by Ellis Parker Butler
When Mr. Gubb went to the house of Mr. Jonas Medderbrook to pay him the money he had received for solving the mystery of Henry, the Educated Pig, he found the house closed, locked and deserted, and on the door was pinned a card that said simply, and in a neat handwriting:–
Gone to Patagonia. Will be back in one hundred years. Please wait.
This was signed “Jonas Medderbrook,” but not until the next day did Mr. Gubb learn from the “Riverbank Eagle” that Mr. Medderbrook had decamped after selling his friends and neighbors an immense amount of stock in the Utterly Hopeless Gold-Mine, of which Mr. Gubb had a very large and entirely worthless quantity.
The departure of Mr. Medderbrook was a great shock to Mr. Gubb, as it seemed to indicate that serious complications in his wooing of Syrilla might result from it, especially as he had only heard from Syrilla through Mr. Medderbrook, but, disturbed as he was by this fear, he was even more upset by a telegram that came to him direct that afternoon. It was from Syrilla herself–
Alas! [it read], the worst has happened. Weighed myself this morning and weighed only one hundred pounds. Later discovered scales were one hundred and five pounds out of balance, registering one hundred and five pounds too much. I cannot marry you, now or ever, Gubby dear, as cannot permit your faithful heart to wed one who weighs five pounds less than nothing. Good-bye forever.
The blow was a severe one to Mr. Gubb, as it would have been to any lover who loved a half-ton of beauty only to have her shrink to five pounds less than nothing. For several days he remained locked in his office, hardly touching food, and then, with a sad heart he resumed his customary occupations. He would never have learned the truth about Syrilla had it not been for a tramp called Chi Foxy.
Chi Foxy made the long walk from Derlingport, and night found him on the outskirts of Riverbank. He begged a hand-out from one of the small houses and hunted a place to spend the night. He found it underneath a tool-house alongside the railway tracks, and that it had been used as sleeping-quarters by other tramps was shown by the heap of crushed straw, the bread-crusts, and the remnants of a small fire.
Chi Foxy crawled in and stretched himself out for a comfortable night. He lighted his pipe, loosened the laces of his shoes, and settled back for a comfortable smoke.
Just outside the rear of his sleeping quarters ran the wire right-of-way fence, which was also the back fence of a small piece of property on which stood a rickety old house. The house was devoid of paint, but it was a cheerful sight from where Chi Foxy reclined. He had a clear view of the kitchen window, from which the light came in a yellow glow, and he could see a woman cooking something in a frying-pan on a kitchen stove. A man sat beside the stove, his elbows on his knees, waiting for supper.
Chi Foxy almost decided to climb the fence and knock at the door of the kitchen at the moment the woman took the frying-pan off the stove, but he was feeling well filled and comfortable, and he decided to wait and to use the house as his breakfasting-place. This required no little strength of character, for the perfume of fried veal chops was wafted to his nostrils, but he held himself in hand, and when he had burned his pipeful of tobacco he curled down and went to sleep.
He was awakened by the sound of voices near at hand, and peered out between the ties. The night was not dark. The voices had come from a man and a woman, and as Chi Foxy watched them the man began digging in the sandy soil with a spade. He made quite a hole in the soil and turned to the woman.
“Hand me the bag,” he said.
The woman dragged a heavy gunny-sack to the edge of the hole. The man untwisted the neck of the bag and up-ended it over the hole. There followed the rattle of bones, one striking against the other, and the man handed the bag back to the woman. Chi Foxy peered eagerly at the hole. He saw bones. He looked up at the stars and saw it must be well after midnight. He saw the man hastily spade the soft soil over the bones, saw him scatter loose dry top-sand over the completed job, and saw the man and woman hurry back to the dark house.
The next morning Chi Foxy left his resting-place and climbed over the wire fence. He looked curiously at the spot where the weird burial had taken place, and went on toward the house. He knocked on the door, and it was opened by the man–a tall, lanky, coarse-bearded specimen.
