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Title: The Destroyer
Author: Arthur Gask
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
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Language: English
Date first posted: March 2013
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Destroyer
Author: Arthur Gask

*

Published 1939 in an anthology entitled "My Best Mystery Story" by Faber
and Faber Ltd., London. The anthology contains short stories written by
19 famous writers.

*

In the dark hours of the night the destroyer had descended upon the
little village of Finchingfield. Convulsions had seized his victims,
their limbs had stiffened, and in a great agony their bodies had been
arched. Then death had come, and the friends of man had sped to the
Valhalla where the spirits go.

And there they lay--five dogs outstretched upon the village road.

The landlord of "The Goose and Feathers" had lost his greyhound; Mr.
Spraggs of the village store, his fox terrier; old Mrs. Jinks, weeping
more than she ever wept when her husband died, her little dog of most
mysterious descent; Joe Rolls, the butcher, his prize cocker spaniel;
and Dr. Kains, his beautiful and soft-eyed collie, beloved by every
child for miles around.

Strychnine had killed them all. Dr. Kains knew it instantly, when he
saw his own dog beside two others on the road before his house, and, at
once, he used language that as a churchwarden should have fallen from
his lips only upon Whit-Sunday, in the singing of the Athanasian Creed.

The whole business was as a little earthquake in the lives of the homely
village folks, and speculate as they might, they could hazard no idea as
to the identity of the fiend who had laid the poor animals low.

The news spread like wildfire through the district, and consternation
and terror took possession of all whose dogs had so far escaped.

The Vicar locked up his setter in the tool-shed, pending the coming
of the Chelmsford detectives, whom he insisted should be communicated
with at once. The Misses Wardle, to whose cook the dreadful news had
been imparted by the milkman, telephoned instantly to Braintree,
imploring that a strong leather dog-lead for their little Pekinese be
dispatched forthwith by the carrier, and Professor Welder's housekeeper,
arriving in the village for her usual morning's shopping and hearing
what had happened, rushed precipitately back home, remembering then in
trepidation that she had not noticed their bull-dog, Ajax, about that
morning.

The village constable, Abel Dance, was urged to instant action, and he
did his best to pacify the bereaved by his confident assurance that all
steps would be taken at once to get to the bottom of the matter.

Then Rumour began to clamour with her thousand tongues, and with no
delay Professor Welder's dog, along with several others, was added to
the number of the slain. Indeed, to a passing but highly interested
stranger who had alighted from his motor cycle at "The Goose and
Feathers" for a double rum were very quickly imparted the names of no
less than eleven dog owners whose animals had died.

Rumour, as it happened, had some reason for her clamouring, for at
twenty minutes to ten news filtered through that Squire Manning's little
Pomeranian was sick unto death and at 9.55 old Colonel Jones, with a red
and furious face, was ushered into the little office of Police-Constable
Dance to announce the passing of his bull-terrier, Bill.

Now, Colonel Jones was a very important person in the village and, as
chairman of the bench of magistrates at Braintree, he could not be put
off with vague promises like the other sufferers. So the constable at
once proceeded to give him chapter and verse as to what had been done.

Chelmsford had been communicated with and the whole matter laid before
them, the seriousness and widespread nature of the outrage being
stressed, most urgently.

"But I'm afraid, sir," added Dance with a shrug of his shoulders, "that
they won't take much notice. All their comment was that if any of the
dead dogs were not registered, then I was to take immediate steps to
proceed against their owners."

"But it is monstrous," boomed the Colonel, "for the poisoning may go on.
Other kinds of animals may die next and in a few days there may not be a
paw or a hoof in the district." His face was purple in his indignation.
"They ought to send down the best detectives they've got, at once."

Dance put his finger to his lips and, glancing furtively round to make
sure that the door of his little sanctum was firmly closed, dropped his
voice into a very low tone.

"Speaking about detectives, Colonel Jones," he whispered, "it happens we
have one of the best staying in the village now." His eyes were opened
very wide. "Gilbert Larose, one of the cracks up at the Yard is at the
present moment at 'The Goose and Feathers'. He's there on holiday under
the name of Brown. He doesn't know me, but I recognized him in the
tap-room last night."

