Chapter IV. Captured
 

It was settled that Cyril was to take the first watch, and that the Captain should relieve him at one o'clock. At nine, the family went to bed. A quarter of an hour later, Cyril stole noiselessly from his attic down to John Wilkes's room. The door had been left ajar, and the candle was still burning.

"I put a chair by the window," the sailor said, from his bed, "and left the light, for you might run foul of something or other in the dark, though I have left a pretty clear gangway for you."

Cyril blew out the candle, and seated himself at the window. For a time he could see nothing, and told himself that the whole contents of the warehouse might be carried off without his being any the wiser.

"I shall certainly see nothing," he said to himself; "but, at least, I may hear something."

So saying, he turned the fastening of the casement and opened it about half an inch. As his eyes became accustomed to the darkness, he was able to make out the line of the roof of the warehouse, which was some three or four feet below the level of his eyes, and some twenty feet away on his left. The time passed slowly. He kept himself awake by thinking over the old days in France, the lessons he had learnt with his friend, Harry Parton, and the teaching of the old clergyman.

He heard the bell of St. Paul's strike ten and eleven. The last stroke had scarcely ceased to vibrate when he rose to his feet suddenly. He heard, on his left, a scraping noise. A moment later it ceased, and then was renewed again. It lasted but a few seconds; then he heard an irregular, shuffling noise, that seemed to him upon the roof of the warehouse. Pressing his face to the casement, he suddenly became aware that the straight line of the ridge was broken by something moving along it, and a moment later he made out a second object, just behind the first. Moving with the greatest care, he made his way out of the room, half closed the door behind him, crossed the passage, and pushed at a door opposite.

"Captain Dave," he said, in a low voice, "get up at once, and please don't make a noise."

"Ay, ay, lad."

There was a movement from the bed, and a moment later the Captain stood beside him.

"What is it, lad?" he whispered.

"There are two figures moving along on the ridge of the roof of the warehouse. I think it is the apprentices. I heard a slight noise, as if they were letting themselves down from their window by a rope. It is just over that roof, you know."

There was a rustling sound as the Captain slipped his doublet on.

"That is so. The young scoundrels! What can they be doing on the roof?"

They went to the window behind. Just as they reached it there was a vivid flash of lightning. It sufficed to show them a figure lying at full length at the farther end of the roof; then all was dark again, and a second or two later came a sharp, crashing roar of thunder.

"We had better stand well back from the window," Cyril whispered. "Another flash might show us to anyone looking this way."

"What does it mean, lad? What on earth is that boy doing there? I could not see which it was."

"I think it is Ashford," Cyril said. "The figure in front seemed the smaller of the two."

"But where on earth can Tom have got to?"

"I should fancy, sir, that Robert has lowered him so that he can get his feet on the crane and swing it outwards; then he might sit down on it and swing himself by the rope into the loft if the doors are not fastened inside. Robert, being taller, would have no difficulty in lowering himself--There!" he broke off, as another flash of lightning lit up the sky. "He has gone, now; there is no one on the roof."

John Wilkes was by this time standing beside them, having started up at the first flash of lightning.

"Do you go up, John, into their room," the Captain said. "I think there can be no doubt that these fellows on the roof are Ashford and Frost, but it is as well to be able to swear to it."

The foreman returned in a minute or two.

"The room is empty, Captain; the window is open, and there is a rope hanging down from it. Shall I cast it adrift?"

"Certainly not, John. We do not mean to take them tonight, and they must be allowed to go back to their beds without a suspicion that they have been watched. I hope and trust that it is not so bad as it looks, and that the boys have only broken out from devilry. You know, boys will do things of that sort just because it is forbidden."

"There must be more than that," John Wilkes said. "If it had been just after they went to their rooms, it might be that they went to some tavern or other low resort, but the town is all asleep now."

They again went close to the window, pushed the casement a little more open, and stood listening there. In two or three minutes there was a very slight sound heard.

"They are unbolting the door into the yard," John Wilkes whispered. "I would give a month's pay to be behind them with a rope's end."

