"And you proceeded to go ahead and teach her about this transmigration of souls that you don't believe into yourself," said Mr. Gubb helpfully.
"And when she found out you was a faker she set out to sue you for her money back."
"No. Not that!" said Alibaba Singh energetically. "That's not it. She doesn't want her money back. She—she's almost satisfied. She's willing to accept what had happened philosophically. She's almost content. Mr. Gubb, the reason I came to you was that I did not want her to land in—"
Alibaba Singh looked carefully around.
"I don't want her to land in jail," he whispered. "It would make trouble for me. The lady, Mr. Gubb, is Mrs. Henry K. Lippett."
"Well?" queried Mr. Gubb.
"What I don't know," said Alibaba Singh, wiping his brow nervously, "is whether I did reincarnate her late husband or whether she's liable to be arrested for stealing a—"
Alibaba Singh stopped short and arose hastily. Some one had knocked on Mr. Gubb's door. Alibaba Singh moved toward the door.
"I don't want to talk about this with anybody around," he said nervously. "I'll come back later. Not a word about it!"
He brushed past Mr. Gubb's new visitor as he went out, and Mr. Gubb arose to greet the newcomer.
This third visitor was a large, red-faced man with an extremely loud vest. He wore a high hat of gray beaver, and a large but questionable diamond sparkled on his finger. He walked directly up to Mr. Gubb and shook hands.
"Sit down," he commanded. "Now, you're Gubb, the detective, ain't you? Good enough! My name is Stephen Watts, but they mostly call me Steve for short—Three-Finger Steve," he added, holding up his right hand to show that one finger was missing. "I'm in the show business. Ever hear of John, the Educated Horse? Ever hear of Hogo, the Human Trilobite? Ever hear of Henry, the Educated Pig? Well, them are me! That's my show. Did you ever hear of a sheriff?"
"Frequently often," said Mr. Gubb with a smile.
"Well, up to Derlingport this here Human Trilobite of mine got loose from my side-show tent, and when they found him he had eat about half of the marble cornerstone out from under the Dawkins Building. He's crazy after white marble. It's like candy to him. So Dawkins attaches my show and sends the Sheriff with an execution to grab the whole business unless I pay for a new cornerstone. Said it would cost two hundred and fifty dollars. I didn't have the money."
"So he took the show," said Philo Gubb.
"Ex-act-ly!" said Mr. Three-Finger Steve. "He grabbed the whole caboodle. Ex-cept Henry, the Educated Pig. That's why I'm here. That Sheriff's attachment is out against that pig; it was a felony to remove that pig from Derling County while that attachment was out against it. And the pig was removed."
"You removed it away from there?" asked Philo Gubb.
"Listen," said Three-Finger Steve. "I didn't remove that pig from Derling County. It was stole from me. Greasy Gus stole it. Augustus P. Smith, my bally-hoo man, stole Henry, the Educated Pig, and made a get-away with him. See? See what I want?"
"Not positively exact," said Philo Gubb.
"Well, it's a little bit delicate," said Three-Finger Steve, "and that's why I come to you instead of to the police. I want that pig. But if I go to the police and they find the pig they'll send it back to the Sheriff in Derling County. See?"
"Do you want I should arrest Greasy Augustus P. Smith?" asked Philo Gubb.
"Not on your life!" said Three-Finger vigorously. "No arrests! You just get the pig."
"How big is the size of the pig?" asked Philo Gubb.
"It's a big pig," said Mr. Watts. "Henry has been getting almost too fat, and that's a fact. I've been thinking right along I'd have to diet Henry, but I never got to it. He's one of these big, double-chinned pinkish-white pigs—looks like a prize pig in a county fair. And, listen! He's in this town!"
"Really, indeed?" said Mr. Gubb.
"I know it!" said Three-Finger Steve. "I seen Greasy Gus load that pig into a farm wagon at Derlingport, and I thought Gus was trying to salvage the pig for me, like one feller will help out another in time of trouble. So I come down to Riverbank on the train, expecting Gus would show up at the hotel and tell me where the pig was hid. All right! Gus shows up. 'Gus,' I says, 'where's Henry?' Gus lets on to be worried. 'Stolen!' he says. 'Some guy lifted him when I wasn't looking.' Of course I knew that was a lie, and I told him so. 'Now,' he says, 'you'll never get Henry back. I meant to give him back to you, but after you have talked to me like that I'll never give him back. I'll keep him,' he says, 'if I can find him.' So there you are, Mr. Gubb. Henry is in Riverbank, and I want Henry. This story about Henry being stolen is a lie. Henry is hid, and Gus Smith knows where."
Mr. Gubb looked at Mr. Watts thoughtfully.
"Now, if you're one of these fellers with a conscience," said Three-Finger, "you can send Henry back to the Sheriff. But I won't have Greasy Gus putting a trick like this over on me! No, sir!"
He shook hands with Mr. Gubb again and went out. It was fully fifteen minutes before Mr. Gus P. Smith, who must have been waiting across the street, came in. He closed the door and locked it.
"I saw old Three-Finger come out of this building," he said. "What did he want?"
"He came upon confidential business which can't be mentioned," said Mr. Gubb.
"Just so!" said Mr. Smith. "He wanted you to find Henry, the Educated Pig. Now, listen to me. I skipped out with that pig to do Three-Finger a favor and save part of his show for him, and that's the truth, but he don't believe it—not him! He called me a thief and worse, he did. He had the nerve to say I wanted that pig myself, to start in business with, and that's a lie. No man can insult me like that, Mr. Gubb. Look at this—"
He took from his pocket a couple of feet of whipcord and handed it to Philo Gubb.
"What is this?" asked Mr. Gubb.
"That's all that's left of Henry," said Greasy Gus. "That's his total remains up to date. That's the rope I led Henry with after I quit the wagon of a farmer that rode us out of Derlingport. That cord was tied to Henry's left hind foot. Look at the end without the knot—was that cut or wasn't it?"
"I most generally reserve my opinion until later than right at first," said Philo Gubb.
"All right, reserve it!" said Greasy Gus. "Looks to me like it was cut. No matter. The main thing I want is for you to find Henry. How's that?"
"Under them certain specifications," said Philo Gubb, "I can take up the case and get right to work onto it."
"All right, then," said Greasy Gus. "Now, here's what I know about it. I got out of Derlingport with Henry, and when the farmer dumped us from his wagon I hitched this whipcord to Henry's leg and drove him along the road. After while I hit this town of Riverbank. I thought maybe the police would be looking for Henry. So I took to an alley instead of a regular street, and along we came. We came down the alley, and of a sudden I began to wonder what I'd do with Henry now I'd got him into town. It would look kind of suspicious for me and Henry to go to a hotel. 'I know what I'll do,' I says to myself: 'What I want to do is to go alone and rent a barn and say I'm thinking of buying a pig if I can get a place to keep him.' So that's what I did."
"You left the pig alone in the alley by itself?" asked Philo Gubb.
"Yes, sir!" said Mr. Smith. "I found an alley fence that had a staple in it, and I tied one end of the whipcord to the staple and went down the alley to find a barn I could put Henry in. About the fifth barn I tried I found a place for Henry and then I went back to get him, and he was gone!"
"And no clue?" asked Mr. Gubb.
"This tag end of the rope," said Greasy Gus. "And that's all I know about where Henry went, but my idee is somebody come along and seen him there and just thought he'd have a pig cheap."
"It's a pretty hard case to work onto," said Mr. Gubb doubtfully. "Somebody might have come along with a wagon and loaded him in."
"Sure!" said Mr. Smith. "No telling at all. That's why I come to you. If he was where I could fall over him, I wouldn't need a detective, would I? And if you find Henry I'll just give you these four five-dollar bills. I'm no millionaire, but I'll blow that much for the satisfaction of getting back at Three-Finger Watts. Is it a go?"
"Under them certain specifications," said Mr. Gubb, using the exact words he had used before, "I can take up the case and get right to work onto it."
Mr. Smith shook hands to bind the bargain and departed.
He had hardly disappeared before Mr. Alibaba Singh opened the door cautiously, put his head inside and then entered.
"I thought that man would stay forever," he said with annoyance. "He isn't in any way interested in my affairs or in the affairs of Mrs. Henry K. Lippett, is he?"
"Nobody has been here that is interested into anything you are interested into in the slightest form or manner," Mr. Gubb assured him, and Alibaba Singh sighed with relief.
"You never knew Henry K. Lippett, did you?" he asked.
"Never at all," said Mr. Gubb.
"He broke his neck," said Alibaba Singh, "and it killed him."
He hesitated and seemed lost in thought. He drew himself together sharply.
"It isn't possible!" he exclaimed with irritation and with no connection with what he had just said. "I don't believe it! I—I—"
His distress was great. He wrung one hand inside the other. He almost wept.
"Mr. Gubb," he said, "since I was here I have been up to Mrs. Lippett's house again, and it is worse than ever. It can't be possible! I haven't the power. I know I haven't the power."
"You'd ought to try to explain yourself more plain to your deteckative," said Mr. Gubb.
