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On Duty With Inspector Field
HOW goes the night? Saint Giles's clock is striking nine. The weather is dull and wet,
and the long lines of street lamps are blurred, as if we saw them through tears. A damp
wind blows and rakes the pieman's fire out, when he opens the door of his little furnace,
carrying away an eddy of sparks.
Saint Giles's clock strikes nine. We are punctual. Where is Inspector Field? Assistant
Commissioner of Police is already here, enwrapped in oil-skin cloak, and standing in the
shadow of Saint Giles's steeple. Detective Sergeant, weary of speaking French all day
to foreigners unpacking at the Great Exhibition, is already here. Where is Inspector
Inspector Field is, to-night, the guardian genius of the British Museum. He is bringing his
shrewd eye to bear on every corner of its solitary galleries, before he reports 'all right.'
Suspicious of the Elgin marbles, and not to be done by cat-faced Egyptian giants with
their hands upon their knees, Inspector Field, sagacious, vigilant, lamp in hand,
throwing monstrous shadows on the walls and ceilings, passes through the spacious
rooms. If a mummy trembled in an atom of its dusty covering, Inspector Field would say,
'Come out of that, Tom Green. I know you!' If the smallest 'Gonoph' about town were
crouching at the bottom of a classic bath, Inspector Field would nose him with a finer
scent than the ogre's, when adventurous Jack lay trembling in his kitchen copper. But all
is quiet, and Inspector Field goes warily on, making little outward show of attending to
anything in particular, just recognising the Ichthyosaurus as a familiar acquaintance,
and wondering, perhaps, how the detectives did it in the days before the Flood.
Will Inspector Field be long about this work? He may be half-an- hour longer. He sends
his compliments by Police Constable, and proposes that we meet at St. Giles's Station
House, across the road. Good. It were as well to stand by the fire, there, as in the
shadow of Saint Giles's steeple.
Anything doing here to-night? Not much. We are very quiet. A lost boy, extremely calm
and small, sitting by the fire, whom we now confide to a constable to take home, for the
child says that if you show him Newgate Street, he can show you where he lives - a
raving drunken woman in the cells, who has screeched her voice away, and has hardly
power enough left to declare, even with the passionate help of her feet and arms, that
she is the daughter of a British officer, and, strike her blind and dead, but she'll write a
letter to the Queen! but who is soothed with a drink of water - in another cell, a quiet
woman with a child at her breast, for begging - in another, her husband in a smock-
frock, with a basket of watercresses - in another, a pickpocket - in another, a meek