts? Nevertheless it is all true. _C'est trop
vrai_! Is M'sieu' tired? And would he care to hear the story? There is a
comfortable chair _sous le grand arbre_ in front of the veranda, and
Madame will give M'sieu' a glass of wine from the presses, across the
road. Yes, it _is_ good wine, but there is little profit in it, when one
thinks in _milliards_.

The landowner lights his pipe and seats himself cross-legged against the
trunk of the big chestnut. Back of the house the vineyard slopes away
toward the distant woods in straight, green, trellised alleys. A dim
haze hangs over the landscape sleeping so quietly in the midsummer
afternoon. Down the road comes heavily, creaking and swaying, a wain
loaded with a huge tower of empty casks and drawn by two oxen, their
heads swinging to the dust. Yes, it is hard to _comprendre_ twenty-five
hundred million francs.

It was this way. Madame Lapierre was a Tessier of Bordeaux--an ancient
_bourgeois_ family, and very proud indeed of being _bourgeois_. You can
see her passing and repassing the window if you watch carefully the
kitchen, where she is superintending dinner. The Tessiers have always
lived in Bordeaux and they are connected by marriage with
everybody--from the blacksmith up to the Mayor's notary. Once a Tessier
was Mayor himself. Years and years ago Madame's great-uncle Jean had
emigrated to America, and from time to time vague rumors of the wealth
he had achieved in the new country reached the ears of his
relatives--but no direct word ever came.

Then one hot day--like this--appeared M. le Général. He came walking
down the road in the dust from the _gare_, in his tall silk hat and
frock coat and gold-headed cane, and stopped before the house to ask if
one of the descendants of a certain Jean Tessier did not live
hereabouts. He was fat and red-faced, and he perspired, but--_Dieu_!--he
was _distingué_, and he had an order in his buttonhole. Madame Lapierre,
who came out to answer his question, knew at once that he was an
aristocrat.

Ah! was she herself the grandniece of Jean Tessier? Then, Heaven be
thanked! the General's toilsome journey was ended. He had much to tell
them--when he should be rested. He removed the silk hat and mopped his
shining forehead. He must introduce himself that he might have credit
with Madame, else she might hardly listen to his story, for there had
never been a tale like it before since the world was. Let him present
himself--M. le Général Pedro Suarez de Moreno, Count de Tinoco and
Marquis de la d'Essa. Although one was fatigued it refreshed one to be
the bearer of good news, and such was his mission. Let Madame prepare
herself to hear. Yes, it would be proper for her to call M'sieu', her
husband, that he might participate.

Over a draft of this same vintage M. le Général imparted to them the
secret. Lapierre laughs and shrugs his shoulders as he recalls the
scene--the apoplectic General, with the glass of wine in one hand,
waving the other grandiloquently as he described the wealth about to
descend upon them.

Yes, the General must begin at the beginning, for it was a long story.
First, as to himself and how he came to know of the affair. It had been
on his return from the Philippines after the surrender of Manila, where
he had been in command of the armies of Spain, that he had paused for
repose in New York and had first learned of the Tessier inheritance. The
precise manner of his discovery was left somewhat indefinite, but the
Lapierres were not particular. So many distinguished persons had played
a part in the drama that the recital left but a vague impression as to
individuals. A certain Madame Luchia, widow of one Roquefailaire, whom
he had accidentally met, had apparently been the instrument of
Providence in disclosing the history of Jean Tessier to the General. She
herself had been wronged by the villains and knew all the secrets of the
conspirators. But she had waited for a suitable opportunity to speak.
Jean Tessier had died possessed of properties which to-day, seventy
years after, were worth in the neighborhood of five hundred million
dollars! The General paused for the effect, solemnly nodding his head
at his astounded auditors in affirmance. Yes, it was even so!

Five hundred million dollars! No more--and no less! Then he once more
took up the thread of his narrative.

Tessier's lands, originally farms, were to-day occupied by huge
_magasins_, government buildings, palaces and hotels. He had been a
frugal, hardworking, far-seeing man of affairs whose money had doubled
itself year by year. Then had appeared one Emmeric Lespinasse, a
Frenchman, also from Bordeaux, who had plotted to rob him of his estate,
and the better to accomplish his purpose had entered the millionaire's
employ. When Tessier died, in 1884, Lespinasse had seized his papers and
the property, destroyed his will, dispersed the clerks, secretaries,
"notaries" and accountants of the deceased, and quietly got rid of such
persons as stood actively in his way. The great wealth thus acquired had
enabled him to defy those who knew that he was not entitled to the
fortune, and that the real heirs were in far-away France.

He had prospered like the bay tree. His daughter, Marie Louise, had
married a distinguished English nobleman, and his sons were now the
richest men in America. Yet they lived with the sword of Damocles over
their heads, suspended by a single thread, and the General had the knife
wherewith to cut it. Lespinasse, among other things, had caused the
murder of the husband of Madame Luchia, and she was in possession of
conclusive proofs which, at the proper moment, could be produced to
convict him of his many crimes, or at least to oust his sons and
daughter from the stolen inheritance.

It was a weird, bizarre nightmare, no more astonishing than the novels
the Lapierres had read. America, they understood, was a land where the
rivers were full of gold--a country of bronzed and handsome savages, of
birds of paradise and ruined Aztec temples, of vast tobacco fields and
plantations of thousands of acres of cotton cultivated by naked slaves,
while one lay in a hammock fanned by a "_petite nègre_" and languidly
sipped _eau sucrée_. The General had made it all seem very, very real.
At the weak spots he had gesticulated convincingly and digressed upon
his health. Then, while the narrative was fresh and he might have had to
answer questions about it had he given his listeners opportunity to ask
them, he had hastily told of a visit to Tunis. There he had by chance
encountered Marie Louise, the daughter of Lespinasse, living with her
noble husband in a "handsome Oriental palace," had been invited to dine
with them and had afterward seized the occasion while "walking in the
garden" with the lady to disclose the fact that he knew all, and had it
in his power to ruin them as impostors. Marie Louise had been
frightfully angry, but afterward her better nature had suggested the
return of the inheritance, or at least a hundred millions or so, to the
rightful heirs. The General had left the palace believing all would be
well, and had retired to Paris to await letters and further
developments, but these had never come, and he had discovered that he
had been deceived. It had been merely a ruse on the part of the woman
and her husband to gain time, and now every step that he took was dogged
by spies in the pay of the Lespinasses, who followed him everywhere. But
the right would triumph! He had sworn to run the conspiracy to earth!

Many hours were consumed in the telling of the story. The Lapierres were
enchanted. More than that, they were convinced--persuaded that they were
heirs to the richest inheritance in the world, which comprised most of
the great American city of New York.

Persons who were going to participate in twenty-five hundred millions of
francs could afford to be hospitable. M. le Général stayed to dinner. A
list of the heirs living in or near Bordeaux was made out with the share
of each in the inheritance carefully computed. Madame Lapierre's was
only fifty million dollars--but still that was almost enough to buy up
Bordeaux. And they could purchase Monségur as a country place. The
General spoke of a stable of automobiles by means of which the journey
from Bordeaux to the farm could be accomplished in the space of an hour.

That night the good man and his wife scarcely closed their eyes, and the
next day, accompanied by the General, they visited Bordeaux and the
neighboring towns and broke the news gently to the other heirs. There
was M. Pettit, the veterinary at Mormand; Tessier, the blacksmith in
Bordeaux; M. Pelegue and his wife, M. Rozier, M. Cazenava and his son,
and others. One branch of the family lived in Brazil--the Joubin Frères
and one Tessier of "Saint Bezeille." These last had to be reached by
post, a most annoyingly slow means of communication--_mais que
voulez-vous_?

Those were busy days in and around Bordeaux, and the General was the
centre of attraction. What a splendid figure he cut in his tall silk hat
and gold-headed cane! But they were all very careful to let no inkling
of their good fortune leak out, for it might spoil everything--give some
opportunity to the spies of the impostor Lespinasse to fabricate new
chains of title or to prepare for a defense of the fortune. The little
blacksmith, being addicted to white wine, was the only one who did not
keep his head. But even he managed to hold his mouth sufficiently shut.
A family council was held; M. le Général was given full power of
attorney to act for all the heirs; and each having contributed an
insignificant sum toward his necessary expenses, they waved him a
tremulous good-by as he stood on the upper deck of the steamer, his silk
hat in one hand and his gold-headed cane in the other.

"He will get it, if any one can!" cried the blacksmith enthusiastically.

"It is as good as ours already!" echoed Rozier.

"My friends," Madame Lapierre assured them, "a General of the armies of
Spain and a Chevalier of the Order of Jiminez would die rather than fail
in his mission. Besides," she added, her French blood asserting itself,
"he is to get nineteen per cent. of the inheritance!"

As long as the steamer remained in sight the General waved
encouragingly, his hat raised toward Heaven.

"_Mais_," says Lapierre, with another shrug as he lights his pipe, "even
you would have believed him. _Vraiment_! He would have deceived the
devil himself!"

Up the road the wain comes creaking back again. A crow flaps across the
vineyard, laughing scornfully at good M. Lapierre, and you yourself
wonder if such a thing could have been possible.

On a rainy afternoon in March, 1905, there entered the writer's office
in the Criminal Courts Building, New York City, a ruddy, stoutly-built
man, dressed in homespun garments, accompanied by an attractive and
vivacious little woman, who, while unable to speak a single word of
English, had no difficulty in making it obvious that she had a story to
tell of the most vital importance. An interpreter was soon found and the
names of the visitors disclosed. The lady, who did the talking for both
of them, introduced herself as Madame Valoie Reddon, of Bordeaux, and
her companion as M. Emile Lapierre, landowner, of Monségur, They had
come, she explained, from France to take possession of the inheritance
Tessier. She was a personal friend of Madame Lapierre, and as the
Tessiers had exhausted all their money in paying the expenses connected
with securing the fortune, she, being a well-to-do gentlewoman, had come
to their assistance, and for the last few months had been financing the
enterprise on a fifteen per cent. basis. If Madame Lapierre was to
receive ten million dollars, then, to be sure, Madame Reddon would have
one million five hundred thouand dollars; but, of course, it was not for
the money, but on account of friendship, that she was aiding them. I
would understand that three years had elapsed since a certain
distinguished General Pedro Suarez de Moreno had disclosed to the
Lapierres the fact that Madame was the heiress to the greatest estate in
America. M. Lapierre solemnly nodded confirmation as the lady proceeded.
It was the one subject talked about in the Gironde and Bordeaux--that
is, among those who had been fortunate enough to learn anything about
it. And for three years the Tessiers, their wives, their sons' wives,
and their connections, had been waiting to receive the glad tidings that
the conspirators had been put to rout and the rightful heirs reinstated.

It was some time before the good lady succeeded in convincing her
auditor that such a ridiculous fraud as she described had actually been
perpetrated. But there was M. Lapierre and there was Madame Valerie
Reddon sitting in the office as living witnesses to the fact. What
wonderful person could this General Moreno be, who could hypnotize a
hard-headed, thrifty farmer from the Gironde and a clever little French
woman from Bordeaux into believing that five hundred million dollars was
waiting for them on the other side of the Atlantic! I expressed my
surprise. Madame Reddon shrugged her sloping shoulders. Well, perhaps it
was hard for M'sieu' to believe, but then there were the proofs, the
documents, the _dossier_, and, most of all, there was the General
himself. Oh' if M'sieu' could see the General in his tall silk hat and
gold-headed cane!

I asked for the documents. Madame Reddon opened her bag and produced a
package of nearly one hundred letters, written in a fine Spanish hand.
Oh! he had been a wonderful writer, this gorgeous Count de Tinoco and
Marquis de la d'Essa. She had met him herself when he had been in
Bordeaux. Madame Lapierre had introduced him to her, and she had heard
him talk. How beautifully he talked! The stories of his experiences as
General of the armies of Spain under Don Carlos and as Brigadier-General
in the Philippines were as fascinating as a romance. But it was his
letters which had really led her to take a personal interest in the
undertaking. With a sigh Madame Valoie untied the little blue ribbon
which bound up the pitiful little history. If M'sieu' would be good
enough to grant the time she would begin at the beginning. Here was his
first letter written after the General's return to America:

    _June 25, '02._

    My dear M. Lapierre:

    We have had a terrible voyage. A horrible storm broke loose in
    mid-ocean, endangering all our lives.... The waves, like mountains,
    threatened every instant to swallow us all; the spectacle was
    terrifying. I fell from the top of the stairs 'way down into the
    hole (_sic_), hurting my right leg in the centre of the tibia bone.
    The ship's doctor, who is nothing but a stupid fool, left me
    helpless almost the entire day.... If ever I should have dreamt what
    would occur to me in this trip, not for all the gold in the world
    would I have embarked. But, now that I am here, I shall not retreat
    before any obstacle, in order to arrive at the fulfillment of my
    enterprise, and no matter at what cost, even at that of my life. It
    is necessary that I succeed--my pride demands it. Those who are in
    the right shall triumph, that is sure.... In the mean time, will you
    kindly give my regards to Madame and your son, and all of your
    relatives, not forgetting your good old servant. Squeezing your hand
    cordially, I bid you adieu.

    Your devoted,

    Pedro S. de Moreno.

"Can you not see the waves, and observe him falling down the hole?" asks
Madame Reddon,

"Mais, voici une autre."

    _July 11, 1902._

    M. Jean Lapierre.

    _My dear M. Lapierre_: As soon as I could walk a little I began my
    research for the impostors of the inheritance Tessier. Without a
    doubt some person who is interested in the case has already advised
    them of my arrival in New York, and to take the necessary
    precautions to lead me astray in my researches.

    Already I have discovered almost everything. I know even the house
    in which resided the deceased before his death. It is a house of
    twenty-five stories high, which resembles the Church of Saint
    Magdalene in Paris. To-day it is the biggest bank in New York. I
    have visited it from top to bottom, ascending and descending in
    steel elevators. This is a marvelous palace; it is worth more than
    five million dollars. The house itself has the numbers 100, 102,
    104, 106, 108, 110, 112, 114, 116 and 118. In other words, it covers
    the ground of ten other houses made into one.

    I have also visited six houses belonging to him, which are worth
    millions and are located around Central Park....

    As soon as the brothers Lespinasse knew that I had arrived in New
    York they immediately took their departure, one for Paris to find
    his father, Emmeric Lespinasse, the other to the city of Tuxpan, in
    Mexico, to visit the properties stolen from the heirs. I have come
    to an understanding with the Reverend Father Van Rensselaer, Father
    Superior of the Jesuits, and have offered him two millions for his
    poor, in recompense for his aid to recover and to enter into
    possession of the inheritance. He takes great pains, and is my
    veritable guide and confidant....

    I have visited Central Park, also a property of the deceased; this
    property alone is worth more than twenty million dollars.... I have
    great confidence in my success, and I am almost sure to reach the
    goal, if you are the heirs, for here there is a mix-up by all the
    devils....

    The wound of my leg has much improved, the consequences which I
    feared have disappeared, and I expect soon my complete
    convalescence, but the devil has bestowed upon me a toothache, which
    makes me almost crazy with pain. I shall leave, nevertheless, to
    begin my campaign.

    Will you be kind enough to give my regards to your wife and son, and
    to our old friend, etc., etc.

    PEDRO S. DE MORENO.

"May the devil bestow upon him five hundred million toothaches!"
exclaims Lapierre, for the first time showing any sign of animation.

The other letters were read in their order, interspersed with Madame
Reddon's explanations of their effect upon the heirs in France. His
description of the elevators of steel and of the house that covered an
entire block had caused a veritable sensation. Alas! those wonders are
still wonders to them, and they still, I fancy, more than half believe
in them. The letters are lying before me now, astonishing emanations,
totally ridiculous to a prosaic American, but calculated to convince and
stimulate the imagination of a _petit bourgeois_.

The General in glowing terms paints his efforts to run down the
Lespinasse conspirators. Although suffering horribly from his fractured
tibia (when he fell into the "hole"), and from other dire ills, he has
"not taken the slightest rest." He has been everywhere--"New Orleans,
Florida, to the city of Coney Island"--to corner the villains, who "flee
in all directions." The daughter, Marie Louise, through whom the General
expects to secure a compromise, has left for New Orleans. "Wonderful
coincidence," he writes, "they were all living quietly and I believe had
no intention whatever to travel, and two days after my arrival in New
York they all disappeared. The most suspicious of it all is that the
banker, his wife and children had left for Coney Island for the summer
and to spend their holidays, and certainly they disappeared without
saying good-by to their intimate friends.... I have the whole history of
Tessier's life and how he made his fortune. There is a family for the
use of whom we must give at least a million, for the fortune of Tessier
was not his alone. He had a companion who shared his troubles and his
work. According to the will they were to inherit one from the other; the
companion died, and Tessier inherited everything. I do not see the
necessity of your trip to New York; that might make noise and perhaps
delay my negotiations." Then follows the list of properties embraced in
the inheritance:

PROPERTY AND PERSONAL ESTATE OF THE HEIRS

1   The land of Central Park ceded to the
    city of New York, of the value of             $5,000,000.00

2   He had at the National Bank--United
    States Bank--deposited in gold--twenty
    to thirty million dollars. He
    never withdrew anything; on the
    contrary, he always deposited his income
    there                                         25,000,000.00

3   The big house on Broadway, Nos. 100
    to 118, of twenty-five stories, to-day
    the largest bank in New York                   5,000,000.00

4   The house on Fifth Avenue, No. 765,
    facing Central Park, to-day one of
    the first hotels of New York--Hotel
    Savoy                                          8,000,000.00

5   House on Fifth Avenue, No. 767, facing
    Central Park, to-day the biggest
    and most handsomest of American
    hotels, where the greatest people and
    millionaires stop--Hotel Netherland           20,000,000.00

6   Two coal mines at Folkustung in Texas          9,000,000.00

7   A petroleum mine in Pennsylvania
    (Mexican frontier)                             6,000,000.00

8   Shares of silver mine at Tuxpan,
    Mexico                                        10,000,000.00

9   The house at Tuxpan and its grounds,
    Mexico                                            15,000.00

10  The pleasure home and grounds in
    Florida (New Orleans) in the city of
    Coney Island                                     500,000.00

11  The house which covers all the Esquare
    Plaza (no number because it is all
    alone). It is an immense palace,
    with a park and gardens, and waters
    forming cascades and labyrinths,
    facing Central Park                           12,000,000.00

12  The block of houses on Fifth and Sixth
    Avenues, facing on this same Central
    Park, which, as all these grounds belong
    to him, he had put up. They
    are a hundred houses, that is called
    here a block                                  30,000,000.00

13  He is the owner of two railroads and
    owns shares of others in Pennsylvania
    and Canada                                    40,000,000.00

14  A line of steam and sail boats--Atlantic.
    The Pennsylvania and the Tessier
    and other names                              100,000,000.00

15  A dock and a quay of eight hundred
    meters on the Brooklyn River for
    his ships                                    130,000,000.00

16  Several values and debts owed him and
    which at his death had not been collected        $40,000.00
                                               ----------------
                                                $390,555,000.00


    Which is in francs                  1,952,775,000
    Plus 5 per cent                           976,388
                                       --------------
    Total in francs                     1,953,751,388


"Do you blame us?" asks Madame Valoie, as I listen as politely as
possible to this Arabian Nights' dream of riches.

The letters continue: The General is surrounded by enemies, of which the
worst are French, and he is forced continually to change his residence
in order to escape their machinations. But all this takes money. How can
he go to Tuxpan or to the city of Coney Island? "You cannot know nor
imagine the expense which I have had to discover that which I have
discovered. I cannot live here like a miser, for the part I represent
demands much of me. Every moment I change my residence, and that costs
money." He adds a little touch of detail. "I must always be dressed
properly, and laundry is very dear here--a shirt costs twenty-five cents
to wash, and there are other necessary expenses.... You have forgotten
to tell me if you have received the album of views of New York in which
I have indicated the properties of the deceased, I squeeze your hand."

"Yes, and our purses too," adds Madame Valoie. "Would M'sieu' care to
see the album of the Tessier properties? Yes? M'sieu' Lapierre, kindly
show the gentleman."

Lapierre unbuttons his homespun coat and produces a cheap paper-covered
blank book in which are pasted small photographs and woodcuts of various
well-known New York buildings. It is hard not to smile.

"M'sieu' will see," continues Madame Valoie, "that the dream had
something substantial about it. When we saw these pictures in Bordeaux
we were on the point of giving up in despair, but the pictures convinced
us that it was all true. Moreover, just at that time the General
intimated that unless he had more money he might yield to the efforts of
the Lespinasse family to buy him off."

Madame Valoie points vindictively to a certain paragraph in one of the
letters: "Of course they are convinced that I am not for sale, not for
anything.... To my regret, my very great regret, I shall be forced to
capitulate if you do not come to my aid and that quickly, for I repeat
to you that my funds are all gone."

"And here is his bill," continues Madame Valoie, producing a folded
document composed of countless sheets of very thin paper, bound
together at the edges by strips of heavier material. This, when
unfolded, stretches entirely across the room and is seen to be composed
of hundreds of typewritten items, of which the following may serve as
illustrations:


            EXPENSES IN NEW YORK

July 12, Train to New Orleans   ..........   $25.50
"    16, Train to Florida       ...........  $ 2.50
"     "  Dinner on train        ...........  $ 2.00
"    17, Hotel in Florida       ...........  $ 2.00
"    18, Trip to Coney Island   ...........  $  .50
"    19, Return to Florida      ...........  $  .50
"    21, Return from Florida to New Orleans  $ 2.50
"     "    Laundry              ...........  $ 1.15
Dec.  3, Return to New York     ...........  $ 6.50
"    24, Train to Vera Cruz     ...........  $57.50
Jan.  4, Trip to Tuxpan         ...........  $ 2.50
"     5, Return to Vera Cruz    ...........  $ 2.50
"     6, Sudden night trip to Halifax,
         Nova Scotia, via Buffalo and
         Niagara Falls          ...........  $50.50
"    18, Laundry for three months .........  $ 5.00
          Etc., etc.


            EXTRAORDINARY EXPENSES

To Agent Pushyt John, a meerschaum and amber
    cigar-holder and pipe       ...........  $ 7.00
Tobacco jar of shell and silver ...........  $ 4.00
To Indian Peter South-Go, a watch, a suit,
    and a pair of shoes         ...........  $16.50
To my general agent of confidential reports
    for his daughter, a gold ring and a
    feather fan                 ...........  $ 7.00
A necktie for himself and scarf pin in
    gold and with stone for the necktie ...  $ 8.60
To the letter-carrier to bring me my
    correspondence and not give it to any
    one else when I should change address .  $ 4.00
Invitation to the Consul and his two
    agents in Washington hotel  ...........  $12.00
Several invitations to cafés and saloons
    to the Police Agents        ...........  $ 2.00
Invitations to old employees of Jean
    Tessier, to tear from them the
    declarations                ...........  $ 1.50
Barber expenses                 ...........  $11.50
Tobacco and matches, July to December,
    three packages each week, ten cents
    each                        ...........  $ 7.80
Changing hotels to lead astray the agents
    of the impostors            ...........  $ 9.50
          Etc., etc.


"To obtain a collossal fortune as yours will be, it is necessary to
spend money unstintingly and to have lots of patience. Court proceedings
will be useless, as trickery and lies are necessary to get the best of
the scoundrels. It is necessary also to be a scoundrel."

"That he might well say," interpolates Lapierre. "He succeed, _c'est
sure_."

I rapidly glanced over the remaining letters. The General seems always
to be upon the verge of compelling a compromise. "I have already
prepared my net and the meshes are tightly drawn so that the fish will
not be able to escape.... For an office like this one needs money--money
to go quickly from one place to another, prosecute the usurpers, not
allow them an instant's rest. If they go to some city run after them at
once, tire them with my presence and constantly harass them, and by this
means compel them to hasten a compromise--"

The General is meeting with superhuman obstacles. In addition to his
enemies he suffers all sorts of terrible bodily afflictions. Whenever
the remittances from the Lapierres do not arrive the difficulties and
diseases increase.

At last, however, after an interval of two years, things took a turn for
the better. A "confidential representative" of the conspirators--one
"Mr. Benedict-Smith"--arrived to make a bona fide offer of one hundred
and fifty million dollars in settlement of the case. The General writes
at great length as to exactly in what proportion the money should be
divided among the heirs. The thing is so near a culmination that he is
greatly exercised over his shabby appearance.

    I am without a son and too badly dressed to go before the banker in
    the very likely case of his arrival here. Send me my baggage at once
    with the first steamer, and mark each piece "fragile." This is all.
    My regards to Madame Lapierre and your son. I am cordially yours,
    squeezing your hand.

    PEDRO S. DE MORENO.

But the Lapierres and Tessiers, while not for an instant distrusting the
honesty of the General, had become extremely weary of sending him
money. Each heir felt that he had contributed enough toward the
General's "expenses and invitations." Even the one hundred and fifty
millions within easy reach did not prompt immediate response.

About the same time an extraordinary messenger arrived at the Lapierre
farm, purporting to come from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and
instructing Lapierre to repair immediately to Paris. The messenger
explained that the presence of Lapierre was desired at the Ministry in
connection with some investigation then in progress into the affairs of
one Jean Tessier. Then the messenger departed as mysteriously as he had
arrived.

Good M. Lapierre was highly excited. Here was indubitable evidence of
the truth of the General's assertions. But, just as the latter had
intended, perhaps, the worthy farmer jumped to the conclusion that
probably the messenger from Paris had been sent by the conspirators.

"At the last moment," wrote Lapierre to Moreno, "I received from Paris a
letter commanding me to go to the Ministry, and at the same time a
telegram recommending that I leave at once. I shall write you from Paris
all that I learn to your interest. If this letter should not reach you
sealed in red wax, with small indentations made with a sewing thimble
and my initials, which I always sign, it is that our correspondence is
seized and read."

Events followed in rapid succession. Lapierre, the Tessiers, including
the little blacksmith, became almost hysterical with excitement. A
gentleman, by name "Mr. Francis Delas," called upon Lapierre and offered
him twenty-five million dollars spot cash for his wife's share in the
Tessier inheritance. This person also claimed that he had a power of
attorney from all the other heirs, with the exception of Pettit and
Rozier, and asserted that he was on the point of embarking for New York
in their interest. He urged Lapierre to substitute him for Moreno. But
Lapierre, now convinced that everything was as the General had claimed
it to be, indignantly rejected any such proposition aimed at his old
friend, and sent Mr. Francis Delas packing about his business.

    "This is what my answer has been to him: 'Sir, we have already an
    agent with whom we can only have cause to be satisfied, so that your
    services are not acceptable or needed.' He left me most dissatisfied
    and scolding."

The sending of this confederate on the part of the wily General had
precisely the effect hoped for. Lapierre and his friends were now
convinced that the inheritance Tessier was a reality, and that powerful
personages were not only exerting their influence to prevent the
rightful heirs from obtaining their property, but had also in some way
secured the cooperation of government officials. It was agreed, on all
hands, that the worthy landowner, accompanied by Madame Reddon, had
better proceed at once to the scene of operations and unite with the
General in their common purpose. Once on the ground Lapierre could
assume direction of his own campaign.

Lapierre and Madame Reddon accordingly sailed for America and arrived in
New York on the fourth of December, 1904, where they were met on the
dock by the General, who, freshly barbered, and with a rose in his
buttonhole, invited them, as soon as they had recovered from the fatigue
of landing, to make a personal inspection of their properties.

These heirs to hundreds of millions of dollars were conducted by the
"Marquis de la d'Essa and Count de Tinoco" to the Battery, where he
gallantly seated them in an electric surface car, and proceeded to show
them the inheritance. He pointed out successively Number 100 Broadway,
the "Flatiron" Building, the Fifth Avenue Hotel and the Holland House,
the Waldorf-Astoria, the Vanderbilt mansion at Fifty-seventh Street and
Fifth Avenue, the Hotel Savoy and the Hotel Netherland, incidentally
taking a cross-town trip to the ferry station at East Twenty-third
Street, and to Bellevue Hospital. A public omnibus conveyed them around
Central Park--also their own. And, in spite of the cold weather, the
General insisted on showing them the "Tessier mansion and estate at Fort
George"--visible from the Washington Bridge--"a beautiful property in
the centre of a wood." Returning, he took them to the Museum of Natural
History and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contained
"Tessier's collections."

Having thus given them a bird's-eye view of the promised land, the
General escorted them to his apartments and allowed them to see the Ark
of the Covenant in the shape of a somewhat dilapidated leather trunk,
which contained a paper alleged to be the will of Jean Tessier, made in
Bellevue Hospital (one of his possessions), and unlawfully seized by the
Lespinasse family. It was only, Moreno alleged, through the powerful
influence of the Jesuits that he had been able to secure and keep a copy
of this will.

Although the Marquis de la d'Essa must have known that his days were
numbered, he was as gay and as entertaining as ever. Then, suddenly, the
scales began to fall from Madame Reddon's eyes. The promised meeting
with Marie Louise Lespinasse and her mysterious representative, "Mr.
Benedict-Smith," was constantly adjourned; the "police agents," whom it
had been so necessary to entertain and invite to saloons and cafés, were
strangely absent, and so were the counsellors, Jesuit Fathers, bankers,
and others who had crowded the General's antechambers. A slatternly
Hibernian woman appeared, claiming the hero as her husband; his landlady
caused him to be evicted from her premises; and his trunk containing the
famous "_dossier_" was thrown into the street, where it lay until the
General himself, placing it upon his princely shoulders, bore it to a
fifteen-cent lodging-house.

"And now, M'sieu'," said little Madame Reddon, raising her hands and
clasping them entreatingly before her, "we have come to seek vengeance
upon this _misérable_! This _villain m'sieu_! He has taken our money and
made fools of us. Surely you will give us justice!"

"Yes," echoed Lapierre stubbornly, "and the money was my own money,
which I had made from the products of my farming."

A month later Don Pedro Suarez de Moreno, Count de Tinoco, Marquis de la
d'Essa, and Brigadier-General of the Royal Armies of the Philippines and
of Spain, sat at the bar of the General Sessions, twirling his mustache
and uttering loud snorts of contempt while Lapierre and Madame Reddon
told their story to an almost incredulous yet sympathetic jury.

But the real trial began only when he arose to take the witness chair in
his own behalf. Apparently racked with pain, and laboring under the most
frightful physical infirmities, the General, through an interpreter,
introduced himself to the jury by all his titles, asserting that he had
inherited his patents of nobility from the "Prince of Arras," from whom
he was descended, and that he was in very truth "General-in-Chief of the
Armies of the King of Spain, General Secretary of War, and Custodian of
the Royal Seal." He admitted telling the Lapierres that they were the
heirs of five hundred million dollars, but he had himself honestly
believed it. When he and the rest of them had discovered their common
error they had turned upon him and were now hounding him out of revenge.
The courtly General was as _distingué_ as ever as he addressed the
hard-headed jury of tradesmen before him. As what _canaille_ he must
have regarded them! What a position for the "Count de Tinoco"!

Then two officers entered the courtroom bearing the famous trunk of the
General between them. The top tray proved to contain thousands of
railroad tickets. The prosecutor requested the defendant to explain
their possession.

"Ah!" exclaimed Moreno, twirling his mustaches, "when I was General
under my King Don Carlos, in the Seven Years' War of '75 and also in
Catalonia in '80, I issued these tickets to wounded soldiers for their
return home. At the boundaries the Spanish tickets were exchanged for
French tickets." He looked as if he really meant it.

Then the prosecutor called his attention to the fact that most of them
bore the date of 1891 and were printed in French--not in Spanish. The
prisoner seemed greatly surprised and muttered under his breath vaguely
about "plots" and "conspiracies." Then he suddenly remembered that the
tickets were a "collection," made by his little son.

Beneath the tickets were found sheaves of blank orders of nobility and
blank commissions in the army of Spain, bearing what appeared to be the
royal seal. These the General asserted that he had the right to confer,
by proxy, for his "King Don Carlos." Hundreds of other documents bearing
various arms and crests lay interspersed among them. The prisoner drew
himself up magnificently.

"I was the General Secretary of War of my King," said he. "When I had to
give orders to the generals under me, of whom I was the chief, I had the
right to put thereon the royal imprint of Don Carlos. I was given all
the papers incident to the granting of orders and grades in the army,
and I had the seal of the King--the seal of the Royal King."

But, unfortunately for the prisoner, the seals upon the papers turned
out to be the legitimate arms of Spain and not those of Don Carlos, and
as a finale he ingenuously identified the seal of the Mayor of Madrid as
that of his "Royal King."

Next came a selection of letters of nobility, sealed and signed in the
name of Pope Leo the Thirteenth. These, he asserted, must have been
placed there by his enemies. "I am a soldier and a general of honor, and
I never did any such trafficking," he cried grandly, when charged with
selling bogus patents of nobility.

He explained some of his correspondence with the Lapierres and his
famous bill for twelve thousand dollars by saying that when he found out
that the inheritance Tessier did not exist he had conceived the idea of
making a novel of the story--a "fantastic history"--to be published "in
four languages simultaneously," and asserted solemnly that he had
intended printing the whole sixteen feet of bill as part of the romance.

Then, to the undisguised horror of the unfortunate General, at a summons
from the prosecutor an elderly French woman arose in the audience and
came to the bar. The General turned first pale, then purple. He hotly
denied that he had married this lady in France twenty-three years ago.

"Name of a name! He had known her! Yes--certainly! But she was no wife
of his--she had been only his servant. The other lady--the
Hibernian--was his only wife." But the chickens had begun to come home
to roost. The pointed mustaches drooped with an unmistakable look of
dejection, and as he marched back to his seat his shoulders no longer
had the air of military distinction that one would expect in a general
of a "Royal King." His head sank on his chest as his deserted wife took
the stand against him--the wife whom, he had imagined, he would never
see again.

Any one could have seen that Elizabeth de Moreno was a good woman. Her
father's name, she said, was Nichaud, and she had first met the prisoner
twenty-three years ago in the village of Dalk, in the Department of the
Tarne, where, in 1883, he had been convicted and sentenced for stealing
bed linen from the Hôtel Kassam. She had remained faithful to him in
spite of his disgrace, and had visited him daily in prison, bringing him
milk and tobacco. On his liberation she had married him and they had
gone to live in Bordeaux. For years they had lived in comfort, and she
had borne him eight children. He had never been to any war and was
neither a general nor, so far as she had known, a friend of Don Carlos.
She had supposed that her husband held some position in connection with
the inspection of railroads, but, in 1902, it had come out that he was
in the business of selling counterfeit railroad tickets, and had
employed a printer named Paul Casignol to print great numbers of
third-class tickets for the purpose of selling them to ignorant soldiers
and artisans. Moreno had fled to America. She had then discovered that
he had also made a practice of checking worthless baggage, _stealing it
himself_ and then presenting claims therefor against the railroad
companies. She had been left without a sou, and the rascal had taken
everything she had away with him, including even the locket containing
the hair of her children. By the time she had finished her story
Moreno's courage had deserted him, the jury without hesitation returned
a verdict of guilty, and the judge then and there sentenced the prisoner
to a term at hard labor in State's prison.

       *        *        *        *        *

"_Mais oui_," grunts Lapierre, as the crow, with a final caw of
contempt, alights in a poplar farther down the road, "I don't blame the
bird for laughing at me. But, after all, there is nothing to be ashamed
of. Is one to be blamed that one is fooled? _Hein_! We are all made
fools of once and again, and, as I said before, he would have deceived
the devil himself. But perhaps things are better as they are. Money is
the root of all evil. If I had an automobile I should probably be thrown
out and have my neck broken. But if M'sieu' intends to take the next
train for Bordeaux it is as well that he should be starting."




III

The Lost Stradivarius


In the year 1885 Jean Bott, a native of Hesse Cassel, Germany, emigrated
with his wife Matilda to this country, bringing with him a celebrated
violin known as "The Duke of Cambridge Stradivarius," which he had
purchased in 1873 for about three thousand thalers--a sum representing
practically the savings of a lifetime. Bott had been leader of a small
orchestra in Saxe Meiningen as early as 1860, and was well advanced in
years before he determined to seek his fortune in America. His wife was
an elderly woman and they had no offspring.

"This violin, my husband and myself made up the family--I loved it like
a child," she testified at the trial.

So also did Bott, the old musician, love his instrument, and no hand but
his own was ever permitted to lift it from its case or dust its
darkly-glowing surface.

Whatever may have been its owner's genius, he prospered little in the
new world, and, although he labored conscientiously at his profession,
the year 1894 found him still giving lessons upon the violin to only
half a dozen pupils, and living in two rooms at 355 West Thirty-first
Street. But Bott, having the soul of a true musician, cared but little
for money and was happy enough so long as he could smoke his old
meerschaum pipe and draw the bow across the cherished violin held
lovingly to his cheek. Then hard times came a-knocking at the door. The
meagre account in the savings-bank grew smaller and smaller. The
landlord, the doctor and the grocer had to be paid. One night Bott laid
down his pipe and, taking his wife's wrinkled hand in his, said gently:

"Matilda, there is nothing else--we must sell our violin!"

"Even so!" she answered, turning away her face that her husband might
not see the tears. "As God wills."

The next day "The Duke of Cambridge Stradivarius" was offered for sale
by Victor S. Flechter, a friend of Bott's, who was a dealer in musical
instruments at 23 Union Square. It so happened that Nicolini, the
husband of Adelina Patti, was ambitious to own a genuine Stradivarius,
and had been looking for one for a long time, and, although he was but
an indifferent player, he had, in default of skill to perform, the money
to buy. The matter was easily adjusted by Flechter, and Nicolini drew
his check for the sum specified, which, properly certified, was tendered
to Bott. But Bott had never seen a certified check and was unaccustomed
to the ways of business.

"If I part with my violin I must have real money--money that I can
feel--money that I can count. It was that kind of money that I paid for
my violin," said he doggedly.

Nicolini, in a rage, believing himself insulted, tore the check to bits
and declared the transaction at an end.

