your muff, and I occasionally hear his wheezy little bark when you take him for a walk up and down the corridor. You can’t expect one to get extravagantly fond of a dog of that sort. One might as well work up an affection for the cuckoo in a cuckoo-clock.’

‘He loves me,’ said Lena, rising from the table, and bearing the shawl-swathed Louis in her arms. ‘He loves only me, and perhaps that is why I love him so much in return. I don’t care what you say against him, I am not going to be separated from him. If you insist on going to Vienna you must go alone, as far as I am concerned. I think it would be much more sensible if you were to come to Brighton with Louis and me, but of course you must please yourself.’

‘You must get rid of that dog,’ said Strudwarden’s sister when Lena had left the room; ‘it must be helped to some sudden and merciful end. Lena is merely making use of it as an instrument for getting her own way on dozens of occasions when she would otherwise be obliged to yield gracefully to your wishes or to the general convenience. I am convinced that she doesn’t care a brass button about the animal itself. When her friends are buzzing round her at Brighton or anywhere else and the dog would be in the way, it has to spend whole days alone with the maid, but if you want Lena to go with you anywhere where she doesn’t want to go instantly she trots out the excuse that she couldn’t be separated from her dog. Have you ever come into a room unobserved and heard Lena talking to her beloved pet? I never have. I believe she only fusses over it when there’s some one present to notice her.’

‘I don’t mind admitting,’ said Strudwarden, ‘that I’ve dwelt more than once lately on the possibility of some fatal accident putting an end to Louis’s existence. It’s not very easy, though, to arrange a fatality for a creature that spends most of its time in a muff or asleep in a toy kennel. I don’t think poison would be any good; it’s obviously horribly overfed, for I’ve seen Lena offer it dainties at table sometimes, but it never seems to eat them.’

‘Lena will be away at church on Wednesday morning,’ said Elsie Strudwarden reflectively; ‘she can’t take Louis with her there, and she is going on to the Dellings for lunch. That will give you several hours in which to carry out your purpose. The maid will be flirting with the chauffeur most of the time, and, anyhow, I can manage to keep her out of the way on some pretext or other.’

‘That leaves the field clear,’ said Strudwarden, ‘but unfortunately my brain is equally a blank as far as any lethal project is concerned. The little beast is so monstrously inactive; I can’t pretend that it leapt into the bath and drowned itself, or that it took on the butcher’s mastiff in unequal combat and got chewed up. In what possible guise could death come to a confirmed basket-dweller? It would be too suspicious if we invented a Suffragette raid and pretended that they invaded Lena’s boudoir and threw a brick at him. We should have to do a lot of other damage as well, which would be rather a nuisance, and the servants would think it odd that they had seen nothing of the invaders.’

‘I have an idea,’ said Elsie; ‘get a box with an air-tight lid, and bore a small hole in it, just big enough to let in an india-rubber tube. Pop Louis, kennel and all, into the box, shut it down, and put the other end of the tube over the gas-bracket. There you have a perfect lethal chamber. You can stand the kennel at the open window afterwards, to get rid of the smell of the gas, and all that Lena will find when she comes home late in the afternoon will be a placidly defunct Louis.’

‘Novels have been written about women like you,’ said Strudwarden; ‘you have a perfectly criminal mind. Let’s come and look for a box.’

Two mornings later the conspirators stood gazing guiltily at a stout square box, connected with the gas- bracket by a length of india-rubber tubing.

‘Not a sound.’ said Elsie; ‘he never stirred; it must have been quite painless. All the same I feel rather horrid now it’s done.’

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