For five minutes they all talked at once, with their nasty fists ’eld under my nose. I couldn’t make lead or tail of it at fust, and then I found as ’ow they ’ad got the dog back with them, and that the landlord ’ad said ’e wasn’t the one.
“But ’e said as he thought the collar was his,” ses Sam. “’Ow do you account for that?”
“P’r’aps he made a mistake,” I ses; “or p’r’aps he thought you’d turn the dog adrift and he’d get it back for nothing. You know wot landlords are. Try ’im agin.”
“I’d pretty well swear he ain’t the same dog,” ses Peter Russet, looking in a puzzled way at Sam and Ginger.
“You take ’im back to-morrow night,” I ses. “It’s a nice walk to Bow. And then come back and beg my pardon. I want to ’ave a word with this policeman here. Goodnight.”
Mr. Gribble sat in his small front parlour in a state of angry amazement. It was half-past six and there was no Mrs. Gribble; worse still, there was no tea. It was a state of things that had only happened once before. That was three weeks after marriage, and on that occasion Mr. Gribble had put his foot down with a bang that had echoed down the corridors of thirty years.
The fire in the little kitchen was out, and the untidy remains of Mrs. Gribble’s midday meal still disgraced the table. More and more dazed, the indignant husband could only come to the conclusion that she had gone out and been run over. Other things might possibly account for her behaviour; that was the only one that would excuse it.
His meditations were interrupted by the sound of a key in the front door, and a second later a small, anxious figure entered the room and, leaning against the table, strove to get its breath. The process was not helped by the alarming distension of Mr. Gribble’s figure.
“I—I got home—quick as I could—Henry,” said Mrs. Gribble, panting.
“Where is my tea?” demanded her husband. “What do you mean by it? The fire’s out and the kitchen is just as you left it.”
“I—I’ve been to a lawyer’s, Henry,” said Mrs. Gribble, “and I had to wait.”
“Lawyer’s?” repeated her husband.
“I got a letter this afternoon telling me to call. Poor Uncle George, that went to America, is gone.”
“That is no excuse for neglecting me,” said Mr. Gribble. “Of course people die when they are old. Is that the one that got on and made money?”
His wife, apparently struggling to repress a little excitement, nodded. “He—he’s left me two hundred pounds a year for life, Henry,” she said, dabbing at her pale blue eyes with a handkerchief. “They’re going to pay it monthly; sixteen pounds thirteen shillings and fourpence a month. That’s how he left it.”
“Two hund—” began Mr. Gribble, forgetting himself. “Two hun——Go and get my tea! If you think you’re going to give yourself airs because your uncle’s left you money, you won’t do it in my house.”