Mr. Chase’s face reflected the gravity of his own.
“You’re the only man I can trust,” continued Mr. Teak, “and I thought if you came as lodger you might be able to find out where it is hid, and get hold of it for me.”
“Me steal it, d’ye mean?” demanded the gaping Mr. Chase. “And suppose she got me locked up for it? I should look pretty, shouldn’t I?”
“No; you find out where it is hid,” said the other; “that’s all you need do. I’ll find someway of getting hold of it then.”
“But if you can’t find it, how should I be able to?” inquired Mr. Chase.
“’Cos you’ll ’ave opportunities,” said the other. “I take her out some time when you’re supposed to be out late; you come ’ome, let yourself in with your key, and spot the hiding-place. I get the cash, and give you ten-golden-sovereigns—all to your little self. It only occurred to me after Bert told me about it, that I ain’t been in the house alone for years.”
He ordered some more beer, and, drawing Mr. Chase to a bench, sat down to a long and steady argument. It shook his faith in human nature to find that his friend estimated the affair as a twenty-pound job, but he was in no position to bargain. They came out smoking twopenny cigars whose strength was remarkable for their age, and before they parted Mr. Chase was pledged to the hilt to do all that he could to save Mrs. Teak from the vice of avarice.
It was a more difficult undertaking than he had supposed. The house, small and compact, seemed to offer few opportunities for the concealment of large sums of money, and after a fortnight’s residence he came to the conclusion that the treasure must have been hidden in the garden. The unalloyed pleasure, however, with which Mrs. Teak regarded the efforts of her husband to put under cultivation land that had lain fallow for twenty years convinced both men that they were on a wrong scent. Mr. Teak, who did the digging, was the first to realize it, but his friend, pointing out the suspicions that might be engendered by a sudden cessation of labour, induced him to persevere.
“And try and look as if you liked it,” he said, severely. “Why, from the window even the back view of you looks disagreeable.”
“I’m fair sick of it,” declared Mr. Teak. “Anybody might ha’ known she wouldn’t have buried it in the garden. She must ’ave been saving for pretty near thirty years, week by week, and she couldn’t keep coming out here to hide it. ’Tain’t likely.”
Mr. Chase pondered. “Let her know, casual like, that I sha’n’t be ’ome till late on Saturday,” he said, slowly. “Then you come ’ome in the afternoon and take her out. As soon as you’re gone I’ll pop in and have a thorough good hunt round. Is she fond of animals?”
“I b’lieve so,” said the other, staring. “Why?”
“Take ’er to the Zoo,” said Mr. Chase, impressively. “Take two-penn’orth o’ nuts with you for the monkeys, and some stale buns for—for—for animals as likes ’em. Give ’er a ride on the elephant and a ride on the camel.”