"Gilbert Larose!" ejaculated the Colonel. "Ah, I've heard of him." He
looked fierce and important. "Well, do you think if I approached him and
gave him my name, suggesting some small remuneration for his trouble,
say a couple of pounds, that he would take up the case?"

The constable would have given a week's pay to have been able to laugh.
"Oh, I wouldn't do that, Colonel," he smiled. "These chaps high up are
very touchy and easily offended." He nodded vigorously. "But I'll tell
you how you might get at him. He's a fisherman and I heard he caught
nothing yesterday. Why not approach him accidentally and, not telling
him you know who he is, say he may fish in your private water? Then
bring up the poisoning and ask his advice." He nodded again. "He's very
keen on all crime work and although he's on holiday may take this up,
just for the sport."

"But giving him my name should be quite sufficient," the Colonel
frowned. He thought for a moment, "Still, it's not a bad idea. I'll
think over it," and with a curt nod he marched out of the room.

Now if there was one thing Colonel Jones loathed it was the presence
of strangers in his grounds. There were boards up everywhere notifying
that trespassers would be prosecuted, and it was well known on the
bench that, in his particular outlook on life, blacking a wife's eyes
or striking a mother-in-law were far less heinous offences than snaring
a partridge or a rabbit or the hooking of an unlawful trout. So it was
with rather reluctant steps that he made his way to the village inn and
enquired for Mr. Brown.

There he learnt that that gentleman had gone fishing for the day, but
would probably be found at "the bend", for he had been heard to say he
was going to try his luck there.

So at the bend of the little river he came upon Larose, and smoothing
his rather frowning face into a good humour he approached and entered
into conversation. No, there was nothing much doing, Mr. Brown told
him, and except upon his hands and face, where the midges were much in
evidence, he had not had a single bite.

The Colonel appeared to consider and then remarked grandly, "Well,
come into my place. I'm Colonel Jones, and I own the river for a mile
higher. I'll show you a place where you'll get some big two-pounders."
He frowned. "But I must limit you to a round dozen, for my friend, Lord
Rottingdean, is coming down next week, and I don't want the water fished
out. Pick up your tackle now and I'll show you where to go."

Larose was delighted with the prospect, but at the same time very
puzzled at the amiability of this red-faced man of Mars, for already in
the tap-room of "The Goose and Feathers" he had heard quite a lot about
his irascibility and intolerance to strangers.

Proceeding leisurely in the direction of where the great two-pounders
were to be found, Colonel Jones at once began to discuss the dreadful
deeds of the poisoner in their midst, and insisted vehemently that he,
of all sufferers, had been especially singled out.

"By Gad, sir," he exclaimed, "the brute made no mistake about getting my
poor dog, for I picked up no less than three unswallowed baits upon the
drive, cunning baits, too, thin pieces of prime beef, rolled up and tied
loosely with strips of stringy membrane from under the fat." He shook
his head angrily. "Diabolical, I call it. They made a dead set at me,
for no untaken baits have been found anywhere else!"

"Tied up with membrane!" Larose exclaimed. "As carefully done as all
that!"

"Yes," snorted the Colonel, "quite little works of art, and each one
appears to contain just enough strychnine, not too much, to make the
animal vomit, but just the right quantity that he would keep down and
that would kill him." He snorted again. "I am convinced the poisoner was
an expert and has poisoned many times before."

"If you have kept them, I'd like to see these baits," said Larose. "I
might be . . ."

"Come straight away, sir," said the Colonel. He waved his hand towards
the little river. "You can have the fishing of my water any time."

So Larose was led up to the house, a comfortable and roomy old English
home, and shown the baits that had been preserved in a cardboard
cigarette box. Then he asked to see where they had been found, and was
taken to just inside two big gates, about a hundred yards distant from
the house.

Colonel Jones, with all his pomposity, was in some ways as simple as a
little child, and he was soon finding it most difficult to keep up the
deceit that he was unaware of the identity of his visitor. So all at
once, getting even redder than ever, he pulled a most apologetic smile
and burst out, "Look here, sir, forgive the little subterfuge of a very
sad old man, for I was devoted to my dog and shall feel his loss for
many a long day." He looked intently at Larose. "I know who you are,
sir. You are Mr. Gilbert Larose."