Half a minute later there was a sudden gleam of light below, and they could see the door open. The light disappeared again, but they heard footsteps; then they saw the light thrown on the fastening to the outer gate, and could make out that two figures below were applying a key to the padlock. This was taken off and laid down; then the heavy wooden bar was lifted, and also laid on the ground. The gate opened as if pushed from the other side. The two figures went out; the sound of a low murmur of conversation could be heard; then they returned, the gate was closed and fastened again, they entered the warehouse, the light disappeared, and the door was closed.

"That's how the things went, John."

"Ay, ay, sir," the foreman growled.

"As they were undoing the gate, the light fell on a coil of rope they had set down there, and a bag which I guess had copper of some kind in it. They have done us cleverly, the young villains! There was not noise enough to wake a cat. They must have had every bolt and hinge well oiled."

"We had better close the casement now, sir, for as they come back along the ridge they will be facing it, and if a flash of lightning came they would see that it was half open, and even if they did not catch sight of our faces they would think it suspicious that the window should be open, and it might put them on their guard."

"Yes; and we may as well turn in at once, John. Like enough when they get back they will listen for a bit at their door, so as to make sure that everything is quiet before they turn in. There is nothing more to see now. Of course they will get in as they got out. You had better turn in as you are, Cyril; they may listen at your door."

Cyril at once went up to his room, closed the door, placed a chair against it, and then lay down on his bed. He listened intently, and four or five minutes later thought that he heard a door open; but he could not be sure, for just at that moment heavy drops began to patter down upon the tiles. The noise rose louder and louder until he could scarce have heard himself speak. Then there was a bright flash and the deep rumble of the thunder mingled with the sharp rattle of the raindrops overhead. He listened for a time to the storm, and then dropped off to sleep.

Things went on as usual at breakfast the next morning. During the meal, Captain Dave gave the foreman several instructions as to the morning's work.

"I am going on board the Royalist," he said. "John Browning wants me to overhaul all the gear, and see what will do for another voyage or two, and what must be new. His skipper asked for new running rigging all over, but he thinks that there can't be any occasion for its all being renewed. I don't expect I shall be in till dinner-time, so anyone that wants to see me must come again in the afternoon."

Ten minutes later, Cyril went out, on his way to his work. Captain Dave was standing a few doors away.

"Before I go on board the brig, lad, I am going up to the Chief Constable's to arrange about this business. I want to get four men of the watch. Of course, it may be some nights before this is tried again, so I shall have the men stowed away in the kitchen. Then we must keep watch, and as soon as we see those young villains on the roof, we will let the men out at the front door. Two will post themselves this end of the lane, and two go round into Leadenhall Street and station themselves at the other end. When the boys go out after supper we will unlock the door at the bottom of the stairs into the shop, and the door into the warehouse. Then we will steal down into the shop and listen there until we hear them open the door into the yard, and then go into the warehouse and be ready to make a rush out as soon as they get the gate open. John will have his boatswain's whistle ready, and will give the signal. That will bring the watch up, so they will be caught in a trap."

"I should think that would be a very good plan, Captain Dave, though I wish that it could have been done without Tom Frost being taken. He is a timid sort of boy, and I have no doubt that he has been entirely under the thumb of Robert."

"Well, if he has he will get off lightly," the Captain said. "Even if a boy is a timid boy, he knows what will be the consequences if he is caught robbing his master. Cowardice is no excuse for crime, lad. The boys have always been well treated, and though I dare say Ashford is the worst of the two, if the other had been honest he would not have seen him robbing me without letting me know."

For six nights watch was kept without success. Every evening, when the family and apprentices had retired to rest, John Wilkes went quietly downstairs and admitted the four constables, letting them out in the morning before anyone was astir. Mrs. Dowsett had been taken into her husband's confidence so far as to know that he had discovered he had been robbed, and was keeping a watch for the thieves. She was not told that the apprentices were concerned in the matter, for Captain Dave felt sure that, however much she might try to conceal it, Robert Ashford would perceive, by her looks, that something was wrong.

