Tom Driscoll was not happy over these things; they sunk deep, and hurt all the way down. He hated the one twin for kicking him, and the other one for being the kicker's brother.
Now and then the people wondered why nothing was heard of the raider, or of the stolen knife or the other plunder, but nobody was able to throw any light on that matter. Nearly a week had drifted by, and still the thing remained a vexed mystery.
On Sunday Constable Blake and Pudd'nhead Wilson met on the street, and Tom Driscoll joined them in time to open their conversation for them. He said to Blake: "You are not looking well, Blake; you seem to be annoyed about something. Has anything gone wrong in the detective business? I believe you fairly and justifiably claim to have a pretty good reputation in that line, isn't it so?"-- which made Blake feel good, and look it; but Tom added, "for a country detective"--which made Blake feel the other way, and not only look it, but betray it in his voice.
"Yes, sir, I _have_ got a reputation; and it's as good as anybody's in the profession, too, country or no country."
"Oh, I beg pardon; I didn't mean any offense. What I started out to ask was only about the old woman that raided the town-- the stoop-shouldered old woman, you know, that you said you were going to catch; and I knew you would, too, because you have the reputation of never boasting, and--well, you--you've caught the old woman?"
"Damn the old woman!"
"Why, sho! you don't mean to say you haven't caught her?"
"No, I haven't caught her. If anybody could have caught her, I could; but nobody couldn't, I don't care who he is."
I am sorry, real sorry--for your sake; because, when it gets around that a detective has expressed himself confidently, and then--"
"Don't you worry, that's all--don't you worry; and as for the town, the town needn't worry either. She's my meat--make yourself easy about that. I'm on her track; I've got clues that--"
"That's good! Now if you could get an old veteran detective down from St. Louis to help you find out what the clues mean, and where they lead to, and then--"
"I'm plenty veteran enough myself, and I don't need anybody's help. I'll have her inside of a we--inside of a month. That I'll swear to!"
Tom said carelessly:
"I suppose that will answer--yes, that will answer. But I reckon she is pretty old, and old people don't often outlive the cautious pace of the professional detective when he has got his clues together and is out on his still-hunt."
Blake's dull face flushed under this gibe, but before he could set his retort in order Tom had turned to Wilson, and was saying, with placid indifference of manner and voice:
"Who got the reward, Pudd'nhead?"
Wilson winced slightly, and saw that his own turn was come.
"Why, the reward for the thief, and the other one for the knife."
Wilson answered--and rather uncomfortably, to judge by his hesitating fashion of delivering himself:
"Well, the--well, in face, nobody has claimed it yet."
Tom seemed surprised.
"Why, is that so?"
Wilson showed a trifle of irritation when he replied:
"Yes, it's so. And what of it?"
"Oh, nothing. Only I thought you had struck out a new idea, and invented a scheme that was going to revolutionize the timeworn and ineffectual methods of the--" He stopped, and turned to Blake, who was happy now that another had taken his place on the gridiron. "Blake, didn't you understand him to intimate that it wouldn't be necessary for you to hunt the old woman down?"
'B'George, he said he'd have thief and swag both inside of three days-- he did, by hokey! and that's just about a week ago. Why, I said at the time that no thief and no thief's pal was going to try to pawn or sell a thing where he knowed the pawnbroker could get both rewards by taking HIM into camp _with_ the swag. It was the blessedest idea that ever I struck!"
"You'd change your mind," said Wilson, with irritated bluntness, "if you knew the entire scheme instead of only part of it."
"Well," said the constable, pensively, "I had the idea that it wouldn't work, and up to now I'm right anyway."
"Very well, then, let it stand at that, and give it a further show. It has worked at least as well as your own methods, you perceive."
The constable hadn't anything handy to hit back with, so he discharged a discontented sniff, and said nothing.