“He’s mad,” said his wife, in a tense whisper; “stark staring mad. He says I’m his favorite wife, and he made me stroke his forehead.”
The bed shook again.
“I don’t see that I have any right to interfere,” said Mr. Hatchard, after he had quieted the bedstead. “He’s your lodger.”
“You’re my husband,” said Mrs. Hatchard. “Ho!” said Mr. Hatchard. “You’ve remembered that, have you?”
“Yes, Alfred,” said his wife.
“And are you sorry for all your bad behavior?” demanded Mr. Hatchard.
Mrs. Hatchard hesitated. Then a clatter of fire-irons downstairs moved her to speech.
“Ye-yes,” she sobbed.
“And you want me to take you back?” queried the generous Mr. Hatchard.
“Ye-ye-yes,” said his wife.
Mr. Hatchard got out of bed and striking a match lit the candle, and, taking his overcoat from a peg behind the door, put it on and marched downstairs. Mrs. Hatchard, still trembling, followed behind.
“What’s all this?” he demanded, throwing the door open with a flourish.
Mr. Sadler, still holding the fire-shovel sceptre-fashion and still with the paper cap on his head, opened his mouth to reply. Then, as he saw the unkempt figure of Mr. Hatchard with the scared face of Mrs. Hatchard peeping over his shoulder, his face grew red, his eyes watered, and his cheeks swelled.
“K-K-K-Kch! K-Kch!” he said, explosively. “Talk English, not Chinese,” said Mr. Hatchard, sternly.
[Illustration: “‘K-K-K-Kch! K-Kch!’ he said, explosively.”]
Mr. Sadler threw down the fire-shovel, and to Mr. Hatchard’s great annoyance, clapped his open hand over his mouth and rocked with merriment.
“Sh—sh—she—she—” he spluttered.
“That’ll do,” said Mr. Hatchard, hastily, with a warning frown.
“Kow-towed to me,” gurgled Mr. Sadler. “You ought to have seen it, Alf. I shall never get over it—never. It’s—no—no good win-winking at me; I can’t help myself.”
He put his handkerchief to his eyes and leaned back exhausted. When he removed it, he found himself alone and everything still but for a murmur of voices overhead. Anon steps sounded on the stairs, and Mr. Hatchard, grave of face, entered the room.
“Outside!” he said, briefly.
“What!” said the astounded Mr. Sadler. “Why, it’s eleven o’clock.”
“I can’t help it if it’s twelve o’clock,” was the reply. “You shouldn’t play the fool and spoil things by laughing. Now, are you going, or have I got to put you out?”
He crossed the room and, putting his hand on the shoulder of the protesting Mr. Sadler, pushed him into the passage, and taking his coat from the peg held it up for him. Mr. Sadler, abandoning himself to his fate, got into it slowly and indulged in a few remarks on the subject of ingratitude.
“I can’t help it,” said his friend, in a low voice. “I’ve had to swear I’ve never seen you before.”