Now the price agreed upon for the violin had been forty-five hundred
dollars, of which Flechter was to receive five hundred dollars as his
commission, and when, through old Professor Bott's stubbornness, the
sale fell through, the dealer was naturally very angry. Out of this
incident grew the case against Flechter.

The old musician was accustomed to leave his treasured instrument in the
lowest drawer of his bureau at the boarding-house. He always removed it
before his pupils arrived and never put it back until their departure,
thus insuring the secrecy of its hiding-place, and only his wife, his
sister-in-law, Mollenhauer, a friend, and Klopton, a prospective
purchaser, knew where it lay.

On the morning of March 31, 1894, not long after the Nicolini incident,
Bott gave a single lesson to a pupil at the boarding-house, and after
his midday meal set out with his wife for Hoboken to visit a friend. The
violin was left in its customary place. It was dark when they returned,
and after throwing off his coat and lighting the gas the old man
hastened to make sure that his precious violin was safe. When he pulled
out the drawer it was empty. The Stradivarius was gone, with its leather
case, its two bows and its wooden box.

Half distracted the musician and his wife searched everywhere in the
room, in closets, under beds, even behind the curtains, before they
could bring themselves to admit that the violin had in fact disappeared.
Frantically Bott called for Ellen, the servant girl. Yes, there had been
a caller--a young man with dark hair and a small, dark mustache--at
about five o'clock. He had waited about half an hour and then had said
that he guessed he would go. She had not noticed that he took anything
away with him. In his despair the old man turned to his old friend
Flechter, and the next day the dealer came to express his sympathy. He
urged Bott to notify the police of the theft, but the old man was
prostrated with grief, and it was the wife who, with Ellen Clancy,
finally accompanied Flechter to Police Headquarters. The police had no
idea who had taken the old fellow's fiddle, and did not particularly
care anyway. Later they cared a good deal.

Bott now began an endless and almost hopeless search for his beloved
instrument, visiting every place where violins were sold, every pawnshop
and second-hand store again and again until the proprietors began to
think the old man must be crazy. Sometimes Flechter went with him. Once,
the two travelled all the way over to New Jersey, but the scent proved
to be a false one. Bott grew thinner and older week by week, almost day
by day. When the professor did not feel equal to going outdoors Mrs.
Bott went for him, and on these occasions often called at Flechter's
store to report progress, ask his advice and secure his encouragement.

One day during one of these visits in the July following the loss of the
violin Flechter handed Mrs. Bott a sheet of paper, saying:

"I have written something down here. If you have that printed and put a
reward to it you will get your violin back."

The wording, partly printed and partly written in script, ran as
follows:

    VIOLIN LOST. $500 REWARD.

    No questions asked for return of instrument taken from residence of
    Jean Bott March 31, 1894, 355 W. 31st St. Absolute safety and
    secrecy guaranteed. Victor S. Flechter, No. 21 Union Square, violin
    maker and dealer.

Mrs. Bott thanked him and took the notice away with her, but its
publication had no result. The old professor began to fail, he no longer
had an instrument upon which to teach his pupils, and those he could
avail himself of seemed harsh and discordant. He had no appetite, and
even found no solace in his pipe. Almost penniless they were forced to
give up their lodgings and move to Hoboken. Mrs. Bott still kept up the
search, but the professor could no longer tramp the streets looking for
his violin. He sat silent in his room, slowly, surely, dying of a broken
heart.

In course of time some one advised Mrs. Bott to lay her case before the
District Attorney, and accordingly, during the summer, she visited the
Criminal Courts Building and told her story to Colonel Allen, one of the
assistants, who became greatly interested. The overwrought old woman had
begun to suspect everybody, and even to accuse her husband's friend,
Flechter, of a lack of any real interest. She thought he ought to be
able to find the violin if he really made the effort. Allen began to
take notice. The sleuth in him pricked up its ears. Why, sure,
certainly, Flechter was the one man who knew what Bott's violin was
really worth--the one man who could sell it to advantage--and he had
been done out of five hundred dollars by the old musician's stupidity.
Allen thought he'd take a look into the thing. Now, there lived in the
same boarding-house with Allen a friend of his named Harry P. Durden,
and to Durden Allen recounted the story of the lost violin and voiced
his suspicions of Flechter. Durden entered enthusiastically into the
case, volunteering to play the part of an amateur detective. Accordingly
Durden, accompanied by a Central Office man named Baird, visited
Flechter's place of business and the two represented themselves as
connoisseurs in violins and anxious to procure a genuine Strad. for a
certain Mr. Wright in St. Paul. Flechter expressed entire confidence in
his ability to procure one, and did almost succeed in purchasing for
them the so-called "Jupiter Strad."

All this took time, and at last, on April 28th, 1895, poor old Bott died
in his boarding-house in Hoboken. After the funeral the widow settled up
her affairs, changing her boarding place temporarily, and, having no
ties in this country, determined to return to end her days in the
Fatherland. On May 21st she wrote to Flechter, who had lost all track of
her, that her husband had died, that she had moved to 306 River Street,
Hoboken, and that she thought seriously of going back to Germany. Two
days later Flechter wrote the following letter to the Central Office
man, who had given his name as Southan, an employe of the alleged Mr.
Wright:

    MR. SOUTHAN, care of H. P. Durden.

    _Dear Sir_: Write to inform you that I have a genuine Strad. to
    offer you and would like to see you at your earliest convenience.

    Very respectfully yours,

    VICTOR S. FLECHTER.

When Allen saw this letter it seemed to him absolutely to confirm his
suspicions. Now that the only person in the world who had been
authoritatively able to identify the "Duke of Cambridge" Stradivarius
was dead, Flechter was offering one for sale.

Then occurred the strangest thing of all. On May 28th, five days after
Flechter's letter to Southan, Mrs. Bott received the following
extraordinary epistle. Like the notice given her by Flechter in his
office, it was partly written in printed capitals and partly in script.

    _May 28, 1895._

    To MRS. BOTT, 306 River Street, Hoboken, N. J.

    _Dear Madam_: I wish to inform you that the violin taken from your
    house some time ago will be returned if you are willing to abide by
    agreements that will be made between you and I later on. It was my
    intention first to dispose of it, but on account of its great value
    and the danger it would place me in by offering for sale being a
    violin maker and dealer and not being able to sell with safety for
    such a large sum of money I concluded to wait. I have now thought
    the matter over and come to the conclusion that a little money is
    better than none and if you are anxious for the return of the violin
    and willing to pay a sum of money, small compared with the value of
    the violin, I think we can make a deal. You can put a personal in
    the New York Sun saying I am willing to give a sum of money for the
    return of the violin. No questions asked. Mrs. J. Bott. When I see
    your personal in the Sun I will let you know how the exchange can be
    made. CAVE DWELLER.

This letter appeared to be written in a somewhat similar hand to that
which penned the offer of the reward, which, according to Mrs. Bott, was
Flechter's. By this time the widow and Allen, were in close
communication. The "Cave Dweller" letter, could it be shown to be in
Flechter's penmanship, seemed to fix the crime on the violin dealer.

Flechter's store is two flights up and looks out into Union Square.
Before the window hangs a large gilded fiddle and the walls are
decorated with pictures of famous musicians. In the rear is a safe where
the more valuable instruments are kept; in the front sits Flechter
himself, a stoutish man of middle height, with white hair and mustache.
But on June 23, 1895, Flechter was out when Durden and Baird called, and
only his clerk and office-boy were on hand. Durden wished, he said, to
see the genuine Strad. about which Mr. Flechter had written him. The boy
went to the safe and brought back a violin in a red silk bag. Inside was
inscribed:

"Antonius Stradivarius Cremonis fecit Anno Domini 1725."

The figures 17 were printed and the 25 written in ink. Durden examined
it for some fifteen minutes and noted certain markings upon it.

On June 26th they called again, found Flechter in and asked to see the
violin. This time the dealer look it himself from the safe, and, at
their request, carried it to 22 Gramercy Park, where Durden said he
desired some experts to pass upon its genuineness. On the way over
Flechter guaranteed it to be a genuine Strad., and said it belonged to a
retired merchant named Rossman, who would expect to get four thousand
dollars for it. He himself would want five hundred dollars, and Durden
should have five hundred dollars, so that they must not take less than
five thousand dollars.

Once at Allen's boarding-house Flechter played upon the violin for
Durden and the supposed Southan, and then the former asked to be allowed
to take the instrument to a rear room and show it to a friend. Here
Mrs. Bott, positively identified the violin as that of her husband,
clasping it to her bosom like a long-lost child. This was enough for
Durden, who gave the instrument back to Flechter and caused his arrest
as he was passing out of the front gate. The insulted dealer stormed and
raged, but the Car of Juggernaut had started upon its course, and that
night Flechter was lodged in the city prison. Next morning he was
brought before Magistrate Flammer in the Jefferson Market Police Court
and the violin was taken out of its case, which the police had sealed.
At this, the first hearing in this extraordinary case, Mrs. Bott, of
course, identified the violin positively as "The Duke of Cambridge," and
several other persons testified that, in substance, it was Bott's
celebrated violin. But for the defendant a number of violin makers swore
that it was not the Bott violin at all, and more--that it was not even a
Stradivarius. One of them, John J. Eller, to whom it will be necessary
to revert later, made oath that the violin was _his_, stolen from him
and brought to Flechter by the thief. On this testimony the magistrate
naturally decided that the identity of the instrument had not been
established and ordered that Flechter be discharged and the violin
returned to him.

Ordinarily that would have been the end of the case, but Allen had his
own private views as to the guilt of the dealer and on August 28th the
Grand Jury filed an indictment against Flechter accusing him of
feloniously receiving stolen property--the violin--knowing it to have
been stolen. Great was Flechter's anger and chagrin, but he promptly
gave bail and employed the ablest counsel he could afford.

Now began the second act of this tragedy of errors. The case was called
for trial with the People's interests in the hands of James W. Osborne,
just advancing into the limelight as a resourceful and relentless
prosecutor. I say the _People's_ case but perhaps _Allen's_ case would
be a more fitting title. For the defense Arthur W. Palmer held the fort,
directing his fire upon Osborne and losing no advantage inadvertently
given him. The noise of the conflict filled the court house and drowned
the uproar on Broadway. Nightly and each morning the daily press gave
columns to the proceedings. Every time the judge coughed the important
fact was given due prominence. And every gibe of counsel carried behind
it its insignia of recognition--"[_Laughter_]" It was one of those first
great battles in which the professional value of compressed air as an
explosive force and small pica type as projectiles was demonstrated. It
was a combat of wind and lead--an endurance contest during which the
jury slept fitfully for three long weeks.

Two things, the prosecution claimed, proved Flechter's guilt: first, the
fact that the violin found in his possession was "The Duke of
Cambridge"; second, that the "Cave-Dweller" letter was in the same
handwriting as Flechter's notice of reward.

Of course the latter proposition carried with it the necessity of
proving in the first place that the notice itself was in Flechter's
penmanship. Flechter through his counsel said it wasn't, and that he had
never told Mrs Bott that it was. He claimed that his brother-in-law,
John D. Abraham, had written it. Mrs. Bott, he alleged, was an old lady
and was mistaken in her testimony when she swore that he had said, "I
have written down something." He had not said so. Mr. Abraham
corroborated him. He had written it himself sitting in an armchair, all
but the words "355 West Thirty-first Street," which had been put in by a
certain Mr. Jopling who had been present. Mr. Jopling swore that that
was so, too. But, on cross-examination, it developed that Mr. Abraham
had been practicing making copies of the notice at the suggestion of the
lawyer for the defense, and, when Mr. Jopling took the stand, he was
called upon to explain an affidavit made by him for Assistant District
Attorney Allen, in which he affirmed that he did not know _who_ wrote
the words "355 West Thirty-first Street." His explanation did not
explain, and, anyhow, there did not seem to be any particular reason why
Abraham and Jopling should have written Flechter's notice for him.
Besides, even if Flechter did _not_ write it and Abraham _did_, it would
still remain almost as bad for Flechter if it was shown that "Cave
Dweller" was his own brother-in-law.

But Mrs. Bott was a woman who appealed strongly to a jury's sympathies,
and she was clear that Flechter had said that he had written the notice.
Moreover, she recalled that the date had first been written _May_ and
that Flechter had erased it and inserted _March_ in its place. A
microscopic examination revealed the fact that such an erasure had been
made. When the smoke cleared the credibility of the defense appeared
badly damaged. But the precise point was of little importance, after
all. The great question was: the identity of 'CAVE DWELLER.' On this
point a number of witnesses testified from a general knowledge of
Flechter's handwriting that the "Cave Dweller" letter was his, and three
well-known handwriting "experts" (Dr. Persifor Frazer, Mr. Daniel T.
Ames and Mr. David Carvalho) swore that, in their opinion, the same hand
had written it that had penned the notice.

It is not unlikely that Flechter's fear of a conviction led him to
invite testimony in his behalf which would not bear the test of careful
scrutiny. Many an innocent man has paid the penalty for uncommitted
crime because he has sought to bolster up his defense with doubtful
evidence without the incubus of which he would have been acquitted.

Naturally the chief point against Flechter, if it could be established,
was his actual possession of the Bott Stradivarius when he was arrested.
Upon this proposition Mrs. Bott was absolutely positive beyond the
possibility of error. So were eight other witnesses for the prosecution.
Then the defense produced a violin alleged to be the same one exhibited
in the police court and brought by Flechter to Durden's house, and asked
Mrs. Bott and her witnesses what they thought of it. Mrs. Bott could not
identify it, but she swore no less positively that it was an entirely
_different_ violin from the one which she had seen before the
magistrate. Then Osborne hurled his bomb over his enemy's parapet and
cried loudly that a monstrous wicked fraud had been perpetrated to
thwart Justice--that the defense had "faked" another violin and were now
trying to foist the bogus thing in evidence to deceive the Court. _Ten
witnesses_ for the prosecution now swore that the violin so produced
was _not_ the one which Flechter had tried to sell Durden. Of course it
would have been comparatively easy to "fake" a violin, just as Osborne
claimed, and the case sheds some light upon the possibilities of the
"old violin" industry.

The star witness for the prosecution to prove that the instrument
produced in the police court _was_ the Bott violin was August M.
Gemunder, and his testimony upon the trial before Recorder Goff is
worthy of careful examination, since the jury considered it of great
importance in reaching a verdict, even requesting that it should be
re-read to them some hours after retiring to deliberate. Gemunder
testified, in substance, that he belonged to a family which had been
making violins for three generations and had himself been making them
for twenty years, that he was familiar with Bott's Stradivarius, having
seen it three times, and that he firmly believed a large part of the
violin produced before the magistrate _was_ the missing Bott--certainly
the back and scroll. Moreover, he was able to describe the markings of
the Bott violin even to the label inside it. It should be mentioned,
however, that in the magistrate's court he had been called only to
_describe_ the Bott violin and not to _identify_ the one produced as the
Bott itself. He further swore that the violin now offered by the defense
on the trial was _not_ the one in evidence before the magistrate, but
was one which he had sold some years before to one Charles Palm.

The defense, on the other hand, called among its witnesses John P.
Frederick, a violin maker, who testified that he was familiar with the
Bott Strad. and had seen it in 1873 at Bott's house, Grenecher Castle,
in Germany; that he had repaired it in this country in 1885; that the
instrument in court was not a Strad. nor even a good imitation of one,
and, of course, was not the "Duke of Cambridge," but that it _was_ the
identical instrument produced before the magistrate, and one which he
recognized as having been sent him for repair by Charles Palm in 1885.

Thus both sides agreed that the fiddle now offered in evidence was a
bogus Strad. once belonging to a man named Palm, the only element of
conflict being as to whether or not the violin which Flechter had
offered for sale was the Palm instrument, or, in fact, Bott's famous
"Duke of Cambridge."

All this technical testimony about violins and violin structure
naturally bored the jury almost to extinction, and even the bitter
personal encounters of counsel did not serve to relieve the dreariness
of the trial. One oasis of humor in this desert of dry evidence gave
them passing refreshment, when a picturesque witness for the defense, an
instrument maker named Franz Bruckner, from South Germany, having been
asked if the violin shown him was a Strad., replied, with a grunt of
disgust: "Ach Himmel, nein!" Being then invited to describe all the
characteristics of genuine Stradivarius workmanship, he tore his hair
and, with an expression of utter hopelessness upon his wrinkled face,
exclaimed despairingly to the interpreter:

"Doctor, if I gave you lessons in this every day for three weeks you
would know no more than you do now!"--an answer which was probably true,
and equally so of the jury who were shouldered with the almost
impossible task of determining from this mass of conflicting opinion
just where the truth really lay.

The chief witness for the defense was John J. Eller, who testified that
he had been a musician for thirty years and a collector of violins; that
the violin in court was the same one produced before the magistrate, and
was not Bott's, but _his own_; that he had first seen it in the
possession of Charles Palm in 1886 in his house in Eighth Street and St.
Mark's Place, New York City, had borrowed it from Palm and played on it
for two months in Seabright, and had finally purchased it from Palm in
1891, and continued to play in concerts upon it, until having been
loaned by him to a music teacher named Perotti, in Twenty-third Street,
it was stolen by the latter and sold to Flechter.

It appeared that Eller had at once brought suit against Flechter for the
possession of the instrument, which suit, he asserted, he was still
pressing in the courts, and he now declared that the violin was in
exactly the same condition in every respect as when produced in the
police court, although it had been changed in some respects since it had
been stolen. It had originally been made of baked wood by one Dedier
Nicholas (an instrument maker of the first half of the nineteenth
century), and stamped with the maker's name, but this inscription was
now covered by a Stradivarius label. Eller scornfully pointed out that
no Strad. had ever been made of baked wood, and showed the jury certain
pegs used by no other maker than Nicholas, and certain marks worn upon
the instrument by his, the witness', own playing. He also exhibited the
check with which he had paid for it.

In support of this evidence Charles Palm himself was called by the
defense and identified the violin as one which he had bought some twelve
years before for fifteen or twenty dollars and later sold to Eller. Upon
the question of the identity of the instrument then lying before the
jury this evidence was conclusive, but, of course, it did not satisfy
the jury as to whether Flechter had tried to sell the Palm violin or
Bott's violin to Durden. Unfortunately Eller's evidence threw a side
light on the defence without which the trial might well have resulted in
an acquittal.

Eller had sworn that he was still vigorously endeavoring to get the Palm
violin back from Flechter. As contradicting him in this respect, and as
tending to show that the suit had not only been compromised but that he
and Flechter were engaged in trying to put off the Palm violin as a
genuine Stradivarius and share the profit of the fraud, the prosecution
introduced the following letter from the witness to his lawyer:

    CLIFTON HOUSE, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS.

    _March 23, 1896._

    _Dear Counsellor_: Received your letter just now. I have been
    expecting Mr. Flechter's lawyer would settle with you; he got nine
    hundred dollars for the violin and Mr. Meyer arranged with myself
    for the half, four hundred and fifty dollars, which he proposed
    himself and have been expecting a settlement on their part long ago.
    I have assisted Mr. Palmer, his able lawyer, with the best of my
    ability, _and have covered Mr. Flechter's shortcomings of faking the
    violin to a Strad_.

    Yours most sincerely,

    JOHN ELLER,

    Metropolitan Opera Co., Chicago, Ill.

From this letter it was fairly inferable that although the defendant
might be innocent of the precise crime with which he was charged, he
was, nevertheless, upon his own evidence, guilty of having "faked" a
cheap Nicholas violin into a Strad., and of having offered it for sale
for the exorbitant price of five thousand dollars. This luckless piece
of evidence undoubtedly influenced the jury to convict him.

It will be recalled that ten witnesses for the prosecution had sworn
that the violin offered in evidence at the trial was _not_ the one
produced in the police court, as against the defendant's five who
asserted that it _was_.

The testimony was all highly technical and confusing, and the jury
probably relied more upon their general impressions of the credibility
of the witnesses than upon anything else. It is likely that most of the
testimony, on both sides, in regard to the identity of the violin was
honestly given, for the question was one upon which a genuine divergence
of opinion was easily possible.

Eller's letter from Chicago so affected the jury that they disregarded
his testimony and reverted to that of August Gemunder, to whose evidence
attention has already been called, and who swore that it was "The Duke
of Cambridge" which Flechter had tried to sell to Durden. Alas for the
fallibility of even the most honest of witnesses!

The case was ably argued by both sides, and every phase of this curious
tangle of evidence given its due consideration. The defense very
properly laid stress upon the fact that it would have been a ridiculous
performance for Flechter to write the "Cave Dweller" letter and state
therein that he was "a violin dealer or maker," thus pointing,
unmistakably, to himself, and to further state that for one in his
position to dispose of it would be difficult and dangerous. The only
explanation for the "Cave Dweller" letter which they could offer,
however, was that some one interested in procuring Flechter's downfall
had caused it to be sent for that purpose. This might either be a
business rival or some one connected with the prosecution.

While Palmer was summing up for the defense he noticed Assistant
District Attorney Allen smiling and dramatically turning upon him, he
shouted: "This is no laughing matter, Colonel Allen. It is a very
serious matter whether this man is to be allowed to-night to go home and
kiss his little ones, or whether he is to be cast into jail because you
used your brains to concoct a theory against him."

Another consideration, which seemed deserving of weight, was that if
Flechter did steal "The Duke of Cambridge" it would have been a piece of
incredible folly and carelessness upon his part to leave it in such an
exposed place as the safe of his store, where it could be found by the
police or shown by the office-boy to any one who called.

Yet the positive identification of August Gemunder and the fatal
disclosures of Eller, coupled with the vehement insistence of the
prosecution, led the jury to resolve what doubt they had in the case
against the prisoner, and, after deliberating eight or ten hours and
being out all night, they returned a verdict of guilty. Flechter broke
down and declared bitterly that he was the victim of a conspiracy upon
the part of his enemies, assisted by a too credulous prosecuting
attorney. Everybody admitted that it was an extraordinary case, but the
press was consistent in its clamor against Flechter, and opinion
generally was that he had been rightly convicted. On May 22nd he was
sentenced to the penitentiary for twelve months, but, after being
incarcerated in the Tombs for three weeks, he secured a certificate of
reasonable doubt and a stay until his conviction could be reviewed on
appeal. Then he gave bail and was released. But he had been in jail!
Flechter will never forget that! And, for the time being at least, his
reputation was gone, his family disgraced, and his business ruined.

A calm reading of the record of the trial suggests that the case
abounded in doubts more or less reasonable, and that the Court might
well have taken it from the jury on that account. But a printed page of
questions and answers carries with it no more than a suggestion of the
value of testimony the real significance of which lies in the manner in
which it is given, the tone of the voice and the flash of the eye.

Once again Flechter sat at his desk in the window behind the great
gilded fiddle. To him, as to its owner, the great Stradivarius had
brought only sorrow. But for him the world had no pity. Surely the
strains of this wonderful instrument must have had a "dying fall" even
when played by the loving hand of old Jean Bott.

At last, after several years, in 1899, the case came up in the Appellate
Division of the Supreme Court. Flechter had been led to believe that his
conviction would undoubtedly be reversed and a new trial ordered, which
would be tantamount to an acquittal, for it was hardly likely in such an
event that a second trial would be considered advisable upon the same
evidence. But to his great disappointment his conviction was sustained
by a divided court, in which only two of the five justices voted for a
new trial. Again Fortune had averted her face. If only one more judge
had thought the evidence insufficient! The great gilded fiddle seemed to
Flechter an omen of misfortune. Once more he gave bail, this time in
five thousand dollars, and was set at liberty pending his appeal to the
highest court in the State. Once more he took his seat in his office and
tried to carry on his business.

But time had dragged on. People had forgotten all about Flechter and the
lost Stradivarius, and when his conviction was affirmed little notice
was taken of the fact. It was generally assumed that having been
sentenced he was in jail.

Then something happened which once more dragged Flechter into the
limelight. Editors rushed to their files and dusted the cobwebs off the
issues containing the accounts of the trial. The sign of the gilded
fiddle became the daily centre of a throng of excited musicians, lawyers
and reporters. The lost Stradivarius--the great "Duke of Cambridge"--the
nemesis of Bott and of Flechter--was found--by Flechter himself, as he
claimed, on August 17, 1900. According to the dealer and his witnesses
the amazing discovery occurred in this wise. A violin maker named Joseph
Farr, who at one time had worked for Flechter and had testified in his
behalf at the trial (to the effect that the instrument produced in the
police court was _not_ Bott's Stradivarius) saw by chance a very fine
violin in the possession of a family named Springer in Brooklyn, and
notified Flechter of the fact. The latter, who was always ready to
purchase choice violins, after vainly trying for a long time to induce
the Springers to bring it to New York, called with Farr upon Mrs.
Springer and asked to examine it. To his utter astonishment she produced
for his inspection Bott's long-lost Stradivarius. Hardly able to control
his excitement Flechter immediately returned to New York and reported
the discovery to the police, who instantly began a thorough examination
of the circumstances surrounding its discovery.

The District Attorney's office and the Detective Bureau were at first
highly suspicious of this opportune discovery on the part of a convicted
felon of the precise evidence necessary to clear him, but it was soon
demonstrated to their pretty general satisfaction that the famous
Stradivarius had in fact been pawned in the shop of one Benjamin Fox on
the very day and within an hour of the theft, together with its case and
two bows, for the insignificant sum of four dollars. After the legal
period of redemption had expired it had been put up at auction and bid
in by the pawnbroker for a small advance over the sum for which it had
been pawned. It lay exposed for purchase on Fox's shelf for some months,
until, in December, 1895, a tailor named James Dooly visited the shop to
redeem a silver watch. Being, at the same time, in funds, and able to
satisfy his taste as a virtuoso, he felt the need of and bought a violin
for ten dollars, but, Fox urging upon him the desirability of getting a
good one while he was about it, was finally persuaded to purchase the
Bott violin for twenty dollars in its stead. Dooly took it home, played
upon it as the spirit moved, and whenever in need of ready money brought
it back to Fox as security, always redeeming it in time to prevent its
sale. One day, being at Mrs. Springer's, where he was accustomed to
purchase tailor trimmings, he offered it to her for sale, and, as her
son was taking violin lessons, induced her to buy it for thirty dollars.
And in the house of the Springers it had quietly remained ever since,
while lawyers and prosecutors wrangled and thundered and witnesses swore
positively to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, to
prove that Flechter stole the violin and tried to sell it to Durden.

On these facts, which did not seem to admit of contradiction, Recorder
Goff ordered an oral examination of all the witnesses, the hearing of
which, sandwiched in between the current trials in his court, dragged
along for months, but which finally resulted in establishing to the
Court's satisfaction that the violin discovered in the possession of the
Springers was the genuine "Duke of Cambridge," and that it could not
have been in Flechter's possession at the time he was arrested.

On July 7, 1902, eight years after Bott's death and the arrest and
indictment of Flechter for the theft of the violin, a picturesque group
assembled in the General Sessions. There was Flechter and his lawyer,
Mrs. Springer and her son, the attorneys for the prosecution, and lastly
old Mrs. Bott. The seals of the case were broken and the violin
identified by the widow as that of her husband. The Springers waived all
claim to the violin, and the Court dismissed the indictment against the
defendant and ordered the Stradivarius to be delivered to Mrs. Bott,
with these words:

"Mrs. Bott, it affords very great pleasure to the Court to give the
violin to you. You have suffered many years of sorrow and trouble in
regard to it."

"Eight years," sighed the old lady, clasping the violin in her arms.

"I wish you a great deal of pleasure in its possession," continued the
Recorder.

Thus ended, as a matter of record, the case of The People against
Flechter. For eight years the violin dealer and his family had endured
the agony of disgrace, he had spent a fortune in his defense, and had
nevertheless been convicted of a crime of which he was at last proved
innocent.

Yet, there are those who, when the case is mentioned, shake their heads
wisely, as if to say that the whole story of the lost Stradivarius has
never been told.




IV

The Last of the Wire-Tappers


    "Sir," replied the knave unabashed, "I am one of those who do make a
    living by their wits."

John Felix, a dealer in automatic musical instruments in New York City,
was swindled out of $50,000 on February 2d, 1905, by what is commonly
known as the "wire-tapping" game. During the previous August a man
calling himself by the name of Nelson had hired Room 46, in a building
at 27 East Twenty-second Street, as a school for "wireless telegraphy."
Later on he had installed over a dozen deal tables, each fitted with a
complete set of ordinary telegraph instruments and connected with wires
which, while apparently passing out of the windows, in reality plunged
behind a desk into a small "dry" battery. Each table was fitted with a
shaded electric drop-light, and the room was furnished with the ordinary
paraphernalia of a telegraph office. The janitor never observed any
activity in the "school." There seemed to be no pupils, and no one
haunted the place except a short, ill-favored person who appeared
monthly and paid the rent.

On the afternoon of February 1st, 1905, Mr. Felix was called to the
telephone of his store and asked to make an appointment later in the
afternoon, with a gentleman named Nelson who desired to submit to him a
business proposition. Fifteen minutes afterward Mr. Nelson arrived in
person and introduced himself as having met Felix at "Lou" Ludlam's
gambling house. He then produced a copy of the _Evening Telegram_ which
contained an article to the effect that the Western Union Telegraph
Company was about to resume its "pool-room service,"--that is to say, to
supply the pool rooms with the telegraphic returns of the various
horse-races being run in different parts of the United States. The paper
also contained, in connection with this item of news, a photograph which
might, by a stretch of the imagination, have been taken to resemble
Nelson himself.

Mr. Felix, who was a German gentleman of French sympathies, married to
an American lady, had recently returned to America after a ten years'
sojourn in Europe. He had had an extensive commercial career, was
possessed of a considerable fortune, and had at length determined to
settle in New York, where he could invest his money to advantage and at
the same time conduct a conservative and harmonious business in musical
instruments. Like the Teutons of old, dwelling among the forests of the
Elbe, Mr. Felix knew the fascination of games of chance and he had heard
the merry song of the wheel at both Hambourg and Monte Carlo. In Europe
the pleasures of the gaming table had been comparatively inexpensive,
but in New York for some unknown reason the fickle goddess had not
favored him and he had lost upward of $51,000. "Zu viel!" as he himself
expressed it. Being of a philosophic disposition, however, he had
pocketed his losses and contented himself with the consoling thought
that, whereas he might have lost all, he had in fact lost only a part.
It might well have been that had not The Tempter appeared in the person
of his afternoon visitor, he would have remained _in status quo_ for the
rest of his natural life. In the sunny window of his musical store,
surrounded by zitherns, auto-harps, dulcimers, psalteries, sackbuts, and
other instrument's of melody, the advent of Nelson produced the effect
of a sudden and unexpected discord. Felix distrusted him from the very
first.

The "proposition" was simplicity itself. It appeared that Mr. Nelson was
in the employ of the Western Union Telegraph Company, which had just
opened a branch office for racing news at 27 East Twenty-second Street.
This branch was under the superintendence of an old associate and
intimate friend of Nelson's by the name of McPherson. Assuming that they
could find some one with the requisite amount of cash, they could all
make their everlasting fortunes by simply having McPherson withhold the
news of some race from the pool rooms long enough to allow one of the
others to place a large bet upon some horse which had in fact already
won and was resting comfortably in the stable. Felix grasped the idea
instantly. At the same time he had his suspicions of his visitor. It
seemed peculiar that he, an inconspicuous citizen who had already lost
$50,000 in gambling houses, should be selected as the recipient of such
a momentous opportunity. Moreover, he knew very well that gentlemen in
gambling houses were never introduced at all. He thought he detected the
odor of a rodent. He naïvely inquired why, if all these things were so,
Nelson and his friend were not already yet millionaires two or three
times? The answer was at once forthcoming that they _had_ been, but also
had been robbed--unmercifully robbed, by one in whom they had had
confidence and to whom they had entrusted their money.

"And now we are poor, penniless clerks!" sighed Nelson, "and if we
should offer to make a big bet ourselves, the gamblers would be
suspicious and probably refuse to place it."

"I think this looks like a schvindling game," said Felix shrewdly. So it
did; so it was.

By and by Felix put on his hat and, escorted by Nelson, paid a visit to
the "branch office" at 27 East Twenty-second Street. Where once solitude
had reigned supreme and the spider had spun his web amid the
fast-gathering dust, all was now tumultuous activity. Fifteen busy
operators in eye shades and shirt sleeves took the news hot from the
humming wires and clicked it off to the waiting pool rooms.

"Scarecrow wins by a neck!" cried one, "Blackbird second!"

"Make the odds 5 to 3," shouted a short, ill-favored man, who sat at a
desk puffing a large black cigar. The place buzzed like a beehive and
ticked like a clockmaker's. It had an atmosphere of breathless
excitement all its own. Felix watched and marvelled, wondering if dreams
came true.

The short, ill-favored man strolled over and condescended to make Mr.
Felix's acquaintance. An hour later the three of them were closeted
among the zitherns. At the same moment the fifteen operators were ranged
in a line in front, of a neighboring bar, their elbows simultaneously
elevated at an angle of forty-five degrees.

Felix still had lingering doubts. Hadn't Mr. McPherson some little
paper--a letter, a bill, a receipt or a check, to show that he was
really in the employ of the Western Union? No, said "Mac," but he had
something better--the badge which he had received as the fastest
operator among the company's employees. Felix wanted to see it, but
"Mac" explained that it was locked up in the vault at the Farmers' Loan
and Trust Co. To Felix this had a safe sound--"Farmers' Trust Co." Then
matters began to move rapidly. It was arranged that Felix should go down
in the morning and get $50,000 from his bankers, Seligman and Meyer.
After that he was to meet Nelson at the store and go with him to the
pool room where the big financiers played their money. McPherson was to
remain at the "office" and telephone them the results of the races in
advance. By nightfall they would be worth half a million.

"I hope you have a good large safe," remarked Nelson, tentatively. The
three conspirators parted with mutual expressions of confidence and
esteem.

Next morning Mr. Felix went to his bankers and procured $50,000 in five
ten-thousand-dollar bills. The day passed very slowly. There was not
even a flurry in zitherns. He waited impatiently for Nelson who was to
come at five o'clock. At last Nelson arrived and they hurried to the
Fifth Avenue Hotel where the _coup_ was to take place.

And now another marvel. Wassermann Brothers' stock-brokering office,
which closes at three hummed just as the "office" had done the evening
before--and with the very same bees, although Felix did not recognize
them. It was crowded with men who struggled violently with one another
in their eagerness to force their bets into the hands of a
benevolent-looking person, who, Felix was informed, was the "trusted
cashier" of the establishment. And the sums were so large that even
Felix gasped.

"Make that $40,000 on Coco!" cried a bald-headed "capper."

"Mr. Gates wants to double his bet on Jackstone,--make it $80,000!"
shrieked another.

"Gentlemen! Gentlemen!" begged the "trusted cashier," "not quite so
fast, if you please. One at a time."

"Sixty thousand on Hesper--for a place!" bawled one addressed as "Mr.
Keene," while Messrs. "Ryan," "Whitney," "Belmont," "Sullivan,"
"McCarren," and "Murphy" all made handsome wagers.

From time to time a sporty-looking man standing beside a ticker, shouted
the odds and read off the returns. Felix heard with straining ears:

"They're off!"

"Baby leads at the quarter."

"Susan is gaining!"

"They're on the stretch!"

"Satan wins by a nose--Peter second."

There was a deafening uproar, hats were tossed ceilingward, and great
wads of money were passed out by the "trusted cashier" to indifferent
millionaires. Felix wanted to rush in and bet at once on something--if
he waited it might be too late. Was it necessary to be introduced to the
cashier? No? Would he take the bet? All right, but--

At that moment a page elbowed his way among the money calling
plaintively for "Felix! Mr. Felix." Shrinking at the thought of such
publicity in such distinguished company, Felix caught the boy's arm and
learned that he was wanted at the telephone booth in the hotel.

"It must be 'Mac,'" said Nelson. "Now don't make any mistake!" Felix
promised to use the utmost care.

It was "Mac."

"Is this Mr. Felix?--Yes? Well, be very careful now. I am going to give
you the result of the third race which has already been run. I will hold
back the news three minutes. This is merely to see if everything is
working right. Don't make any bet. If I give you the winners correctly,
you can put your money on the fourth race. The horse that won the last
is Col. Starbottle--Don Juan is second. Now just step back and see if I
am right."

Felix rushed back to the pool room. As he entered the man at the tape
was calling out that "they" were off. In due course "they" reached the
quarter and then the half. A terrific struggle was in progress between
Col. Starbottle and Don Juan. First one was ahead and then the other.
Finally they came thundering down to the stretch, Col. Starbottle
winning by a neck. "Gates" won $90,000, and several others pocketed wads
running anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000.

Felix hurried back to the telephone. "Mac" was at the other end.

"Now write this down," admonished McPherson; "we can't afford to have
any mistake. Old Stone has just won the fourth race, with Calvert
second. Play Old Stone to win at 5 to 1. We shall make $250,000--and Old
Stone is safe in the stable all the time and his jockey is smoking a
cigarette on the club house veranda. Good luck, old man."

Felix had some difficulty in getting near the "trusted cashier" so many
financiers were betting on Calvert. Felix smiled to himself. He'd show
them a thing or two.

Finally he managed to push his envelope containing the five
ten-thousand-dollar bills into the "trusted cashier's" hand. The latter
marked it "Old Stone, 5 to 1 to win!" and thrust it into his pocket.
Then "Whitney" or somebody bet $70,000 on Calvert.

"They're off!" shouted the man at the tape.

How he lived while they tore around the course Felix never knew. Neck
and neck Old Stone and Calvert passed the quarter, the half, and the
three-quarter post, and with the crowd yelling like demons came hurtling
down the stretch.

"Old Stone wins!" cried the "booster" at the tape in a voice husky with
excitement. "Calvert a close second!" Felix nearly fainted. His head
swam. He had won a quarter of a million. Then the voice of the "booster"
made itself audible above the confusion.

