The Theft of the Honan Ruby
The Third of the Porter Series
T. B. COSTAIN
A SINGULAR degree of interest attached to the ball of the Purdon-Hutt’s. After amassing a fortune in real estate James Purdon-Hutt had settled in the capital to give his better half an opportunity to realize an insatiable ambition for social distinction. Considerable progress toward the desired goal had been made by means of lavish entertainments, but Mrs. Purdon-Hutt had still a long climb ahead of her when Wade Alberson arrived at the capital. Alberson was an Englishman of good parts, who had knocked around the world for twenty years or more and had managed in that time to find his way into all
the most inaccessible corners of the globe. He had seen strange sights within the walls of Lhassa, the Forbidden City, had hunted with a native king in the heart of Borneo, and had been driven out of India as the result of a raid on a native temple. He was of good family, but of doubtful antecedents. And when he reached Canada, he had in his possession a ruby of unusual size, which he valued at a figure with four ciphers.
How he had obtained the Honan ruby, which was the appellation by which it became known, was a matter he did not seem inclined to explain. He was on his way home to find a market for it, but in
passing through Ottawa met James Purdon-Hutt, and found a purchaser.
The sale of the Honan ruby was announced a few days previous to the date of the Purdon-Hutt ball, and interest in that event went up several degrees. The interest became intensified when the new owner of the ruby gave it out that his guests would be allowed a glimpse of the famous stone on the night of the ball; for the season then drawing to a close had been marked by a series of mysterious robberies. At nearly every smart social function one or more of the guests had been robbed of jewelry, and the thief had been clever enough to completely de-
fy detection. Purdon-Hutt’s announcement, therefore, had all the effrontery of a direct challenge to the unknown depredator—for what ambitious cracksman could resist a chance for “big game” such as the Honan ruby?
As Peregrine Porter was shown into the reception room, a well-dressed man of about thirty, with a close-clipped reddish mustache and a shrewd and rather handsome face, passed him on his way out. He nodded in an off-hand way to the journalist.
“Good day, Mr. Philip Manly Tredham,” said Porter.
Tredham noted the slightly ironic tone of the greeting and gave a sharp glance back over his shoulder. He did not stop, however.
“It would seem from your tone that you do not approve of Mr. Tredham,” said Mrs. Vardon, coming forward to
meet her caller. “Why, may I ask?”
“My reason may possibly only serve to enhance the value of his acquaintance in your eyes,” said Porter, taking the hand she had extended and holding it just a trifle longer than the conventions allow. “Your friend, dear Mrs. Vardon, is a thief.”
“How splendid!” exclaimed Mrs. Vardon, ensconcing herself on a couch heaped high with pillows where she made, as Porter was quick to appreciate, the most charming picture imaginable. “There
have been so few interesting men in town recently.”
“I imagine the past of Philip Manly Tredham, if exhumed, would provide plenty of interest,” said Porter, seating himself where he could command the best view of his pretty hostess. “But I don’t know anything about his past: Pm only concerned with his present and future.”
“But do you really know anything to prove that he is what you suggest?” she asked, in a more serious
“I have no absolute proof,” replied Porter, “But I am ready to stake anything that this Tredham is the mysterious
Raffles who has so successfully raided all the best houses in Ottawa during the past season. There have been things, of course, which point to him, and back of that has been a certain amount of intuition on my part. I unconsciously felt for my watch the first time I saw the fellow.”
“There is something fascinating about him,” said Mrs. Vardon, leaning forward excitedly and clasping her hands about her knees. “But now that you’ve started, you simply must go on and tell all about him. Do the police know?”
“An unnecessary question. Of course not,” replied Porter. “I intended to tell you all abo-' this Tredham business this
afternoon, even if I had not met him here. The fact is I came on purpose to tell you. I want your assistance.”
