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The Club of Queer Trades Gilbert K. Chesterton

The Singular Speculation of the House-Agent

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"Yes," replied Keith, in a rather abrupt way. "As a matter of fact I want it now. I want to see my--er--business man."

Rupert was eyeing him sarcastically, and I could see that it was on the tip of his tongue to say, inquiringly, "Receiver of stolen goods, perhaps." What he did say was:

"A business man? That's rather a general description, Lieutenant Keith."

Keith looked at him sharply, and then said, with something rather like ill-temper:

"He's a thingum-my-bob, a house-agent, say. I'm going to see him."

"Oh, you're going to see a house-agent, are you?" said Rupert Grant grimly. "Do you know, Mr Keith, I think I should very much like to go with you?"

Basil shook with his soundless laughter. Lieutenant Keith started a little; his brow blackened sharply.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "What did you say?"

Rupert's face had been growing from stage to stage of ferocious irony, and he answered:

"I was saying that I wondered whether you would mind our strolling along with you to this house-agent's."

The visitor swung his stick with a sudden whirling violence.

"Oh, in God's name, come to my house-agent's! Come to my bedroom. Look under my bed. Examine my dust-bin. Come along!" And with a furious energy which took away our breath he banged his way out of the room.

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Rupert Grant, his restless blue eyes dancing with his detective excitement, soon shouldered alongside him, talking to him with that transparent camaraderie which he imagined to be appropriate from the disguised policeman to the disguised criminal. His interpretation was certainly corroborated by one particular detail, the unmistakable unrest, annoyance, and nervousness of the man with whom he walked. Basil and I tramped behind, and it was not necessary for us to tell each other that we had both noticed this.

Lieutenant Drummond Keith led us through very extraordinary and unpromising neighbourhoods in the search for his remarkable house-agent. Neither of the brothers Grant failed to notice this fact. As the streets grew closer and more crooked and the roofs lower and the gutters grosser with mud, a darker curiosity deepened on the brows of Basil, and the figure of Rupert seen from behind seemed to fill the street with a gigantic swagger of success. At length, at the end of the fourth or fifth lean grey street in that sterile district, we came suddenly to a halt, the mysterious lieutenant looking once more about him with a sort of sulky desperation. Above a row of shutters and a door, all indescribably dingy in appearance and in size scarce sufficient even for a penny toyshop, ran the inscription: "P. Montmorency, House-Agent."

"This is the office of which I spoke," said Keith, in a cutting voice. "Will you wait here a moment, or does your astonishing tenderness about my welfare lead you to wish to overhear everything I have to say to my business adviser?"

Rupert's face was white and shaking with excitement; nothing on earth would have induced him now to have abandoned his prey.

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The Club of Queer Trades
Gilbert K. Chesterton

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