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   Chapter 24 No.24

The Expressman and the Detective By Allan Pinkerton Characters: 12843

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Mrs. Cox was very much pleased when Madam Imbert returned, and started up stairs to put the children to bed. There was not a moment to lose. As soon as they left the room Madam Imbert rushed to the outer door and listened. She was satisfied. No one was coming, and so, grasping a lamp, she went down into the cellar. Her quick eye took in every thing at a glance, but she could discover nothing out of the way. The floor was a common earthen one, but no signs of recent digging were to be seen. She pitched in, and for a few moments worked like a Trojan; she removed and replaced all the barrels, crocks, dishes, everything under which articles might possibly be concealed, but found nothing. She again searched carefully over the floor, and in the centre of the cellar saw slight signs of where the ground might have been lately dug up, and the soil carefully replaced. She knelt down to examine it more carefully, when she heard the rumbling of wheels. She sprang to her feet and rushed up stairs. She was none too soon, as she was hardly seated before Mrs. Maroney came in. She was greatly surprised to see Madam Imbert, and exclaimed: "What! you here? It is rather late for you to be out, is it not?" Madam Imbert saw at once that she was slightly intoxicated. She replied:

"Yes indeed it is! I found your sister all alone, and she begged me to stay until she got the children in bed."

Mrs. Cox came in at this moment, looking very angry. "Where have you been all this time? You ought to know better than to leave me all alone. Josh. has gone out with Rivers, and I believe they must be drinking. I am angry with Rivers. Josh. is getting to drink more than ever since he came here. It is too bad in you to stay away so long! I had to beg Madam Imbert to stay with me, and Flora has just gone to bed crying for her ma!"

"Madam Imbert, I am very sorry I have been the cause of your late stay," said Mrs. Maroney. Then, pointing to some dirt on the Madam's dress-which had come from the cellar-she exclaimed: "What's that on your dress?"

Madam Imbert looked carelessly at it, and said: "Why, I thought I had brushed that all off! When I was out looking for Josh. I stumbled and gave my knee a terrible wrench." Then glancing at the clock, she said: "Why, how late it is! Miss Johnson will think that I am lost. Good night!"

"No, don't go yet; have a little brandy? It will do you good, as the air is quite chilling. Do you know that De Forest is a very fine fellow? I have a much higher opinion of him than ever before." She got the brandy and partially filled a tumbler with it. Madam Imbert just touched the liquor with her lips, and then passed it back to Mrs. Maroney, who drained the glass at a single draught.

"You are doing wrong," remarked the Madam; "you should remember your promise to your husband."

"Well, I shall not be going to-morrow. I shall suffer for this by having a severe head-ache. Was any one with you, down here, while sister was putting the children to bed?" asked Mrs. Maroney, looking full into Madam Imbert's face, but she saw nothing suspicious there. "No," answered Madam Imbert, as innocently as a lamb.

The two ladies walked out of the house together, and Mrs. Maroney accompanied the Madam a short distance up the street, when they met Josh. and Rivers. Mrs. Maroney went home with Josh., and Madam Imbert told Rivers to keep watch on Cox's house, as something was in the wind. Rivers informed her she would have to hurry back to the town, as Stemples would soon close up for the night. Rivers passed slowly around the house. He knew that Josh. had taken enough to make him sleep well, and that Mrs. Maroney was in about the same condition, so that Mrs. Cox was the only one he had to fear. After a while he crawled close up to the cellar window. He heard an animated conversation going on inside, but could not distinguish the words. Some one closed a door with a bang, and all sound ceased. He looked up and noticed a light pouring through a narrow window, which he knew lighted a closet opening off from the sitting-room. He climbed up to it and saw, what was to him at least, an amusing scene. Josh., his wife, and Mrs. Maroney, were seated in the room. Mrs. Maroney looked as though in a violent passion, and plainly showed that she had been drinking. Josh. was making desperate efforts to look and act perfectly sober, but in spite of his efforts he would occasionally give a loud hiccough, while Mrs. Cox sat bolt upright in her chair, looking in sober disgust on both of them. Rivers, in his new position, could see and hear all that was going on. Mrs. Maroney was talking in an excited manner.

"What brought that Madam Imbert here to-night? I am suspicious of that woman. She is very smart, and I saw dirt on her dress. It seems plain to me that she has been in the cellar, and down on her knees. What made you go up stairs and leave her here all alone?"

"You have confidence in her, but you have been drinking, and that makes you suspicious," replied Mrs. Cox.

"How dare you talk to me in this way?" yelled Mrs. Maroney. "I know my business! You know why I am living here, and supporting you and your worthless, good for nothing vagabond of a husband. He could never earn a living for himself, to say nothing of taking care of a family. All I want you to do is to obey me and keep your mouths shut, and I will pay you well for it; Josh. is always drunk and blabbing about."

Josh. attempted to say something.

"Hold your tongue, you fool! you are so drunk now you don't know what you are doing!"

"Why," said Cox, "I did take a drop too much, but I don't believe I have taken half so much as you!"

In a second Mrs. Maroney grasped a pitcher and smashed it over Josh.'s skull! Mrs. Cox sprang to assist her husband. For a moment there was a lively time, and the prospects were good for a regular scene, but quiet was soon restored, and Josh., muttering, went off to bed.

In a second, Mrs. Maroney grasped a pitcher and smashed it over Josh.'s skull.-Page 222.

