Now, what does this elephant eat, and how much?"
"Well, as to what he eats--he will eat anything. He will eat a man, he will eat a Bible--he will eat anything between a man and a Bible."
"Good very good, indeed, but too general. Details are necessary--details are the only valuable things in our trade. Very well--as to men. At one meal--or, if you prefer, during one day--how man men will he eat, if fresh?"
"He would not care whether they were fresh or not; at a single meal he would eat five ordinary men.
"Very good; five men; we will put that down. What nationalities would he prefer?"
"He is indifferent about nationalities. He prefers acquaintances, but is not prejudiced against strangers."
"Very good. Now, as to Bibles. How many Bibles would he eat at a meal?"
"He would eat an entire edition."
"It is hardly succinct enough. Do you mean the ordinary octavo, or the family illustrated?"
"I think he would be indifferent to illustrations that is, I think he would not value illustrations above simple letterpress."
"No, you do not get my idea. I refer to bulk. The ordinary octavo Bible weighs about two pound; and a half, while the great quarto with the illustrations weighs ten or twelve. How many Dore Bibles would he eat at a meal?"
"If you knew this elephant, you could not ask. He would take what they had."
"Well, put it in dollars and cents, then. We must get at it somehow. The Dore costs a hundred dollars a copy, Russia leather, beveled."
"He would require about fifty thousand dollars worth--say an edition of five hundred copies."
"Now that is more exact. I will put that down. Very well; he likes men and Bibles; so far, so good. What else will he eat? I want particulars."
"He will leave Bibles to eat bricks, he will leave bricks to eat bottles, he will leave bottles to eat clothing, he will leave clothing to eat cats, he will leave cats to eat oysters, he will leave oysters to eat ham, he will leave ham to eat sugar, he will leave sugar to eat pie, he will leave pie to eat potatoes, he will leave potatoes to eat bran; he will leave bran to eat hay, he will leave hay to eat oats, he will leave oats to eat rice, for he was mainly raised on it. There is nothing whatever that he will not eat but European butter, and he would eat that if he could taste it."
"Very good. General quantity at a meal--say about--"
"Well, anywhere from a quarter to half a ton."
"And he drinks--"
"Everything that is fluid. Milk, water, whisky, molasses, castor oil, camphene, carbolic acid--it is no use to go into particulars; whatever fluid occurs to you set it down. He will drink anything that is fluid, except European coffee."
"Very good. As to quantity?"
"Put it down five to fifteen barrels--his thirst varies; his other appetites do not."
"These things are unusual. They ought to furnish quite good clues toward tracing him."
He touched the bell.
"Alaric; summon Captain Burns."
Burns appeared. Inspector Blunt unfolded the whole matter to him, detail by detail. Then he said in the clear, decisive tones of a man whose plans are clearly defined in his head and who is accustomed to command:
"Captain Burns, detail Detectives Jones, Davis, Halsey, Bates, and Hackett to shadow the elephant."
"Detail Detectives Moses, Dakin, Murphy, Rogers, Tupper, Higgins, and Bartholomew to shadow the thieves."
"Place a strong guard--A guard of thirty picked men, with a relief of thirty--over the place from whence the elephant was stolen, to keep strict watch there night and day, and allow none to approach--except reporters--without written authority from me."
"Place detectives in plain clothes in the railway; steamship, and ferry depots, and upon all roadways leading out of Jersey City, with orders to search all suspicious persons."
"Furnish all these men with photograph and accompanying description of the elephant, and instruct them to search all trains and outgoing ferryboats and other vessels."
"If the elephant should be found, let him be seized, and the information forwarded to me by telegraph."
"Let me be informed at once if any clues should be found footprints of the animal, or anything of that kind."
"Get an order commanding the harbor police to patrol the frontages vigilantly."
"Despatch detectives in plain clothes over all the railways, north as far as Canada, west as far as Ohio, south as far as Washington."
"Place experts in all the telegraph offices to listen in to all messages; and let them require that all cipher despatches be interpreted to them."
"Let all these things be done with the utmost's secrecy--mind, the most impenetrable secrecy."
"Report to me promptly at the usual hour."
He was gone.