"I'll tell you everything!" said Alibaba Singh in a sudden burst of confidence. "Mr. Gubb, I am an impostor. I am a fraud. I am not a Hindoo. My name is Guffins, James Guffins. I did sleight-of-hand stuff in a Bowery show. I took up this mystic, yogi, Hindoo stuff because I thought it would pay and it was easy to fool the dames. They fell for it fast enough, and I made good money. But I'm no yogi. I'm no miracle man. I couldn't bring a man back to life in his own form or any other form, could I?"
"Undoubtedly hardly so," said Mr. Gubb.
"Glad to hear you say it," said Mr. Guffins with relief. "A man gets so interested in his work—and there is a lot you can learn in books about this Hindoo mumbo-jumbo business—but of course I couldn't bring Mr. Lippett back. I'm no spiritualistic medium. I couldn't materialize the spirit of a pig."
As he said the word, Mr. Guffins shuddered. It had come out unintentionally, but it seemed to jar him to the depth of his being. He had evidently not meant to say pig.
"Mr. Gubb, I will be frank with you. I need your help," he continued. "Mrs. Lippett attended my lecture, and she became interested. She formed a class to study yogi philosophy. We went deep into it. I had to read up one week what I taught them the next. The lights turned low and my Hindoo costume helped, of course. Air of mystery, strange perfumes, and all that. You said you never knew Henry K. Lippett?"
"Never at all," said Mr. Gubb.
"Fat man," said Mr. Guffins. "He must have been a very fat man. And a hearty eater. Rather—rather an over-hearty eater. He must have lived to eat."
Mr. Guffins sighed again.
"Of course there was remuneration," Mr. Guffins went on. "For me, I mean. To pay for my time. Mrs. Lippett was most generous. I told her," he said angrily, "I couldn't guarantee to materialize her dead husband. I said to her: 'Mrs. Lippett, we had better not try it. My power may be too weak. And think of the risk. He may be pure spirit, floating in Nirvana, and come to us as a pure spirit, but what if his life was not all it should have been on earth? What if his spirit has passed into a lower form as a punishment for misdeeds? You will pardon me for speaking so of him, but men are weak,' I said, 'and he may now be a—a bird of the air. It would be a shock,' I said, 'to see him changed into a bird of the air.'"
Mr. Guffins paused and groaned.
"But she would have it," he went on. "She would have me make the attempt. So—"
Mr. Guffins looked at Mr. Gubb appealingly.
"You don't believe I could do it, do you?" he pleaded.
"Not in any manner of means," said Mr. Gubb.
"That's what I want you to prove to her," said Mr. Guffins. "That's why I came to you. Everybody knows you are a detective. I want you to—to get on my trail."
"You want me to arrest you!" cried Mr. Gubb with surprise.
"I want you to be looking for me as if you wanted to arrest me," said poor Mr. Guffins; "as if you had received word that I was a fraud, and that you had traced me to Mrs. Lippett's. You can go there and say: 'Gone! I am too late! He has escaped.' And then you can tell her it couldn't be."
"That what couldn't be?" asked Mr. Gubb.
"The room was darkish," said Mr. Guffins. "The lights were dim. I stood in the light of the red globe, and it gave me a weird look. I held the crystal globe in one hand and the jade talisman in the other. The incense arose from the incense-burner. As if out of the empty air, a sweet-toned bell rang three times. I bowed low three times as the bell rang and muttered the magic words. I made them up as I said them, but they sounded mystic. Mrs. Lippett was sitting on the edge of her chair, breathless with emotion. The curtains were drawn across the door at the back of the room. You could have heard a pin drop. We were alone, just we two. I felt creepy myself. I turned toward the curtains. I said, 'Henry, appear!'"
"Yes?" queried Philo Gubb.
Mr. Guffins threw out both hands with a gesture of utter despair.
"A pig came under the curtains," he groaned. "A pig—a great, fat, double-chinned, pinky-white pig, the kind you see at county fairs—came under the curtains and grunted twice. It stood there and raised its head and grunted twice."
Mr. Guffins wrung his hands nervously.
"It—it surprised me," he said,—"but only for a minute. I said, 'Get out, you beast!' and was going to kick it, but Mrs. Lippett rose slowly from her chair. She half-tottered for an instant, and then she covered her face with her hands. She began to weep. 'I knew it!' she sobbed; 'I knew it! Oh, Henry, I knew you ate too much. I told you and told you again and again you were making a pig of yourself. Oh, Henry, if you had only been less of a pig when you were alive before!' And what do you think that pig did?"
"What did it do?" asked Philo Gubb.
"It sat up on its hind legs and begged," said Mr. Guffins, "begged for food. It was awful! Mrs. Lippett couldn't stand it. She wept. 'He was always so hungry in his other life,' she said. 'I can't begin to be stern with him now. To-morrow, but not when he has just come back to me. Come, Henry!'
"She went into the dining-room," continued Mr. Guffins, "and Henry—or the pig, for it couldn't have been Henry—followed her. And what do you think it did?"
"What?" asked Mr. Gubb.
"It went right to the dining-room table and climbed into a chair. Pigs don't do that, do they? But you don't believe it could have been Henry, do you? It got up in the chair and sat in it, and put its front feet on the table and grunted. And Mrs. Lippett hurried about saying, 'Oh, Henry! Oh, poor, dear Henry!' and brought a plate of fried hominy and sliced apple and set it before him. And he wouldn't touch it! He wouldn't eat. So Mrs. Lippett wept harder and got a napkin and tied it around the pig's neck. Then the pig ate. He almost climbed into the plate, and gobbled the food down. And then he grunted for more. And Mrs. Lippett wept and said: 'It's Henry! He always did tie a napkin around his neck—he spilled his soup so. It's Henry! It acts just like Henry. He never did anything at the table but eat and grunt.' And so," said Mr. Guffins sadly, "she thinks it's Henry. She's fixed up the guest bedroom for him."
"The idea of such a notion!" said Mr. Gubb.
"Well, that's it," said Mr. Guffins sadly. "I ain't sure but it is Henry. Do you know, that pig walks on its hind feet like a man? She says it walks like Henry.... Oh!"
"What is it?" asked Mr. Gubb.
"I told you Henry—"
"I told you Henry broke his neck. He fell down and broke his neck, in his store. He was coming down the back stairs in the dark, and his foot caught in a piece of rope and he fell. And—this pig came into the parlor with a piece of string on its leg! Here's the string."
Mr. Gubb took it. From his desk he took the string Mr. Greasy Gus had left. The two ends joined perfectly.
"I'll get you out of this fix, and fix it so Mrs. Lippett won't have that pig onto her hands," he said. "I'll go tell her what a fraud of a faker you are, and it won't cost you but twenty-five dollars."
"Willingly paid," said Mr. Guffins, reaching into his pocket.
"And don't you worry about that pig being Henry K. Lippett," said Mr. Gubb. "That pig was a stranger into Riverbank. And," he went on, as if reading the words from the end of the whipcord, "it was tied to the alley fence. Tied to an iron staple," he said, "by a short, stoutish man with a ruddish face." He took up the other piece of cord and looked at it closely. "And the pig jerked the cord in two and went into the yard and in at the open door and into the room. And what is moreover also, the pig is an educated show-pig, and its name is Henry, and—"
"And what?" asked Mr. Guffins eagerly.
"If you want to get rid of the pig out of Mrs. Lippett's house, all you have to do is to write to the Sheriff of Derling County, Derlingport, Iowa, and you needn't trouble yourself into it no further."
"Great Scott!" cried Mr. Guffins. "And you can tell all that from that piece of cord!"
Mr. Gubb assumed a look of wisdom.
"Us gents that is into the deteckative business," he said carelessly, "has to learn twelve correspondence lessons before we get our diplomas. The deteckative mind is educated up to such things."
When Mr. Gubb went to the house of Mr. Jonas Medderbrook to pay him the money he had received for solving the mystery of Henry, the Educated Pig, he found the house closed, locked and deserted, and on the door was pinned a card that said simply, and in a neat handwriting:—
Gone to Patagonia. Will be back in one hundred years. Please wait.
This was signed "Jonas Medderbrook," but not until the next day did Mr. Gubb learn from the "Riverbank Eagle" that Mr. Medderbrook had decamped after selling his friends and neighbors an immense amount of stock in the Utterly Hopeless Gold-Mine, of which Mr. Gubb had a very large and entirely worthless quantity.
The departure of Mr. Medderbrook was a great shock to Mr. Gubb, as it seemed to indicate that serious complications in his wooing of Syrilla might result from it, especially as he had only heard from Syrilla through Mr. Medderbrook, but, disturbed as he was by this fear, he was even more upset by a telegram that came to him direct that afternoon. It was from Syrilla herself—
Alas! [it read], the worst has happened. Weighed myself this morning and weighed only one hundred pounds. Later discovered scales were one hundred and five pounds out of balance, registering one hundred and five pounds too much. I cannot marry you, now or ever, Gubby dear, as cannot permit your faithful heart to wed one who weighs five pounds less than nothing. Good-bye forever. SYRILLA.