"What! A mistake? Not possible!--Yes. Owing to some confusion at the
finish, both jockies wearing the same colors, the official returns now
read Calvert first; Old Stone second."

Among the zitherns Felix sat and wondered if he had been schvindled. He
had not returned to Wassermann Brothers. Had he done so he would have
found it empty five minutes after he had lost his money. The
millionaires were already streaming hilariously into Sharkey's. "Gates"
pledged "Belmont" and "Keene" pledged "Whitney." Each had earned five
dollars by the sweat of his brow. The glorious army of wire-tappers had
won another victory and their generals had consummated a campaign of
months. Expenses (roughly), $600. Receipts, $50,000. Net profits,
$48,400. Share of each, $16,133.

A day or two later Felix wandered down to Police Headquarters, and in
the Rogue's Gallery identified the photograph of Nelson, whom he then
discovered to be none other than William Crane, alias John Lawson, alias
John Larsen, a well-known "wire-tapper," arrested some dozen times
within a year or two for similar offences. McPherson turned out to be
Christopher Tracy, alias Charles J. Tracy, alias Charles Tompkins, alias
Topping, alias Toppin, etc., etc., arrested some eight or ten times for
"wire-tapping." The "trusted cashier" materialized in the form of one
Wyatt, alias, Fred Williams, etc., a "wire-tapper" and pal of "Chappie"
Moran and "Larry" Summerfield. Detective Sergeants Fogarty and Mundy
were at once detailed upon the case and arrested within a short time
both Nelson and McPherson. The "trusted cashier" who had pocketed
Felix's $50,000 has never been caught. It is said that he is running a
first-class hostelry in a Western city. But that is another story.

When acting Inspector O'Brien ordered McPherson brought into his private
room, the latter unhesitatingly admitted that the three of them had
"trimmed" Felix of his $50,000, exactly as the latter had alleged. He
stated that Wyatt (alias Williams) was the one who had taken in the
money, that it was still in his possession, and still intact in its
original form. He denied, however, any knowledge of Wyatt's whereabouts.

The reason for this indifference became apparent when the two prisoners
were arraigned in the magistrate's court, and their counsel demanded
their instant discharge on the ground that they had committed no crime
for which they could be prosecuted. He cited an old New York case,
McCord _vs._ The People,[2] which seemed in a general way to sustain his
contention, and which had been followed by another and much more recent
decision. The People _vs._ Livingston.[3] The first of these cases had
gone to the Court of Appeals, and the general doctrine had been
annunciated that where a person parts with his money for an unlawful or
dishonest purpose, even though he is tricked into so doing by false
pretences, a prosecution for the crime of larceny cannot be maintained.

[Footnote 2: 46 New York 470.]

[Footnote 3: 47 App. Div. 283.]

In the McCord case, the defendant had falsely pretended to the
complainant, a man named Miller, that he was a police officer and held a
warrant for his arrest. By these means he had induced Miller to give him
a gold watch and a diamond ring as the price of his liberty. The
conviction in this case was reversed on the ground that Miller parted
with his property for an unlawful purpose; but there was a very strong
dissenting opinion from Mr. Justice Peckham, now a member of the bench
of the Supreme Court of the United States.

In the second case, that of Livingston, the complainant had been
defrauded out of $500 by means of the "green goods" game; but this
conviction was reversed by the Appellate Division of the Second
Department on the authority of the McCord case. The opinion in this case
was written by Mr. justice Cullen, now Chief Judge of the New York Court
of Appeals, who says in conclusion:

"We very much regret being compelled to reverse this conviction. Even if
the prosecutor intended to deal in counterfeit money, that is no reason
why the appellant should go unwhipped of justice. We venture to suggest
that it might be Well for the Legislature to alter the rule laid down in
McCord _vs._ People."

Well might the judges regret being compelled to set a rogue at liberty
simply because he had been ingenious enough to invent a fraud (very
likely with the assistance of a shyster lawyer) which involved the
additional turpitude of seducing another into a criminal conspiracy.
Livingston was turned loose upon the community in spite of the fact that
he had swindled a man out of $500 because he had incidentally led the
latter to believe that in return he was to receive counterfeit money or
"green goods," which might be put into circulation. Yet, because some
years before, the Judges of the Court of Appeals had, in the McCord
matter, adopted the rule followed in civil cases, to wit that as the
complaining witness was himself in fault and did not come into court
with clean hands he could have no standing before them, the Appellate
Division in the next case felt obliged to follow them and to rule
tantamount to saying that two wrongs could make a right and two knaves
one honest man. It may seem a trifle unfair to put it in just this way,
but when one realizes the iniquity of such a doctrine as applied to
criminal cases, it is hard to speak softly. Thus the broad and general
doctrine seemed to be established that so long as a thief could induce
his victim to believe that it was to his advantage to enter into a
dishonest transaction, he might defraud him to any extent in his power.
Immediately there sprang into being hordes of swindlers, who, aided by
adroit shyster lawyers, invented all sorts of schemes which involved
some sort of dishonesty upon the part of the person to be defrauded. The
"wire-tappers," of whom "Larry" Summerfield was the Napoleon, the
"gold-brick" and "green-goods" men, and the "sick engineers" flocked to
New York, which, under the unwitting protection of the Court of Appeals,
became a veritable Mecca for persons of their ilk.

To readers unfamiliar with the cast of mind of professional criminals it
will be almost impossible to appreciate with what bold insouciance these
vultures now hovered over the metropolitan barnyard. Had not the Court
of Appeals itself recognized their profession? They had nothing to fear.
The law was on their side. They walked the streets flaunting their
immunity in the very face of the police. "Wire-tapping" became an
industry, a legalized industry with which the authorities might
interfere at their peril. Indeed, there is one instance in which a
"wire-tapper" successfully prosecuted his victim (after he had trimmed
him) upon a charge of grand larceny arising out of the same transaction.
One crook bred another every time he made a victim, and the disease of
crime, the most infectious of all distempers, ate its way unchecked into
the body politic. Broadway was thronged by a prosperous gentry, the
aristocracy and elite of knavery, who dressed resplendently, flourished
like the green bay-tree, and spent their (or rather their victims')
money with the lavish hand of one of Dumas's gentlemen.

But the evil did not stop there. Seeing that their brothers prospered in
New York, and neither being learned in the law nor gifted with the power
of nice discrimination between rogueries, all the other knaves in the
country took it for granted that they had at last found the Elysian
fields and came trooping here by hundreds to ply their various trades.
The McCord case stood out like a cabalistic sign upon a gate-post
telling all the rascals who passed that way that the city was full of
honest folk waiting to be turned into rogues and "trimmed."

    "And presently we did pass a narrow lane, and at the mouth espied a
    written stone, telling beggars by a word like a wee pitchfork to go
    that way."

The tip went abroad that the city was "good graft" for everybody, and in
the train of the "wire-tappers" thronged the "flimflammer," "confidence
man," "booster," "capper" and every sort of affiliated crook, recalling
Charles Reade's account in "The Cloister and the Hearth" of Gerard in
Lorraine among their kin of another period:

    With them and all they had, 'twas lightly come and lightly go; and
    when we left them my master said to me, "This is thy first lesson,
    but to-night we shall be at Hansburgh. Come with me to the 'rotboss'
    there, and I'll show thee all our folk and their lays, and
    especially 'the lossners,' 'the dutzers,' 'the schleppers,' 'the
    gickisses,' 'the schwanfelders,' whom in England we call 'shivering
    Jemmies,' 'the süntregers,' 'the schwiegers,' 'the joners,' 'the
    sessel-degers,' 'the gennscherers,' in France 'marcandiers a
    rifodés,' 'the veranerins,' 'the stabulers,' with a few foreigners
    like ourselves, such as 'pietres,' 'francmitoux,' 'polissons,'
    'malingreux,' 'traters,' 'rufflers,' 'whipjacks,' 'dommerars,'
    'glymmerars,' 'jarkmen,' 'patricos,' 'swadders,' 'autem morts,'
    'walking morts,'--" "Enow!" cried I, stopping him, "art as gleesome
    as the evil one a counting of his imps. I'll jot down in my tablet
    all these caitiffs and their accursed names: for knowledge is
    knowledge. But go among them alive or dead, that will I not with my
    good will."

And a large part of it was due simply to the fact that seven learned men
upon seven comfortable chairs in the city of Albany had said, many years
ago, that "neither the law or public policy designs the protection of
rogues in their dealings with each other, or to insure fair dealing and
truthfulness as between each other, in their dishonest practices."

The reason that the "wire-tapping" game was supposed to come within the
scope of the McCord case was this: it deluded the victim into the
belief that he was going to cheat the pool room by placing a bet upon a
"sure thing." Secondarily it involved, as the dupe supposed, the theft
or disclosure of messages which were being transmitted over the lines of
a telegraph company--a misdemeanor. Hence, it was argued, the victim was
as much a thief as the proposer of the scheme, had parted with his money
for a dishonest purpose, did not come into court with "clean hands," and
no prosecution could be sustained, no matter whether he had been led to
give up his money by means of false pretences or not.

While "wire-tapping" differed technically from the precise frauds
committed by McCord and Livingston, it nevertheless closely resembled
those swindlers in general character and came clearly within the
doctrine that the law was not designed to protect "rogues in their
dealings with each other."

No genuine attempt had ever been made to prosecute one of these gentry
until the catastrophe which deprived Felix of his $50,000. The
"wire-tappers" rolled in money. Indeed, the fraternity were so liberal
with their "rolls" that they became friendly with certain police
officials and intimately affiliated with various politicians of
influence, a friend of one of whom went on Summerfield's bond, when the
latter was being prosecuted for the "sick-engineer" frauds to the extent
of $30,000. They regularly went to Europe in the summer season and could
be seen at all the race-courses and gambling resorts of the Continent.
It is amusing to chronicle in this connection that just prior to
McPherson's arrest--that is to say during the summer vacation of
1904--he crossed the Atlantic on the same steamer with an assistant
district attorney of New York county, who failed to recognize his ship
companion and found him an entertaining and agreeable comrade.

The trial came on before Judge Warren W. Foster in Part 3 of the General
Sessions on February 27th, 1906. A special panel quickly supplied a
jury, which, after hearing the evidence, returned in short order a
verdict of guilty. As Judge Foster believed the McCord case to be still
the law of the State, he, of his own motion, and with commendable
independence, immediately arrested judgment. The People thereupon
appealed, the Court of Appeals sustained Judge Foster, and the defendant
was discharged. It is, however, satisfactory to record that the
Legislature at its next session amended the penal code in such a way as
to entirely deprive the wire-tappers and their kind of the erstwhile
protection which they had enjoyed under the law.




V

The Franklin Syndicate


When Robert A. Ammon, a member of the New York bar, was convicted, after
a long trial, on the 17th of June, 1903, of receiving stolen goods, he
had, in the parlance of his class, been "due" for a long time. The
stolen property in question was the sum of thirty thousand five hundred
dollars in greenbacks, part of the loot of the notorious "Franklin
Syndicate," devised and engineered by William F. Miller, who later
became the catspaw of his legal adviser, the subject of this history.

Ammon stood at the bar and listened complacently to his sentence of not
less than four years at hard labor in Sing Sing. A sneer curved his lips
as, after nodding curtly to his lawyer, he turned to be led away by the
court attendant. The fortune snatched from his client had procured for
him the most adroit of counsel, the most exhaustive of trials. He knew
that nothing had been left undone to enable him to evade the
consequences of his crime, and he was cynically content.

For years "Bob" Ammon had been a familiar figure in the Wall Street
district of New York. Although the legal adviser of swindlers and
confidence men, he was a type of American whose energies, if turned in a
less dubious direction, might well have brought him honorable
distinction. Tall, strong as a bull, bluff, good-natured, reckless and
of iron nerve, he would have given good account of himself as an Indian
fighter or frontiersman. His fine presence, his great vitality, his
coarse humor, his confidence and bravado, had won for him many friends
of a certain kind and engendered a feeling among the public that
somehow, although the associate and adviser of criminals, he was outside
the law, to the circumventing of which his energies were directed.
Unfortunately his experiences with the law had bred in him a contempt
for it which ultimately caused his downfall.

"The reporters arc bothering you, are they?" he had said to Miller in
his office. "Hang them! Send them to me. I'll talk to them!"

And talk to them he did. He could talk a police inspector or a city
magistrate into a state of vacuous credulity, and needless to say he was
to his clients as a god knowing both good and evil, as well as how to
eschew the one and avoid the other. Miller hated, loathed and feared
him, yet freely entrusted his liberty, and all he had risked his liberty
to gain, to this strange and powerful personality which held him
enthralled by the mere exercise of a physical superiority.

The "Franklin Syndicate" had collapsed amid the astonished outcries of
its thousands of victims, on November 24th, 1899, when, under the advice
and with the assistance of Ammon, its organizer, "520 per cent. Miller,"
had fled to Canada. It was nearly four years later, in June, 1903, that
Ammon, arraigned at the bar of justice as a criminal, heard Assistant
District Attorney Nott call William F. Miller, convict, to the stand to
testify against him. A curious contrast they presented as they faced one
another; the emaciated youth of twenty-five, the hand of Death already
tightly fastened upon his meagre frame, coughing, hollow-cheeked,
insignificant, flat-nosed, almost repulsive, who dragged himself to the
witness chair, and the swaggering athlete who glared at him from the bar
surrounded by his cordon of able counsel. As Ammon fixed his penetrating
gaze upon his former client, Miller turned pale and dropped his eyes.
Then the prosecutor, realizing the danger of letting the old hypnotic
power return, even for an instant, quickly stepped between them. Miller
raised his eyes and smiled, and those who heard knew that this miserable
creature had been through the fire and come forth to speak true things.

The trial of Ammon involved practically the reproving of the case
against Miller, for which the latter had been convicted and sentenced to
ten years in State's prison, whence he now issued like one from the tomb
to point the skeleton, incriminating finger at his betrayer. But the
case began by the convict-witness testifying that the whole business was
a miserable fraud from start to finish, carried on and guided by the
advice of the defendant. He told how he, a mere boy of twenty-one,
burdened with a sick wife and baby, unfitted by training or ability for
any sort of lucrative employment, a hanger-on of bucket shops and, in
his palmiest days, a speculator in tiny lots of feebly margined stocks,
finding himself without means of support, conceived the alluring idea of
soliciting funds for investment, promising enormous interest, and paying
this interest out of the principal intrusted to him. For a time he
preyed only upon his friends, claiming "inside information" of large
"deals" and paying ten per cent. per week on the money received out of
his latest deposits.

Surely the history of civilization is a history of credulity. Miller
prospered. His earlier friend-customers who had hesitatingly taken his
receipt for ten dollars, and thereafter had received one dollar every
Monday morning, repeated the operation and returned in ever-increasing
numbers. From having his office "in his hat," he took an upper room in a
small two-story house at 144 Floyd Street, Brooklyn--an humble tenement,
destined to be the scene of one of the most extraordinary exhibitions of
man's cupidity and foolishness in modern times. At first he had tramped
round, like a pedler, delivering the dividends himself and soliciting
more, but soon he hired a boy. This was in February, 1899. Business
increased. The golden flood began to appear in an attenuated but
constant rivulet. He hired four more employees and the whole top floor
of the house. The golden rivulet became a steady stream. From a
"panhandler" he rolled in ready thousands. The future opened into
magnificent auriferous distances. He began to call himself "The Franklin
Syndicate," and to advertise that "the way to wealth is as plain as the
road to the market." He copied the real brokers and scattered circulars
and "weekly letters" over the country, exciting the rural mind in
distant Manitoba and Louisiana.

There was an instantaneous response. His mail required the exclusive
attention of several clerks. The stream of gold became a rushing
torrent. Every Monday morning the Floyd Street house was crowded with
depositors who drew their interest, added to it, deposited it again, and
went upon their way rejoicing. Nobody was going to have to work any
more. The out-of-town customers received checks for their interest drawn
upon "The Franklin Syndicate," together with printed receipts for their
deposits, all signed "William F. Miller," by means of a rubber stamp. No
human hand could have signed them all without writer's cramp. The
rubber stamp was Miller's official signature. Then with a mighty roar
the torrent burst into a deluge. The Floyd Street quarters were besieged
by a clamoring multitude fighting to see which of them could give up his
money first, and there had to be a special delivery for Miller's mail.
He rented the whole house and hired fifty clerks. You could deposit your
money almost anywhere, from the parlor to the pantry, the clothes closet
or the bath-room. Fridays the public stormed the house _en masse_, since
the money must be deposited _on that day_ to draw interest for the
following week. The crush was so enormous that the stoop broke down.
Imagine it! In quiet Brooklyn! People struggling to get up the steps to
cram their money into Miller's pockets! There he sat, behind a desk, at
the top of the stoop, solemnly taking the money thrown down before him
and handing out little pink and green stamped receipts in exchange.
There was no place to put the money, so it was shoved on to the floor
behind him. Friday afternoons Miller and his clerks waded through it,
knee high. There was no pretense of bookkeeping. Simply in self-defense
Miller issued in October a pronunciamento that he could not in justice
to his business, consent to receive less than fifty dollars at one time.
Theoretically, there was no reason why the thing should not have gone
on practically forever, Miller and everybody else becoming richer and
richer. So long as the golden stream swelled five times each year
everybody would be happy. How could anybody fail to be happy who saw so
much money lying around loose everywhere?

[Illustration: One of Miller's Franklin Syndicate Receipts.]

But the business had increased to such an extent that Miller began to
distrust his own capacity to handle it. He therefore secured a partner
in the person of one Edward Schlessinger, and with him went to
Charlestown, Mass., for the purpose of opening another office, in charge
of which they placed a man named Louis Powers. History repeated itself.
Powers shipped the deposits to Miller every day or two by express. Was
there ever such a plethora of easy money?

But Schlessinger was no Miller. He decided that he must have a third of
the profits (Heaven knows how they computed them!) and have them,
moreover, each day _in cash_. Hence there was a daily accounting, part
of the receipts being laid aside to pay off interest checks and
interest, and the balance divided. Schlessinger carried his off in a
bag; Miller took the rest, cash, money orders and checks, and deposited
it in a real bank. How the money poured in may be realized from the fact
that the excess of receipts over disbursements for the month ending
November 16th was four hundred and thirty thousand dollars.

Hitherto Miller had been the central figure. Col. Robert A. Ammon now
became the _deus ex machina_. Miller's advertising had become so
extensive that he had been forced to retain a professional agent, one
Rudolph Guenther, to supervise it, and when the newspapers began to make
unpleasant comments, Guenther took Miller to Ammon's office in the
Bennett Building in Nassau Street. Ammon accepted a hundred dollars from
Miller, listened to his account of the business and examined copies of
the circulars. When he was handed one of the printed receipts he said
they were "incriminating." Miller must try to get them back. He advised
(as many another learned counsellor has done) incorporating the
business, since by this means stock could be sold and exchanged for the
incriminating receipts. He explained the mistakes of the "_Dean_ crowd,"
but showed how he had been able to safeguard them in spite of the fact
that they had foolishly insisted on holding the stock in their company
themselves instead of making their customers the stockholders.
Nevertheless "you do not see any of the Dean people in jail," boasted
Ammon. From now on Miller and he were in frequent consultation, and
Ammon took steps to incorporate, procuring for that purpose from Wells,
Fargo & Co. a certificate of deposit for one hundred thousand dollars.
Occasionally he would visit Floyd Street to see how things were going.
Miller became a mere puppet; Ammon twitched the wire.

It was now well on in November, and the press of both Boston and New
York was filled with scathing attacks upon the Syndicate. The reporters
became so inquisitive as to be annoying to the peaceful Miller. "Send
the reporters over to me!" directed Ammon.

The _Post_ (of Boston) said the whole thing was a miserable swindle.
Ammon, accompanied by Miller, carrying a satchel which contained fifty
thousand dollars in greenbacks, went to Boston, visited the offices of
the _Post_, and pitched into the editor.

"The business is all right; you must give us a fair deal!"

The pair also visited Watts, the chief of police.

"You keep your mouth shut," said Ammon to Miller. "I'll do all the
talking." He showed Watts the bag of money, and demanded what he had
meant by calling the enterprise a "green goods business." If the thing
wasn't all right, did Watts suppose that he, Col. Robert A. Ammon, would
be connected with it? The chief backed down, and explained that he had
jokingly referred to the color of one of the receipts--which happened
to be green.

In spite of Ammon's confidence, however, there was an uneasy feeling in
the air, and it was decided to put an advertisement in the _Post_
offering to allow any customer who so desired to withdraw his deposit,
_without notice_, upon the following Saturday. This announcement did not
have precisely the anticipated effect, and Saturday saw a large crowd of
victims eager to withdraw their money from the Boston office of the
Franklin Syndicate. Powers paid the "_Pauls_," of Boston, out of the bag
brought on by Miller containing the deposits of the "_Peters_," of
Brooklyn. Meantime, Ammon addressed the throng, incidentally
blackguarding a _Post_ reporter before the crowd, telling them that his
paper was a "yellow paper, had never amounted to anything, and never
would." Some timid souls took courage and redeposited their money. The
run continued one day and cost Ammon and Miller about twenty-eight
thousand dollars. Ammon took five thousand dollars cash as a fee out of
the bag, and the pair returned to New York. But confidence had been
temporarily restored.

The beginning of the end, however, was now in sight--at least for the
keen vision of Bob Ammon. He advised stimulating deposits and laying
hands on all the money possible before the crash came. Accordingly
Miller sent a telegram (collect) to all depositors:

    We have inside information of a big transaction, to begin Saturday
    or Monday morning. Big profits. Remit at once so as to receive the
    profits.

    WILLIAM F. MILLER,

    Franklin Syndicate.

A thousand or so were returned, the depositors having refused to pay the
charges. The rest of the customers in large measure responded. But the
game was nearly up. There were scare-heads in the papers. Miller saw
detectives on every corner, and, like a rat leaving a sinking ship,
Schlessinger scuttled away for the last time with a bag of money on the
evening of Tuesday, November 21st, 1899. The rest of the deposits were
crammed into Miller's desk and left there over night.

The next morning Miller returned to Floyd Street and spent that day in
the usual routine, and also on Thursday remained until about twelve
o'clock noon, when he placed thirty thousand five hundred dollars in
bills in a satchel and started for Ammon's office, where he found
Schlessinger--likewise with a satchel.

"The jig's up," announced Schlessinger.

"Billy, I think you'll have to make a run for it," said Ammon. "The
best thing for you is to go to Canada."

It still remained to secure the money, which Miller had deposited in the
banks, in such a way that the customers could not get hold of it. Ammon
explained how that could easily be done. The money should be all turned
over to him, and none of the creditors would ever see it again. He did
not deem it necessary to suggest that neither would Miller. Accordingly
the two, the lawyer and the client, went to the office of Wells, Fargo &
Co., Ammon obligingly carrying the satchel containing the thirty
thousand five hundred dollars. Here Ammon deposited the contents to his
own account, as well as the certificate of deposit for one hundred
thousand dollars previously mentioned, and a check for ten thousand
dollars, representing the balance of Miller's loot. In addition to this
he received an order for forty thousand dollars United States Government
bonds, which were on deposit with Wells, Fargo & Co., and later, through
Miller's father, sixty-five thousand dollars in bonds of the New York
Central Railroad and the United States Government. Thus Ammon secured
from his dupe the sum of two hundred and forty-five thousand five
hundred dollars, the actual market value of the securities bringing the
amount up to two hundred and fifty thousand five hundred dollars,
besides whatever sums he had been paid by Miller for legal services,
which could not have been less than ten or fifteen thousand dollars. The
character of the gentleman is well illustrated by the fact that later
when paying Mrs. Miller her miserable pittance of five dollars per week,
he explained to her that "he was giving her that out of his own money,
and that her husband _owed him_."

[Illustration: Ammon's deposit slips and a receipt signed by Mrs.
Ammon.]

There still remained, however, the chance of getting a few dollars more
and Ammon advised Miller "to try to get Friday's receipts, which were
the heaviest day's business." Acting on this suggestion, Miller
returned to Floyd Street the next morning at about half past nine,
finding a great crowd of people waiting outside. About one o'clock he
started to go home, but discovering that he was being followed by a man
whom he took to be a detective, he boarded a street car, dodged through
a drug store and a Chinese laundry, finally made the elevated railroad,
with his pursuer at his heels, and eventually reached the lawyer's
office about two o'clock in the afternoon. Word was received almost
immediately over the telephone that Miller had been indicted in Kings
County for conspiracy to defraud, and Ammon stated that the one thing
for Miller to do was to go away. Miller replied that he did not want to
go unless he could take his wife and baby with him, but Ammon assured
him that he would send them to Canada later in charge of his own wife.
Under this promise Miller agreed to go, and Ammon procured a man named
Enright to take Miller to Canada, saying that "he was an ex-detective
and could get him out of the way." Ammon further promised to forward to
Miller whatever money he might need to retain lawyers for him in
Montreal. Thereupon Miller exchanged hats with some one in Ammon's
office and started for Canada in the custody of the lawyer's
representative.

How the wily colonel must have chuckled as poor Miller trotted down the
stairs like a sheep leaving his fleece behind him. A golden fleece
indeed! Did ever a lawyer have such a piece of luck? Here was a little
fellow who had invented a brilliant scheme to get away with other
people's money and had carried it through successfully--more than
successfully, beyond the dreams of even the most avaricious criminal,
and then, richer than Midas, had handed over the whole jolly fortune to
another for the other's asking, without even taking a scrap of paper to
show for it. More than that, he had then voluntarily extinguished
himself. Had Ammon not chuckled he would not have been Bob Ammon. The
money was stolen, to be sure, but Ammon's skirts were clear. There was
nothing to show that the two hundred and forty-five thousand dollars he
had received was stolen money. There was only one man--a discredited
felon, who could hint that the money was even "tainted," and _he_ was
safely over the border, in a foreign jurisdiction, not in the custody of
the police, but of Ammon himself, to be kept there (as Mr. Robert C.
Taylor so aptly phrased it in arguing Ammon's case on appeal) "on
waiting orders. Ammon had Miller on a string, and as soon as Ammon (for
his own sake) was compelled either to produce Miller or to run the risk
of indictment, he pulled the string and brought Miller back into the
jurisdiction."

Needless to say great was the ado made over the disappearance of the
promoter of the Franklin Syndicate, and the authorities of King's County
speedily let it become known that justice required that some one should
be punished for the colossal fraud which had been perpetrated. The grand
jury of the county started a general investigation. Public indignation
was stirred to the point of ebullition. In the midst of the rumpus,
there came a knock on the office door of the Hon. John F. Clark,
District Attorney of King's County, and Col. Robert A. Ammon announced
himself. The two men were entire strangers to each other but this did
not prevent Ammon, with his inimitable assurance, from addressing the
District Attorney by his first name.

"How are you, John?" he inquired nonchalantly, "what can I do for you?"

Mr. Clark repressed his natural inclination to kick the insolent fellow
forcibly out of his office, invited him to be seated and rang for a
stenographer. Ammon asserted his anxiety to assist the District Attorney
by every means in his power, but denied knowing the whereabouts of
Miller, alleging that he was simply acting as his counsel. Mr. Clark
replied that in Miller's absence the grand jury might take the view
that Ammon himself was the principal. At this Ammon calmly assured his
host that as far as he was concerned he was ready to go before the grand
jury at any time.

"That is just what I want," returned Mr. Clark, "the grand jury is in
session. Come over."

Ammon arose with a smile and accompanied the District Attorney towards
the door of the grand jury room. Just outside he suddenly placed his
hand to his head as if recollecting something.

"One moment," he exclaimed. "I forgot that I have an engagement. I will
come over to-morrow."

"Ah!" retorted Mr. Clark, "I do not think you will be here to-morrow."

Two weeks later Miller was safely ensconced without bail in Raymond
Street jail.

Schlessinger, who got away with one hundred and seventy-five thousand
dollars in cash, fled to Europe where he lived high, frequenting the
race tracks and gaming tables until he was called to his final account a
year or two ago. The money which he took has never been traced. Miller
was tried, convicted and sent to Sing Sing. The Appellate Division of
the Supreme Court then reversed his conviction, but later, on appeal to
the Court of Appeals, it was sustained.

Of the enormous sums turned over to Ammon Miller received nothing save
the money necessary for his support in Montreal, for the lawyers who
defended him, and five dollars per week for his wife and child up to the
time he turned State's evidence. It is interesting to note that among
the counsel representing Miller upon his trial was Ammon himself.
Miller's wife and child were not sent to Montreal by Ammon, nor did the
latter secure bail for his client at any time during his different
periods of incarceration. The colonel knew very well that it was a
choice between himself and Miller and took no steps which might
necessitate the election falling upon himself.

The conviction of Miller, with his sentence to ten years in State's
prison did not, however, prevent the indictment of Ammon for receiving
stolen money in New York County, although the chance that he would ever
have to suffer for his crime seemed small indeed. The reader must bear
in mind that up to the time of Ammon's trial Miller had never admitted
his guilt; that he was still absolutely, and apparently irrevocably,
under Ammon's sinister influence, keeping in constant communication with
him and implicitly obeying his instructions while in prison; and that
Miller's wife and child were dependent upon Ammon for their daily bread.
No wonder Ammon strode the streets confident that his creature would
never betray him.

"Now, Billy, you don't want to be shooting off your mouth up here," was
his parting injunction to his dupe on his final visit to Sing Sing
before he became a guest there himself at the expense of the People.

Miller followed his orders to the letter, and the stipend was increased
to the munificent sum of forty dollars per month.

Meantime the case against Ammon languished and the District Attorney of
New York County was at his wits' end to devise a means to procure the
evidence to convict him. To do this it would be necessary to establish
affirmatively that the thirty thousand five hundred dollars received by
Ammon from Miller and deposited with Wells, Fargo & Co. was the
_identical_ money stolen by Miller from the victims of the Franklin
Syndicate. It was easy enough to prove that Miller stole hundreds of
thousands of dollars, that Ammon received hundreds of thousands, but you
had to prove that the same money stolen by Miller passed to the hands of
Ammon. Only one man in the world, as Ammon had foreseen, could supply
this last necessary link in the chain of evidence and he was a
convict--and mute.

It now became the task of the District Attorney to induce Miller to
confess the truth and take the stand against Ammon. He had been in
prison a considerable time and his health was such as to necessitate his
being transferred to the hospital ward. Several of the District
Attorney's assistants visited him at various times at Sing Sing in the
hope of being able to persuade him to turn State's evidence, but all
their efforts were in vain. Miller refused absolutely to say anything
that would tend to implicate Ammon.

At last the District Attorney himself, accompanied by Mr. Nott, who
later prosecuted Ammon, made a special trip to Sing Sing to see what
could be done. They found Miller lying upon his prison pallet, his harsh
cough and blazing eyes speaking only too patently of his condition. At
first Mr. Nott tried to engage him in conversation while the District
Attorney occupied himself with other business in another part of the
ward, but it was easily apparent that Miller would say nothing. The
District Attorney then approached the bed where Miller was lying and
inquired if it were true that he declined to say anything which might
tend to incriminate Ammon. After some hesitation Miller replied that,
even if he should testify against his old accomplice, there was nothing
to show that he would be pardoned, and that he would not talk unless he
had actually in his hands some paper or writing which would guarantee
that if he did so he would be set free.

The spectacle of a convicted felon haggling with an officer of the law
over the terms upon which he would consent to avail himself of an
opportunity to make the only reparation still possible angered the
District Attorney, and, turning fiercely upon the prisoner, he arraigned
him in scathing terms, stating that he was a miserable swindler and
thief, who had robbed thousands of poor people of all the money they had
in the world, that he showed himself devoid of every spark of decency or
repentance by refusing to assist the law in punishing his confederate
and assisting his victims in getting back what was left of the money,
and that he, the District Attorney, felt himself humiliated in having
consented to come there to visit and talk with such a heartless and
depraved specimen of humanity. The District Attorney then turned his
back upon Miller, whose eyes filled with tears, but who made no
response.

A few moments later the convict asked permission to speak to the
District Attorney alone. With some reluctance the latter granted the
request and the others drew away.

"Mr. District Attorney," said the wretched man in a trembling voice,
with the tears still suffusing his eyes, "I _am_ a thief; I did rob all
those poor people, and I am heartily sorry for it. I would gladly die,
if by doing so I could pay them back. But I haven't a single cent of all
the money that I stole and the only thing that stands between my wife
and baby and starvation is my keeping silence. If I did what you ask,
the only money they have to live on would be stopped. I can't see them
starve, glad as I would be to do what I can now to make up for the wrong
I have done."

The District Attorney's own eyes were not entirely dry as he held out
his hand to Miller.

"Miller," he replied, "I have done you a great injustice. I honor you
for the position you have taken. Were I in your place I should probably
act exactly as you are doing. I cannot promise you a pardon if you
testify against Ammon. I cannot even promise that your wife will receive
forty dollars a month, for the money in my charge cannot be used for
such a purpose; all I can assure you of is that, should you decide to
help me, a full and fair statement of all you may have done will be sent
to the Governor with a request that he act favorably upon any
application for a pardon which you may make. The choice must be your
own. Whatever you decide to do, you have my respect and sympathy. Think
well over the matter. Do not decide at once; wait for a day or two, and
I will return to New York and you can send me word."

The next day Miller sent word that he had determined to tell the truth
and take the stand, whatever the consequences to himself and his family
might be. He was immediately transferred to the Tombs Prison in New York
City, where he made a complete and full confession, not only assisting
in every way in securing evidence for the prosecution of Ammon, but
aiding his trustee in bankruptcy to determine the whereabouts of some
sixty thousand dollars of the stolen money, which but for him would
never have been recovered. At the same time Ammon was re-arrested upon a
bench warrant, and his bail sufficiently increased to render his
appearance for trial probable. As Miller had foreseen, the monthly
payment to his wife instantly stopped.

The usual effect produced upon a jury by the testimony of a convict
accomplice is one of distrust or open incredulity. Every word of
Miller's story, however, carried with it the impression of absolute
truth. As he proceeded, in spite of the sneers of the defence, an
extraordinary wave of sympathy for the man swept over the court-room,
and the jury listened with close attention to his graphic account of the
rise and fall of the outrageous conspiracy which had attempted to shield
its alluring offer of instant wealth behind the name of America's most
practical philosopher, whose only receipt for the same end had been
frugality and industry. Supported as Miller was by the corroborative
testimony of other witnesses and by the certificates of deposit which
Ammon had, with his customary bravado, made out in his own handwriting,
no room was left for even the slightest doubt, not only that the money
had been stolen but that Ammon had received it. Indeed so plain was the
proposition that the defence never for an instant contemplated the
possibility of putting Ammon upon the stand in his own behalf. It was in
truth an extraordinary case, for the principal element in the proof was
made out by the evidence of the thief himself that he was a thief.
Miller had been tried and convicted of the very larceny to which he now
testified, and, although in the eyes of the law no principle of _res
adjudicata_ could apply in Ammon's case, it was a logical conclusion
that if the evidence upon the first trial was repeated, the necessary
element of larceny would be effectually established. Hence, in point of
fact, Miller's testimony upon the question of whether the money had been
_stolen_ was entirely unnecessary, and the efforts of the defence were
directed simply to making out Miller such a miscreant upon his own
testimony that perforce the jury could not accept his evidence when it
reached the point of implicating Ammon. All their attempts in this
direction, however, only roused increased sympathy for the witness and
hostility toward their own client, and made the jury the more ready to
believe that Ammon had been the only one in the end to profit by the
transaction.

Briefly, the two points urged by the defence were:

(1) That Ammon was acting only as Miller's counsel, and hence was
immune, and,

(2) That there was no adequate legal evidence that the thirty thousand
five hundred dollars which Ammon had deposited, as shown by the deposit
slip, was the identical money stolen from the victims of the Franklin
syndicate. As bearing upon this they urged that the stolen money had in
fact been deposited by Miller himself, and so had lost the character of
stolen money before it was turned over to the defendant, and that
Miller's story being that of an accomplice required absolute
corroboration in every detail.

The point that Ammon was acting only as a lawyer was quickly disposed of
by Judge Newburger.

"Something has been said by counsel," he remarked in his charge to the
jury, "to the effect that the defendant, as a lawyer, had a perfect
right to advise Miller, but I know of no rule of law that will permit
counsel to advise how a crime can be committed."

As to the identity of the money, the Court charged that it made no
difference which person performed the physical act of placing the cash
in the hands of the receiving teller of the bank, so long as it was
deposited to Ammon's credit.

On the question of what corroboration of Miller's story was necessary,
Judge Ingraham, in the Appellate Division, expressed great doubt as to
whether in the eyes of the law Miller, the thief, could be regarded as
an accomplice of Ammon in receiving the stolen money at all, and stated
that even if he could be so regarded, there was more than abundant
corroboration of his testimony.

Ammon's conviction was affirmed throughout the courts, including the
Court of Appeals, and the defendant himself is now engaged in serving
out his necessarily inadequate sentence--necessarily inadequate, since
under the laws of the State of New York, the receiver of stolen goods,
however great his moral obliquity may be, and however great the amount
stolen, can only receive half the punishment which may be meted out to
the thief himself, "receiving" being punishable by only five years or
less in State's prison, while grand larceny is punishable by ten years.

Yet who was the greater criminal--the weak, ignorant, poverty-stricken
clerk, or the shrewd, experienced lawyer who preyed upon his client and
through him upon the community at large?

The confession of Miller, in the face of what the consequences of his
course might mean to his wife and child, was an act of moral courage.
The price he had to pay is known to himself alone. But the horrors of
life in prison for the "squealer" were thoroughly familiar to him when
he elected to do what he could to atone for his crime. In fact Ammon had
not neglected to picture them vividly to him and to stigmatize an
erstwhile client of his.

"Everything looks good," he wrote to Miller in Sing Sing, in reporting
the affirmance of Goslin's conviction, "especially since the _squealer_
is getting his just _deserts_."

