She led the way back to the wharf in some elation. Twilight was gathering there and over the canal. She had rounded the corner of the store, when, happening to glance towards the Success to Commerce, moored under the bank a bare twenty yards away, she halted, and with a gasp shrank close into the shadow.
“Collar ’Dolph! Grip old on ’im for the Lord’s sake!” she whispered, and clutched Arthur Miles by the arm.
On the bank beside the boat stood a man.
“But what’s the matter?” the boy demanded.
“’Ush! Oh, ‘ush an’ lie close! It’s Glasson!”
ADVENTURE OF THE FURRED COLLAR.
“‘Do you know me, my lord?’ ‘Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.’”—HAMLET.
He stood on the edge of the wharf—a black figure in an Inverness cape— with his back towards the angle of the store where the children hid. There was no mistaking him. For two nights he had haunted Tilda’s dreams; and she could have picked him out, even in the twilight, from among a thousand.
She gave another gasp, and with that her presence of mind returned. He had not seen them; he was watching the barge. The angle of the store would still hide them if they tip-toed to the wharf gate. But they must be noiseless as mice; they must reach the road, and then—
She caught up ’Dolph by the scruff of his neck, tucked him under her arm, and whispered to Arthur Miles to steal after her. But before she had taken three paces another fright brought her heart into her mouth.
Footsteps were coming down the road. They could not belong to the wagoner’s son. He would be bringing his horse and cart. The footsteps were light, too—light and hurried, and not to be associated with hobnailed boots.
Almost desperate at this cutting off of retreat, Tilda pulled Arthur Miles towards a wooden stairway, unrailed, painted over with Stockholm tar, built against the outside of the store, and leading to its upper chamber.
“Up! and quick!” she commanded, pushing him before her. She followed panting, leaning against the wall for support, for ’Dolph was no light burden, and his weight taxed her hurt leg painfully.
The door of the loft stood ajar. She staggered in after the boy, dropped the dog, and closed all but a chink, at which she posted herself, drawing quick breaths.
In the darkness behind her Arthur Miles listened. The footsteps drew nearer, paused, and after a moment were audible again in the yard below.
“Good Lord—it’s Gavel!”
“Eh?” The boy drew closer to her shoulder.
“It’s Gavel, come in a sweat for ’is ‘orses. I didn’ reckernise ’im for the moment—dressed out in a fur coat an’ Trilby ’at. But it’s Gavel, an’ ‘e’s walkin’ straight into Glasson’s arms. Stand by to do a bolt soon as ’e turns the corner.”