ONE morning I was engaged in
the principal workroom with my
employer. We were alone. Old
File and his son were occupied
in the garrets. Screw had been
sent to Barkingham, accompanied,
on the usual precautionary plan,
by Mill. They had been gone nearly
an hour when the doctor sent
me into the next room to moisten
and knead up some plaster of
Paris. While I was engaged in
this occupation, I suddenly heard
strange voices in the large workroom.
My curiosity was instantly excited.
I drew back the little shutter
from the peephole in the wall,
and looked through
I saw first my old enemy, Screw,
with his villainous face much
paler than usual; next, two respectably-dressed
strangers whom he appeared to
have brought into the room; and
next to them Young File, addressing
himself to the doctor.
"I beg your pardon, sir," said
my friend, the workman-like footman; "but
before these gentlemen say anything
for themselves, I wish to explain,
as they seem strangers to you,
that I only let them in after
I had heard them give the password.
My instructions are to let anybody
in on our side of the door if
they can give the password. No
offense, sir, but I want it to
be understood that I have done
"Quite right, my man," said
the doctor, in his blandest manner. "You
may go back to your work."
Young File left the room, with
a scrutinizing look for the two
strangers and a suspicious frown
"Allow us to introduce ourselves," began
the elder of the two strangers.
"Pardon me for a moment," interposed
the doctor. "Where is Mill?" he
added, turning to Screw.
"Doing our errands at Barkingham," answered
Screw, turning paler than ever.
"We happened to meet your two
men, and to ask them the way
to your house," said the stranger
who had just spoken. "This man,
with a caution that does him
infinite credit, required to
know our business before he told
us. We managed to introduce the
our answer. This of course quieted
suspicion; and he, at our request,
guided us here, leaving his fellow-workman,
as he has just told you, to do
all errands at Barkingham."
While these words were being
spoken, I saw Screw's eyes wandering
discontentedly and amazedly round
the room. He had left me in it
with the doctor before he went
out: was he disappointed at not
finding me in it on his return?
While this thought was passing
through my mind, the stranger
resumed his explanations.
"We are here," he said, "as
agents appointed to transact
private business, out of London,
for Mr. Manasseh, with whom you
have dealings, I think?"
the doctor, with a smile.
"And who owes
you a little account, which
we are appointed
"Just so!" remarked the doctor,
pleasantly rubbing his hands
one over the other. "My good
friend, Mr. Manasseh, does not
like to trust the post, I suppose?
Very glad to make your acquaintance,
gentlemen. Have you got the little
memorandum about you?"
"Yes; but we
think there is a slight inaccuracy
in it. Have
you any objection to let us refer
to your ledger?"
"Not the least
in the world. Screw, go down
into my private
laboratory, open the table-drawer
nearest the window, and bring
up a locked book, with a parchment
cover, which you will find in
As Screw obeyed I saw a look
pass between him and the two
strangers which made me begin
to feel a little uneasy. I thought
the doctor noticed it too; but
he preserved his countenance,
as usual, in a state of the most
"What a time that fellow is
gone!" he exclaimed gayly. "Perhaps
I had better go and get the book
The two strangers had been
gradually lessening the distance
between the doctor and themselves,
ever since Screw had left the
room. The last words were barely
out of his mouth, before they
both sprang upon him, and pinioned
his arms with their hands.
"Steady, my fine fellow," said
Mr. Manasseh's head agent. "It's
no go. We are Bow Street runners,
and we've got you for coining."
"Not a doubt of it," said the
doctor, with the most superb
coolness. "You needn't hold me.
I'm not fool enough to resist
when I'm fairly caught."
"Wait till we've searched you;
and then we'll talk about that," said
The doctor submitted to the
searching with the patience of
a martyr. No offensive weapon
being found in his pockets, they
allowed him to sit down unmolested
in the nearest chair.
"Screw, I suppose?" said
the doctor, looking inquiringly
"Exactly," said the principal
man of the two. "We have been
secretly corresponding with him
for weeks past. We have nabbed
the man who went out with him,
and got him safe at Barkingham.
Don't expect Screw back with
the ledger. As soon as he has
made sure that the rest of you
are in the house, he is to fetch
another man or two of our Bow
Street lot, who are waiting outside
till they hear from us. We only
want an old man and a young one,
and a third pal of yours who
is a gentleman born, to make
a regular clearance in the house.
When we have once got you all,
it will be the prettiest capture
that's ever been made since I
was in the force."
What the doctor answered to
this I cannot say. Just as the
officer had done speaking, I
heard footsteps approaching the
room in which I was listening.
Was Screw looking for me? I instantly
closed the peephole and got behind
the door. It opened back upon
me, and, sure enough, Screw entered
An empty old wardrobe stood
opposite the door. Evidently
suspecting that I might have
taken the alarm and concealed
myself inside it, he approached
it on tiptoe. On tiptoe also
I followed him; and, just as
his hands were on the wardrobe
door, my hands were on his throat.