With no certain knowledge of a future pardon Miller went back to prison
cheerfully to face all the nameless tortures inflicted upon those who
help the State--the absolute black silence of convict excommunication,
the blows and kicks inflicted without opportunity for retaliation or
complaint, the hostility of guards and keepers, the suffering of abject
poverty, keener in a prison house than on any other foot of earth.

It is interesting to observe that Miller's original purpose had been to
secure money to speculate with--for he had been bitten deep by the
tarantula of Wall Street, and his early experiences had led him to
believe that he could beat the market if only he had sufficient margin.
This margin he set out to secure. Then when he saw how easy it was to
get money for the asking, he dropped the idea of speculation and simply
became a banker. He did make one bona-fide attempt, but the stock went
down, he sold out and netted a small loss. Had Miller actually
_continued to speculate_ it is doubtful whether he could have been
convicted for any crime, since it was for that purpose that the money
was entrusted to him. He might have lost it all in the Street and gone
scot free. As it was, in failing to gamble with it, he became guilty of
embezzlement.

Ammon arrived in Sing Sing with a degree of éclat. He found numerous old
friends and clients among the inmates. He brought a social position
which had its value. Money, too, is no less desirable there than
elsewhere, and Ammon had plenty of it.

In due course, but not until he had served more than half his sentence
(less commutation), Miller a broken man, received his pardon, and went
back to his wife and child. When Governor Higgins performed this act of
executive clemency, many honest folk in Brooklyn and elsewhere loudly
expressed their indignation. District Attorney Jerome did not escape
their blame. Was this contemptible thief, this meanest of all mean
swindlers, who had stolen hundreds of thousands to be turned loose on
the community before he had served half his sentence? It was an outrage!
A disgrace to civilization! Reader, how say you?




VI

A Study in Finance


"He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent."
  --PROVERBS 28:20.

The victim of moral overstrain is the central figure in many novels and
countless magazine stories. In most of them he finally repents him fully
of his sins past and returns to his former or to some equally desirable
position, to lead a new and better life. The dangers and temptations of
the "Street" are, however, too real and terrible to be studied other
than in actuality, and the fall of hundreds of previously honest young
men owing to easily remedied conditions should teach its lesson, not
only to their comrades, but to their employers as well. The ball and
chain, quite as often as repentance and forgiveness, ends their
experience.

No young man takes a position in a banking-house with the deliberate
intention of becoming an embezzler. He knows precisely, as well as does
the reader, that if he listens to the whisper of temptation he is
lost--and so does his employer. Yet the employer, who would hold himself
remiss if he allowed his little boy to have the run of the jam-closet
and then discovered that the latter's lips bore evidence of petty
larceny, or would regard himself as almost criminally negligent if he
placed a priceless pearl necklace where an ignorant chimney-sweep might
fall under the hypnotism of its shimmer, will calmly allow a condition
of things in his own brokerage or banking office where a
fifteen-dollars-a-week clerk may have free access to a million dollars'
worth of negotiable securities, and even encourage the latter by
occasional "sure" tips to take a flyer in the market.

It is a deplorable fact that the officers of certain companies
occasionally "unload" undesirable securities upon their employees, and,
in order to boom or create a "movement" in a certain stock, will induce
the persons under their control to purchase it. It would be a rare case
in which a clerk who valued his situation would refuse to take a few
shares in an enterprise which the head of the firm was fathering. Of
course, such occurrences are the exceptions, but there are plenty of
houses not far from Wall Street where the partners know that their
clerks and messengers are "playing the market," and exert not the
slightest influence to stop them. When these men find that they and
their customers, and not the clerks and messengers, are paying the loss
accounts of the latter, they are very much distressed, and tell the
District Attorney, with regret, that only by sending such wicked and
treacherous persons to State's prison can similar dishonesty be
prevented.

Not long ago the writer became acquainted with a young man who, as loan
clerk in a trust company, had misappropriated a large amount of
securities and had pleaded guilty to the crime of grand larceny in the
first degree. He was awaiting sentence, and in connection therewith it
became necessary to examine into the conditions prevailing generally in
the financial district. His story is already public property, for the
case attracted wide attention in the daily press; but, inasmuch as the
writer's object is to point a moral rather than adorn a tale, the
culprit's name and the name of the company with which he was connected
need not be given.

He is now serving a term in State's prison and is, the writer believes,
sincerely repentant and determined to make a man of himself upon his
release. For present purposes let him be called John Smith. He was born
in New York City, in surroundings rather better than the average. His
family were persons of good education and his home was a comfortable and
happy one. From childhood he received thorough religious instruction
and was always a straightforward, honest and obedient boy. His father,
having concluded from observation that the shortest route to success lay
in financial enterprise, secured a place in a broker's office for his
son after the latter's graduation from the high school. John began at
the bottom and gradually worked up to the position of assistant loan
clerk in a big trust company. This took fifteen years of hard work.

From the day that he started in filling inkwells and cleaning out ticker
baskets, he saw fortunes made and lost in a twinkling. He learned that
the chief business of a broker is acting as go-between for persons who
are trying to sell what they do not own to others who have not the money
to pay for what they buy. And he saw hundreds of such persons grow rich
on these fictitious transactions. He also saw others "wiped out," but
they cheerfully went through bankruptcy and began again, many of them
achieving wealth on their second or third attempt. He was earning five
dollars a week and getting his lunch at a "vegetarian health restaurant"
for fifteen cents. The broker, for whom he ran errands, gave away
thirty-five-cent cigars to his customers and had an elaborate luncheon
served in the office daily to a dozen or more of the elect. John knew
one boy of about his own age, who, having made a successful turn, began
as a trader and cleaned up a hundred thousand dollars in a rising market
the first year. That was better than the cleaning up John was used to.
But he was a sensible boy and had made up his mind to succeed in a
legitimate fashion. Gradually he saved a few hundred dollars and, acting
on the knowledge he had gained in his business, bought two or three
shares in a security which quickly advanced in value and almost doubled
his money. The next time as well fortune favored him, and he soon had a
comfortable nest-egg--enough to warrant his feeling reasonably secure in
the event of accident or sickness.

He had worked faithfully, had given great satisfaction to his employers,
and presently had a clerical position in a prominent trust company
offered to him. It seemed an advance. The salary was larger, even if
absurdly small, and he gladly accepted the place.

Shortly after this he had his first experience in real finance. The
president of the company sent for him--the reader will remember that
this is a true story--and the boy entered his private office and came
into the august presence of the magnate. This man is to-day what is
commonly known as a "power" in Wall Street.

"My boy," said the president, "you have been doing very well. I have
noticed the excellence of your work. I want to commend you."

"Thank you, sir," said John modestly, expecting to hear that his salary
was to be raised.

"Yes," continued the great man. "And I want you to have an interest in
the business."

The blood rushed to John's head and face. "Thank you very much," he
gasped.

"I have allotted you five shares in the trust company," said the
president. "If you take them up and carry them you will feel that you
have a real connection with the house and it will net you a handsome
return. Have you any money?"

It so happened that at this time John's savings were invested in a few
bonds of an old and conservatively managed railroad. His heart fell. He
didn't want to buy any bank stock.

"No," he answered. "My salary is small enough and I need it all. I don't
save any money."

"Oh, well," said the magnate, "I will try and fix it up for you. I will
arrange for a loan with the ---- Bank on the stock. Remember, I'm doing
this to help you. That is all. You may go back to your books."

Next day John was informed that he had bought five shares of ---- Trust
Company stock in the neighborhood of three hundred, and he signed a note
for one thousand four hundred and twenty-five dollars, and indorsed the
stock over to the bank from which the money had been borrowed for him.
The stock almost immediately dropped over fifty points. John paid the
interest on the note out of his salary, and the dividends, as fast as
they were declared, went to extinguish the body of the loan. Some time
afterward he learned that he had bought the stock from the magnate
himself. He never received any benefit from it, for the stock was sold
to cover the note, and John was obliged to make up the difference. He
also discovered that ten or fifteen other employees had been given a
similar opportunity by their generous employer at about the same time.
John, in prison, says it was a scheme to keep fifty or a hundred shares
where it could easily be controlled by the president, without risk to
himself, in case of need. Of course, he may be wrong. At any rate, he
feels bitterly now toward the big men who are at large while he is in
jail.

John continued to keep up with the acquaintances formed during his years
in the broker's office, many of whom had started little businesses of
their own and had done well. Part of their stock-in-trade was to appear
prosperous and they took John out to lunch, and told him what a fine
fellow he was, and gave him sure tips. But John had grown "wise." He had
had all the chances of that sort he wanted, and from a bigger man than
any of them. He ate their lunches and invited them in return. Then he
economized for a day or two to even up. He was not prosperous himself,
but he did not accept favors without repaying them.

One thing he observed and noted carefully--every man he knew who had
begun a brokerage business and kept sober, who attended to business and
did not speculate, made money and plenty of it. He knew one young firm
which cleared up fifteen thousand in commissions at the end of the
second year. That looked good to him, and he knew, besides, that _he_
was sober and attended to business. He made inquiries and learned that
one could start in, if one were modest in one's pretensions, for two
thousand five hundred dollars. That would pay office rent and keep
things going until the commissions began to come in. He started to look
around for some other young man who could put up the money in
consideration of John's contributing the experience. But all the men he
knew had experience without money.

Then by chance he met a young fellow of bright and agreeable personality
whom we shall call Prescott. The latter was five or six years older than
John, had had a large experience in brokerage houses in another city,
and had come to New York to promote the interests of a certain copper
company. John had progressed and was now assistant loan clerk of one of
the biggest trust companies in the city, which also happened to be
transfer agent for the copper company. Thus John had constantly to
handle its certificates. Prescott said it was a wonderful thing--that
some of the keenest men in the Street were in it, and, although it was a
curb stock, strongly advised his new friend to buy all he could of it.
He assured John that, although he was admittedly interested in booming
the stock, he was confident that before long it would sell at four times
its present quotation.

Meantime the stock, which had been listed at 2-1/4, began to go rapidly
up. Word went around the trust company that it was a great purchase
anywhere below 10, and John, as well as the other boys employed in the
company, got together what money he could and began to buy it. It
continued to go up--they had unconsciously assisted it in its
ascent--and they bought more. John purchased seventy-five shares--all
the way up to 8 and 9. One of his friends took eight hundred. Then it
dropped out of sight. They hadn't time to get out, and John, in prison,
has his yet. But he still had faith in Prescott, for he liked him and
believed in his business capacity.

The stock "operation" over, Prescott began to prospect for something
new, and suggested to John that they form a brokerage house under the
latter's name. John was to be president at "a fixed salary." It sounded
very grand. His duties at the trust company began to seem picayune.
Moreover, his loss in copper had depressed him and he wanted to recoup,
if he could. But how to get the two thousand five hundred dollars
necessary to start in business? Prescott pleaded poverty, yet talked
constantly of the ease with which a fortune might be made if they could
only once "get in right." It was a period of increased dividends, of
stock-jobbing operations of enormous magnitude, of "fifty-point
movements," when the lucky purchaser of only a hundred shares of some
inconspicuous railroad sometimes found that he could sell out next week
with five thousand dollars' profit. The air seemed full of money. It
appeared to rain banknotes and stock certificates.

In the "loan cage" at the trust company John handled daily millions in
securities, a great part of which were negotiable. When almost everybody
was so rich he wondered why any one remained poor. Two or three men of
his own age gave up their jobs in other concerns and became traders,
while another opened an office of his own. John was told that they had
acted on "good information," had bought a few hundred shares of Union
Pacific, and were now comfortably fixed. He would have been glad to
buy, but copper had left him without anything to buy with.

One day Prescott took him out to lunch and confided to him that one of
the big speculators had tipped him off to buy cotton, since there was
going to be a failure in the crop. It was practically a sure thing. Two
thousand dollars' margin would buy enough cotton to start them in
business, even if the rise was only a very small one.

"Why don't you borrow a couple of bonds?" asked Prescott.

"Borrow from whom?" inquired John.

"Why, from some customer of the trust company."

"No one would lend them to me," answered John.

"Well, borrow them, anyhow. They would never know about it, and you
could put them back as soon as we closed the account," suggested
Prescott.

John was shocked, and said so.

"You are easy," said his comrade. "Don't you know that the trust
companies do it themselves all the time? The presidents of the railroads
use the holdings of their companies as collateral. Even the banks use
their deposits for trading. Didn't old ---- dump a lot of rotten stuff
on you? Why don't you get even? Let me tell you something. Fully
one-half of the men who are now successful financiers got their start by
putting up as margin securities deposited with them. No one ever knew
the difference, and now they are on their feet. If you took two bonds
overnight you might put them back in the morning. Every one does it.
It's part of the game."

"But suppose we lost?" asked John.

"You can't," said Prescott. "Cotton is sure to go up. It's throwing away
the chance of your life."

John said he couldn't do such a thing, but when he returned to the
office the cashier told him that a merger had been planned between their
company and another--a larger one. John knew what that meant well
enough--half the clerks would lose their positions. He was getting
thirty-five dollars a week, had married a young wife, and, as he had
told the magnate, he "needed it all." That night as he put the
securities from the "loan cage" back in the vault the bonds burned his
fingers. They were lying around loose, no good to anybody, and only two
of them, overnight maybe, would make him independent of salaries and
mergers--a free man and his own master.

The vault was in the basement just below the loan cage. It was some
twenty feet long and ten wide. There were three tiers of boxes with
double combination doors. In the extreme left-hand corner was the "loan
box." Near it were two other boxes in which the securities of certain
customers on deposit were kept. John had individual access to the loan
box and the two others--one of which contained the collateral which
secured loans that were practically permanent. He thus had within his
control negotiable bonds of over a million dollars in value. The
securities were in piles, strapped with rubber bands, and bore slips on
which were written the names of the owners. Every morning John carried
up all these piles to the loan cage--except the securities on deposit.
At the end of the day he carried all back himself and tossed them into
the boxes. When the interest coupons on the deposited bonds had to be
cut he carried these, also, upstairs. At night the vault was secured by
two doors, one with a combination lock and the other with a time lock.
It was as safe as human ingenuity could make it. By day it had only a
steel-wire gate which could be opened with a key. No attendant was
stationed at the door. If John wanted to get in, all he had to do was to
ask the person who had the key to open it. The reason John had the
combination to these different boxes was in order to save the loan clerk
the trouble of going downstairs to get the collateral himself.

Next day when John went out to lunch he put two bonds belonging to a
customer in his pocket. He did not intend to steal them or even to
borrow them. It was done almost automatically. His will seemed
subjugated to the idea that they were to all intents and purposes _his_
bonds to do as he liked with. He wanted the feeling of
bonds-in-his-pocket. As he walked along the street to the restaurant, it
seemed quite natural that they should be there. They were nearly as safe
with him as lying around loose in the cage or chucked into a box in the
vault. Prescott joined him, full of his new idea that cotton was going
to jump overnight.

"If you only had a couple of bonds," he sighed.

Then somehow John's legs and arms grew weak. He seemed to disintegrate
internally. He tried to pull himself together, but he had lost control
of his muscles. He became a dual personality. His own John heard
Prescott's John say quite naturally:

"I can let you have two bonds, but mind we get them back to-morrow, or
anyhow the day after."

John's John felt the other John slip the two American Navigation 4s
under the table and Prescott's fingers close upon them. Then came a
period of hypnotic paralysis. The flywheel of his will-power hung on a
dead centre. Almost instantly he became himself again.

"Give 'em back," he whispered hoarsely. "I didn't mean you should keep
them," and he reached anxiously across the table. But Prescott was on
his feet, half-way toward the door.

"Don't be a fool, Smith," he laughed. "What's the matter with you? It's
a cinch. Go back and forget it." He shot out of the door and down the
street.

John followed, dazed and trembling with horror at what he had done. He
went back to the cage and remained the rest of the day in terror lest
the broker who owned the two bonds should pay off his loan. But at the
same time he had quickly made up his mind what he should do in that
event. There was more than one loan secured by American Navigation 4s.
He loosened a couple in one of the other piles. If the first broker came
in he would take two bonds from one of these. But the broker did not
come in.

That night John wandered the streets till nearly daylight. He saw
himself arrested, ruined, in prison. Utterly fagged next morning, he
called up Prescott on the telephone and begged him to return the bonds.
Prescott laughed at his fears and assured him that everything was all
right. Cotton was sure to go up. An hour later the broker who owned the
bonds came in and took up his loan, and John removed two American
Navigation 4s from another bundle and handed them to the loan clerk. Of
course, the numbers on the bonds were not the same, but few persons
would notice a little thing like that, even if they kept a record of it.
They had the bonds--that was the main thing.

Once more John rushed to the 'phone, told Prescott what had occurred and
besought him for the bonds.

"It's too late now," growled Prescott. "Cotton has gone down. I could
only get one back at the most. We had better stand pat and get out on
the next bulge."

John was by this time almost hysterical. The perspiration broke out on
his forehead every now and then, and he shuddered as he counted his
securities and entered up his figures. If cotton should go down some
more! That was the hideous possibility. They would have to put up more
margin, and then--!

Down in the vault where the depositors' bonds were kept were two piles
of Overland 4s. One contained about two hundred and the other nearly six
hundred bonds. The par value of these negotiable securities alone was
nearly eight hundred thousand dollars. Twice a year John cut the coupons
off of them. Each pile was marked with the owner's name. They were never
called for, and it appeared that these customers intended to keep them
there permanently. John, realizing that the chances of detection were
smaller, removed two bonds from the pile of two hundred Overlands and
substituted them with Prescott for the two Navigation 4s.

Then cotton went down with a slump. Prescott did not wait even to
telephone. He came himself to the trust company and told John that they
needed two more bonds for additional margin to protect their loan. But
he said it was merely temporary, and that they had better even up by
buying some more cotton. John went down into the vault and came back
with four more Overland 4s bonds under his coat. He was in for it now
and might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. He was beginning to
get used to the idea of being a thief. He was, to be sure, wretchedly
unhappy, but he was experiencing the excitement of trying to dodge Fate
until Fortune looked his way. Cotton still went down. It never occurred
to him that Prescott perhaps had not bought all the cotton. Now that he
is in prison he thinks maybe Prescott didn't. But he kept going down
into the vault and bringing up more bonds, and, getting reckless, bought
more cotton--quantities of it. In a month sixty bonds were gone from the
pile of two hundred. John, a nervous wreck, almost laughed, grimly, at
the joke of _his_ being short sixty bonds!

At home they thought he was getting run down. His wife--! He was so
kind and thoughtful that she had never been so happy. It made her
fearful that he had some fatal disease and knew he was going to die. Up
at the bank John made a separate bundle of sixty bonds out of the pile
of six hundred so that he could substitute them for those first taken if
the owner called for them. It was not likely that both owners would call
for their bonds on the same day, so that he was practically safe until
one or the other had withdrawn his deposit.

About this time the special accountants came around to make their annual
investigation. It was apparently done in the regular and usual way. One
examiner stood inside the vault and another outside, surrounded by four
or five assistants. They "investigated" the loans. John brought them out
in armfuls and the accountants checked them off and sent them back. When
John brought out the one hundred and forty bonds left in the bundle of
two hundred Overland 4s he placed on top of them the pile of sixty bonds
taken from the other bundle of six hundred. Then he took them back,
shifted over the sixty and brought out the bundle of six hundred
Overland 4s made up in part of the same bonds. It was the easiest thing
going. The experts simply counted the sixty bonds twice--and John had
the sixty bonds (or Prescott had them) down the street. Later the same
firm of "experts" certified to the presence of three hundred thousand
dollars of missing bonds, counting the _same_ bundle, not only twice,
but five and six times! You see, Prescott's John had grown wise in his
generation.

After that he felt reasonably secure. It did seem almost unbelievable
that such a situation could exist, but it was, nevertheless, a fact that
it did. He expected momentarily that his theft would be detected and
that he would be thrown into prison, and the fear of the actual arrest,
the moment of public ignominy, the shock and agony of his wife and
family, were what drove him sleepless into the streets, and every
evening to the theatres to try to forget what must inevitably come; but
the fact that he had "gone wrong," that he was a thief, that he had
betrayed his trust, had lost its edge. He now thought no more of shoving
a package of bonds into his overcoat pocket than he did of taking that
garment down from its peg behind the door. He knew from inquiry that men
who stole a few hundred dollars, and were caught, usually got as long a
term as those who stole thousands. If he stole one bond he was just as
likely to get ten years in State's prison as if he stole fifty--so he
stole fifty, and when they were wiped out he stole fifty more--and,
well, if the reader is interested he will learn before the end of the
story just what John _did_ steal.

Somehow, Prescott's speculations never succeeded. Occasionally they
would make a good turn and get a few bonds back, but the next week there
would be a new fiasco, and John would have to visit the Overland 4s
again. That performance of the accountants had given him a huge contempt
for bankers and banking. He knew that if he wanted to he could grab up a
million any day and walk off with it, but he didn't want to. All he
desired now was to get back to where he was before. All the speculation
was in the hands of Prescott, and Prescott never seemed worried in the
least. He called on John almost daily for what extra bonds were needed
as additional collateral, and John took his word absolutely as to the
result of the transactions. He could not do otherwise, for one word from
Prescott would have ruined him.

Before long the pile of two hundred Overland 4s was gone. So was a large
quantity of other securities, for John and Prescott had dropped cotton
and gone plunging into the stock market. Here, however, they had no
better success than before. Of course, a difficulty arose when the
interest on the Overland 4s came due. The coupons had to be cut by some
one in the bank, and although John usually cut them he did not always
do so. Sometimes the loan clerk himself would take a hand, and call for
a particular lot of bonds. John, however, was now fertile in devices.
The owner of the larger pile of six hundred bonds usually wrote to have
his coupons cut about the twenty-seventh of April. John would make up a
collection of six hundred bonds of the same sort, carry them up and cut
the coupons in the loan cage. The other man generally sent in a draft
for his interest on the second or third of May. But now the bonds were
away, scattered all over the Street. So John started a new operation to
get the bonds back and straighten out the coupon tangle. He substituted
with the brokers an equal number of bonds of other companies, the
interest upon which was not yet due. There was a large block of Electric
5s and Cumberland 4s which served his purpose admirably, and thus he
kept up with the game. When the coupons became due on the latter he
carried back the first. It kept him and Prescott busy most of the time
juggling securities--at least John knew _he_ was kept busy, and Prescott
claimed to be equally so.

There were many loans of brokers and others all secured by the same sort
of collateral. Most of these John appropriated. When it was necessary to
check off the loans, John, having retained enough of the same kind of
bonds to cover the largest loan, would bring up the same bundle time
after time with a different name upon it. If one of the customers wanted
to pay off a loan and his bonds were gone he would be given some one
else's collateral. Apparently the only thing that was necessary was to
have enough of each kind of security on hand to cover the largest loan
on the books at any given time.

Once, when the examiners were at work on the vault, John had to make up
one hundred thousand dollars in Overland 4s or 5s from the different
small loans in the loan vault and put them in a package in the deposit
vault in order to make it appear that certain depositors' bonds were all
there.

The most extraordinary performance of all was when, upon one of the
annual examinations, John covered the absence of over fifty bonds in the
collateral covering a certain loan by merely shoving the balance of the
securities into the back of the vault, so that it was not examined at
all. He had taken these bonds to substitute for others in different
brokers' offices, and it so happened that there were no similar
securities in the building; thus the deficiency could not be covered up
even by John's expert sleight of hand. Of course, if there had been
other bonds of the same kind in another vault it would have been a
simple matter to substitute them. But there were not. So John pushed
the remaining one hundred and fifty bonds into a dark corner of the
vault and awaited the discovery with throbbing pulses. Yet, strange to
relate, these watchdogs of finance, did not see the bonds which John had
hidden, and did not discover that anything was wrong, since, for
purposes of its own, the bank had neglected to make any record of the
loan in question. It would really have been safer for John if he had
taken the whole pile, but then he did not know that the accountants were
going to do their business in any such crazy fashion. The whole thing
came to seem a sort of joke to John. He never took any bonds for his own
personal use. He gave everything to Prescott, and he rarely, if ever,
saw Prescott except to hand him securities.

One day Prescott walked right into the bank itself and John gave him one
hundred and sixty-five bonds, which he stuffed under his overcoat and
carried away. Remember that this is a _fact_.

The thing, which began in August, 1905, dragged over through the
following year and on into 1907. John weathered two examinations by the
accountants, the last being in October, 1906, when they certified that
the company was absolutely "O.K." and everything intact. On that
particular day John had over three hundred thousand dollars in Overland
4s and 5s scattered over the Street.

In the first six months they lost one hundred thousand dollars in
cotton. Then they played both sides of the market in stocks and got
badly bitten as bears in the temporary bull market in the autumn of
1906, selling Union Pacific at 165, which afterward went to 190,
Northern Pacific at 185, which went to 200, etc., etc. Then they shifted
their position, became bulls and went long of stock just at the
beginning of the present slump. They bought Reading at 118, American
Smelters at 126, Pennsylvania at 130, Union at 145, and Northern Pacific
at 180. At one time John had five hundred and fifty thousand dollars in
bonds out of the vaults.

The thing might have been going on still had it not been for the fact
that the anticipated merger between John's company and another was put
through and a new vault in a new building prepared to receive the
securities. Of course, on such an occasion a complete examination would
be made of all the securities and there would be practically no chance
to deceive the accountants. Moreover, a part of the securities had
actually been moved when the worst slump came and they needed more. It
was obvious that the jig was up. A few more days and John knew that the
gyves would be upon his wrists. Prescott and he took an account of the
stock they had lost and went into committee on ways and means. Neither
had any desire to run away. Wall Street was the breath of life to them.
Prescott said that the best thing to do was to take enough more to
"stand off" the company. He cited a case in Boston, where a clerk who
was badly "in" was advised by his lawyer to take a hundred and
twenty-five thousand dollars more. Then the lawyer dickered with the
bank and brought it to terms. The lawyer got twenty-five thousand
dollars, the bank got the rest, and the thief was let go. Prescott said
they ought to get away with enough more to make the bank's loss a
million. He thought _that_ would make them see what was the wise thing
to do. Prescott also said he would try to get a lawyer who could bring
some pressure to bear on the officials of the company. It would be a
rather unpleasant situation to have brought to the attention of the
State Superintendent of Banking. John agreed to get the additional
securities and turn them over to Prescott. Unfortunately, almost
everything had by this time been moved into the new vault, and all John
could get was a stock certificate for fifteen hundred railroad shares,
standing in his own name, and seventy-five thousand dollars in notes.
These he gave to Prescott, thus increasing the amount stolen from the
bank without discovery to between six and seven hundred thousand
dollars. This was on the day before the actuaries were to make their
investigation. Knowing that his arrest was now only a question of time,
John, about eleven o'clock on the following morning, left the trust
company for the last time. He was in telephonic communication with
Prescott, who, in turn, was in touch with their lawyer. Unfortunately,
the president of the company had gone out of town over Sunday, so that
again their plans went awry.

For nearly two years John had not known an hour devoid of haunting fear.
From a cheerful and contented youth he had become despondent, taciturn
and nervous. He was the same affectionate husband and attentive son as
before, and his general characteristics remained precisely the same. He
was scrupulous to a penny in every other department of his life, and
undoubtedly would have felt the same pricks of conscience had he been
guilty of any other act of dishonesty. The affair at the bank was a
thing apart. The embezzler of six hundred thousand dollars was not John
at all, but a separate personality wearing John's clothes and bearing
his name. He perceived clearly the enormity of his offense, but, because
he was the same John in every other respect, he had a feeling that
somehow the fact that _he_ had done the thing was purely fortuitous--in
other words, that the bonds had to be taken, were going to be taken
anyway, and that Fate had simply elected him to take them. Surely he had
not wanted the bonds--had had no intention of stealing half a million
dollars, and, in short, was not the kind of a man who would steal half a
million dollars. Each night he tossed, sleepless, till the light stole
in through the shutters. At every corner on his way uptown he glanced
over his shoulder behind him. The front doorbell never rang that his
muscles did not become rigid and his heart almost stop beating. If he
went to a theatre or upon an excursion he passed the time wondering if
the next day he would still be a free man. In short, he paid in full in
physical misery and mental anxiety and wretchedness for the real moral
obliquity of his crime. The knowledge of this maddened him for what was
coming. Yet he realized that he had stolen half a million dollars, and
that justice demanded that he should be punished for it.

After leaving the bank John called up Prescott and learned that the plan
to adjust matters with the president had miscarried by reason of the
latter's absence. The two then met in a saloon, and here it was arranged
that John should call up the loan clerk and tell him that something
would be found to be wrong at the bank, but that nothing had better be
said about it until the following Monday morning, when the president
would return. The loan clerk, however, refused to talk with him and hung
up the receiver. John had nowhere to go, for he dared not return home,
and spent the afternoon until six o'clock riding in street cars and
sitting in saloons. At that hour he again communicated with Prescott,
who said that he had secured rooms for him and his wife at a certain
hotel, where they might stay until matters could be fixed up. John
arranged to meet his wife at Forty-second Street with Prescott and
conduct her to the hotel. As Fate decreed, the loan clerk came out of
the subway at precisely the same time, saw them together and followed
them. Meantime a hurry call had been sent for the president, who had
returned to the city. John, fully aware that the end had come, went to
bed at the hotel, and, for the first time since the day he had taken the
bonds two years before, slept soundly. At three the next morning there
came a knock at the door. His wife awakened him and John opened it. As
he did so a policeman forced his way in, and the loan clerk, who stood
in the corridor just behind him, exclaimed theatrically, "Officer, there
is your man!"

John is now in prison, serving out the sentence which the court believed
it necessary to inflict upon him as a warning to others. Prescott is
also serving a term at hard labor--a sentence somewhat longer than
John's. The trust company took up their accounts, paid the losses of the
luckless pair, and, owing to a rise in prices which came too late to
benefit the latter, escaped with the comparatively trifling loss of a
little over one hundred thousand dollars. At once every banking house
and trust company upon the Street looked to its system of checks upon
the honesty of its employees, and took precautions which should have
been taken long before. The story was a nine days' wonder. Then Union
Pacific dropped twenty points more, the tide of finance closed over the
heads of John and Prescott, and they were forgotten.

Had the company, instead of putting itself at the mercy of a
thirty-five-dollar-a-week clerk, placed double combinations on the loan
and deposit vaults, and employed two men, one to act as a check upon the
other, to handle its securities, or had it merely adopted the even
simpler expedient of requiring an officer of the company to be present
when any securities were to be removed from the vaults, John would
probably not now be in jail. It would seem that it would not be a
difficult or complicated matter to employ a doorkeeper, who did not have
access himself, to stand at the door of the vault and check off all
securities removed therefrom or returned thereto. An officer of the bank
should personally see that the loans earned up to the cage in the
morning were properly returned to the vaults at night and secured with a
time lock. Such a precaution would not cost the Stockholders a tenth of
one per cent. in dividends.

It is a trite saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of
cure. But this is as true, in the case of financial institutions at
least, from the point of view of the employe as of the company. It is an
ingenious expedient to insure one's self with a "fidelity corporation"
against the possible defalcations of one's servants, and doubtless
certain risks can only be covered in some such fashion. These methods
are eminently proper so far as they go, but they, unfortunately, do not
serve the public purpose of protecting the weak from undue and
unnecessary temptation. Banks and trust companies are prone to rely on
the fact that most peculations are easily detected and severely
punished, but the public interest demands that all business, State,
municipal and private, should be so conducted that dishonesty may not
only be punished, but prevented.

A builder who "took a chance" on the strength of a girder would have
small credit in his profession. A good bridge is one which will bear the
strain--not only of the pedestrian, but of the elephant. A deluge or an
earthquake may occur and the bridge may tumble, but next time it is
built stronger and better. Thus science progresses and the public
interest is subserved. A driver who overloads his beast is regarded as a
fool or a brute. Perhaps such names are too harsh for those who overload
the moral backbone of an inexperienced subordinate. Surely the fault is
not all on one side. While there are no formulas to calculate the
resiliency of human character, we may demand the same prudence on the
part of the officers of financial institutions as we do from nursemaids,
lumbermen and manufacturers of explosives. Though we may have confidence
in the rectitude of our fellows, we have no right to ignore the
limitations and weaknesses of mankind. It would not outrage the
principles of justice if one who placed needless and disproportionate
strain upon the morals of another were himself regarded as an accessory
to the crime.




VII

The "Duc de Nevers"


    "And God gives to every man
The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
That lifts him into life, and lets him fall
Just in the niche he was ordained to fill."
      --"The Task"--COWPER.

One morning there lay on my desk a note finely written in pencil and
dated:

    TOMBS PRISON.

    MONSIEUR:

    Will you be so gracious as to extend to the undersigned the courtesy
    of a private interview in your office? I have a communication of the
    highest importance to make to you.

    Respectfully,

    CHARLES JULIUS FRANCIS DE NEVERS.

Across the street in the courtyard the prisoners were taking their daily
exercise. Two by two they marched slowly around the enclosure in the
centre of which a small bed of geraniums struggled bravely in mortal
combat with the dust and grime of Centre Street. Some of the prisoners
walked with heads erect and shoulders thrown back, others slouched along
with their arms dangling and their chins resting upon their chests. When
one of them failed to keep up with the rest, a keeper, who stood in the
shade by a bit of ivy in a corner of the wall, got after him. Somehow
the note on the desk did not seem to fit any one of the gentry whom I
could see so distinctly from my window. The name, too, did not have the
customary Tombs sound--De Nevers? _De Nevaire_--I repeated it slowly to
myself with varying accent. It seemed as though I had known the name
before. It carried with it a suggestion of the novels of Stanley J.
Weyman, of books on old towns and the châteaux and cathedrals of France.
I wondered who the devil Charles Julius Francis de Nevers could be.

Of course, if one answered all the letters one gets from the Tombs it
would keep a secretary busy most of the working hours of the day, and if
one acceded to all the various requests the prisoners make to interview
them personally or to see their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers,
sweethearts and wives, a prosecutor might as well run an intelligence
office and be done with it. But as I re-read the note I began to have a
sneaking feeling of curiosity to see what Charles Julius Francis de
Nevers looked like, so I departed from the usual rule of my office, rang
for a messenger and directed him to ascertain the full name of the
prisoner from whom the note had come, the crime with which he was
charged, and the date of his incarceration, also to supply me at once
with copies of the indictment and the complaint; then I instructed him
to have De Nevers brought over as soon as he could be got into shape.

I had almost forgotten that I was expecting a visitor when, a couple of
hours later, an undersized deputy-sheriff entered my office and reported
that he had a prisoner in his custody for whom I had sent to the Tombs.
Glancing up from my desk I saw standing behind his keeper a tall and
distinguished-looking man in fashionably cut garments, whose well shaped
head and narrow face, thin aquiline nose, and carefully trimmed pointed
beard seemed to bespeak somewhat different antecedents from those of the
ordinary occupant of a cell in the City Prison. I should have
instinctively risen from my chair and offered my aristocratic looking
visitor a chair had not the keeper unconsciously brought me to a
realization of my true position by remarking:

"Say, Counsellor, I guess while you're talking to his nibs I'll step out
into the hall and take a smoke."

"Certainly," said I, glad to be rid of him, "I will be responsible for
the--er--prisoner."

Then, as the keeper hesitated in putting his suggestion into execution,
I reached into the upper right-hand drawer of my desk, produced two of
what are commonly known in the parlance of the Criminal Courts Building
as "cigars" and handed them to him.

"Well," said I, after the keeper had departed closing the door behind
him and leaving the visitor standing in the middle of the office, "I
have sent for you as you requested and shall be glad to hear anything
you have to say. Of course any communication which you may see fit to
make to me is voluntary and, in the event for your trial for--er--any
crime with which you may be charged, may be used against you." I had a
certain feeling of embarrassment in making this customary declaration
since the whole idea of this person being a criminal was so incongruous
as to put a heavy strain on one's credulity. However, I recalled that a
certain distinguished Englishman of letters has declared "that there is
no essential incongruity between crime and culture." He acknowledged my
remark with a slight smile of half-amused deprecation and with a
courteous bow took the seat to which I motioned him.

"I wish to thank you," he said in excellent English marked by the
slightest possible suggestion of a foreign accent, "for your exceeding
courtesy in responding so quickly to my request. I am aware," he added,
"that it is unusual for prisoners to seek interviews with the--what
shall I say--_juge d'instruction_, as we call him, but," he added with a
smile, "I think you will find that mine is an unusual affair."

I had already begun to think so, and reaching to the upper drawer on the
left-hand side of my desk, I produced from the box reserved for judges,
prominent members of the bar, borough presidents, commissioners of
departments and distinguished foreigners, a Havana of the variety known
in our purlieus as a "_good_ cigar," and tendered the same to him.

"Ah," he said, "many thanks, _merci, non_, I do not smoke the cigar.
M'sieu' perhaps has a cigarette? M'sieu' will pardon me if I say that
this is the first act of kindness which has been accorded to me since my
incarceration three weeks ago."

Somewhere I found a box of cigarettes, one of which he removed,
gracefully holding it between fingers which I noticed were singularly
white and delicate, and lighting it with the air of a diplomat at an
international conference.

"You can hardly appreciate," he ventured, "the humiliation to which I,
an officer and a gentleman of France, have been subjected."

I lighted the cigar which he had declined and with mingled feelings of
embarrassment, distrust and curiosity inquired if his name was Charles
Julius Francis de Nevers. I wish it were possible to describe the
precise look which flashed across his face as he answered my question.

"That is my name," he said, "or at least rather, I am Charles Julius
Francis, and I am of Nevers. May I speak confidentially? Were my family
to be aware of my present situation they would never recover from the
humiliation and disgrace connected with it."

"Certainly," said I, "anything which you may tell me which you wish to
be kept confidential I will treat as such, provided, of course, that
what you tell me is the truth."

"You shall hear nothing else," he replied. Then leaning back in his
chair he said simply and with great dignity, "I am by direct inheritance
today the Duc de Nevers, my father, the last duke, having died in the
month of February, 1905."

