Tracking the Bird of Prey

THE two lime merchants, with their escort, entered the dominions of Miss Abbey Potterson, to whom their escort (presenting them and their pretended business over the half-door of the bar, in a confidential way) preferred his figurative request that “a mouthful of fire” might be lighted in Cosy. Always well disposed to assist the constituted authorities, Miss Abbey bade Bob Gliddery attend the gentlemen to that retreat, and promptly enliven it with fire and gaslight. Of this commission the bare-armed Bob, leading the way with a flaming wisp of paper, so speedily acquitted himself, that Cosy seemed to leap out of a dark sleep and embrace them warmly, the moment they passed the lintels of its hospitable door.

“They burn sherry very well here,” said Mr Inspector, as a piece of local intelligence. “Perhaps you gentlemen might like a bottle?”

The answer being By all means, Bob Gliddery received his instructions from Mr Inspector, and departed in a becoming state of alacrity engendered by reverence for the majesty of the law.

“It’s a certain fact,” said Mr Inspector, “that this man we have received our information from,” indicating Riderhood with his thumb over his shoulder, “has for some time past given the other man a bad name arising out of your lime barges, and that the other man has been avoided in consequence. I don’t say what it means or proves, but it’s a certain fact. I had it first from one of the opposite sex of my acquaintance,” vaguely indicating Miss Abbey with his thumb over his shoulder, “down away at a distance, over yonder.”

Then probably Mr Inspector was not quite unprepared for their visit that evening? Lightwood hinted.

“Well you see,” said Mr Inspector, “it was a question of making a move. It’s of no use moving if you don’t know what your move is. You had better by far keep still. In the matter of this lime, I certainly had an idea that it might lie betwixt the two men; I always had that idea. Still I was forced to wait for a start, and I wasn’t so lucky as to get a start. This man that we have received our information from, has got a start, and if he don’t meet with a check he may make the running and come in first. There may turn out to be something considerable for him that comes in second, and I don’t mention who may or who may not try for that place. There’s duty to do, and I shall do it, under any circumstances; to the best of my judgment and ability.”

“Speaking as a shipper of lime—” began Eugene.

“Which no man has a better right to do than yourself, you know,” said Mr Inspector.

“I hope not,” said Eugene; “my father having been a shipper of lime before me, and my grandfather before him — in fact we having been a family immersed to the crowns of our heads in lime during several generations — I beg to observe that if this missing lime could be got hold of without any young female relative of any distinguished gentleman engaged in the lime trade (which I cherish next to my life) being present, I think it might be a more agreeable proceeding to the assisting bystanders, that is to say, lime-burners.”

“I also,” said Lightwood, pushing his friend aside with a laugh, “should much prefer that.”

“It shall be done, gentlemen, if it can be done conveniently,” said Mr Inspector, with coolness. “There is no wish on my part to cause any distress in that quarter. Indeed, I am sorry for that quarter.”

“There was a boy in that quarter,” remarked Eugene. “He is still there?”

“No,” said Mr Inspector. “He has quitted those works. He is otherwise disposed of.”

“Will she be left alone then?” asked Eugene.

“She will be left,” said Mr Inspector, “alone.” Bob’s reappearance with a steaming jug broke off the conversation. But although the jug steamed forth a delicious perfume, its contents had not received that last happy touch which the surpassing finish of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters imparted on such momentous occasions. Bob carried in his left hand one of those iron models of sugar-loaf hats, before mentioned, into which he

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