Philo Gubb Correspondence-School Detective
by Ellis Parker Butler
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The sleeping man was immediately beneath him; the ladder was a full ten yards away; every motion made the loose boards complain. Looking down, Mr. Gubb saw that the top of the kiln reached within a few feet of where he lay, and that the partially removed sides had left a series of giant steps.

Mr. Gubb loosened his pistols in his belt. Now that he had the chicken thief so near, he meant to capture him. With the utmost care he slid one of the boards of the roof aside and put his long legs into the opening thus made, feeling for the kiln until he touched it, and when he had a firm footing on it he lowered the upper part of his body through the roof.

Five feet away a cross-timber reached from one pillar of the roof to another, and just below that was one of the steps of the kiln. Philo Gubb lighted his dark lantern, and casting its ray, saw this cross-piece. If he could jump and reach it he could drop to the lower step and avoid the danger of bringing the side of the kiln down with him. He slipped the lantern into his pocket, reached out his hands, and jumped into the dark.

For an instant his fingers grappled with the cross-piece; he struggled to gain a firmer hold; and then he dropped straight upon the sleeping Wixy. He alighted fair and square on the murderer's stomach, and the air went out of Wixy in a sudden whoof!

Philo Gubb, in the unreasoning excitement of the moment, grappled with Wixy, but the unresistance of the man told that he was unconscious, and the Correspondence School detective released him and stood up. He uncovered the lens of his dark lantern and turned the ray on Wixy.

The murderer lay flat on his back, his eyes closed and his mouth open. Mr. Gubb put his hand on Wixy's heart. It still beat! The man was not dead!

With the dark lantern in one hand and a rusty tin can in the other, Mr. Gubb hurried to the pond and returned with the can full of water, but even in this crisis he did not act thoughtlessly. He set the dark lantern on a shelf of the kiln, so that its rays might illuminate Wixy and himself alike, drew one of his pistols and pointed it full at Wixy's head, and holding it so, he dashed the can of water in the face of the unconscious man. Wixy moved uneasily. He emitted a long sigh and opened his eyes.

"I got you!" said Philo Gubb sternly. "There ain't no use to make a move, because I'm a deteckative, and if you do I'll shoot this pistol at you. If you're able so to do, just put up your hands."

Wixy blinked in the strong light of the lantern. He groaned and placed one of his hands on his stomach.

"Put 'em up!" said Philo Gubb, and with another groan Wixy raised his hands. He was still flat on his back. He looked as if he were doing some sort of health exercise. In a minute the hands fell to the ground.

"I guess you'd better set up," said Philo Gubb. "You ain't goin' to be able to hold up your hands if you lay down that way."

As he helped Wixy to a sitting position, he kept his pistol against the fellow's head.

"Now, then," said Philo Gubb, when he had arranged his captive to suit his taste, "what you got to say?"

"I got to say I never done what you think I done, whatever it is," said Wixy. "I don't know what it is, but I never done it. Some other feller done it."

"That don't bother me none," said Philo Gubb. "If you didn't do it, I don't know who did. Just about the best thing you can do is to account for the chicken and pay my expenses of getting you, and the quicker you do it the better off you'll be."

Pale as Wixy was, he turned still paler when Philo Gubb mentioned the chicken.

"I never killed the Chicken!" he almost shouted. "I never did it!"

"I don't care whether you killed the chicken or not," said Philo Gubb calmly. "The chicken is gone, and I reckon that's the end of the chicken. But Mrs. Smith has got to be paid."

"Did she send you?" asked Wixy, trembling. "Did Mother Smith put you onto me?"

"She did so," said the Correspondence School detective. "And you can pay up or go to jail. How'd you like that?"

Wixy studied the tall detective.

"Look here," he said. "S'pose I give you fifty and we call it square." He meant fifty dollars.

"Maybe that would satisfy Mrs. Smith," said Philo Gubb, thinking of fifty cents, "but it don't satisfy me. My time's valuable and it's got to be paid for. Ten times fifty ain't a bit too much, and if it had took longer to catch you I'd have asked more. If you want to give that much, all right. And if you don't, all right too."

Wixy studied the face of Philo Gubb carefully. There was no sign of mercy in the bird-like face of the paper-hanger detective. Indeed, his face was severe. It was relentless in its sternness. Five dollars was little enough to ask for two nights of first-class Correspondence School detective work. Rather than take less he would lead the chicken thief to jail. And Wixy, with his third, and half of the Chicken's third, of the proceeds of the criminal job that had led to the death of the Chicken, knowing the relentlessness of Mother Smith, that female Fagin of Chicago, considered that he would be doing well to purchase his freedom for five hundred dollars.

"All right, pal," he said suddenly. "You're on. It's a bet. Here you are."

He slipped his hand into his pocket and drew out a great roll of money. With the muzzle of Philo Gubb's pistol hovering just out of reach before him, he counted out five crisp one hundred dollar bills. He held them out with a sickly grin. Philo Gubb took them and looked at them, puzzled.

"What's this for?" he asked, and Wixy suddenly blazed forth in anger.

"Now, don't come any of that!" he cried. "A bargain is a bargain. Don't you come a-pretendin' you didn't say you'd take five hundred, and try to get more out of me! I won't give you no more—I won't! You can jug me, if you want to. You can't prove nothin' on me, and you know it. Have you found the body of the Chicken? Well, you got to have the corpus what-you-call-it, ain't you? Huh? Ain't five hundred enough? I bet the Chicken never cost Mother Smith more than a hundred and fifty—"

"I was only thinkin'—" began Philo Gubb.

"Don't think, then," said Wixy.

"Five hundred dollars seemed too—" Philo began again.

"It's all you'll get, if I hang for it," said Wixy firmly. "You can give Mother Smith what you want, and keep what you want. That's all you'll get."

Philo Gubb could not understand it. He tried to, but he could not understand it at all. And then suddenly a great light dawned in his brain. There was something this chicken thief knew that he and Mrs. Smith did not know. The stolen chicken must have been of some rare and much-sought strain. So it was all right. The thief was paying what the chicken was worth, and not what Mrs. Smith thought it was worth in her ignorance. He slipped the money into his pocket.

"All right," he said. "I'm satisfied if you are. The chicken was a fancy bird, ain't it so?"

"The Chicken was a tough old rooster, that's what he was," said Wixy, staggering to his feet.

"I thought he was a hen," said Philo Gubb. "Mrs. Smith said he was a hen."

Wixy laughed a sickly laugh.

"That ain't much of a joke. That's why everybody called him Chicken, because his first name was Hen."

Philo Gubb's mouth fell open. He was convinced now that he had to do with an insane man. Wixy moved toward the open drying-floor.

"Well, so 'long, pard," he said to Philo Gubb. "Give my regards to Mother Smith. And say," he added, "if you see Sal, don't let her know what happened to the Chicken. Don't say anybody made away with the Chicken, see? Tell Sal the Chicken flew the coop himself, see?"

"Who is Sal?" asked Philo Gubb.

"You ask Mother Smith," said Wixy. "She'll tell you." And he went out into the dark. Philo Gubb heard him shuffle across the drying-floor, and when the sound had died away in the distance he put up his revolver.

"Five hundred dollars!" he said, and he routed Mrs. Smith out of bed. He did not tell her the amount of reward he had made the chicken thief pay. He asked her what the most expensive chicken in the world might be worth, and she reluctantly accepted ten dollars as being far too much. Then he asked her who Sal was.

"Sal?" queried Mrs. Smith.

"The chicken thief declared the statement that you would know," said Mr. Gubb. "He said to tell her—"

"Well, Mr. Gubb," said Mrs. Smith tartly, "I don't know any Sal, and if I did I wouldn't carry messages to her for a chicken thief, and it is past midnight, and the draught on my bare feet is giving me my death of cold, and if you think this is a pink tea for me to stand around and hold fool conversation at, I don't!"

And she slammed the door.


It was with great pleasure that Mr. Gubb carried four hundred and ninety dollars to Mr. Medderbrook, and his intended father-in-law received him quite graciously.

"This is more like it, Gubb," he said. "Keep the money coming right along and you'll find I'm a good friend and a faithful one."

"I aim so to do to the best of my ability," said Mr. Gubb, delighted to find Mr. Medderbrook in a good humor. "I hope to get the eleven thousand two hundred and sixty dollars I owe you paid up—"

"Where do you get that?" asked Mr. Medderbrook. "You owe me twelve thousand dollars, Gubb."

"It was eleven thousand seven hundred and fifty," said Mr. Gubb, "and this here payment of four hundred and ninety—"

"Ah!" said Mr. Medderbrook, "but the Utterly Hopeless Gold-Mine has declared a dividend—"

"But," ventured Mr. Gubb timidly, "I thought dividends was money that came to the owner of the stock."

"Often so," said Mr. Medderbrook. "I may say, not infrequently so. But in this case it was a compound ten per cent reversible dividend, cumulative and retroactive, payable to prior owners of the stock, on account of the second mortgage debenture lien. In such a case," he explained, "unless the priority is waived by the party of the first part, you have to pay it to me."

"Oh!" said Mr. Gubb.

"Luckily," said Mr. Medderbrook, "I was able to prevail upon the registrar of the company to make the dividend only ten cumulative per cents instead of eleven retroactive geometrical per cents, or you would now owe me thirteen thousand dollars."

"Well, I'm sure I'm much obliged to you," said Mr. Gubb with sincere gratitude. "I appreciate your kindness of good-will most greatly."

He stood for a minute or two uneasily, while Mr. Medderbrook frowned like a great financier burdened with cares.

"I don't suppose," said Mr. Gubb, when he had screwed up his courage, "you have had no telegraphic communications from Miss Syrilla?"

"Why, yes, I have," said Mr. Medderbrook, taking a telegram from his pocket, "and it will only cost you one dollar to read it. I paid two dollars."

Mr. Gubb was very glad to pay the small sum and he eagerly devoured the telegram, which read:—

Oh be joyful! Have given up all meat diet. Have given up beef, pork, lamb, mutton, veal, chicken, pigs' feet, bacon, hash, corned beef, venison, bear steak, frogs' legs, opossum, and fried snails. Weigh only nine hundred and forty pounds. Affectionate thoughts to little Gubby.

