THE MYSTERY OF OAKLANDS 37
it. You see ? He's pretendin' he thinks it's the real Scraggy jus' to put 'em ofl the scent though he knows that poor ole Scraggy's dead an' buried in his rose bed. Let's listen what he'll say now. ..."
They listened, but there was nothing more to hear as the tenant of Oaklands was coming up to the front door.
It occurred to the Outlaws suddenly and for the first time that their position was open to a certain amount of misconstruction.
" Upstairs, quick! " gasped William as the old man opened the garden gate.
The Outlaws followed their leader up the narrow stairs and into a little bedroom at the top. William held the door ajar and placed his ear against it for some moments in silence. Then he spoke in a hoarse and sibilant whisper :
" I c'n hear him messin' about downstairs. I tell you what. I b'lieve he's another thief after the money, dressed up like ole Scraggy to avoid suspicion. That's what I think. I think he's another thief after the money. There was a man like that in ' The Myst'ry of the Creaking Stair.' There was a man who-----"
" Look, William," whispered Ginger, " come and look out of the window at what he's doin' in his garden. He's squirtin' stuff on to his rose bed again."
The Outlaws clustered about the window.
" Poison," explained William. " Jus' to make quite sure he's dead. He-----"
At that moment the Outlaws were startled by the sound of the door being suddenly pulled to and the key turned in the lock. Then came the sound of steps descending the stairs. William tried the door. It was locked. They were prisoners.
" Well," he said. " They know we're on their track an' they're tryin' to get rid of us. Yes, that's what it is. He isn't a Scotland Yard man tryin' to