The blow was a severe one to Mr. Gubb, as it would have been to any lover who loved a half-ton of beauty only to have her shrink to five pounds less than nothing. For several days he remained locked in his office, hardly touching food, and then, with a sad heart he resumed his customary occupations. He would never have learned the truth about Syrilla had it not been for a tramp called Chi Foxy.
Chi Foxy made the long walk from Derlingport, and night found him on the outskirts of Riverbank. He begged a hand-out from one of the small houses and hunted a place to spend the night. He found it underneath a tool-house alongside the railway tracks, and that it had been used as sleeping-quarters by other tramps was shown by the heap of crushed straw, the bread-crusts, and the remnants of a small fire.
Chi Foxy crawled in and stretched himself out for a comfortable night. He lighted his pipe, loosened the laces of his shoes, and settled back for a comfortable smoke.
Just outside the rear of his sleeping quarters ran the wire right-of-way fence, which was also the back fence of a small piece of property on which stood a rickety old house. The house was devoid of paint, but it was a cheerful sight from where Chi Foxy reclined. He had a clear view of the kitchen window, from which the light came in a yellow glow, and he could see a woman cooking something in a frying-pan on a kitchen stove. A man sat beside the stove, his elbows on his knees, waiting for supper.
Chi Foxy almost decided to climb the fence and knock at the door of the kitchen at the moment the woman took the frying-pan off the stove, but he was feeling well filled and comfortable, and he decided to wait and to use the house as his breakfasting-place. This required no little strength of character, for the perfume of fried veal chops was wafted to his nostrils, but he held himself in hand, and when he had burned his pipeful of tobacco he curled down and went to sleep.
He was awakened by the sound of voices near at hand, and peered out between the ties. The night was not dark. The voices had come from a man and a woman, and as Chi Foxy watched them the man began digging in the sandy soil with a spade. He made quite a hole in the soil and turned to the woman.
"Hand me the bag," he said.
The woman dragged a heavy gunny-sack to the edge of the hole. The man untwisted the neck of the bag and up-ended it over the hole. There followed the rattle of bones, one striking against the other, and the man handed the bag back to the woman. Chi Foxy peered eagerly at the hole. He saw bones. He looked up at the stars and saw it must be well after midnight. He saw the man hastily spade the soft soil over the bones, saw him scatter loose dry top-sand over the completed job, and saw the man and woman hurry back to the dark house.
The next morning Chi Foxy left his resting-place and climbed over the wire fence. He looked curiously at the spot where the weird burial had taken place, and went on toward the house. He knocked on the door, and it was opened by the man—a tall, lanky, coarse-bearded specimen.
"Say, friend, how about givin' a feller some breakfast?" asked Chi Foxy.
"How 'bout it, ma?" asked the man, turning his head. "Got some breakfast for this feller?"
The woman looked toward the tramp. She evidently decided in his favor.
"Let him set on the step and I kin hand him out some coffee and some meat, if that'll do him," she said, and Chi Foxy seated himself. The breakfast she brought him on a chipped plate was all he could have desired. There was a half of a veal cutlet, browned to a nicety, a portion of fried potatoes, a thick slice of bread without butter, and a cup of coffee. Chi Foxy ate and drank.
"Thanks, folks," he said. "I won't forgit you." And he continued on his way toward Riverbank.
"So you're here," said the first policeman he met. "Right on time with the first frosty breeze, ain't you? Well, my friend, you can blow out of town on the breeze, just like you blew in. No more free board and gentle stone-pile massage in this town. Drift along, bo!"
He turned up the first cross-street. He went from house to house begging a hand-out, but the residents were colder than the weather. At the twelfth house he knocked on the back door, but he was beginning to feel hopeless. A thin streamer of smoke was issuing from the kitchen chimney, and where there is smoke there is food; but here, instead of a hard-faced woman coming to the door, a man put his face to the kitchen window and looked out. It was the face of a tall, thin man with a long neck and prominent Adam's-apple, and as the man peered out of the window he looked something like a flamingo. He opened the door.
"Come right into the inside," said Philo Gubb pleasantly, "and heat yourself up warm. The temperature is full of cold weather to-day."
Chi Foxy entered. He looked around the kitchen. There was a brisk fire in the stove, but no sign of food.
"Say, pard," he said, "how about giving me a bite? I haven't had a bite this morning. I ain't too late, am I?"
His host looked at him.
"You are not too late," he answered, "because it may be some days of time before there is any eats here, for what's burning into that stove is the unvalueless trimmings off of wall-paper. I'm not the regular resider at this house by no means."
Chi Foxy looked at his host again.
"You're a paper-hanger, ain't you?" he said.
"Paper-hanger and deteckative," said his host proudly. "My name is Mister P. Gubb, graduate of the Rising Sun Deteckative Agency's Correspondence School of Deteckating in twelve lessons. And paper-hanging done in a neat manner."
Chi Foxy held out his hand eagerly.
"Shake, pard!" he asked. "That's my line, too."
"Paper-hanging?" asked Philo Gubb.
"Detecting," said Chi Foxy promptly. "I'm one of the most famousest gum-shoe fellers in the world. Me and this here great detective feller—what's his name, now?—used to work team-work together."
"Burns?" suggested Philo Gubb.
"Holmes," said Chi Foxy, "Shermlock Holmes. Me and him pulled off all them big jobs you maybe have read about in the papers."
He pronounced the name of the celebrated detective of fiction "Shermlock Hol-lums."
"Oh, yes," said the tramp, "me and Shermlock is great chums. And me and the kid!"
"To what kid do you refer to?" asked Philo Gubb.
"Why, my old side partner's little son, Shermlock Hollums the Twoth," said Chi Foxy without a blink. "And a cunnin' little feller he was—took after his father like a cat after fish, he did. Me and old Shermlock we used to hide things—candy and—and oranges—and let little Shermlock go and detect where they was. He was a great little codger, he was."
He noticed that Mr. Gubb was looking at him sharply. He looked down at his ragged garments.
"Disguise," he said briefly. "Nobody'd know a swell dresser like I am in this rig, would he? Say, pard, how about giving me a half-dollar to get breakfast? Us detectives ought to have es-spirit dee corpse, hey? We ought to stick by each other, hey?"
The celebrated paper-hanger detective considered Chi Foxy. It was evident that P. Gubb doubted the authenticity of the tramp-detective.
"In times of necessary need," he said slowly, "I often assume onto me the disguise of a tramp, but I don't assume it onto me so complete that I go asking for money to buy breakfast."
"You don't, hey?" said Chi Foxy scornfully. "Well, you must be a swell detective, you must. When I get into a tramp disguise I'm a tramp all through."
"Most certainly," said P. Gubb. "And so am I. But there's a difference into the way you are doing it now. You ain't deteckating now. You are coming at me as one deteckative unto another."
Chi Foxy laughed.
"Say," he said, "I'd like to see this here Correspondence School you graduated out of, I would. I'd like to see the lessons they learn you, I would. Why, the first thing my old pard Shermlock Hollums told me was never to be anything but what I was disguised to be as long as I was disguised to be it. That's right. Maybe I'd be disguised as a tramp and I'd meet our old friend and college chum, the Dook of Sluff. He'd want to take me into some swell place and blow me off to a swell dinner. Would I let on? No, sir! I'd sort of whine at him and say, 'Mister, won't you give a poor feller a penny for to hire a bed?' That's how me and Shermlock stuck to a disguise. And Shermlock! Me and him was like twins, we was, and yet when I was in this tramp disguise and went up to his room to report, I'd knock at the door and say, 'Mister, give a poor cove a hand-out, won't you?' and Shermlock would turn and say, 'Watson, throw this tramp downstairs.' And Watson would do it. Yes, sir! I've been so sore and bruised from being thrown downstairs when I went to report to Shermlock that sometimes I'd have to go to the hospital to get plastered up. That's detecting!"
Chi Foxy looked at P. Gubb, but P. Gubb did not seem to have melted.
"That's livin' up to your disguise," continued Chi Foxy. "Me and Shermlock, when we had on tramp disguises we were tramps. Why, I used to go home and my valet would throw me downstairs. I was so thoroughly disguised, and I kept actin' so trampish while I had the disguise on, that he used to come at me with a golluf stick and whack me on the head. And when I got into my own room I kept right on being a tramp. Took off my clothes—still a tramp. Took off my false whiskers—still a tramp. I'd be there stark naked and I'd still be a tramp. Yes, sir. That's the kind of detective disguising I did. And then I'd take a bath. Then I was myself again. Yes, sir. When I'd scrubbed myself in the bathtub I figured I'd got rid of the tramp disguise right down into the skin, and I'd be myself again—and not until then."
He looked at P. Gubb out of the corner of his eye.