"I wish," said Mr. Gubb wistfully, when he had read the message, "that Miss Syrilla could be here present this week in Riverbank whilst the Carnival is going on."

"She would draw a big crowd at twenty-five cents admission," said Mr. Medderbrook.

"I was thinking how pleasantly nice it would be for her to enjoy the festivities of the occasion," said Mr. Gubb, but this was not quite true. What he wished was that she could be present to see him in the handsome disguise he had obtained for his work as Official Detective of the Carnival, and which he was now about to don.

This, the second day of the Third Riverbank Carnival, opened with a sun hot enough to frizzle bacon, and the ladies in charge of the lemonade, ice-cream and ice-cream cone booths were pleased, while the committee from Riverbank Lodge P.& G. M., No. 788, selling broiled frankfurters (known as "hot dogs"), groaned. It was no day for hot food. But it was grand Carnival weather.

The grounds opened at one-thirty and the amateur circus began at two-thirty, but Philo Gubb, the detective, was on the grounds in full regalia by ten o'clock in the morning. Through some awful error on the part of the Chicago costumer, Philo Gubb's regalia had not arrived in time for the first day of the Carnival, so he had absented himself rather than let the crooks and thieves who were supposed to swarm the grounds have an opportunity to become acquainted with his appearance and thus be put on their guard against the famous Correspondence School detective.

When the Committee on Organization of the Third Carnival and Circus for the benefit of the Riverbank Free Hospital held its first public mass meeting in Willcox Hall, Philo Gubb had been there. Like all the rest of Riverbank, he was willing to assist the good cause in any way he could, and he had meant to donate his services as official paper-hanger, but a grander opportunity offered. Mr. Beech, the Chairman of the Committee on Peanuts and Police Protection, offered Mr. Gubb the position of Official Detective. Mr. Gubb accepted eagerly.

During the weeks of preparation for the Carnival, a thousand plans for getting the better of pickpockets and other crooks passed through Philo Gubb's mind. He finally decided to disguise himself as Ali Baba. He had a slight recollection that Ali Baba had something to do with forty thieves. It seemed an appropriate alias.

His disguise he ordered from the Supply Department of the Rising Sun Detective Agency, where he bought all his disguises. It consisted of a tall conical cap spangled with stars, a sort of red Mother-Hubbard gown bespattered with black crescents, a small metal tube, and a wand. With the metal tube came several hundred sheets of apparently blank paper, but, when these were rolled into cylinders and inserted in the metal tube for half a minute, characters appeared on the sheets. A child could work the magic tube, and so could Philo Gubb.

It was not until the second day that Mr. Beech thought of Mr. Gubb at all. Then Mrs. Phillipetti, daughter-in-law of General Phillipetti, who was Ambassador to Siberia in 1867, asked for Mr. Gubb. Mrs. Phillipetti was in charge of the Hot Waffles Booth, No. 13, aided by seventeen ladies of the highest society Riverbank could boast, and they served hot waffles with their own fair hands to all who chose to buy. The cooking of the waffles, being a warm task in late June, had been turned over to three colored women, hired for the occasion, and to complete the "ongsomble" and make things perfectly "apropos"—two of Mrs. Phillipetti's favorite words—the three colored women had been dressed as Turkish slaves, while Mrs. Phillipetti and her aides dressed as Beauties of the Harem.

To judge by Mrs. Phillipetti's costume, the Beauties of the Harem were expensive to clothe. She had more silk, gold lace, and tinsel strung upon her ample form than would set a theatrical costumer up in business, but the star feature of her costume was her turban. It was a gorgeous creation, and would have been a comfortable piece of headgear in midwinter, although slightly heating for a hot June day, but it came near being the talk of the Carnival, for in the center of the front, just above her forehead, Mrs. Phillipetti had pinned the celebrated brooch containing the Dragon's Eye—the priceless ruby given to old General Phillipetti by the Dugosh of Zind after the old diplomat had saved the worthless life of the old reprobate by appealing to the Vice-Regent of Siberia in his behalf.

The Dragon's Eye was about the size of a lemon and weighed nearly as much as a pound of creamery butter, so it required considerable turban to make it "apropos" and complete its "ongsomble." Pinned on her shelf-like chest, Mrs. Phillipetti wore a small mirror somewhat smaller than a tea saucer. By tipping the outer edge of the mirror upward and glancing down into it, Mrs. Phillipetti had a good view of the entire facade of her turban, reflected in the mirror, and she was thus able to keep an eye on the Dragon's Eye.

"Oh, Mr. Beech!" cried Mrs. Phillipetti, stopping him as he was bustling past her booth, "do you know where Mr. Gubb is?"

"Gubb? Gubb?" said Mr. Beech. "Oh! that paper-hanger-detective fellow? No, I don't know where he is. Why?"

"It's gone! The Dragon's Eye is gone!" moaned Mrs. Phillipetti.

Mr. Beech, although greatly concerned, tried to maintain his composure. Mrs. Phillipetti explained that she had removed her turban and placed it under a chair at the back of the booth. A little later she had noticed that the turban, with the priceless Dragon's Eye, was gone.

"Now, this—now—was not wholly unexpected," Beech said. "It's a—now—unfortunate thing, but it's the sort of thing that happens. Now, Mrs. Phillipetti, just let me beg you not to say anything about it to anybody, and I'll have Detective Gubb get right on the case. The matter is in my hands. Rest easy! We will attend to it."

"I—I hate to lose the Dragon's Eye," said Mrs. Phillipetti, wiping her eyes, "but the worst is to have my turban stolen. Mr. Beech, I will give one hundred dollars to whoever returns the Dragon's Eye to me. The 'ongsomble' of my costume is ruined. I haven't anything else 'apropos' to wear on my head."

"You look fine just as you are," said Mr. Beech. "But if you want something to wear, you can get a Turkish hat at the Paper Hat Booth for twenty-five cents."

"Thank you!" said Mrs. Phillipetti scornfully. "I don't wear twenty-five-cent hats!"

Within twenty minutes the Boy Scouts, who were acting as Aides to the Executive Committee, had tacked in ten prominent places ten hastily daubed placards that read:—

Philo Gubb, please report at Executive Booth. Beech, Chmn. Police Committee.

And the members of the Board of Managers had, singly and by roundabout routes, approached the scene of the theft and had studied it.

To the left of Mrs. Phillipetti's booth was the Ethiopian Dip. Here, some thirty feet back from a counter and shielded by a net, a negro sat on an elevated perch just over a canvas tub full of water. In front of the net was a small target, and if a patron of the game hit the target with a baseball, the negro suddenly and unexpectedly dropped into the tub of water. The price was three throws for five cents.

As Riverbank had some remarkably clever baseball throwers, the Ethiopian was dipped quite frequently. As the water was cold and such a bath an unusual luxury for the Riverbank Ethiopians, no one Ethiopian cared to be dipped very often in succession. Therefore the Committee of Seven of the Exempt Firemen's Association, which had the Dip in charge, had arranged for a quick change of Ethiopians, and while one sat on the perch to be dipped, three others lolled in bathing costumes just back of Mrs. Phillipetti's booth.

Mr. Beech questioned the colored men quietly.

"Turbine?" said one of them. "We ain't seen no turbine. We ain't seen nuffin'. We ain't done nuffin' but sit here an' play craps."

"But you were here?" said Mr. Beech.

"Yes, we was heah," said the blackest negro. "We was right heah all de time. Dey ain't been no turbine took from nowhar whilst we was heah, neither. Ain't been nobody back heah but us, an' we's been heah all de time."

"Well, perhaps you can tell how this board got pried loose, if you were here all the time," said Mr. Beech.

"It wa'n't pried loose," said the yellow negro. "Hit got kicked loose f'om de hinside. I know dat much, annerways. I seen dat oc-cur. I seen dat board bulge out an' bulge out an' bulge out twell hit bust out. An' dey hain't no turbine come out, nuther. No, sah!"

Mr. Beech went away. The detective business was not his business. He specialized in coal and not in crime. But in going he passed by Mrs. Phillipetti's booth and spoke to her.

"It will be all right," he said reassuringly. "We are on the track."

"Oh, thank you!" said Mrs. Phillipetti, who had completed the "apropriety" of her "ongsomble" by wrapping a green silk handkerchief about her head.

"I hope to return the turban and the jewel sometime to-morrow," said Mr. Beech, bluffing bravely.

But Philo Gubb did not heed the notices posted to call him to the Executive Booth. The evening passed and he did not appear, and Mr. Beech, on his way home, stopped at the police station. It was after midnight, but Chief of Police Wittaker was still on duty. He never slept during the Carnival.

Mr. Beech explained the loss of the turban and the Dragon's Eye, and early the next morning the Chief himself took up the hunt. By three o'clock in the afternoon he had discovered several things. He discovered that the yellow man who had claimed to see the board pushed out from the inside was the husband of one of the waffle cooks in Mrs. Phillipetti's booth. He learned that the yellow man had been in jail. He learned that for a few minutes the yellow negro had been alone behind the waffle booth. The Chief thereupon arrested the yellow negro.

As he led the negro from the grounds by the back way, in order to cause as little commotion as possible, he brushed by a strange creature dressed as a wizard, who was standing by the rear entrance, droning: "Tell your fortune, ten cents! Tell your fortune, ten cents!" The wizard was tall and thin and wore a long white beard, a sort of Mother-Hubbard gown, and a pointed cap. As the Chief passed with his prisoner the wizard turned his eyes on the two, and then droned on. It was Philo Gubb, the paper-hanger detective, on the job!

Philo Gubb, having received his costume, had come to the Carnival grounds the back way. He had wandered about the grounds, peeking and peering, seeking malefactors unsuccessfully. He felt the whole weight of the Carnival on his shoulders. When he suspected a youth he followed him at a safe distance, stopping when he stopped, going on when he went on. He was so intent on trailing and shadowing that he did not even notice the placards calling him to the Executive Booth. Every few minutes he had to stop and tell a fortune with the magic tube. So far he had collected two dollars and sixty cents.

