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The Chicken
by [?]

Philo Gubb, with three rolls of wall-paper under his arm and a pail of mixed paste in one hand, walked along Cherry Street near the brick-yard.

On this occasion Mr. Gubb was in a reasonably contented frame of mind, for he had just received his share of the reward for capturing the dynamiters and had this very morning paid the full amount to Mr. Medderbrook, leaving but eleven thousand six hundred and fifty dollars still to be paid that gentleman for the Utterly Hopeless Gold-Mine Stock, and upon the further payment of seventy-five cents–half its cost–Mr. Medderbrook gave him a telegram he had received from Syrilla. The telegram was as follows:–

Rapidly shrinking. Have given up all soups, including tomato soup, chicken soup, mulligatawny, mock turtle, green pea, vegetable, gumbo, lentil, consomme, bouillon and clam broth. Now weigh only nine hundred and fifty pounds. Wire at once whether clam chowder is a soup or a food. Fond remembrances to Gubby.

Mr. Gubb was thinking of this telegram as he walked toward his work. Just ahead of him a short lane led, between Mrs. Smith’s house and the Cherry Street Methodist Chapel, to the brick-yard. Mrs. Smith’s chicken coop stood on the fence line between her property and the brick-yard!

Philo Gubb had passed Mrs. Smith’s front gate when Mrs. Smith waddled to her fence and hailed him.

“Oh, Mr. Gubb!” she panted. “You got to excuse me for speakin’ to you when I don’t know you. Mrs. Miffin says you’re a detective.”

“Deteckating is my aim and my profession,” said Mr. Gubb.

“Well,” said Mrs. Smith, “I want to ask a word of you about crime. I’ve had a chicken stole.”

“Chicken-stealing is a crime if ever there was one,” said Philo Gubb seriously. “What was the chicken worth?”

“Forty cents,” said Mrs. Smith.

“Well,” said Philo Gubb, “it wouldn’t hardly pay me.”

“It ain’t much,” admitted Mrs. Smith.

“No. You’re right, it ain’t,” said Philo Gubb. “Was this a rooster or a hen?”

“It was a hen,” said Mrs. Smith.

“Well,” said Mr. Gubb, “if you was to offer a reward of a hundred dollars for the capture of the thief–“

“Oh, my land!” exclaimed Mrs. Smith. “It would be cheaper for me to pay somebody five dollars to come and steal the rest of the chickens. It seems to me, that you ought to make the thief pay. I ain’t the one that did the crime, am I? It’s only right that a thief should pay for the time and trouble he puts you to, ain’t it?”

“I never before looked at it that way,” said Mr. Gubb thoughtfully, “but it stands to reason.”

“Of course it does!” said Mrs. Smith. “You catch that thief and you can offer yourself a million dollars reward if you want to. That’s none of my business.”

“Well,” said Philo Gubb, picking up his paste-pail, “I guess if there ain’t any important murders or things turn up by seven to-night, I’ll start in to work for that reward. I guess I can’t ask more than five dollars reward.”

At seven the evening was still light, and Philo Gubb, to cover his intentions and avert suspicion in case his interview with Mrs. Smith had been observed by the thief, put a false beard in his pocket and a revolver beside it and left his office in the Opera House Block cautiously. He slipped into the alley and glided down it, keeping close to the stables. A detective must be cautious.

The abandoned brick-kilns offered admirable seclusion. A brick-kiln is built entirely, or almost so, of the brick that are to be burned, and the kilns are torn down and carted away as the brick are sold. The over-structure of the kilns was a mere roof of half-inch planks laid on timbers that were upheld by poles.

A ladder leaning against one of the poles gave access to the roof. In the darkness it was impossible for Philo Gubb to find a finger-print of the culprit on the kilns, although he looked for one. He did not even find the usual and highly helpful button, torn from its place in the criminal’s eagerness to depart. He found only an old horseshoe and a broken tobacco pipe. As there were evidences that the pipe had been abandoned on that spot several years earlier, neither of these was a very valuable clue.