“Say, friend, how about givin’ a feller some breakfast?” asked Chi Foxy.
“How ’bout it, ma?” asked the man, turning his head. “Got some breakfast for this feller?”
The woman looked toward the tramp. She evidently decided in his favor.
“Let him set on the step and I kin hand him out some coffee and some meat, if that’ll do him,” she said, and Chi Foxy seated himself. The breakfast she brought him on a chipped plate was all he could have desired. There was a half of a veal cutlet, browned to a nicety, a portion of fried potatoes, a thick slice of bread without butter, and a cup of coffee. Chi Foxy ate and drank.
“Thanks, folks,” he said. “I won’t forgit you.” And he continued on his way toward Riverbank.
“So you’re here,” said the first policeman he met. “Right on time with the first frosty breeze, ain’t you? Well, my friend, you can blow out of town on the breeze, just like you blew in. No more free board and gentle stone-pile massage in this town. Drift along, bo!”
He turned up the first cross-street. He went from house to house begging a hand-out, but the residents were colder than the weather. At the twelfth house he knocked on the back door, but he was beginning to feel hopeless. A thin streamer of smoke was issuing from the kitchen chimney, and where there is smoke there is food; but here, instead of a hard-faced woman coming to the door, a man put his face to the kitchen window and looked out. It was the face of a tall, thin man with a long neck and prominent Adam’s-apple, and as the man peered out of the window he looked something like a flamingo. He opened the door.
“Come right into the inside,” said Philo Gubb pleasantly, “and heat yourself up warm. The temperature is full of cold weather to-day.”
Chi Foxy entered. He looked around the kitchen. There was a brisk fire in the stove, but no sign of food.
“Say, pard,” he said, “how about giving me a bite? I haven’t had a bite this morning. I ain’t too late, am I?”
His host looked at him.
“You are not too late,” he answered, “because it may be some days of time before there is any eats here, for what’s burning into that stove is the unvalueless trimmings off of wall-paper. I’m not the regular resider at this house by no means.”
Chi Foxy looked at his host again.
“You’re a paper-hanger, ain’t you?” he said.
“Paper-hanger and deteckative,” said his host proudly. “My name is Mister P. Gubb, graduate of the Rising Sun Deteckative Agency’s Correspondence School of Deteckating in twelve lessons. And paper-hanging done in a neat manner.”
Chi Foxy held out his hand eagerly.
“Shake, pard!” he asked. “That’s my line, too.”
“Paper-hanging?” asked Philo Gubb.
“Detecting,” said Chi Foxy promptly. “I’m one of the most famousest gum-shoe fellers in the world. Me and this here great detective feller–what’s his name, now?–used to work team-work together.”
“Burns?” suggested Philo Gubb.
“Holmes,” said Chi Foxy, “Shermlock Holmes. Me and him pulled off all them big jobs you maybe have read about in the papers.”
He pronounced the name of the celebrated detective of fiction “Shermlock Hol-lums.”
“Oh, yes,” said the tramp, “me and Shermlock is great chums. And me and the kid!”
“To what kid do you refer to?” asked Philo Gubb.
“Why, my old side partner’s little son, Shermlock Hollums the Twoth,” said Chi Foxy without a blink. “And a cunnin’ little feller he was–took after his father like a cat after fish, he did. Me and old Shermlock we used to hide things–candy and–and oranges–and let little Shermlock go and detect where they was. He was a great little codger, he was.”
He noticed that Mr. Gubb was looking at him sharply. He looked down at his ragged garments.
“Disguise,” he said briefly. “Nobody’d know a swell dresser like I am in this rig, would he? Say, pard, how about giving me a half-dollar to get breakfast? Us detectives ought to have es-_spirit dee corpse_, hey? We ought to stick by each other, hey?”
The celebrated paper-hanger detective considered Chi Foxy. It was evident that P. Gubb doubted the authenticity of the tramp-detective.
