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THE ROCK ISLAND ARGUS. WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 3, 1912.
A MATTER OF MATHEMATICS
AN ADVENTURE OF PETER CREWE "THE MAN
WITH THE CAMERA EYES"
CopTTlghulBlUbr w. O. Chapman, la lb
Of the many problems which were
.solved through the aid of Peter
pFonA t thlnlr tViot .Mrh Involved
V i , VU tu SB, 1.U (a " M x.. M m
the capture of Rowell. tne defaulting
bank cashier, vat the most remark
able. Crewe's skill rested In the main
jupon a certain optical gift by virtue
Jof which be was enabled at any time
to call up before his mental vision tne
picture of any person or thing that he
had once Inspected, and that complete
and In every detail perfect. But while
this faculty was largely instrumental
In Rowell's capture, this case involved
besides so clear and close a piece of
mathematical reasoning that It de
perveg to he set down as one of the
masterpieces of detective Induction.
Crewe and I were in England upon
some business at the time when the
.robbery of the Penny and Shilling
bank startled the country. Rowell,
the cashier, had somehow managed to
than a hundred and sixty thousand I
pounds, or 1800,000 in American
money. lie had quietly secreted this
In his suit case, walked out of the
bank on Saturday at noon, and com
pletely disappeared by the time the
discovery of the theft was made on
Rowell had no relatives and no
close friends. He had no ties, no ac
quaintances among the criminal class.
He looked like many another young
KngliHhman of the middle classes: or
medium height, stalwart, alert, aggres
sive, clean. He left no photograph
behind. There seemed to be no way
in which he could be traced.
The superintendent of Scotland
Yard made a happy suggestion to the
bunk manager. I had been called Into
consultation as the bank's attorney,
and I had brought Crewe to the con
ference with me. We both strongly
approved the plan.
"Every Englishman who has com
mitted a felony makes the United
States his ultimate objective." the su
perintendent said. "Why this should
be so I do not pretend to know. I do
not mean to cast a slur upon your
country. Still, the fact remains that,
when he thinks the hue and cry has
died away, he tnkes thip for America. j
Into what I will call a rat trap. So
long as he lies low in Kngland he Is
never likely to be discovered. But
If we make the chase hot at every
point except the western ports, If we
publish Items In the newspapers stat
ing that no guard Is being kept at
Liverpool or Southampton, because
the fugitive is believed to be In France,
lie will be tempted, he will Investigate
to discover whether this Is true; final
ly, emboldened, he will take ship for
"And then?" asked Crewe.
"We arrest him as he disembarks."
This plan was carried out and
worked to perfection. Although
Rowell could not be positively identl
f.ed. there was every reason to be
lieve In a cabled statement from the
captain of the Pentannlc to the effect
that the fugitive bad taken passage on
bis ship. The Information was cabled
back to New York and a couple of de
tectives were detailed to arrest Rowell
the moment that he landed.
I'nfortunately the plan miscarried.
As we learned afterwnrd, Rowell had
somehow iKssessed himself of the
uniform of a ship's officer, and attired
In this guise, had stepped boldly
ashore under the noses of the de
tectives and disappeared among the
four million inhabitants of the city.
The bank urged me to hasten to
America In order to assist In the
work of recapture. I had, however,
Interested the manager in Crewe by
recounting some of my companion's
former successes, and, at his invita
tion, I brought my friend to the scene
of the robbery.
"You say you have no photograph of
tho thief?" asked Crewe, when he
heard the details of the story.
"None whatever. And I fancy." 6aid
the manager, "that you will not obtain
much of a clue by examining his stool
"I hope you are mistaken," an
swered Crewe, laughing. "May I ask
you a few questions?"
"What was Rowell's salary?
"Two hundred pounds," answered
the manager with some hesitancy.
"We had intended to increase It on
the first of the year."
"St II!. a single man could live well
on that," said Crewe. "Did he dress
"Not extravagantly, but neatly. Me
uvinlly wore a suit of blue serge, a
collar of moderate height, and a gray
, "That is very important," said
Crewe. "But here Is a more . im-
portant matter still,
of this stool been
lias the hetRht
Howell vacated it?"
"No. It is an Immovable seat, as
you will see, and nicely apportioned
to the height of the counter."