"I was beginning to think you did," laughed Larose, "for I happened to
see you going into the policeman's house this morning just as I was
coming out of the inn and I had noticed that gentleman give me one or
two hard looks when I was in the tap-room last night." He nodded. "Yes,
I'll help you all I can, for this seems to be a little problem quite out
of the way, but you must promise me you'll let no one know who I am."

So it ended in Larose staying for lunch, and over a couple of glasses
of excellent port he asked the Colonel a great many questions, many of
which the latter thought were quite irrelevant to the matter in hand.
But Larose was evidently meaning to waste no time, for he kept looking
at his watch during the questioning and at length asked the colonel to
drive him into Braintree, about nine miles distant, in his car. Then
they paid brief visits to Professor Welder and Squire Manning, and
finally Larose was dropped just outside the village, bidding the Colonel
a very cheery farewell and adding that it was just possible there might
be good news for him within the next twenty-four hours.

"By Gad!" said the old Colonel to his wife when he returned home, "that
chap's a hustler." He frowned. "But he's been ordering me about as if I
were a private in my own regiment."

In the meantime Larose was in earnest conversation with the village
policeman.

"All right, constable," he laughed to that rather embarrassed young man,
"you needn't apologize for telling Colonel Jones I was here, You've
introduced me to quite an interesting case, and what's more, with any
luck, it may mean promotion for you." He became grave again. "Now tell
me all you know about this poisoning."

P.C. Dance, who was no fool, but an alert, intelligent young fellow,
in quick staccato tones rattled off everything that had come to his
knowledge. Two more dogs had been added to the list, nine in all having
been poisoned.

"Now, let us sum everything up," said Larose when the recital was
finished, "and see what strikes us first." He nodded impressively. "Now,
every one of these baits was thrown down from the high road. I mean
the poisoner went up no by-roads and turned into no narrow lanes to
distribute his baits. Therefore, I think we may safely assume that he
threw them out when he was going along in a car. I am the more inclined
to take this view because the only three un-swallowed baits that have
been found smelt most decidedly of oil, as if an oily hand had touched
them. Then Colonel Jones is positive that two of the baits were close
together when he picked them up upon his drive, suggesting, of course,
that they were thrown out hurriedly at the same time, and not separately
as would be the natural thing to do if the poisoner had been standing
still when he cast them away." He looked sharply at the young policeman.
"You follow me there?"

"Yes, sir," nodded Dance, "and you are going to argue that, coming in
a motor car as he did, he does not belong to the village. He is not a
local man."

"Exactly!" nodded Larose. He smiled. "Really, I see it's going to be a
pleasure to work with you."

The policeman reddened delightedly, and Larose went on.

"Well, we may presume at once that there was a particular motive for
laying these baits. If there were not, if there were no motive for this
wholesale destruction, then the poisoner must be mad." He shook his
head. "But I dismiss this idea of a madman, at once, for any one mad and
in the possession of strychnine would have gone for much bigger game
than dogs. He would have tried for human beings and have poisoned wells,
or, maybe, that memorial fountain I see you've got here, and then he
might have thrown some in that horse-trough in front of 'The Goose and
Feathers'. No, we may be quite certain that those baits were meant for
dogs, and dogs only."

He spoke very sharply. "Besides, this man is a professional poisoner. It
is not the first time he has done it, and he is an old hand at the game.
I took those three baits into a Braintree chemist's this afternoon and
they had each got exactly the same amount of strychnine in them, one and
a half grains, weighed accurately, so the chemist says." He raised his
hand. "Well, what was the motive of this man? What is the first thing
that comes into our minds?"

"Some dog was in his way, sir," replied the policeman promptly. "He
wants to have the coast clear to break into some house somewhere. He
contemplates a burglary."

"Just what I think," smiled Larose. "He wanted to get rid of one
particular dog, and in order to conceal his special motive, he has
poisoned all these other eight."

"Then in that case," commented the policeman with some excitement in his
tones, "he is going to break in either at Squire Manning's or Colonel
Jones's, and as you say he must have thrown at least three baits on to
the Colonel's drive, it's any odds then it's to his house he's going.
Yes, he made a dead set at him."