The Chief, with his prisoner walking quietly by his side,—to avoid unpleasant commotion in an otherwise orderly crowd,—had just passed the wizard when he heard voices that made him look back.

"There he is!" said one voice. "Kick him off the grounds!"

"Here, you!" said another voice. "You've got to get out of here. And you've got to give up the money you've taken. Quick now. We don't allow any professionals on these grounds."

The voices were those of Henry P. Cross, Officer of the Day for this day of the Carnival, and Sam Green, Jr., Vice-Chairman of Police, and they were speaking to the wizard.

"Sh!" said the wizard, in a mysterious voice. "It's all right! Don't make a fuss. It's all right!"

"Let me kick him off the grounds!" said Mr. Cross. "All I want is a chance to kick him off the grounds. The cheap professional fakir, sneaking in to get money that ought to go to the Hospital! Let me kick—"

"Now, wait!" said Mr. Green irritably. "We want to make him disgorge first, don't we? Just keep your head on, Cross. Let me handle this."

"It's all right! Don't make a fuss," whispered the wizard. "I belong here."

"You belong nowhere!" shouted Mr. Cross. "You belong here, indeed! Why, you couldn't tell that to a baby! I guess not! Telling fortunes and putting the cash in your pocket. Don't the Ladies' Aid of the Second Baptist Church have the exclusive fortune-telling privilege? Didn't they put us onto you?"

The Chief turned back.

"What's up?" he asked.

"Professional," said Mr. Green. "Some Chicago grafter trying to make money out of our show."

"I'm all right, I tell you," said Philo Gubb earnestly. "I'm no crook. You see Beech. Ask Beech. Have Beech come here."

Mr. Cross looked at Mr. Green.

"You mean you fixed it with Beech so you could tell fortunes here?" asked Mr. Cross.

"Yes, that's what I mean," said Philo Gubb. "You get Beech."

"Get Beech," said Mr. Green. "Beech will throw him out."

"I'll watch him," said the Chief. "If he tries to move I'll club him."

Mr. Cross and Mr. Green hurried away, and the Chief dangled his club meaningly. The yellow man, who had been standing awaiting the end of the controversy, seated himself on the grass and leaned his back against a tree. Philo Gubb, as evidence that he did not mean to run, also seated himself, and leaned back against the same tree. The Chief stood a short distance away, his eyes keenly on them.

"How about it, Chicago man?" asked the yellow man in a low tone, bending down to pick a blade of grass. "Kin you he'p a feller out?"

"How?" asked Philo Gubb.

"I got in trouble," said the yellow man. "I'm gwine git hit in de neck ef some one don't he'p me mighty quick. Ef I hand you somethin' is you gwine take it?"

"Sure," said Philo Gubb.

"Grab it!" whispered the yellow man, and his hand slid the Dragon's Eye into the hand of Philo Gubb.

The Chief moved nearer.

"I guess dey let me go whin dey git me to de calaboose," said the yellow man in a louder voice. "Kaze I ain' done nuffin' nohow."

"They'll let you go when we get that ruby," said the Chief meaningly; "and if we can prove it on you, you go to the pen'."

Mr. Cross and Mr. Green returned with Mr. Beech.

"There he is," said Mr. Cross, pointing to the wizard Gubb.

"Never saw him in my life!" said Mr. Beech. "Now, then, what is this now? What's this story you—"

The paper-hanger detective arose and leaned close to Mr. Beech's ear. He whispered three words and Mr. Beech's attitude changed entirely.

"Oh!" he said. "I wondered where—now—all right! It's all right! It's all right, Cross. All right, Green. All right, Chief!" Then he turned to Gubb. "We've been wanting you, detective. Put up placards for you. Now, listen! Mrs. Phillipetti had a turban stolen from her booth, and that infernal ton and a half or so of ruby was in it. The Dragon's Eye, she calls it. Well, that turban was stolen—"

"I am quite well acquainted with that fact," said Philo Gubb.

"Well, why don't you hunt for it, then?" asked Mr. Beech crossly. "I thought you were going to be of some use. Fooling around here with your silly ten-cent fortune-telling, having the time of your life while all of us are worrying about that Dragon's Eye. Why don't you hunt for it?"

"It ain't hardly necessary to engage in deteckative exertions at the present moment on account of that ruby," said Philo Gubb slowly, "because when I want it, all I got to do is to consult the magic deteckative tube."

"You're crazy!" said Mr. Beech. "You're crazy as a loon!"

"The usual price for consulting the oracle is ten cents," said Philo Gubb, "but I'll make a special exception out of this time."

He put the end of the magic tube to his ear and listened.

"The genyi of the tube says I've got the Dragon's Eye into my pocket, and if you ask this yellow negro black-man he'll tell you where the turban is at."

"Honest!" exclaimed Mr. Beech. "Gubb, you're a wonder!"

The negro, thus trapped, told where he had hidden the turban, and in a few minutes Mr. Beech, Mr. Cross, and Mr. Green returned with Mrs. Phillipetti, on whose head again towered the turban with the Dragon's Eye gleaming in it, making her "ongsomble" thoroughly "apropos."

"Gubb," said Mr. Beech, "I want Mrs. Phillipetti to meet you. You certainly are a wizard."

"Yes, indeed!" said Mrs. Phillipetti. "The wizardry of your whole ongsomble is completely apropos to your detective ability."


When Philo Gubb paid Mr. Medderbrook the one hundred dollars he had received for retrieving the Dragon's Eye, Mr. Medderbrook was not extremely gracious.

"I'll take it on account," he said grudgingly, "but it ought to be more. It only brings what you owe me for that Utterly Hopeless Gold-Mine stock down to eleven thousand nine hundred dollars and, at this rate, you'll never get me paid up. I can't tell when there'll come along another dividend of ten cumulative per cents on that stock, that I will have to charge up against you. Unless you can do better I have half a mind not to let you see the telegram I got from my daughter Syrilla this morning."

"Was the news into it good?" asked Mr. Gubb eagerly.

"As good as gold," said Mr. Medderbrook. "As good as Utterly Hopeless Gold-Mine stock."

"What did Miss Syrilla convey the remark of?" asked the lovelorn paper-hanger detective.

"Well, now," said Mr. Medderbrook, "I went and paid two dollars and fifty cents for that telegram. For one dollar and twenty-five cents I'll give you the telegram, and you can read it from start to finish."

Mr. Gubb, his heart palpitating as only a lover's heart can palpitate, paid Mr. Medderbrook the sum he asked and eagerly read the telegram from Syrilla. It said:—

Grand news! Have given up all fish diet. Have given up codfish, weak fish, sole, flounder, shark's fins, bass, trout, herring (dried, kippered, smoked, and fresh), finnan haddie, perch, pike, pickerel, lobster, halibut, and stewed eels. Gross weight now only nine hundred and thirty pounds averdupois. Sweet thoughts to Gubby-lubby.

"You are touched," said Mr. Medderbrook as Mr. Gubb put the dear missive to his lips, "but unless I am mistaken you will be still more deeply touched when you pay for—when you read Syrilla's next telegram."

"I so hope and trust," said Mr. Gubb, and he returned to his office in the Opera House Block with a light heart.

* * * * *

With the increase of fame that came to him as a detective Mr. Gubb's paper-hanging business had grown, and he had left Mrs. Murphy's house and taken a room on the second floor of Opera House Block, near the offices of ex-Judge Gilroy, attorney-at-law, and C. M. Dillman, loans and real estate. The door now bore the sign


On this morning Detective Gubb had hardly reached his office when Uncle Gabriel Hostetter, a shrewd smile on his face, opened Mr. Gubb's door.

Uncle Gabriel Hostetter was a round-shouldered old man with a long white beard that came to a thin point. He wore old-fashioned gold-rimmed spectacles, the rims forming irregular octagons, and on his head he wore one of the grandest old silk hats that ever saw the light of day in 1865. His principal garment was a frock coat, once black, but now grayish green. He was the wealthiest man in town, and it was said that when he once got his hands on a silver dollar he squeezed it so hard that the bird of freedom on it uttered a squawk.

He opened Philo Gubb's door hesitatingly. He expected to see an array of mahogany desks and filing cabinets for which he would have to pay every time the detective turned around. When he peered into the room he saw a tall, thin man in white overalls with a bib, sitting on an up-ended bundle of wall-paper, stirring a pail of paste with one hand while he ate a ham sandwich by means of the other.

"I guess I got in the wrong place," said Uncle Gabe. "Thought this was a detective office. All right! All right!"

"I'm him," said Philo Gubb, swallowing a hunk of sandwich with a gulp and wiping his hand on his overalls.

"You're who?" asked Uncle Gabe.

"I'm the deteckative," said Philo Gubb.

"You are, hey?" said Uncle Gabe. "All disguised up, I reckon."

"Disguised up?" said Philo questioningly. "Oh, this here paper-hanging and decorating stuff? No, this ain't no disguise. Even a deteckative has got to earn a living while his practice is building up."

"Humph!" said old Gabe. "Detecting ain't very good right now?"

"It ain't, for a fact," said Philo.

"Well, if that's so," said old Gabe, "maybe you and me could do business. If you want to do a little detective work to sort of keep your hand in, maybe we can do business."

"I ought to git paid something," said Philo doubtfully.

"Pay!" exclaimed old Gabe. "Pay for bein' allowed to sharpen up and keep bright? Why, you'd ought to pay me for lettin' you have the practice. It ain't goin' to do me no good, is it?"

"I don't know what you want me to detect yet," said Philo. "I might pay some if it was a case that would do me good to practice on. I might pay a little."

"I knew it," said old Gabe. "Now, this case of mine—What sort of a case would you pay to work on?"

"Well," said Philo thoughtfully, "if I was to have a chance at a real tough murder case, for instance."

"Humph!" said old Gabe. "How much might you pay to be let work on a case like that?"

"Well, I dunno!" said Philo Gubb thoughtfully. "If it looked like a mighty hard case I might pay a dollar a day—if it was a murder case."