Any such announcement would ordinarily have filled me with amusement,
but that the gentleman sitting before me should declare himself to be a
duke or even a prince seemed entirely natural.

"Indeed!" said I, unable to think of any more appropriate remark.

"Yes," said De Nevers, "and M'sieu' is naturally surprised that one of
my distinguished position should be now a tenant of an American jail.
But if M'sieu' will do me the honor of listening for a few moments I
will explain my present extraordinary predicament. I am Charles Julius
François, eldest son of the late Oscar Odon, Duc de Nevers, Grand
Commander of the Legion of Honor, and Knight of the Garter. I was born
in Paris in the year 1860 at 148 Rue Champs Elysée; my mother, the
dowager duchess, is now residing at the Château de Nevers in the
Province of Nievre in France. My sister Jeanne married Prince Henry of
Aremberg, and now lives in Brussells at the Palais d'Aremberg, situated
at the corner of the Rue de Regence near the Palais de Justice. My
sister Louise, the Countess of Kilkenny, is living in Ireland. My sister
Camille married the Marquis of Londonderry and is residing in London at
the present time. My sister Evelyn married the Earl of Dudley and is
living in Dublin. I have one other sister, Marie, who is with my mother.
My brother, Count André de Nevers is at present Naval Attaché at Berlin.
My brother Fernand is an officer of artillery stationed in Madagascar,
and my youngest brother Marcel is also an officer of artillery attached
to the 8th Regiment in Nancy. I make this statement by way of
introduction in order that you may understand fully my situation. During
my childhood I had an English tutor in Paris, and when I reached the age
of ten years I was sent by my father to the College Louis le Grand where
I took the course of Science and Letters and graduated from the Lycée
with the degree of Bachelor on the 5th of August, 1877. Having passed my
examination for the Polytechnic I remained there two years, and on my
graduation received a commission as Sous-Lieutenant of Engineers, and
immediately entered the Application School at Fontainebleau, where I was
graduated in 1881 as Lieutenant of Engineers and assigned to the First
Regiment of Engineers at Versailles--"

De Nevers paused and exhaled the cigarette smoke.

"M'sieu' will pardon me if I go into detail for only in that way will he
be convinced of the accuracy of what I am telling him."

"Pray, go on," said I. "If what you tell me is true your case is
extraordinary indeed."

"My first act of service," continued De Nevers, "was on the 10th of
August when I was sent to Tonkin. I will not trouble you with the
details of my voyage on the transport to China, but will simply state
that I was wounded in the engagement at Yung Chuang on the 7th of
November of the same year and had the distinction of receiving the Cross
of the Legion of Honor therefor. I was immediately furloughed back to
France, where I entered the Superior School of War and took my Staff
Major brevet. At the same time I seized the opportunity to follow the
course of the Sorbonne and secured the additional degree of Doctor of
Science. I had received an excellent education in my youth and always
had a taste for study, which I have taken pains to pursue in whatever
part of the world I happened to be stationed. As a result I am able to
converse with considerable fluency in English, as perhaps you have
already observed, as well as in Spanish, Italian, German, Russian,
Arabic, and, to a considerable extent, in Japanese.

"In 1883 I was sent to Berlin as Military Attaché, but was subsequently
recalled because I had violated the rules of international etiquette by
fighting three duels with German officers. The Ambassador at this time
was Charles de Courcel. You will understand that there was no disgrace
connected with my recall, but the necessity of defending my honor was
incompatible with the rules of the service, and after fifteen months in
Berlin I was remanded to Versailles with the rank of First Lieutenant,
under Colonel Quinivet. Here I pursued my studies and was then ordered
to the Soudan, whence, after being wounded, I was sent to Senegal. Here
I acted as Governor of the City of St. Louis. As you are doubtless
aware, the climate of Senegal is exceedingly unhealthy. I fell ill with
a fever and was obliged to return to France where I was assigned to the
office of the General Staff Major in Paris. At the opening of the war
with Dahomey in 1892, I was sent in command of the Engineers of the
Corps Expeditional, and on the 17th of November of that year was
severely wounded at Dakar in Dahomey, having received a spear cut
through the lungs. On this occasion I had the distinction of being
promoted as Major of Engineers and was created an Officer of the Legion
of Honor on the battle field. The wound in my lungs was of such a
serious character that Colonel Dodds sent me back once more to France on
furlough, and President Carnot was kind enough to give me his personal
commendation for my services.

"I was now thirty-three years old and had already attained high rank in
my profession. I had had opportunity to pursue studies in chemistry,
medicine and science, and my only interest was in the service of my
country and in qualifying myself for my future duties. My life up to
that time had been uniformly happy; I was the eldest son and beloved
both of my father and mother. My social position gave me the entrée to
the best of society wherever I happened to be. As yet, however, I had
never been in love. At this time occurred the affair which in a measure
changed my career. The wound in my lungs was slow in healing, and at the
earnest invitation of my sister, Lady Londonderry, I went to London. At
that time she was living in Belgravia Square. It was here I met my first
wife."

De Nevers paused. The cigarette had gone out. For the first time he
seemed to lose perfect control of himself. I busied myself with some
papers until he should have regained his self possession.

"You will understand," he said in a few moments, "these things are not
governed by law and statute. The woman with whom I fell in love and who
was in every respect the equal in intellectual attainments, beauty and
charm of manner of my own people, was the nursery governess in my
sister's household. She returned my affection and agreed to marry me.
The proposed marriage excited the utmost antipathy on the part of my
family; my fiancée was dismissed from my sister's household, and I
returned to Paris with the intention of endeavoring by every means in my
power to induce my father to permit me to wed the woman I loved. It is
doubtless difficult for M'sieu' to appreciate the position of a French
officer. In America--Ah--America is free, one can marry the woman one
loves, but in France no officer can marry without the consent of the
Minister of War and of the President of the Republic; and more than that
he cannot marry unless his intended wife possesses a dowry of at least
fifty thousand francs which must be deposited with the Minister of War
for investment."

"In spite of the fact that I enjoyed the confidence and friendship of
President Carnot the latter, at my father's request, refused me
permission to marry. There was no choice left for me but to resign my
commission, and this I did. I returned to England and was married at St.
Thomas's Church, London, on the 21st of June, 1893.

"My education as an engineer had been of the most highly technical and
thorough character, and I had every reason to believe that in America I
could earn a comfortable living. My wife and I, therefore, sailed for
America immediately after our marriage. I first secured a position in
some iron works in South Boston, and for a time lived happily. A boy,
Oscar, named after my father, was born to us while we were living in the
town of Winchester near Boston. Another son was born a year later in the
same place, and still a third in Pittsburgh, where I had gone to assume
the position of general foreman of the Homestead Steel Works and
assistant master mechanic of the Carnegie Steel Company. I rapidly
secured the confidence of my employers and was sent upon several
occasions to study new processes in different parts of the country.
During one of my vacations we returned to England and visited my wife's
people, who lived in Manchester; here she died on the 17th of June,
1901."

De Nevers paused again and it was some moments before he continued.

"After the death of my wife my father expressed himself as ready for a
reconciliation, but although this took place I had not the heart to
remain in France. I liked America and had attained distinction in my
profession. I therefore expressed my intention of returning to continue
my career as an engineer, but at the earnest solicitation of my father,
left my three children with my parents. They are now living at the
château of my mother at Nievre.

"I was sent to Chicago to study a new blast furnace, and two years
later, when Mr. Schwab organized the Russo-American Company at
Mariopool, South Siberia, he offered me the position of general manager,
which I accepted. Here I remained until November, 1904, when all the
American engineers were arrested and imprisoned on the order of General
Kozoubsky of the Russian Engineers, who at the same time shot and
murdered my assistant, Thomas D. McDonald, for refusing to allow him to
remove pig iron from the storehouse without giving a receipt for it.
Ambassador McCormick secured our immediate release, and we returned to
the States. M'sieu' has no idea of the power of these Russian officers.
The murder of my assistant was of the most brutal character. Kozoubsky
came to my office and demanded the iron, but having secured it, refused
to sign the receipt which McDonald presented to him. McDonald said: 'You
shall not remove the iron if you do not sign the receipt.' As he spoke
the words the General drew his revolver and shot him down like a dog.

"I returned to America in January, 1905, and have since then been doing
work as a consulting engineer. Last January I visited my parents in
Paris at their home at 148 Champs Elysée. You have doubtless seen the
mansion with its two gates and black railing of decorative iron. I had
no sooner returned to America than I received a cable announcing the
death of my father."

De Nevers removed from his breast pocket a bundle of carefully folded
papers from which he produced a sheet of heavy stationery with a deep
border of mourning and a large black cross at the top, of which the
following is a copy:

    MM. Her Grace the Duchess Dowager of Nevers; his Grace the Duke
    Charles J. F. of Nevers and his children Oscar, Hilda and John;
    their Highnesses the Prince and Princess Henry of Aremberg; Captain
    the Count André of Nevers; Captain the Count Fernand of Nevers; the
    Earl and Countess of Kilkenny; the Marquis and Marchioness of
    Londonderry; the Earl and Countess of Dudley; the Countess Marie of
    Nevers; Lieutenant the Count Marcel of Nevers have the sorrow to
    announce the subite death at the family seat at Nevers (France), of
    His Grace Oscar Odon, Duke of Nevers, Grand Commander of the Legion
    of Honor, Knight of the Garter. Their husband, father, grandfather
    and uncle beloved.

    Masonic burial shall take place at Nevers on Tuesday, February 21,
    1905.

    New York, February 20, 1905.

    U. S. A.

The announcement was carefully engraved and was of an expensive
character, and I read it with considerable interest.

"Does M'sieu' care to see the photographs of my family? Here," producing
a photograph of a gentleman and lady and a group of children, "is my
wife with the three children, taken in London just before she died."

Another group, bearing the trade-mark of a Parisian photographer,
exhibited a distinguished looking man surrounded by a group of many
children of varying ages.

"These," said De Nevers, "are my father and my brothers and sisters."

Then came photographs of Lady Londonderry and the Earl and Countess of
Dudley. My interest in my visitor's story had for the moment completely
driven from my mind the real object of the interview, which, ostensibly,
was to explain the reason for his incarceration. His straightforward
narrative carried absolute conviction with it; that he was the
legitimate Duc de Nevers I accepted without hesitation; that he was a
man of education, culture and many accomplishments, was self evident.

"You have had an extraordinary career," I ventured.

"Yes," he replied, "it has been a life of action and I may say of
suffering. Permit me to show you the certificate of my general that what
I have told you is accurate."

And De Nevers unfolded from his pocket a document, bearing a seal of the
French Ministry of War, which read as follows:

    REPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE

    MINISTERE DE LA GUERRE

    CABINET DU MINISTERE

    No. 195

    PARIS, _October 24, 1901._

    _To Whom It May Concern_:

    I, George André, General of Division of Engineers, Minister of War
    of the French Republic, certify that the Lieutenant Colonel Charles
    Jules Comte François de Nevers, is connected with the French Army,
    since the 10th day of September, 1877, and that the following is a
    true copy of his record:

    Born in Paris the 10th of June, 1859.

    Graduated, Bachelor of Sciences and of Letters, from the Lycée,
    Louis le Grand, the 5th of August, 1877.

    Received first as Chief of Promotion of the National Polytechnic
    School of France, the 10th of September, 1877.

    Graduated with the greatest distinction from the above school the
    1st of September, 1879.

    Entered at the Application School of Military Engineers at
    Fontainebleau as Second Lieutenant, Chief of Promotion the 15th of
    September, 1879.

    Graduated as Lieutenant of Engineers with great distinction, the 1st
    of August, 1881, and sent to the First Regiment of Engineers at
    Versailles.

    Sent to Tonkin the 1st day of August, 1881.

    Wounded at Yung Chuang (Tonkin) the 7th of November, 1881.

    Inscribed on the Golden Book of the French Army the 10th of
    November, 1881.

    Made Knight of the Legion of Honor the 10th of November, 1881.

    Wounded at Suai Sing the 4th of January, 1882.

    Sent to Switzerland in Mission where he was graduated at the Zurich
    Polytechnic University as Mechanical Engineer, 1884.

    Sent the 2nd of January, 1885, to Soudan.

    Wounded there twice.

    Made Captain of Engineers the 3rd of June, 1885.

    Called back to France the 6th of September, 1885, sent in Mission in
    Belgium, where he was graduated as Electrical Engineer from the
    Montefiore University at Liege. Made officer of Academy.

    Sent in Gabon, the 2nd of May, 1887. Wounded twice. Constructed
    there the Military Railroad.

    Sent to Senegal as Commander the 6th of July, 1888, to organize
    administration. Wounded once.

    Called back and sent to Germany the 7th of December, 1889.

    Called back from Germany and assigned to the Creusot as Assistant
    Chief Engineer.

    Sent to Dahomey, the 1st of January, 1891. Wounded the 19th of
    November, 1892, at Dahomey. Made Major of Engineers on the battle
    field. Made Officer of the Legion of Honor, on the battle field.

    By special decision of the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives
    the name of Commandant Charles Jules Comte François de Nevers is
    embroidered the 21st of November, on the flag of the Regiment of
    Engineers.

    Called back and sent to Algeria, the 3rd of January, 1893.

    Made Ordinance of the President Carnot, the 5th of February, 1893.

    Sent to the Creusot the 1st of July, 1893, as director.

    Sent to Madagascar the 2nd of April, 1894, in command of the
    Engineers.

    Wounded the 12th of July, 1894, at Majungua.

    Made Lieutenant Colonel of Engineers the 12th of July, 1894, on the
    battle field.

    Proposed as Commander of the Legion of Honor on the same date.

    Called back and sent as Ordinance Officer of the General in Chief in
    Command in Algeria, the 4th of March, 1896.

    Sent to America in special mission to the Klondike the 7th of July,
    1897.

    Put on disponsibility _Hors Cadre_ on his demand the 1st of
    November, 1897.

    Made Honorary Member of the National Defences. Commissioned the 28th
    of January, 1898.

    Made Honorary Member of the Commission on Railroads, Canals, and
    Harbors, the 7th of July, 1899.

    Made Honorary Member of the Commission on Bridges and Highways the
    14th of July, 1900.

    Made Corresponding Member of the Academy of Sciences, the 14th of
    July, 1901.

    Made Commander of the Legion of Honor the 22nd of October, 1901.

    I will say further that the Lieutenant Colonel Charles Jules Comte
    François de Nevers, is regarded as one of our best and most loyal
    officers, that he has the good will and best wishes of the
    government and of all his fellow officers, and is considered by
    everybody as a great worker and a thoroughly honest man. I
    personally will be pleased to do anything in my power to help him in
    any business he may undertake, and can recommend him to everybody as
    a responsible and trustworthy Engineer, knowing him for the last
    twenty-four years.

    GEO. ANDRÉ,

    _Minister of War_.

    [Seal]

The document seemed in substance merely a repetition of what De Nevers
had already told me, and I handed it back to him satisfied of its
correctness. But public business is public business, and if the Duc de
Nevers had anything to communicate to me in my official character it was
time for him to do so.

"Well, Duke," said I, not knowing very well how otherwise to address
him, "do you desire to communicate anything to me in connection with
your present detention in the Tombs?"

"Ah," he said with a gesture of deprecation, "I can hardly understand
that myself. Perhaps M'sieu' has the papers? Ah, yes, I see they are on
his desk. M'sieu' will observe that I am accused of the crime of--what
is it called in English? Ah, yes, perjury, but I assure M'sieu' that it
is entirely a mistake."

I picked up the indictment and found that the Grand Jury of the County
of New York accused one Charles de Nevers of the crime of perjury
committed as follows:

    That one William Douglas having been arrested by William W.
    Crawford, a member of the Police force of the City of New York, upon
    the charge of having violated the motor vehicle law of the State of
    New York [ordinance against speeding] he, the said Charles de
    Nevers, had then and there offered himself to go bail for the said
    Douglas, and did sign a certain written undertaking called a bond
    for the appearance of the said Douglas before the Magistrate,
    wherein he swore that he owned a certain house and lot situate at
    122 West 117th Street, in the County of New York, which was free and
    clear of all incumbrances and of the value of not less than twenty
    thousand dollars,

    Whereas in truth and in fact he the said Charles de Nevers did not
    own the said house and lot which did not then and there stand in the
    name of him the said Charles de Nevers, but was the property of one
    Helen M. Bent, and so recorded in the Registry of Deeds.

Which, said the grand jury, Charles de Nevers then and there well knew.
And so they accused him of feloniously, knowingly, wilfully, corruptly,
and falsely committing the crime of perjury against the form of the
statute in such cases made and provided, and against the peace of the
People of the State of New York and their dignity.

And this they did over the signature of William Travers Jerome, District
Attorney.

"How did this happen?" I inquired, hardly believing my senses. "Was it a
fact that you made this false statement to the Police for the purpose of
securing bail for Mr. Douglas?"

De Nevers leaned forward and was about to answer when a messenger
entered the room and stated that I was wanted in the court.

"Another time, if M'sieu' will permit me," said he. "I have much to
thank you for. If M'sieu' will give me another hearing it shall be my
pleasure to explain fully."

I rose and summoned the keeper. De Nevers bowed and offered his hand,
which I took.

"I have much to thank you for!" he repeated.

As I hurried out of the room I encountered the keeper outside the door.

"Say, Counsellor, what sort of a 'con' was he throwin' into you?" he
inquired with a wink.

De Nevers was well inside my office, looking drearily out of my window
towards the courtyard in the Tombs where his fellows were still pursuing
their weary march.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Why, who did his nibs tell you he was?"

"The Duc de Nevers," I replied.

"Say," said O'Toole, "you don't mean you swallowed that, do you? Do you
know what the feller did? Why, one afternoon when a swell guy and his
girl were out in their gas wagon a mounted cop in the park pulls them in
and takes them over to the 57th Street Court. Well, just as me friend is
taking them into the house along walks this Charley Nevers wid his tall
silk hat and pearl handle cane, wid a flower in his buttonhole, and his
black coat tails dangling around his heels, just like Boni de
Castellane, and says he, 'Officer,' says he, 'may I inquire what for
you're apprehending this gentleman and lady?' says he. With that me
friend hands him out some strong language for buttin' in, and Charley is
so much shocked at the insult to himself and the lady that he steps in
before the Sergeant and offers to go bond for Douglas, just to go the
cop one better, givin' the Sergeant the same line of drip that he has
been handin' out to us in the Tombs, about his bein' the son of Oscar,
the Duc de Nevers, and related to all the crowned heads in Europe. Then
he ups and signs the bail bond for a house and lot that he has never
seen in his life. And here he is up agin it. An' it's a good stiff one
His Honor will be handin' out to him to my way of thinkin', for these
high fallutin' foreigners has got to be put a stop to, and Charley
Nevers is a good one to begin on."

"I think you're wrong, O'Toole," said I. "But we can tell better later
on."

All that day my thoughts kept reverting to the Duc de Nevers. One thing
was more than certain and that was that of all the various personages
whom I had met during my journey through the world none was more fitted
to be a duke than he. I was obliged to confess that during my hour's
interview I had felt myself to be in the company of a superior being,
one of different clay from that of which I was composed, a man of better
brain, and better education, vastly more rounded and experienced, a
cultivated citizen of the world, who would be at home in any company no
matter how distinguished and who would rise to any emergency. As I ate
my dinner at the club the name De Nevers played mistily in the recesses
of my memory. _De Nevers_! Surely there was something historic about it,
some flavor of the days of kings and courtiers. Smoking my cigar in the
library I fell into a reverie in which the Tombs, with its towers and
grated windows, figured as a gray château of old Tourraine, and Charles
Julius Francis in hunting costume as a mediaeval monseigneur with a
hooded falcon on his wrist. I awoke to find directly in my line of
vision upon the shelf of the alcove in front of me the solid phalanx of
the ten volumes of Larousse's "Grand Dictionaire Universe du XIX
Siècle," and I reached forward and pulled down the letter "N."
"Nevers"--there it was--"Capitol of the Department of Nievre. Ducal
palace built in 1475. Charles III de Gonzagne, petit-fils de Charles
II," had sold the duchy of Nevers and his other domains in France to
Cardinal Mazarin "par acte du Jul. 11, 1659." So far so good. The
cardinal had left the duchy by will to Philippe Jules François Mancini,
his nephew, who had died May 8, 1707. Ah! _Julius Francis_! It was like
meeting an old friend. Philippe Jules François Mancini. Mazarin had
obtained letters confirming him in the possession of the Duchy of
Nivernais and Donzois in 1720. Then he had died in 1768, leaving the
duchy to Louis Jules Barbon Mancini-Mozarini. This son who was the last
Duc of Nivernais, had died in 1798! "He was the last of the name," said
Larousse. I rubbed my eyes. It was there fast enough--"last of the
name." Something was wrong. Without getting up I rang for a copy of
"Burke's Peerage."

"Londonderry, Marquess of, married Oct. 2nd, 1875, Lady Theresa Susey
Helen, Lady of Grace of St. John of Jerusalem, eldest daughter of the
19th Earl of Shrewsbury." Dear me! "Dudley, Earl of, married September
14, 1891, Rachael, Lady of Grace of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem,
youngest daughter of Charles Henry Gurney." I closed the book and began
to think, and the more I thought the more I wondered. There really
didn't seem particular need of going further. If the fellow was a fraud,
he was a fraud, that was all. But how in Heaven's name could a man make
up a story like that! That night I dreamed once more of the ducal palace
of Nivernais, only its courtyard resembled that of the Tombs and many
couples walked in a straggling line beneath its walls.

A day or two passed and I had heard no more of the Duc Charles Julius
when one afternoon a lady called at my office and sent in her name as
Mrs. de Nevers. She proved to be an attractive young woman a little over
twenty, dressed in black, whose face showed that she had suffered more
than a little. She explained that her husband was confined in the Tombs
on a charge of perjury. But that was not all--he was worse than a
perjurer. He was an impostor--_a bigamist_. He had another wife living
somewhere in England--in Manchester, she thought. Oh, it was too
terrible. He had told her that he was the Count Charles de Nevers,
eldest son of the Duc de Nevers--in France, you know. And she had
believed him. He had had letters to everybody in Montreal, her home, and
plenty of money and beautiful clothes. He had dazzled her completely.
The wedding had been quite an affair and presents had come from the Duke
and Duchess of Nevers, from the Marchioness of Londonderry and from the
Countess of Dudley. There were also letters from the Prince and Princess
of Aremberg (in Belgium) and the Counts André and Fernand of Nevers. It
had all been so wonderful and romantic! Then they had gone on their
wedding journey and had been ecstatically happy. In Chicago, they had
been received with open arms. That was before the death of the
Duke--yes, her mourning was for the Duke. She smiled sadly. I think she
still more than half believed that she was a duchess--and she deserved
to be if ever any girl did. Then all of a sudden their money had given
out and the Duke had been arrested for not paying their hotel bill.
Perhaps I would like to see a newspaper clipping? It was dreadful! She
was ashamed to be seen anywhere after that. She had even been obliged to
pawn his cross of the Legion of Honor, the Leopold Cross of Belgium, and
another beautiful decoration which he had been accustomed to wear when
they went out to dinner. This was the clipping:

    CHICAGO SOCIETY THE DUPE OF BOGUS COUNT

    HOTEL AND SEVERAL WHILOM FRIENDS FILLED WITH REGRET--THE "COUNT"
    ARRESTED

    Chicago, Jan. 29.--"Count Charles Julius François de Nevers" was in
    the Police court to-day for defrauding the Auditorium Annex of a
    board bill. The Count came to the French Consul, M. Henri Meron,
    amply supplied with credentials. He posed as Consulting Engineer of
    the United States Steel Corporation. He was introduced into all the
    clubs, including the Alliance Française, where he was entertained
    and spoke on literature.

    He was accompanied by a charming young "Countess," and the honors
    showered upon them and the adulation paid by society tuft-hunters
    was something they will never forget.

    They returned the entertainments. The Count borrowed several
    thousand dollars.

    President Furber, of the Olympic Games, said to-day of the "Count:"

    "This man confided to me that he had invented a machine for
    perpetual motion, the chief difficulty of which was that it
    accumulated energy so fast that it could not be controlled. He asked
    me to invest in some of his schemes, which I refused to do."

    The fate of the Count is still pending and he was led back to a
    cell. He has been a week behind the bars. The "Countess" is in
    tears.

"The Countess is me," she explained.

"Was he sent to prison?" I asked.

"Oh, no," she answered. "You see they really couldn't tell whether he
was a Count or not, so they had to let him go."

"He ought to be hung!" I cried.

"I really think he ought," she answered. "You see it is quite
embarrassing, because legally I have never been married at all, have I?"

"I don't know," I answered, lying like a gentleman. "Time enough to look
that up later."

"I found out afterwards," she said, apparently somewhat encouraged,
"that his first wife was a nurse maid in London."

"Yes," said I, "he told me so himself."

Just then there came a knock at my door and O'Toole appeared.

"How are you, Counsellor," he said with a grin. "You know Charley
Nevers, well, av all the pious frauds! Say, Counsellor, ain't he the
cute feller! What do you suppose, now? I got his record to-day. Cast yer
eye over it."

I did. This is it:

    No. 98

    No. B 7721

    The Central Office,

    Bureau of Detectives,

    Police Department of the City of New York,

    300 Mulberry Street.

    Name........................Charles François

    Alias.......................Count de Nevers

    Date of Arrest..............1903

    Place of Arrest.............London, England

    Cause of Arrest.............False Pretenses

    Name of Court...............Sessions

    To what Prison..............Penal Servitude

    Term of Imprisonment........Eighteen months.

    REMARKS: Fraudulently obtained motor-car in London under pretense
    that he was Charles Duke de Nevers, son of Oscar, Prince de Nevers."

"So he's an ex-convict!" I exclaimed.

"He's more than that!" cried O'Toole. "He's a bir-rd!"

I turned to Mrs. de Nevers or whoever she legally was.

"How did he come to do such a foolish thing as to offer to go on the
bail bond of a perfect stranger? What good could it do him? He was sure
to be caught."

"I don't know," said she. "He was always doing things like that. He
wanted to seem fine and grand, I guess. We always travelled in style.
Why, the afternoon he signed the bond he came home and told me how the
police had been troubling a gentleman who had a lady with him in an
automobile and how he was able to settle the whole affair without the
slightest difficulty and send them on their way. He was quite pleased
about it."

"But why do you suppose be did it?"

"He just thought he'd do 'em a favor," suggested O'Toole, "and in that
way get in wid 'em an' take their money later, mebbe!"

"Who is he? Do you know?" I asked the girl.

"I haven't the vaguest idea!" she sighed.

A week later Charles Julius Francis stood at the bar of justice
convicted of perjury. His degradation had wrought no change in the
dignity of his bearing or the impassiveness of his general appearance,
and he received the sentence of the Court without a tremor, and with
shoulders thrown back and head erect as befitted a scion of a noble
house.

"There's just one thing for me to do with you, Charles Francis," said
the Judge rudely, "And that is to send you to State Prison for a term of
five years at hard labor."

Francis made no sign.

"There is one other thing I should like to know, however," continued His
Honor, "And that is who you really are."

The prisoner bowed slightly.

"I am Charles Julius Francis," he replied quietly, "Duc de Nevers, and
Commander of the Legion of Honor."




VIII

A Finder of Missing Heirs


The professional prosecutor is continually surprised at the
insignificant amount of crime existing in comparison with the
extraordinary scope of criminal opportunity. To be sure, the number of
crimes actually detected is infinitesimal as contrasted with those
committed, but even so the conviction constantly grows that the world is
astonishingly honest when one considers the unlikelihood that any
specific prospective offence will be discovered. How few dishonest
servants there are, for example, out of the million or so composing that
class of persons who have an unlimited opportunity to snap up not only
unconsidered trifles, but personal property of great value. The actual
honesty of the servants is probably greater than that of the masters--in
the final analysis.

Men are not only "presumed to be innocent" in the eyes of the law, but
are found to be so, as a matter of daily experience, so far as honesty
in the ordinary affairs of life is concerned, and the fact that we rely
so implicitly upon the truthfulness and integrity of our fellows is the
principal reason why violations of this imperative social law should be
severely dealt with. If it were possible adequately to determine or deal
with any such issue mere lying should be made a crime.

It is matter of constant wonder that shrewd business men will put
through all sorts of deals, when thousands of dollars are at stake,
relying entirely upon the word of some single person, whom they do not
in fact know. John Smith is looking for a house. He finds one he likes
with an old lady, who says her name is Sarah Jones, living in it, and
offers her forty thousand dollars for her real estate. She accepts. His
lawyer searches the title and finds that Sarah Jones is the owner of
record. The old lady is invited to the lawyer's office, executes a
warranty deed, and goes off with the forty thousand dollars. Now in a
great number of instances no one really knows whether the aged dame is
Sarah Jones or not; and she perhaps may be, and sometimes is, only the
caretaker's second cousin, who is looking after the house in the
latter's absence.

There are thousands of acres of land and hundreds of millions of money
waiting at compound interest to be claimed by unknown heirs or next of
kin. Even if the real ones cannot be found one would think that this
defect could be easily supplied by some properly ingenious person.

"My Uncle Bill went to sea in '45 and was never heard from again. Will
you find out if he left any money?" wrote a client to the author.
Careful search failed to reveal any money. But if the money had been
found _first_ how easy it would have been to turn up a nephew! Yet the
industry of producing properly authenticated nephews, heirs, legatees,
next of kin and claimants of all sorts has never been adequately
developed. There are plenty of "agents" who for a moderate fee will
inform you whether or not there is a fortune waiting for you, but there
is no agency within the writer's knowledge which will supply an heir for
every fortune. From a business point of view the idea seems to have
possibilities.

Some few years after the Civil War a Swede named Ebbe Petersen emigrated
to this country to better his condition. Fortune smiled upon him and he
amassed a modest bank account, which, with considerable foresight, he
invested in a large tract of unimproved land in the region known as "The
Bronx," New York City.

In the summer of 1888 Petersen determined to take a vacation and revisit
Sweden, and accordingly deeded all his real estate to his wife. Just
before starting he decided to take his wife and only child, a little
girl of ten or twelve, with him. Accordingly they set sail from Hoboken
Saturday, August 11, upon the steamer _Geiser_, of the Thingvalla Line,
bound for Copenhagen. At four o'clock Tuesday morning, at a point thirty
miles south of Sable Island and two hundred miles out of Halifax, the
_Geiser_, in the midst of a thick fog, crashed suddenly into a sister
ship, the _Thingvalla_, of the same line, and sank. The _Thingvalla_ was
herself badly crippled, but, after picking up thirty-one survivors,
managed to limp into Halifax, from which port the rescued were brought
to New York. Only fourteen of the _Geiser's_ passengers had been saved
and the Petersens were not among them. They were never heard of again,
and no relatives came forward to claim their property, which, happening
to be in the direct line of the city's development, was in course of
time mapped out into streets and house lots and became exceedingly
valuable. Gradually houses were built upon it, various people bought it
for investment, and it took on the look of other semi-developed suburban
property.

In the month of December, 1905, over seventeen years after the sinking
of the _Geiser_, a lawyer named H. Huffman Browne, offered to sell "at a
bargain" to a young architect named Benjamin Levitan two house lots
adjacent to the southwest corner of One Hundred and Seventy-fourth
Street and Monroe Avenue, New York City. It so happened that Browne had,
not long before, induced Levitan to go into another real-estate deal, in
which the architect's suspicions had been aroused by finding that the
property alleged by the lawyer to be "improved" was, in fact, unbuilt
upon. He had lost no money in the original transaction, but he
determined that no such mistake should occur a second time, and he
accordingly visited the property, and also had a search made of the
title, which revealed the fact that Browne was not the record owner, as
he had stated, but that, on the contrary, the land stood in the name of
"William R. Hubert."

It should be borne in mind that both the parties to this proposed
transaction were men well known in their own professions. Browne,
particularly, was a real-estate lawyer of some distinction, and an
editor of what were known as the old "New York Civil Procedure Reports."
He was a middle-aged man, careful in his dress, particular in his
speech, modest and quiet in his demeanor, by reputation a gentleman and
a scholar, and had practised at the New York bar some twenty-five years.

But Levitan, who had seen many wolves in sheep's clothing, and had
something of the Sherlock Holmes in his composition, determined to seek
the advice of the District Attorney, and having done so, received
instructions to go ahead and consummate the purchase of the property.
He, therefore, informed Browne that he had learned that the latter was
not the owner of record, to which Browne replied that that was true, but
that the property really did belong to him in fact, being recorded in
Hubert's name merely as a matter of convenience (because Hubert was
unmarried), and that, moreover, he, Browne, had an unrecorded deed from
Hubert to himself, which he would produce, or would introduce Hubert to
Levitan and let him execute a deed direct. Levitan assented to the
latter proposition, and the fourteenth of December, 1905, was fixed as
the date for the delivery of the deeds and the payment for the property.

At two o'clock in the afternoon of that day Browne appeared at Levitan's
office (where a detective was already in attendance) and stated that he
had been unable to procure Mr. Hubert's personal presence, but had
received from him deeds, duly executed, to the property. These he
offered to Levitan. At this moment the detective stepped forward, took
possession of the papers, and invited the lawyer to accompany him to the
District Attorney's office. To this Browne offered no opposition, and
the party adjourned to the Criminal Courts Building, where Mr. John W.
Hart, an Assistant District Attorney, accused him of having obtained
money from Levitan by means of false pretences as to the ownership of
the property, and requested from him an explanation. Browne replied
without hesitation that he could not understand why this charge should
be made against him; that he had, in fact, received the deeds from Mr.
Hubert only a short time before he had delivered them to Levitan; that
Mr. Hubert was in New York; that he was the owner of the property, and
that no fraud of any sort had been attempted or intended.

Mr. Hart now examined the supposed deeds and found that the signatures
to them, as well as the signatures to a certain affidavit of title,
which set forth that William R. Hubert was a person of substance, had
all been executed before a notary, Ella F. Braman, on that very day. He
therefore sent at once for Mrs. Braman who, upon her arrival,
immediately and without hesitation, positively identified the defendant,
H. Huffman Browne, as the person who had executed the papers before her
an hour or so before. The case on its face seemed clear enough. Browne
had apparently deliberately forged William R. Hubert's name, and it did
not even seem necessary that Mr. Hubert should be summoned as a witness,
since the property was recorded in his name, and Browne himself had
stated that Hubert was then actually in New York.

But Browne indignantly protested his innocence. It was clear, he
insisted, that Mrs. Braman was mistaken, for why, in the name of
common-sense, should he, a lawyer of standing, desire to forge Hubert's
name, particularly when he himself held an unrecorded deed of the same
property, and could have executed a good conveyance to Levitan had the
latter so desired. Such a performance would have been utterly without an
object. But the lawyer was nervous, and his description of Hubert as "a
wealthy mine owner from the West, who owned a great deal of property in
New York, and had an office in the Flatiron Building," did not ring
convincingly in Mr. Hart's ears. The Assistant District Attorney called
up the janitor of the building in question on the telephone. But no such
person had an office there. Browne, much flustered, said the janitor was
either a fool or a liar. He had been at Hubert's office that very
morning. He offered to go and find him in twenty minutes. But Mr. Hart
thought that the lawyer had better make his explanation before a
magistrate, and caused his arrest and commitment on a charge of forgery.
Little did he suspect what an ingenious fraud was about to be unearthed.

The days went by and Browne stayed in the Tombs, unable to raise the
heavy bail demanded, but no Hubert appeared. Meantime the writer, to
whom the case had been sent for trial, ordered a complete search of the
title to the property, and in a week or so became possessed, to his
amazement, of a most extraordinary and complicated collection of facts.

He discovered that the lot of land offered by Browne to Levitan, and
standing in Hubert's name, was originally part of the property owned by
Ebbe Petersen, the unfortunate Swede who, with his family, had perished
in the _Geiser_ off Cape Sable in 1888.

The title search showed that practically all of the Petersen property
had been conveyed by Mary A. Petersen to a person named Ignatius F. X.
O'Rourke, by a deed, which purported to have been executed on June 27,
1888, about two weeks before the Petersens sailed for Copenhagen, and
which was signed with Mrs. Petersen's mark, but that this deed had not
been recorded until July 3, 1899, _eleven years_ after the loss of the
_Geiser_.

The writer busied himself with finding some one who had known Mrs.
Petersen, and by an odd coincidence discovered a woman living in the
Bronx who had been an intimate friend and playmate of the little
Petersen girl. This witness, who was but a child when the incident had
occurred, clearly recalled the fact that Ebbe Petersen had not decided
to take his wife and daughter with him on the voyage until a few days
before they sailed. They had then invited her, the witness--now a Mrs.
Cantwell--to go with them, but her mother had declined to allow her to
do so. Mrs. Petersen, moreover, according to Mrs. Cantwell, was a woman
of education, who wrote a particularly fine hand. Other papers were
discovered executed at about the same time, signed by Mrs. Petersen with
her full name. It seemed inconceivable that she should have signed any
deed, much less one of so much importance, with her _mark_, and,
moreover, that she should have executed any such deed at all when her
husband was on the spot to convey his own property.

But the strangest fact of all was that the attesting witness to this
extraordinary instrument was H. Huffman Browne! It also appeared to have
been recorded _at his instance_ eleven years after its execution.

In the meantime, however, that is to say, between the sinking of the
_Geiser_ in '88 and the recording of Mary Petersen's supposed deed in
'99, another _equally mysterious_ deed to the same property had been
filed. This document, executed and recorded in 1896, purported to convey
part of the Petersen property to a man named John J. Keilly, and was
signed by a person calling himself Charles A. Clark. By a later deed,
executed and signed a few days later, John J. Keilly appeared to have
conveyed the same property to Ignatius F. X. O'Rourke, the very person
to whom Mrs. Petersen had apparently executed her deed in 1888. And H.
Huffman Browne was the attesting witness to both these deeds!