“In times of necessary need,” he said slowly, “I often assume onto me the disguise of a tramp, but I don’t assume it onto me so complete that I go asking for money to buy breakfast.”
“You don’t, hey?” said Chi Foxy scornfully. “Well, you must be a swell detective, you must. When I get into a tramp disguise I’m a tramp all through.”
“Most certainly,” said P. Gubb. “And so am I. But there’s a difference into the way you are doing it now. You ain’t deteckating now. You are coming at me as one deteckative unto another.”
Chi Foxy laughed.
“Say,” he said, “I’d like to see this here Correspondence School you graduated out of, I would. I’d like to see the lessons they learn you, I would. Why, the first thing my old pard Shermlock Hollums told me was _never_ to be anything but what I was disguised to be as long as I was disguised to be it. That’s right. Maybe I’d be disguised as a tramp and I’d meet our old friend and college chum, the Dook of Sluff. He’d want to take me into some swell place and blow me off to a swell dinner. Would I let on? No, sir! I’d sort of whine at him and say, ‘Mister, won’t you give a poor feller a penny for to hire a bed?’ That’s how me and Shermlock stuck to a disguise. And Shermlock! Me and him was like twins, we was, and yet when I was in this tramp disguise and went up to his room to report, I’d knock at the door and say, ‘Mister, give a poor cove a hand-out, won’t you?’ and Shermlock would turn and say, ‘Watson, throw this tramp downstairs.’ And Watson would do it. Yes, sir! I’ve been so sore and bruised from being thrown downstairs when I went to report to Shermlock that sometimes I’d have to go to the hospital to get plastered up. That’s detecting!”
Chi Foxy looked at P. Gubb, but P. Gubb did not seem to have melted.
“That’s livin’ up to your disguise,” continued Chi Foxy. “Me and Shermlock, when we had on tramp disguises we _were_ tramps. Why, I used to go home and my valet would throw me downstairs. I was so thoroughly disguised, and I kept actin’ so trampish while I had the disguise on, that he used to come at me with a golluf stick and whack me on the head. And when I got into my own room I kept right on being a tramp. Took off my clothes–still a tramp. Took off my false whiskers–still a tramp. I’d be there stark naked and I’d still be a tramp. Yes, sir. That’s the kind of detective disguising I did. And then I’d take a bath. Then I was myself again. Yes, sir. When I’d scrubbed myself in the bathtub I figured I’d got rid of the tramp disguise right down into the skin, and I’d be myself again–and not until then.”
He looked at P. Gubb out of the corner of his eye.
“Why, I remember one time,” he said briskly, “I was asked to the Dook’s palace to a swell party. Me and Shermlock was both asked, because they knew one of us wouldn’t go unless the other did. Well, sir, I had been out detecting in a tramp disguise that day–findin’ stolen jools and murderers and that sort of business–and I went and took my bath and rigged all up in swell clothes, and called my limmy-seen automobile, and when the feller I hired to drive the limmy-seen come to open the door of the car at the Dook’s palace I dodged. Yes, sir, I dodged like I thought he was going to hit me because I hadn’t no business in my own limmy-seen automobile. That was funny, wasn’t it? So I went up the steps into the Dook’s palace, and the gentleman he had to open the door opened the door, and he called out my name and up come the Dookess–Mrs. Dook of Sluff, as they call her, but I always called her Maggie, like she called me Mike. So she says to me, ‘Mike, I’m mighty glad to see you here. We’re going to have a swell party.’ And I started to say back something pleasant, but what I said was, ‘Please, missus, won’t you give a poor cove a hand-out?'”
“What seemed to be the reason you said that?” asked Philo Gubb with interest.