He was a little man, and no match
for me. I easily and gently laid
him on his back, in a voiceless
and half-suffocated state--throwing
myself right over him, to keep
his legs quiet. When I saw his
face getting black, and his small
eyes growing largely globular,
I let go with one hand, crammed
my empty plaster of Paris bag,
which lay close by, into his
mouth, tied it fast, secured
his hands and feet, and then
left him perfectly harmless,
while I took counsel with myself
how best to secure my own safety.
I should have made my escape
at once; but for what I heard
the officer say about the men
who were waiting outside. Were
they waiting near or at a distance?
Were they on the watch at the
front or the back of the house?
I thought it highly desirable
to give myself a chance of ascertaining
their whereabouts from the talk
of the officers in the next room,
before I risked the possibility
of running right into their clutches
on the outer side of the door.
I cautiously opened the peephole
The doctor appeared to be still
on the most friendly terms with
his vigilant guardians from Bow
"Have you any objection to
my ringing for some lunch, before
we are all taken off to London
together?" I heard him ask in
his most cheerful tones. "A glass
of wine and a bit of bread and
cheese won't do you any harm,
gentlemen, if you are as hungry
as I am."
"If you want to eat and drink,
order the victuals at once," replied
one of the runners, sulkily. "We
don't happen to want anything
"Sorry for it," said the doctor. "I
have some of the best old Madeira
"Like enough," retorted the
officer sarcastically. "But you
see we are not quite such fools
as we look; and we have heard
of such a thing, in our time,
as hocussed wine."
"O fie! fie!" exclaimed the
doctor merrily. "Remember how
well I am behaving myself, and
don't wound my feelings by suspecting
me of such shocking treachery
He moved to a corner of the
room behind him, and touched
a knob in the wall which I had
never before observed. A bell
rang directly, which had a new
tone in it to my ears.
"Too bad," said the doctor,
turning round again to the runners; "really
too bad, gentlemen, to suspect
me of that!"
Shaking his head deprecatingly,
he moved back to the corner,
pulled aside something in the
wall, disclosed the mouth of
a pipe which was a perfect novelty
to me, and called down it.
It was the first time I had
heard that name in the house.
"Who is Moses?" inquired
the officers both together,
on him suspiciously.
"Only my servant," answered
the doctor. He turned once more
to the pipe, and called down
"Bring up the
Stilton Cheese, and a bottle
of the Old Madeira."
The cheese we had in use at
that time was of purely Dutch
extraction. I remembered Port,
Sherry, and Claret in my palmy
dinner-days at the doctor's family-table;
but certainly not Old Madeira.
Perhaps he selfishly kept his
best wine and his choicest cheese
for his own consumption.
"Sam," said one of the runners
to the other, "you look to our
civil friend here, and I'll grab
Moses when he brings up the lunch."
"Would you like to see what
the operation of coining is,
while my man is getting the lunch
ready?" said the doctor. "It
may be of use to me at the trial,
if you can testify that I afforded
you every facility for finding
out anything you might want to
know. Only mention my polite
anxiety to make things easy and
instructive from the very first,
and I may get recommended to
mercy. See here--this queer-looking
machine, gentlemen (from which
two of my men derive their nicknames),
is what we call a Mill-and-Screw."
He began to explain the machine
with the manner and tone of a
lecturer at a scientific institution.
In spite of themselves, the officers
burst out laughing. I looked
round at Screw as the doctor
got deeper into his explanations.
The traitor was rolling his wicked
eyes horribly at me. They presented
so shocking a sight, that I looked
away again. What was I to do
next? The minutes were getting
on, and I had not heard a word
yet, through the peephole, on
the subject of the reserve of
Bow Street runners outside. Would
it not be best to risk everything,
and get away at once by the back
of the house?
Just as I had resolved on v
enturing the worst, and making
my escape forthwith, I heard
the officers interrupt the doctor's
"Your lunch is a long time
coming," said one of them.
"Moses is lazy," answered the
doctor; "and the Madeira is in
a remote part of the cellar.
Shall I ring again?"
"Hang your ringing again!" growled
the runner, impatiently. "I don't
understand why our reserve men
are not here yet. Suppose you
go and give them a whistle, Sam."
"I don't half like leaving
you," returned Sam. "This learned
gentleman here is rather a shifty
sort of chap; and it strikes
me that two of us isn't a bit
too much to watch him."
"What's that?" exclaimed
Sam's comrade, suspiciously.
A crash of broken crockery
in the lower part of the house
had followed that last word of
the cautious officer's speech.
Naturally, I could draw no special
inference from the sound; but,
for all that, it filled me with
a breathless interest and suspicion,
which held me irresistibly at
the peephole--though the moment
before I had made up my mind
to fly from the house.