"Why, I remember one time," he said briskly, "I was asked to the Dook's palace to a swell party. Me and Shermlock was both asked, because they knew one of us wouldn't go unless the other did. Well, sir, I had been out detecting in a tramp disguise that day—findin' stolen jools and murderers and that sort of business—and I went and took my bath and rigged all up in swell clothes, and called my limmy-seen automobile, and when the feller I hired to drive the limmy-seen come to open the door of the car at the Dook's palace I dodged. Yes, sir, I dodged like I thought he was going to hit me because I hadn't no business in my own limmy-seen automobile. That was funny, wasn't it? So I went up the steps into the Dook's palace, and the gentleman he had to open the door opened the door, and he called out my name and up come the Dookess—Mrs. Dook of Sluff, as they call her, but I always called her Maggie, like she called me Mike. So she says to me, 'Mike, I'm mighty glad to see you here. We're going to have a swell party.' And I started to say back something pleasant, but what I said was, 'Please, missus, won't you give a poor cove a hand-out?'"
"What seemed to be the reason you said that?" asked Philo Gubb with interest.
"That's what worried me," said Chi Foxy. "I didn't mean to say it. I just said it against my will, as you might say. But I guess she thought I was tryin' to be smart, for she just says, 'Naughty, naughty, Mike,' and whistled to the Dook to come and blow me off to the feeds. So the Dook come and led me into the dining-room, and stacked me up against the table for a stand-up feed. Swell feed, bo! Samwiches till you couldn't rest—ham samwiches and chicken samwiches and tongue samwiches and club samwiches and—and all kinds of samwiches. And what did I do? I grabbed half a dozen of them samwiches and rammed them into my pants pocket, just like a tramp would do it. The Dook looked surprised, but he begun to haw-haw, and he slapped me on the back and said, 'Good joke, ol' chap, good joke!' So that passed off all right. Then I went into the jool room, because the Dook had told me his son, the Dookette, or what you might call the little Dookerino, was in there. So in I went, and the first thing I knew I was hiding one of the Dook's gold crowns inside my vest. In a minute in come the Dook to pick out a crown to wear at dinner—"
"I thought you said they had a stand-up dinner at the table," said Philo Gubb.
"Pshaw, that was nothing but the appetizer," said Chi Foxy. "Well, in he come and began lookin' through his crowns for the one he wanted, and all at once he saw how my vest bulged out, and he knew by the rough edges of the bulge it wasn't samwiches because them dookal samwiches is all boneless. So he puts his hand on my shoulder and he says, 'Mike, ain't you carryin' the joke a bit too far?' That's what he says, and I wish you could have heard how sad his voice was. He says, 'You know me, Mike, and you know that anything I've got is yours—except that crown you've got inside your vest.'
"For a minute I didn't know what to do. I wasn't in tramp disguise and I thought he would think I was a thief in real life, so I says, 'Dook, search me!' 'I don't have to search you,' he says, 'for I can see my favorite crown bulging out your vest.' 'I don't mean that, Dook, old chap,' I says; 'I mean take me up to your bood-u-war or the bathroom and give me the twice-over. Something's wrong with me, and I don't know what, but some of my tramp disguise must be sticking to me somewhere.' So we went up to the bathroom and he went over me with this one-eyed monocule he always wore, and then he went over me with a reading-glass, and then he went over me with a microscope, but he couldn't see a speck of tramp disguise on me. Not a speck. 'Keep lookin'!' I says. 'It must be there somewhere, Dook,' I says, 'or I wouldn't act so pernicious.' So he begun again, and all at once I hear him chuckle. He was lookin' in my ear with the microscope."
"What was it?" asked Philo Gubb eagerly.
"A hair," said Chi Foxy. "Just one hair. It was a hair out of my tramp whiskers that had got in my ear, and the minute he pulled it out I was all right again and no more tramp than he was. So you see that's the way I keep acting tramp as long as I have even one hair of tramp disguise about me. Come on, be a good feller and let me have half a dollar to get some feeds with."
P. Gubb put his hand in his pocket and withdrew it again. "I much admire to like the way you act right up to the disguise," he said, "and it does you proud, but of course when you ask for fifty cents it's nothing but part of the disguise, ain't it?"
"Now, see here, bo!" said Chi Foxy earnestly. "Don't you go and misunderstand me. I didn't mean to be mistook that way. I do want fifty cents. I'm hungry, I am."
P. Gubb smiled approvingly. "Most excellent trampish disguise work," he said. "Nobody couldn't do it better. A real tramp couldn't do it better."
Chi Foxy frowned. "Say," he said, "cut that out, won't you, cully? Your head ain't solid ivory, is it? I'm starvin'. Gimme fifty cents, mister. Gimme a quarter if you won't give me fifty. Come on, now, be a good feller."
"A deteckative like you are oughtn't to need twenty-five cents so bad as that," said P. Gubb. "A deteckative acquainted with the knowing of a Dook and of Sherlock Holmes don't have to beg."
Chi Foxy actually gritted his teeth. He was angry with himself. He had talked too well. He had proved so thoroughly that he was a detective that P. Gubb would not believe he was hungry.
"See here, bo," he said suddenly, "is this straight about you being a detective, or is that a bluff, too?"
Philo Gubb showed Chi Foxy the badge he had received upon completion of his correspondence course of twelve lessons.
"I'm the most celebrated and only deteckative in the town of Riverbank, Iowa," he said seriously, "and you can ask the Sheriff or the Chief of Police if you don't believe me. I'm working right now onto a case of quite some importance, into which a calf was stolen, but up to now the clues ain't what they should be. If you don't think I'm a deteckative you can ask Farmer Hopper. He hired me for to get the capture of the guilty calf-stealer aforesaid."
Chi Foxy studied P. Gubb's simple face.
"And you can arrest a feller and lodge him in jail?" he asked.
"I've arrested many and lodged them into jail," P. Gubb assured him.
"Well, bo," said Chi Foxy frankly, "I'm the man you're looking for. Arrest me."
The tramp knew enough about arrests to know that even a suspect, when lodged in jail, would be fed, and he was hungry and getting hungrier every moment. P. Gubb looked at him with surprise.
"I thought you said you was a deteckative," he said.
"I am," said Chi Foxy. "Or I wouldn't know I was a criminal. I detected it myself, because nobody else could. Even my old friend Shermlock Hollums couldn't detect it, but I did. I'm a—a murderer, I am. There's a thousand-dollar reward offered for me."
"Then why don't you arrest yourself and get the reward?" asked P. Gubb.
"Say," said Chi Foxy with disgust. "It can't be done. I know, for I've tried. I'm a fugitive, that's what I am, and right behind me, no matter where I flee to, comes myself ready to grab me and arrest me. I've chased myself all over Europe, Asia and Africa, and I can't get away from myself, and I can't grab myself. It's—it's just awful."
Chi Foxy wiped an imaginary tear from his eye.
"And I can't keep away from the scene of my crime," he said. "I come back here time after time—"
"Did you do the murder here?" asked P. Gubb with increased interest.
"That's what I did," said Chi Foxy. "I did it here. Take me down to the lock-up. Me and you can hold me all right."
"It's somewhat out of the ordinary common run for a feller to be a deteckative and the criminal murderer he's chasing both at once," said P. Gubb doubtfully.
"That's so, ain't it?" agreed Chi Foxy. "It looks that way. But facts are facts, ain't they?"
"Quite occasionally they are such," agreed P. Gubb.
"That's right," said Chi Foxy. "And all you've got to do is to explain them. You see, bo, I was a young feller when I murdered this old miser—"
"What did you say his name was?" asked P. Gubb.
"Smith," said Chi Foxy promptly. "John J. Smith, and he lived right here in this town. And I murdered the old feller and got away. Nobody cared much whether the old feller was murdered or not, and nothin' much might have been said of it except that the old feller had a nephew. His name was Smith—Peter P. Smith."
"What did he do?" asked P. Gubb.
"He offered a reward of a thousand dollars," said Chi Foxy. "It was one of them unsolved mystery cases—one of them cases that never get solved because no detective is smart enough to solve it. Nobody knew who killed old John J. Smith but me, and I wasn't going around telling it."
"I should think not," said P. Gubb.
"No, sir!" said Chi Foxy. "So I was as safe as a babe unborn. I skipped up the river to Minneapolis, and nobody thought of lookin' for me, because I wasn't suspected. And then I did a fool thing."
"Murderers 'most always does," said P. Gubb.
"Sure!" said Chi Foxy. "I thought I'd go to New Orleans. It was all right—nice trip—until we got to Dubuque, and then what happened? The old steamboat blew up. I went sailin' up in the air like one of these here skyrockets, I did, and when I come down I lit head first."
"It is a remarkable wonder it didn't kill you to death," said P. Gubb.
"Ain't it?" said Chi Foxy. "But it did worse than kill me. It knocked my senses out of me. When I come to I didn't know what had happened. I didn't remember a thing out of my past—not a thing. I was like a newborn babe. I didn't have an idea or a memory left in me. When they picked me up and I opened my eyes I could just say 'Ah-goo' and 'Da-da' and things like that, and I didn't know who I was or where I'd been or anything. So some kind folks took me and sent me to kinder-garden, and I started in to learn my A-B-C's and things like that. I learned fast, and pretty soon I was in the high school, and pretty soon I graduated, and the name I graduated under was Mike Higgs, Higgs being the name of the family that adopted me."