Nellie was told a day or two later, for, although ignorant of her father's nightly watchings, she was conscious from his manner, and that of her mother, that something was amiss, and was so persistent in her inquiries, that the Captain consented to her mother telling her that he had a suspicion he was being robbed, and warning her that it was essential that the subject must not be in any way alluded to.

"Your father is worrying over it a good deal, Nellie, and it is better that he should not perceive that you are aware of it. Just let things go on as they were."

"Is the loss serious, mother?"

"Yes; he thinks that a good deal of money has gone. I don't think he minds that so much as the fact that, so far, he doesn't know who the people most concerned in it may be. He has some sort of suspicion in one quarter, but has no clue whatever to the men most to blame."

"Does Cyril know anything about it?" Nellie asked suddenly.

"Yes, he knows, my dear; indeed, it was owing to his cleverness that your father first came to have suspicions."

"Oh! that explains it," Nellie said. "He had been talking to father, and I asked what it was about and he would not tell me, and I have been very angry with him ever since."

"I have noticed that you have been behaving very foolishly," Mrs. Dowsett said quietly, "and that for the last week you have been taking Robert with you as an escort when you went out of an evening. I suppose you did that to annoy Cyril, but I don't think that he minded much."

"I don't think he did, mother," Nellie agreed, with a laugh which betrayed a certain amount of irritation. "I saw that he smiled, two or three evenings back, when I told Robert at supper that I wanted him to go out with me, and I was rarely angry, I can tell you."

Cyril had indeed troubled himself in no way about Nellie's coolness; but when she had so pointedly asked Robert to go with her, he had been amused at the thought of how greatly she would be mortified, when Robert was haled up to the Guildhall for robbing her father, at the thought that he had been accompanying her as an escort.

"I rather hope this will be our last watch, Captain Dave," he said, on the seventh evening.

"Why do you hope so specially to-night, lad?"

"Of course I have been hoping so every night. But I think it is likely that the men who take the goods come regularly once a week; for in that case there would be no occasion for them to meet at other times to arrange on what night they should be in the lane."

"Yes, that is like enough, Cyril; and the hour will probably be the same, too. John and I will share your watch to-night, so as to be ready to get the men off without loss of time."

Cyril had always taken the first watch, which was from half-past nine till twelve. The Captain and Wilkes had taken the other watches by turns.

As before, just as the bell finished striking eleven, the three watchers again heard through the slightly open casement the scraping noise on the left. It had been agreed that they should not move, lest the sound should be heard outside. Each grasped the stout cudgel he held in his hand, and gazed at the roof of the warehouse, which could now be plainly seen, for the moon was half full and the sky was clear. As before, the two figures went along, and this time they could clearly recognise them. They were both sitting astride of the ridge tiles, and moved themselves along by means of their hands. They waited until they saw one after the other disappear at the end of the roof, and then John Wilkes quietly stole downstairs. The four constables had been warned to be specially wakeful.

"They are at it again to-night," John said to them, as he entered. "Now, do you two who go round into Leadenhall Street start at once, but don't take your post at the end of the lane for another five or six minutes. The thieves outside may not have come up at present. As you go out, leave the door ajar; in five minutes you others should stand ready. Don't go to the corner, but wait in the doorway below until you hear the whistle. They will be only fifteen or twenty yards up the lane, and would see you if you took up your station at the corner; but the moment you hear the whistle, rush out and have at them. We shall be there before you will."

John went down with the last two men, entered the shop, and stood there waiting until he should be joined by his master. The latter and Cyril remained at the window until they saw the door of the warehouse open, and then hurried downstairs. Both were in their stockinged feet, so that their movements should be noiseless.