"Moses is awkward as well as
lazy," said the doctor. "He has
dropped the tray! Oh, dear, dear
me! he has certainly dropped
"Let's take our learned friend
downstairs between us," suggested
Sam. "I shan't be easy till we've
got him out of the house."
"And I shan't be easy if we
don't handcuff him before we
leave the room," returned the
"Rude conduct, gentlemen--after
all that has passed, remarkably
rude conduct," said the doctor. "May
I, at least, get my hat while
my hands are at liberty? It hangs
on that peg opposite to us." He
moved toward it a few steps into
the middle of the room while
"Stop!" said Sam; "I'll
get your hat for you. We'll
there's anything inside it or
not, before you put it on."
The doctor stood stockstill,
like a soldier at the word, Halt.
"And I'll get the handcuffs," said
the other runner, searching his
The doctor bowed to him assentingly
and forgivingly .
"Only oblige me with my hat,
and I shall be quite ready for
you," he said--paused for one
moment, then repeated the words, "Quite
ready," in a louder tone--and
instantly disappeared through
I saw the two
officers rush from opposite
ends of the room
to a great opening in the middle
of it. The trap-door on which
the doctor had been standing,
and on which he had descended,
closed up with a bang at the
same moment; and a friendly voice
from the lower regions called
out gayly, "Good-by!"
next made for the door of the
room. It had
been locked from the other side.
As they tore furiously at the
handle, the roll of the wheels
of the doctor's gig sounded on
the drive in front of the house;
and the friendly voice called
out once more, "Good-by!"
I waited just long enough to
see the baffled officers unbarring
the window shutters for the purpose
of giving the alarm, before I
closed the peephole, and with
a farewell look at the distorted
face of my prostrate enemy, Screw,
left the room.
study-door was open as I passed
it on my way
downstairs. The locked writing-desk,
which probably contained the
only clew to Alicia's retreat
that I was likely to find, was
in its usual place on the table.
There was no time to break it
open on the spot. I rolled it
up in my apron, took it off bodily
under my arm, and descended to
the iron door on the staircase.
Just as I was within sight of
it, it was opened from the landing
on the other side. I turned to
run upstairs again, when a familiar
voice cried, "Stop!" and looking
round, I beheld Young File.
"All right!" he said. "Father's
off with the governor in the
gig, and the runners in hiding
outside are in full cry after
them. If Bow Street can get within
pistol-shot of the blood mare,
all I can say is, I give Bow
Street full leave to fire away
with both barrels! Where's Screw?"
me in the casting-room."
you! Got all your things, I
see, under your arm?
Wait two seconds while I grab
my money. Never mind the rumpus
upstairs--there's nobody outside
to help them; and the gate's
locked, if there was."
He darted past me up the stairs.
I could hear the imprisoned officers
shouting for help from the top
windows. Their reserve men must
have been far away, by this time,
in pursuit of the gig; and there
was not much chance of their
getting useful help from any
stray countryman who might be
passing along the road, except
in the way of sending a message
to Barkingham. Anyhow we were
sure of a half hour to escape
in, at the very least.
"Now then," said Young File,
rejoining me; "let's be off by
the back way through the plantations.
How came you to lay your lucky
hands on Screw?" he continued,
when we had passed through the
iron door, and had closed it
"Tell me first
how the doctor managed to make
a hole in the
floor just in the nick of time."
you see the trap sprung?"
"I saw everything."
you did! Had you any notion
that signals were
going on, all the while you were
on the watch? We have a regular
set of them in case of accidents.
It's a rule that father, and
me, and the doctor are never
to be in the workroom together--so
as to keep one of us always at
liberty to act on the signals.--Where
are you going to?"
"Only to get
the gardener's ladder to help
us over the wall.
signal is a private bell--that
means, Listen at
the pipe. The next is a call
down the pipe for 'Moses'--that
means, Danger! Lock the door. 'Stilton
Cheese' means, Put the Mare
to; and 'Old Madeira' Stand
by the trap. The trap works
in that locked-up room you never
got into; and when our hands
are on the machinery, we are
awkward enough to have a little
accident with the luncheon tray.
'Quite Ready' is the signal to
lower the trap, which we do in
the regular theater-fashion.
We lowered the doctor smartly
enough, as you saw, and got out
by the back staircase. Father
went in the gig, and I let them
out and locked the gates after
them. Now you know as much as
I've got breath to tell you."
We scaled the wall easily by
the help of the ladder. When
we were down on the other side,
Young File suggested that the
safest course for us was to separate,
and for each to take his own
way. We shook hands and parted.
He went southward, toward London,
and I went westward, toward the
sea-coast, with Doctor Dulcifer's
precious writing-desk safe under
---- * The "Bow Street runners" of
those days were the predecessors
of the detective police of the