“That’s what worried me,” said Chi Foxy. “I didn’t mean to say it. I just said it against my will, as you might say. But I guess she thought I was tryin’ to be smart, for she just says, ‘Naughty, naughty, Mike,’ and whistled to the Dook to come and blow me off to the feeds. So the Dook come and led me into the dining-room, and stacked me up against the table for a stand-up feed. Swell feed, bo! Samwiches till you couldn’t rest–ham samwiches and chicken samwiches and tongue samwiches and club samwiches and–and all kinds of samwiches. And what did I do? I grabbed half a dozen of them samwiches and rammed them into my pants pocket, just like a tramp would do it. The Dook looked surprised, but he begun to haw-haw, and he slapped me on the back and said, ‘Good joke, ol’ chap, good joke!’ So that passed off all right. Then I went into the jool room, because the Dook had told me his son, the Dookette, or what you might call the little Dookerino, was in there. So in I went, and the first thing I knew I was hiding one of the Dook’s gold crowns inside my vest. In a minute in come the Dook to pick out a crown to wear at dinner–”
“I thought you said they had a stand-up dinner at the table,” said Philo Gubb.
“Pshaw, that was nothing but the appetizer,” said Chi Foxy. “Well, in he come and began lookin’ through his crowns for the one he wanted, and all at once he saw how my vest bulged out, and he knew by the rough edges of the bulge it wasn’t samwiches because them dookal samwiches is all boneless. So he puts his hand on my shoulder and he says, ‘Mike, ain’t you carryin’ the joke a bit too far?’ That’s what he says, and I wish you could have heard how sad his voice was. He says, ‘You know me, Mike, and you know that anything I’ve got is yours–_except_ that crown you’ve got inside your vest.’
“For a minute I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t in tramp disguise and I thought he would think I was a thief in real life, so I says, ‘Dook, search me!’ ‘I don’t have to search you,’ he says, ‘for I can see my favorite crown bulging out your vest.’ ‘I don’t mean that, Dook, old chap,’ I says; ‘I mean take me up to your bood-u-war or the bathroom and give me the twice-over. Something’s wrong with me, and I don’t know what, but some of my tramp disguise must be sticking to me somewhere.’ So we went up to the bathroom and he went over me with this one-eyed monocule he always wore, and then he went over me with a reading-glass, and then he went over me with a microscope, but he couldn’t see a speck of tramp disguise on me. Not a speck. ‘Keep lookin’!’ I says. ‘It must be there somewhere, Dook,’ I says, ‘or I wouldn’t act so pernicious.’ So he begun again, and all at once I hear him chuckle. He was lookin’ in my ear with the microscope.”
“What was it?” asked Philo Gubb eagerly.
“A hair,” said Chi Foxy. “Just one hair. It was a hair out of my tramp whiskers that had got in my ear, and the minute he pulled it out I was all right again and no more tramp than he was. So you see that’s the way I keep acting tramp as long as I have even one hair of tramp disguise about me. Come on, be a good feller and let me have half a dollar to get some feeds with.”
P. Gubb put his hand in his pocket and withdrew it again. “I much admire to like the way you act right up to the disguise,” he said, “and it does you proud, but of course when you ask for fifty cents it’s nothing but part of the disguise, ain’t it?”
“Now, see here, bo!” said Chi Foxy earnestly. “Don’t you go and misunderstand me. I didn’t mean to be mistook that way. I _do_ want fifty cents. I’m hungry, I am.”
P. Gubb smiled approvingly. “Most excellent trampish disguise work,” he said. “Nobody couldn’t do it better. A real tramp couldn’t do it better.”
Chi Foxy frowned. “Say,” he said, “cut that out, won’t you, cully? Your head ain’t solid ivory, is it? I’m starvin’. Gimme fifty cents, mister. Gimme a quarter if you won’t give me fifty. Come on, now, be a good feller.”
“A deteckative like you are oughtn’t to need twenty-five cents so bad as that,” said P. Gubb. “A deteckative acquainted with the knowing of a Dook and of Sherlock Holmes don’t have to beg.”
Chi Foxy actually gritted his teeth. He was angry with himself. He had talked too well. He had proved so thoroughly that he was a detective that P. Gubb would not believe he was hungry.