"Mike Higgs?" repeated P. Gubb, trying to remember a celebrated detective of that name.
"Yes," said Chi Foxy, "they named me Mike after the old gran'pa of the family. He was a butcher, and they wanted me to be a butcher, but I wanted to be a detective. So Gran'pa Higgs he lent me enough money to go to London and take lessons in detecting from Shermlock Hollums, and I did. He says to me, when I'd finished the course, 'Mike, I hate to say it, but I can't call you a rival. You're so far ahead of me in detective knowledge that I'm like a half-witted child beside you.' That's what my old friend and teacher, Shermlock Hollums, says to me."
"That was exceedingly high praising from one so great," said P. Gubb.
"You bet it was!" said Chi Foxy, "So one day Shermlock says to me, 'Mike you're so good at this detecting work, why don't you try to solve The Great Mystery?'
"'What's that?' I says.
"'Why, the greatest unsolved mystery of the world,' he says. 'The mystery of the Riverbank, Iowa, miser.'
"So he told me what he knew about it," continued Chi Foxy, "and I set to work. I come here to Riverbank to hunt up a clue, and I found just one clue."
"What was it?" asked Philo Gubb.
"It was a speck of red pepper no bigger than the point of a pin," said Chi Foxy, "crushed into the carpet by the old miser's bed, where he had been killed. I picked up the speck of red pepper and microscoped it, and I saw that along one edge it was sort of brown, where it had been burned a little."
"Have you got it now?" asked P. Gubb.
"Got it?" said Chi Foxy. "I should say not. While I was lookin' at it a breeze come and blowed it away, and I never saw it again, but that was enough for me. 'Red pepper,' I says, 'partly burned,' and I began to tremble. 'Cause why? 'Cause I never was able to get smoking tobacco strong enough to suit me, and to make it taste snappy I always put a little red pepper in my pipe. I turned as white as a sheet. 'Red pepper partly burned!' I says to myself. 'Nobody in the world but me puts red pepper in his tobacco.'
"Well, sir, I started tracing myself back and I found out I was the murderer. And I was the detective after the murderer. I was everybody concerned. In a moment I was overcome by criminal fear and I fled. I fled all over Europe, Asia, and Africa, and wherever I went I was right after myself, ready to arrest me."
Chi Foxy paused and glanced at P. Gubb questioningly. With a solemn face the great Correspondence School detective blinked his bird-like eyes at Chi Foxy.
"So now arrest me," said Chi Foxy.
Philo Gubb rubbed his chin. "I'd like to favor you by so doing, Mr. Jones," he said, "for I can easy see, Mr. Higgs, that you can't arrest yourself, but it is against the instructions in Lesson Six of the Rising Sun Correspondence School of Deteckating for a graduate to arrest a man without a good clue, and the only clue you had was blowed away."
For a moment this seemed to annoy Chi Foxy, but his face suddenly brightened.
"Clue?" he said. "Say, friend, I wouldn't ask you to arrest me on any such clue as a speck of red pepper. No, sir! But I've got a clue that'll mean something. I can tell you right where I buried that old miser's bones, I can. You go up the river road until you come to a tool-house on the railway, and just back of the tool-house is a dwellin'-house—old and unpainted. All right! Right in that yard, close to the railway fence, the bones is buried. Now, you turn me over to the law, and you go up there—"
"We'd best go up there immediately first before anything else," said Philo Gubb, starting to remove his paper-hanger's apron. "Putting off clues until sometime else is against Paragraph Four, Lesson One. If you come up there with me—"
"Look here," said Chi Foxy, "will you buy me a feed on the way up if I go with you?"
"Quite certainly sure," said P. Gubb, and so it was agreed.
The paper-hanger detective and the criminal-detective stopped at Hank's restaurant and Chi Foxy ate a heavy meal, and then led the way to the tool-house, and pointed over the wire fence to the spot where the bones of the murdered miser were supposed to repose.
"Right there!" he said, but when P. Gubb had climbed the fence and had turned to look for Chi Foxy, the late detective-criminal was gone. Mr. Gubb's face turned red, but as he hung his head in shame he noticed that the ground at his feet had lately been spaded. He stooped to look at it, and then walked to the weather-beaten house and knocked. A lanky, loose-jointed man came to the door, and a woman peered at Mr. Gubb from behind the man.
"I hope you'll pardon," said Mr. Gubb politely, "but my name is P. Gubb, deteckative and paper-hanger, and I'm looking up a case. Might I trouble you for the loan of a spade or shovel?"
"What you want with it?" asked the man gruffly.
"To dig," said Mr. Gubb.
The man reluctantly handed Mr. Gubb a spade on which there were still traces of soft, sandy soil. Mr. Gubb walked to the rear of the yard and jabbed the spade into the soft soil. It struck something hard. In a moment or two Mr. Gubb had the evidences of crime completely uncovered. There were bones buried there—many bones. Mr. Gubb looked up and wiped his brow. Then he looked down at the bones. One was a skull. Mr. Gubb stared at it. It was indeed a skull, but it was the skull of a calf. All the bones were calf bones—not bones of the human calf, but bones of the veal calf. Mr. Gubb turned his head and saw the long lanky man approaching.
"All right," said the long, lanky man, "I give up. You've got me. I surrender. When a detective gets that close, a man hasn't any chance. I own up. I did it."
"You did what?"
"Now, quit!" said the long, lanky man. "No use rubbin' it in after I've owned up. You know as well as I do—I'm the man that stole Farmer Hopper's calf. I give up. I surrender."
"I'm much obliged to you," said Philo Gubb.
"Well, I ain't obliged to you," said the lanky man, "but I wish you'd tell me how you found out I was the calf thief."
Mr. Gubb smiled an inscrutable smile.
"A deteckative acquires dexterity in the way of capturing up the criminal classes," he said with oracular yet modest simplicity.
* * * * *
The next day, when Mr. Gubb returned to his paper-hanging job he found Chi Foxy waiting for him.
"Boss," he said with a laugh, "I showed you where that murdered man's bones was buried, won't you stake me to a meal?"
"Are you hungry again?" asked Mr. Gubb.
"Hungry?" said Chi Foxy. "I'm so hungry that I feel like a living skeleton. I'm so hungry that a square meal would make me feel like Syrilla, that Fat Lady I seen at Derlingport a couple of days ago."
"What's that you remarked about?" asked Mr. Gubb, pinning Chi Foxy with his eye. "Did I understand the meaning of what you said was that you saw a Fat Lady named Syrilla?"
"At Derlingport," said Chi Foxy. "A swell guy named Medderbrook give me a meal and a ticket to the big show. It was a performance de luxe, so to say. Special attraction, bo. You'd have laughed your head off. This here Syrilla Fat Lady got married to the Living Skeleton in the middle ring, and she had the Snake Charmer for a bridesmaid. Say! you'd have laughed—"
But Mr. Gubb did not laugh. He never laughed again.
PHILO GUBB'S GREATEST CASE
Philo Gubb, wrapped in his bathrobe, went to the door of the room that was the headquarters of his business of paper-hanging and decorating as well as the office of his detective business, and opened the door a crack. It was still early in the morning, but Mr. Gubb was a modest man, and, lest any one should see him in his scanty attire, he peered through the crack of the door before he stepped hastily into the hall and captured his copy of the "Riverbank Daily Eagle." When he had secured the still damp newspaper, he returned to his cot bed and spread himself out to read comfortably.
It was a hot Iowa morning. Business was so slack that if Mr. Gubb had not taken out his set of eight varieties of false whiskers daily and brushed them carefully, the moths would have been able to devour them at leisure.
P. Gubb opened the "Eagle." The first words that met his eye caused him to sit upright on his cot. At the top of the first column of the first page were the headlines.
MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF HENRY SMITZ
Body Found In Mississippi River By Boatman Early This A.M.
Foul Play Suspected
Mr. Gubb unfolded the paper and read the item under the headlines with the most intense interest. Foul play meant the possibility of an opportunity to put to use once more the precepts of the Course of Twelve Lessons, and with them fresh in his mind Detective Gubb was eager to undertake the solution of any mystery that Riverbank could furnish. This was the article:—
Just as we go to press we receive word through Policeman Michael O'Toole that the well-known mussel-dredger and boatman, Samuel Fliggis (Long Sam), while dredging for mussels last night just below the bridge, recovered the body of Henry Smitz, late of this place.
Mr. Smitz had been missing for three days and his wife had been greatly worried. Mr. Brownson, of the Brownson Packing Company, by whom he was employed, admitted that Mr. Smitz had been missing for several days.
The body was found sewed in a sack. Foul play is suspected.
"I should think foul play would be suspected," exclaimed Philo Gubb, "if a man was sewed into a bag and deposited into the Mississippi River until dead."
He propped the paper against the foot of the cot bed and was still reading when some one knocked on his door. He wrapped his bathrobe carefully about him and opened the door. A young woman with tear-dimmed eyes stood in the doorway.
"Mr. P. Gubb?" she asked. "I'm sorry to disturb you so early in the morning, Mr. Gubb, but I couldn't sleep all night. I came on a matter of business, as you might say. There's a couple of things I want you to do."
"Paper-hanging or deteckating?" asked P. Gubb.
"Both," said the young woman. "My name is Smitz—Emily Smitz. My husband—"
"I'm aware of the knowledge of your loss, ma'am," said the paper-hanger detective gently.
"Lots of people know of it," said Mrs. Smitz. "I guess everybody knows of it—I told the police to try to find Henry, so it is no secret. And I want you to come up as soon as you get dressed, and paper my bedroom."
Mr. Gubb looked at the young woman as if he thought she had gone insane under the burden of her woe.
"And then I want you to find Henry," she said, "because I've heard you can do so well in the detecting line."
Mr. Gubb suddenly realized that the poor creature did not yet know the full extent of her loss. He gazed down upon her with pity in his bird-like eyes.
"I know you'll think it strange," the young woman went on, "that I should ask you to paper a bedroom first, when my husband is lost; but if he is gone it is because I was a mean, stubborn thing. We never quarreled in our lives, Mr. Gubb, until I picked out the wall-paper for our bedroom, and Henry said parrots and birds-of-paradise and tropical flowers that were as big as umbrellas would look awful on our bedroom wall. So I said he hadn't anything but Low Dutch taste, and he got mad. 'All right, have it your own way,' he said, and I went and had Mr. Skaggs put the paper on the wall, and the next day Henry didn't come home at all.
"If I'd thought Henry would take it that way, I'd rather had the wall bare, Mr. Gubb. I've cried and cried, and last night I made up my mind it was all my fault and that when Henry came home he'd find a decent paper on the wall. I don't mind telling you, Mr. Gubb, that when the paper was on the wall it looked worse than it looked in the roll. It looked crazy."
"Yes'm," said Mr. Gubb, "it often does. But, however, there's something you'd ought to know right away about Henry."
The young woman stared wide-eyed at Mr. Gubb for a moment; she turned as white as her shirtwaist.
"Henry is dead!" she cried, and collapsed into Mr. Gubb's long, thin arms.
Mr. Gubb, the inert form of the young woman in his arms, glanced around with a startled gaze. He stood miserably, not knowing what to do, when suddenly he saw Policeman O'Toole coming toward him down the hall. Policeman O'Toole was leading by the arm a man whose wrists bore clanking handcuffs.
"What's this now?" asked the policeman none too gently, as he saw the bathrobed Mr. Gubb holding the fainting woman in his arms.
"I am exceedingly glad you have come," said Mr. Gubb. "The only meaning into it, is that this is Mrs. H. Smitz, widow-lady, fainted onto me against my will and wishes."
"I was only askin'," said Policeman O'Toole politely enough.
"You shouldn't ask such things until you're asked to ask," said Mr. Gubb.
After looking into Mr. Gubb's room to see that there was no easy means of escape, O'Toole pushed his prisoner into the room and took the limp form of Mrs. Smitz from Mr. Gubb, who entered the room and closed the door.
"I may as well say what I want to say right now," said the handcuffed man as soon as he was alone with Mr. Gubb. "I've heard of Detective Gubb, off and on, many a time, and as soon as I got into this trouble I said, 'Gubb's the man that can get me out if any one can.' My name is Herman Wiggins."
"Glad to meet you," said Mr. Gubb, slipping his long legs into his trousers.
"And I give you my word for what it is worth," continued Mr. Wiggins, "that I'm as innocent of this crime as the babe unborn."
"What crime?" asked Mr. Gubb.
"Why, killing Hen Smitz—what crime did you think?" said Mr. Wiggins. "Do I look like a man that would go and murder a man just because—"
He hesitated and Mr. Gubb, who was slipping his suspenders over his bony shoulders, looked at Mr. Wiggins with keen eyes.
"Well, just because him and me had words in fun," said Mr. Wiggins, "I leave it to you, can't a man say words in fun once in a while?"
"Certainly sure," said Mr. Gubb.
"I guess so," said Mr. Wiggins. "Anybody'd know a man don't mean all he says. When I went and told Hen Smitz I'd murder him as sure as green apples grow on a tree, I was just fooling. But this fool policeman—"
"Yes. They gave him this Hen Smitz case to look into, and the first thing he did was to arrest me for murder. Nervy, I call it."
Policeman O'Toole opened the door a crack and peeked in. Seeing Mr. Gubb well along in his dressing operations, he opened the door wider and assisted Mrs. Smitz to a chair. She was still limp, but she was a brave little woman and was trying to control her sobs.
"Through?" O'Toole asked Wiggins. "If you are, come along back to jail."
"Now, don't talk to me in that tone of voice," said Mr. Wiggins angrily. "No, I'm not through. You don't know how to treat a gentleman like a gentleman, and never did."
He turned to Mr. Gubb.
"The long and short of it is this: I'm arrested for the murder of Hen Smitz, and I didn't murder him and I want you to take my case and get me out of jail."
"Ah, stuff!" exclaimed O'Toole. "You murdered him and you know you did. What's the use talkin'?"
Mrs. Smitz leaned forward in her chair.
"Murdered Henry?" she cried. "He never murdered Henry. I murdered him."
"Now, ma'am," said O'Toole politely, "I hate to contradict a lady, but you never murdered him at all. This man here murdered him, and I've got the proof on him."
"I murdered him!" cried Mrs. Smitz again. "I drove him out of his right mind and made him kill himself."
"Nothing of the sort," declared O'Toole. "This man Wiggins murdered him."
"I did not!" exclaimed Mr. Wiggins indignantly. "Some other man did it."
It seemed a deadlock, for each was quite positive. Mr. Gubb looked from one to the other doubtfully.
"All right, take me back to jail," said Mr. Wiggins. "You look up the case, Mr. Gubb; that's all I came here for. Will you do it? Dig into it, hey?"
"I most certainly shall be glad to so do," said Mr. Gubb, "at the regular terms."
O'Toole led his prisoner away.
For a few minutes Mrs. Smitz sat silent, her hands clasped, staring at the floor. Then she looked up into Mr. Gubb's eyes.
"You will work on this case, Mr. Gubb, won't you?" she begged. "I have a little money—I'll give it all to have you do your best. It is cruel—cruel to have that poor man suffer under the charge of murder when I know so well Henry killed himself because I was cross with him. You can prove he killed himself—that it was my fault. You will?"
"The way the deteckative profession operates onto a case," said Mr. Gubb, "isn't to go to work to prove anything particularly especial. It finds a clue or clues and follows them to where they lead to. That I shall be willing to do."
"That is all I could ask," said Mrs. Smitz gratefully.
Arising from her seat with difficulty, she walked tremblingly to the door. Mr. Gubb assisted her down the stairs, and it was not until she was gone that he remembered that she did not know the body of her husband had been found—sewed in a sack and at the bottom of the river. Young husbands have been known to quarrel with their wives over matters as trivial as bedroom wall-paper; they have even been known to leave home for several days at a time when angry; in extreme cases they have even been known to seek death at their own hands; but it is not at all usual for a young husband to leave home for several days and then in cold blood sew himself in a sack and jump into the river. In the first place there are easier ways of terminating one's life; in the second place a man can jump into the river with perfect ease without going to the trouble of sewing himself in a sack; and in the third place it is exceedingly difficult for a man to sew himself into a sack. It is almost impossible.
To sew himself into a sack a man must have no little skill, and he must have a large, roomy sack. He takes, let us say, a sack-needle, threaded with a good length of twine; he steps into the sack and pulls it up over his head; he then reaches above his head, holding the mouth of the sack together with one hand while he sews with the other hand. In hot anger this would be quite impossible.
Philo Gubb thought of all this as he looked through his disguises, selecting one suitable for the work he had in hand. He had just decided that the most appropriate disguise would be "Number 13, Undertaker," and had picked up the close black wig, and long, drooping mustache, when he had another thought. Given a bag sufficiently loose to permit free motion of the hands and arms, and a man, even in hot anger, might sew himself in. A man, intent on suicidally bagging himself, would sew the mouth of the bag shut and would then cut a slit in the front of the bag large enough to crawl into. He would then crawl into the bag and sew up the slit, which would be immediately in front of his hands. It could be done! Philo Gubb chose from his wardrobe a black frock coat and a silk hat with a wide band of crape. He carefully locked his door and went down to the street.
On a day as hot as this day promised to be, a frock coat and a silk hat could be nothing but distressingly uncomfortable. Between his door and the corner, eight various citizens spoke to Philo Gubb, calling him by name. In fact, Riverbank was as accustomed to seeing P. Gubb in disguise as out of disguise, and while a few children might be interested by the sight of Detective Gubb in disguise, the older citizens thought no more of it, as a rule, than of seeing Banker Jennings appear in a pink shirt one day and a blue striped one the next. No one ever accused Banker Jennings of trying to hide his identity by a change of shirts, and no one imagined that P. Gubb was trying to disguise himself when he put on a disguise. They considered it a mere business custom, just as a butcher tied on a white apron before he went behind his counter.
