The Two-Cent Stamp
by Ellis Parker Butler
The house in Tenth Street where Philo Gubb was doing a job of paper-hanging when he made the happy error of capturing the dynamiters while seeking the un-burglars was the home of Aunt Martha Turner, a member of the Ladies’ Temperance League of Riverbank.
The members of the Ladies’ Temperance League–and Aunt Martha Turner particularly–had recently begun a movement to have City Attorney Mullen impeached and thrown out of office, for they claimed that while he had been elected by the Prohibition-Republican Party, and had pledged himself to close every saloon, he had not closed one single saloon. Aunt Martha Turner and her associates believed this was because Attorney Mullen was himself a drinker of beer, and it was to get proof of this that the hot-headed ladies had engaged a youth named Slippery Williams to make a raid on his home.
Detective Gubb was, however, quite unconscious of all this when he proceeded to the home of Aunt Martha to complete his work there. He was in an unhappy frame of mind, for he had in his pocket nothing but one two-cent stamp and he had immediate need for one hundred dollars.
Mr. Gubb had, early that morning, visited the home of Mr. Medderbrook, from whom he hoped to have news of Syrilla, but the colored butler informed him that Mr. Medderbrook had been called to Chicago.
“He done lef word, howsomedever,” said the butler, “dat ef you come an’ was willin’ to pay thutty cents you could have dis telegraf whut come from Mis’ Syrilla. An’ he lef dis note fo’ you, whut you can have whever you pay or not.”
Mr. Gubb quite willingly gave the negro thirty cents, the very last money he possessed, and read the telegram. It said:–
Hope on, hope ever. Have given up wheat bread, corn bread, rye bread, home-made bread, bakers’ bread, biscuit and rolls. Have lost six pounds more. Love to Gubby.
This would have sent Mr. Gubb to his work in a happy frame of mind, had it not been for the note Mr. Medderbrook had left. This note said:–
Called to Chicago suddenly. I must have one hundred dollars payment on account of the gold stock immediately. Cannot let my daughter marry a man who puts off paying for gold stock forever. Unless I hear from you with money to-morrow, all is over between us.
Such a letter would have made any lover sad. Mr. Gubb had no idea where he could raise one hundred dollars during the day and he saw his promising romance cut short just when Syrilla was beginning to lose weight handsomely. The greeting he received when he reached Aunt Martha Turner’s was not of a sort to cheer him. Mrs. Turner met him with a sour face.
“No, you can’t go ahead with puttin’ the wall-paper on this kitchen ceilin’ to-day, Mr. Gubb,” she said.
“I’d like to, if I could,” said Philo Gubb wistfully. “My financial condition ain’t such as to allow me to waste a day. I’m very low in a monetary shape, right now.”
Aunt Martha Turner seemed worried.
“Well,” she said reluctantly, “I guess if that’s the case you might as well go ahead. I expect I’ll have to be out of the house ‘most all day. If you get done before I get back, lock the kitchen door and put the key behind a shutter.”
She departed, and Philo Gubb set up his trestle, unrolled and trimmed a strip of ceiling-paper, pasted it, and climbed his ladder. At the top he seated himself a moment and shook his head.
He sighed and picked up the paste-covered strip of ceiling-paper, but before he could get to his feet the kitchen door opened and “Snooks” Turner put his head in cautiously.
“Say, Gubb, where’s Aunt Martha?” he asked in a whisper.
“She’s gone out,” said Philo Gubb. “She won’t be back for quite some time, I guess, Snooksy.”
“Good!” said Snooks, and he entered the kitchen. Some weeks before he had met Nan Kilfillan. He was deeply in love with Nan, and Nan was a good girl, although Aunt Martha Turner did not approve of her, because she was “hired girl” to City Attorney Mullen. Before she had met Snooks Nan had done her best to “make something” of “Slippery” Williams, who was courting her then, but that task was beyond even Nan’s powers.
Snooks held a job on the “Eagle” as city reporter, with the dignified title of City Editor, and he was making good. He got the news. He seemed able to smell news. When there was big news in the air he would become uneasy and feel nervous.
“I got the twitches again,” he would say to the editor of the “Eagle.” “There’s some big item around. I’ve got to get it.” And he would get it.
“She’s gone out, has she?” said Snooks, when he had entered his aunt’s kitchen and asked Philo Gubb about Aunt Martha. “That’s good. I wanted to see you on a matter of business–detective business.”
He put his hand in his pocket and drew out a small roll of bills. He was not the usually neat Snooks. One eye was blackened and one side of his face was scratched. His clothes were badly torn and soiled. He looked as if some one had tried to murder him.
“There!” he said, holding the bills up to Philo Gubb after counting them. “There’s twenty-five dollars. You take that and find out what I have done, and what’s the matter with me, and all about it.”
“What do you want me to find out?” asked Mr. Gubb, fondling the bills.
“If I knew, I wouldn’t ask you,” said Snooks peevishly. “I don’t know what it is. I’d go and find out myself, but I’m in jail.”
“Where did you say you was?” asked Philo Gubb.
“In jail,” said Snooks. “I’m in jail, and I’m in bad. When the marshal put me in last night I gave him my word I’d stay in all day to-day, and it ain’t right for me to be here now.
“‘Dog-gone you, Snooks!’ he says, ‘you ain’t got no consideration for me at all. Here I figgered that there wouldn’t be no wave of crime strike town for some days, and I went and took the jail door down to the blacksmith to have a panel put in where the one rusted out, and my wife made me promise to drive out to the farm with her to-morrow, and now you come and spoil everything. I got to stay in town and watch you.’
“‘Go on,’ I says, ‘and take your drive. I’ll stay in jail. I got a strong imagination. I’ll imagine there’s a door.’
“‘Honor bright?’ he says.
“‘Yes, honor bright,’ I says.
“So he went,” said Snooks, “and he’s trusting me, and here I am. You can see it wouldn’t do for me to be running all over town when, by rights, I’m locked and barred and bolted in jail. I’m locked and barred and bolted in jail, and well started on my way to the penitentiary as a burglar.”
“As a burglar!” exclaimed Gubb.
“That’s it!” said Snooks. “I can’t see head or tail of it. You got to help me out, Gubb. See if you can make any sense of this:–
“Last night I went out for a walk with Nan. She’s my girl, you know, and she’s going to marry me. Maybe she won’t now, but she was going to. She works for Mullen. We got back to Mullen’s house about eleven o’clock, and Mrs. Mullen always locks the door at half-past ten, whether Nan is in or not. So, being late, we had to ring the doorbell, and Mr. Mullen came to the door to let Nan in, and when he saw I was with her he shook hands with me and asked me to come in and have a cigar, and sit awhile, but I told him I had to hustle up some news for to-day’s paper, and he let me go. That’s how pleasant he was. So I went downtown, and the first fellow I met was Sammy Wilmerton.”
“Widow Wilmerton’s boy?” asked Philo Gubb.
“Exactly!” said Snooks, feeling his eye with his finger. “And he says, ‘Snooks, did you hear what the Ladies’ Temperance League did last night?’ I hadn’t heard. ‘I heard ma say,’ says Sammy, ‘but don’t say I told you. They got up a petition to have City Attorney Mullen impeached by the City Council.’
“Well, that was news! I went into the ‘Eagle’ office and called up Mullen.
“‘Hello! Is that Attorney Mullen?’ I says.
“‘Yes,’ he says.
“‘Well, something happened last night,’ I says, ‘and I’d like to see you about it.’
“‘How do you know what happened?’ he says.
“‘No matter,’ I says; ‘can I come up?’
“After a half a minute he says, ‘Oh, yes! Come up. Come right away. I’ll be waiting for you.’
“So I went.”
“Nothing strange about that,” said Philo Gubb, shifting himself on the ladder.
“So I went,” continued Snooks. “I rang the doorbell and, the moment it rang, the door flew open and–_bliff!_–down came a bed-blanket over me and somebody grabbed me in his arms and lugged me into the house. I guess it was Attorney Mullen–you know how big and husky he is. But I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t see anything. Only, every two seconds, bump! he hit at my head through the blanket. That’s how I got this eye. And, all the time, he was talking to me, mad as a hatter, and I couldn’t hear a word he said. But I could hear his wife screaming at the top of the stairs, and I could hear Nan screaming, and I heard a window go up.
“‘Stop that yelling!’ says Mullen, in a voice I _could_ hear, and then he picked me up again and carried me to the back door, and opened it and threw me all the way down the eight steps. I chucked off the blanket, and I was going up the steps again, to show him he couldn’t treat me that way, when–_bing!_–somebody next door took a shot at me with a revolver. Thought I was a burglar, I guess. I started to run for the back gate, when–_bing!_–somebody shot at me from the other house. What do you think of that? For a few minutes it sounded like the battle of San Juan, and I can’t understand yet why I didn’t suffer an awful loss of life.”