But Larose shook his head. "What is there to burgle at Colonel Jones's?"
he asked scornfully. "I've gone over everything with him this afternoon
and all he's got is about 150 worth of old silver which he keeps under
his bed at night. He is always well prepared, too, as every one in the
village appears to know, with a big cavalry revolver. And then Squire
Manning's? What's worth taking there? Just a comfortable well-furnished
house, but with nothing of any portable value! Certainly, he's got some
old and ugly-looking portraits of his ancestors, but who'd take them?"

He lowered his voice impressively. "But what about Professor Welder's
place? What about his collection of gold coins? Colonel Jones says he's
one of the best-known numismatists in the kingdom and he's got coins
there that are not even in the British Museum!"

"Phew!" whistled the policeman, "and not a month ago scores of
long-haired elderly men, with high foreheads, and large spectacles,
came through the village, asking where he lived! I never saw such a
funny-looking crowd."

"Yes," nodded Larose, "I was talking to him not half an hour ago and
he told me all about it. He gave an 'at home' to any members of the
Numismatist Society who cared to come, and I understand any one can
be a member of the society for 10s. 6d." He nodded again. "What an
opportunity they had to spy out the land! Yes, if we're right and
they're going for anybody, it's Professor Welder's house they've marked
down. All his coins could be carried away in a little handbag."

The policeman seemed doubtful. "But look here, sir," he said, "that
knocks all our ideas on the head, for remember, they didn't go for the
Professor's dog. It was certainly rumoured this morning that he was
dead but, as I have to send in a report to Braintree of all the animals
killed, I rang up the professor's at midday and one of the maids then
said their dog was quite all right and being kept locked up in the
garage."

"That doesn't signify in the least," snapped Larose, "for as I make it,
it is only by chance he's alive. In the fog that there was last night
Colonel Jones's place was mistaken for the Professor's. The gates are
not two hundred yards apart and they are very similar in appearance and
last night they were both of the same white colour."

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Larose," said the policeman quickly, "but you're
wrong there. Colonel Jones's gates are brown, as they always have been.
I happened to go by there this afternoon and am quite positive no change
has been made in their colour."

Larose looked amused. "But they weren't brown last night," he laughed.
"The Colonel's gardener started to repaint them yesterday and he burnt
off all the old brown paint and then gave them a good coating of
white for the new brown he put on this morning." He snapped his fingers
together. "Yes, that's where, I think, Mr. Poisoner made a bloomer by
throwing the baits over the wrong gates."

The policeman opened his eyes very wide. "The devil! Then perhaps you're
right, sir. That would explain everything." He looked worried. "But
what do you suggest I ought to do? You see, the Braintree inspector is
not too interested in these poisonings, and thinks I can make all the
necessary enquiries myself. He believes some local person has done it,
in spite, because dogs have been spoiling his garden, or something like
that." He hesitated. "Should I ring him up and tell him what we think?"

"Certainly not," said Larose sharply. "We'll manage this all ourselves.
Then if it turns out there is anything in it,"--he laughed--"you
shall take all the credit, for I'm on holiday and don't want my name
mentioned." He nodded. "My word, but what feather it would be in your
cap, constable, if we caught anyone red-handed at the job! It'd mean
promotion for you, at once."

The policeman thrilled at the thought and his face flushed. "But I shall
want help, Mr. Larose," he said quickly. "If they come, there may be
three or four of them. It's not likely to be a one-man job."

"Of course you'll want help," agreed Larose, "and we will get it here
in the village. Those chaps who've lost their dogs will be as keen as
mustard to come." He smiled. "I'll rope them all in, so that if nothing
comes of it, they won't laugh at you. I'll shoulder all the blame." He
nodded. "It'll probably be to-night the burglars will come, for it's not
likely they'll lose any time."

Then for half an hour and more they discussed ways and means and pored
over a large ordnance map that the policeman produced. Then the latter
said slowly, "There's a chap here who would be very useful if we
could get him. He works on the roads and is called Jim Viles. He's an
inveterate poacher and I've been out many nights trying to catch him,
but he's beaten me every time. He's got a little mongrel dog who he
boasts can smell out human beings when they're two hundred yards away,
and I'm inclined to believe him, for I've never been able to get closer
to him than that when he's been on his poaching jobs."

"Splendid, the very man we want!" exclaimed Larose. "I'll go round
and see him at once." He half rose from his chair, but then reseated
himself. "One moment," he said slowly. "There's one little doubt in my
mind." He frowned. "I asked Colonel Jones if he'd got any enemies and
he said plenty, because he was a magistrate. Then he laughed and said
he had even got one on the adjoining property, for his friend Professor
Welder was his enemy, inasmuch as they were going to be deadly rivals at
the Braintree Flower Show next week."

"Oh, that's nothing," laughed the policeman. "They have a fight at the
flower show every year, and one or other of them invariably takes first
prize for his roses."

"Ah, but as I've told you, I've seen the professor," said Larose, "and,
candidly, I don't altogether like the look of him. He could be petulant
as a child in some ways and he seems very cunning to me." He appeared to
dismiss the matter from his mind. "Well, never mind about that. I'll go
and see this chap with the dog now."

The reputed poacher's cottage was just at the end of the village, and
when Larose tapped with his knuckles upon the door, a most appetizing
odour assailed his nostrils.

A slim but wiry-looking young fellow, of about twenty-five or
twenty-six, opened the door. He had an impudent cockney type efface,
with laughing and very light blue eyes. He regarded his caller very
shrewdly.

"Mr. Viles, I believe," said Larose. "Then can I have a word with you?"

"A dozen, if you want them," smiled the man, and, stepping out on to the
path of the little garden, he carefully pulled to the door behind him.

"You're a poacher, I understand," smiled back Larose, "and, unless I am
very much mistaken, it's roast pheasant you've now got for your tea." He
sniffed hard. "It smells good."

The man gasped, and his eyes opened as wide as saucers, then, seeing
Larose was still smiling, his face relaxed a little, and he growled.
"You smell wrong, as it happens, boss. You're too clever. It's only a
bit of pork."

"Well, that's all right," nodded Larose reassuringly, "so long as you've
not left any of the pig's feathers about."

He looked intently at the man and dropped his voice to a whisper. "See
here, now. I've got a job that'll just suit a smart chap like you, and
the better poacher you are, the better you'll do me, for it's night work
I want you for." He nodded again. "It'll mean a quid for you, anyhow;
and, if it turns out as I expect it to, it may mean a tenner."

The man looked suspicious. "What's your game?" he asked with a frown.
"Who are you?"

Larose jerked his head towards the village. "I'm staying at 'The Goose
and Feathers' on a little fishing holiday, and I happen to be a dog
lover. That's what I am, and"--his voice hardened--"I'm out to get that
devil who poisoned those poor dogs last night," and then very quickly
he proceeded to acquaint the poacher with his suspicions, and what they
were intending to do.

"What about the policeman?" asked the poacher quickly. "Is he in it?"

"Rather," replied Larose, "and he sort of sent me to you. He said you
were the very man for the job, and had got the sharpest little dog in
the kingdom." He grinned. "He is sure he would have had you dozens of
times if it hadn't been for that little bitch of yours!"

The man grinned back. "All right, boss," he said quietly, "I'm in with
you, and if anyone comes along, my Nellie will smell them out."

So it came about that at eleven o'clock that night a ghostly little
band filed out of the back yard of "The Goose and Feathers". Six of
them altogether, and they all of them appeared to have weapons, except
the poacher, who was carrying a very alert-looking terrier under his
arm. The constable had got his truncheon and a pair of handcuffs in
each pocket; the landlord, a stout ash stick of good dimensions; the
grocer, an axe-handle which he had taken out of stock; the butcher, an
ugly-looking hammer; and the doctor, a cricket-wicket, the much prized
memento of a great match of his 'Varsity days.

Larose and the policeman, after much anxious thought, had marked out the
plan of campaign. They were of opinion that if any burglars were coming,
they would, of course, come in a motor car and, with lights out and the
engine switched off, would in all probability free-wheel down the hill
into a little by-lane just at the back of a small wood, about 200 yards
distant from the low fence surrounding Professor Welder's property.

The night was dark but there was faint star-light showing and they took
up a position inside the wood and prepared to wait patiently.

"And we mustn't expect them much before one o'clock," whispered Larose,
whose identity had not been disclosed to anybody, "for they're not
likely to begin the journey where they come from until they expect
everybody will be in bed."

