THE MYSTERY OF OAKLANDS 39
" Well," said the bass still more dubiously. " I dunno but what I'd better----- Wait a sec. ..."
He evidently withdrew the key from the keyhole and applied his eye to it. Then he unlocked the door and flung it open. The Outlaws stood there before the gaze of old Scraggy and the village policeman. The
policeman said: Well, I'm-----" and forgetting
the dignity of his office burst into a guffaw of laughter. Then he quickly remembered the dignity of his office and changed the guffaw to a cough.
" Now look 'ere," he said sternly, " look 'ere, look 'ere, look 'ere. What's all this? What's all this 'ere ? "
He took the ears of Ginger and William in one enormous hand, the ears of Douglas and Henry in the other and led them downstairs to the garden. There he surveyed them in the full light of day, and at the sight of William another guffaw burst from him which he turned again in a masterly fashion into a cough.
" Now," he demanded sternly again, " what's all this 'ere ? "
" Thieves," sputtered old Scraggy, " thieves, that's what they are."
The policeman took his note-book from his pocket. Henry, not to be at a disadvantage, took his out too.
" D'you wish to prosecute ? " said the policeman in his most official manner.
The householder hesitated. He could imagine this minion of the law repeating his report of four powerful-looking men—one elderly. He looked just the sort of man to do that. . . .
" No," he said irritably. " No, no, no. The whole affair's most exasperating. Box their ears and let them go.
The policeman replaced his note-book in his pocket. Henry replaced his.
" Tain't none of my business, boxin' ears," said the