This was why, instead of wondering who the tall, dark-garbed stranger might be, Banker Jennings greeted Philo Gubb cheerfully.
"Ah, Gubb!" he said. "So you are going to work on this Smitz case, are you? Glad of it, and wish you luck. Hope you place the crime on the right man and get him the full penalty. Let me tell you there's nothing in this rumor of Smitz being short of money. We did lend him money, but we never pressed him for it. We never even asked him for interest. I told him a dozen times he could have as much more from us as he wanted, within reason, whenever he wanted it, and that he could pay me when his invention was on the market."
"No report of news of any such rumor has as yet come to my hearing," said P. Gubb, "but since you mention it, I'll take it for less than it is worth."
"And that's less than nothing," said the banker. "Have you any clue?"
"I'm on my way to find one at the present moment of time," said Mr. Gubb.
"Well, let me give you a pointer," said the banker. "Get a line on Herman Wiggins or some of his crew, understand? Don't say I said a word,—I don't want to be brought into this,—but Smitz was afraid of Wiggins and his crew. He told me so. He said Wiggins had threatened to murder him."
"Mr. Wiggins is at present in the custody of the county jail for killing H. Smitz with intent to murder him," said Mr. Gubb.
"Oh, then—then it's all settled," said the banker. "They've proved it on him. I thought they would. Well, I suppose you've got to do your little bit of detecting just the same. Got to air the camphor out of the false hair, eh?"
The banker waved a cheerful hand at P. Gubb and passed into his banking institution.
Detective Gubb, cordially greeted by his many friends and admirers, passed on down the main street, and by the time he reached the street that led to the river he was followed by a large and growing group intent on the pleasant occupation of watching a detective detect.
As Mr. Gubb walked toward the river, other citizens joined the group, but all kept a respectful distance behind him. When Mr. Gubb reached River Street and his false mustache fell off, the interest of the audience stopped short three paces behind him and stood until he had rescued the mustache and once more placed its wires in his nostrils. Then, when he moved forward again, they too moved forward. Never, perhaps, in the history of crime was a detective favored with a more respectful gallery.
On the edge of the river, Mr. Gubb found Long Sam Fliggis, the mussel dredger, seated on an empty tar-barrel with his own audience ranged before him listening while he told, for the fortieth time, the story of his finding of the body of H. Smitz. As Philo Gubb approached, Long Sam ceased speaking, and his audience and Mr. Gubb's gallery merged into one great circle which respectfully looked and listened while Mr. Gubb questioned the mussel dredger.
"Suicide?" said Long Sam scoffingly. "Why, he wan't no more a suicide than I am right now. He was murdered or wan't nothin'! I've dredged up some suicides in my day, and some of 'em had stones tied to 'em, to make sure they'd sink, and some thought they'd sink without no ballast, but nary one of 'em ever sewed himself into a bag, and I give my word," he said positively, "that Hen Smitz couldn't have sewed himself into that burlap bag unless some one done the sewing. Then the feller that did it was an assistant-suicide, and the way I look at it is that an assistant-suicide is jest the same as a murderer."
The crowd murmured approval, but Mr. Gubb held up his hand for silence.
"In certain kinds of burlap bags it is possibly probable a man could sew himself into it," said Mr. Gubb, and the crowd, seeing the logic of the remark applauded gently but feelingly.
"You ain't seen the way he was sewed up," said Long Sam, "or you wouldn't talk like that."
"I haven't yet took a look," admitted Mr. Gubb, "but I aim so to do immediately after I find a clue onto which to work up my case. An A-1 deteckative can't set forth to work until he has a clue, that being a rule of the game."
"What kind of a clue was you lookin' for?" asked Long Sam. "What's a clue, anyway?"
"A clue," said P. Gubb, "is almost anything connected with the late lamented, but generally something that nobody but a deteckative would think had anything to do with anything whatsoever. Not infrequently often it is a button."
"Well, I've got no button except them that is sewed onto me," said Long Sam, "but if this here sack-needle will do any good—"
He brought from his pocket the point of a heavy sack-needle and laid it in Philo Gubb's palm. Mr. Gubb looked at it carefully. In the eye of the needle still remained a few inches of twine.
"I cut that off'n the burlap he was sewed up in," volunteered Long Sam, "I thought I'd keep it as a sort of nice little souvenir. I'd like it back again when you don't need it for a clue no more."
"Certainly sure," agreed Mr. Gubb, and he examined the needle carefully.
There are two kinds of sack-needles in general use. In both, the point of the needle is curved to facilitate pushing it into and out of a closely filled sack; in both, the curved portion is somewhat flattened so that the thumb and finger may secure a firm grasp to pull the needle through; but in one style the eye is at the end of the shaft while in the other it is near the point. This needle was like neither; the eye was midway of the shaft; the needle was pointed at each end and the curved portions were not flattened. Mr. Gubb noticed another thing—the twine was not the ordinary loosely twisted hemp twine, but a hard, smooth cotton cord, like carpet warp.
"Thank you," said Mr. Gubb, "and now I will go elsewhere to investigate to a further extent, and it is not necessarily imperative that everybody should accompany along with me if they don't want to."
But everybody did want to, it seemed. Long Sam and his audience joined Mr. Gubb's gallery and, with a dozen or so newcomers, they followed Mr. Gubb at a decent distance as he walked toward the plant of the Brownson Packing Company, which stood on the riverbank some two blocks away.
It was here Henry Smitz had worked. Six or eight buildings of various sizes, the largest of which stood immediately on the river's edge, together with the "yards" or pens, all enclosed by a high board fence, constituted the plant of the packing company, and as Mr. Gubb appeared at the gate the watchman there stood aside to let him enter.
"Good-morning, Mr. Gubb," he said pleasantly. "I been sort of expecting you. Always right on the job when there's crime being done, ain't you? You'll find Merkel and Brill and Jokosky and the rest of Wiggins's crew in the main building, and I guess they'll tell you just what they told the police. They hate it, but what else can they say? It's the truth."
"What is the truth?" asked Mr. Gubb.
"That Wiggins was dead sore at Hen Smitz," said the watchman. "That Wiggins told Hen he'd do for him if he lost them their jobs like he said he would. That's the truth."
Mr. Gubb—his admiring followers were halted at the gate by the watchman—entered the large building and inquired his way to Mr. Wiggins's department. He found it on the side of the building toward the river and on the ground floor. On one side the vast room led into the refrigerating room of the company; on the other it opened upon a long but narrow dock that ran the width of the building.
Along the outer edge of the dock were tied two barges, and into these barges some of Wiggins's crew were dumping mutton—not legs of mutton but entire sheep, neatly sewed in burlap. The large room was the packing and shipping room, and the work of Wiggins's crew was that of sewing the slaughtered and refrigerated sheep carcasses in burlap for shipment. Bales of burlap stood against one wall; strands of hemp twine ready for the needle hung from pegs in the wall and the posts that supported the floor above. The contiguity of the refrigerating room gave the room a pleasantly cool atmosphere.
Mr. Gubb glanced sharply around. Here was the burlap, here were needles, here was twine. Yonder was the river into which Hen Smitz had been thrown. He glanced across the narrow dock at the blue river. As his eye returned he noticed one of the men carefully sweeping the dock with a broom—sweeping fragments of glass into the river. As the men in the room watched him curiously, Mr. Gubb picked up a piece of burlap and put it in his pocket, wrapped a strand of twine around his finger and pocketed the twine, examined the needles stuck in improvised needle-holders made by boring gimlet holes in the wall, and then walked to the dock and picked up one of the pieces of glass.
"Clues," he remarked, and gave his attention to the work of questioning the men.
Although manifestly reluctant, they honestly admitted that Wiggins had more than once threatened Hen Smitz—that he hated Hen Smitz with the hatred of a man who has been threatened with the loss of his job. Mr. Gubb learned that Hen Smitz had been the foreman for the entire building—a sort of autocrat with, as Wiggins's crew informed him, an easy job. He had only to see that the crews in the building turned out more work this year than they did last year. "'Ficiency" had been his motto, they said, and they hated "'Ficiency."
Mr. Gubb's gallery was awaiting him at the gate, and its members were in a heated discussion as to what Mr. Gubb had been doing. They ceased at once when he appeared and fell in behind him as he walked away from the packing house and toward the undertaking establishment of Mr. Holworthy Bartman, on the main street. Here, joining the curious group already assembled, the gallery was forced to wait while Mr. Gubb entered. His task was an unpleasant but necessary one. He must visit the little "morgue" at the back of Mr. Bartman's establishment.
The body of poor Hen Smitz had not yet been removed from the bag in which it had been found, and it was to the bag Mr. Gubb gave his closest attention. The bag—in order that the body might be identified—had not been ripped, but had been cut, and not a stitch had been severed. It did not take Mr. Gubb a moment to see that Hen Smitz had not been sewed in a bag at all. He had been sewed in burlap—burlap "yard goods," to use a shopkeeper's term—and it was burlap identical with that used by Mr. Wiggins and his crew. It was no loose bag of burlap—but a close-fitting wrapping of burlap; a cocoon of burlap that had been drawn tight around the body, as burlap is drawn tight around the carcass of sheep for shipment, like a mummy's wrappings.