"Ia that case." said Crewe,
Vf m-A aliall natrtl Vrmr Til n 71
Viy, did he ever wear anything but ; ond street and walked over to Eroad
e. serge?" i way. On the southwest corner one
Warely. That was bia office coat ! of the detectives, in plain clothes.
! , i.si mm- t in nn th afreet,
xow. Air. vrewe, uie
rrJtad Buu and Gnat Britain)
of the silk bat and morning coat Is
not insisted upon now by many places
"And one more question you fcave
had an unusually sunshiny summer, I
"They say so," answered the rnan-
ager suavely, but looking at me as
though to ask, "Is the fellow a danger
Without further remark Crewe seat
ed himself upon the stool and leaned
over the desk. The sunlight streamed
through the grille in front of the desk
ttnd In upon Crewe. He adjusted his
position until he was seated exactly
in the center of the stool; then, after
an Instant's silence, as though he
were lost in meditation, he slipped
down to the ground.
"Good morning, Mr. Simpson," he
said, extending his hand to the bank
manager. "If we get to New York
before the police capture him, 1 hope
to have the pleasure of presenting Mr.
Rowell to you. And that," he added,
"is probable enough, since the police
are dealing with an extremely astute
We made our way to New Ycrk and
bad an Interview with the head or
the police department. He Informed
me of the situation in regard to the
That he was In the city was a cer
tainty. Had any authentic portrait of
him existed, be would undoubtedly
have been captured long before. At
present it seemed almort impossible
to take him. Cut If Rowell was Im
mune from arrest, he. In turn, could
not leave New York. Detectives were
watching every road, every railroad
station, every ferry house from which
boats left for the New Jersey shore.
Rowell's only possible point of es
cape was Long Island. He could doubt
less evade the detectives and cross
the Brooklyn bridge during the rush
hour. But that would X" a risky pro
ceeding, for, though Brooklyn lay
open to him. he could not cross from
any point of Long Island to the Con
necticut shore, while his return to
New York Itself would be fraught
I wlfh 1nti!ora It vis hlirhlv nrobable.
therefore' that KoweH va8 sllll wltn,n
I "Where are you searching?" Crewe
I asked the police chief.
"We have two dozen men looking
through the whole city," said the lat
ter. "We're raking it as fine as
thougk we used a toothcomb.' Sooner
or later he must be found."
"The only drawback to that scheme
is that while you are raking one dis
trict Rowell is likely to be in an
other." "Well, how would you do better?"
asked the police chief, nettled.
"Why," said Crewe, "search all dis
"Let me tell you." said the chief of
police, "that the number of detectives
at my disposal for this case is twenty
four, not twenty-four thousand."
"Nevertheless, If you will place four
of your two dozen at my disposal for
a week I will guarantee to find Rowell
if he is within the limits of Manhat
tan borough," said Crewe. "And the
glory's yours," he added.
The police chief looked at me. He
knew Crewe and his work, but his
pride was hurt, he would have liked
to see him for once unsuccessful I
"I say nothing tor the newspaper,"
I announced. "You 6tand to win eith
er way. Either you score off Crewe or
you get the credit for the capture."
The police chief pressed a bell.
"Send Cohen. O'Rourke, Murphy and
Kelly here at once," he 6aid to the
messenger. Almost at once the four
policemen came in and saluted.
"You will place yourselves under
the orders of this gentleman," said the
chief, indicating Crewe. "It's the
Rowell case, and he thinks be can
work on it better than I can."
"Report to me here tomorrow morn
ing at nine," said Crewe. "You may
take the day off. I want to think. I
suppose you're all proficient in sim
ple arithmetic?" he added. "I'm glad
to hear it. You may have a little add
ing to do."
I did not see Crewe again until Uie
second afternoon, when me met by ap
pointment and lunched together. After
the meal I asked him how ke was
progressing with bla case.
"I've got the town staked out,"
Crewe answered, "and I think that
the fourth day will witness Mr. Row
ell's arrest. Of course. I could take
him earlier by haphazard means, but
I prefer to utilize the scientific
"Will you Inform me how, with four
detectives, you can possibly have
) 'staked out' the town, as you phrase
I asked, a little exasperated.