"This case of mine," said old Gabe, coming farther into the room, "is just that sort of a case. And I'll let you work on it for a dollar and a quatter a day."

"Well, if it's that kind of a case," said Philo slowly, "I'll give you a dollar a day, and I'll work on it hard and faithful."

"A dollar and a quatter a day," insisted old Gabe.

"No, sir, a dollar is all I can afford to pay," said Philo.

"All right, I won't be mean," said old Gabe. "Make it a dollar an' fifteen cents and we'll call it a go."

"One dollar a day," said Philo.

"A dollar, ten cents," urged old Gabe.

"One dollar," said Philo.

"Tell you what let's do," said old Gabe. "We ain't but ten cents apart. You add on a nickel and I'll knock off a nickel, and we'll make it a dollar five. What say? That's fair enough. You ain't come up any. I come all the way down."

"All right, then," said Philo. "It's a go. Now, who was murdered, and when was he murdered, and why was he murdered? Them's the things I've got to know first."

"You pay me a dollar five for the first day's work, and I'll tell you," said old Gabe.

Philo dug into his pocket and drew out some money. "There," he said. "There's two dollars and ten cents. That pays for two days. Now, go ahead."

He drew out his notebook and wet the end of a pencil and waited.

"The reason this is such a hard case," said old Gabe slowly, and choosing his words with care, "is because the murder ain't completed yet. It's being did."

"Right now?" exclaimed Philo excitedly. "Why, we oughtn't to be sitting here like this. We ought—"

"Now, don't be in such a hurry," said old Gabe. "If you mean we ought to be where the victim of the murder is, we are. He's right here now. I'm him. I'm the one that's being murdered. I'm being murdered by slow murder. I'm liable to drop down dead any minute. But I don't want to be murdered and not have the feller that murders me hang like he ought. I can't be expected to. It ain't human nature."

"No, it ain't," agreed Philo. "A man can't help feeling revengeful against the man that murders him. If anybody murdered me I'd feel the same way. How's he killing you? Slow poison?"

"Gun-shot," said old Gabe. "Shootin' me to death with a gun."

The correspondence school detective looked at old Gabe with amazement.

"Shootin' you to death with a gun!" he exclaimed. "Ain't you told the police?"

"I come to you, didn't I?" asked old Gabe. "If I was to set the police on the feller he might rouse up and shoot me to death all at once."

"How is he shootin' you to death?" asked Philo.

"By inches, b'gee," said old Gabe. "Yes, sir, by inches. Every once in a while he takes a shot at me. Sometimes through the window of my house, and sometimes when I'm walkin' on the street."

"And he ain't ever hit you yet?" asked Philo Gubb.

"Hit me?" exclaimed old Gabe. "Why, he don't ever miss me. He hits me every time. There ain't a day he don't shoot and hit me, and some days he hits me two or three times. I dare say I'm almost dead now, if I knowed it."

Philo Gubb fondled his notebook uncertainly.

"What—what does he shoot you with?" he asked.

"Well, I dunno exactly," said old Gabe. "With a pea-shooter."

Philo Gubb closed his notebook, and slipped it into his pocket.

"If all you was after was to get that two dollars and ten cents, you might have got it without wastin' so much of my time," he said reproachfully.

But old Gabe did not move.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Maybe I'm a fool," Gubb said bitterly, "but I ain't no such fool as to think anybody is murdering nobody with a pea-shooter."

"Was you ever shot with a cannon?" asked old Gabe calmly.

"No, nor nobody ever tried to murder me with a pea-shooter," said Philo Gubb.

"If you ever was shot by a thirteen-inch cannon ball," said old Gabe, "you'd know it. When a thirteen-inch cannon ball hits you, there ain't nothin' left of you at all. But when a one-inch cannon ball hits you, you've got a chance to live a minute or two, maybe. That's the difference between a thirteen-inch cannon ball shootin' you, and a one-inch cannon ball shootin' you. And a rifle ball is different, too."

"I got a job of paper-hangin' as soon as I can get away from here," said Philo Gubb meaningly.

"You got a job of detectin' on hand now," said old Gabe. "And, as I was sayin', a rifle ball acts different. Maybe it kills you the first shot, and maybe you can hold three or four rifle bullets before you die, but if they keep on shootin' at you, you get killed sooner or later. Probably five shots is all any man could stand. I guess that's about it.

"And then you come down to one of them little twenty-two caliber revolvers. If he don't hit you in the heart, a murderer could easy enough shoot at you twenty-five times with one of them little twenty-two's before he killed you dead. But you'd be dead sooner or later. It's just a matter of what a man shoots you with that makes the difference in time.

"Of course," he continued agreeably, "you don't expect no pea-shooter to kill me as quick as a thirteen-inch gun would. If you expect that you're unreasonable. But the principle is just the same. Shootin' is shootin'. You know how that pome goes—

'The constant drip of water Wears away the hardest stone—'

and that's just as true of murderin' a man with a pea-shooter.

"And the beauty of it is that nobody knows you're committin' a murder. If anybody catches you and asks you what you're doin' you just say, 'Oh, nothin'. Just shootin' peas.'"

"Maybe that's so," agreed Philo Gubb. "It sounds reasonable. But the thing for me to do is to wait until you're dead and then catch the feller. It ain't a murder until you're dead."

"It ain't, ain't it?" sneered old Gabe. "You'd wait until I am dead, I suppose, and then start out to catch the feller. And you'd lose all the help I can give you. It ain't often a detective can get the corpse to help him like this."

"No, it ain't," agreed Philo Gubb.

"I got a suspicion who the feller is," said Gabe.

"Who?" asked Philo Gubb.

"You'll go ahead with the case? On the terms we settled on?" asked old Gabe.

Philo Gubb considered this carefully.

"Why, yes," he said at length, "I will. Who is the feller you think is doin' it?"

"Farrin'ton Pierce, the cashier of the Farmers' and Citizens' Bank," said old Gabe, his eyes shining with malice and shrewdness, as he leaned forward and whispered the words. "My own son-in-law, he is. An' I'll tell you why he's tryin' it. For my money. So his wife'll get it, an' he can be president of the bank in my place."

"You've seen him have a pea-shooter?" asked Philo Gubb.

"No, sir!" said old Gabe. "And I never seen one of the peas. All I ever felt was the sting of it when it hit me."

"Maybe," said Philo Gubb eagerly, "maybe it ain't a pea-shooter. Maybe it's a twenty-two short pistol with a silencer onto it. Maybe it's only because he's been afraid to come nigh enough to you that he ain't killed you yet. It don't seem to me that any man would try to murder any one with a pea-shooter."

"Humph!" said old Gabe. "Maybe you are right, at that. That's something I never thought of. It sounds likely, too."

"A deteckative has to think of all them things," said Philo simply. "If I was you I'd be more careful."

"I will!" said old Gabe. "See here, if he's shootin' at me like that, it ain't no joke, is it? Tell you what I'll do. I'll let you off from payin' me that dollar five a day. Just you hustle onto this case and keep at it, and I'll leave you work on it for nothin'. All I want is that you should send me word reg'lar of what you find out."

"It is the custom of all the graduates of the Rising Sun Correspondence School deteckatives to make reg'lar reports in writing," said Philo Gubb. "I'll start right in shadowing and trailing Mister Farrington Pierce, according to Lessons Three and Four, and I'll report reg'lar every day."

"Everything you find out," said old Gabe. "Don't leave out a thing. And particularly at night. That's when he shoots me the most."

"I won't leave him a minute," said Philo Gubb. "I've got a man I hire to help me on my paper-hangin', and I'll get him to finish up this job. I'll start trailin' and shadowin' Farry Pierce right away."

Old Gabe shook hands with Philo and went out. When the door was closed behind him he chuckled, and all the way home his face was creased in a grin. He felt that he had done a good bit of business and saved himself a good sum of money. Philo Gubb, in the meantime, having put a false beard and a wig in his pocket, went out.

Across the street from the bank was Grammill's Cigar Store, where the idler men of the town loafed when they had nothing better on hand, and Philo Gubb entered and bought a cigar and took an easy loafing position near the front window. He commanded a view of the only entrance to the bank, and here he waited. At fifteen minutes after three Farry Pierce came out of the bank.

"There's a man with an easy job," said one of the loafers. "That Farry Pierce. Nothing to do till to-morrow."

"Too much time on his hands, I guess," said another, who—by the way—had more spare time than Farry Pierce. "From what I hear he'd be better off if he had to work all day and all night."

"The widow?" asked the first speaker.

"That's what they say," said the second. "They tell me he's blowing all his salary and more on that widow. Must make old Gabe crazy to see any of his kin spend money that way. Or any way. He's a close one, old Gabe is."

"What you hear about Farry and the widow?" asked the first.

"Makes old Gabe crazy, they tell me. He wants his girl to get a divorce."

"Who told you that?"

"My girl. My girl is workin' for his girl. Fr'm what she tells me old Gabe is pretty well worked up about it. Said he'd get a spotter to foller Farry and get some evidence on him if it didn't cost so blame much. I bet the' won't be any divorces in that family if old Gabe has to pay out any money."

"I bet they won't. And the' ain't no detectives workin' for nothin' so far as I hear. Not this year."

"No, nor next year, neither," said the other; and as this was in the nature of a joke they both laughed.

But Philo Gubb did not join their laughter. He felt his face grow red. His lean hands folded and unfolded as he watched Farry Pierce disappear around the corner of the bank building. If any one felt like murdering old Gabe with a pea-shooter at that moment, Philo Gubb did. Shadow and trail Farry Pierce! The old skin-flint, coming with a fairy tale and getting the only fully graduated deteckative in Riverbank to shadow and trail a son-in-law and report daily! Divorce case evidence, hey? Talking murderer and working a deteckative into doing scandal sleuthing free of charge! Philo Gubb's face reddened again with new anger as he put his hand in his pocket and touched the beard and wig he had placed there. But for this chance conversation he would have been following Farry Pierce now, and making a fool of himself. But for this chance conversation he would not have lost sight of Farry Pierce by day or by night. He went back to his office, put on his overalls, and went to his work on a paper-hanging job.

