Which Once More Demonstrates the Uselessness of Passports as Aids to Detectives
The detective passed down the quay, and rapidly made his way to the consul’s office, where he was at once admitted to the presence of that official.
“Consul,” said he, without preamble, “I have strong reasons for believing that my man is a passenger on the Mongolian Falcon.” And he narrated what had just passed concerning the passport.
“Well, Mr. Filch,” replied the consul, “I shall not be sorry to see the rascal’s face; but perhaps he won’t come here – that is, if he is the person you suppose him to be. A robber doesn’t quite like to leave traces of his flight behind him; and, besides, he is not obliged to have his passport countersigned.”
“If he is as shrewd as I think he is, consul, he will come.”
“To have his passport visaed?”
“Yes. Passports are only good for annoying honest folks, and aiding in the flight of rogues. I assure you it will be quite the thing for him to do; but I hope you will not visa the passport.”
“Why not? If the passport is genuine I have no right to refuse.”
“Still, I must keep this man here until I can get a warrant to arrest him from London.”
“Ah, that’s your look-out. But I cannot…”
The consul did not finish his sentence, for as he spoke, he was startled to hear a deep groan near by.
“What was that?” he asked timidly.
“I cannot imagine,” replied the detective, “but we can go and see.”
A knock was heard at the door, and a stranger entered, the servant whom Filch had met on the quay.
“Come quickly!” yapped the French poodle.
Just then another groan reached their ears, and the sound seemed to come from behind him. They turned and walked through the corridor a few steps, when the consul discovered something shining in a ray of sunshine that fell between the pillars. He ran to the place and then stopped short, with a little cry of surprise.
“Oh, my!” he cried.
One of the big pillars had been partly smashed through, and standing beside it, with an uplifted crowbar in his hands, was a man made entirely of tin. His head and arms and legs appeared to be jointed upon his body, but he stood perfectly motionless, as if he could not stir at all.
The consul looked at him in amazement, and so did the detective, while Pissepotout barked sharply and made a snap at the tin legs, which hurt his teeth.
“Did you groan?” asked the consul.
“Yes,” answered the Tin Gimp, in a grating, echoing metallic voice that sounded like it came from a hollow pipeline, “I did. I’ve been groaning for more than an hour, and no one has ever heard me before or come to help me.”
“What can I do for you?” he inquired softly, for he was moved by the sad voice in which the man spoke.
“Get an oil-can and oil my joints,” the Tin Gimp answered. “They are rusted so badly that I cannot move them at all; if I am well oiled I shall soon be all right again.”
The consul at once ran back to the office and found the oil-can, and then he returned and asked anxiously, “Where are your joints?”
“Oil my neck, first,” replied the man. So he oiled it, and as it was quite badly rusted the detective Filch took hold of the tin head and moved it gently from side to side until it worked freely, and then the man could turn it himself.
“Now oil the joints in my arms,” he said. And the consul oiled them and the detective bent them carefully until they were quite free from rust and as good as new.
The Tin Gimp gave a sigh of satisfaction and lowered his crowbar, which he leaned against the pillar.
“This is a great comfort,” he said. “I have been holding that crowbar in the air ever since I rusted aboard the Mongolian Falcon at sea, and I’m glad to be able to put it down at last. Now, if you will oil the joints of my legs, I shall be all right once more.”
So they oiled his legs until he could move them freely; and he thanked them again and again for his release, for he seemed a very polite creature, and very grateful.
“I might have stood there always if you had not come along,” he said; “so you have certainly saved my life.”
“Why did you wish to see us?” the consul asked of Pissepotout.
The other, who was his master, held out his passport with the request that the consul would do him the favour to visa it. The consul took the document and carefully read it, whilst Filch observed, or rather devoured, the metal-clad stranger with his eyes from a corner of the room.
“You are Mr. Philanderous Flogg?” said the consul, after reading the passport.
“And this is your servant?”
“He is a French poodle, named Piss-pot-oto.”
“You are from London?”
“And you are going…”
“Very good, sir. You know that a visa is useless, and that no passport is required?”
“I know it, sir,” replied Philanderous Flogg; “but I wish to prove, by your visa, that I came by Suez.”
“Very well, sir.”
The consul proceeded to sign and date the passport, after which he added his official seal. Mr. Flogg paid the customary fee, coldly bowed, and went out, followed by his servant.
“Well?” queried the detective.
“Well, he looks and acts like a perfectly honest man,” replied the consul.
“Possibly; but that is not the question. Do you think, consul, that this phlegmatic gentleman resembles, feature by feature, the robber whose description I have received?”
“I concede that; but then, you know, all descriptions…”
“I’ll make certain of it,” interrupted Filch. “The servant seems to me less mysterious than the master; besides, he’s French, and can’t help talking. Excuse me for a little while, consul.”
Filch started off in search of Pissepotout.
Meanwhile Mr. Flogg, after leaving the consulate, repaired to the quay, gave some orders for clean gauze, a refill for the oil-can, and extra calamine lotion to Pissepotout, went off to the Mongolian Falcon in a boat, and descended to his cabin. After he had prised off his iron mask and metal corsetry, he took up his note-book, which contained the following memoranda:
Left London, Wednesday, October 2nd, at 8.45 p.m.
Reached Paris, Thursday, October 3rd, at 7.20 a.m.
Left Paris, Thursday, at 8.40 a.m.
Reached Turin by Mont Cenis, Friday, October 4th, at 6.35 a.m.
Left Turin, Friday, at 7.20 a.m.
Arrived at Brindisi, Saturday, October 5th, at 4 p.m.
Sailed on the Mongolian Falcon, Saturday, at 5 p.m.
Rusted solid, Sunday, October 6th, at 3 a.m.
Reached Suez, Wednesday, October 9th, at 11 a.m.
Total of hours spent, 158+; or, in days, six days and a half.
These dates were inscribed in an itinerary divided into columns, indicating the month, the day of the month, and the day for the stipulated and actual arrivals at each principal point Paris, Brindisi, Suez, Bombay, Calcutta, Singapore, Hong Kong, Yokohama, San Francisco, New York, and London – from the 2nd of October to the 21st of December; and giving a space for setting down the gain made or the loss suffered on arrival at each locality. This methodical record thus contained an account of everything needed, and Mr. Flogg always knew whether he was behind-hand or in advance of his time.
On this Friday, October 9th, he noted his arrival at Suez, and observed that he had as yet neither gained nor lost.
He sat down quietly to breakfast in his cabin, his sores soaking pleasantly in calamine, never once thinking of inspecting the town, being one of those Englishmen who are wont to see foreign countries through the eyes of their domestics. Besides – now that the tin corsetry was off, next on the agenda was the leather and whalebone affair, along with copious amounts of talcum powder.