"It is a matter of pure mathematics,
Langton," Crewe answered, a slight
cm us em en t disclosing itself in his
voice. "But come wi'h me and you
' shall see for yourself."
j We took the elevated to Forty-sec-
whom I recocntTed as MurDhv. was
, vi&uujup. . .c .t- , a UJ.
"How many. Murphy?" Crewe asked
"Two hundred and seventy-three,
sir," Murphy responded. "Seventy
four," he added, as a man hurried by,
almost brushing into us.
"You are keeping the three parts
of the day separate, Murphy?" asked
Crewe. "Good. Keep up your count
and report to me tomorrow morning
at five. At the stroke of midnight you
vacate your post."
"Five o'clock till midnight seems
long hours, Crewe," I said.
"It is. But it Is only for three days,
and the men are trained to such
periods of work. Besides, they un
derstand that they share in the re
ward and, somehow or other, I hav
been able to persuade them that thy
can trust In me. I happened to know
something of the past history of
each," be added, smiling.
"You remember them all?"
"Assuredly. I told Murphy that in
1909 he was on duty at the intersec
tion of Eighty-first street and Broad
way when the explosion occurred In
the subway and that he helped to car
ry up the victims. I reminded him
of an unpleasant little incident con
nected with a fruit peddler's license
last year. Langton, it is a fine thing
to remember faces. I have convinced
all four men, I believe, that I have
some supernatural knowledge about
them and merely because, in my
strolls about the city, I have en
countered almost all the police force
at some time or another, and remem
bered them. But let us hurry
southward. Our next objective is the
We emerged at the bridge subway
station, in front of which, leaning
against the railings of the City Hall
park, I Tecognized O'Rourke. He
straightened himself and came up to
"Eighty-seven this morning and
thirty-nine up to this moment," he
"I see you know your business,"
Crewe responded. "Don't let any one
pass, O'Rourke. Remember your
share of the reward will pay the
mortgage on that house of yours."
O'Rourke leaped back in astonish
ment. His mouth opened and he
looked at Crewe in amazement.
"Don't jump like that," said Crewe.
"You frighten me. I mean the house
in Jamaica." Then, as we turned
away, he added: ."I eaw him talking
to his wife one afternoon two years
ago when he was off duty. It was
a long shot, though the house might
have been paid for. Now for our
We took the elevated to Sixth ave
nue and Twenty-third street, where
we found Kelly looking ostentatiously
into' a shop window.
"Very good," said Crewe, slapping
him upon the back. "You saw us
coming? Some men are too dense to
know that one can see the passers
by just as well when they are reflect
ed in a plate-glass window. - Happily
the precaution Is unnecessary, but I
am glad to see so much intelligent
zeal in your work, Kelly. You are
keeping the numbers separate?"
"Seventy and thirty thirty-one this
instant, sir," said Kelly, and we moved
A cross-town car and a brisk walk
soon landed us At the Fourteenth
street subway entrance, where Cohen .
was seated in a shoeblack's chair
getting a polish.
"Sixty-eight and twenty-seven, sir,"
he whispered as we passed by. Crewe
nodded almost imperceptibly and we
turned back into Union park. At
Crewe's invitation we took our seats
upon a bench.
"And now, Langton," he said, "you
want to know what this apparently
unintelligible process means and I
will let you into the secret. You may
have observed that I chose four points
in New York at which to station my
detectives. The selection of those
points was influenced by two causes.
In the first place, they are the four
chief places where men walk, by pref
erence, on one side of the street alone,
and consequently it is easier to count
the passers-by than if my men had to
watch both sides of the street. At
the juncture of Broadway and Forty
second street everybody who is not
bent upon business and Rowell is
distinctly a pleasure-seeker in these
days walks on the west side of the
street, because extensive building
operations are In process upon the
east side. At our southern point, the
subway entrance to the Brooklyn
bridge, almost every one enters and
emerges on the city hall side. At Sixth
avenue and Twenty-third street our
populace walk on the south side, be
cause that side of the thoroughfare is
devoted to large stores whose windows
hold a tempting array of goods. And
on Fourteenth street everybody walks
on the south Bide in order to pass the
numerous moving picture shows,
which afford a spectacle of some in
terest, externally, even to the man
who affects to despise them.