At six he started for home. A block down the street he met one of the loafers he had heard speaking in Grammill's Cigar Store.

"What do you think about it?" he asked Philo Gubb.

"About what?" asked Philo in return.

"Ain't you heerd?" asked the man. "Why, it's all over town by now. Farry Pierce murdered old Gabe Hostetter not more'n twenty minutes after we seen him comin' out of the bank. Shot him. Killed him first shot. Yes, sir! Killed him instantly with a little mite of a pistol with about as much carry as a pea-shooter. Must have hit him in just the right spot."

"Did you see the pistol?" asked Philo Gubb nervously.

"No, I didn't," said his informant, "but that's what the feller told me. 'Killed him instantly with one of these here little pea-shooters,' was what he said. What you lookin' so funny about?"

"If you insist to wish to know," said Philo Gubb, "Mr. Gabe Hostetter wasn't murdered instantly at all. He was progressively murdered by inches over a long considerable period of time, like little drops of water."

For a minute the loafer stared at Mr. Gubb. Then he laughed.

"Crazy!" he scoffed. "Crazy as a loon!" and he walked away and left Mr. Gubb struggling for a suitably crushing retort.


That evening Mr. Gubb received a short note from Mr. Medderbrook that was in the form of a bill or statement. It read: "Due from P. Gubb to J. Medderbrook, $11,900. Please remit,"—so he put on his hat and walked to Mr. Medderbrook's elegant home.

"I want you to hurry up with what you owe me," said Mr. Medderbrook, when Mr. Gubb explained that he could pay nothing on the Utterly Hopeless Gold-Mine stock at the moment, "because I know you are soft on Syrilla, and from a telegram I got from her to-day it looks as if it would be no time at all before she reduced her weight down to seven hundred pounds and Mr. Dorgan of the side-show broke his contract with her. And if you want to read the telegram you can do so by paying half what it cost me, which was three dollars."

Mr. Gubb paid Mr. Medderbrook one dollar and a half, as any lover would, and read the telegram from Syrilla. It said:—

Love is triumphing. Have given up all cereal diet. Have given up oatmeal, rice, farina, puffed wheat, corn flakes, hominy, shredded wheat, force, cream of wheat, grapenuts, boiled barley, popcorn, flour paste, and rice powder. Weigh now only nine hundred and twenty-five pounds. Soft thoughts to dearest Gubby.

Mr. Gubb hesitated a moment and then said:—

"Far be it from me to say aught or anything, Mr. Medderbrook, but I would wish the cost of telegrams would reduce themselves down a little. This one is marked onto its upper corner 'PAID'—"

"Yes, the telegraph boy said that was a mistake," said Mr. Medderbrook hastily.

"And very likely so," said Mr. Gubb, "but for a reduction of five pounds one dollar fifty is a highish price to pay. Thirty cents a pound is too much."

"Well," said Mr. Medderbrook, "I don't want to have any quarrel with you, so I'll do this for you: I will make you a flat price of twenty-five cents per pound."

"Which is a fair and reasonable price for glad tidings to a fond heart," said Mr. Gubb, and this matter having been amicably settled, he returned to his office.

That evening he sat on the edge of his cot bed minus his coat, vest, and trousers, with his bare feet comfortably extended. At his back a pillow made a back-rest, and a bundle of wall-paper served as a rather lofty footstool. He was deeply immersed in Lesson Eleven, his bird-like face screwed into tensity. From time to time he wiggled one toe or another as a fly alighted on it. Sometimes, when more than one fly alighted on his toes at once, he wiggled all ten toes simultaneously.

A trunk, a varnished oak washstand and a cot showed that the room was not only a decorator's shop, but a living-place; and that this was the office of Philo Gubb, detective, was shown by a row of hooks from which hung various disguises used by the celebrated detective, by a portrait of William J. Burns, cut from a magazine and pasted on the wall, and by a placard which read, "P. Gubb, Graduate and Diploma-ist of the Rising Sun Detective Agency's Correspondence School of Detecting. Detecting done by the Day or Job. Terms on Application."

On the cot at Philo Gubb's side lay a copy of that day's morning Chicago paper, with a two-column spread headline reading, "Wife Offers $5000 Reward," and it was this that had driven Philo Gubb, the paper-hanger detective, to renewed study of Lesson Eleven—"Procedure in Abduction and Missing Men Cases."

Mr. Custer Master, of Chicago, had mysteriously disappeared. One paragraph in the article had caught Mr. Gubb's particular attention:—

Mrs. Master feels that her husband is still alive, and insists that Mr. Master will be found in one of the Iowa towns on the Mississippi River. The police of these towns have been notified, and detectives have gone to investigate. The Masters stand high in South-Side society. Mr. Master, it is understood, recently inherited $450,000 from a maternal uncle. At the time the will was probated considerable interest was aroused by the fact that the legacy was to go to Mr. Master only on condition that he carried out certain provisions contained in a sealed envelope, to be read only by the executors and Mr. Master.

And so on. The paper pointed out that Mr. Master had been a sufferer from dyspepsia for many years, but this had not had a permanently depressing effect on his mind. His home relations were most satisfactory. His own business—he was a dealer in laundry supplies and laundry machinery—was doing well, and no trace of outside troubles could be discovered.

On the morning of his disappearance, Mr. Master had shown some signs of mental eccentricity. A neighbor, happening to be at her window, saw Mr. Master come hurriedly from the door of his house. An hour later a friend passed him as he was standing on a corner six blocks from home. Mr. Master seemed greatly distressed.

"I can't do it! It kills me; I can't do it!" he was muttering to himself. "I never could do it. I said so."

The next news of Mr. Master was gained from the keeper of a bath-house and swimming-pool known as the Imperial Natatorium. About ten o'clock, Mr. Master entered the Natatorium hurriedly, asked the price of baths, and chose to pay for a plunge in the big swimming-pool. He paid in advance, removed his garments in one of the small dressing-rooms, put on a swimming-suit and went to the edge of the big pool. Here he grasped the rail and extended one foot until his toes touched the cold water, when he uttered a cry, rushed to the dressing-room, and, as soon as he had thrown on his clothes, dashed from the building. That was the last seen of Mr. Master.

Philo Gubb, having finished reading Lesson Eleven for the third time, had picked up the Chicago paper when the silence of the Opera House Building was disturbed by the sound of feet ascending the brass-clad stairs.

The nocturnal visitors seemed unacquainted with the building, for, after two or three steps had been taken, one lighted a match. It was evident to the detective that these visitors were reading the names on the doors as they progressed along the corridor, and he was about to extinguish his lamp and prepare for the worst, when the two men stopped again, struck a match, and, after an instant's hesitation, rapped sharply upon his door.

"Come in!" called Philo Gubb, at the same time drawing his bed-sheet over his scantily clad legs. He knotted the sheet behind, like an apron, and arose to greet the comers. They were two. One of them Mr. Gubb recognized at once; he was Billy Gribble, proprietor of the Gold Star Hand Laundry, just across the way on Main Street. The other man was a stranger.

Under his arm, Billy Gribble carried a long, cylindrical parcel enclosed in heavy wrapping paper. The parcel was about six feet long and nearly as large around as Billy himself. Under his other arm, Billy carried a second parcel. This was about three feet square. The trained eye of Detective Gubb noted all this at a glance. Billy Gribble dropped the two parcels on the floor.

"Gubby, old sport!" he said in his noisy way, "this is—"

"Now, now!" said the stranger irritably. "Now, wait! I said I would talk to him, didn't I? What do you mean by—if you'll please let—you are Detective Gubb, are you not?" he asked.

Philo Gubb gazed at the man. The man was tall and thin, taller and thinner than Mr. Gubb himself. He was clean-shaven and his face showed deep lines about the mouth and nose. His hair was closely clipped, making his head seem pea-like in its smallness.

But Mr. Gubb was not gazing at these things. His bird-like eyes were fastened on the end of the suitcase the stranger still held in his hand. On the end of the case were painted in black the letters "C. M." and the word "Chicago." The stranger glanced down at the suitcase and put it on the floor with a suddenness that brought forth a thumping sound.

"Clue!" he said, and he kicked the suitcase.

"I presume the honor of this call at this late hour of time," said Philo Gubb, shifting his sheet a little, "is on a matter of business. If it is of a social, society sort, I'll have to ask to be kindly excused whilst I assume my pants."

"Business call, business call entirely, Mr. Gubb," said the tall stranger. "Don't put anything on. If—if you feel embarrassed I'll take some off. My name is—is—"

"Phineas Burke," said Billy Gribble, in a loud whisper.

"Can't you keep still?" asked the stranger crossly. "Don't you think I know my own name? Phineas—that's my name, and I know it as well as you do. Phineas Burns."

"Burke, not Burns," whispered Billy Gribble.

The stranger turned red with exasperation.

"Look here! Don't I know my own name?" he asked angrily. "My name is Phineas Burns."

"All right! All right!" said Billy Gribble. "Have it your own way. You ought to know. Only—you said Burke over at my place."

Mr. Burke-Burns glared at Billy Gribble.

"Now! There, now!" he cried. "Just for that I'll tell you you don't know anything about it. My name isn't Burke, and it isn't Burns. It's—it's Charles Augustus Witzel. Mr. Gubb, my name is Charles Augustus Witzel."

"Glad to know your acquaintance, sir," said Philo Gubb. "Won't you be seated upon one of them bundles of wall-paper?"

"I'm a detective," said Mr. Charles Augustus Witzel. "Tell him about me, Gribble."

"Well, he—whatever his name is, but Burke was what he told me—is a Chicago detective," said Billy Gribble. "Yes, sir, Mr. Gubb, Mr.—ah, what is it?"

"Witzel," said Mr. Witzel.

"Mr. Witzel is one of the celebratedest Chicago detectives," said Mr. Gribble, "and he's come over here to hunt up this man Master that's disappeared. See? So when he strikes town he comes straight to me. That's how it is, ain't it?"

"Ex-act-ly!" said Mr. Witzel.

