Rex Stout Fullscreen Officer and Lady (1917)


“The doctor won’t let Hilda have cake,” Bill retorted.

“And I was hungry myself.

I suppose it’s no crime to be hungry—”

“You took the silver and other things.”

“I know.”

Bill’s head drooped dejectedly.

“I’m a bad man, I guess.

I wanted to buy nice things for Hilda.

She hasn’t had a doll for over ten years.

She never has much to eat.

If I’m arrested I suppose she’ll starve to death.”

The sympathy in the major’s eyes deepened.

“I don’t want to cause unnecessary suffering,” she declared.

“I feel strongly for the lower classes.

And Miss Vanderhoof says that our penal system is disgraceful.

I suppose little would be gained by sending you to prison.”

“It’s an awful place,” Bill declared feelingly.

“You have been there?”

“Off and on.”

“You see!

It has done you no good.

No, I might as well let you go.

Turn your back.”

Bill stared.

The major stamped her little bare foot.

“Turn your back, I say!

That’s right.

I do wish you wouldn’t make me repeat things.

Walk forward near the dressing table.

No, at the side.


Now empty your pockets and turn them inside out.

All of them.

Put the things on the dressing table.

Keep your back turned, or—as you would say in your vulgar parlance—I’ll blow your block off.”

Bill obeyed.

He could feel the muzzle of the revolver pointed directly at the back of his head, and he obeyed.

He lost no time about it either, for the anesthetized Hilda would be coming to soon.

Methodically and thoroughly the pockets were emptied and their contents deposited on the dressing table: a gentleman’s watch, two silver cigarette cases, three scarf pins, five rings, a jeweled photograph frame, and ninety-four dollars in cash.

The articles that were obviously Bill’s own she instructed him to return to the pockets.

He did so. “There!” said the major briskly when he had finished.

“You may turn now.

That’s all, I think.

Kindly close the front door as you go out.

I’ll attend to the suitcase on the windowsill after you’re gone.

I wouldn’t advise you to try any tricks on me.

I’ve never got a man on the run, but I’d love to have a crack at one.

That’s all.”

Bill hesitated. His eye was on the neat roll of bills reposing beside him on the dressing table. It traveled from that to the gold wristwatch he would not take because it belonged to the sweet, helpless child.

Would he take it now if he had a chance?