"So much for the minor reason of
my selection. Now for the major rea
son. These four points embrace prac
tically the entire amusement and
shopping district of the city. Where
would a stranger go. an Englishman
without a friend in town, but in this
region? Would be seek his amusement
in the dreary wastes of Harlem?
Would he moon all day in Central
park, a prey to his thoughts? No,
Langton, it is the surest prophecy in
the world that Rowell, a victim of a
bad conscience and an overfull purse,
spends all bis waking life within this
region. And it Is safe to say that he
alternates between the Fourteenth
street region and Broadway, with the
preference for Broadway. Now I
have told you enough for the present.
Dine with me on Friday evening at
seven. I will be in the lobby of the
Hotel Memphis, and I think I shall be
ADS NEVER FAIL OF
? mm teii i hHb
able to afford you an evening's enter-1
I knew better than to attempt to
question my companion further, but I
was in a fever of anxiety during the
three ensuing days to understand
Crewe's purpose. His reasoning was
excellent upon an abstract plane. But
how did this counting of faces go to
ward the capture of Rowell?
It was not until after dinner that
my curiosity was gratified. Crewe
rinsed his fingers in the silver din
ner bowl, fqlded his napkin leisurely,
and took from his pocket a pad of
paper upon which were jotted several
series of figures.
"Do you believe in statistics, Lang
ton?" he asked abruptly.
"I have heard it said that they can
"They can; but not In the deroga
tory sense you mean. Are you aware
that, while small numbers are apt to
fluctuate, in the aggregate they are
"For instance, in the gambling pal
ace at Monte Carlo, red may turn up
fifty times more than black during a
single day But in a week the rela
tive numbers will be almost equal. In
a month they will be practically equal;
at the end of a year there is usually
hardly a sensible difference between
the number of times that each has to
"Take life insurance. Individually
a human life is a most uncertain thing.
But when you take ten thousand lives
you can state with mathematical pre
cision that a definite number of these
ten thousand persons will die at thir
ty, a certain number at forty, increas
ing number at fifty, and so on, until,
at the age of ninety-six, the last sur
"Langton, I have simply applied this
fact to the search for Rowell.
"What do we know of him? That
be is an average-appearing English
man and wears a blue serge suit Un
doubtedly be possesses other suits;
but equally surely he will be astute
enough to wear blue as differentiating
him less than a suit with a check,
stripe, or patterns. Thus his own
cleverness assists in his undoing.
"My orders to those detectives were
to count all the men in blue serge
suits who passed them, excluding
those whose age obviously excluded
the possibility of their being Rowell.
I ordered each man to make three
lists one for the morning hours, one
for the afternoon, and one for the
evening, up to twelve o'clock, after
which the number of men in blue
serge suits abroad is too limited for
us to draw deductions from it. Here
are the results:
"Passing Forty-second 6treet: Morn
ing, 156; afternoon, 112; evening, 177.
"Passing the Brooklyn bridge sub
way entrance: Morning. 84; afternoon,
46; evening, 8S. Total. 218.
"Passing Twenty-third street and
Sixth avenue: Morning, 72; afternoon,
28; evening, 70. Total, 170.
"Passing the subway entrance on
Fourteenth street: Morning, SO; aft
ternocn, 29; evening, 85. Total, 194.
"What do you deduce from these
"That a surprisingly small number
of men blue serge suits emerge
J from the entrance to the Brooklyn
' ' ' F I
bridge during tho rush hours," I an-1
"My dear Langton, you are flying j
off at a tangent. That is not relative
to the matter at all. Many take sur
face cars from Brooklyn and never
pass the subway entrance. And Brook
lyn Is barred from our consideration.
No, do you not see that at three
points the morning and evening traf
fic is astonishingly even? At Twenty
third street 72 men pass in the morn
ing and 70 in the evening. At the
Fourteenth street subway 80 pass In
the morning and 85 in the evening.
At the Brooklyn bridge subway en
trance 84 pass in the morning and
88 in the evening.
"Therefore we can proceed by strik
ing out like figures on either side of
our equation. These men in blue
serge suits are office workers; they go
and return by the same routes morn
ing and evening. Emphatically Row
ell is not to be found among this lot.