"Yes, sir," said Billy Gribble. "So he comes to my laundry, and I'm in the washroom—"

"You ain't!" said Mr. Witzel. "You're out, and you know you're out!"

"And I'm out," said Billy Gribble. "Maybe I was in the washroom and went out the back way. Anyway, I'm out. Say," he said, as Mr. Witzel squirmed, "if you don't like the way I'm telling this, tell it yourself."

"I entered Mr. Gribble's laundry," said Mr. Witzel. "You'll understand, being a detective, Mr. Gubb. I entered the laundry. Here is the counter. I walked up to the counter. I leaned over and spoke to the girl there. 'My dear young lady,' I said, 'is Mr. Gribble in?' 'Out,' she says. Naturally, I looked down. A detective observes everything. My toe has hit a suitcase. On the end of the suitcase are the initials 'C. M.' and 'Chicago.' In other words, 'Custer Master, Chicago,'—the man I'm looking for."

"And did you get him?" asked Philo Gubb tensely.

"Gone! Gone like a bird!" said Mr. Witzel. "I waited for Gribble. I questioned Gribble. I asked him if Mr. Master had been there—"

"Hold on!" said Mr. Gribble, and then, "Oh, all right!"

"And he said, 'No,'" said Mr. Witzel, frowning. "'Very well,' I said to Gribble, 'he'll be back. He'll come back after the suitcase.' So Gribble hid me in his private office. I waited."

"And he came back?" asked Detective Gubb eagerly.

"He did not," said Mr. Witzel.

Philo Gubb sighed with relief. "Then I've got a chance at an opportunity to get that five thousand dollars," he said.

"Mr. Gubb," said Mr. Witzel, "you have a chance to get twenty-five hundred. It was to offer you the chance to get twenty-five hundred that I came here. What did I say to you, Gribble?"

"You go ahead and tell it, if you want it told," said Gribble. "You don't like the way I tell things. Tell 'em yourself."

"I said to Gribble," said Mr. Witzel slowly, "'Gribble, is this the town where a detective by the name of Grubb lives?'"

"Gubb is the name," said Mr. Gubb.

"Gubb. That's what I said," said Mr. Witzel. "That made me think a bit. 'Gribble,' I says, 'by to-morrow there will be forty Chicago detectives in his town, all looking for Master. And I don't care a whoop for any of them,' I says. 'I'm the leader of them all, as anybody who has read the exploits of—of George Augustus Wechsler—.'"

"Charles Augustus Witzel," said Gribble, correctingly.

"I have so many aliases I forget them," said Mr. Witzel to Mr. Gubb. "You'll understand that perfectly. You are a detective, and I'm a detective, Witzel or Wotzel or Wutzel—who cares? We understand each other. Don't we?"

"I presume to suppose we will do so in the course of time," said Philo Gubb politely.

"Pre-cise-ly!" said Mr. Witzel. "So I said to Gribble, 'I'm afraid of Gubb! He's the man who will find Master, if I don't. But I've got an advantage. I've got the clue.'"

He pointed to the suitcase.

"So Gribble says to me," said Mr. Witzel, "'Why don't you and Gubb combine?' 'Great idea!' I says, and—here I am. How about it, Mr. Gobb?"

"Gubb is the name I adhere to when not deteckating," said Mr. Gubb kindly. "And as to how about it, I wouldn't want to enter into a combination shutting me out from using the ability taught to me in Chapters One to Twelve inclusive, of the Correspondence course. For the twenty-five hundred which would fall to my share, I should expect to detect to some considerable extent."

"Quite right! Quite right!" said Mr. Witzel promptly. "That meets my plans entirely. I make my headquarters here, I give you a free hand. I am a—an inductive detective."

"Yes, sir. A Sherlock Holmes deteckative," said Philo Gubb.

"Ex-act-ly!" said Mr. Witzel. "I think things out. But you go out. You shadow and snoop and trail. I remain here. For you see," he added, "I'm so well known that if Master saw me he would disappear instantly. Instantly!"

"I'm willing to transact it as a business bargain onto them terms," said Philo Gubb, and it was agreed.

Mr. Gribble immediately cut the cords that bound the two bundles, and released a canvas cot and a bundle of bedding. Then he said good-night and withdrew, closing the door behind him.

Mr. Gubb waited until he heard Mr. Gribble's footsteps on the brass-clad stairs.

"That Gribble man ain't what I'd term by name of a—of a—" He hesitated. "He's not known as a strictly reliable citizen in any respect," he ended. "I wouldn't trust him any more than need be necessary."

"Thank you," said Mr. Witzel, who was already removing his garments. "I don't mean to. And now, if you don't mind, I'll retire. Let's see if Mr. Master has a night-shirt in his suitcase. I think it helps the inductive mind to sleep in the night-shirt of the man it is hunting."

He opened the suitcase, using—oddly enough a key from his own bunch of keys. He found a night-shirt and put it on. To his surprise it fitted him exactly, which was odd, for Mr. Witzel was an unusually tall and thin man. Without wasting time, he climbed into the cot and closed his eyes. Mr. Gubb also retired.

Philo Gubb, from his cot, watched Mr. Witzel until he was sure he was thoroughly asleep. Then the Correspondence School detective slipped out of bed and knelt over the suitcase.

The suitcase contained linen all plainly marked. The name "C. Master" was written in indelible ink on each piece. An extra suit of outer garments was marked with Mr. Master's name. There were silver-backed toilet articles, engraved with Mr. Master's name, and these Mr. Gubb examined closely, but what caught and held his interest most was a folded document, covered in light-blue paper and endorsed, "Last Will and Testament of Orlando J. Higgins. Copy."

The will began with the usual preamble, but the clause that caught Philo Gubb's bird-like eye, and held it, was the next.

"To my nephew, Custer Master," this clause said, "I give and bequeath $450,000; but, be it understood, my said nephew, Custer Master, shall benefit by this clause only in case he faithfully carries out the instructions contained in the sealed envelope attached hereto, the contents of said envelope to be read by my hereinafter named Executors, and the said Custer Master, and not by any other persons whatsoever; the said Executors are to be the sole judges of whether the said Custer Master has carried out the instructions therein contained."

This document was worn at the corners of the folds, and slightly soiled, as if Mr. Master had carried it in his pocket some time before dropping it in his suitcase.

With the same caution, and following closely Lesson Three and its directions for "Searching Occupied Apartments, Etc.," Mr. Gubb examined the articles of dress the Chicago detective had cast aside. All were marked "C. Master" or "C. M." or with a monogram composed of the letters "C. M." interwoven.

As cautiously as he could, Philo Gubb crossed to his trunk and took from the left-hand compartment of the tray his trusty pistol. It was a large and deadly looking pistol, about a foot and a half long, with a small ramrod beneath the barrel. It was a muzzle-loader of the crop of 1854, and carried a bullet the size of a well-matured cherry. It was as heavy as a vitrified paving-brick. Its efficiency as a firearm was unknown, as Mr. Gubb had never discharged it, but it looked dangerous. A man, facing Philo Gubb's trusty weapon, felt that if the gun went off he would be utterly and disastrously blown to flinders. Mr. Gubb pointed it at the sleeping Mr. Witzel, using both hands, and sighting along the barrel.

"Wake up!" he exclaimed sternly.

Mr. Witzel sat straight up on the cot. For an instant he was still dazed with sleep and did not seem to know where he was; then a look of joy spread over his face and he jumped from the cot and, with both hands extended, moved toward Detective Gubb.

"Superb!" he exclaimed. "A perfect specimen! Wonderfully preserved!"

"Go back!" said Philo Gubb sternly. "This article is a loaded pistol gun, prepared for momentary explosion at any time at all. Go back!"

"Remarkable!" cried Mr. Witzel joyously. "A superb specimen. Let me see it. Let me look at it."

He walked up to the gun and peered into its muzzle with one eye. He bent his head to read the engraving on the top of the barrel.

"A real Briggs & Bolton 53-1/2 caliber, muzzle-loading, 1854!" he exclaimed rapturously.

Mr. Gubb pushed him away with one hand.

"Go back there into range," he said sternly. "In shooting I aim to kill, but not to blow into particles of pieces."

"But, my dear sir!" exclaimed Mr. Witzel. "Do you know what you have there?"

"It's a pistol gun," said Philo Gubb. "If you don't stand back, I'll shoot you anyway."

"It's a Briggs & Bolton," said Mr. Witzel. "That's what it is. It is the only well-preserved specimen of Briggs & Bolton I ever saw."

Mr. Gubb shook off the hand that clasped his arm.

"I don't care what it is," said Mr. Gubb. "It's a pistol gun, and it's bung full of powder and bullet, and when I point it at you I mean that if you make a move I'm a-going to shoot."

"And I don't care what you mean," said Mr. Witzel. "It's a Briggs & Bolton, and I warn you that you have that gun so full of powder that if you pull that trigger you'll blow it to bits and ruin the only perfect specimen of that gun I ever saw!"

"And I tell you," said Philo Gubb sternly, "that I can't shoot you whilst you're rubbing your nose right into this gun. Go back there where I can shoot you."

"I won't!" said Mr. Witzel angrily.

Philo Gubb was slow to anger, but he was sorely pressed now, and his temper failed him.

"Look here," he said to Mr. Witzel. "If you don't go back where I can get a shot at you, I'll—I'll smack you on the face."

"If you shoot off that gun, and bust it," said Mr. Witzel, with equal anger, "I'll—I'll hit you on the head."

"Go back!" cried Philo Gubb menacingly. "One!"

"I'll give you fifty dollars for that gun, just as she is," said Mr. Witzel.

"Two!" said Mr. Gubb.

"Sixty dollars!" said Mr. Witzel.

"Th—" said the paper-hanger detective, stepping backward to get room to sight along the long barrel. Unfortunately the trunk was just behind him and as he stepped back he tripped over it and fell backward, doubling up like a jack-knife. But he kept his presence of mind. The long barrel of the Briggs & Bolton protruded from between the soles of Philo Gubb's feet in Mr. Witzel's direction.