"Come on, John; they are in the yard," the Captain whispered; and they entered the warehouse and went noiselessly on, until they stood at the door. The process of unbarring the gate was nearly accomplished. As it swung open, John Wilkes put his whistle to his lips and blew a loud, shrill call, and the three rushed forward. There was a shout of alarm, a fierce imprecation, and three of the four figures at the gate sprang at them. Scarce a blow had been struck when the two constables ran up and joined in the fray. Two men fought stoutly, but were soon overpowered. Robert Ashford, knife in hand, had attacked John Wilkes with fury, and would have stabbed him, as his attention was engaged upon one of the men outside, had not Cyril brought his cudgel down sharply on his knuckles, when, with a yell of pain, he dropped the knife and fled up the lane. He had gone but a short distance, however, when he fell into the hands of the two constables, who were running towards him. One of them promptly knocked him down with his cudgel, and then proceeded to bind his hands behind him, while the other ran on to join in the fray. It was over before he got there, and his comrades were engaged in binding the two robbers. Tom Frost had taken no part in the fight. He stood looking on, paralysed with terror, and when the two men were overpowered he fell on his knees beseeching his master to have mercy on him.

"It is too late, Tom," the Captain said. "You have been robbing me for months, and now you have been caught in the act you will have to take your share in the punishment. You are a prisoner of the constables here, and not of mine, and even if I were willing to let you go, they would have their say in the matter. Still, if you make a clean breast of what you know about it, I will do all I can to get you off lightly; and seeing that you are but a boy, and have been, perhaps, led into this, they will not be disposed to be hard on you. Pick up that lantern and bring it here, John; let us see what plunder, they were making off with."

There was no rope this time, but a bag containing some fifty pounds' weight of brass and copper fittings. One of the constables took possession of this.

"You had better come along with us to the Bridewell, Master Dowsett, to sign the charge sheet, though I don't know whether it is altogether needful, seeing that we have caught them in the act; and you will all three have to be at the Court to-morrow at ten o'clock."

"I will go with you," the Captain said; "but I will first slip in and put my shoes on; I brought them down in my hand and shall be ready in a minute. You may as well lock up this gate again, John. I will go out through the front door and join them in the lane." As he went into the house, John Wilkes closed the gate and put up the bar, then took up the lantern and said to Cyril,--

"Well, Master Cyril, this has been a good night's work, and mighty thankful I am that we have caught the pirates. It was a good day for us all when you came to the Captain, or they might have gone on robbing him till the time came that there was nothing more to rob; and I should never have held up my head again, for though the Captain would never believe that I had had a hand in bringing him to ruin, other people would not have thought so, and I might never have got a chance of proving my innocence. Now we will just go to the end of the yard and see if they did manage to get into the warehouse by means of that crane, as you thought they did."

They found that the crane had been swung out just far enough to afford a foot-hold to those lowering themselves on to it from the roof. The door of the loft stood open.

"Just as you said. You could not have been righter, not if you had seen them at it. And now I reckon we may as well lock up the place again, and turn in. The Captain has got the key of the front door, and we will leave the lantern burning at the bottom of the stairs."

Cyril got up as soon as he heard a movement in the house, and went down to the shop, which had been already opened by John Wilkes.

"It seems quiet here, without the apprentices, John. Is there any way in which I can help?"

"No, thank you, sir. We shan't be moving the goods about till after breakfast, and then, no doubt, the Captain will get an extra man in to help me. I reckon he will have to get a neighbour in to give an eye to the place while we are all away at the Court."

"I see there is the rope still hanging from their window," Cyril said, as he went out into the yard.

"I thought it best to leave it there," John Wilkes replied, "and I ain't been up into the loft either. It is best to leave matters just as they were. Like enough, they will send an officer down from the Court to look at them."

When the family assembled at breakfast, Mrs. Dowsett was looking very grave. The Captain, on the other hand, was in capital spirits. Nellie, as usual, was somewhat late.

"Where is everybody?" she asked in surprise, seeing that Cyril alone was in his place with her father and mother.

"John Wilkes is downstairs, looking after the shop, and will come up and have his breakfast when we have done," her father replied.

"Are both the apprentices out, then?" she asked.

"The apprentices are in limbo," the Captain said grimly.

"In limbo, father! What does that mean?"

"It means that they are in gaol, my dear."

Nellie put down the knife and fork that she had just taken up.

"Are you joking, father?"

