15. Three ‘Detective’ Anecdotes

by Charles Dickens

I. — THE PAIR OF GLOVES

‘IT’S a singler story, sir,’ said Inspector Wield, of the Detective Police, who, in company with Sergeants Dornton and Mith, paid us another twilight visit, one July evening; ‘and I’ve been thinking you might like to know it.

‘It’s concerning the murder of the young woman, Eliza Grimwood, some years ago, over in the Waterloo Road. She was commonly called The Countess, because of her handsome appearance and her proud way of carrying of herself; and when I saw the poor Countess (I had known her well to speak to), lying dead, with her throat cut, on the floor of her bedroom, you’ll believe me that a variety of reflections calculated to make a man rather low in his spirits, came into my head.

‘That’s neither here nor there. I went to the house the morning after the murder, and examined the body, and made a general observation of the bedroom where it was. Turning down the pillow of the bed with my hand, I found, underneath it, a pair of gloves. A pair of gentleman’s dress gloves, very dirty; and inside the lining, the letters TR, and a cross.

‘Well, sir, I took them gloves away, and I showed ’em to the magistrate, over at Union Hall, before whom the case was. He says, “Wield,” he says, “there’s no doubt this is a discovery that may lead to something very important; and what you have got to do, Wield, is, to find out the owner of these gloves.”

‘I was of the same opinion, of course, and I went at it immediately. I looked at the gloves pretty narrowly, and it was my opinion that they had been cleaned. There was a smell of sulphur and rosin about ’em, you know, which cleaned gloves usually have, more or less. I took ’em over to a friend of mine at Kennington, who was in that line, and I put it to him. “What do you say now? Have these gloves been cleaned?” “These gloves have been cleaned,” says he. “Have you any idea who cleaned them?” says I. “Not at all,” says he; “I’ve a very distinct idea who DIDN’T clean ’em, and that’s myself. But I’ll tell you what, Wield, there ain’t above eight or nine reg’lar glove-cleaners in London,” — there were not, at that time, it seems — “and I think I can give you their addresses, and you may find out, by that means, who did clean ’em.” Accordingly, he gave me the directions, and I went here, and I went there, and I looked up this man, and I looked up that man; but, though they all agreed that the gloves had been cleaned, I couldn’t find the man, woman, or child, that had cleaned that aforesaid pair of gloves.

‘What with this person not being at home, and that person being expected home in the afternoon, and so forth, the inquiry took me three days. On the evening of the third day, coming over Waterloo Bridge from the Surrey side of the river, quite beat, and very much vexed and disappointed, I thought I’d have a shilling’s worth of entertainment at the Lyceum Theatre to freshen myself up. So I went into the Pit, at half-price, and I sat myself down next to a very quiet, modest sort of young man. Seeing I was a stranger (which I thought it just as well to appear to be) he told me the names of the actors on the stage, and we got into conversation. When the play was over, we came out together, and I said, “We’ve been very companionable and agreeable, and perhaps you wouldn’t object to a drain?” “Well, you’re very good,” says he; “I SHOULDN’T object to a drain.” Accordingly, we went to a public-house, near the Theatre, sat ourselves down in a quiet room up-stairs on the first floor, and called for a pint of half-and-half, apiece, and a pipe.

‘Well, sir, we put our pipes aboard, and we drank our half-and-half, and sat a-talking, very sociably, when the young man says, “You must excuse me stopping very long,” he says, “because I’m forced to go home in good time. I must be at work all night.” “At work all night?” says I. “You ain’t a baker?” “No,” he says, laughing, “I ain’t a baker.” “I thought not,” says I, “you haven’t the looks of a baker.” “No,” says he, “I’m a glove-cleaner.”

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