"Hands up!" he said.

Instantly Mr. Witzel raised his hands in the air.

"I'll give you seventy dollars," he said.

"Make it seventy-five," said Mr. Gubb, "and as soon as I'm done with it, you can have it."

"It's a bargain!" said Mr. Witzel happily. "It's my pistol. Now, what's all this nonsense about shooting me?"

"Nonsense is an insufficient word to use in relation to this here case," said Philo Gubb grimly. "It won't be nonsense for you when you get through with it. What did you do with the corpse?"

"With the—with the what?" cried Mr. Witzel.

"The remains," said Mr. Gubb. "What did you do with them?"

"The remains of what?" asked Mr. Witzel.

"Of Mister Custer Master," said Philo Gubb, easing himself a little by shifting one waving foot. "There is no need to pretend to play innocent. Where is the body?"

"My dear Mr. Detective Gubb!" exclaimed Mr. Witzel. "I know nothing about any body. I am George Augustus Wetzler—"

"Maybe you are," said Philo Gubb. "Maybe so. But your clothes ain't. Your clothes are the clothes of Mister Custer Master. The question is, 'Did you murder him alone, or did you and William Gribble murder him together?'"

Mr. Witzel-Wetzel-Wetzler's mouth fell open.

"Murder him!" he exclaimed aghast. "But—but—"

"In the name of the law," said Philo Gubb, "I take you into custody for the murder and disappearing bodyliness of Mister Custer Master. Turn your back and keep your hands up until I get from behind this trunk, and I'll put handcuffs on you in proper shape and manner. Turn!"

Mr. Witzel turned—all but his head. He kept his face toward the priceless (or, more properly) seventy-five-dollar Briggs & Bolton.

"Mr. Gubb," he said, "you are making a serious mistake. I am a detective."

"You ain't!" said Philo Gubb. "I searched all your things and you ain't got a silver badge nor a false mustache nowhere. I'm going to turn you right over to the police to-morrow morning."

"To the police!" exclaimed Mr. Witzel. "Don't do that! Whatever you do, don't do that!" And suddenly, like a nervous dyspeptic suddenly overwrought, Mr. Witzel broke down and, falling on the cot, began to sob. Philo Gubb looked at him a moment with amazement. Then he dug a pair of handcuffs out of his trunk and, walking to where Mr. Witzel lay, prodded him in the back with the muzzle of the pistol. Mr. Witzel turned quickly, rolling over like an eel.

"Stop it! You're tickling me. I can't stand tickling!" he cried. "I—I can't stand lots of things. I'm—I'm the most sensitive man in the world. I—I can't stand cold water at all."

"Well, nobody is cold-watering you," said Philo Gubb. "Handcuffs ain't cold water."

"But cold water is," said Mr. Witzel. "Cold water kills me! It makes me shiver, and turn blue, and goose-fleshy, and gives me cramps in the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet. I—listen: my doctor says cold baths will kill me. The shock of 'em. Bad heart, you understand."

Philo Gubb's eyes blinked.

"I'll tell you," said Mr. Witzel, grasping Mr. Gubb's hand. "I can't stand cold baths. They'd kill me, you understand. It would be suicide! So—so I knew Billy Gribble. Didn't I set him up in business here, to get rid of him? Don't he owe me a good turn?"

"Does he?" asked Philo Gubb.

"Hasn't he two bathrooms in connection with his laundry. 'Hot and Cold Baths, All hours. Ladies Tuesdays and Wednesdays Only?'" asked Mr. Witzel. "Mr. Gubb, I will be frank. I am Custer Master!"

"The reward for who—for who the reward," said Philo Gubb, seeking a grammatical form that would sound right, "for information as to which five thousand dollars reward is offered!"

"Exactly!" said Mr. Master. "And I will make it six thousand if you do not give information. I admit I am Master. I am Custer Master. Here, read this!"

He reached for his vest and from the pocket took a slip of paper. It was typewritten and headed "Secret Stipulation Regarding Custer Master Clause of Orlando J. Higgins Will. Copy":—

Being a firm believer in the efficacy of cold baths for the cure of dyspepsia and having been laughed at for same by my nephew, Custer Master, and feeling that a course of ice-cold baths would cure him, I make it a part of my will and testament that the sum or sums bequeathed to him shall be given to him only after he has faithfully, and upon the sworn testimony of an eye-witness, bathed for twelve minutes, every morning for one month of thirty days, in ice-cold water.

"Cleanliness may be next to godliness," said Mr. Master, "but ice-water baths are my shortest road to a future state, and I'm not ready for that yet. Still, I did not like to give up $450,000. To Billy Gribble," he added, with a meaning smile, "all baths are cold baths. I hold a mortgage on his laundry machinery."

"And so you came up here to my office to hide whilst bathing in so-called ice-water at Mister Gribble's?" said Philo Gubb.

"Exactly!" said Mr. Master.

"If you ain't got six thousand and seventy-five dollars by you," said Philo Gubb simply, "you can give me a check for the whole amount in the morning, but if you go to take the bullet out of this pistol you'll have to get an auger. I made the bullet myself and it was too big, and I had to pound it into the gun with a hammer and screw-driver. It's in good and safe."

"And you would have dared to pull the trigger?" asked Mr. Master.

"I would have dared so to do," said Mr. Gubb.

"It would have blown the pistol to atoms!" exclaimed Mr. Master.

"It would so have done," said Mr. Gubb, "except for the time I loaded it being the first beginning time I ever loaded a pistol. In loading a Briggs & Bolton, I have since subsequently learned, the powder ought to go into it first, and the bullet second. I put the bullet in first."

"Well, bless my stars!" exclaimed Mr. Master. "Bless my stars! If that is the case—if that is the case, I'm going to bed again. I have to get up before daylight to take a bath."


It would not be true to say that Mr. Gubb had become suspicious of Mr. Medderbrook's honesty. The fact that the cashier of the Riverbank National Bank told him the Utterly Hopeless Gold-Mine stock was not worth the paper it was printed on did pain him, however.

It pained Mr. Gubb to think his father-in-law-to-be might be guilty of even unconscious duplicity, and when Mr. Master paid him the six thousand and seventy-five dollars Mr. Gubb decided that only three thousand dollars of it should pass immediately into Mr. Medderbrook's hands. Mr. Gubb put two thousand dollars in the bank and invested the balance in furniture for his office and in articles and instruments that were needed for his detective career. The three thousand dollars he took to Mr. Medderbrook and paid it to him, leaving only eight thousand nine hundred dollars unpaid.

Mr. Medderbrook was greatly pleased with this and told Mr. Gubb so.

"This is a bully payment on account," he said, "and if you keep on this way you'll soon be all paid up, but you don't want to let that worry you, for I'm having a brand-new lot of stock in a brand-new mine printed, and I'll sell you a whole lot of it as soon as we are square. I'm going to call it the Little Syrilla Gold-Mine—"

"I don't think I'll buy any more gold-mine stock after the present lot is paid up completely full," said Mr. Gubb.

"That's all right," said Mr. Medderbrook. "I haven't given the printer final orders yet and if you prefer something else I'll make it Oil-Well stock. It is all the same to me. The property will produce just as much oil as it will gold. Every bit!"

"Have you heard from Miss Syrilla recently of late?" asked Mr. Gubb.

"Yes, I have," said Mr. Medderbrook. "I have heard two dollars and a half's worth."

The telegram, which Mr. Medderbrook permitted Mr. Gubb to read after he had paid the cash in hand, said:—

Heaven smiles on us. Have given up all vegetable diet. Have given up potatoes, beets, artichokes, fried parsnips, Swiss chard, turnips, squash, kohl-rabi, boiled radishes, sugar beets, corn on the cob, cow pumpkin, mushrooms, string beans, asparagus, spinach, and canned and fresh tomatoes. Have lost ten pounds more. Weight now only nine hundred and fifteen pounds. Dorgan worried. I dream of Gubby and love.

Mr. Gubb sighed happily. "I suppose," he said blissfully, "that by the present moment of time Miss Syrilla has only got left a remainder of six double chins out of seven, dear little one!" And he went back to his office feeling that it would not be long now before the apple of his eye was released from her side-show contract.

The next day Mr. Gubb had begun his labors on a new and interesting case when the door opened.

"Gubb, come across the hall here!"

Gubb looked up from the labor in which he was engaged and blinked at Lawyer Higgins.

"At the present time I am momently engaged upon a case," said Mr. Gubb. "As soon as I am disengaged away from what I am at, I expect to be engaged at the next thing I have to do. I shouldn't wish to assume to be rude, Mr. Higgins, but when a deteckative is working up a case, and has a sign on his door 'Out—Back at Midnight,' he generally means he ain't receiving callers on no account."

"That's all right," said Higgins briskly, "but this is business. I've got a real job for you."

"I am engaged upon a real job now," said Philo Gubb.

"This is a detective job," said Mr. Higgins. "We want you to find a man, and if you find him, there's two hundred dollars in it for you. What sort of a job is it you have on hand?"

"I am searching out the whereabouts of a lost party," said Gubb earnestly. "I'm investigating clues at the present time and moment."

Higgins stepped inside the door. He walked to where Philo Gubb sat at an elaborate mahogany desk, and looked at the apparatus Mr. Gubb was using.

"What the dickens?" he asked.

On the slide of the desk were grouped a number of small articles, and a large and powerful microscope. Through the lens of the microscope Mr. Gubb was inspecting something that looked like frayed yellow-brown wool yarn.

"You don't expect to find your missing party in that wad of wool, do you, Gubb?" asked Mr. Higgins jestingly.

"Maybe I do, and maybe the operations of the deteckative mind are none of your particular affair when conducted in the private seclusion of my laboratory," said Gubb.

"Now, don't get mad," said Higgins. "It just struck me as funny. Looks as if you were hunting for fleas in a wisp of dog hair."