“But you didn’t?” asked Philo Gubb.
“No, siree! I made a dive for the cellar door, just as they got the range. I stayed in the cellarway, with the bullets pattering on it like hail, until the cop came. Tim Fogarty was the cop. He ordered ‘Cease firing!’ and the shower stopped, and I let him capture me. He took me to the calaboose, and this morning, early, he had me before the judge, and I’m held for the grand jury, and the charge is burglary and petit larceny. Now what is the answer?”
“Being pulled into a house and thrown out the other door isn’t burglary,” said Philo Gubb. “Burglary is breaking in or breaking out. Maybe Attorney Mullen mistook you for some one else.”
“Mistook nothing!” said Snooks. “He was in the court-room this morning. He handled the case against me. Who is that?”
Some one was climbing the back steps, and Snooks made one dive for the cellar door, and slipped inside. He knew how to get out through the cellar, for he was familiar with it. He did not wait now, but opened the outside cellar door, and after looking to see that the way was clear, hurried back to the jail.
Philo Gubb did not have time to descend from his ladder before the kitchen door opened. The visitor was Policeman Fogarty.
“Mawrnin’!” he said, removing his hat and wiping the sweat-band with his red handkerchief. “Don’t ye get down, Misther Gubb, sor. I want but a wurrd with ye. I seen Snooksy Tur-rner here but a sicond ago, me lookin’ in at the windy, an’ you an’ him conversin’. Mayhap he was speakin’ t’ ye iv his arrist?”
“He was conversing with me of that occurrence,” said Philo Gubb. “He was consulting me in my professional capacity.”
“An’ a fine young lad he is!” said Policeman Fogarty, reaching into his pocket. “I got th’ divvil for arristin’ him. ‘Twas that dark, ye see, Misther Gubb, I cud not see who I was arristin’. Maybe he was consultin’ ye about gettin’ clear iv th’ charge ag’inst him?”
“He retained my deteckative services,” said Philo Gubb.
“Poor young man!” said Fogarty. “I’ll warrant he has none too much money. Me hear-rt bleeds for him. Ye’ll have no ind iv trailin’ an’ shadowin’ an’ other detective wurrk to do awn th’ case, no doubt. ‘Tis ixpinsive wurrk, that! I was thinkin’ maybe ye’d permit me t’ contribute a five-dollar bill t’ th’ wurrk, for I’m that sad t’ have had a hand in arristin’ him.”
Fogarty held up the bill and Philo Gubb took it.
“Contingent expenses are always numerously present in deteckative operations,” he said.
“Right ye ar-re!” said Fogarty. “An’ ye’ll remimber, if anny wan asks ye, that I ixprissed me contrition for arristin’ Snooksy. Whist!” he said, putting his hand alongside his mouth and whispering: “Some wan wanted me t’ search th’ house here t’ see did Snooksy have sivin bottles iv beer an’ a silver beer-opener in his room.”
Philo Gubb sat on the ladder and contemplated the five-dollar bill until he heard Fogarty returning.
“Hist!” Fogarty said. “I did not see him, mind ye!”
Fogarty slipped out of the back door and was gone, and Philo Gubb, after a thoughtful moment, decided that the five-dollar bill was rightfully his, and slipped it into his pocket. To earn it, however, he must get to work on the case. He raised the pasted strip of paper, but before he could place the loose end on the ceiling, some one tapped at the kitchen door.
“Come in!” he called, and the door opened.
“Slippery” Williams glided into the room. His crafty eyes sought Philo Gubb.
“‘Lo, Gubby! Watcha doin’ up there? Where’s Miss Turner?” he asked.
“Miss Turner is out on business, I presume,” said the Correspondence School detective coldly, “and I am pursuing my professional duties in the deteckating line.”
“Yar, hey?” said Slippery. “Who you detectin’ for now?”
“Snooks Turner,” said Philo Gubb. “I’m solving a case for him.”
Instantly Slippery’s manner changed. From rough he became smooth. From bold he became cringing.
“Why, I’m Snooksy’s friend,” he said. “You know me and Snooksy was always chums, don’t you, Gubby? Yes, sir, I think a lot of Snooksy. He says, ‘Slippery, you go up to my room and get me a bundle of clean clothes–these are all torn and dirty, and–‘ Well, I guess I’ll get ’em, and get back. Snooks is waitin’ for me.”
He turned to the hall, but Philo Gubb called him back.
“You can’t go up there,” said Philo Gubb, from his ladder-top. “There’s been enough folks up there already.”
“Who was up?” asked Slippery hastily.
“Policeman Fogarty was,” said Philo Gubb.
“What’d he find up there?” asked Slippery anxiously.
“Nothin’,” said Philo Gubb. “He told me he couldn’t find seven bottles of beer and a beer-opener.”
“Look here!” said Slippery sweetly. “If I gave you five dollars to hire you to hunt for them, could you find them seven bottles of beer and that beer-opener, for me? Straight detective work? Could you?”
“I could try to find them,” said Philo Gubb.
“Well, that’s all I want,” said Slippery. “I don’t want to do nothin’ with them. All I want to know is–where are they? Here’s five dollars.”
Philo Gubb took the money.
“All right,” said Slippery, “now, you find them. They’re upstairs in Mrs. Turner’s bed, between the quilt and the mattress. Go find them.”
“Not until Miss Turner comes home,” said Philo firmly. “It’s her house.”
“Why, you long-legged stork you!” said Slippery, “she knows I’m here for that beer. She sent me.”
“I thought you said Snooks sent you for his clothes,” said Philo.
“Never you mind who sent me for what!” said Slippery, angrily. “You’re a dandy detective, ain’t you? Sittin’ on top of a ladder, and not lettin’ a friend of Snooks help him out. Say, listen, Gubby! Everybody’s goin’ to get into worse trouble if I don’t get away with that beer. Understand? Come on! Let me take it away!”
“When Miss Turner comes back!” said Philo Gubb.
A new knock on the door interrupted them, and Slippery glided to the cellar door, through which Snooks had so recently fled. The kitchen door opened to admit Attorney Smith. He was a thin man, but intelligent-looking, as thin men quite frequently are.
“Don’t get down, Mr. Gubb, don’t get down!” he said. “I came in the back way, hoping to find Miss Turner. She is not here?”
“She’s out,” said Philo.
“Too bad!” said Attorney Smith. “I wanted to see her about her nephew. You have heard he is in jail?”
“Why, yes,” said Philo, crossing one leg over the other. “He hired me to do some deteckating. I’m sort of in charge of that case. I’m just going to start in looking it up.”
Attorney Smith took a turn to the end of the room and back. He was known in Riverbank as the unsuccessful competitor against Attorney Mullen for the City Attorneyship, and was supposed to be the counselor of the liquor interests.
“You have done nothing yet?” he asked suddenly, stopping below Philo Gubb’s elevated seat.
“No, I’m just about beginning to commence,” said Philo.
“Then you know nothing regarding the–the articles young Turner is charged with stealing?”
“Well, maybe I do know something about that,” said Philo. “If you mean seven bottles of beer and a beer-opener, I do.”
“Where are they?” asked Attorney Smith in the sharp tone he used in addressing a witness for the other side when he was trying a case.
“I guess I’ve told about all I’m going to tell about them,” said Philo thoughtfully. “I don’t want to be disobliging, Mister Smith, but I look on them bottles of beer as a clue, and that beer-opener as a clue, and they’re about the only clue I’ve got. I got to save up my clues.”
“Are they in this house?” asked Mr. Smith sharply.
“If they ain’t, they’re somewheres else,” said Philo.
“Mr. Gubb,” said Mr. Smith impressively “there are large interests at stake in this case. Larger interests than you imagine. We are all interested at this moment in clearing your client of the suspicion–which I hope is an unjust suspicion–now resting over and upon him. I need not say what the interests are, but they are very powerful. I feel confident that those interests could succeed in clearing Snooks Turner.”
“Well, I guess, if I was left alone long enough to get down from this ladder, I could clear him myself. I didn’t study in the Rising Sun Deteckative Agency’s Correspondence School of Deteckating for nothing,” said Philo Gubb. “Snooks hired me–”
“And he did well!” said Attorney Smith heartily. “I praise his acumen. I wonder if I might be permitted, on behalf of the powerful interests I represent, to contribute to the expense of the work you will do?”
