“Let me see,” said the inspector, as if calling on his memory to perform a reluctant task. “It was a diamond scarf-pin and a gold watch. Lord Melhurst had come home after a good day at Epsom and a late supper in town. Next morning he missed his scarf-pin and his watch. He thought he had been robbed at Epsom or in town. He was delightfully vague about what had happened to him after his glorious day at Epsom, but unfortunately for you the taxi-cab driver who drove him remembered seeing the pin on him when he got out of the cab. As you had waited up for him suspicion fell on you, and you were arrested and confessed. I think those are the facts, Field?”
“Yes, sir,” said the distressed looking man who stood before him.
“I think I had the pleasure of putting you through,” added the inspector.
The butler understood that in police slang “putting a man through” meant arresting him and putting him through the Criminal Court into gaol. He made the same reply:
“I’m glad to see you bear me no ill-will for it,” said Inspector Chippenfield. “You don’t, do you?”
“I never forget a face,” pursued the officer, glancing up at the face of the man before him. “When I saw you yesterday I knew you again in a moment, and when I went back to the Yard I looked up your record.”
The butler was doubtful whether any reply was called for, but after a pause, as an endorsement of the inspector’s gift for remembering faces, he ventured on:
“And how did you, an ex-convict, come to get into the service of one of His Majesty’s judges?”
“He took me in,” replied the butler.
“You mean that you took him in,” replied the inspector, with a pleasant laugh at his own witticism.
“No, sir, I didn’t take him in,” declared the butler. He had not joined in the laugh at the inspector’s joke.
“Get away with you,” said Inspector Chippenfield. “You don’t expect me to believe that you told him you were an ex-convict? You must have used forged references.”
“No, sir. He knew I was a—” Hill hesitated at referring to himself as an ex-convict, though he had not shrunk from the description by Inspector Chippenfield. “He knew that I had been in trouble. In fact, sir, if you remember, I was tried before him.”
“The devil you were!” exclaimed Inspector Chippenfield, in astonishment. “And he took you into his service after you had served your sentence. He must have been mad. How did you manage it?”
“After I came out I found it hard to get a place,” said Hill, “and when Sir Horace’s butler died I wrote to him and asked if he would give me a chance. I had a wife and child, sir, and they had a hard struggle while I was in prison. My wife had a shop, but she sold it to find money for my defence. Sir Horace told me to call on him, and after thinking it over he decided to engage me. He was a good master to me.”