Philo Gubb looked up quickly. As a matter of fact, he had but a moment before found a flea in the wool he was examining, and the wool was indeed a wisp of dog hair. The party Mr. Gubb had been engaged to find was a dog, and Mr. Gubb was—by the inductive method of detecting—trying to reason out the location of the dog. By the aid of the microscope, Mr. Gubb was searching for the slight indications that mean so much to detectives. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Gubb had not yet found anything from which he could deduce anything whatever, unless the flea in the wool might lead to the conclusion that the dog now, or once, had fleas.

"Tell you what I want," said Mr. Higgins: "I want you to find Mustard."

Detective Gubb swung suddenly in his chair and faced Mr. Higgins.

"I don't want nothing more to do with that will!" he said.

"I'm with you there!" said Higgins, laughing. "When O'Hara made his will so that my client couldn't get her rights at once he did a mean trick, and I dare say Mrs. Doblin will think so when she gets my bill. But, just the same, Gubb, you're in the detective business more or less, and it strikes me you ought to take a job when it's offered to you. You signed the will as a witness, and this man Bilton, commonly known as Mustard on account of his yellow complexion and hair, was the other witness, wasn't he? Now, if you can't give us the information we want, and Mustard can, it looks to me as if it was your duty, as a fellow witness, to hunt him up. But we don't ask that. We're willing to pay you if you find him."

"Are you prepared to contract to say you'll pay me just for hunting for him?" asked Mr. Gubb.

"We'll give you two hundred dollars if you can produce Mustard here in Riverbank," said Higgins.

"The job I've took on to hunt up another missing party will occupy me for quite a while, I guess," said Gubb, "but maybe I might put in what extra time I can spare looking for your party."

"Do it!" said Higgins. "I don't say you're the best detective in the world, Gubb, but you do have luck. You must have a magic talisman."

"The operation of the deteckative mind is always like magic to the common folks," said Gubb gravely.

"All right, then," said Higgins. "Two hundred if you find him. And now, will you just come across the hall for one minute?"

Gubb left his microscope reluctantly. He was sick and tired of the O'Hara will, but he followed Mr. Higgins.

The second floor of the Opera House Block was laid out in small offices arranged on two sides of a corridor. One of these offices had been for many years the office of Haddon O'Hara, who specialized in commercial law, collections, and jokes, and he had accumulated a snug little fortune. It was said he could draw a contract no one could break except himself.

On the streets and in his home and at his office—except when at work on some especially difficult case—his face always wore a quizzical smile. O'Hara seemed to enjoy himself every moment. Walking along the street he would suddenly stop some citizen, enunciate a dozen or twenty cryptic words, laugh, and proceed on his way, leaving the citizen to puzzle over the affair, lose interest in it and forget it. A week, a month, or a year later O'Hara would stop the same citizen and utter ten more words, the key to the cryptic joke. Then, chuckling, he would hurry away. He had a lot of fun. His keen brain felt equal to making fun of the whole town and not letting the town know it. Money came to him easily; he had no wife; his pleasure was in his books—and he was probably a happy man. But he died. He died and left a will.

For some years O'Hara lived with his niece, an orphan. She was eighteen, and there might have been some gossip, but O'Hara forestalled it by hiring old Mrs. Mullarky.

O'Hara bought his niece a pup and had a dog-house built and put in the yard. He christened the pup himself, naming it Waffles, because, he said, the minute he saw the pup it reminded him of Dolly. The pup was just the color of the waffles Dolly baked—"baked" is O'Hara's word. So he bought Waffles and brought him home to Dolly, and the girl loved the dog from the first minute. Then, just as the dog had outgrown puppyhood, O'Hara died.

His will was found in the safe in his office. Old Judge Mackinnon, who shared the office with O'Hara, found the will the day after O'Hara died. It was in a white legal envelope endorsed, "My Will, Haddon O'Hara." The Judge opened the envelope—it was not sealed—and took out the will. The will was not filled in on a printed form—it was a holograph will, written in O'Hara's own hand. It began in the usual formal manner and there were two bequests. The first read: "To my niece, Dorothy O'Hara, since she is so extremely fond of her dog Waffles, I give and bequeath the dog-house now on my property at 342 Locust Street, Riverbank, Iowa." The second read: "Secondly, to my cousin Ardelia Doblin I bequeath the entire remainder and residue of my estate," etc.

Judge Mackinnon frowned as he read these two bequests. He knew Ardelia Doblin as a spiteful, scandal-mongering woman. To cut off Dolly O'Hara with a dog-house and give his entire estate to Ardelia Doblin might be O'Hara's idea of a joke, but the Judge did not like it. He read the final clause, appointing him sole executor without bond. O'Hara's signature was correctly appended. The will was dated July 1, 1913. It was witnessed by Philo Gubb and Max Bilton. The Judge knew both witnesses. Gubb was the eccentric paper-hanger who thought he was a detective because he had taken a correspondence course, and Bilton was a jaundiced loafer, commonly called Mustard. The good old man sighed and was about to put the will back in the envelope when he noticed three letters at the bottom of the sheet. They were "P.T.O." Now "P.T.O." is an English abbreviation that means "Please Turn Over." The Judge turned the paper over.

Suddenly he smiled. Then he looked grave again. And then he grinned. After which he shook his head.

The reverse of the sheet contained a will exactly like that on the obverse. Word for word it was the same. Line for line, punctuation mark for punctuation mark, the two wills on the opposite sides of the sheet were identical except for two words. In the will the Judge was now reading, the name Sarah P. Kinsey was substituted for the name Ardelia Doblin. The date was the same. The witnesses were the same. There were two wills, one written on one side of the sheet and the other written on the other side of the sheet, of the same date, with the same signature, and with the same witnesses. O'Hara had joked to the last.

"This is a dickens of a joke!" exclaimed Judge Mackinnon. "O'Hara should not have done this!"

He saw the property of Haddon O'Hara being dissipated in lawsuits over this remarkable will. He knew Sarah P. Kinsey as well as he knew Ardelia Doblin, and she was just such another mean cantankerous individual.

"A joke's a joke, but you shouldn't have done this, O'Hara!" said the Judge.

There was nothing to do but notify the parties concerned. He went to see Dolly O'Hara first and told her, as gently as he could, about the will. She cried a little, softly, at first, and then she smiled bravely.

"You mustn't worry about it, Judge Mackinnon," she said. "I—of course I never thought what Uncle Haddon would do with his money. And—and we used to joke about the dog-house. He always said he would leave it to me in his will. Uncle Haddon loved to joke, Judge Mackinnon."

"He was a joking jackanapes!" said Judge Mackinnon angrily.

Ardelia Doblin and Sarah P. Kinsey took the matter in quite a different spirit. Mrs. Doblin could hardly wait until Judge Mackinnon was out of the house before she hurried down to see Lawyer Higgins, and Mrs. Kinsey did not wait until the Judge was ready to go, but put on her hat in his presence, so eager was she to hurry down to see Lawyer Burch.

Ten hours later the O'Hara will was the one matter talked about in Riverbank. Evidently there must be some clue leading to the solution of the mystery—some well-hidden, cleverly planned key such as Haddon O'Hara would undoubtedly have left in perpetrating such a joke. Common sense was sufficient to tell any one that O'Hara could not have written both wills simultaneously, that he had written one will on one side of the paper, after which he had turned the paper over and had written the other will on the other side of the paper. The difficulty was to tell which side he had written last.

Lawyer Higgins, Lawyer Burch, and Judge Mackinnon went over both sides of the paper with a microscope. The same ink had been used on both sides. O'Hara's writing was the same on both sides. Often, in writing as many words as occupied both sides of the paper in question, a man's hand grows involuntarily weary. There was nothing of this sort. There seemed to be absolutely nothing on which the greatest penmanship expert could base a plea that either side was, in fact, the last will of Haddon O'Hara. Either might be the last.

Nothing was left untested by Higgins and Burch. The two sides of the paper on which the wills were written were subjected to the minutest scrutiny.

Each will was witnessed by the same pair of witnesses, and these were Philo Gubb and Max Bilton. It was no trouble to get Philo Gubb to tell about signing the will. Judge Mackinnon crossed the hall and brought Philo Gubb to the office.

"Yes, sir," said Mr. Gubb. "I signed my signature onto that document two times as requested so to do by the late deceased. He come over to my official deteckative headquarters and asked me to step across and do him the pleasure of a small favor and I done so. Yes, sir, that's my signed signature. And that's my signed signature also likewise."

"Did he say anything, Mr. Gubb?" asked the Judge.

"He says, 'Gubb, this is my last will and testament, and I wish you to sign your signature onto it as a witness.' So he put the paper in front of me. 'Where'll I sign it?' I says. 'Sign it right here under Mr. Bilton's name,' he says. So I signed my signature like he told me."

"Yes," said the Judge, "and Mr. O'Hara blotted it with a piece of blotting-paper, did he not?"

"He so done," said Mr. Gubb.

"And then what?"

"Then he turned the paper over," said Mr. Gubb, "and he says, 'Now, please sign this one.' So I signed it."

"Under Mr. Bilton's name again?" said the Judge.

"Why, no," said the paper-hanger detective. "Not under it, because it wasn't located nowhere to have an under to it. Mr. Bilton hadn't signed on that side yet."

There was an instant sensation.

"Bilton hadn't signed that side?" said Mr. Higgins. "Which side hadn't he signed?"

"The other side from the side he had signed," said Mr. Gubb.

"Did you notice which side he had not signed?" insisted Mr. Higgins. "Was it this side that mentions Mrs. Doblin, or this side that mentions Mrs. Kinsey? Which was it?"

Mr. Gubb took the paper and examined it carefully. He turned it over and over.

"Couldn't say," he said briefly.

"In other words," said Mr. Burch, "you signed one side before Mr. Bilton signed and one side after he signed, but you don't know which?"

"Yes, sir, I don't," said Mr. Gubb.

"So," said Judge Mackinnon, with a smile, "you can swear you signed both these wills as witness, but you have no idea which you signed last, Mr. Gubb."

"E-zactly so!" said Mr. Gubb with emphasis.

"Now, just a minute," said Mr. Burch. "One of these Bilton signatures is 'M. Bilton' and the other is 'Max Bilton.' You don't recall which was on the paper when you signed, do you?"

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse