Jack Nugent’s first idea on seeing a letter from his father asking him to meet him at Samson Wilks’s was to send as impolite a refusal as a strong sense of undutifulness and a not inapt pen could arrange, but the united remonstrances of the Kybird family made him waver.
“You go,” said Mr. Kybird, solemnly; “take the advice of a man wot’s seen life, and go. Who knows but wot he’s a thinking of doing something for you?”
“Startin’ of you in business or somethin’,” said Mrs. Kybird. “But if ’e tries to break it off between you and ’Melia I hope you know what to say.”
“He won’t do that,” said her husband.
“If he wants to see me,” said Mr. Nugent, “let him come here.”
“I wouldn’t ’ave ’im in my house,” retorted Mr. Kybird, quickly. “An Englishman’s ’ouse is his castle, and I won’t ’ave him in mine.”
“Why not, Dan’l,” asked his wife, “if the two families is to be connected?”
Mr. Kybird shook his head, and, catching her eye, winked at her with much significance.
“’Ave it your own way,” said Mrs. Kybird, who was always inclined to make concessions in minor matters. “’Ave it your own way, but don’t blame me, that’s all I ask.”
Urged on by his friends Mr. Nugent at last consented, and, in a reply to his father, agreed to meet him at the house of Mr. Wilks on Thursday evening. He was not free him-self from a slight curiosity as to the reasons which had made the captain unbend in so unusual a fashion.
Mr. Nathan Smith put in an appearance at six o’clock on the fatal evening. He was a short, slight man, with a clean-shaven face mapped with tiny wrinkles, and a pair of colourless eyes the blankness of whose expression defied research. In conversation, especially conversation of a diplomatic nature, Mr. Smith seemed to be looking through his opponent at something beyond, an uncomfortable habit which was a source of much discomfort to his victims.
“Here we are, then, Mr. Wilks,” he said, putting his head in the door and smiling at the agitated steward.
“Come in,” said Mr. Wilks, shortly.
Mr. Smith obliged. “Nice night outside,” he said, taking a chair; “clear over’ead. Wot a morning it ’ud be for a sail if we was only young enough. Is that terbacker in that canister there?”
The other pushed it towards him.
“If I was only young enough—and silly enough,” said the boarding-house master, producing a pipe with an unusually large bowl and slowly filling it, “there’s nothing I should enjoy more than a three years’ cruise. Nothing to do and everything of the best.”
“’Ave you made all the arrangements?” inquired Mr. Wilks, in a tone of cold superiority.
Mr. Smith glanced affectionately at a fish-bag of bulky appearance which stood on the floor between his feet. “All ready,” he said, cheerfully, an’ if you’d like a v’y’ge yourself I can manage it for you in two twos. You’ve on’y got to say the word.”