Mrs. Vardon was the centre around which the most exclusive little coterie in the capital rotated. Married to a wealthy manufacturer when a mere girl, she had been left a widow at the age of twenty-four with a substantial fortune to which no legal strings were attached. Beautiful, with the black hair and spark-
ling dark eyes which exercise so powerful an appeal, she had the still more potent quality of vivacity carried almost to the point of brilliance. It soon came about that the drawingroom of Mrs. Vardon w as the gathering place of the most interesting people in the capital. Parliamentarians, often a cabinet minister or two, artists, writers, wits in all walks of life, were always to be found there. Mrs. Vartlon’s ambition was to establish a rival for the famed salons of French history and she was succeeding to such an extent that to have the entree was a guarantee of one’s mental eligibility if not necessarily of one’s social standing. Porter was an habitue and reputed to stand high in the favor of the young widow.
“I’ve been interested in studying this series of robberies,” began Porter. “The fact that they’ve all happened during some social event or other points strongly
to their being the work of a gentleman burglar, an incredibly clever Raffles. It happens that three men have been present on every occasion when jewels have been stolen. Two of the three are so obviously above suspicion that I need not mention them. The third is Philip Manly Tredham.
“I became so convinced that this smooth customer from across the seas was at the bottom of it that a week ago I took it on myself to watch him. Don’t know as it was my business exactly, not being a policeman, but the unvarying success that the beggar scored piqued me. I felt I wanted to prove myself a match for him. And beside I needed exercise, badly.
“Well, I got the exercise alright. For a whole week I dogged him and he certainly did make me work. I used half-adozen different disguises, even descending to the level of a red beard and false eyebrows. I’ve rather a knack for that sort of thing so Tredham doesn’t suspect yet that he has been under surveillance.
“Two nights ago he made his first false move. About seven o’clock he left his apartments and walked slowly along a side street. A rough-looking tramp stepped up to him with his hand outstretched. Tredham put something, presumably a coin into his hand, and walked on without a word, but I could have sworn that in taking the money, the tramp shoved a note into Tredham’s hand. I got a good look at the beggar afterward — a dwarfed figure of a man who somehow or other gave me an impression of almost inhuman strength.
Last evening Tredham sallied out at the same hour and at the identical spot dropped a coin into the hands of a tramp—the same tramp. Whoever this dwarfish beggar is, he and Tredham are up to something.”
“Really, this is most exciting,” exclaimed Mrs. Vardon. “What do you suppose they are plotting? To rob Government House or to raid the Mint?”
“I think they are getting up an added feature for the Purdon-Hutt ball tonight,” said Porter. “They’re after that ruby. And here is where you can help me. You haven’t been wearing your pearl necklace since the robbery scare started. Would you wear a duplicate string to-night if I obtained an imitation set for you?”
Mrs. Vardon thought for a moment and then voiced her willingness.
“Give Tredham one dance,” went on Porter. “When you start to dance make sure that you still have the necklace. Don’t let him leave you at the finish until you make sure it is safe.”
The Purdon-Hutt ball had proceeded with unusual success. The rather pleasurable sense of uncertainty with
which the guests came was enhanced by the fact that the house was found under guard. A policeman stood at the front gate and two more officers patrolled the yard. Inside a number of stalwart servitors, who looked very much like plainclothesmen in disguise, were posted at points of vantage. The Honan ruby was produced at an early stage and passed from guest to guest, proving quite as large as the newspaper descriptions had depicted it. When the stone had made the rounds safely and been carried up-stairs again, the guests exhibited signs of relief from high tension.
Porter had an interesting bit of news for Mrs. Vardon when the time came for the one dance he had been able to secure with the pretty widow.
“Do you see the man playing the ’cello in the orchestra?” he asked, in a low tone, as the course of the dance brought them close to the musicians. “Just give him a casual glance. That’s the tramp who met Tredham.”
Mrs. Vardon caught a fleeting glimpse of a misshapen man with ponderous shoulders, and a dark face, almost gargantuan in its irregularities and loweringly sinister in expression. Though
standing up to play his instrument, his head was but a trifle above the handle of the ’cello. And yet in the one startled glance Mrs. Vardon got an impression of strength, almost of power, in the squat, grotesque figure. He looked like a king ol' the gorilla tribe in a dress suit.
