Monday, July 11, 2011

The Pothunters by P. G. Wodehouse (The Overlook Press 1902)

As for Stokes, I suppose I must prosecute--'

The detective raised a hand in protest.

'Pardon my interruption, sir, but I really should advise you not to prosecute.'

'Indeed! Why?'

'It is this way. If you prosecute, you get the man his term of imprisonment. A year, probably. Well and good. But then what happens? After his sentence has run out, he comes out of prison an ex-convict. Tries to get work. No good. Nobody will look at him. Asks for a job. People lock up their spoons and shout for the police. What happens then? Not being able to get work, tries another burglary. Being a clumsy hand at the game, gets caught again and sent back to prison, and so is ruined and becomes a danger to society. Now, if he is let off this time, he will go straight for the rest of his life. Run a mile to avoid a silver cup. He's badly scared, and I took the opportunity of scaring him more. Told him nothing would happen this time, if the cups came back safely, but that he'd be watched ever afterwards to see he did not get into mischief. Of course he won't really be watched, you understand, but he thinks he will. Which is better, for it saves trouble. Besides, we know where the cups are--I feel sure he was speaking the truth about them, he was too frightened to invent a story--and here is most of the money. So it all ends well, if I may put it so. My advice, sir, and I think you will find it good advice--is not to prosecute.'

'Very well,' said the Head, 'I will not.'