"Very far from it, my dear; it is no joke to any of us--certainly not to me, and not to Robert Ashford, or Tom Frost. They have been robbing me for the last year, and, for aught I know, before that. If it had not been for Master Cyril it would not have been very long before I should have had to put my shutters up."

"But how could they rob you, father?"

"By stealing my goods, and selling them, Nellie. The way they did it was to lower themselves by a rope from their window on to the roof of the warehouse, and to get down at the other end on to the crane, and then into the loft. Then they went down and took what they had a fancy to, undid the door, and went into the yard, and then handed over their booty to the fellows waiting at the gate for it. Last night we caught them at it, after having been on the watch for ten days."

"That is what I heard last night, then," she said. "I was woke by a loud whistle, and then I heard a sound of quarrelling and fighting in the lane. I thought it was some roysterers going home late. Oh, father, it is dreadful to think of! And what will they do to them?"

"It is a hanging matter," the Captain said; "it is not only theft, but mutiny. No doubt the judges will take a lenient view of Tom Frost's case, both on the ground of his youth, and because, no doubt, he was influenced by Ashford; but I would not give much for Robert's chances. No doubt it will be a blow to you, Nellie, for you seem to have taken to him mightily of late."

Nellie was about to give an emphatic contradiction, but as she remembered how pointedly she had asked for his escort during the last few days, she flushed up, and was silent.

"It is terrible to think of," she said, after a pause. "I suppose this is what you and Cyril were consulting about, father. I have to ask your pardon, Master Cyril, for my rudeness to you; but of course I did not think it was anything of consequence, or that you could not have told me if you had wished to do so."

"You need not beg my pardon, Mistress Nellie. No doubt you thought it churlish on my part to refuse to gratify your curiosity, and I am not surprised that you took offence. I knew that when you learned how important it was to keep silence over the matter, that you would acquit me of the intention of making a mystery about nothing."

"I suppose you knew, mother?" Nellie asked.

"I knew that your father believed that he was being robbed, Nellie, and that he was keeping watch for some hours every night, but I did not know that he suspected the apprentices. I am glad that we did not, for assuredly we should have found it very hard to school our faces so that they should not guess that aught was wrong."

"That was why we said nothing about it, Nellie. It has been as much as I have been able to do to sit at table, and talk in the shop as usual, with boys I knew were robbing me; and I know honest John Wilkes must have felt it still more. But till a week ago we would not believe that they had a hand in the matter. It is seven nights since Cyril caught them creeping along the roof, and called me to the window in John Wilkes's room, whence he was watching the yard, not thinking the enemy was in the house."

"And how did you come to suspect that robbery was going on, Cyril?"

"Simply because, on making up the books, I found there was a great deficiency in the stores."

"That is what he was doing when he was sitting up at night, after you were in bed, Miss Nellie," her father said. "You may thank your stars that he took a berth in this ship, for the scoundrels would have foundered her to a certainty, if he had not done so. I tell you, child, he has saved this craft from going to the bottom. I have not said much to him about it, but he knows that I don't feel it any the less."

"And who were the other men who were taken, father?"

"That I can't tell you, Nellie. I went to the Bridewell with them, and as soon as I saw them safely lodged there I came home. They will be had up before the Lord Mayor this morning, and then I dare say I shall know all about them. Now I must go and take my watch below, and let John Wilkes come off duty."

"Why, John, what is the matter?" Mrs. Dowsett said, when the foreman entered.

"Nothing worth speaking of, Mistress. I got a clip over the eye from one of the pirates we were capturing. The thing mattered nothing, one way or the other, but it might have cost me my life, because, for a moment, it pretty well dazed me. That young villain, Bob, was just coming at me with his knife, and I reckon it would have gone hard with me if Master Cyril here hadn't, just in the nick of time, brought his stick down on Robert's knuckles, and that so sharply that the fellow dropped his knife with a yell, and took to his heels, only to fall into the hands of two of the watch coming from the other end of the lane. You did me a good turn, lad, and if ever I get the chance of ranging up alongside of you in a fray, you may trust me to return it."

He held out his hand to Cyril, and gave a warm grip to the hand the latter laid in it.