“I guess you might,” said Philo Gubb. “Deteckating runs into money.”
“The interests I represent,” said Mr. Smith, taking out his wallet, “will contribute ten dollars.”
And they did. They put a crisp ten-dollar bill in Philo Gubb’s hands.
“And now, having shown our unity of interest with young Mr. Turner, there can be no harm in telling us where that beer is, can there?”
He turned toward the kitchen door–for Nan Kilfillan stood there. Her eyes were red and swollen. Attorney Smith hastily excused himself and went away, and Nan came into the kitchen.
“Oh, Mr. Gubb!” she exclaimed. “You _will_ get Snooks out of jail, won’t you? It would break my heart if he was sent to the penitentiary, and I _know_ he has done nothing wrong! He is depending on you, Mr. Gubb. I brought you ten dollars–it is all I have left of last month’s wages, but it will help a little, won’t it?”
“Thank you,” said Philo Gubb, taking the money. “I cannot estimate in advance what the cost of his clearance will be. It may be more, and it may be less. It is a complicated case. I am just about going to get down from this ladder and start working on it vigorously. If you–”
“If you wish to help us in this case, Miss Kilfillan,” he said, “will you go to the jail and ask Snooks where is the beer and the beer-opener?”
“Where is–” Her face went white. “What beer and what beer-opener?” she asked tensely.
“Seven bottles and a beer-opener,” said Philo Gubb.
“Oh!” she moaned. “And he said he didn’t do it! He swore he didn’t do it! Oh, Snooks, how could you–how could you!”
“Now, don’t you weep like that,” said Philo Gubb soothingly. “You go and ask him. I’ll have my things ready for my immediate departure onto the case by the time you get back.”
Nan hurried away, and Philo Gubb waited only to count the money he had so far received. It amounted to fifty-five dollars. He slipped it into his pocket and stood up on the stepladder. He had even proceeded so far as to put one foot on a lower step, when Mrs. Wilmerton entered the kitchen.
She was a stout woman, and she was almost out of breath. She had to stand a minute before she could speak, but as she stood she made gestures with her hands, as if _that_ much of her delivery could be given, at any rate, and the words might catch up with their appropriate gestures if they could.
“Mister Gubb! Mister Gubb!” she gasped. “Oh, this is terrible! Terrible! Miss Turner should never have dared it! Oh, my breath! Do you–do you know where the beer is?”
“I wouldn’t advise you to take beer for shortness of the breath,” said Philo Gubb. “Just rest a minute.”
“But,” gasped poor Mrs. Wilmerton, “I _told_ Miss Turner it was folly! She’s so stubborn! Ah–h! I thought I’d never get a full breath again as long as I lived. How can we get rid of the beer?”
“There’s plenty want to take it,” said Mr. Gubb. “Attorney Smith–”
“Oh, I knew it! I knew it!” moaned Mrs. Wilmerton. “He threatened it!”
“Threatened what?” asked Philo Gubb.
“That he would find the beer in this house!” cried Mrs. Wilmerton. “He threatened Aunt Martha that if she did not give it to him freely, he would have it found here, and make a scandal! Beer hidden between the quilt and the mattress of Aunt Martha’s bed, and she Secretary of the Ladies’ Temperance League! It’s awful! Martha is so headstrong! She’s getting herself in an awful fix! She never should have had a thing to do with that Slippery fellow!”
“With who? With Slippery Williams?” asked Philo Gubb, intensely surprised. “Aunt Martha Turner? What did she have to do with Slippery Williams?”
“Well, she had plenty, and enough, and more than that to do with him,” said Mrs. Wilmerton angrily. “Getting bottles of beer in her bed, and robbing houses at her time of life, and wanting the Ladies’ Temperance League to have a special meeting this morning to approve of burglary and larceny! At her age!”
“Now, Miss Wilmerton,” said Philo Gubb, from the top of the ladder, “I’d ought to warn you, before you go any farther, that Snooks Turner has engaged me and my services to detect for him in this burglar case. If Aunt Martha Turner burgled the burglary that Snooks is in jail for, maybe you ought not say anything about it to me. I got to do what I can to free Snooksy, no matter who it gets into trouble.”