“See here, bo,” he said suddenly, “is this straight about you being a detective, or is that a bluff, too?”
Philo Gubb showed Chi Foxy the badge he had received upon completion of his correspondence course of twelve lessons.
“I’m the most celebrated and only deteckative in the town of Riverbank, Iowa,” he said seriously, “and you can ask the Sheriff or the Chief of Police if you don’t believe me. I’m working right now onto a case of quite some importance, into which a calf was stolen, but up to now the clues ain’t what they should be. If you don’t think I’m a deteckative you can ask Farmer Hopper. He hired me for to get the capture of the guilty calf-stealer aforesaid.”
Chi Foxy studied P. Gubb’s simple face.
“And you can arrest a feller and lodge him in jail?” he asked.
“I’ve arrested many and lodged them into jail,” P. Gubb assured him.
“Well, bo,” said Chi Foxy frankly, “I’m the man you’re looking for. Arrest me.”
The tramp knew enough about arrests to know that even a suspect, when lodged in jail, would be fed, and he was hungry and getting hungrier every moment. P. Gubb looked at him with surprise.
“I thought you said you was a deteckative,” he said.
“I am,” said Chi Foxy. “Or I wouldn’t know I was a criminal. I detected it myself, because nobody else could. Even my old friend Shermlock Hollums couldn’t detect it, but I did. I’m a–a murderer, I am. There’s a thousand-dollar reward offered for me.”
“Then why don’t you arrest yourself and get the reward?” asked P. Gubb.
“Say,” said Chi Foxy with disgust. “It can’t be done. I know, for I’ve tried. I’m a fugitive, that’s what I am, and right behind me, no matter where I flee to, comes myself ready to grab me and arrest me. I’ve chased myself all over Europe, Asia and Africa, and I can’t get away from myself, and I can’t grab myself. It’s–it’s just awful.”
Chi Foxy wiped an imaginary tear from his eye.
“And I can’t keep away from the scene of my crime,” he said. “I come back here time after time–”
“Did you do the murder here?” asked P. Gubb with increased interest.
“That’s what I did,” said Chi Foxy. “I did it here. Take me down to the lock-up. Me and you can hold me all right.”
“It’s somewhat out of the ordinary common run for a feller to be a deteckative and the criminal murderer he’s chasing both at once,” said P. Gubb doubtfully.
“That’s so, ain’t it?” agreed Chi Foxy. “It looks that way. But facts are facts, ain’t they?”
“Quite occasionally they are such,” agreed P. Gubb.
“That’s right,” said Chi Foxy. “And all you’ve got to do is to explain them. You see, bo, I was a young feller when I murdered this old miser–”
“What did you say his name was?” asked P. Gubb.
“Smith,” said Chi Foxy promptly. “John J. Smith, and he lived right here in this town. And I murdered the old feller and got away. Nobody cared much whether the old feller was murdered or not, and nothin’ much might have been said of it except that the old feller had a nephew. His name was Smith–Peter P. Smith.”
“What did he do?” asked P. Gubb.
“He offered a reward of a thousand dollars,” said Chi Foxy. “It was one of them unsolved mystery cases–one of them cases that never get solved because no detective is smart enough to solve it. Nobody knew who killed old John J. Smith but me, and I wasn’t going around telling it.”
“I should think not,” said P. Gubb.
“No, sir!” said Chi Foxy. “So I was as safe as a babe unborn. I skipped up the river to Minneapolis, and nobody thought of lookin’ for me, because I wasn’t suspected. And then I did a fool thing.”
“Murderers ‘most always does,” said P. Gubb.
“Sure!” said Chi Foxy. “I thought I’d go to New Orleans. It was all right–nice trip–until we got to Dubuque, and then what happened? The old steamboat blew up. I went sailin’ up in the air like one of these here skyrockets, I did, and when I come down I lit head first.”
“It is a remarkable wonder it didn’t kill you to death,” said P. Gubb.