Mrs. Vardon shuddered. “He looks the personification of evil,” she whispered. “1 am almost sorry I came.”
“A Scotland Yard man once told me of a famous criminal whose description fits this tramp musician,” said Porter. “If this is the man, we are in the same room with one of the master minds of the underworld. He has never been convicted, although the sharpest wits of the police of Europe and America have been trained to catch him.”
“You are a model of discretion or I would never have told you all this,” he continued, as he led her to a seat. “An idle hint set in circulation now would scare this precious pair anu ruin all
chance of getting them red-handed.”
“Your reminder is hardly necessary,” rejoined Mrs. Vardon. “I’ll not say a
After supper, when the time came for the widow to dance with Tredham, it so happened that ■ Porter was not engaged and thus at liberty to watch. Tredham guided his partner through the maze of swaying figures with easy grace, chatting and laughing, apparently in the highest of spirits. They waltzed slowly out of the crowd at one end of the long room and swung around past the orchestra, where the dwarfish ’cello player stood, handling his bow like one well accustomed to its use. Then they began the return trip down the room, and, as they came closer, Porter saw that Mrs. Vardon’s neck was quite bare of ornament. The necklace had disappeared.
He stepped briskly out into the middle of the floor.
“Stop the dance!” he called. “Mrs. Vardon has been robbed!”
The intelligence that something was wrong sped through the assembly like an electric shock and in a moment the big room was in silence. The dance had stopped and at the far end the musicians ceased playing.
“What’s wrong?” asked Purdon-Hutt, hurrying up with real alarm depicted on his sharpfeatured countenance.
Mrs. Vardon’s necklace has vanished,” explained Porter, in low tones. “She had it on when this dance began.”
“I can vouch for that,” put in Tredham, his face a study of amazement and chagrin. “I—really—this is most awkward. I am quite willing to be searched, of course.”
“No one suspects you, Tredham,” said their host, brusquely. He was turning to issue an order for an officer to be called when an excited voice in the surrounding group interrupted with “My bracelet—I had it a short time ago—but it’s gone now.”
On several sides exclamations of a similar nature were heard. Guests began to take a hasty inventory and losses were found on all hands. PurdonHutt, beads of perspiration standing out on his agitated features, received report after report of loss from his now thoroughly aroused guests.
And then came the climax. A sharp cry of alarm was heard on the floor above and one of the servants plunged headlong down the front stairs with the startling information that the Ruby of Honan was stolen. After its inspection by the guests, the stone had been returned to a safe upstairs and a man left in the room on guard. He had just been found, bound and gagged, with the safe door standing ' open and the jewel of fabulous value gone!
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Continued from Page 32.
Before the clamor, which ensued on the announcement of this loss, had died down, a quiet little man, appearing from no one knew where, stepped forward and
“I’ll look after this now, Mr. PurdonHutt,” he said, in an authoritative tone. “All guests will please take their station at this end of the room. I must request that no one attempt to leave the room until our investigation is completed.”
The private detective, who had been engaged for the evening by Purdon-Hutt, then began a thorough inquiry. Porter, who had engaged his host in conversation noted with approval the brisk manner in which everything was done. In twenty minutes the little man was back.
“A queer case, Mr. Purdon-Hutt,” he said. “I’ve had a man at the foot of each stairway all evening and no one has gone up that had no business there. My men outside report that no one has entered or left the house. The man left to guard the stone can tell us nothing. He was pacing the room when suddenly he was seized from behind and a gag shoved into his mouth. He says the grasp of his assailant was so powerful that he couldn’t move a muscle. Your guests will have to be searched.”
The men readily consented to this and each in turn was examined. But nothing was brought to light in this way.
“Nothing more to do just now,” said the detective, plainly at his wits’ end. “Better get them off home.”
“That’s right!” said the deep voice of Wade Alberson, at his elbow. “The ruby is still in this house, mark my words. If the crowd gets away we’ll find it.”