A glance at the following diagram will serve to clear up any confusion
which may exist in the mind of the reader:

[Sidenote: (Not Recorded until 1899)]

1888 MARY A. PETERSEN 1896 CHARLES A. CLARK
     by her (X) deed       conveys _same property_
     conveys to            to
     I.F.X. O'ROURKE       JOHN J. KEILLY.
     |
     |                1896 JOHN J. KEILLY
     |                     conveys to
     |                     I.F.X. O'ROURKE
     |_________________________|

O'ROURKE thus holds land through two sources.


Browne was the witness to both these parallel transactions! Of course it
was simple enough to see what had occurred. In 1896 a mysterious man,
named Clark, without vestige of right or title, so far as the records
showed, had conveyed Ebbe Petersen's property to a man named Keilly,
equally unsubstantial, who had passed it over to one O'Rourke. Then
Browne had suddenly recorded Mrs. Petersen's deed giving O'Rourke the
very same property. Thus this O'Rourke, whoever he may have been, held
all the Petersen property by two chains of title, one through Clark and
Keilly, and the other through Mrs. Petersen. Then he had gone ahead and
deeded it all away to various persons, through one of whom William R.
Hubert had secured his title. But every deed on record which purported
to pass any fraction of the Petersen property was witnessed by H.
Huffman Browne! And Browne was the attesting witness to the deed under
which Hubert purported to hold. Thus the chain of title, at the end of
which Levitan found himself, ran back to Mary Petersen, with H. Huffman
Browne peering behind the arras of every signature.


MARY PETERSEN            CLARK               BROWNE,
   to                      to             attesting witness.
O'ROURKE                 KEILLY
      |
      |
      |                  KEILLY              BROWNE,
      |                    to             attesting witness.
      |                  O'ROURKE
      |                    |
      |____________________|

        O'ROURKE                             BROWNE,
           to                             attesting witness.
        WILLIAM P. COLLITON


  WILLIAM P. COLLITON
    to                               BROWNE,
  JOHN GARRETSON                attesting witness.

  JOHN GARRETSON
    to                               BROWNE,
  HERMAN BOLTE                  attesting witness.

  HERMAN BOLTE
    to                               BROWNE,
  BENJ. FREEMAN                 attesting witness.

  BENJ. FREEMAN
    to                               BROWNE,
  WILLIAM R. HUBERT             attesting witness.


The Assistant District Attorney rubbed his forehead and wondered who in
thunder all these people were. Who, for example, to begin at the
beginning, was Charles A. Clark, and why should he be deeding away Ebbe
Petersen's property? And who were Keilly and O'Rourke, and all the
rest--Colliton, Garretson, Bolte and Freeman? And who, for that matter,
was Hubert?

A score of detectives were sent out to hunt up these elusive persons,
but, although the directories of twenty years were searched, no Charles
A. Clark, John J. Keilly or I. F. X. O'Rourke could be discovered. Nor
could any one named Colliton, Freeman or Hubert be found. The only
persons who did appear to exist were Garretson and Bolte.

Quite by chance the Assistant District Attorney located the former of
these, who proved to be one of Browne's clients, and who stated that he
had taken title to the property at the lawyer's request and as a favor
to him, did not remember from whom he had received it, had paid nothing
for it, received nothing for it, and had finally deeded it to Herman
Bolte at the direction of Browne. Herman Bolte, an ex-judge of the
Municipal Court, who had been removed for misconduct in office, admitted
grumblingly that, while at, one time he had considered purchasing the
property in question, he had never actually done so, that the deed from
Garretson to himself had been recorded without his knowledge or his
authority, that he had paid nothing for the property and had received
nothing for it, and had, at the instruction of Browne, conveyed it to
Benjamin Freeman. Garretson apparently had never seen Bolte, and Bolte
had never seen Freeman, while William R. Hubert, the person to whom the
record showed Freeman had transferred the property, remained an
invisible figure, impossible to reduce to tangibility.

Just what Browne had attempted to do--had done--was obvious. In some
way, being a real-estate lawyer, he had stumbled upon the fact that this
valuable tract of land lay unclaimed. Accordingly, he had set about the
easiest way to reduce it to possession. To make assurance doubly sure
he had forged two chains of title, one through an assumed heir and the
other through the owner herself. Then he had juggled the title through a
dozen or so grantees, and stood ready to dispose of the property to the
highest bidder.

There he stayed in the Tombs, demanding a trial and protesting his
innocence, and asserting that if the District Attorney would only look
long enough he would find William R. Hubert. But an interesting question
of law had cropped up to delay matters.

Of course, if there was anybody by the name of Hubert who actually owned
the property, and Browne had signed his name, conveying the same, to a
deed to Levitan, Browne was guilty of forgery in the first degree. But
the evidence in the case pointed toward the conclusion that Browne
himself _was_ Hubert. If this was so, how could Browne be said to have
forged the name of Hubert, when he had a perfect legal right to take the
property under any name he chose to assume? This was incontestable. If
your name be Richard Roe you may purchase land and receive title thereto
under the name of John Doe, and convey it under that name without
violating the law. This as a general proposition is true so long as the
taking of a fictitious name is for an honest purpose and not tainted
with fraud. The Assistant District Attorney felt that the very strength
of his case created, as it were, a sort of "legal weakness," for the
more evidence he should put in against Browne, the clearer it would
become that Hubert was merely Browne himself, and this would necessitate
additional proof that Browne had taken the property in the name of
Hubert for purposes of fraud, which could only be established by going
into the whole history of the property. Of course, if Browne were so
foolish as to put in the defence that Hubert really existed, the case
would be plain sailing. If, however, Browne was as astute as the
District Attorney believed him to be, he might boldly admit that there
was no Hubert except himself, and that in taking title to the property
and disposing thereof under that name, he was committing no violation of
law for which he could be prosecuted.

The case was moved for trial on the twelfth of March, 1906, before Judge
Warren W. Foster, in Part Three of the Court of General Sessions in New
York. The defendant was arraigned at the bar without counsel, owing to
the absence of his lawyer through sickness, and Mr. Lewis Stuyvesant
Chanler, the later Lieutenant-Governor of the State, was assigned to
defend him. At this juncture Browne arose and addressed the Court. In
the most deferential and conciliatory manner he urged that he was
entitled to an adjournment until such time as he could produce William
R. Hubert as a witness; stating that, although the latter had been in
town on December 14th, and had personally given him the deeds in
question, which he had handed to Levitan, Hubert's interests in the West
had immediately called him from the city, and that he was then in
Goldfields, Nevada; that since he had been in the Tombs he, Browne, had
been in correspondence with a gentleman by the name of Alfred Skeels, of
the Teller House, Central City, Colorado, from whom he had received a
letter within the week to the effect that Hubert had arranged to start
immediately for New York, for the purpose of testifying as a witness for
the defence. The prosecutor thereupon demanded the production of this
letter from the alleged Skeels, and Browne was compelled to state that
he had immediately destroyed it on its receipt. The prosecutor then
argued that under those circumstances, and in view of the fact that the
People's evidence showed conclusively that no such person as Hubert
existed, there was no reason why the trial should not proceed then and
there. The Court thereupon ruled that the case should go on.

A jury was procured after some difficulty, and the evidence of Mr.
Levitan received, showing that Browne had represented Hubert to be a man
of substance, and had produced an affidavit, purported to be sworn to
by Hubert, to the same effect, with deeds alleged to have been signed by
him. Mrs. Braman then swore that upon the same day Browne had himself
acknowledged these very deeds and had sworn to the affidavit before her
as a notary, under the name of William R. Hubert.

Taken with the fact that Browne had in open court stated that Hubert was
a living man, this made out a _prima facie_ case. But, of course, the
District Attorney was unable to determine whether or not Browne would
take the stand in his own behalf, or what his defence would be, and, in
order to make assurance doubly sure, offered in evidence all the deeds
to the property in question, thereby establishing the fact that it was
originally part of the Petersen estate, and disclosing the means whereby
it had eventually been recorded in the name of Hubert.

The prosecution then rested its case, and the burden shifted to the
defence to explain how all these deeds, attested by Browne, came to be
executed and recorded. It was indeed a difficult, if not impossible,
task which the accused lawyer undertook when he went upon the stand. He
again positively and vehemently denied that he had signed the name of
Hubert to the deed which he had offered to Levitan, and persisted in
the contention that Hubert was a real man, who sooner or later would
turn up. He admitted knowing the Petersen family in a casual way, and
said he had done some business for them, but stated that he had not
heard of their tragic death until some years after the sinking of the
_Geiser_. He had then ascertained that no one had appeared to lay claim
to Mrs. Petersen's estate, and he had accordingly taken it upon himself
to adveritse for heirs. In due course Charles A. Clark had appeared and
had deeded the property to Keilly, who in turn had conveyed it to
O'Rourke. Just who this mysterious O'Rourke was he could not explain,
nor could he account in any satisfactory manner for the recording in
1899 of the deed signed with Mary Petersen's mark. He said that it had
"turned up" in O'Rourke's hands after O'Rourke had become possessed of
the property through the action of the heirs, and that he had no
recollection of ever having seen it before or having witnessed it. In
the latter transactions, by which the property had been split up, he
claimed to have acted only as attorney for the different grantors. He
was unable to give the address or business of O'Rourke, Clark, Keilly or
Freeman, and admitted that he had never seen any of them save at his own
office. He was equally vague as to Hubert, whose New York residence he
gave as 111 Fifth Avenue. No such person, however, had ever been known
at that address.

[Illustration: With the exception of the upper left hand signature and
the four immediately below it of H. Huffman Browne, these are all the
signatures of imaginary persons invented by Browne to further his
schemes. The upper right-hand slip shows the signatures to the Wilson
bond, among which appears that of W.R. Hubert.]

Browne gave his testimony in the same dry, polite and careful manner in
which he had always been accustomed to discuss his cases and deliver his
arguments. It seemed wholly impossible to believe that this
respectable-looking person could be a dangerous character, yet the
nature of his offence and the consequences of it were apparent when the
State called to the stand an old broom-maker, who had bought from Browne
one of the lots belonging to the Petersen estate. Holding up three
stumps where fingers should have been, he cried out, choking with tears:

"My vriends, for vifteen years I vorked at making brooms--me und my
vife--from fife in the morning until six at night, und I loose mine
fingern trying to save enough money to puy a house that we could call
our own. Then when we saved eight hundred dollars this man come to us
und sold us a lot. We were very happy. Yesterday anoder man served me
mit a paper that we must leave our house, because we did not own the
land! We must go away! Where? We haf no place to go. Our home is being
taken from us, und that man [pointing his stumps at Browne]--that man
has stolen it from us!"

He stopped, unable to speak. The defendant's lawyer properly objected,
but, with this piece of testimony ringing in their ears, it is hardly
surprising that the jury took but five minutes to convict Browne of
forgery in the first degree.

A few days later the judge sentenced him to twenty years in State's
prison.

Then other people began to wake up. The Attorney-General guessed that
the Petersen property had all escheated to the State, the Swedish
Government sent a deputy to make inquiries, the Norwegian Government was
sure that he was a Norwegian, and the Danish that he was a Dane. No one
knows yet who is the real owner, and there are half a dozen heirs
squatting on every corner of it. Things are much worse than before
Browne tried to sell the ill-fated lot to Levitan, but a great many
people who were careless before are careful now.

It soon developed, however, that lawyer Browne's industry and ingenuity
had not been confined to the exploitation of the estate of Ebbe
Petersen. Before the trial was well under way the City Chamberlain of
New York notified the District Attorney that a peculiar incident had
occurred at his office, in which not only the defendant figured, but
William R. Hubert, his familiar, as well. In the year 1904 a judgment
had been entered in the Supreme Court, which adjudged that a certain
George Wilson was entitled to a one-sixth interest in the estate of
Jane Elizabeth Barker, recently deceased. George Wilson had last been
heard of, twenty years before, as a farmhand, in Illinois, and his
whereabouts were at this time unknown. Suddenly, however, he had
appeared. That is to say, H. Huffman Browne had appeared as his
attorney, and demanded his share of the property which had been
deposited to his credit with the City Chamberlain and amounted to
seventy-five hundred dollars. The lawyer had presented a petition signed
apparently by Wilson and a bond also subscribed by him, to which had
been appended the names of certain sureties. One of these was a William
R. Hubert--the same William R. Hubert who had mysteriously disappeared
when his presence was so vital to the happiness and liberty of his
creator. But the City Chamberlain had not been on his guard, and had
paid over the seventy-five hundred dollars to Browne without ever having
seen the claimant or suspecting for an instant that all was not right.

It was further discovered at the same time that Browne had made several
other attempts to secure legacies remaining uncalled for in the city's
treasury. In how many cases he had been successful will probably never
be known, but it is unlikely that his criminal career dated only from
the filing of the forged Petersen deed in 1896.

Browne made an heroic and picturesque fight to secure a reversal of his
conviction through all the State courts, and his briefs and arguments
are monuments to his ingenuity and knowledge of the law. He alleged that
his conviction was entirely due to a misguided enthusiasm on the part of
the prosecutor, the present writer, whom he characterized as a
"novelist" and dreamer. The whole case, he alleged, was constructed out
of the latter's fanciful imagination, a cobweb of suspicion, accusation
and falsehood. Some day his friend Hubert would come out of the West,
into which he had so unfortunately disappeared, and release an innocent
man, sentenced, practically to death, because the case had fallen into
the hands of one whose sense of the dramatic was greater than his logic.

Perchance he will. Mayhap, when H. Huffman Browne is the oldest inmate
of Sing Sing, or even sooner, some gray-haired figure will appear at the
State Capitol, and knock tremblingly at the door of the Executive,
asking for a pardon or a rehearing of the case, and claiming to be the
only original, genuine William R. Hubert--such a dénouement would not be
beyond the realms of possibility, but more likely the request will come
in the form of a petition, duly attested and authenticated before some
notary in the West, protesting against Browne's conviction and
incarceration, and bearing the flowing signature of William R.
Hubert--the same signature that appears on Browne's deeds to
Levitan--the same that is affixed to the bond of George Wilson, the
vanished farmhand, claimant to the estate of Jane Elizabeth Barker.




IX.

A Murder Conspiracy[4]


William M. Rice, eighty-four years of age, died at the Berkshire
Apartments at 500 Madison Avenue, New York City, at about half after
seven o'clock on the evening of Sunday, September 23, 1900. He had been
ill for some time, but it was expected that he would recover. On or
about the moment of his death, two elderly ladies, friends of the old
gentleman, had called at the house with cakes and wine, to see him. The
elevator man rang the bell of Mr. Rice's apartment again and again, but
could elicit no response, and the ladies, much disappointed, went away.
While the bell was ringing Charles F. Jones, the confidential valet of
the aged man, was waiting, he says, in an adjoining room until a cone
saturated with chloroform, which he had placed over the face of his
sleeping master, should effect his death.

_Did_ Jones murder Rice? If so, was it, as he claims, at the instigation
of Albert T. Patrick?

These two questions, now settled in the affirmative forever, so far as
criminal and civil litigation are concerned, have been the subject of
private study and public argument for more than seven years.

Mr. Rice was a childless widower, living the life of a recluse, attended
only by Jones, who was at once his secretary, valet and general servant.
No other person lived in the apartment, and few visitors ever called
there. Patrick was a New York lawyer with little practice who had never
met Mr. Rice, was employed as counsel in litigation hostile to him, yet
in whose favor a will purporting to be signed by Rice, June 30, 1900,
turned up after the latter's death, by the terms of which Patrick came
into the property, amounting to over seven million dollars, in place of
a charitable institution named in an earlier will of 1896. It is now
universally admitted that the alleged will of 1900 was a forgery, as
well as four checks drawn to Patrick's order (two for $25,000 each, one
for $65,000, and one for $135,000, which represented practically all of
Rice's bank accounts), an order giving him control of the contents of
Rice's safe deposit vaults (in which were more than $2,500,000 in
securities), and also a general assignment by which he became the owner
of Rice's entire estate. Thus upon Rice's death Patrick had every
possible variety of document necessary to possess himself of the
property. Jones took nothing under any of these fraudulent instruments.
Hence Patrick's motive in desiring the death of Rice is the foundation
stone of the case against him. But that Patrick desired and would profit
by Rice's death in no way tends to establish that Rice did not die a
natural death. Patrick would profit equally whether Rice died by foul
means or natural, and the question as to whether murder was done must be
determined from other evidence. This is only to be found in the
confession of the valet Jones and in the testimony of the medical
experts who performed the autopsy. Jones, a self-confessed murderer,
swears that upon the advice and under the direction of Patrick (though
in the latter's absence) he killed his master by administering
chloroform. There is no direct corroborative evidence save that of the
experts. Upon Jones's testimony depended the question of Patrick's
conviction or acquittal, and of itself this was not sufficient, for
being that of an accomplice it must, under the New York law, be
corroborated.

In the confession of Jones the State had sufficient _direct_ evidence
of the crime and of Patrick's connection with it, providing there was
_other evidence tending to connect Patrick with its commission_. This
corroborative evidence is largely supplied by the facts which show that
for a long time Patrick conspired with Jones to steal the bulk of Mr.
Rice's estate at his death. This evidence not only shows Patrick's
possible motive for planning Mr. Rice's _murder_, but also tends to
corroborate Jones's whole story of the conspiracy.

Rice did not know Patrick even by sight. He had heard of him only as a
person retained by another lawyer (Holt) to do "the dirty work" in an
action brought by Rice against Holt, as executor, to set aside Mrs.
Rice's will, in which she assumed, under the "Community Law" of Texas,
where Rice had formerly resided, to dispose of some $2,500,000 of Rice's
property. If Rice was a _resident of Texas_ she had the legal right to
do this,--otherwise not. Holt employed Patrick to get evidence that Rice
still was such a resident. Rice knew of this and hated Patrick.

Patrick's connection with the Rice litigation had begun four years
before the murder, which was not planned until August, 1900, His first
visit to Rice's apartment was made under the assumed name of Smith for
the purpose of discovering whether the valet could be corrupted into
furnishing fictitious proof of Rice's intent to reside in Texas. He
flattered Jones; told him he was underpaid and not appreciated, and,
after a second visit, at which he disclosed his right name, persuaded
him to typewrite a letter on Rice's stationery addressed to Baker,
Botts, Baker & Lovett (Rice's attorneys), in which he should be made to
say that he had lost hope of winning the suit against Holt, was really a
citizen of Texas, and wanted to settle the litigation. Patrick said that
he could arrange for the signing of such a letter and was willing to pay
Jones $250 for his help. Jones agreed.

Patrick now learned that Mr. Rice was living with no companion except
Jones; that he held little communication with the outside world; that
the valet was in his confidence and thoroughly familiar with his papers,
and that the will made in 1896 disinherited natural heirs in favor of an
educational institution which he had founded in Texas. He also learned
that while Mr. Rice was 84 years of age he was in possession of all his
faculties, conducted his own business, and might live for years.
Possessed of these facts Patrick's evil mind soon developed a conspiracy
with Jones to secure the whole estate.

Mr. Rice's pet charity was the William M. Rice Institute "for the
advance of science, art and literature," of Texas, which he had founded
in 1891. He had donated to it more than a million and a half dollars. By
the will of 1896 only small legacies were bequeathed to relatives, while
the bulk of his fortune was left to the Institute.

About a month after Patrick's first visit to the Berkshire Apartments,
that is, in December, 1899, while he and Jones were examining Rice's
private papers, they stumbled upon the will. Patrick saw his
opportunity. By the forgery of a new will which would increase the
legacies of those mentioned in the will of 1896 and leave legacies to
every person who might have any claim upon the estate, it would be for
the interest of those persons to sustain and carry into effect the
forgery. The whole scheme was based upon the belief that "every man has
his price." He told Jones that he thought the will unjust; that he did
not think it right to leave so little to relatives, and later he brought
to Jones a rough draft of a will which could be substituted for the
genuine one. Patrick was to get half the estate, the relatives were to
receive double or three times the amount provided in the 1896 will, and
what was left was to be given to the Rice Institute. He proposed that
Jones should typewrite this will, and guaranteed to arrange for the
witnessing and signing of it, and promised that Jones should get
whatever he wanted. Jones at first objected, but was finally won over.
Rewritten many times to include new ideas of the conspirators, the
document finally reached the form of the will of June 30, 1900, in which
Patrick substituted himself for the Rice Institute and made himself one
of the executors.

An ingenious part of the conspiracy was the decision to leave the 1896
will in existence. If Patrick had destroyed it and the relatives had
succeeded in overthrowing the will of 1900, the estate would have been
left without testamentary disposition and the relatives would have got
more than was provided by either will. With the will of 1896 in
existence, however, the relatives would get less if they overthrew the
forgery. By retaining it, therefore, Patrick figured that the relatives
would have selfish reasons for accepting the forgery as genuine.

The preparation of this bogus will occupied about a month, and the next
question was the procurement of witnesses. It was desirable to get the
same persons who witnessed the former will. These were Walter H.
Wetherbee and W. F. Harmon, clerks for many years at Swenson's banking
house. On the assumption that Wetherbee had been injured by Rice and was
therefore hostile to him, Jones practically unfolded the scheme. He
told Wetherbee that one of Mr. Rice's bonds had disappeared and that
Rice had accused Wetherbee of stealing it. He wound up with the
suggestion, "I will get one witness and you can get another, and the
thing is done." But Wetherbee indignantly declined to join in the
conspiracy.

Morris Meyers, who had been employed in Patrick's office, and David L.
Short, a friend of both, were the false witnesses finally selected.

They were clothed with the appearance of honesty and were brought into
contact with Rice by Jones at various times: Meyers as a notary public,
and Short as commissioner of deeds for the State of Texas, an
appointment procured for him by Patrick probably for this specific
purpose.

The date of the forged will, June 30, 1900, was selected to correspond
with the date of three genuine papers which Rice acknowledged before
Short on that date.

[Illustration: Last page of the forged will of 1900, showing the forgery
of Rice's signature, and the false attestation of Short and Meyers.]

The next step was to obviate the absurdity of Patrick's being selected
as the residuary legatee at a time when he was engaged in bitter
litigation against Rice. The best way out was for Patrick to pose as a
lawyer who had brought about a settlement of this expensive litigation
and thus won Rice's regard. Patrick first tried to accomplish this by
getting friends to visit Rice and urge a settlement. But Rice rebuffed
them all. Accordingly, Patrick again resorted to forgery, and in
August, 1900, manufactured an instrument of settlement, dated March 6,
1900.

But such an agreement would not explain the paradox of a man whom Rice
hated and despised and did not know by sight turning up as the principal
beneficiary under his will. It was necessary to manufacture evidence to
be used after Rice's death in support of his claim of close relations.
The idea of a personal meeting with Rice had been abandoned on Jones's
advice, and Patrick therefore caused the valet to prepare twenty-five or
thirty forged letters addressed to him and purporting to come from Rice.
These referred to current business matters and conveyed the impression
that it was Rice's custom to seek the lawyer's advice. One instructed
Patrick as to the terms of the will of 1900. Carbon copies were made for
filing in Rice's letter book after his death.

To make assurance doubly sure and to secure immediate possession of
Rice's securities a general assignment to Patrick of all Rice's estate
was forged, and an order giving him access to and possession of the
securities on deposit in Rice's safety vault.

But Patrick did not stop here. He procured from Jones three checks
signed by Mr. Rice in the regular course of business, one payable to
Jones for his July salary and the other two for the July and August
salary of an employee of Rice's in Texas named Cohn. These three checks
Patrick kept as models, forwarding to Cohn two forged checks filled out
by Jones upon which Rice's signature had been traced, and returning to
Jones a substitute check with Rice's signature traced upon it. All three
checks passed through the banks unsuspected. Traced signatures were also
substituted for genuine ones upon letters dictated by Rice to his Texas
correspondents. Thus Patrick secured the circulation of five copies of
Rice's signature which, if occasion demanded, he could produce as
standards of comparison to correspond with his other forgeries. The
principal preparations were complete. But title under the will might
long be delayed and perhaps even eventually fail. Patrick was poor and
in no condition to conduct adequately a serious litigation. The moment
Mr. Rice died a large amount of cash would be necessary. For the
procurement of this Patrick and Jones looked to the current balance of
Rice's bank account, which amounted to some two hundred and fifty
thousand dollars on deposit at Swenson's private bank and at the Fifth
Avenue Trust Company. With this they felt reasonably secure of success.
For even if the will should be set aside as fraudulent they had a second
line of defense in the general assignment of the estate and the orders
to Rice's two million five hundred thousand dollars of securities.

While the evidence affords a motive for Patrick to desire the death of
Mr. Rice, it does not of itself, up to this point, indicate the
slightest intention on the part of Patrick to do away with the old
gentleman. It was therefore conceded by the prosecution that, upon
Jones's own testimony, the conspiracy to murder was not formed until
about seven weeks before the event. The first evidence which points to
an intent to murder is the famous "cremation letter," dated August 3d.

The cremation letter from Mr. Rice, authorizing Patrick to cremate his
body, shows that Patrick intended to do away with Rice in such a way
that an autopsy must, if possible, be prevented and the evidence of
murder destroyed. That Patrick forged such a letter was evidence that
his connection with the murder was premeditated and deliberate. To
cremate the body before an autopsy it was necessary to procure a
physician's certificate that Rice had died from natural causes. He
therefore made preparation to secure such a certificate, and then upon
the strength of the cremation letter to give directions for the
immediate destruction of the body.

Patrick, with the view of having at hand a physician who would be
unsuspicious, and who would issue a certificate of death from natural
causes, induced Jones to send for Dr. Curry, his own friend and
physician, on an occasion when the valet was ill. This was in March,
1900. Dr. Curry came, and Jones, acting under Patrick's advice,
cautioned him not to mention the lawyer's name to Rice. In course of
time he saw Rice, gained his good opinion and became his attending
physician. But Rice did not die, and curiously enough it was he himself
who suggested to Jones the instrumentality of death which was finally
employed, for he read an article dealing with the dangers of chloroform
as an anaesthetic, and discussed it with the valet. This suggestion was
conveyed to Patrick, who asked Dr. Curry whether chloroform left any
traces discoverable upon an autopsy. Dr. Curry rather carelessly replied
that it left but slight traces if administered only in the quantities
which would be fatal to a man with a weak heart. Patrick told Jones, so
Jones alleges, to procure some chloroform and this he did, sending to
Texas for two bottles of two ounces each. From Dr. Curry's remarks it
was manifest that a weakened condition of the patient was an important
element, and as Jones was taking some mercury pills (prescribed for him
by Dr. Curry), the valet induced his master to take some of them. The
old gentleman was benefited, however, rather than weakened. This was
_before_ the forgery of the cremation letter. It was clear that larger
doses of mercury would be necessary, and accordingly Patrick furnished
Jones with pellets containing the drug in such quantities that Jones,
experimenting with one of them, became ill.

They had now the means to effect gradual death, but as mercury leaves
traces discernible at an autopsy, it was decided that the body must be
cremated promptly. Hence the cremation letter. It was hoped that Rice
might drop off at any moment, owing to his weakened condition, and in
anticipation of death Patrick discontinued his visits to the apartment
in order to establish a satisfactory alibi. Jones also frequently
absented himself from the apartment in the evenings after the old man
had fallen asleep.

[Illustration: The famous letter forged by Patrick, which requests the
cremation of the remains of the supposed writer, old Mr. Rice.]

On September 16th Rice had an attack of acute indigestion, which might
have resulted seriously had it not been for the mercurial pills which
promptly relieved him. The reader should observe that practically all of
this testimony comes from Jones. There is no extraneous evidence that
Patrick induced the giving of the mercury. Patrick, however, spread
false rumors as to Rice's general health and also as to his financial
condition and intentions, namely, that Rice was only worth seven
hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and that those who expected he was
going to leave his money to the Institute were doomed to disappointment.
But neither his statements about Rice's condition nor his remarks as to
the disposition and extent of his property are inconsistent with a mere
_hope_ that he would die and thus leave Patrick free to enjoy the fruits
of his forgeries.

There now occurred, however, an event which may well have played a part
in inducing Patrick to supplement forgery by murder. On Sunday,
September 16th, the plant of the Merchants' and Planters' Oil Company of
Houston, Texas, of which Rice owned seventy-five per cent. of the
capital stock, was destroyed by fire. The company being without funds to
rebuild, its directors telegraphed to Rice requesting him to advance the
money. The amount needed was two hundred and fifty thousand dollars--and
if Rice consented, all the available funds on deposit in the New York
banks, upon which the conspirators relied to accomplish their object,
would be exhausted. Jones endeavored to dissuade the old man from
advancing the money, but without effect, and Rice sent a letter to
Houston agreeing to supply one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and
more in instalments of twenty-five thousand dollars each. This was on
September 18th, after he had wired to the same effect on September
17th. Patrick and Jones suppressed a telegram that Rice would advance
two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and on September 19th the old
man received word that the first draft in conformity with his telegram
of September 17th had been drawn and would arrive in New York on the
22d. Jones says that on showing this to Patrick the latter announced
that Rice must be put out of the way as soon as possible. Accordingly,
on September 20th and 21st, Jones administered larger doses of mercury
than usual, which, while weakening and depressing him, failed to cause
his end. Saturday, September 22d, the draft was presented at Rice's
apartment. The old man was not confined to his bed, but Jones told the
bank messenger, after pretending to consult him, that Rice was too ill
to attend to business that day and to return on Monday. That night Jones
and Patrick met, and it was agreed (according to Jones) that Rice must
not be allowed to survive until Monday. They still hoped that he might
die without any further act upon their part, but Jones was informed by
Dr. Curry that, although the old man seemed weak and under a great
mental strain, he nevertheless thought that he would recover. This Curry
also told to Patrick, the latter calling at the doctor's house about
five o'clock in the afternoon.

"You think Mr. Rice will be able to go down Monday morning?" Patrick
asked.

"You had better wait until Monday morning comes," replied Dr. Curry.

"Do you think he will be able to go down town next week?" persisted the
lawyer.

The doctor answered in the affirmative.

That night Mr. Rice slept quietly until eight o'clock Sunday morning.
Dr. Curry called and found him in excellent condition, having eaten a
hearty breakfast. His heart was a trifle weak, but it was sound. His
organs were all working normally; he felt no pain. The doctor left
without prescribing any medicine, stating that he would not return
unless called, and expressing his opinion that the patient would
recover. This was about eleven o'clock, and Jones immediately hastened
to Patrick's house and reported the conversation.

It was clear that Rice's death would not occur before Monday morning. He
might live to pay over the two hundred and fifty thousand dollars; long
enough to give further testimony in the Holt litigation, and thus expose
the whole fraudulent scheme of pretended settlement and of friendly
relations with the lawyer, and finally, perhaps, even to make a new
will. The success of the conspiracy demanded that Rice should die that
night. Did he die naturally? Was his death caused by any further act of
the conspirators? Did Jones kill him by means of chloroform?

Jones's story is that Patrick supplied him with some oxalic acid which
was to be mixed with powdered ammonia and diluted in water, on the
theory that it was preferable to chloroform since it would not require
Jones's presence in the room at the moment of death. Jones said that he
endeavored to administer the mixture to the old man, but that he refused
to take it. Jones had already procured the chloroform from Texas, as has
been stated, and had turned it over to Patrick. He says that that
afternoon he procured this from Patrick, who told him how to administer
it. This was a few moments after six o'clock. Rice was sleeping soundly.
The colored woman who did the housework was absent for the day and the
rooms were deserted. He saturated a sponge with chloroform, constructed
a cone out of a towel, placed the sponge in the cone, put the cone over
the sleeping man's face and ran out of the room and waited thirty
minutes for the chloroform to complete the work. Waiting in the next
room he heard the door bell ring, and ring again, but he paid no
attention to the summons. In point of fact he was never quite sure
himself whether the bell was not the creation of his own overwrought
brain. At the end of half an hour he returned to the bedroom, removed
the cone from Rice's face and saw that he was dead, then after burning
the sponge and the towel in the kitchen range he opened the windows,
straightened the rooms out, called the elevator man, asked him to send
for Dr. Curry, and telephoned to Patrick that Rice was dead.

Jones had no sooner telephoned Patrick that Rice was dead than the
lawyer hastened to Dr. Curry's, and within forty minutes appeared with
him in Rice's apartments, assuming complete charge. Summoning an
undertaker and having the cremation letter at hand, he gave orders for
speedy cremation. But he now discovered the principal mistake in his
calculations. He had omitted to investigate the length of time required
to heat the crematory. This he now discovered to his horror to be
twenty-four hours. But the body must be destroyed. The undertaker
suggested that the body might be embalmed while the crematory was being
heated, and Patrick at once seized upon the suggestion and gave orders
to that effect, although the cremation letter sets forth specifically
that one of the reasons why Rice desired cremation was his horror of
being embalmed. The body was embalmed at the apartments that night, Dr.
Curry innocently supplying the certificate of death from "old age and
weak heart," and "as immediate cause, indigestion followed by
collocratal diarrhoea with mental worry."

Having arranged for the cremation at the earliest possible moment, Jones
and Patrick rifled the trunk in which Rice kept his papers, and stuffed
them in a satchel which Patrick bore away with him.

The funeral was to be held early Tuesday morning and the ashes conveyed
by Jones to Milwaukee, to be interred near the body of Rice's wife,
while the relatives should not be notified until it should be too late
for them to reach New York.

The next step was to secure the two hundred and fifty thousand dollars
which Rice had on deposit. Patrick had already forged Rice's name to
blank checks on Swenson and the Fifth Avenue Trust Company. Early Monday
morning Jones, with Patrick looking over his shoulder and directing him,
filled out the body of the checks, which covered all but ten thousand
dollars of Rice's deposits. These consisted of one for twenty-five
thousand dollars and one for sixty-five thousand dollars on Swenson, one
for twenty-five thousand dollars and another for one hundred and
thirty-five thousand dollars on the Trust Company. They were all made
payable to the order of Patrick and dated September 22d, the day before
Rice's death. One of the drafts on the Fifth Avenue Trust Company was
cashed for him by a friend named Potts early Monday morning, and was
paid without suspicion.

But now came the second error, which resulted in the exposure of the
conspiracy and conviction for murder. Jones, in filling out the
twenty-five thousand dollar check on Swenson, had in his nervousness
omitted the "l" from Patrick's Christian name, so that the check read
"Abert T. Patrick," and Patrick in his excitement had failed to notice
the omission or attempt to obviate it by extra indorsement. This
twenty-five thousand dollar Swenson check was intrusted to David L.
Short for presentation to Swenson & Sons for certification. When he
presented it, Wallace, the clerk, recognized Jones's handwriting in the
body of it, and thought the signature looked unnatural. He took it to a
rear office, where he showed it to Wetherbee, who was the person whom
Jones had approached nine months before with a request that he join the
conspiracy to manufacture a bogus will. Wetherbee compared the signature
on the check with genuine signatures in the bank, and returned it to
Short without any intimation that he regarded it as irregular, but
assigning as the reason the defect in the indorsement. Short thereupon
returned the check to Patrick, who supplied the necessary supplementary
indorsement and telephoned to Jones what had occurred, instructing him
to say that the check was all right in case the Swensons should
inquire.

Half an hour later Short returned to Swenson's, where the check was
examined by one of the firm. Rice's apartments were then called up, and
Jones said that the checks were all right. But this did not satisfy Mr.
Swenson, so he instructed Wallace to call up the apartment again and
insist on talking to Mr. Rice. Jones delayed replying to Wallace and in
the afternoon called up Patrick on the telephone, inquiring what he
should say. Patrick replied that he would have to say that Rice was
dead. And in accordance with this Jones informed Swenson that Rice had
died at eight o'clock the previous evening. It was thus clear to Swenson
that although the maker of the check was dead, Patrick, a lawyer,
cognizant of that fact, was seeking to secure payment upon it. For Jones
had told Swenson that he had reported Rice's death to the doctor and to
Rice's lawyer, Patrick.

Patrick, accompanied by Potts, went immediately to the bank, where
Swenson informed him that the check could be paid only to the
administrator. Patrick replied that there would be no administrator;
that Rice had left no property in this State, and informed Swenson that
he had an assignment by Rice to himself of all Rice's securities with
Swenson. He also invited Swenson to the funeral.

Later in the day Patrick attempted to obtain possession of Rice's
securities in the Safety Deposit Company and in the Fifth Avenue Trust
Company, by presenting forged instruments of transfer and the orders
heretofore referred to; but after some delay the trust companies
declined him access. The conspiracy had begun to go to pieces. The two
mistakes and the failure to secure funds placed Patrick in a dangerous
position.

Two o'clock on Monday afternoon, eighteen hours after the death, Jones,
at Patrick's direction, began to notify the relatives that Rice had died
the evening before, and that the funeral would take place the following
morning. The telegrams to Baker and to Rice, Jr., in Texas, were in the
following extraordinary form:

    Mr. Rice died eight o'clock last night under care of physicians.
    Death certificate, "old age, weak heart, delirium." Left
    instructions to be interred in Milwaukee with wife. Funeral 10 A. M.
    to-morrow at 500 Madison Avenue.

It is significant that care was used to convey the information that the
death was a natural one with a physician in attendance; that the body
was to be interred in Milwaukee, without reference to the cremation.
This may well have been so that if any suspicions of foul play should
arise, the recipients, realizing that they could not reach New York in
time to arrest matters there, might hasten to Milwaukee to intercept the
body, where they could be met by Jones with the cremation letter in his
pocket and his urn of ashes under his arm.

But the telegram did arouse suspicion, and Baker and Rice immedately
wired Jones as follows:

    Please make no disposition of Rice's remains until we arrive. We
    leave to-night, arrive New York Thursday morning.

Baker also instructed N. A. Meldrum, a Texan then in New York, to
co-operate with Jones in preserving everything intact.