"It is a rum start, Mistress," John went on, as he sat down to his meal, "that two old hands like the Captain and I were sailing on, not dreaming of hidden rocks or sand-banks, when this lad, who I used to look upon as a young cockerel who was rather above his position, should come forward and have saved us all from shipwreck."

"It is indeed, John," his mistress said earnestly, "and I thank God indeed that He put the thought into the minds of Captain Dave and myself to ask him to take up his abode with us. It seemed to us then that we were doing a little kindness that would cost us nothing, whereas it has turned out the saving of us."

"Dear, dear!" Nellie, who had been sitting with a frown on her pretty face, said pettishly. "What a talk there will be about it all, and how Jane Greenwood and Martha Stebbings and the rest of them will laugh at me! They used to say they wondered how I could go about with such an ugly wretch behind me, and of course I spoke up for him and said that he was an honest knave and faithful; and now it turns out that he is a villain and a robber. I shall never hear the last of him."

"You will get over that, Nellie," her mother said severely. "It would be much better if, instead of thinking of such trifles, you would consider how sad a thing it is that two lads should lose their character, and perhaps their lives, simply for their greed of other people's goods. I could cry when I think of it. I know that Robert Ashford has neither father nor mother to grieve about him, for my husband's father took him out of sheer charity; but Tom's parents are living, and it will be heart-breaking indeed to them when they hear of their son's misdoings."

"I trust that Captain Dave will get him off," Cyril said. "As he is so young he may turn King's evidence, and I feel sure that he did not go willingly into the affair. I have noticed many times that he had a frightened look, as if he had something on his mind. I believe that he acted under fear of the other."

As soon as John Wilkes had finished his breakfast he went with Captain Dave and Cyril to the Magistrates' Court at the Guildhall. Some other cases were first heard, and then the apprentices, with the two men who had been captured in the lane, were brought in and placed in the dock. The men bore marks that showed they had been engaged in a severe struggle, and that the watch had used their staves with effect. One was an elderly man with shaggy grey eyebrows; the other was a very powerfully built fellow, who seemed, from his attire, to follow the profession of a sailor. Tom Frost was sobbing bitterly. One of Robert Ashford's hands was bandaged up. As he was placed in the dock he cast furtive glances round with his shifty eyes, and as they fell upon Cyril an expression of deadly hate came over his face. The men of the watch who had captured them first gave their evidence as to finding them in the act of robbery, and testified to the desperate resistance they had offered to capture. Captain Dave then entered the witness-box, and swore first to the goods that were found on them being his property, and then related how, it having come to his knowledge that he was being robbed, he had set a watch, and had, eight days previously, seen his two apprentices getting along the roof, and how they had come out from the warehouse door, had opened the outer gate, and had handed over some goods they had brought out to persons unknown waiting to receive them.

"Why did you not stop them in their commission of the theft?" the Alderman in the Chair asked.

"Because, sir, had I done so, the men I considered to be the chief criminals, and who had doubtless tempted my apprentices to rob me, would then have made off. Therefore, I thought it better to wait until I could lay hands on them also, and so got four men of the watch to remain in the house at night."

Then he went on to relate how, after watching seven nights, he had again seen the apprentices make their way along the roof, and how they and the receivers of their booty were taken by the watch, aided by himself, his foreman, and Master Cyril Shenstone, who was dwelling in his house.

After John Wilkes had given his evidence, Cyril went into the box and related how, being engaged by Captain David Dowsett to make up his books, he found, upon stock being taken, that there was a deficiency to the amount of many hundreds of pounds in certain stores, notably such as were valuable without being bulky.

"Is anything known as to the prisoners?" the magistrate asked the officer of the city watch in charge of the case.