Alberson was quite apparently in an ugly temper. Not having been paid in full for the missing jewel, he suspected his host of trickery. The latter was equally suspicious, being convinced that Alberson had adopted this means of getting it back into his possession. The twe men glared at each other malevolently.
“You bet we’ll find it in this house!” snapped Purdon-IIutt. “And we wouldn’t think of parting company with you tonight, Mr. Alberson. You’ll stay here until the ruby is found !”
“The ruby is still in the house,” asserted Porter in a confident tone. “1 wouldn’t worry about it, either of you Can I have a word with you, Mr Inspector?”
He drew the detective aside. '
“Did you notice a dwarf-like man play ing in the orchestra?”
The detective nodded.
“Put one of your men on to trail hirol Find out where he goes. I think I cai throw some light on this case.” A mo| ment’s whispered consultation seemed t< convince the detective that the clue wai worth following.
“Let me suggest that you allow noth! ing to be carried out of the house,” addefl Porter. “Keep the instruments of th(
orchestra. Don’t even allow guests to take their canes with them.”
“Orders to that effect already issued,” said the detective brusquely.
Keeping a wary eye on Tredham, who was standing in the hall ready to depart. Porter hurried to the cloak room and procured his hat and coat. A small room at the rear of the hall had been temporarily set aside for this purpose. It served at ordinary times, quite obviously, as an adjunct to the kitchen, for the clatter of dishes could be heard through a door at one side. A dumb waiter occupied one wall, partly hidden from view by an upturned table. Taking advantage bf the busy absorption of the man in charge, who was trying to serve half-adozen impatient guests at once, Porter tilted back the table. The door of the dumb waiter dropped open and the quick eyes of the journalist detected the end of A stout rope hanging down loosely. He replaced the table and, after scrutinizing the checkman carefully, edged his way through the crowd into the hall. Tredliam was just leaving.
As they left the house, the lights suddenly flickered and went out. There was much confusion and shouting of orders before the gas lights could be brought into use.
Before the cause of the failure of the lighting system could be investigated, a startling discovery was made. The officer who had been on guard at the rear of the house was found in an unconscious condition. A heavy blow delivered from behind, while the yard was In darkness, had stretched him out senseless. Luckily his helmet had broken the force of the blow. The discovery was made by one of the other officers on guard outside.
Why this assault had been committed tended to plunge the facts surrounding the robbery into deeper mystery than ever. Pointing as it' did to outside cooperation, the incident provided fresh ground for speculation but put the harassed detectives more at fault than ever.
Porter was loath to leave the house under the circumstances, but Tredham had hastened off and he was afraid to lose sight of him. Porter followed his man cautiously to the fashionable apartment house where he lodged and then, taking up his station behind a big tree on the other side of the street maintained a close watch. An hour passed without a sign. Porter heard four o’clock strike from a distant church steeple and was just making up his mind to terminate the tiresome vigil when his wondering senses were whipped into keenest tension by the sound of a door cautiously opening across the way. Peering around the trunk of the tree, Porter saw Tredham step out and tiptoe down the steps. Gaining the sidewalk without allowing a single footfall to break the silence, Tredham struck off at a brisk gait. He had changed from his ''evening clothes into tweeds with a heavy overcoat, which served to muffle his face and made a fairly effectual disguise in the dim early morning light. Porter waited until his man was well ahead and then took up the trail.
It led him to a poor section of the city gand ended at a small shack set well back
1 from the street and surrounded by a high fence. Tredham walked briskly through the gate and entered the house.
Perceiving a light in a back window ol the house. Porter started to skirt arounc toward it, crouching beneath the fence Turning the corner, he collided with another man who was coming back by the same discreet route. The stranger’s mit tened hands had closed on Porter’s moutl before the latter could utter a sound. Thi grasp was instantly released, however “It’s you, Mr. Porter, is it?” said thi other. “Good thing I recognized you ii time. Thought you were one of the ganj and was ready to silence you.”
Porter recognized him as the office: deputed to follow the dwarf musician: “What’s been going on?” he asked.
“Four of them in there,” whispered thi officer, jerking his thumb toward thi house. “Three have arrived since the li codger went in. They’re a bad lot, Mr Porter. That dwarf now, I believe hcould handle two men like me. And I’n considered a pretty fair hand in a free for-all at that.”
“It’s time to close in on them,” sail Porter. “I’ll watch the house while yoi get to the nearest ’phone and bring tb chief down with more men.”
“Right,” said the officer, startinj cautiously away.
Left to himself, Porter became a pre; to curiosity as to what was transpirim behind the lighted window. Finally, h scaled the fence and edged slowly up un til he was immediately beneath the win dow. A dilapidated curtain hangin¡ limply from a broken roller did not en tirely screen the room within from view Porter saw four men sitting about small table. One was the dwarf, wit face like a thunderstorm, engaged in vigorous harangue. Tredham sat oppe site to him, a little limp and quite aj parently ill at ease. One of the other was the man who had been in charge, cl the check room at the Purdon-Hutt’s. Thi fourth Porter did not recognize.
An altercation was in progress whicl promised at times to develop into ' stormy one. The talk was general an the voices ran high, but the leader—thei was no mistaking the position that th old musician occupied with the gangsummarily brought the others up whei ever an outbreak threatened. They wei debating a point of some moment an Porter watched their faces intently, hoj in g to gain an inkling as to its nature.
The subdued hum of a motor in tt road and the scraping sound of tires c the frozen gravel, warned him that tt police had arrived. He crept to the froi of the house as the squad silently pile out of the car.
“Just four?” asked the officer in charg “Just four,” replied Porter, “but reckc them as six. They’ll be a hard lot 1 handle.”
“Weil have ’em trussed up before the even know where they’re at,” asserte the sergeant. “Davids and Andersoi watch the back of the house! The re¡ altogether! Weil rush the door.”
The men within had such complete coi fidence in their security that the door wi not even locked. It gave way before ti
combined rush of the officers and they had swarmed into the room before Tredham and his associates had time to prepare for defense. Three of them were down and handcuffed in a trice, but the old musician proved himself of a different stamp. The policeman who laid hands on him was lifted off his feet and swung around like a dummy figure attached to a piston rod. His joints creaked under the pressure of the dwarf’s terrific grasp and, when the latter let go, the officer crumpled up in an exhausted heap.
With a bound the leader was through the back door, throwing off two officers who tried to grapple with him. But here he was brought up under the revolvers of the two policemen left on guard, beaten, but still with plenty of fight left in him. It was only after a desperate struggle that he was finally conquered and handcuffed.
The arrest created a profound sensation. Tredham had become quite a social favorite during the few months he had been in the city and certainly no one but Porter had thought of connecting him with the robberies.
During the two days immediately following the arrest, the police worked hard on the case, but did not succeed in turning up any further evidence against the four men. On being taken to the police station the prisoners had been searched, but nothing of an incriminating nature had been discovered. The house was ransacked from top to bottom with painstaking thoroughness. Absolutely nothing was to be found. The instruments and articles of personal property which had been retained at Purdon-Hutt’s were carefully examined, but with the same result.
Under the circumstances the police began to show uneasiness. The only thing against the men was the fact that they had been caught consorting together in a manner that was suspicious, to say the least. This in itself was enough to establish belief in their guilt, but to prove the same in court was an entirely different matter.
Porter in the meantime had been working hard on the case. He had been surprised when the examination of the articles left at Purdon-Hutt’s failed to bring the stolen goods to light. In fact, the I lack of success of the searchers left him quite dumbfounded and without a clue to go upon for he had been convinced that the goods had not been taken out of the house and would be recovered on a subsequent search.
Proceeding along the only lines of investigation left, Porter interviewed every person who might be able to throw any light on the mystery starting with the police officer who had been left in charge at Purdon-IIutt’s and ending with the j leader of the orchestra. In the course of I his investigation, he unearthed one im| portant fact. The police officer was positive that he had not examined the ’cello i I on the night of the ball, although all the instruments left had been searched. In I 1 other words, the ’cello had been taken [
out of the house, in spite of the watchfulness of the police.
A round of visits to the secondhand stores was unproductive of anything resembling a clue. Finally, therefore, Porter became convinced that the house where the arrests had taken place must be made the centre of his investi| gâtions. He made a laboriously thorough search of the premises and was rewarded by finding a parcel check in the room where the struggle had occurred. It had fallen into a crack of the floor and in consequence had not been noticed by previous searchers. The check had been issued from the parcel room at the station, and, being new, purported a recent deposit
Porter presented the check at the station and was handed in exchange a battered shoe box, securely bound with cord. On shaking, it gave evidence of being well packed.
This box Porter handed over to the police authorities who much to their astonishment, unpacked from it the Ruby of Honan and all the other articles stolen during the Purdon-Hutt ball.
“Old Gabriel Gurd is the cleverest thief on the continent,” explained Porter to Mrs. Vardon the next day. “He was hounded out of England and came to Canada where he was not known, bringing a gang of clever mobsmen with him. Tredham, for instance, is the slickest pickpocket that ever graduated out of Whitechapel. Gurd trained him up from a greenhorn, making him the smooth society cracksman that Gabe himself would have been if nature had only equipped him differently. The old fellow has wonderful talents, can play any instrument, talks four languages, has studied all manner of sciences and could step in and manage any kind of business, I believe. But he is debarred from doing any of the things he is thus fitted for by his twisted frame and face.
“They carried on their campaign here according to strictly business lines. Each coup was carefully thought out and planned for weeks in advance. Old Gabe was the brains of the concern. And he generally took an active part as well. The night the diamond bracelet of Mrs. Lepense was stolen old Gabe, who was acting as an extra waiter carried it around in a napkin under a tray. When the officers searched him the bracelet was reposing in a pot of dish water.
“At the Purdon-Hutt ball, Tredham carried on his operations on the floor and palmed the goods to Gurd as he danced past. It may sound a difficult feat, but it was all in the day’s work with that pair. Gurd had a receiving place arranged—a padded bag inside the 'cello. A cleverly concealed slide enabled him to deposit the jewelry there as it was handed to him by Tredham.
“As for the theft of the ruby, that was a simple matter after all. While the musicians were having supper, Gurd got away unseen and crossed the hall to the men’s cloak room where a confederate was in charge. A dumb-waiter leads from this room to the floor above, and by
means of his great strength Gurd climbed up the shaft to the floor above, using a rope that had been provided in advance. That has always been the way with Gurd —every detail arranged in advance, and every obstacle provided for. He then crept into the room where the ruby was kept, surprised and overpowered the guard, opened the safe — he’s an expert safe-cracker, by the way—got the stone, clambered back down the chute and joined the rest of the orchestra at supper, all without making a single break.
“They expected to get the instrument out without trouble, but Gurd had his plans ready in case of interference. According to the other prisoners who are showing a willingness to talk to-day, the fourth man was outside on the alert all night. When the police ordered the intruments left behind, a pre-arranged signal was given to the man outside, who cut off the lights. In the darkness he knocked over the officer in the back yard and was handed the ’cello through a window by Gurd. This was done before the gas could be lighted in the house.
“This outside man, Sam Nipper, finding himself with the night’s loot in his possession, tried to put one over on the rest of the gang. He took the goods from the instrument and then got rid of the ’cello at the first opportunity. It’s probably lying around some unfrequented spot now where no one has discovered it yet. He then checked the jewels in an innocent-looking shoe-box, getting in just before the checking room was closed up for the night. It was probably his intention to get out on the first train in the morning. He then went to meet his associates and told them he had been unsuccessful in getting the ’cello, leading them to believe that one of the policemen had secured it. This was the reason for the angry debate which we broke up. When the police broke in, Nipper hastily threw away his parcel check, fearing that it would lead to the police finding the goods.
“You may wonder why Gurd did not hand the stolen goods out of the house instead of the cumbersome instrument. He was afraid to have the cello fall into the hands of the police as they would certainly have found the receptacle provided and thus fasten the guilt on him.”