In the meantime, however, Swenson had notified his attorneys, who in
turn had informed the police and the District Attorney's office, and
that evening at about eleven o'clock James W. Gerard, accompanied by a
detective, who posed as the lawyer's clerk, interviewed Patrick at his
home. Patrick informed Gerard that he had an assignment of all Rice's
property and also a will of Rice's of which he was executor. This was
the first reference to the will of 1900. He also informed Gerard that he
would not receive a cent under its provision. To have explained the real
terms of the will would, under the circumstances, have excited too much
suspicion. Yet he was eager to let the Swensons know that as executor
he was in a position to control the profitable banking business that
would arise from the settlement of the estate. In the meantime four
Headquarters' detectives, representing themselves as lawyers, visited
the apartments.

Patrick hurried to 500 Madison Avenue, where he learned of Meldrum's
presence in town. Things were turning out far from the way in which he
had expected. He then hastened to his office down-town, which he reached
about half-past one in the morning, and, alone, destroyed great
quantities of paper, attempting to dispose of them through the toilet
bowl, which was so clogged that the water flowed out upon the floor,
necessitating an apology to the janitor. In the silence of the night
misgivings came upon him. He lost his nerve, and at two o'clock in the
morning called up the undertaker and revoked the signed order for
cremation which he had given. Leaving the office at about five in the
morning he first visited Meyers, thence proceeded to his own
boarding-house, and from there went to the apartments, which he reached
at eight o'clock. Here he found the detectives who had been on guard
since early morning to forestall any attempt to remove the body.

At the funeral itself he attempted to conciliate adverse interests and
to win witnesses for his purpose. He had begun to do this the very
night that Rice had died, when he told the elevator man that he was
remembered in Rice's will. He had also informed Wetherbee that he had a
five thousand dollars' legacy. At the funeral were Blynn, one of Rice's
nephews, who had come on from Massachusetts, and two ladies, to each of
whom he stated that they had legacies which would soon be available
provided there was no contest of the will.

[Illustration: Four forged signatures of W.M. Rice, which bisected and
rearranged haphazard fit exactly, thus showing that they were made from
the same model. This would be an utter impossibility in the case of four
genuine signatures.]

[Illustration: Forged assignment of vault at the New York Safe Deposit
Co. from Rice to Patrick.]

The detectives now informed Patrick that he was wanted at Headquarters,
and Patrick invited Potts to accompany him, informing the latter that
the police suspected that there was something unnatural in the cause of
death, but that he could explain satisfactorily. As a matter of fact no
such intimation had been made to him by the police or anyone else. At
Police Headquarters after an interview with Inspector McClusky he was
permitted to go his way.

Patrick returned to Rice's apartments, sent for Short and Meyers, and
conferred with them there. He took this occasion to tell Maria Scott,
the colored woman who worked in the apartment, that she was suspected of
having poisoned Rice, and that she had better say nothing about his
death. Jones told her that she was remembered in the will and that it
would be worth her while to stand by himself and Patrick, who would see
that she was taken care of. Meanwhile the coroner had sent the body to
the morgue for autopsy.

The autopsy was performed on Tuesday, forty-three hours after death
occurred, by Dr. Donlin, a coroner's physician, in the presence of Dr.
Williams, also a coroner's physician, and of Professor R. A. Witthaus,
an expert chemist. The two physicians testified at the trial that the
organs of the body, except the lungs, were normal in condition, save as
affected by the embalming fluid. They and Professor Witthaus agreed in
their testimony that the lungs were congested. Dr. Donlin spoke of their
being "congested all over"; while Dr. Williams characterized it as "an
intense congestion of the lungs--coextensive with them." Outside of the
lungs they found no evidence of disease to account for death, and beyond
the congestion these showed nothing except a small patch of consolidated
tissue about the size of a twenty-five cent piece. They testified, in
effect, that nothing save the inhalation of some gaseous irritant could
have produced such a general congestion, and that the patch of tissue
referred to was insufficient to account for the amount of congestion
present. Dr. Donlin could not testify what the proximate cause of death
was, but was firm in his opinion that no cause for it was observable in
the other vital organs. In this Dr. Williams concurred. He was of the
opinion that chloroform would act as an irritant upon the lungs and
cause precisely that general congestion observable in the case of the
deceased. Professor Witthaus testified that his analysis revealed the
presence of mercury, obtained as calomel, and while the amount was not
sufficient to cause death, its presence indicated that a larger quantity
had existed in life. The embalming fluid had contained no mercury, and
he and Dr. Donlin agreed that the embalming fluid would have no effect
upon the lungs beyond a tendency to bleach them. In other words, the
People's evidence was to the effect that no cause of death was
observable from a medical examination of the body save the congestion
stated to exist in the lungs, and that this might have been caused by
chloroform.

Thursday morning Mr. Baker and F. A. Rice, the brother of the deceased,
arrived in New York. Patrick showed them the cremation letter, and,
inasmuch as they took a neutral position in the matter, ordered the
cremation to proceed, and accordingly it took place that very day. He
also endeavored to win the confidence of Baker, but succeeded in
accomplishing little. He finally gave the latter a copy of the 1900 will
and the original will of 1896. He also informed Baker that he had taken
a large number of papers from Rice's apartments, and turned over to him
a considerable number of them. He also surrendered on Friday the two
Swenson checks.

After considerable discussion Baker told Patrick flatly that he would
never consent to the probate of the 1900 will; that he was satisfied
that the '96 will was the last will of Rice, and that he would insist
upon its being probated, to which Patrick replied, that so far as he was
concerned he did not know but that the probate of the '96 will would
suit him just as well as the probate of the 1900 will; that it was a
matter of indifference to him, and that so far as the Rice Institute was
concerned he was prepared to give Baker from three to five million
dollars for it, or any other sum Baker might name. These negotiations
and conferences continued until the fourth of October, Patrick yielding
step by step, until he had divested himself of all control of the
documents and securities.

Meantime sufficient evidence having been secured, Patrick and Jones were
arrested on a charge of forgery and held for the Grand Jury. Bail was
fixed at ten thousand dollars each, but was not forthcoming.

On October 21st, Mr. House, Patrick's lawyer, visited Patrick and Jones
in the Tombs. Jones says that after Patrick had talked to Mr. House the
former called Jones to one corner of the room and told him that House
insisted on knowing definitely whether a crime had been committed and
directed Jones to tell House that a murder had been committed, but that
he (Patrick) was not concerned in it. This Jones declined to do without
implicating Patrick. The two prisoners then returned to House and Jones
says that he informed House that he had killed Rice by chloroform, and
gave him the "same story which he told on the witness stand." After this
Jones apparently lost his nerve and told Patrick that he intended to
commit suicide. This idea Patrick encouraged, agreeing that they should
both do it at about the same time.

On the 26th of October Jones made a statement to Assistant District
Attorney Osborne which was in large part false, and in which he
endeavored to exonerate himself entirely from complicity in any of the
crimes, and in which he charged the actual administration of the
chloroform to Patrick. Four days later Osborne sent for him and told him
he had lied, upon which Jones became confused, continued to persist in
some of his statements, qualified others and withdrew still others. He
was completely unnerved and that night attempted, by means of a knife
which Patrick had supplied him, to cut his throat. The attempt was a
failure, and he was removed to Bellevue Hospital, where he remained
until November 12th. He then finally gave the statement which
corresponded with his testimony upon the trial and which jibed with all
the circumstances and evidence known to the District Attorney.

Did Patrick conspire with Jones to murder Rice? What corroboration is
there of Jones's story that he killed Rice under Patrick's direction?
First: What proof is there that murder was committed?

Roughly, that Jones so swore; that Rice died at the time alleged; that
he did not die from disease, but that he died from a congestion of the
lungs which could have occurred only in the case of a living organism by
the administration of some such irritant as chloroform; that some one,
therefore, must have killed him, and that Jones alone had the
opportunity.

Second: What proof is there that Patrick directed the murder?

Evidence of an elaborate conspiracy, as briefly heretofore set forth,
which contemplated the _death_ of Rice. Of course Patrick wanted Rice to
die. If Patrick was not implicated in the killing, what motive had Jones
to commit the deed? Why did Rice die at the precise psychological moment
which would enable Patrick to prevent two hundred and fifty thousand
dollars on deposit being diverted to Texas? And finally, why did Patrick
prepare a forged cremation letter for the destruction of the body? If
the conspiracy contemplated a _natural_ death, nothing could be of
greater value to the two parties concerned than the means of proving
that the death was _not_ unnatural.

This, in the most abbreviated form, is the case against Patrick. Space
forbids any reference to his elaborate and ingenious defense, which was
based entirely on an alleged complete failure of corroboration of
Jones's testimony. Starting with the premise that the word of a
self-confessed murderer and thrice-perjured scoundrel was valueless as
proof, he contended that there was no adequate evidence that Rice's
death was felonious, and that the congestion of the lungs could have
been and was caused by the embalming fluid and was only attributed to
the chloroform after Jones had given his final version of how the murder
was accomplished. Technically the case against Patrick was not a strong
one. Dramatically it was overwhelming. His own failure to testify and
his refusal to allow his lawyer, Mr. House, to relate what passed
between them in the Tombs, remain significant, although not evidence
proper for a jury to consider. Wherever lawyers shall get together,
there the Patrick case will be discussed with its strong points and its
weak ones, its technicalities and its tactics, and the ethics of the
liberation of Jones, the actual murderer, now long since vanished into
the obscurity from which he came. On the one hand stands a public
convinced of Patrick's guilt, and on the other the convicted "lifer"
pointing a lean finger at the valet Jones and stubbornly repeating, "I
am innocent."

[Footnote 4: In 1906 the Governor of New York commuted the death
sentence of Albert T. Patrick to life imprisonment, and the most
extraordinary struggle in the legal history of the State on the part of
a convicted murderer for his own life came to an end. The defendant in
the "Death House" at Sing Sing had invoked every expedient to escape
punishment, and by the use of his knowledge had even saved a fellow
prisoner, "Mike" Brush, from the electric chair.]




X

A Flight Into Texas


The flight and extradition of Charles F. Dodge unquestionably involved
one of the most extraordinary battles with justice in the history of the
criminal law. The funds at the disposal of those who were interested in
procuring the prisoner's escape were unlimited in extent and the arch
conspirator for whose safety Dodge was spirited away was so influential
in political and criminal circles that he was all but successful in
defying the prosecutor of New York County, even supported as the latter
was by the military and judicial arm of the United States Government.
For, at the time that Dodge made his escape, a whisper from Hummel was
enough to make the dry bones of many a powerful and ostensibly
respectable official rattle and the tongue cleave to the roof of his
mouth in terror.

Who could accomplish that in which the law was powerless?--Hummel. Who
could drive to the uttermost ends of the earth persons against whom not
a shadow of suspicion had previously rested?--Hummel. Who dictated to
the chiefs of police of foreign cities what they should or should not do
in certain cases; and who could, at the beckoning of his little finger,
summon to his dungeon-like offices in the New York Life Building,
whither his firm had removed from Centre Street, the most prominent of
lawyers, the most eminent of citizens?--Surely none but Hummel. And now
Hummel was fighting for his own life. The only man that stood between
him and the iron bars of Blackwell's Island was Charles F. Dodge--the
man whom he had patted on the knee in his office and called a "Mascot,"
when quite in the nature of business he needed a little perjury to
assist a wealthy client.

Hummel in terror called into play every resource upon which, during
forty years of practice, his tiny tentacles had fastened. Who shall say
that while he made a show of enjoying himself nightly with his
accustomed light-heartedness in the Tenderloin, he did not feel
confident that in the end this peril would disappear like the others
which had from time to time threatened him during his criminal career?
But Hummel was fully aware of the tenacity of the man who had resolved
to rid New York of his malign influence. His Nemesis was following him.
In his dreams, if he ever dreamed, it probably took the shape of the
square shouldered District Attorney in the shadow of whose office
building the little shyster practised his profession. Had he been told
that this Nemesis was in reality a jovial little man with a round, ruddy
face and twinkling blue eyes he would have laughed as heartily as it was
in his power to laugh. Yet such was the fact. A little man who looked
less like a detective than a commercial traveller selling St. Peter's
Oil or some other cheerful concoction, with manners as gentle and a
voice as soft as a spring zephyr, who always took off his hat when he
came into a business office, seemingly bashful to the point of
self-effacement, was the one who snatched Charles F. Dodge from the
borders of Mexico and held him in an iron grip when every influence upon
which Hummel could call for aid, from crooked police officials, corrupt
judges and a gang of cutthroats under the guise of a sheriff's posse,
were fighting for his release.

Jesse Blocher is not employed in New York County, and for business
reasons he does not wish his present address known. When he comes to New
York he occasionally drops into the writer's office for a cigar and a
friendly chat about old times. And as he sits there and talks so
modestly and with such quiet humor about his adventures with the Texas
Rangers among the cactus-studded plains of the Lone Star State, it is
hard even for one who knows the truth, to realize that this man is one
of the greatest of detectives, or rather one of the most capable,
resourceful, adroit and quick-witted knights of adventure who ever set
forth upon a seemingly impossible errand.

It is unnecessary to state just how the District Attorney discovered the
existence of "Jesse," as we knew him. It is enough to say that on
Saturday morning, July 23, 1904, he was furnished with the proper
credentials and given instructions to proceed at once to New Orleans,
Louisiana, and "locate," if it were humanly possible to do so, Charles
F. Dodge, under indictment for perjury, and potentially the chief
witness against Abraham H. Hummel, on a charge of conspiracy. He was
told briefly and to the point that, in spite of the official reports
from the police head-quarters of both New York City and New Orleans to
the contrary, there was reason to believe that Dodge was living,
although not registered, as a guest at the St. Charles Hotel in the
latter city. A partial and inaccurate description of Dodge was given him
and he was warned to use extreme caution to prevent any knowledge of his
mission from being made known. Once Dodge had been discovered he was to
keep him under surveillance and wire New York immediately.

Accordingly, Jesse left the city upon the same day at 4.45 P.M. and
arrived two days later, at 9.15 on Monday morning, at New Orleans, where
he went directly to the St. Charles Hotel, registered, and was assigned
to room Number 547 on the fifth floor. Somewhere in the hotel Dodge was
secreted. The question was how to find him. For an hour Jesse sat in the
hotel foyer and meditatively watched the visitors come and go, but saw
no sign of his quarry. Then he arose, put on his hat and hunted out a
stationery store where for two cents he bought a bright-red envelope. He
then visited a ticket-scalper's office, secured the owner's business
card and wrote a note on its back to Dodge offering him cheap
transportation to any point that he might desire. Armed with this he
returned to the hotel, walked to the desk, glanced casually over a
number of telegrams exposed in a rack and, when the clerk turned his
back, placed the note, addressed to Charles F. Dodge, unobserved, upon
the counter. The office was a busy one, guests were constantly
depositing their keys and receiving their mail, and, even as Jesse stood
there watching developments, the clerk turned round, found the note and
promptly placed it in box Number 420. The very simple scheme had worked,
and quite unconsciously the clerk had indicated the number of the room
occupied by Dodge.

Jesse lost no time in ascending to the fourth floor, viewed room Number
420, returned to the desk, told the clerk that he was dissatisfied with
the room assigned him, and requested that he be given either room Number
421, 423, or 425, one of which he stated that he had occupied on a
previous visit. After some discussion the clerk allotted him room Number
423, which was almost directly opposite that occupied by Dodge, and the
detective at once took up his task of watching for the fugitive to
appear.

Within the hour the door opened and Dodge and a companion, who
subsequently proved to be E. M. Bracken, alias "Bradley," an agent
employed by Howe and Hummel, left the room, went to the elevator and
descended to the dining-room upon the second floor. Jesse watched until
they were safely ensconced at breakfast and then returned to the fourth
floor where he tipped the chambermaid, told her that he had left his key
at the office and induced her to unlock the door of room Number 420,
which she did under the supposition that Jesse was the person who had
left the chamber in Dodge's company. The contents of the room convinced
Jesse that he had found Dodge, for he discovered there two grips bearing
Dodge's name as well as several letters on the table addressed to him.
The detective returned to the hall and had a little talk with the maid.

"The old gentleman with you has been quite sick," she said. "How is he
to-day?"

"He is some better," answered Jesse.

"Yes, he does look better to-day," she added, "but he sho'ly was
powerful sick yesterday. Why, he hasn't been out of his room befo' fo'
five or six days."

This statement was corroborated by Dodge's physical appearance, for he
looked haggard and worn.

Jesse was now confident that he had found Dodge, in spite of the reports
of the New Orleans police to the contrary, and he was also reasonably
sure that the fugitive was too sick to leave the hotel immediately. He
therefore telegraphed his superiors that he had discovered Dodge and
that the latter was ill at the St. Charles Hotel.

At three o'clock in the afternoon Jesse received a wire from New York as
follows:

     New Orleans police department claims party not there. Left for
     Mexico three weeks ago. Ascertain correct destination and wire at
     once.

Jesse at once replied:

     No question as to identity and presence here at this time.

He now took up the task of keeping his quarry under absolute
surveillance day and night, which duty from that moment he continued for
a period of nearly ten months.

During the remainder of the afternoon and throughout the night Dodge and
Bracken remained in room Number 420, and during the evening were visited
by several strangers, including a plain-clothes officer from the New
Orleans Police Head-quarters. Little Hummel, dining in Long Acre Square
in the glare of Broadway, was pressing some invisible button that
transmitted the power of his influence even to the police government of
a city two thousand miles away.

The following day, January 26th, at about 8.40 in the morning, Dodge and
Bracken descended to the lobby. Bracken departed from the hotel, leaving
Dodge to pay the bill at the cashier's window, and Jesse heard him order
a cab for the 11.30 a.m. Sunset Limited on the Southern Pacific Railroad
and direct that his baggage be removed from his room. Jesse did the
same.

In the meantime Bracken returned and promptly at 11 a.m. left for the
railroad station in a cab with Dodge. Jesse followed in another. As the
two passed through the gates the detective caught a glimpse of Dodge's
ticket and saw that it had been issued by the Mexican National Railway.
Retiring to the telegraph office in the station he wired New York as
follows:

     Bird flying.--Sunset Limited. Destination not known. I am with him.

He then hastily purchased a ticket to Houston, Texas, and boarded the
train. Dodge's companion had bidden him good-by as the engine started,
and Jesse's task now became that of ferreting out Dodge's destination.
After some difficulty he managed to get a glimpse of the whole of the
fugitive's ticket and thus discovered that he was on his way to the City
of Mexico, via Eagle Pass, Texas, while from the Pullman conductor he
learned that Dodge had secured sleeping-car accommodation as far as San
Antonio, Texas, only.

So far all was well. He knew Dodge but Dodge did not know him, and later
on in the afternoon he had the satisfaction of a long talk with his
quarry in the observation car where they amiably discussed together
current events and argued politics with the same vehemence as if they
had been commercial travellers thrown fortuitously into each other's
company. Dodge, however, cleverly evaded any reference to his
destination.

When the train reached Morgan City, Louisiana, at 3 P.M., which was the
first stop, Jesse wired New York as follows:

     On Sunset Limited with friend. He has transportation to the City of
     Mexico, via Eagle Pass, where I am now journeying with him. Answer
     to Beaumont, Texas.

Later in the afternoon he sent an additional message from Lafayette,
Louisiana:

     Have seen transportation of friend and am positive of destination.

Dodge was occupying Section 3 of the sleeping car "Capitola," and, as
became an invalid, retired early.

At Beaumont Jesse failed to receive any reply to his various messages,
and when the train arrived at Houston no word came from New York until
it was almost the time of departure. Waiting until practically the last
moment Jesse hurried through the gates of the Union Station at Houston
and bought a ticket to San Antonio. As he was leaving the ticket window
Night Chief of Police John Howard and two officers came hurrying up
inquiring anxiously for "Mr. Jesse." The reinforcements had arrived.

Outside on the track "The Sunset Limited" was just getting under way.
The first frantic puffs were being vomited from the funnel. Inside
Dodge was sleeping peacefully in his berth. Jesse, accompanied by Chief
Howard, hurried up to the conductor who was about to swing on to the
steps of the sleeper, and ordered him to hold the train till the
fugitive could be removed. After some argument the conductor grumblingly
complied and Dodge was aroused from pleasant dreams of the "Creole
Quarter" to the cold reality of being dragged out of bed by a policeman.
He was unceremoniously hustled out of the sleeping car into a carriage
and taken to Head-quarters where he admitted his identity and remarked:

"I know what I am wanted for, but I will never return to New York."

In his grip was found the sum of $1,563.15 as well as numerous letters
from the law firm of Howe and Hummel and a quantity of newspaper
clippings relative to his case.

Dodge pleaded with Chief Howard not to lock him up, urging that he was a
sick man and offering a goodly sum if he might be taken to a hotel and
guarded for the remainder of the night. But what "went" in New Orleans,
did not "go" in Houston, and the best that Dodge could get for himself
was a cot in the "Ladies Detention Room" on the second floor of the
jail.

Early the following morning Jesse visited Police Head-quarters and for
the first time met George Ellis, Chief of Police of Houston, for whom he
will always have a feeling of deep gratitude for his enthusiastic
cooperation and loyalty in the many stirring events that followed. Dodge
now received a telegram from New York, which was submitted to Jesse
before reaching the prisoner, to the effect that Howe and Hummel were
sending on an attorney to aid the fugitive in resisting extradition, and
informing him that they had employed Messrs. Hunt and Meyers as
attorneys to look out for his welfare. These last immediately jumped _in
medias res_ and on the afternoon of the same day secured a writ of
habeas corpus from Norman J. Kitrell, District Judge of Harris County,
Texas, returnable the following morning.

The next day, January 28th, Kitrell released Dodge from custody.

Jesse had anticipated this and immediately swore out another warrant
with the result that the prisoner was rearrested before he left the
court room.

Meantime the Dodge interests retained another firm of lawyers, Messrs.
Andrews and Ball, who, on the following day, secured a second writ of
habeas corpus from Judge Ashe.

The result of the first engagement thus being a draw, counsel on both
sides agreed that this writ should not be returnable for six days.
During this period District Attorney Jerome employed Messrs. Baker
Botts, Parker and Garwood to represent him and secured from Governor
Odell at Albany a requisition on Governor Lanham of Texas for the
extradition of the prisoner, which he entrusted to Detective Sergeant
Herlihy of the New York Police. Herlihy reached Houston with the papers
on the evening of January 30th, and on the same train with him came
Abraham Kaffenburgh, a member of the law firm of Howe and Hummel and a
nephew of the latter. Likewise also came Bracken, still styling himself
"E. M. Bradley," and from now on Bracken was the inseparable companion,
guide, philosopher and friend (?) of the unfortunate Dodge whose
continued existence upon this earth had become such a menace to the
little lawyer in New York.

Herlihy, accompanied by Judge Garwood, proceeded direct to Austin where
they found Dodge already represented by Messrs. Andrews and Ball who, at
the hearing before Governor Lanham, made a strong effort to induce that
executive to refuse to honor the requisition of the Governor of New
York. This effort failed and Governor Lanham issued his warrant, but
Herlihy had no sooner returned to Houston for the purpose of taking
possession of the prisoner than he was served with an injunction
enjoining him, together with Chief of Police Ellis, from taking Dodge
into custody, pending a hearing upon a new habeas corpus which had been
issued by Judge Waller T. Burns of the United States District Court for
the Southern District of Texas. This new writ was returnable February
9th.

After exhaustive but futile argument by the counsel for Dodge, Judge
Burns remanded the prisoner to Herlihy's custody to be returned to the
State of New York, but this decision had no sooner been rendered than an
appeal was taken therefrom by Dodge's lawyers, and the prisoner released
upon bail fixed at twenty thousand dollars.

During this period Dodge was quartered under guard at the Rice Hotel in
Houston, and the day following the argument the twenty-thousand-dollars
bail was put up in cash and Dodge released from custody.

In the meantime, however, Jesse, knowing that no sum, however large,
would deter Hummel from spiriting Dodge out of the country, had made his
arrangements to secure a new extradition warrant from the Governor of
Texas, so that if the prisoner did succeed in getting beyond the
Southern District of the Federal Court of Texas, he could be seized and
conveyed to New York.

Of course some one had to keep watch over Dodge while Jesse hurried to
Austin to see the Governor, and it was decided to leave Sergeant
Herlihy, reinforced by a number of local detectives for that purpose.
But while the watchful Jesse was away, Bracken proceeded to get busy in
the good old Howe and Hummel fashion. Lots of people that Herlihy had
never seen before turned up and protested that he was the finest fellow
they had ever met. And as Herlihy was, in fact, a good fellow, he made
them welcome and dined and wined at their expense until he woke up in
the Menger Hotel in San Antonio and inquired where he was.

Jesse meantime had returned from Austin to discover that Dodge with his
companions, Kaffenburgh and Bracken, had slipped out of Houston early in
the morning of February 11th, after disposing of Herlihy and eluding the
watchfulness of Herlihy's assistants. Hummel was leading and by ten
o'clock the next morning Dodge and his comrades were on board an English
merchantman lying in the harbor of Galveston. Later in the same day the
Hummel interests chartered from the Southern Pacific Railroad for the
sum of three thousand dollars the sea-going tug _Hughes_, to which Dodge
was now transferred for the purpose of being conveyed to the port of
Tampico in the Republic of Mexico.

But here Hummel's wires became crossed with Jerome's, and unfortunately
for the little lawyer, the persons from whom the tug had been leased
turned out to be closely allied with the prosecution's interests, with
the result that the captain of the tug was instructed by his superiors
under no consideration to put into any Mexican port, but on the
contrary, to delay his departure from the harbor of Galveston for a
period of two days and then to proceed only as far as Brownsville,
Texas, where he should compel the debarkation of the fugitive. The
captain, who was a good sport as well as a good officer, promptly threw
himself into the part and told Bracken and Kaffenburgh that it was
evident from the barometer that a severe storm was approaching (which
must have had a sinister implication to these two unfortunate
gentlemen), and that he could not think of putting to sea. Once the
"storm" had blown over, the tug started out across the blue waters of
the Gulf of Mexico. But now Bracken and Kaffenburgh were informed for
the first time that it was impossible to consider putting into any port
of the Republic of Mexico, since to do so would cause international
complications and compel the revocation of the captain's license. In
desperation the Hummel interests offered the captain five thousand
dollars in cash to disregard his instructions and put into Tampico, but
the worthy sea-dog was adamant. It was probably worth five thousand
dollars to him to see three gentry of this pattern so much put about.

While Dodge and his accomplices were dallying in the harbor of
Galveston, Jesse was taking advantage of his opportunity to proceed at
once by railroad to Alice, Texas, which at that time was the furthermost
southern point reached by any railway in the direction of Brownsville.
On his arrival, he at once applied to Captain John R. Hughes, commanding
Company D of the Texas Rangers, who received him with great joy and
ordered a detachment of the Rangers to meet the tug at Point Isabella at
the mouth of the Rio Grande River on the border of Mexico. In the
meantime, Jesse started on a toilsome stage journey to Brownsville,
across one hundred and seventy miles of desert, which occupied two days
and nights, and necessitated his going without sleep for that period.
During the trip Jesse heard no word of English and had as his associates
only Mexican cattlemen. Every fifteen miles a fresh relay of broncos was
hitched to the stage and after a few moments' rest the misery began
again.

Jesse had been hurrying toward Brownsville by stage while Dodge,
Kaffenburgh and Bracken were landing at Point Isabella, where they were
kept under close surveillance by Sergeant Tom Ross of the Rangers.
Thence they took the train to Brownsville, registering at the Miller
House under the assumed names of C. F. Dougherty, A. Koontzman and E. M.
Barker, all of Oklahoma. But, although they knew it not, Sergeant Tom
was at their elbow, and had Dodge attempted to cross the border into
Mexico he would instantly have been placed under arrest.

As Brownsville was within the Southern District of the Federal Court of
Texas, Jesse decided not to arrest Dodge until he should actually
attempt flight, and when Dodge and his companions, on the following
morning, February 15th, entered the stage (the same upon which Jesse had
arrived) and started for Alice, Jesse and Tom Ross procured the best
horses they could find and started after them, keeping just in sight of
the stage. Dodge's intention in making this move was to take the Mexican
International Railway at Alice and cross over to Mexico via Laredo.

Jesse and Ross covered the seventy-four miles from Brownsville to Santa
La Cruz Ranch by four in the afternoon, which was fairly strenuous work
for a New York detective, and here found themselves so sore and
exhausted from their ride that they were glad to hire a pair of horses
and buggy with which to complete the journey to Alice. Luckily they
were able to get into telephonic communication with various ranch owners
along the road and arrange to have fresh relays of horses supplied to
them every twenty miles, and here also Jesse called up Captain Hughes at
Alice, and suggested that he substitute for the regular night clerk at
the City Hotel one of the privates of the Rangers by the name of Harrod.

Dodge and his companions arrived in Alice on February 17th, and, as
Jesse had anticipated, repaired at once to the City Hotel, where,
inasmuch as they were dry from the dust of their trip and depressed by
lack of society, they entered at once into an enthusiastic and
confidential friendship with the man behind the counter in the hotel
office, sublimely ignorant that they were unfolding to a member of the
Texas Rangers all their most secret intentions. Harrod was just as glad
to see Dodge as Dodge apparently was to see Harrod, and kindly offered
to assist the fugitive to get into Mexico in any way that the latter
desired. Dodge, for his part, took advantage of his usefulness to the
extent of requesting him to purchase them railroad tickets, the plan
being to leave Alice the following morning for Monterey, Mexico. Three
hours after the stage bearing Dodge and his party pulled up at the City
Hotel, Tom Ross and Jesse drove in behind a pair of fagged-out broncos
at two in the morning. Jesse had had no sleep of any sort and no proper
nourishment for five days, and had just strength enough left to drag
himself up one flight of stairs and tumble into bed, from which he did
not emerge for many hours.

In the meantime day broke and Dodge, Kaffenburgh and Bracken, having
breakfasted, drove comfortably down to the International Railway Station
and settled themselves in the smoker, but they had no sooner given this
direct evidence of their intention before Captain Hughes entered and
placed Dodge under arrest. The latter's surprise may be appreciated when
it is stated that from the time the three had left Houston, they had no
idea that they were being followed and believed that they had completely
foiled Jesse and his assistants.

While Jesse had been chasing Dodge across the desert, his lawyers had
not been idle and had secured at Austin another extradition warrant from
Governor Lanham, who, on receiving news of the arrest, promptly
instructed Captain Hughes by wire to assume charge of the prisoner and
to deliver him into the hands of the New York officer to be conveyed to
New York.

There now began such a legal battle as the State of Texas had never
known. Hummel had been forced into his last ditch and was fighting
desperately for life. Through Kaffenburgh he at once applied for a new
writ of habeas corpus in Nueces County and engaged counsel at Corpus
Christie to assist in fighting for the release of the prisoner.
Precisely as Hummel had intended, Chief Wright of Nueces rode into Alice
and demanded the prisoner from Captain Hughes. As Hummel had _not_
intended, Captain Hughes refused to surrender the prisoner and told
Chief Wright to go to--well, he told him that he intended to obey his
commander-in-chief, the Governor of Texas.

On February 20th, Hummel, through Kaffenburgh, attempted to get another
writ of habeas corpus in Bee County, and promptly the Bee chief came
buzzing over and demanded Dodge, but to him Hughes replied even as he
had spoken to Wright.

Excitement in Alice had now reached such a pitch that Judge Burns, of
the Federal Court, in Houston, ordered United States Marshal John W.
Vann, of Alice, to assume charge of the prisoner. The indomitable
Hughes, however, paid no more attention to the United States Marshal
than he had to the local chiefs. But the situation was so delicate and
the clash of authority might so easily have resulted in bloodshed that
it was finally agreed by all parties that the best thing to do was to
have the prisoner returned to Houston in the _joint_ custody of Captain
Hughes of the Rangers and the United States Marshal.

Jesse, through his counsel, in proper course made application to
forfeit Dodge's bond and remand him to jail, but the Hummel attorneys
finally induced the Court, on the plea that to confine Dodge in jail
would be detrimental to his already badly impaired health, to permit the
prisoner to go free on a greatly increased bond, nevertheless
restricting his movements to Harris County, Texas.

While Jesse had fought a winning battle up to this point he was at the
end of his resources so far as the extradition of the prisoner was
concerned, for Dodge was now at liberty, pending the decisions upon the
habeas corpus proceedings of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals
at Fort Worth, and the United States Supreme Court at Washington. But
his orders were to _bring Dodge back to_ New York. Hence, with the aid
of some new men sent him from the North, he commenced an even closer
surveillance of the prisoner than ever before by both day and night.

Meantime Kaffenburgh departed for New York, fleeing from the wrath of
Judge Burns, who had issued a summons for him for contempt of the
Federal Court on the ground that he had induced Dodge to attempt to jump
his bond. In place of the blustering Kaffenburgh was sent another member
of the famous law firm of Howe and Hummel, David May, an entirely
different type of man. May was as mild as a day in June--as urbane as
Kaffenburgh had been insolent. He fluttered into Houston like a white
dove of peace with the proverbial olive branch in his mouth. From now on
the tactics employed by the representatives of Hummel were conciliatory
in the extreme. Mr. May, however, did not long remain in Houston, as it
was apparent that there was nothing to be done by either side pending
the action of the courts, and in any event Dodge was abundantly supplied
with local counsel. The time had now come when Hummel must have begun to
feel that the fates were against him and that a twenty-year term in
state prison was a concrete possibility even for him.

In the meantime, Dodge and Bracken had taken up their headquarters at
the Rice Hotel in the most expensive suite of rooms in the house, a new
scheme for getting the prisoner beyond the reach of the New York courts
apparently having been concocted. Dodge was now indulged in every
conceivable luxury and vice. He was plunged into every sort of excess,
there was no debauchery which Bracken could supply that was not his and
their rapid method of existence was soon the talk of the county and
continued to be so for ten long months. There is more than one way to
kill a cat and more than one method of wiping out the only existing
witness against a desperate man striving to escape the consequences of
crime.

Dodge's daily routine was somewhat as follows: He never slept at his own
hotel, but arose in the morning between ten and eleven o'clock, when he
was at once visited by Bracken and supplied with numerous drinks in lieu
of the breakfast for which he never had any desire. At noon the two
would have luncheon with more drinks. In the afternoon they would retire
to the pool rooms and play the races, and, when the races were over,
they would then visit the faro banks and gamble until midnight or later.
Later on they would proceed to another resort on Louisiana Street where
Dodge really lived. Here his day may be said to have begun and here he
spent most of his money, frequently paying out as much as fifty dollars
a night for wine and invariably ending in a beastly state of
intoxication. It is quite probable that never in the history of
debauchery has any one man ever been so indulged in excesses of every
sort for the same period of time as Dodge was during the summer and fall
of 1904. The fugitive never placed his foot on mother earth. If they
were going only a block, Bracken called for a cab, and the two seemed to
take a special delight in making Jesse, as Jerome's representative,
spend as much money in cab hire as possible. The Houston jehus never
again experienced so profitable a time as they did during Dodge's wet
season; and the life of dissipation was continued until, from time to
time, the prisoner became so weak from its effects that he was forced to
go under the care of a physician. A few days of abstinence always
restored his vitality and he would then start out upon another round of
pleasure.

During this period Jesse maintained a close and vigilant personal
espionage over the prisoner. For over ten months he slept less than four
hours each day, his fatigue being increased by the constant apprehension
of treachery among his own men, and the necessity of being ever on the
alert to prevent some move on the part of the defense to spirit the
prisoner away. During the summer attempts were repeatedly made to evade
the vigilance of Jesse and his men and several desperate dashes were
frustrated by them, including one occasion when Bracken succeeded in
rushing Dodge as far as Galveston, where they were forced to abandon
their design.

From time to time Bracken would disappear from Houston for a week or ten
days, stating on his return that he had been to New York, after which
there was invariably some new move to get the prisoner away. Time and
space prevent giving a detailed account of all the marches and
counter-marches that took place in this battle of wit against wit.

In August, 1904, Bracken made one of his periodical visits to New York,
and when he returned sought out Jesse and said: "Blocher, you might as
well be a good fellow and get yours while you can. I mean that Dodge is
not going back to New York, even if it cost a million dollars to prevent
it." A few days later Bracken sent a gambler named Warner to Jesse, who
offered the latter thirty-five hundred dollars to get "lost" long enough
for the prisoner to slip over to Mexico. Acting upon the advice of his
attorney, Jesse encouraged this attempt, under the belief that if he
could get the Hummel forces in the position of having attempted to bribe
him the prisoner's bail could then be forfeited and Dodge himself taken
into custody. Hummel became wary, however, and apparently abandoned for
the time the idea of bribery. Later on Bracken again disappeared. On his
return a marked change was noticeable in his demeanor and Jesse observed
that he was in constant consultation with Dodge, from which the
detective drew the inference that some last desperate move was to be
made towards the escape of the prisoner.

On one occasion Jesse saw Bracken showing Dodge a map and some drawings
on paper, which so excited his suspicions that he followed the two with
unremitting assiduity, and within a day or two was rewarded through
Bracken's carelessness with an opportunity for going through the
latter's coat pockets in the billiard room. Here he found a complete set
of plans worked out in every detail for spiriting the prisoner from San
Antonio into Mexico during the State Fair. These plans were very
elaborate, every item having been planned out from the purchase of
tickets, and passing of baggage through the customs, to hotel
accommodation in the City of Mexico and Tampico, and steamship tickets
from Tampico to Europe.

The plan had been to secure permission from the Court for Dodge to leave
Houston long enough ostensibly to attend the Fair at San Antonio and to
"lose" him during the excitement and crowded condition of the city at
that time.

It is, of course, needless to say that these plans were abandoned when
Bracken discovered that Jesse had been forewarned.

Almost immediately thereafter the Circuit Court of Appeals at Fort
Worth, Texas, decided one of the habeas corpus cases adversely to Dodge
but it still permitted him to retain his liberty pending the final
determination of the questions involved by the Supreme Court at
Washington.