“Mr. Gubb!” exclaimed Mrs. Wilmerton suddenly–“Mr. Gubb, I’m not authorized so to do, but I’ll warrant I’ll get the other ladies to authorize, or I’ll know why. If I was to give you twenty dollars on behalf of the Ladies’ Temperance League to help get Snooksy out of jail,–and land only knows why he is in jail,–would you be so kind as to beg and plead with Snooksy to leave Attorney Mullen alone, in the ‘Eagle,’ after this?”
She held four five-dollar bills up to Philo Gubb, and he took them.
“From what I saw of his eye,” said Mr. Gubb, “I guess Snooks will be willing to leave Attorney Mullen alone in every shape and form from now on. Now, maybe you can tell me how Snooks got into this business.”
“I haven’t the slightest idea in the world!” said Mrs. Wilmerton. “All I know about it is–”
Both Mrs. Wilmerton and Philo Gubb turned their heads toward the door. The greater duskiness of the kitchen was caused by the large form of City Attorney Mullen. He bowed ceremoniously to Mrs. Wilmerton, who turned bright red with embarrassment, probably because of her part in the efforts of the League to have Mr. Mullen impeached by the City Council. Attorney Mullen was not, however, embarrassed.
“I am glad you are here, Mrs. Wilmerton,” he said, “for I wish a witness. I do not wish to have any stigma of bribery rest on me. I came here,” he continued, taking a leather purse from the inner pocket of his coat, “to give these twenty-five dollars to Mr. Gubb. Mr. Gubb, I have just visited Snooks–so called–Turner at the jail. I went there with the intention of bailing him out, pending the simple process of his ultimate and speedy release from the charges against him. I am convinced that I was wrong when I made the charge of burglary against him. I am convinced that no burglary was ever committed on my premises–”
“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Wilmerton. “Not even seven bottles of beer and a beer-opener, I suppose!”
Attorney Mullen turned on her like a flash.
“What do you know about beer and beer-openers?” he snapped.
“I may not know as much as Detective Gubb, but I know what I know!” she answered, and Mr. Mullen restrained himself sufficiently to hide the glare of hatred in his eyes by turning to Philo Gubb.
“Exactly!” he said with forced calmness. “And perhaps I know more about them than Mr. Gubb knows. In fact, I do know more about them. I know they are upstairs between a blanket and a mattress. I know, Mrs. Wilmerton,” he almost shouted, turning on her with an accusing forefinger, “that they were stolen from a house in this town by some one representing the Ladies’ Temperance League. I know that burglary was committed by, or at the behest of, some one representing the Ladies’ Temperance League! I know that, if this matter is carried to the end, a respectable old lady–a leader in the Ladies’ Temperance League–will go behind the bars, sentenced as a burglar! That’s what I know!”
“Oh, my!” gasped Mrs. Wilmerton, and sank into a chair.
“Now, then!” said Attorney Mullen, turning to Philo Gubb again, and handing him the twenty-five dollars, “I give you this money as my share of the fund that is to pay you for the work you do for Snooks Turner. I make no request, because of the money. It is yours. But if you love justice, for Heaven’s sake, send word to him to come out of jail!”
“Won’t he come out?” asked Philo Gubb, puzzled.
“No, he won’t!” said Attorney Mullen. “I begged him to, but he said, ‘No! Not until Philo Gubb gets to the bottom of this case.’ But should we, as citizens, and as members of the Prohibition Party, permit you, Mr. Gubb, to land Aunt Martha Turner in the calaboose?”
“Well, if what I find out, when I get down from this ladder and start to work, sends her there, I don’t see that I can help it,” said Philo Gubb. “Deteckative work is a science, as operated by them that has studied in the Rising Sun Deteckative Agency’s Correspondence School of Deteckating–”
“Snooks says he don’t know anything about any beer,” said Nan Kilfillan, entering hastily, and then pausing, as she saw Mr. Mullen.
“Did you tell him it was upstairs, in bed?” asked Philo Gubb.
“In his room? In his bed?” said Attorney Mullen eagerly. “Why, that puts an entirely different aspect on the matter! That gives me, as City Attorney, all the proof I shall need to convict the respectable Miss Martha Turner and her honorable nephew of the ‘Eagle.’ And, by the gods! I _will_ convict them!”
He glared at Mrs. Wilmerton. Nan broke into sobs.
“Unless,” he added gently, “this whole matter is dropped.”
Philo Gubb took out all the money he had received and counted it, sitting cross-legged on the ladder.
