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 From Argosy, September 1947 

“Lot of fuss!” said my wife

b y J. T. STORY


One Autumn morning about the time of the Boon-Danahar fight old Ferdy Garth found a chestnut in the middle of his garden.

“That’s puzzled him!” I said to my wife. The only tree in the garden was a Pyrus Aucuparia.

“He’s picking it up,” said my wife. “Silly old fool.”

You could tell she didn’t like him a bit.

The next morning he found another. It obviously worried him.

“He’s picking it up !” said my wife. “Silly old devil!”

The third morning he found another chestnut and he ran out and fetched a policeman.

“Look!” Ferdy croaked, pointing to the golden-brown nut with a shaking finger. “The sign of the Chestnut Tong! The villains have followed me from China. I demand protection, sergeant! I know their devilish methods—six chestnuts and I die!”

“Good!” said my wife.

“Very good,” said the policeman.

He wrapped the chestnut in a handkerchief to preserve finger­prints, if any, and departed.

The next morning Ferdy Garth came to the window and saw a fourth chestnut lying in precisely the same spot.

A little later six policemen came into the garden. They measured the distance from the chestnut to the fences. They photographed it, took a wax impression and finally carried it away in a black case.

“Lot of fuss!” said my wife.

That night seven detectives wearing big boots and carrying trays of matches kept a close watch on the house and garden. But in the morning another chestnut lay in the middle of the lawn. Ferdy fainted.

When Ferdy came round a detective-inspector was with him.

“One more chestnut and I die…“ Ferdy groaned.

The inspector rubbed his chin and cleared his throat. He said: “Perhaps you’ve done something to offend them?”

“No! Never!” cried Ferdy, his eyes flashing to the clock on the mantelpiece. “It was not I who took the Sacred Emerald from the left eye of their beastly dragon. Anyway it was cracked.”

“I see, sir,” said the inspector. And when he got back to the station he telephoned Scotland Yard who telephoned the Chinese Embassy.

The Chinese Embassy cabled Shanghai thus:

Many greetings honourable Chestnut Tong Stop  Hope you are keeping well  Stop How is your dragon  Question

The reply was prompt and prepaid:

All the joys of Heaven upon you also Charlie Stop  The weather is appalling  Stop The dragon has lost a left eye

The Chinese Embassy telephoned Scotland Yard and said yes they had.

On the day of the sixth chestnut the inspector called again on Ferdy Garth. Ferdy was in the cupboard under the stairs till he heard the inspector’s feet.

“Come on now,” said the inspector, “give…”

By this time Ferdy was a nervous wreck and too weak to pretend. He took the emerald from behind the clock and the inspector took Ferdy Garth and the emerald away.

On the seventh day, with the old boy out of the way, the seventh chestnut lay unmolested. There was nobody to examine it or photograph it or take a wax impression of it or put it in a black box and take it to Scotland Yard.

“Thank goodness for that!” said my wife.

“All we want now,” I said, “is a drop of rain.”  We got it.

One Spring morning about the time of the Baksi-Woodcock fight, we flew up to the little chestnut tree and built our nest. My wife was delighted. It took seven chestnuts and a lot of patience but she certainly got her tree where she wanted it. She’s a sweet old bird but a bit fussy about where she lays our eggs.

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Copyright ©  the estate of Jack Trevor Story 2002. Not for reproduction. Copyright in all work by Jack Trevor Story is the property of the author's heirs. Permission for use of this material can be obtained through Jackie Edwards (Story), Peter Story, Lee Story or Michael Moorcock. Reproduction of copyright material whether in text, visual or audio form by unauthorised sources strictly forbidden.