The Hummel forces were apparently losing hope, however, for early in
October another attempt was made to bribe Jesse. Bracken entered his
room one evening and informed him that he could get his own price if he
would only be a good fellow, and even went so far as to exhibit a
quantity of money which he stated was twenty-five thousand dollars. The
only result of this offer was to lead Jesse to redouble his precautions,
for he argued that the situation must indeed be acute when such an offer
could be deemed worth while. Thereafter it was obvious that the revelry
of Dodge and his companions was on the increase. Accordingly Jesse added
to his force of assistants.

On December 2, 1904, Nathaniel Cohen, another member of the firm of Howe
and Hummel, arrived at Houston, and the next day the Supreme Court at
Washington decided the appeal in the habeas corpus against the prisoner,
who was at once ordered by Judge Burns into the custody of United States
Marshal William M. Hanson.

Things looked black indeed for Dodge and blacker still for Hummel. How
the little attorney, eating his midday lunch four thousand miles away,
at Pontin's restaurant on Franklin Street, must have trembled in his
patent leather boots! His last emissary, Cohen, at once procured an
assistant by the name of Brookman and with him proceeded to Wharton
County, Texas, where they secured a new writ of habeas corpus and
induced the local sheriff, one Rich, to swear in a _posse comitatus_ of
one hundred men for the purpose of coming to Houston to take the
prisoner by force of arms out of the hands of the United States Marshal.

This was one of the most daring and desperate attempts made in recent
years to frustrate the law. Jesse believes that the real object of this
_posse_ was to precipitate a fight between themselves and the Federal
authorities. It is not inconceivable that in such an event Dodge might
either have escaped or been killed. The men composing the _posse_ were
of the most desperate character, and consisted largely of the so-called
"feud factions" of Wharton County, known as "The Wood Peckers" and "The
Jay Birds." Jesse has been informed, on what he regards as reliable
authority, that this move cost the Hummel forces fifteen thousand
dollars and that each member of the _posse_ received one hundred dollars
for his contemplated services in the "rescue" of the prisoner. But civil
war, even on a small scale, cannot be indulged in without some inkling
of the facts becoming known to the authorities, and prior to the receipt
of the mandate of the Supreme Court, Judge Burns ordered the prisoner
removed to Galveston for safe keeping.

Thus the long, expensive and arduous struggle came finally to an end,
for Judge Burns in due course, ordered that Charles F. Dodge should be
conveyed to New York in the personal custody of the United States
Marshal and delivered by him to the New York authorities "within the
borders of that State." Such an order was, of course, exceedingly
unusual, if not almost unheard of, but it was rendered absolutely
necessary by the powerful influence and resources, as well as the
unscrupulous character, of those interested in securing Dodge's
disappearance.

In order to thwart any plans for releasing the prisoner by violence or
otherwise, and to prevent delay through the invoking of legal
technicalities, Hansen and Jesse decided to convey Dodge to New York by
water, and on the 16th of December, the Marshal and his five deputies
boarded a Mallory Line steamer at Galveston and arrived in New York with
their prisoner on the evening of December 23d.

Dodge reached New York a physical wreck. How he was induced to tell the
whole truth after he had pleaded guilty to the charge against him is a
story in itself. A complete reaction from his dissipation now occurred
and for days his life was despaired of. Jesse, too, was, as the
expression is, "all in," and the only persons who were still able to
appreciate the delights of New York were the stalwart Marshal and his
boys, who for some time were objects of interest as they strolled along
Broadway and drank "deep and hearty" in the cafés. To the assistants in
the District Attorney's office they were heroes and were treated as
such.

How Dodge finally testified against Hummel on the witness stand has
already been told. As they say down-town, if Jerome had never done
anything else, he would have "made good" by locking up Abe Hummel. No
one ever believed he would do it. But Jerome never would have locked up
Hummel without Jesse. And, as Jesse says with a laugh, leaning back in
his chair and taking a long pull on his cigar, "I guess I would not do
it again--no, I _would_ not do it again for all the money you could give
me. The wonder is that I came out of it alive." When the reader comes to
think about it he will probably agree with him.




XI

A Case of Circumstantial Evidence


In the town of Culiano, in the province of Salano, in Italy, there dwelt
a widow by the name of Torsielli, with her two sons, Vito and Antonio.
The boys loved their mother devotedly and were no less fond of each
other, the height of their ambition being to earn enough money to
support her in comfort without need of working in her old age. As it
was, she arose before light, made the fire, cooked their breakfast and
labored in and about the house all day until they returned from the
fields. But she was getting old and at last became bedridden and infirm.
She could no longer cook the meals, and the boys had to shift for
themselves. Moreover, instead of finding her standing at the door with a
smile on her wrinkled face, welcoming them to supper on their return,
the fire was always out and their mother lay on her couch, no less glad
to see them, to be sure, but no longer able to amuse them or minister to
their comfort. Then the taxes were increased and hard times came. By
twos and threes the men of the village packed their bundles, bade
good-by to their friends and families, and left the town, some to seek
work in other parts of Italy, but most of them to take the big iron
steamships for America, where work was easy and money plentiful. Sadly
the boys watched their comrades depart. They would have liked to go,
too, to seek their fortunes in this new land of promise, but they could
not leave their mother. The following year some of the men who had gone
away to America returned in fine clothes and with full purses to tell of
the wonderful country beyond the seas, where one could always earn his
ten _lire_ every day and do as he liked. "Viva la liberta!" they cried,
pounding the tables in the café. "Come, comrades! We have plenty of
money. Drink to the great country of America!"

Vito and Antonio listened with envy. One evening the elder brother asked
Antonio to come to walk with him. When they had gone a little way he
said suddenly:

"Toni, I think I shall go to this America. We need more money to make
our mother comfortable. If we wait until she is dead the money will be
of no use. You can stay here, and when I have made a place for you and
her, you shall bring her on the ship to the new country."

Vito was five years older than Antonio, and his word had always been
law to the younger brother, so although he was sick at heart at the
thought of being left behind, he said nothing against the project, but
tried to make it easy for Vito with their mother. The old woman could
not bear the thought of her firstborn leaving her, and declared, with
the tears running down her face, that she should never see him again,
but at last she yielded to their persuasions and gave Vito her blessing.
It would be only a little while before she and Toni would join him, and
they would be happy ever after.

Then Toni was left alone with his mother. Every day he arose at the
first streak of dawn, prepared breakfast, cleaned the house, saw that
his mother was comfortable and then started off for the fields. A month
went by, two months, three, a year, but no word came from Vito. Toni
assured the poor old woman that they would certainly hear from him the
next week or the next, but cruel fear had taken possession of him.
Something had happened to his brother! The years swept on. Their mother
became more and more helpless. Antonio was obliged to hire a woman to
care for her as nurse for a small sum, but it was just enough to leave
only a pittance for them to live on. Toni grew thin and haggard. Where
could Vito be? Was he alive or dead? Next to his love for Nicoletta
Lupero it became the great passion of his life to learn what had become
of Vito.

He had known Nicoletta from a child and their love had followed as
naturally as summer follows spring. It had always been "Toni" and
"Nicoletta" ever since he could remember. But she was growing up, and
from a boy he had become a man. Yet how could he marry when he could
hardly earn enough to support his mother and himself? They talked it
over time and time again. If Vito would only return or good times come
it might be possible. But meantime there was nothing to do but wait.
Nicoletta blossomed into womanhood. Had she not been betrothed she would
have been called an old maid. Neither she nor Toni took any part in the
village merrymakings. Why should they? He was thirty and she
twenty-five. They might have married ten years ago had not the elder
brother gone away. Toni secretly feared that the time would never come
when they would be man and wife, but he patiently labored on earning his
two _lire_, or at most two _lire_ and a half, a day.

Then a man returned from America just for the harvest to see his family.
He said that Vito was alive. He had not seen him himself, but others had
seen him and he was rich. He told of the plentifulness of gold in
America, where every one was comfortable and could lay up a fortune. He
himself had saved over five thousand _lire_ in four years and owned a
one-third interest in a fruit store. He was going to take his brother's
family back with him--all of them. They would be rich, too, in a little
while. A man was a fool to stay in Italy. Why did not Toni come back
with him? He would get him a place on the railroad where one of his
friends was padrone.

Toni discussed it all with Nicoletta, and she talked with the man
herself.

"Toni," she said at length, "why do you not go? Here you are earning
nothing. There you could save in a month enough to keep your mother in
comfort for a year. You have to pay the nurse, and that takes a great
deal. While you are here it would cause talk if I came to live in your
home to care for your mother but if you go away I can do so without
comment and it will cost nothing. Perhaps you will find Vito. If not you
will soon make enough to send for both your mother and me."

"You are a good girl," he answered, kissing her, "but I could not shift
the responsibility of my mother to your shoulders. Still, I will talk to
Father Giuseppi about it."

The priest thought well of the plan (he was a little excited over
America himself), and agreed to break the matter to the mother.

She begged Toni piteously not to go. He was her only surviving son. Vito
was dead. Let him but wait a little while and she would not be there to
stand in his way. Then the priest added his personal assurance that it
would be for the best, and the mother finally gave way. Toni was obliged
to tear himself away by force from the arms of the old woman lying upon
the bed, and her feeble sobs echoed in his ears as he trudged down the
road with the scarf Nicoletta had worked about his neck, and a small
bundle of his tools and most precious possessions on his shoulder. A
couple of miles farther on came another harrowing parting with his
betrothed, and from the top of the next rise beyond he could see
Nicoletta still standing at the crossroads gazing pitifully after him.
Thus many an Italian, for good or ill, has left the place of his birth
for the mysterious land of the Golden West.

The voyage was for Antonio an unalloyed agony of seasickness and
homesickness, and when at last the great vessel steamed slowly up the
North River, her band playing and the emigrants crowding eagerly to her
sides, he had hardly spirit enough left to raise his eyes to the
mountains of huge buildings from whose craters the white smoke rose
slowly and blew away in great wind-torn clouds. Yet he felt some of the
awakening enthusiasm of his comrades, and when once his feet touched
earth again it was not long before he almost forgot his sufferings upon
the ocean in his feverish anxiety to lose no time in beginning to save
the money which should reunite him to Nicoletta and his mother. As soon
as the vessel had docked a blustering Italian came among the emigrants
and tagged a few dozen of them, including Antonio, with large blue
labels, and then led them in a long, straggling line across the
gangplank and marched them through the muddy streets to the railroad
train. Here they huddled in a dirty car filled with smoke and were
whirled with frightful speed for hours through a flat and smiling
country. The noise, the smoke and the unaccustomed motion made Antonio
ill again, and when the train stopped at Lambertville, New Jersey, the
padrone had difficulty in rousing him from the animal-like stupor into
which he had fallen.

The Italians crowded together upon the platform, gazing helplessly at
one another and at the padrone, who was cursing them for a lot of stupid
fools, and bidding them get upon a flat car that stood upon a siding.
Antonio had to be pushed upon it by main force, but the journey this
time was short, and in half an hour he found himself upon an embankment
where hundreds of Italians were laboring with pick and shovel in the
broiling sun. Here he also was given a pick and told to go to work.

Toni soon became accustomed to his new surroundings. Every night he and
the rest were carried to Lambertville on flat cars and in the mornings
were brought back to the embankment. The work was no harder than that to
which he had been used, and he soon became himself again. Moreover, he
found many of his old friends from Culiano working there. In the
evenings they walked through the streets of the town or sat under the
trees playing _mora_ and _tocco_. His letters home were quite
enthusiastic regarding the pleasant character of the life. To be sure he
could not write himself, but his old friend Antonio Strollo, who had
lived at Valva, only a mile from Culiano, acted as his amanuensis. He
was very fond of Strollo, who was a dashing fellow, very merry and quite
the beau of the colony, in his wonderful red socks and neckties of many
colors. Strollo could read and write, and, besides, he knew Antonio's
mother and Nicoletta, and when Toni found himself unable to express his
thoughts Strollo helped him out. When the answers came he read them to
Toni and joined in the latter's pleasure. Toni himself soon became a
favorite in Lambertville, for he was simple and gentle, and full of
good-will for everybody. He was very good-looking, too, with his
handsome Roman profile, snapping black eyes and black curly locks. Yet
he was sad always, especially so as since his arrival in America he had
made no progress toward finding Vito. From time to time he met other
Italians who had been working elsewhere, who thought they had seen him
or some one that looked like him. But inquiry always elicited the fact
that their desire to give him encouragement was greater than the
accuracy of their memories. Of course Antonio Strollo, who had become
Toni's inseparable friend, shared all his eagerness to find Vito. In
fact, Toni had no thought that he did not confide to his friend, and it
was really the latter who composed the love letters to Nicoletta and the
affectionate epistles to the mother.

Every month Toni divided what he earned into three parts. One of them he
deposited in the savings-bank, another he invested in a money order
which was sent by Strollo to Nicoletta for the mother, and the last he
kept for himself. It was astounding how fast one really could make money
if one was industrious. Forty dollars a month, sometimes! That made
nearly seventy _lire_ to send to Nicoletta. His bank account grew
steadily, and he often saved something out of the money he allowed
himself to live upon.

Antonio Strollo, on the other hand, was lazy and spent all his wages on
_chianti_, neckties, waistcoats, and gambling. Sometimes he would do
nothing for a whole month but loiter around the streets smoking cigars
and ogling the village girls. These last were afraid of him and called
him "The Dare Devil."

Toni worked on the embankment for three years, sending his money with a
letter to Nicoletta every month. The mother still lived and Nicoletta
was giving up her own life to take care of her, but the old woman was
very feeble and no longer had any hope of seeing either of her sons
again. Moreover, she was now so bedridden that it was useless to think
of trying to move her, even if Toni had plenty of money. No, as soon as
he was satisfied that Vito could not be found and had saved enough money
he must return. How she begged him to return! As Strollo read him the
girl's letters Toni wept bitter tears and Strollo wept likewise in
sympathy. But no word came of Vito.

Toni, anxious about his mother, despairing of ever finding his brother,
pining for Nicoletta and with three hundred dollars lying in the
savings-bank, decided to return to Italy. But if only he could find Vito
first! Then Antonio Strollo had an idea. Why not advertise, he
suggested. He wondered that they had never thought of it before. They
would put a notice in _Il Progresso_, the Italian paper in New York, and
see what would come of it. Toni agreed that the idea was good, so
Strollo wrote the notice offering a reward for news of Vito.

Two months passed, once more Toni gave up hope, and then,
O-never-to-be-forgotten day! a letter came from the post-office from
Vito! Toni threw his arms about Strollo and kissed him for joy. Vito was
found at last! The letter, dated Yonkers, New York, told how Vito had by
chance heard of Toni's notice and learned that he was in America. He
himself, he said, had prospered and was a padrone, employing many
workmen on the water-works. He begged Toni for news of their mother. He
confessed himself an ungrateful son never to have written, but he had
married and had had children, and he had assumed that she was being
cared for by his brother. Toni must forgive him and come to him at once.

"O Dio!" cried Toni, the tears in his eyes. "Forgive him? Of course I
will forgive him! Come, Antonio, let us write my dear brother a letter
without delay and tell him that our mother is still alive. How should I
like to see his wife and babies!"

So they prepared a long letter which Strollo took to the post-office
himself and mailed. Toni went back to work with joy in his heart and
whistled and sang all day long, and, of course, he wrote all about it to
Nicoletta. He was only waiting for his month to be up before starting.
Then he would go to Yonkers, make Vito a little visit, and return home
to Italy. It would be easy enough, after that, for Vito would send them
money, if necessary, to live upon.

Several letters passed between the brothers, and at the end of the month
Toni drew out his money from the bank, received his wages in full, and
prepared to leave Lambertville. Meantime a letter had come from
Nicoletta telling of his mother's joy at learning that Vito was still
alive.

As Toni had doubts as to his ability to find his way to Yonkers, Strollo
kindly offered to accompany him. Toni had made many friends during his
three-years' stay in Lambertville, and he promised to write to them and
tell them about Vito and his family, so it was agreed that the letter
should be sent to Sabbatto Gizzi, in whose house he had lived, and that
Gizzi should read it to the others. The address was written carefully on
a piece of paper and given to Toni.

So early in the morning of August 16th, 1903, Toni and Strollo took the
train for New York. It was a hot day, and once again the motion and
speed made Toni feel ill, but the thought of seeing Vito buoyed him up,
and by the time they had crossed the ferry and had actually reached New
York he was very hungry. In his excitement he had forgotten to eat any
breakfast and was now beginning to feel faint. But Strollo said it was a
long way to Yonkers and that they must not stop. For many hours they
trudged the streets without getting anywhere and then Strollo said it
was time to take the cars. Toni was very tired, and he had to climb many
flights of stairs to the train. It carried them a long distance, past
miles of tenement houses and vacant lots, and at last into a sort of
country. Strollo said they should get out. It was very hot and Toni was
weak from weariness and lack of food, but his heart was light and he
followed Strollo steadily down the wilting road. After going about a
mile they crossed some fields near where people were playing a game at
hitting little balls with sticks. It was astonishing how far they could
strike the balls--entirely out of sight.

"Is this Yonkers?" asked Toni.

"It is near here," answered Strollo. "We are going by a short way."

They entered some thick woods and came out upon another field. Toni was
now so faint that he begged his friend to stop.

"Can we not get some food?" he inquired; "I can hardly walk."

"There is a man in that field," said Strollo. "Go and ask him."

So Toni plodded over to the man who was digging mushrooms and asked him
in broken English where they could get something to eat. The man told
him that it was a long way. They would have to take the trolley to
Yonkers. There was a restaurant there called the "Promised Land," where
one could get Italian dishes. He seemed to take a kindly interest in
Toni and in Strollo, who had remained some distance behind, and Toni
gave him a cigar--a "Cremo"--the last one he had. Then Strollo led the
way back into the woods.

It was almost sunset, and the long, low beams slanting through the tree
trunks made it hard to see. They went deeper and deeper into the woods.
Presently Strollo, who was leading the way, stopped and said:

"We are going in the wrong direction. We must turn around and go back."

Toni turned. As he did so Strollo drew a long knife and plunged it again
and again through Toni's body.

       *       *       *       *       *

Strollo spent that night, under an assumed name, at the Mills Hotel in
Bleecker Street. He had stabbed himself accidentally in the knee and
also in the left hand in the fury of his attack, and when he arose in
the morning the sheets were covered with blood. There was also blood on
his shoes, which had been new, but he took his knife and scraped it off.
He had experienced a strange sort of terrified exaltation the night
before, and in the early light as he crept downstairs and out of the
hotel he could not have told whether he were more glad or afraid. For he
had three hundred dollars in his pocket, more than he had ever seen at
any one time before--as much as a man could save in two whole years. He
would be a king now for a long time. He need not work. He could eat,
drink and play cards and read some books he had heard about. As for
finding him out--never! The police would not even know who Torsielli
was, to say nothing of who had killed him, for he had removed, as he
thought, everything in Toni's pockets. There would be a dead man in the
morgue, that was all. He could go back to Lambertville and say that he
had left Toni with his brother, at Yonkers, and that would be the end of
it. First, though, he would buy some new clothes.

It was very early and the shops were hardly open, but he found one place
where he could buy a suit, another some underclothes, and a third a pair
of shoes. The shoemaker, who was a thrifty man, asked Strollo what was
the matter with the shoes he had on, so Strollo craftily said they hurt
his feet. Then he ate a hearty breakfast, and bought a better cigar than
he had ever smoked before. There was a bookstore near by and he
purchased some books--"Alto Amore" and "Sua Maestá e Sua Moneta" ("The
Height of Love" and "His Majesty and His Money"). He would read them on
the train. He felt warm and comfortable now and not afraid at all. By
and by he went back on the train to Lambertville and smoked and read all
the way, contented as the tiger is contented which has tracked down and
slain a water-buffalo.

The same afternoon about sunset, in a lonely part of Van Cortlandt Park,
the mushroom digger stumbled over Torsielli's body lying face downward
among the leaves. He recognized it as that of the man who had asked the
way to something to eat and given him a cigar. He ran from the sight
and, pallid with fear, notified the nearest police officer. Then things
took the usual course. The body was removed to the morgue, an autopsy
was performed, and "Headquarters" took charge of the case. As the
deceased was an Italian, Detective Sergeant Petrosini was called in.
Torsielli's pockets were empty save for the band of a "Cremo" cigar in
one waistcoat pocket and a tiny slip of paper in another, on which was
penciled "Sabbatto Gizzi, P.O. Box 239, Lambertville, New Jersey."
Whether this last was the name of the deceased, the murderer, or some
one else, no one knew. Headquarters said it was a blind case, but
Petrosini shrugged his shoulders and bought a ticket to Lambertville.

Here he found Sabbatto Gizzi, who expressed genuine horror at learning
of Toni's death and readily accompanied Petrosini to New York, where he
identified the body as indeed that of Torsielli. He told Petrosini that
Toni had left Lambertville in the company of Strollo on Thursday, August
16th. This was Saturday, August 18th, and less than thirty-six hours
after the murder. Strollo, reading "Alto Amore," and drinking in the
saloon, suspected nothing. New York was seventy miles away--too far for
any harm to come. But Monday morning, walking lazily down the street
near the railroad station, Strollo found himself suddenly confronted by
a heavily-built man with a round, moon-shaped face thickly covered with
pockmarks. Strollo did not like the way the latter's gimlet-like eyes
looked him over. There was no time to turn and fly, and, besides,
Strollo had no fear. They might come and ask him questions, and he might
even admit almost all--_almost_ all, and they could do nothing, for no
one had seen what he had done to Toni in the wood. So Strollo returned
Petrosini's gaze unflinchingly.

"Are you Antonio Strollo?" asked the detective, coming close to the
murderer.

"Yes, certainly, I am Antonio Strollo," replied the latter.

"Do you know Antonio Torsielli?" continued Petrosini.

"To be sure," answered Strollo. "I knew him well," he added almost
insolently.

"Why did you accompany him to New York?" inquired Petrosini sharply.
Strollo paled. He had not known that the police were aware of the fact.

"I had errands in the city. I needed clothes," said Strollo.

"He has been murdered," said Petrosini quietly. "Will you come to New
York to identify the body?"

Strollo hesitated.

"Why--yes--certainly. I will go to New York." Then he added, thinking
that his words seemed insufficient, "I am sorry if Torsielli has been
murdered, for he was a friend of mine."

There was a wait of several hours before the train started for New York
and Strollo utilized it by giving Petrosini a detailed account of his
trip with Torsielli. He took his time about it and thought each
statement over very carefully before he made it, for he was a clever
fellow, this Strollo. He even went into the family history of Torsielli
and explained about the correspondence with the long-lost brother, in
which he acted as amanuensis, for he had come to the conclusion that in
the long run honesty (up to a certain point) would prove the best
policy. Thus he told the detective many things which the latter did not
know or even suspect. Strollo's account of what had happened was briefly
as follows:

He and Toni had reached New York about twelve o'clock and had spent an
hour or so in the neighborhood of Mott Street looking at the parade of
"San Rocco." Then they had started for Yonkers and gone as far as the
terminal of the Second Avenue El. It was about five o'clock in the
afternoon. They had got out and started to walk. As they proceeded they
suddenly had seen a man standing under a tree and Torsielli had said to
Strollo:

"That man standing under that tree looks like my brother."

Strollo had replied:

"You know I am not acquainted with your brother."

As they reached the tree the stranger had stepped forward and said to
Torsielli:

"Who are you?"

"Who? Me? My name is Antonio Torsielli," had been the reply. "Who are
you?"

"I am Vito Torsielli," had answered the stranger. Then the two had
rushed into each other's arms.

"And what did _you_ do?" inquired Petrosini, as Strollo naïvely
concluded this extraordinary story.

"Me?" answered Strollo innocently. "Why, there was nothing for me to do,
so I went back to New York."

Petrosini said nothing, but bided his time. He had now several important
bits of evidence. By Strollo's own account he had been with the deceased
in the general locality of the murder shortly before it occurred; he had
given no adequate explanation of why he was in New York at all; and he
was now fabricating a preposterous falsehood to show that he had left
his victim before the homicide was committed. On the train Petrosini
began to tie up some of the loose ends. He noticed the wound on
Strollo's hand and asked where it had been obtained. The suspect replied
that he had received it at the hands of a drunken man in Mott Street. He
even admitted having stayed at the Mills Hotel the same evening under an
assumed name, and gave as an excuse that his own name was difficult for
an American to pronounce and write. Later, this information led to the
finding of the bloody bedclothes. He denied, however, having changed his
clothes or purchased new ones, and this the detective was obliged to
ferret out for himself, which he did by visiting or causing to be
visited almost every Italian shop upon the East Side. Thus the incident
of the shoes was brought to light.

Strollo was at once taken to the morgue on reaching the city, and here
for the first time his nerve failed him, for he could not bring himself
to inspect the ghastly body of his victim.

"Look," cried Petrosini; "is that the man?"

"Yes, yes," answered the murderer, trembling like a leaf. "That is he."

"You are not looking at him," said the detective. "Why don't you look at
him. Look at the body."

"I _am_ looking at him," replied Strollo, averting his eyes. "That is
he--my friend--Antonio Torsielli."

The prisoner was now taken to Police Headquarters and searched. Here a
letter was found in his hip pocket in his own handwriting purporting to
be from Antonio Torsielli to his brother Vito at Yonkers, but enclosed
_in an envelope addressed to Antonio at Lambertville_.

This envelope bore a red two-cent stamp and was inscribed:

  ANTONIO TORSIELLI, BOX 470,
  Lambertville, New Jersey.

The letter as later translated in court by the interpreter read as
follows:

     LAMBERTVILLE, _July 30, 1905._

     _My dear Brother_:

     Upon receipt of your news I feel very happy to feel you are well,
     and the same I can assure you from me. Dear Brother, you cannot
     believe the joy I feel after such a long time to know where you
     are. I have been looking for you for two years, and never had any
     news from you. I could not, as you wrote to me to, come to you,
     because I had no money, and then I didn't know where to go because
     I have been always in the country. Know that what little money I
     have I sent it to mother, because if I don't help her nobody will,
     as you never write to her. I believe not to abandon her, because
     she is our mother, and we don't want her cursed. So then, if you
     like to see me, you come and take me. You spoke to me about work
     thither, but I don't understand about that work which you say, and
     then what will I do because here I have work, therefore, if you
     think I can come and work with you let me know because I have the
     address. But if you want to do better you come and take me. _Dear
     Brother_, I remind you about our mother, because I don't earn
     enough money, which she is your mother also. DEAR BROTHER, I hope
     you did not forget our mother. Dear Brother, let me know the names
     of your children, and I kiss them. Many regards to your wife and
     Aunt. I beg you to write to me. Dear regards, your brother, Antonio
     Torsielli. When you answer send the answer to the address below,
     Antonio Strollo.

Strollo made no attempt to explain the possession of this letter, which,
if sent at all would naturally have come into the possession of the
addressee.

"And what was Vito's address at Yonkers?" inquired Petrosini.

"1570 Yonkers," answered Strollo.

"Is that the street number of a house or a post-office number?" asked
the detective.

"Neither," said Strollo. "Just 1570 Yonkers."

Thus the infamy of this villain was made manifest. He had invented out
of his own brain the existence of Vito Torsielli in Yonkers, and had
himself written the letters to Antonio which purported to come from him.
He had used the simple fellow's love for his long-lost brother as the
means to lure him to his destruction, and brutally murdered him for the
sake of the few dollars which his innocent victim had worked so hard to
earn to reunite him to his mother and his betrothed.

The wounds in Strollo's hand and knee were found to correspond in shape
and character with the thirty-six wounds in Torsielli's body, and the
mushroom digger unhesitatingly identified him as the man in the company
of the deceased upon the afternoon of the murder.

It almost seemed like the finger of Providence indicating the assassin
when the last necessary piece of evidence in this extraordinary case was
discovered. Petrosini had hurried to Lambertville immediately upon the
discovery of the letter and visited the post-office.

A young lady named Miss Olive Phillips had been employed there as a
clerk for twelve years, and had lately had charge of what are known as
the "call boxes"--that is to say, of boxes to which no keys are issued,
but for the contents of which the lessees have to ask at the delivery
window. These are very inexpensive and in use generally by the Italian
population of Lambertville, who are accustomed to rent them in
common--one box to three or four families. She had noticed Strollo when
he had come for his mail on account of his flashy dress and debonair
demeanor. Strollo's box, she said, was No. 420. Petrosini showed her the
envelope of the letter found in Strollo's pocket. The stamp indicated
that it had been cancelled at _Lambertville_ on July 26. When she saw
the envelope she called Petrosini's attention to the fact that the stamp
was a two-cent red stamp, and said, to his surprise, that she was able
to identify the letter on that account as one _mailed_ by _Strollo_ on
July 26. As there is no local delivery in the town, she explained, "drop
letters," or letters mailed by residents to other residents, may be
franked for one cent. Now, in the first place, no Italian in
Lambertville, except Strollo, so far as Miss Phillips could remember,
had ever mailed a letter to another Italian in the same town. A frugal
Italian, moreover, if he had done so, would have put on only the
required amount of postage. On the 26th of July, Strollo had come to the
post-office and pushed this identical letter through the window, at the
same time handing her two cents and asking her to put on a red stamp for
him. She had been surprised at this, and had at first thought of calling
his attention to the fact that only a one-cent stamp was necessary, but
she had refrained and put on the stamp. At the same time she had noticed
that it was addressed to "Antonio Torsielli, Lambertville, New Jersey."
Strollo had then taken the letter and slipped it into the "drop" and she
had cancelled the stamp, taking the opportunity to examine the letter a
second time. A stranger coincidence could hardly be imagined, and this
observing young lady from the country was thus able to supply the most
important link in the chain against the murderer, and to demonstrate
conclusively that the wretch had himself been mailing in Lambertville
the letters purporting to come from the fictitious brother in Yonkers.

Strollo was now placed in the House of Detention as a "witness," a
course frequently pursued when it is desirable to prevent a suspect from
knowing that he is accused.

The case against him was practically complete, for it did not seem
humanly possible, that any jury would hesitate to convict him upon the
evidence, but juries are loath to find any one guilty of murder in the
first degree upon purely circumstantial evidence, and this was the first
purely circumstantial case in a long time. Inspector Price, therefore,
conceived the idea of trapping Strollo into a confession by placing a
detective in confinement with him under the guise of being a
fellow-prisoner. It was, of course, patent that Strollo was but a child
mentally, but he was shrewd and sly, and if he denied his guilt, there
was still a chance of his escape. Accordingly, a detective named Repetto
was assigned to the disagreeable task of taking the part of an accused
criminal. He was detailed to the House of Detention and remained there
for five days, from September 8 to September 13. Here Repetto became
acquainted with Strollo and the other prisoners, giving his name as
Silvio del Sordo and his address as 272 Bowery. He played cards with
them, read the papers aloud and made himself generally agreeable. During
this period he frequently saw the defendant write and familiarized
himself with his chirography.

The scheme worked and Repetto afterward received five letters from
Strollo, sent after the latter had been removed from the House of
Detention to the Tombs and indicted for the murder of Torsielli. The
first, dated September 22d, was merely to inform his supposed friend
Silvio of the change in his residence and to inquire the whereabouts of
another prisoner named Philip. The second would be pathetic were it not
written by the defendant in the case. It carries with it the flavor of
the Calabrian hills.

     NEW YORK, _October 17, 1905._

     SIR SILVIO:

     I write and believe not to sicken you with my words, but it is
     enough that you are well in health. I take the liberty again not
     having any one else but you, and I believe to find a brother in
     you, not a friend. I ask you nothing, only if you have time to come
     and see me as soon as possible. I ask you this as a favor because I
     know and believe to find a true friend, as I want to ask you a
     certain thing at the cost of my life. I will not say any more.
     Bring me five cents of paper and envelopes to write letters and
     when you come I will give you the money. Nothing else. I am yours
     ever. Servant and

     Perfect friend,

     A STROLLO.

The third letter from the perfect friend to his equally perfect friend
is an extraordinary combination of ingenuity and ignorance. It contains
the only suggestion of a defence--that of an alibi.

     NEW YORK, _October 30, 1905._

     ESTEEMED FRIEND:

     With retard I answer in receiving yours. I was very, very glad. I
     believe all you told me and I am grateful, and hope you will not
     betray me, because you know it will cost the life of a poor
     unfortunate, so do as you told me, keep things to ourselves, if you
     wish to help me you will do me a great service, and if God helps
     me, you can dispose of my life.

     So I will have you called unexpected, saying that I did not know if
     you remembered. So if you are called the first thing you must do is
     to make believe to look at me, and then you say you remember of
     having seen me looking at the pictures in front of place where you
     work, and you asked me if I wanted my pictures taken and I said no.
     If they ask at what time say 5:20 or 5:30 P.M., and that you spoke
     with me for quite awhile. If they ask how was he dressed? The coat
     was black, the shoes russet the Trousers with white stripes which
     is the one I am now wearing; what tie, I don't remember, I only
     know he was well dressed, the hat was brown, if they ask did he
     have a mark on his hand? Say no, he had a ring with a black stone,
     how many times did you see him, say that after your work you were
     going around Mott Street and you saw me again and how it was eight
     o'clock or past eight and you saw me with a handkerchief around my
     hand, and you said to me, why I had my hand so. And he answered
     that some one struck him, I asked if it hurt much, he said he did
     not feel it, did both of you go to drink. No. Where else did
     Strollo go, Strollo said he was going at the Bleecker Street Hotel
     to sleep, did you see him again. No. Nothing else, if you want to
     help me reflect well, but you don't need any more words from me say
     just what I have said and I hope, with faith of a brother not a
     friend, I am ever your Friend,

     A. STROLLO.

It may, and probably will, appear to the reader that a clearer case of
guilt could hardly be established, but the action of juries is always
problematical, and this was a case composed entirely of circumstantial
evidence. The jury would be obliged to find that no reasonable
hypothesis consistent with the innocence of the accused could be
formulated upon the evidence. Thus, even in the face of the facts proven
against him, some "freak" juryman might still have said, "But, after
all, how do you _know_ that Strollo killed him? Some _other_ fellow
might have done it." Even the "faking" of a defence does not prove the
defendant guilty, but merely that he fears conviction, and is ready to
resort to feigned testimony to secure his freedom. Many innocent men
convict themselves in precisely this way.

Accordingly it was by no means with confidence that the People went to
trial, but throughout this remarkable case it seemed as if it must have
been preordained that Strollo should not escape punishment for his
treacherous crime. No defence was possible, not even the partially
prepared alibi was attempted, and the only thing that savored of a
defence was the introduction of a letter alleged to have been received
by the defendant while in the House of Detention, and which, if genuine,
would have apparently established that the crime had been perpetrated by
the "Black Hand."

The offering of this letter was a curious and fatal blunder, for it was
later proven by the People to be in Strollo's own handwriting. It was
his last despairing effort to escape the consequences of his crime.
Headed with a cross drawn in blood it ran as follows:

     I swear upon this cross, which is the blood of my veins, Strollo is
     innocent. I swear upon the cross the revengeful Black Hand could
     save me. New York, Oct. 12, 1905. Sir Strollo, knowing you only by
     name, eight days after that I leave this letter will be sent to
     you. I leave at seven o'clock with the Steamer Britain the Harbor.
     Therefore I leave betraying my oath that I have held for the last
     three years belonging to the Black Hand. I will leave three
     letters, one to you, one to the Police Officer Capri, and the other
     to the law, 300 Mulberry Street. All what I am saying I have sworn
     to before God. Therefore your innocence will be given you, first by
     God and then by the law, capturing the true murders. I am sure that
     they already captured the murderer of Torsielli. Who lured you to
     come to New York was Giuseppi Rosa, who knew you for nearly two
     years, and who comes from Lambertville, came among us and played
     you a trick. He is a Calabrise and has a mighty grudge. He and four
     others are averse to them. Announce the name of the man who stabbed
     you with the knife was Antonio Villa. He had to kill _you_, but
     _you_ was fortunate. He is in jail for the present time and I don't
     know for how long, but I know that he was arrested. Nothing else to
     say. I have done my duty in giving you all the information. 407 2nd
     St., Jersey.

[Illustration: First page of the "Black Hand" letter written by Strollo,
and put in evidence at his trial, placing the murder of Torsielli upon
members of that imaginary secret organization. This letter convicted
him.]

It is clear from the letter that Strollo had formed a vague plan for his
defence, which should, in part, consist of the claim that he, as well
as Torsielli, had been marked for death by the Black Hand, and that
while both had been induced to come to New York, the plans of the
assassins had in his case miscarried.

The reader has already observed that purely for the purpose of securing
his continued interest in the present narrative the writer has, as it
were, told his story backward, reserving as long as possible the fact
that the finding of the beloved Vito was a pure fiction invented by the
murderer. At the trial, however, the jury listened breathlessly while
bit by bit the whole pathetic story was painted before them, like a
mosaic picture. They heard first the story of the mushroom digger, there
of the expedition of Petrosini to Lambertville, of the identification of
Torsielli's body, of the elaborate fabrications of Strollo, and in due
course, of the tell-tale letter in the murderer's pocket. Gradually the
true character of the defendant's crime came over them and they turned
from him in aversion. The natural climax in the evidence was Miss
Phillip's extraordinary identification of the defendant sitting at the
bar as the man who had mailed upon the 26th of July, at the Lambertville
post-office, the envelope purporting to come from Yonkers and containing
the forged letter from the imaginary Vito.

Strollo remained almost to the last confident that he could never be
convicted, but when his own letters in prison were introduced in
evidence he turned ashen pale and stared fixedly at the judge. The jury
deliberated but fifteen minutes, their functions consisting of but a
single ballot, followed by a prayer for the wretched murderer's soul.
Then they filed slowly back and, in the waning light of the summer
afternoon just one year after the murder, and at the precise hour at
which Strollo had killed his victim, pronounced him guilty of murder in
the first degree. In due course his conviction was sustained by the
Court of Appeals, and on March 11th, 1908, he paid the penalty for his
crime in the electric
chair.



THE END




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