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The Club of Queer Trades Gilbert K. Chesterton

The Eccentric Seclusion of the Old Lady

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"What is to be done, Basil?" I repeated in uncontrollable excitement.

"I'm not sure," said Basil doubtfully. "What do you say to getting some dinner somewhere and going to the Court Theatre tonight? I tried to get those fellows to come, but they couldn't."

We stared blankly.

"Go to the Court Theatre?" repeated Rupert. "What would be the good of that?"

"Good? What do you mean?" answered Basil, staring also. "Have you turned Puritan or Passive Resister, or something? For fun, of course."

"But, great God in Heaven! What are we going to do, I mean!" cried Rupert. "What about the poor woman locked up in that house? Shall I go for the police?"

Basil's face cleared with immediate comprehension, and he laughed.

"Oh, that," he said. "I'd forgotten that. That's all right. Some mistake, possibly. Or some quite trifling private affair. But I'm sorry those fellows couldn't come with us. Shall we take one of these green omnibuses? There is a restaurant in Sloane Square."

"I sometimes think you play the fool to frighten us," I said irritably. "How can we leave that woman locked up? How can it be a mere private affair? How can crime and kidnapping and murder, for all I know, be private affairs? If you found a corpse in a man's drawing-room, would you think it bad taste to talk about it just as if it was a confounded dado or an infernal etching?"

Basil laughed heartily.

"That's very forcible," he said. "As a matter of fact, though, I know it's all right in this case. And there comes the green omnibus."

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"How do you know it's all right in this ease?" persisted his brother angrily.

"My dear chap, the thing's obvious," answered Basil, holding a return ticket between his teeth while he fumbled in his waistcoat pocket. "Those two fellows never committed a crime in their lives. They're not the kind. Have either of you chaps got a halfpenny? I want to get a paper before the omnibus comes."

"Oh, curse the paper!" cried Rupert, in a fury. "Do you mean to tell me, Basil Grant, that you are going to leave a fellow creature in pitch darkness in a private dungeon, because you've had ten minutes' talk with the keepers of it and thought them rather good men?"

"Good men do commit crimes sometimes," said Basil, taking the ticket out of his mouth. "But this kind of good man doesn't commit that kind of crime. Well, shall we get on this omnibus?"

The great green vehicle was indeed plunging and lumbering along the dim wide street towards us. Basil had stepped from the curb, and for an instant it was touch and go whether we should all have leaped on to it and been borne away to the restaurant and the theatre.

"Basil," I said, taking him firmly by the shoulder, "I simply won't leave this street and this house."

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The Club of Queer Trades
Gilbert K. Chesterton

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