“Ain’t it?” said Chi Foxy. “But it did worse than kill me. It knocked my senses out of me. When I come to I didn’t know what had happened. I didn’t remember a thing out of my past–not a thing. I was like a newborn babe. I didn’t have an idea or a memory left in me. When they picked me up and I opened my eyes I could just say ‘Ah-goo’ and ‘Da-da’ and things like that, and I didn’t know who I was or where I’d been or anything. So some kind folks took me and sent me to kinder-garden, and I started in to learn my A-B-C’s and things like that. I learned fast, and pretty soon I was in the high school, and pretty soon I graduated, and the name I graduated under was Mike Higgs, Higgs being the name of the family that adopted me.”
“Mike Higgs?” repeated P. Gubb, trying to remember a celebrated detective of that name.
“Yes,” said Chi Foxy, “they named me Mike after the old gran’pa of the family. He was a butcher, and they wanted me to be a butcher, but I wanted to be a detective. So Gran’pa Higgs he lent me enough money to go to London and take lessons in detecting from Shermlock Hollums, and I did. He says to me, when I’d finished the course, ‘Mike, I hate to say it, but I can’t call you a rival. You’re so far ahead of me in detective knowledge that I’m like a half-witted child beside you.’ That’s what my old friend and teacher, Shermlock Hollums, says to me.”
“That was exceedingly high praising from one so great,” said P. Gubb.
“You bet it was!” said Chi Foxy, “So one day Shermlock says to me, ‘Mike you’re so good at this detecting work, why don’t you try to solve The Great Mystery?’
“‘What’s that?’ I says.
“‘Why, the greatest unsolved mystery of the world,’ he says. ‘The mystery of the Riverbank, Iowa, miser.’
“So he told me what he knew about it,” continued Chi Foxy, “and I set to work. I come here to Riverbank to hunt up a clue, and I found just one clue.”
“What was it?” asked Philo Gubb.
“It was a speck of red pepper no bigger than the point of a pin,” said Chi Foxy, “crushed into the carpet by the old miser’s bed, where he had been killed. I picked up the speck of red pepper and microscoped it, and I saw that along one edge it was sort of brown, where it had been burned a little.”
“Have you got it now?” asked P. Gubb.
“Got it?” said Chi Foxy. “I should say not. While I was lookin’ at it a breeze come and blowed it away, and I never saw it again, but that was enough for me. ‘Red pepper,’ I says, ‘partly burned,’ and I began to tremble. ‘Cause why? ‘Cause I never was able to get smoking tobacco strong enough to suit me, and to make it taste snappy I always put a little red pepper in my pipe. I turned as white as a sheet. ‘Red pepper partly burned!’ I says to myself. ‘Nobody in the world but me puts red pepper in his tobacco.’
“Well, sir, I started tracing myself back and I found out I was the murderer. And I was the detective after the murderer. I was everybody concerned. In a moment I was overcome by criminal fear and I fled. I fled all over Europe, Asia, and Africa, and wherever I went I was right after myself, ready to arrest me.”
Chi Foxy paused and glanced at P. Gubb questioningly. With a solemn face the great Correspondence School detective blinked his bird-like eyes at Chi Foxy.
“So now arrest me,” said Chi Foxy.
Philo Gubb rubbed his chin. “I’d like to favor you by so doing, Mr. Jones,” he said, “for I can easy see, Mr. Higgs, that you can’t arrest yourself, but it is against the instructions in Lesson Six of the Rising Sun Correspondence School of Deteckating for a graduate to arrest a man without a good clue, and the only clue you had was blowed away.”
For a moment this seemed to annoy Chi Foxy, but his face suddenly brightened.