It would have been utterly impossible for Hen Smitz to have sewed himself into the casing, not only because it bound his arms tight to his sides, but because the burlap was lapped over and sewed from the outside. This, once and for all, ended the suicide theory. The question was: Who was the murderer?
As Philo Gubb turned away from the bier, Undertaker Bartman entered the morgue.
"The crowd outside is getting impatient, Mr. Gubb," he said in his soft, undertakery voice. "It is getting on toward their lunch hour, and they want to crowd into my front office to find out what you've learned. I'm afraid they'll break my plate-glass windows, they're pushing so hard against them. I don't want to hurry you, but if you would go out and tell them Wiggins is the murderer they'll go away. Of course there's no doubt about Wiggins being the murderer, since he has admitted he asked the stock-keeper for the electric-light bulb."
"What bulb?" asked Philo Gubb.
"The electric-light bulb we found sewed inside this burlap when we sliced it open," said Bartman. "Matter of fact, we found it in Hen's hand. O'Toole took it for a clue and I guess it fixes the murder on Wiggins beyond all doubt. The stock-keeper says Wiggins got it from him."
"And what does Wiggins remark on that subject?" asked Mr. Gubb.
"Not a word," said Bartman. "His lawyer told him not to open his mouth, and he won't. Listen to that crowd out there!"
"I will attend to that crowd right presently," said P. Gubb, sternly. "What I should wish to know now is why Mister Wiggins went and sewed an electric-light bulb in with the corpse for."
"In the first place," said Mr. Bartman, "he didn't sew it in with any corpse, because Hen Smitz wasn't a corpse when he was sewed in that burlap, unless Wiggins drowned him first, for Dr. Mortimer says Hen Smitz died of drowning; and in the second place, if you had a live man to sew in burlap, and had to hold him while you sewed him, you'd be liable to sew anything in with him.
"My idea is that Wiggins and some of his crew jumped on Hen Smitz and threw him down, and some of them held him while the others sewed him in. My idea is that Wiggins got that electric-light bulb to replace one that had burned out, and that he met Hen Smitz and had words with him, and they clinched, and Hen Smitz grabbed the bulb, and then the others came, and they sewed him into the burlap and dumped him into the river.
"So all you've got to do is to go out and tell that crowd that Wiggins did it and that you'll let them know who helped him as soon as you find out. And you better do it before they break my windows."
Detective Gubb turned and went out of the morgue. As he left the undertaker's establishment the crowd gave a slight cheer, but Mr. Gubb walked hurriedly toward the jail. He found Policeman O'Toole there and questioned him about the bulb; and O'Toole, proud to be the center of so large and interested a gathering of his fellow citizens, pulled the bulb from his pocket and handed it to Mr. Gubb, while he repeated in more detail the facts given by Mr. Bartman. Mr. Gubb looked at the bulb.
"I presume to suppose," he said, "that Mr. Wiggins asked the stock-keeper for a new bulb to replace one that was burned out?"
"You're right," said O'Toole. "Why?"
"For the reason that this bulb is a burned-out bulb," said Mr. Gubb.
And so it was. The inner surface of the bulb was darkened slightly, and the filament of carbon was severed. O'Toole took the bulb and examined it curiously.
"That's odd, ain't it?" he said.
"It might so seem to the non-deteckative mind," said Mr. Gubb, "but to the deteckative mind, nothing is odd."
"No, no, this ain't so odd, either," said O'Toole, "for whether Hen Smitz grabbed the bulb before Wiggins changed the new one for the old one, or after he changed it, don't make so much difference, when you come to think of it."
"To the deteckative mind," said Mr. Gubb, "it makes the difference that this ain't the bulb you thought it was, and hence consequently it ain't the bulb Mister Wiggins got from the stock-keeper."
* * * * *
Mr. Gubb started away. The crowd followed him. He did not go in search of the original bulb at once. He returned first to his room, where he changed his undertaker disguise for Number Six, that of a blue woolen-shirted laboring-man with a long brown beard. Then he led the way back to the packing house.
Again the crowd was halted at the gate, but again P. Gubb passed inside, and he found the stock-keeper eating his luncheon out of a tin pail. The stock-keeper was perfectly willing to talk.
"It was like this," said the stock-keeper. "We've been working overtime in some departments down here, and Wiggins and his crew had to work overtime the night Hen Smitz was murdered. Hen and Wiggins was at outs, or anyway I heard Hen tell Wiggins he'd better be hunting another job because he wouldn't have this one long, and Wiggins told Hen that if he lost his job he'd murder him—Wiggins would murder Hen, that is. I didn't think it was much of anything but loose talk at the time. But Hen was working overtime too. He'd been working nights up in that little room of his on the second floor for quite some time, and this night Wiggins come to me and he says Hen had asked him for a fresh thirty-two-candle-power bulb. So I give it to Wiggins, and then I went home. And, come to find out, Wiggins sewed that bulb up with Hen."
"Perhaps maybe you have sack-needles like this into your stock-room," said P. Gubb, producing the needle Long Sam had given him. The stock-keeper took the needle and examined it carefully.
"Never had any like that," he said.
"Now, if," said Philo Gubb,—"if the bulb that was sewed up into the burlap with Henry Smitz wasn't a new bulb, and if Mr. Wiggins had given the new bulb to Henry, and if Henry had changed the new bulb for an old one, where would he have changed it at?"
"Up in his room, where he was always tinkering at that machine of his," said the stock-keeper.
"Could I have the pleasure of taking a look into that there room for a moment of time?" asked Mr. Gubb.
The stock-keeper arose, returned the remnants of his luncheon to his dinner-pail and led the way up the stairs. He opened the door of the room Henry Smitz had used as a work-room, and P. Gubb walked in. The room was in some confusion, but, except in one or two particulars, no more than a work-room is apt to be. A rather cumbrous machine—the invention on which Henry Smitz had been working—stood as the murdered man had left it, all its levers, wheels, arms, and cogs intact. A chair, tipped over, lay on the floor. A roll of burlap stood on a roller by the machine. Looking up, Mr. Gubb saw, on the ceiling, the lighting fixture of the room, and in it was a clean, shining thirty-two-candle-power bulb. Where another similar bulb might have been in the other socket was a plug from which an insulated wire, evidently to furnish power, ran to the small motor connected with the machine on which Henry Smitz had been working.
The stock-keeper was the first to speak.
"Hello!" he said. "Somebody broke that window!" And it was true. Somebody had not only broken the window, but had broken every pane and the sash itself. But Mr. Gubb was not interested in this. He was gazing at the electric bulb and thinking of Part Two, Lesson Six of the Course of Twelve Lessons—"How to Identify by Finger-Prints, with General Remarks on the Bertillon System." He looked about for some means of reaching the bulb above his head. His eye lit on the fallen chair. By placing the chair upright and placing one foot on the frame of Henry Smitz's machine and the other on the chair-back, he could reach the bulb. He righted the chair and stepped onto its seat. He put one foot on the frame of Henry Smitz's machine; very carefully he put the other foot on the top of the chair-back. He reached upward and unscrewed the bulb.
The stock-keeper saw the chair totter. He sprang forward to steady it, but he was too late. Philo Gubb, grasping the air, fell on the broad, level board that formed the middle part of Henry Smitz's machine.
The effect was instantaneous. The cogs and wheels of the machine began to revolve rapidly. Two strong, steel arms flopped down and held Detective Gubb to the table, clamping his arms to his side. The roll of burlap unrolled, and as it unrolled, the loose end was seized and slipped under Mr. Gubb and wrapped around him and drawn taut, bundling him as a sheep's carcass is bundled. An arm reached down and back and forth, with a sewing motion, and passed from Mr. Gubb's head to his feet. As it reached his feet a knife sliced the burlap in which he was wrapped from the burlap on the roll.
And then a most surprising thing happened. As if the board on which he lay had been a catapult, it suddenly and unexpectedly raised Philo Gubb and tossed him through the open window. The stock-keeper heard a muffled scream and then a great splash, but when he ran to the window, the great paper-hanger detective had disappeared in the bosom of the Mississippi.
Like Henry Smitz he had tried to reach the ceiling by standing on the chair-back; like Henry Smitz he had fallen upon the newly invented burlaping and loading machine; like Henry Smitz he had been wrapped and thrown through the window into the river; but, unlike Henry Smitz, he had not been sewn into the burlap, because Philo Gubb had the double-pointed shuttle-action needle in his pocket.
Page Seventeen of Lesson Eleven of the Rising Sun Detective Agency's Correspondence School of Detecting's Course of Twelve Lessons, says:—
In cases of extreme difficulty of solution it is well for the detective to reenact as nearly as possible the probable action of the crime.
Mr. Philo Gubb had done so. He had also proved that a man may be sewn in a sack and drowned in a river without committing willful suicide or being the victim of foul play.
The Riverside Press
CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS
U . S . A
Minor changes have been made to correct typesetters' errors; otherwise, every effort has been made to remain true to the author's words and intent.