Kidnapped in London/Chapter 6
THE SEARCH FOR A DETECTIVE.
WITH all this in his mind Mr. Cantlie set forth again, this time to search out some means of having the Legation watched. He called at a friend's house and obtained the address of Slater's firm of private detectives in the City. Hither he went; but Slater's office was closed.
On Sunday it would seem no detectives are required. Can no trouble arise on Sunday in England? It must be remembered that the division of the month is but an artificial and mundane convenience, and crime does not always accommodate itself to such vagaries of the calendar as the portioning the month into weeks. However, there was the hard fact, Slater's office was shut, and neither shouting, bell-ringing, nor hard knocks could elicit any response from the granite buildings in Basinghall Street.
A consultation in the street with a policeman and the friendly cabman, who was taken into the secret of my detention, ended in a call at the nearest police station. Here the tale had to be unfolded again, and all the doubts as to the doctor's soberness and sanity set at rest before anything further could be attempted.
"Where was the place?"
"Portland Place, West."
"Oh! it is no good coming here, you must go back to the West End; we belong to the City police."
To the doctor's mind neither eastern nor western police were of any avail.
"However," he persisted, "could a detective not be obtained to watch the house?"
"No. It was out of the power of the City police to interfere in the West End work."
"Have you not some old police constable, a reserve man, who would be willing to earn a little money at a job of the kind?" Mr. Cantlie asked.
"Well, there might be—let us see."
And here a number of men fell good-naturedly to discussing whom they could recall to memory. Well, yes; they thought So-and-so would do.
"Where does he live?"
"Oh! he lives in Leytonstone. You could not get him to-night: this is Sunday, you know."
Sunday I should think it was, and my head in the balance. After a long discussion a man's name was suggested, and they got rid of the persistent doctor. The man's address was Gibston Square, Islington.
But before starting thence, Mr. Cantlie thought he would give the newspapers the whole tale, so he drove to the Times Office and asked for the sub-editor. A card to fill in was handed him as to the nature of his business; and he wrote:
"Case of Kidnapping at the Chinese Legation!"
This was 9 p.m., and he was told no one would be in until 10 p.m.
Away then he went to Islington in search of his "man." After a time the darkly-lit square was found, and the number proving correct, the abode was entered. But again disappointment followed; for "he could not go, but he thought he knew a man that would." Well, there was no help for it; but where did this man live? He was a wonderful chap; but the card bearing his address could not be found. High and low was it looked for: drawers and boxes, old packets of letters and unused waistcoats were searched and turned out. At last, however, it was unearthed, and then it was known that the man was not at home, but was watching a public-house in the City.
Well, even this was overcome, for the Doctor suggested that one of the numerous children that crowded the parlour should be sent with a note to the home address of the detective, whilst the father of the flock should accompany the Doctor to the City in search of the watcher. At last the hansom cab drew up at a little distance from a public-house, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Barbican, and the place was reconnoitred. But no watcher could be seen around, and a futile search was settled in this way: that the public-house should be watched until eleven o'clock, when the house closed, at which time in all probability the "man" would be forthcoming. Mr. Cantlie left his erstwhile friend outside the house and set off again for the Times Office. There he was received in "audience" and his statement was taken down, and the publication of the tale was left to the Times' discretion. By this time it was 11.30 p.m. on Sunday, and at last the restless Doctor sought his home. He was somewhat chagrined to find that at 12 midnight his expected detective had not yet appeared, but, nothing daunted, he prepared to keep watch himself. He said good-night to his wife, and set out to observe the Legation, ready to interfere actively if need be.
However, as he strode forth with valiant intent, the Doctor encountered his expected "man" in the street, and immediately posted him. His Gibston Square friend had proved himself reliable and sent his deputy. The windows of the Legation, late as it was,—past twelve at night,—were still lit up, indicating a commotion within, the result, no doubt, of Dr. Manson's intimation that their evil ways were no longer unknown. The "man" was placed in a hansom cab in Weymouth Street, under the shadow of a house on the south side of the street, between Portland Place and Portland Road. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and both the Legation entrances could be clearly seen. The hansom cab was a necessary part of the sentinel on duty, as, supposing I had been hurried from the house across the pavement and into a carriage, I should have been carried beyond the reach of a person on foot in a few minutes. Cabs cannot be had at any moment in the early morning hours; hence the necessary precaution of having the watchman in a position by which he could follow in pursuit, if he were required so to do. The newspapers had it, that the cab was intended to carry me off when the rescue party had freed me, but this is another part of the story which I will relate later on.
At 2 a.m. the Doctor got to bed, and having informed the Government, told the police, given the tale to the newspapers, posted private detectives for the night, his day's work was finished and practically my life was saved, although I did not know it.