But one o'clock came and nothing had happened, then half-past one, and
the little mongrel upon her master's lap had not once moved or shown
any interest in anything. The grocer had dropped off to sleep and the
butcher, forbidden to smoke, was sucking viciously at a cold pipe.

Then suddenly the poacher, sitting next to Larose, bent forward and,
gripping him by the arm, pointed to his dog. She had pricked up her
ears and her sharp little head was now turned intently towards the main
road. Then she lifted her face to her master's and gave the faintest of
whispers.

"She hears something!" whispered the poacher. "She never makes a
mistake. Someone is coming."

A long silence followed, five minutes, ten, and now the dog, who had
kept her ears pricked all the time, was gradually turning her muzzle in
quite a different direction.

"They've moved off," whispered the poacher. "They're going towards the
professor's house." He took command of the situation at once. "But
this is no good," he grunted. "I'd better go and see what's happening.
Wait here. I won't be long," and, to the professional disgust of the
policeman, the man disappeared into the brushwood like the dissolving
away of a shadow.

"And that's why I've never been able to catch him," he growled into
Larose's ear. "I don't wonder now."

Fully ten minutes passed and then the poacher reappeared, less like a
shadow now, for long before they saw him they had heard his hurried
progress through the bushes. He was carrying the dog again under his arm.

"Come on, now," he whispered excitedly. "I'll show you something. Better
not make too much noise, although I don't think there'll be any danger
for a few minutes. They've come, right enough, and they'll be in the
professor's grounds by now."

Grasping their weapons with determination and their hearts beating
painfully, the little band followed quickly in the poacher's steps. For
about 250 yards he glided between the trees and then, gaining the far
side of the road, pointed excitedly to a black object by the side of a
thick hedge, close by.

"Jerusalem!" exclaimed the grocer, who was a man of mild expletives,
"it's a sidecar outfit!"

And a sidecar outfit it certainly was, but so covered over with a large
spread of black tarpaulin, that unless anyone were specially looking for
it, it might have escaped all notice in the darkness. The cylinders of
the engine were quite hot.

"Now, we'll soon see which way they went," said Viles, as he dropped his
little terrier on to the ground. "Nose 'em, Nellie, there's a good girl.
Nose 'em."

A very short trail led them up to Professor Welder's fence and they
peered excitedly over.

"Now what'll we do, Mr. Brown?" asked the constable, "go after them?"

"Not on your life," replied Larose. "We'll ambush them in the wood as
they come back to the sidecar. We'll get them red-handed, with the coins
in their possession."

Then followed a thrilling hour, with every man crouching in his
appointed place. There was no more sleep for the grocer and the butcher
could not have smoked a pipe of the sweetest tobacco if it had been
offered him. He was grasping his hammer tightly all the time and he
wetted his lips nervously every seconds.

Then, all at once, things began to happen very quickly. There was
the crackling of twigs, the heavy panting of tired runners and two
rushing figures burst through. One of them tore off the tarpaulin and
threw himself on to the saddle of the motor bicycle, whilst the other
dropped a bag, that gave out a metallic chink, into the sidecar and was
preparing to jump in himself--when the avalanche descended.

There was the blinding flash of torches, the uttering of dismayed oaths,
and a wave of leaping forms surged over the sidecar. Then, quicker than
it takes to tell, the two marauders were overcome and handcuffed, the
grocer being with difficulty restrained from using his axe-handle and
the butcher his hammer.

It was all over in a few seconds and then the two prisoners were
examined. They were both strong and hefty fellows and, but for the
sudden nature of their capture, and their exhausted state from their
long run, would undoubtedly have put up a good fight. As it was, all
they could do was to curse deeply.

At length one of them, overcoming his curiosity, panted out: "How the
devil does it happen you came here?"

Police-Constable Dance, in his excitement, forgot his reticence. He
coughed importantly. "From information received . . ." he began, when
the poacher interrupted rudely.

"Oh! Cheese it, constable," he called out. "Cheese it old chap," and he
thrust his face close up to those of the two prisoners who were seated
on the ground. "I'll tell you gents how it happens you've been nabbed."
He held up his little terrier before them. "You poisoned one dog too
few, and also, there was a nosy chap staying at 'The Goose and Feathers'
who spotted you had chucked three baits over one gate and he wanted to
know the reason why." He chuckled merrily. "That's how it happens you
two beauts are now going to get five years."

