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The Hard-Boiled Egg
by [?]

Walking close along the wall, to avoid the creaking floor boards, Philo Gubb, paper-hanger and student of the Rising Sun Detective Agency’s Correspondence School of Detecting, tiptoed to the door of the bedroom he shared with the mysterious Mr. Critz. In appearance Mr. Gubb was tall and gaunt, reminding one of a modern Don Quixote or a human flamingo; by nature Mr. Gubb was the gentlest and most simple-minded of men. Now, bending his long, angular body almost double, he placed his eye to a crack in the door panel and stared into the room. Within, just out of the limited area of Mr. Gubb’s vision, Roscoe Critz paused in his work and listened carefully. He heard the sharp whistle of Mr. Gubb’s breath as it cut against the sharp edge of the crack in the panel, and he knew he was being spied upon. He placed his chubby hands on his knees and smiled at the door, while a red flush of triumph spread over his face.

Through the crack in the door Mr. Gubb could see the top of the washstand beside which Mr. Critz was sitting, but he could not see Mr. Critz. As he stared, however, he saw a plump hand appear and pick up, one by one, the articles lying on the washstand. They were: First, seven or eight half shells of English walnuts; second, a rubber shoe heel out of which a piece had been cut; third, a small rubber ball no larger than a pea; fourth, a paper-bound book; and lastly, a large and glittering brick of yellow gold. As the hand withdrew the golden brick, Mr. Gubb pressed his face closer against the door in his effort to see more, and suddenly the door flew open and Mr. Gubb sprawled on his hands and knees on the worn carpet of the bedroom.

“There, now!” said Mr. Critz. “There, now! Serves you right. Hope you hurt chuself!”

Mr. Gubb arose slowly, like a giraffe, and brushed his knees.

“Why?” he asked.

“Snoopin’ an’ sneakin’ like that!” said Mr. Critz crossly. “Scarin’ me to fits, a’most. How’d I know who ’twas? If you want to come in, why don’t you come right in, ‘stead of snoopin’ an’ sneakin’ an’ fallin’ in that way?”

As he talked, Mr. Critz replaced the shells and the rubber heel and the rubber pea and the gold-brick on the washstand. He was a plump little man with a shiny bald head and a white goatee. As he talked, he bent his head down, so that he might look above the glasses of his spectacles; and in spite of his pretended anger he looked like nothing so much as a kindly, benevolent old gentleman–the sort of old gentleman that keeps a small store in a small village and sells writing-paper that smells of soap, and candy sticks out of a glass jar with a glass cover.

“How’d I know but what you was a detective?” he asked, in a gentler tone.

“I am,” said Mr. Gubb soberly, seating himself on one of the two beds. “I’m putty near a deteckative, as you might say.”

“Ding it all!” said Mr. Critz. “Now I got to go and hunt another room. I can’t room with no detective.”

“Well, now, Mr. Critz,” said Mr. Gubb, “I don’t want you should feel that way.”

“Knowin’ you are a detective makes me all nervous,” complained Mr. Critz; “and a man in my business has to have a steady hand, don’t he?”

“You ain’t told me what your business is,” said Mr. Gubb.

“You needn’t pretend you don’t know,” said Mr. Critz. “Any detective that saw that stuff on the washstand would know.”

“Well, of course,” said Mr. Gubb, “I ain’t a full deteckative yet. You can’t look for me to guess things as quick as a full deteckative would. Of course that brick sort of looks like a gold-brick–“