234 The Stolen White Elephant
So we determined upon that figure as a beginning. Then this man, whom nothing escaped which could by any possibility be made to serve as a clew, said:
" There are cases in detective history to show that criminals have been detected through peculiarities in their appetites. 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 many 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 letter-press."
"No, you do not get my idea. I refer to bulk. The ordinary octavo Bible weighs about two pounds 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."