“I guess,” he said thoughtfully, “you had better run up to the jail and tell Snooksy I want to see him right away, Miss Kilfillan. Maybe he can stretch the jail that much again. Tell him I’m just going to get down from this ladder and start to work, and I want to ask his advice.”
“What do you want to ask him?” inquired Attorney Mullen, as Nan hurried away.
“I want to ask him about those seven bottles of beer and that beer-opener,” said Philo Gubb.
“Mr. Gubb,” said the City Attorney, “I can tell you about those bottles of beer. If those bottles of beer came from my house Aunt Martha Turner goes to the penitentiary. If she does not go to the penitentiary, there are no bottles of beer and there is no beer-opener. And never were!”
“I told her she had done a foolish, foolish thing!” exclaimed Mrs. Wilmerton.
“Just so! And it _was_ foolish,” said Attorney Mullen, “_If_ it was done. And, if it was done, and Snooks Turner telephoned, and I thought he meant the burglary, I would, naturally, assault him.”
“You hurt him bad,” said Philo Gubb.
“And I meant to!” said Attorney Mullen.
All turned toward the door, where Policeman Fogarty entered with Snooksy and Nan.
“I’ve done ivrything I cud t’ quiet th’ matter up,” said Fogarty to Mullen, thus explaining his interest in the affair.
“I like jail,” said Snooks cheerfully. “I’m going to stay in jail.”
Aunt Martha Turner interrupted him. She came into the kitchen like a gust of wind, scattering the others like leaves, and threw her arms around her nephew Snooksy.
“Oh, my Snooksy! My Snooksy!” she moaned. “Don’t you love your old auntie any more? Won’t you be a good boy for your poor old auntie? Don’t you love her at all any more?”
“Sure,” said Snooks happily. “A fellow can love you in jail, can’t he?”
“But won’t you come out?” she pleaded. “Everybody wants you to come out, dear, dear boy. See–they all want you to come out. Every last one of them. Please come out.”
“Oh, I like it in jail,” said Snooks. “It gives me time for meditation. Well, good-bye, folks, I’ll be going back.”
His aunt grasped him firmly by the arm and wailed. So did Nan.
“But, Snooksy,” begged Mrs. Turner, “don’t you know they’ll send me to the penitentiary if you go back to that old jail?”
“Yes, but don’t you care, auntie. They say the penitentiary is nicer than the jail. Better doors. Nobody can break in and steal things from you.”
“Snooks Turner!” said his aunt. “You know as well as I do that Mr. Mullen will forgive and forget, if you will. Would you rather see me go to prison–suffer?”
“No, of course not, auntie,” said Snooks, laughing. “But you see, I’ve hired Detective Gubb to work on this case, and if there’s no case, it will not be fair to him. He’s all worked up about it. He’s so eager to be at it that he has almost come down from the top of that ladder. In another day or two he would come all the way down, and then there’s no telling what would happen. No, I’m a newspaper man. I want Philo Gubb to discover something we don’t know anything about.”
“I might start in trailing and shadowing somebody that hasn’t anything to do with this case,” suggested Philo Gubb. “That wouldn’t discommode none of you folks, and I’d sort of feel as if I was giving you your money’s worth. Somebody has been writin’ on the front of the Methodist Church with black chalk. I might try to detect who done that.”
“But that would be a very difficult job,” said Snooks.
“It would be some hard,” admitted Philo Gubb.
“Then you ought to have more money,” said Snooks. “Aunt Martha ought to contribute to the fund. If Aunt Martha contributes to the fund, I’ll be good. I’ll come out of jail.”
Aunt Martha opened her shopping bag, and fumbled in it with her old fingers. Philo Gubb took from his pocket the bills he had been given during the morning. He counted them. He had exactly one hundred dollars, just enough to send to Mr. Medderbrook.
“How much should I give you, Mr. Gubb?” asked Aunt Martha tremulously, and Philo Gubb stared thoughtfully at the ceiling for a few minutes. When he spoke, his words were cryptic to all those in the room.
“Well, ma’am,” he said, “I guess ten cents will be about enough. I’ve got a two-cent postage stamp myself.”
“Ain’t detectives wonderful?” whispered Nan, clinging to Snooks’s arm. “You can’t ever tell what they really mean.”
Nobody seemed to care what Philo Gubb meant, but a week later Snooks stopped him on the street and asked him why he had asked for ten cents.
“For to register a letter,” said Philo Gubb. “A letter I had to send off.”