“What doing?” he asked, not looking at me.
“Rowing about the streets. You’ve had that boat for hours.”
He tied it up without a word to me, but he spoke to the dog. “Good morning, Peter,” he said. “It’s nice weather—for fishes, ain’t it?”
He picked out a bit of floating wood from the water, and showing it to the dog, flung it into the parlor. Peter went after it with a splash. He was pretty fat, and when he came back I heard him wheezing. But what he brought back was not the stick of wood. It was the knife I use for cutting bread. It had been on a shelf in the room where I had slept the night before, and now Peter brought it out of the flood where its wooden handle had kept it afloat. The blade was broken off short.
It is not unusual to find one’s household goods floating around during flood-time. More than once I’ve lost a chair or two, and seen it after the water had gone down, new scrubbed and painted, in Molly Maguire’s kitchen next door. And perhaps now and then a bit of luck would come to me—a dog kennel or a chicken-house, or a kitchen table, or even, as happened once, a month-old baby in a wooden cradle, that lodged against my back fence, and had come forty miles, as it turned out, with no worse mishap than a cold in its head.
But the knife was different. I had put it on the mantel over the stove I was using up-stairs the night before, and hadn’t touched it since. As I sat staring at it, Terry took it from Peter and handed it to me.
“Better give me a penny, Mrs. Pitman,” he said in his impudent Irish way. “I hate to give you a knife. It may cut our friendship.”
I reached over to hit him a clout on the head, but I did not. The sunlight was coming in through the window at the top of the stairs, and shining on the rope that was tied to the banister. The end of the rope was covered with stains, brown, with a glint of red in them.
I got up shivering. “You can get the meat at the butcher’s, Terry,” I said, “and come back for me in a half-hour.” Then I turned and went up-stairs, weak in the knees, to put on my hat and coat. I had made up my mind that there had been murder done.
I looked at my clock as I went down-stairs. It was just twelve-thirty. I thought of telephoning for Mr. Reynolds to meet me, but it was his lunch hour, and besides I was afraid to telephone from the house while Mr. Ladley was in it.
Peter had been whining again. When I came down the stairs he had stopped whimpering and was wagging his tail. A strange boat had put into the hallway and was coming back.
“Now, old boy!” somebody was saying from the boat. “Steady, old chap! I’ve got something for you.”
A little man, elderly and alert, was standing up in the boat, poling it along with an oar. Peter gave vent to joyful yelps. The elderly gentleman brought his boat to a stop at the foot of the stairs, and reaching down into a tub at his feet, held up a large piece of raw liver. Peter almost went crazy, and I remembered suddenly that I had forgotten to feed the poor beast for more than a day.