After a hurried consultation, the constable, the grocer, the butcher,
and the landlord moved off with the prisoners, Viles following with the
motor-bicycle, whilst Larose and Dr. Kains made their way to Professor
Welder's to acquaint him with all that had happened.

"It's better to knock him up," said Larose, "for it'll be less of a
shock to the household than for them to find out in the morning that the
burglars have been."

Crossing over the big lawn before the professor's house, Larose thought
he saw some movement by the fence adjoining Colonel Jones's property
and, instantly, he flashed his torch.

Thereupon, a startled figure began to make away in desperate haste, but
upon Larose and the doctor proceeding to give chase, the figure stopped
and then, to the amazement of his two pursuers, they saw it was the
professor himself.

"Good heavens, Welder," exclaimed Dr. Kains, "then you knew all about
it! You were going after them?"

The professor's face was the picture of amazement, and, even when he
realized who was speaking to him, the picture of embarrassment, too,
Larose thought.

"What is it?" he stammered. "What are you doing here? I'd got a headache
and came out for some fresh air. I couldn't sleep."

They told him what had happened, and his exclamations rose to a wail
until they assured him the coins were all safe, and had only been taken
to the policeman's house to serve as an exhibit when the two burglars
would appear before the Braintree magistrates in the morning.

Then the professor invited them into the house to have a whisky and
soda, but Larose lagged behind for a couple of minutes or so--to take a
stone out of his shoe, so he explained.

In the dining-room, the tale was soon told, and then Larose said he
wanted to speak to the professor for a moment, alone. The professor
frowned in surprise at the request, but then, leaving Dr. Kains to his
whisky, led the way into the study.

"Now, sir," said Larose sternly, "you are either going to drink a couple
of mouthfuls of that water in those two cans I saw you had got over
by Colonel Jones's fence, or you are going to confess to me you were
intending to water your friend's roses with weedkiller, and write a
cheque for 100 to be divided among the four men from the village who
have done such a good service to-night."

"What do you mean?" gasped the professor, with a scared and white face.
"I wasn't touching those cans. It's only ordinary water in them, and
they are always left there."

"You are lying, sir," said Larose harshly, "I've just been over to them,
and it's warm water they contain now. You were taking advantage of the
Colonel's dog being dead, and going to ruin his flowers. Quick! Make
your decision, or I shall call Dr. Kains to be a witness."

The professor turned to the desk and snatched a cheque book out of a
drawer. "It's blackmail," he exclaimed furiously, "but I can't afford
any scandal to be attached to me." He tore out a cheque and seized upon
a pen. "Now, what's your name? I don't remember it."

"No, it's not to be made out to me," said Larose with a grim smile.
"There's to be no stopping the cheque when the bank opens. You'll make
it out to Dr. Kains, please, and you'll give it him yourself, now,
telling him for whom it is intended." He nodded significantly. "And if
anything happens to Colonel Jones's roses between now and next week
you'll hear from me again."

So the next day four very delighted men in the village received 25
each, and much approval was expressed of Professor Welder's generosity.
A week later, too, Colonel Jones won the first prize for his roses at
the flower show, the judge, however, remarking that it was a close thing
between the colonel and Professor Welder.

The burglars, as Jim Viles said they would be, were sentenced to five
years' imprisonment, and Constable Dance, as Larose had prophesied,
received immediate promotion, a warm tribute having been paid at the
Assizes to the intelligence and resource he had shown.

One day, several months later, Professor Welder, who had never ventured
to broach the subject before, remarked casually to Colonel Jones,
"By-the-by, who was that friend of yours you introduced me to that day
before those burglars came? I've often thought since that his face was
familiar to me."

"I really don't know anything about him," replied the Colonel. "He was
just a chance acquaintance I happened to get friendly with that day,
because of the sympathy he expressed when my poor dog was poisoned."
Then, always ready to have a joke at his learned friend's expense, he
added slyly, "But they do say in the village that he's some sort of
relation of that poaching fellow, Viles."

"Ah!" exclaimed the professor viciously, thinking of the nice fat cheque
he had parted with, "I'm not at all astonished at it. He looked that
very type of man to me," and the Colonel chuckled, enjoying the good
joke.



The End.


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