He was away a long time—so long that the half-penitent Mrs. Hatchard was beginning to think of giving first aid to the wounded. Then she heard him coming slowly back along the passage. He entered the room, drying his wet hair on a hand-kerchief.
“I—I hope I didn’t hurt you—much?” said his wife.
Mr. Hatchard drew himself up and regarded her with lofty indignation.
“You might have killed me,” he said at last, in thrilling tones. “Then what would you have done?”
“Swept up the pieces, and said you came home injured and died in my arms,” said Mrs. Hatchard, glibly. “I don’t want to be unfeeling, but you’d try the temper of a saint. I’m sure I wonder I haven’t done it before. Why I married a stingy man I don’t know.”
“Why I married at all I don’t know,” said her husband, in a deep voice.
“We were both fools,” said Mrs. Hatchard, in a resigned voice; “that’s what it was. However, it can’t be helped now.”
“Some men would go and leave you,” said Mr. Hatchard.
“Well, go,” said his wife, bridling. “I don’t want you.”
“Don’t talk nonsense,” said the other.
“It ain’t nonsense,” said Mrs. Hatchard. “If you want to go, go. I don’t want to keep you.”
“I only wish I could,” said her husband, wistfully.
“There’s the door,” said Mrs. Hatchard, pointing. “What’s to prevent you?”
“And have you going to the magistrate?” observed Mr. Hatchard.
“Not me,” was the reply.
“Or coming up, full of complaints, to the ware-house?”
“Not me,” said his wife again.
“It makes my mouth water to think of it,” said Mr. Hatchard. “Four years ago I hadn’t a care in the world.”
“Me neither,” said Mrs. Hatchard; “but then I never thought I should marry you. I remember the first time I saw you I had to stuff my handkerchief in my mouth.”
“What for?” inquired Mr. Hatchard.
“Keep from laughing,” was the reply.
“You took care not to let me see you laugh,” said Mr. Hatchard, grimly. “You were polite enough in them days. I only wish I could have my time over again; that’s all.”
“You can go, as I said before,” said his wife.
“I’d go this minute,” said Mr. Hatchard, “but I know what it ’ud be: in three or four days you’d be coming and begging me to take you back again.”
“You try me,” said Mrs. Hatchard, with a hard laugh. “I can keep myself. You leave me the furniture—most of it is mine—and I sha’n’t worry you again.”
“Mind!” said Mr. Hatchard, raising his hand with great solemnity. “If I go, I never come back again.”
“I’ll take care of that,” said his wife, equably. “You are far more likely to ask to come back than I am.”
Mr. Hatchard stood for some time in deep thought, and then, spurred on by a short, contemptuous laugh from his wife, went to the small passage and, putting on his overcoat and hat, stood in the parlor doorway regarding her.