“Clue?” he said. “Say, friend, I wouldn’t ask you to arrest me on any such clue as a speck of red pepper. No, sir! But I’ve got a clue that’ll mean something. I can tell you right where I buried that old miser’s bones, I can. You go up the river road until you come to a tool-house on the railway, and just back of the tool-house is a dwellin’-house–old and unpainted. All right! Right in that yard, close to the railway fence, the bones is buried. Now, you turn me over to the law, and you go up there–”
“We’d best go up there immediately first before anything else,” said Philo Gubb, starting to remove his paper-hanger’s apron. “Putting off clues until sometime else is against Paragraph Four, Lesson One. If you come up there with me–”
“Look here,” said Chi Foxy, “will you buy me a feed on the way up if I go with you?”
“Quite certainly sure,” said P. Gubb, and so it was agreed.
The paper-hanger detective and the criminal-detective stopped at Hank’s restaurant and Chi Foxy ate a heavy meal, and then led the way to the tool-house, and pointed over the wire fence to the spot where the bones of the murdered miser were supposed to repose.
“Right there!” he said, but when P. Gubb had climbed the fence and had turned to look for Chi Foxy, the late detective-criminal was gone. Mr. Gubb’s face turned red, but as he hung his head in shame he noticed that the ground at his feet had lately been spaded. He stooped to look at it, and then walked to the weather-beaten house and knocked. A lanky, loose-jointed man came to the door, and a woman peered at Mr. Gubb from behind the man.
“I hope you’ll pardon,” said Mr. Gubb politely, “but my name is P. Gubb, deteckative and paper-hanger, and I’m looking up a case. Might I trouble you for the loan of a spade or shovel?”
“What you want with it?” asked the man gruffly.
“To dig,” said Mr. Gubb.
The man reluctantly handed Mr. Gubb a spade on which there were still traces of soft, sandy soil. Mr. Gubb walked to the rear of the yard and jabbed the spade into the soft soil. It struck something hard. In a moment or two Mr. Gubb had the evidences of crime completely uncovered. There were bones buried there–many bones. Mr. Gubb looked up and wiped his brow. Then he looked down at the bones. One was a skull. Mr. Gubb stared at it. It was indeed a skull, but it was the skull of a calf. All the bones were calf bones–not bones of the human calf, but bones of the veal calf. Mr. Gubb turned his head and saw the long lanky man approaching.
“All right,” said the long, lanky man, “I give up. You’ve got me. I surrender. When a detective gets that close, a man hasn’t any chance. I own up. I did it.”
“You did what?”
“Now, quit!” said the long, lanky man. “No use rubbin’ it in after I’ve owned up. You know as well as I do–I’m the man that stole Farmer Hopper’s calf. I give up. I surrender.”
“I’m much obliged to you,” said Philo Gubb.
“Well, I ain’t obliged to _you,”_ said the lanky man, “but I wish you’d tell me how you found out I was the calf thief.”
Mr. Gubb smiled an inscrutable smile.
“A deteckative acquires dexterity in the way of capturing up the criminal classes,” he said with oracular yet modest simplicity.
* * * * *
The next day, when Mr. Gubb returned to his paper-hanging job he found Chi Foxy waiting for him.
“Boss,” he said with a laugh, “I showed you where that murdered man’s bones was buried, won’t you stake me to a meal?”
“Are you hungry again?” asked Mr. Gubb.
“Hungry?” said Chi Foxy. “I’m so hungry that I feel like a living skeleton. I’m so hungry that a square meal would make me feel like Syrilla, that Fat Lady I seen at Derlingport a couple of days ago.”
“What’s that you remarked about?” asked Mr. Gubb, pinning Chi Foxy with his eye. “Did I understand the meaning of what you said was that you saw a Fat Lady named Syrilla?”
“At Derlingport,” said Chi Foxy. “A swell guy named Medderbrook give me a meal and a ticket to the big show. It was a performance _de luxe_, so to say. Special attraction, bo. You’d have laughed your head off. This here Syrilla Fat Lady got married to the Living Skeleton in the middle ring, and she had the Snake Charmer for a bridesmaid. Say! you’d have laughed–”
But Mr. Gubb did not laugh. He never laughed again.