"I must go into the cellar the first thing in the morning," said Mrs. Maroney. "Don't look at me in that way; my faculties are all clear. No one must go into it until I come down, as I want it to remain just as it is. I am suspicious of that Madam Imbert. There was no necessity of her being here so late, or of your leaving her alone, you fool! Be sure, now, not to let

any one go down!" Mrs. Maroney then took a lamp and started for her room. Rivers listened for some time, and finding all quiet, went up to Stemples's.

He saw a light in Madam Imbert's room, and after listening around, and finding no one stirring, he went quietly under her window and threw some dirt against the panes. The light in the room was instantly turned down. Soon afterward, the window was noiselessly raised, and Madam Imbert poked her head out. "Who's there?" she asked, in a low tone.

"Rivers," he replied; "like to see you; important."

"Wait," said she; "I will be with you at the front door directly."

She was acquainted with all the modes of egress, and threading her way through the darkness, soon stood with Rivers in front of the house. He reported all that had taken place.

Madam Imbert said: "I think it is all right, but still I may be mistaken, and we must be sure. Can't you find some way to get into the cellar? There is a small window, about two feet by thirteen inches, which you might remove, and gain access in that way. It will be light at four o'clock; it is now twelve, and every one at Cox's will be sound asleep at that time. You can then slip in, and if I have disarranged anything, put it to rights. Be sure not to get caught!"

"I will certainly do it," said Rivers, as he started to return to Cox's.

During his absence some one had set loose a dog that Cox owned. It was a miserable cur, but was long-winded, like its master, and possessed of good barking qualities. Rivers got well concealed, but the dog was after him-bark, bark, bark; he tried all he could to quiet him, but could not. Soon a neighboring dog commenced to howl; then another, and another, until all the dogs in the village had joined in a grand chorus. He did not know what to do. He was concealed by the side of a fence, but did not dare strike the dog, which kept a few paces from him, barking incessantly. Mrs. Maroney heard the noise, and opening her window, said; "Sic, sic; good fellow, sic."

Rivers jumped up and got the dog to follow him until he reached a field some distance from the house, when, with a well-directed throw he stunned him with a large stone, and soon stamped all life out of him. He then took the "melancholy remains," placed them at Barclay's door, and returned to Cox's, where he found all quiet. He returned to his old position and remained until day began to dawn.

At dawn he crawled to the window, easily removed it, and slipped into the cellar. He examined everything carefully, found some marks on the floor where barrels had been removed, and in less than half an hour had obliterated all traces of Madam Imbert's operations. He then crawled out, replaced the window, and quietly returned to his boarding-house. He had made arrangements by which he could always let himself in or out at any hour of the night. The family he boarded with thought he was somewhat of a "rake," but as he always paid his bills promptly, liked him for a boarder.

In the morning Madam Imbert was on the lookout, and between nine and ten Rivers came along. He reported that he had replaced everything in the cellar, and described how he had killed Josh.'s dog and left his remains at Barclay's.

Madam Imbert strolled down to Cox's, and met Mrs. Maroney at the door. She was more polite than usual, having made an examination of the cellar and found her suspicions baseless. Soon Josh. and Rivers made their appearance. Rivers remarked that he had heard a strange dog barking the night before, and got up to find out what was going on, but could discover nothing.

"Yes," said Mrs. Maroney, "that was Josh.'s dog. A man was lurking around here before I went to bed, so I let the dog out. In a short time I heard it after some one, and opened my window and set it on. You see, Josh., how necessary it is for you to keep sober. If you had been up you might have shot that scoundrel. This morning I saw his footprints distinctly impressed in the walks."

"Well," said Josh., "if my dog got hold of him, he made a hole in his leg, I'll bet. I know he is a good dog."

"Yes, I think he is," said Rivers, as he and Josh. strolled over toward Barclay's.

Barclay met them on the way. "Josh.," says he, "that dog of mine is a splendid animal, by George! You ought to have heard him bark last night. A strange dog came around my place; my dog tackled him, and 'oh, Moses,' how they fit! It ended by my dog's killing his antagonist. Come and see how he chawed him up!"

He led the way to where the dead carcass lay. As soon as they came in sight of it Josh. dashed forward, and raising the dead animal by its caudal appendage, angrily exclaimed: "That's my dog! You must be the man who was lurking around my house last night! You had better go down and explain to Mrs. Maroney what you were doing around there."

Raising the dead animal by its caudal appendage, he angrily exclaimed, "That's my dog!"-Page 226.

"What do you suppose I could be doing at your house?" asked Barclay, much perplexed. "Why, I was not out of my house once last night."

"I tell you," said Josh., "Mrs. Maroney will walk into you when she finds this out. You ought to have seen her last night. She smashed a pitcher over my head, and I believe she would have killed me, if my wife had not pitched into her. Of course I could not strike back, as she is a woman."

Rivers invited them up to Stemples's, and in less than an hour Cox and he had impressed upon Barclay the necessity of his seeing Mrs. Maroney and explaining to her that he had not been lurking around the night before.

They started off together, and arrived at Josh.'s residence just as Madam Imbert and Mrs. Maroney were coming out. Barclay immediately went up to her and assured her that he had not been loafing around the night before.

"Who said you had?" said Mrs. Maroney, now fully convinced that it was he. "Who said you had?" and she opened upon him with a perfect tirade of abuse.

Madam Imbert took her by the arm and drew her to one side. "Mrs. Maroney, don't take any notice of that man. He is a fool, and your best plan is to let him severely alone. Some people may be wiser than others, and will begin to suspect that something is wrong if you go on so. You know the old saying: 'Walls have ears?'"

"You are right, you seem to be always right," said Mrs. Maroney, and she let the matter drop.

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