Everyone thought that Horace Denby was a good, honest citizen. He was about fifty years old and unmarried, and he lived with a housekeeper who worried over his health. In fact he was unusually very well and happy, except for attacks of hay fever in summer. He made locks and was successful enough at his business to have two helpers. Yes, Horace Denby was good and respectable-but not completely honest.
Fifteen years ago, Horace had served his first and only sentence in prison for stealing jewels. The priest at the prison had liked Horace-everyone did-and had tried to help him to live an honest life. But Horace did not want to become honest; he only wanted to make sure that his dishonesty never got him into trouble again.
Horace hated prison. He hated the food, the lack of exercise, and the ugly, worn-out books in the prison library. Horace loved rear expensive books.
So he robbed a safe every year. Each year he planned carefully just what he would do, stole enough to last for twelve months, and secretly bought the books he loved through an agent.
Now walking in the bright July sunshine, he felt sure that this year’s robbery was going to be as successful as all the others. For two weeks he had been studying the house at Shotover Grange, looking at its rooms, its electric wiring, its paths, and its garden. This afternoon the two servants remained in the Grange while the family was in London, had gone to the movies. Horace saw them go, and he felt happy spite of a little tickle of hay fever in his nose. He came out from behind the garden wall, his tools carefully packed in a bag on back.
There were about fifteen thousand pounds’ worth of jewels in the Grange safe. If he sold them one by one he expected to get at least five thousand, enough to make him happy for another year. There were three very interesting books coming up for sell in the autumn. Now he would get the money he needed to buy them.
He had seen the housekeeper hang the key to the kitchen door on a hook outside. He put on a pair of gloves, took the key and opened the door. He was always careful not to leave any fingerprints.
A small dog was lying in the kitchen. It stirred, made a noise, and moved its tail in a friendly way.
‘all right, Sherry,’ Horace said as he passed. All you had to do to keep dogs quite was to call them by their right names, and show them love.
The safe was in the drawing room, behind a rather poor painting. Horace wondered for a moment whether he should collect pictures instead of books. But they took up too much room. In a small house, books were better.
There was a great bowl of flower on the table, and Horace felt his nose tickle. He gave a little sneeze and then put down his bag. He carefully arranged his tools. He had four hours before the servants returned.
The safe was not going to be heart to open. After all he had lived with locks and safes all his life. The burglar alarm was poorly built. He went into the hall to cut its wire. He came back and sneezed loudly as the smell of flowers came to him again.
How foolish people are when they won valuable things, Horace thought. A magazine article had described this house, giving a plan all the rooms and a picture of this room. The writer had even mentioned that the painting hid a safe! But Horace found that the flowers were hindering him in his work. He buried his face in his handkerchief.
Then he heard a voice say from the door way:
“What is it? A cold or hay fever?”
Before he could thing Horace said,” hay fever” and found himself sneezing again. The voice went on: “you can cure it with special treatment; you know if you found out just what plan gives you the disease. I thing you’d better see a doctor if you are serious about your work. I heard you from the top of the house just now.”
It was a quite kindly voice ; but one with firmness in it. A woman was standing in the door way, and Sheery was rubbing against...