"Nothing is known of the two boys, your honour; but the men are well known. The elder, who gave the name of Peter Johnson, is one Joseph Marner; he keeps a marine shop close to the Tower. For a long time he has been suspected of being a receiver of stolen goods, but we have never been able to lay finger on him before. The other man has, for the last year, acted as his assistant in the shop; he answers closely to the description of a man, Ephraim Fowler, who has long been wanted. This man was a seaman in a brig trading to Yarmouth. After an altercation with the captain he stabbed him, and then slew the mate who was coming to his assistance; then with threats he compelled the other two men on board to let him take the boat. When they were off Brightlingsea he rowed away, and has not been heard of since. If you will remand them, before he comes up again I hope to find the men who were on board, and see if they identify him. We are in possession of Joseph Marner's shop, and have found large quantities of goods that we have reason to believe are the proceeds of these and other robberies."

After the prisoners had left the dock, Captain Dave went up to the officer.

"I believe," he said, "that the boy has not voluntarily taken part in these robberies, but has been led away, or perhaps obliged by threats to take part in them; he may be able to give you some assistance, for maybe these men are not the only persons to whom the stolen goods have been sold, and he may be able to put you on the track of other receivers."

"The matter is out of my hands now," the officer said, "but I will represent what you say in the proper quarter; and now you had better come round with me; you may be able to pick out some of your property. We only made a seizure of the place an hour ago. I had all the men who came in on duty this morning to take a look at the prisoners. Fortunately two or three of them recognised Marner, and you may guess we lost no time in getting a search warrant and going down to his place. It is the most important capture we have made for some time, and may lead to the discovery of other robberies that have been puzzling us for months past. There is a gang known as the Black Gang, but we have never been able to lay hands on any of their leaders, and such fellows as have been captured have refused to say a word, and have denied all knowledge of it. There have been a number of robberies of a mysterious kind, none of which have we been able to trace, and they have been put down to the same gang. The Chief Constable is waiting for me there, and we shall make a thorough search of the premises, and it is like enough we shall come across some clue of importance. At any rate, if we can find some of the articles stolen in the robberies I am speaking of, it will be a strong proof that Marner is one of the chiefs of the gang, and that may lead to further discoveries."

"You had better come with us, John," Captain Dave said. "You know our goods better than I do myself. Will you come, Cyril?"

"I should be of no use in identifying the goods, sir, and I am due in half an hour at one of my shops."

The search was an exhaustive one. There was no appearance of an underground cellar, but on some of the boards of the shop being taken up, it was found that there was a large one extending over the whole house. This contained an immense variety of goods. In one corner was a pile of copper bolts that Captain Dave and John were able to claim at once, as they bore the brand of the maker from whom they obtained their stock. There were boxes of copper and brass ship and house fittings, and a very large quantity of rope, principally of the sizes in which the stock had been found deficient; but to these Captain Dave was unable to swear. In addition to these articles the cellar contained a number of chests, all of which were found to be filled with miscellaneous articles of wearing apparel--rolls of silk, velvet, cloth, and other materials--curtains, watches, clocks, ornaments of all kinds, and a considerable amount of plate. As among these were many articles which answered to the descriptions given of goods that had been stolen from country houses, the whole were impounded by the Chief Constable, and carried away in carts. The upper part of the house was carefully searched, the walls tapped, wainscotting pulled down, and the floors carefully examined. Several hiding-places were found, but nothing of any importance discovered in them.

"I should advise you," the Chief Constable said to Captain Dave, "to put in a claim for every article corresponding with those you have lost. Of course, if anyone else comes forward and also puts in a claim, the matter will have to be gone into, and if neither of you can absolutely swear to the things, I suppose you will have to settle it somehow between you. If no one else claims them, you will get them all without question, for you can swear that, to the best of your knowledge and belief, they are yours, and bring samples of your own goods to show that they exactly correspond with them. I have no doubt that a good deal of the readily saleable stuff, such as ropes, brass sheaves for blocks, and things of that sort, will have been sold, but as it is clear that there is a good deal of your stuff in the stock found below, I hope your loss will not be very great. There is no doubt it has been a splendid find for us. It is likely enough that we shall discover among those boxes goods that have been obtained from a score of robberies in London, and likely enough in the country. We have arrested three men we found in the place, and two women, and may get from some of them information that will enable us to lay hands on some of the others concerned in these robberies."