Walter Hartright’s narrative
As we drove into town to secure Camlet’s freedom I brooded upon the two Mrs. Camlets. Marian claimed to be entirely the opposite of her husband’s first wife. Perhaps superficially, in coloring or beauty, this was true. But they were sisters under the skin, twins of the same birth. Marian has succeeded to the title of the most dangerous woman in Europe; she is beyond all question the most redoubtable female in Britain.
We arrived at Lincoln’s Inn to learn that Camlet’s lawyer, Mr. Smithee, was out. “He’s gone down to the Yard,” the clerk said. “Perhaps you would care to see Mr. Plockton?”
“No,” Laura said. “We will not stay, thank you.” And before I could object we were out the door again. “Marian told me,” she explained, “that we must only deal with Mr. Smithee, or perhaps Mr. Erbistock.”
“And avoid Mr. Plockton? I wonder why?” A host of lurid possibilities surged into my mind, but I took firm hold of my imagination. We made our way to Scotland Yard and were fortunate enough to run into Mr. Smithee just making his farewells to Inspector Radenton in the courtyard. I presented Laura to both men, and she shyly shook hands with the inspector as I buttonholed Mr. Smithee. “There have been important developments,” I said.
“So I have heard. A confession from a housebreaker, most promising.”
I passed him Marian’s letter. “Miss Halcombe is most urgent about exploiting it. Camlet’s release cannot come too soon.”
“I believe, sir, he may be free by week’s end.” He unfolded Marian’s letter and with it, unexpectedly, my own pencil sketch of Antun Jones.
The inspector’s sharp gray eye was instantly caught. “What’s this? Mr. Hartright, how did you come by this image?”
“Ah . . . I drew it.” Since he had just watched me put the missive into Mr. Smithee’s hand I could hardly deny ownership. “I used a B pencil and Conte crayon—”
“And were you working from the model? Had you the fellow in front of you?”
“I have never seen this man in my life.” Laura’s blue eyes widened in alarm as I skated near to the edge of truth.
“Mr. Hartright. Would you swear to that? On your oath, mind!”
“Certainly.” What else could I say?
“Great God—then do you not know. This is the confessed murderer of Margaret Camlet, to the life! How did you draw his portrait without seeing him?”
Reeling, I realized that I could not tell the inspector of Father Ercole’s eloquent description, or the menacing mourners at the dubious Italian funeral. All we had uncovered, the Blue Hand conspirators, the bomb—the entire reason for Margaret Camlet’s murder—had to remain secret, so that Antun Jones could be tried as no more than an incompetent housebreaker. I ransacked memory for some hook upon which to hang an even distantly plausible tale. “You remember the worries of the ladies of our neighborhood, about burglars? Miss Halcombe and my dear wife here, being from the north country, wanted to know what a London burglar might look like. And so I sketched this. It was an impulse merely. I put no thought into it.”
“Amazing.” The inspector’s gray moustache quivered with excitement. “You have a gift—a gift of sketching culprits you have not seen. I have heard of such mesmeric talents in America, but never yet in Britain. Have you read of the latest gang? Footpads in Cheapside robbing pedestrians, using handkerchiefs dipped in chloroform to render them helpless. Supposing I lay all the files before you. Do you think you could sketch me a face?”
“No, I do not—I could not do any such thing!”
Radenton didn’t seem to hear. “Aha, a better one. Covent Garden’s latest cutpurse. Not one of your usual deft johnnies with a razor, but a cruder villain. He uses something like an adze or a cleaver, maiming as well as stealing. If you could indicate even some details—his height, his hair color—”
“Let me remind you of your own wise words, sir: that amateur participation in police work is particularly to be deplored!”
“You have converted me, Hartright,” Radenton declared. “Do you not see how useful it would be, for us to know who to look for?”
Trapped, I gazed imploringly at Laura, who gently interposed, “Perhaps you could call at Sandett House, Inspector, and discuss this at leisure. We are on an errand of mercy that cannot wait, to visit a sick child.”
“In Shoreditch,” I said, seizing upon the change of subject. “Do you know the district, Inspector?”
“You propose to take Mrs. Hartright to Shoreditch? Are you barking mad?...