"At our northern point, Forty-second
street, the conditions are not
quite so even. The men who pass
in the morning number 156; in the
evening 177 a difference of twenty
one. Now we begin to see daylight
at last after working out these figures.
We have to postulate the average
man, the average unemployed man.
Let us discover him from among the
figures that we have left
"Passing Twenty-third street In
the afternoon, 28. Passing Four
teenth street in the afternoon, 29. Pass
ing the Brooklyn bridge subway en
trance in the afternoon, 46. But these
latter we must disregard, for that is
in the office district and these 46 are
probably all workers.
"Our final statement, therefore, Is
that 28 men stroll of an afternoon
from Twenty-third street to Four
teenth street, where their, numbers
are augmented to 29. During the same
period of the day 112 men stroll up
Broadway to Forty-second street,
where, by nightfall, their numbers
have increased to 177.
"Therefore our average man will
most assuredly be found somewhere
in the theater district after the lights
are lit. Rowell will be there tonight
I have demonstrated this Infallibly.
Come, Langton, we are going to arrest
I rose in bewilderment Crewe's
figures were falling over one another
in my brain, and only one clear im
pression remained to me: That Rowell
was obligingly waiting to tumble into
our arms at the juncture of Forty-second
street and Broadway. But surely
this was a case in 'hich one could
not predicate the i .vidual from the
universal. Suppose he had decided to
j vary hl3 itinerary for that evening,
suppose he had gone borne. Suppose
be Were sick or at thpatcr nr in a
j taxicab, or restaurant Suppose he
j had taken a fancy to sit in . Central
j park until the hour of midnight." Sup
j pose he had escaped from the city and
were at that moment speeding west
ward. I glanced at Crewe. His face
was resolute, set into Its usual de
cisive lines. I bad known him to
olve greater mysteries but always
by his optical gift, never by pure In
duction. And I could not help feeling
that there was a sad disillusionment
In store for him.
At Forty-second street and Broad
We want pu, Me Rowell."
way we found Murphy on duty. Crewe
drew him aside. I saw him whisper
and saw Murphy touch the pocket of
his coat. I heard the clink of steel.
Then we three .posted ourselves im
mediately beneath a bright electric
light and engaged in trivial conversa
tion, as of three pleasure-seekers.
Half an hour must have gone by. At
least fifty men in blue suits had passed
ue, a good half of whom might have
been the missing cashier. All at once
I saw Crewe touch Murphy's arm, and
the two swung round and walked
leisurely after a good-looking young
fellow who was passing briskly up the
thoroughfare. At the Forty-second
street crossing he hesitated a mo
ment, pulled out his cigarette case,
and began to smoke. An electric light
beat down full upon his face and
Crewe went up to him, fixed his
eyes on his collar, signalled Murphy,
and touched his captive on the shoul
der. The man started violently and
let his cigarette fall.
"We want you, Mr. Rowell," said
Crewe. At the same instant Murphy
snapped the handcuffs upon the cash
"I can understand that your math
ematical reasoning would, as-you said,
enable you to postulate the average
man," I remarked to Crewe subsequent
ly. "But how could you positively identi
fy Rowell among your 117 men in blue
serge? And how could you know for
sure that he was strolling up Broad
way?" "I didn't. It was not until I got
him under the electric light that I
was able to pronounce him Rowell
"Do you remember the cashier's
seat at the London bank, with its
"Do you remember that the man
ager told us they had bad an unusual
quantity of sunshine in London?"
"Do you remember that Rowell
wore a blue serge suit?"
"Well, what of it?"
"Don't you know blue serge fades?"
"Precisely. And in consequence,
since he sat always in the same spot
and tent over his counter at the
same elevation, the bars of the grille
would leave thin stripes of unfaded
material in the discolored cloth.
Langton, to your eyes Rowell's
suit may have looked like any other
man's but to mine his breast and
shoulders were striped like a ze
bra's." "How did you know he would not
order a new suit?"
"He had no time. The tailors are
ruEhed at this season."
"But he might have bought one
"The ready-made clothing trade la
exclusively an American institution,"
Crewe answered suavely. "No Eng
lishman can ever be persuaded that
he will look like anything but a tramp
in a stit of ready-made clothes."
v . Then and Now.
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