“Not to ’ave it,” said Mr. Wilks; “put it ’ere.”
He thumped the table emphatically with his hand, and before her indignant son could interfere Mrs. Silk had obeyed. It was the last straw. Mr. Edward Silk rose to his feet with tremendous effect and, first thrusting his plate violently away from him, went out into the night, slamming the door behind him with such violence that the startled Mr. Wilks was nearly blown out of his chair.
“He don’t mean nothing,” said Mrs. Silk, turning a rather scared face to the steward. “’E’s a bit jealous of you, I s’pose.”
Mr. Wilks shook his head. Truth to tell, he was rather at a loss to know exactly what had happened.
“And then there’s ’is love affair,” sighed Mrs. Silk. “He’ll never get over the loss of Amelia Kybird. I always know when ’e ’as seen her, he’s that miserable there’s no getting a word out of ’im.”
Mr. Wilks smiled vaguely and went on with his supper, and, the meal finished, allowed himself to be installed in an easy-chair, while his hostess cleared the table. He sat and smoked in high good humour with himself, the occasional remarks he made being received with an enthusiasm which they seldom provoked elsewhere.
“I should like t’ sit ’ere all night,” he said, at last.
“I don’t believe it,” said Mrs. Silk, playfully.
“Like t’ sit ’ere all night,” repeated Mr. Wilks, somewhat sternly. “All nex’ day, all day after, day after that, day——”
Mrs. Silk eyed him softly. “Why would you like to sit here all that time?” she inquired, in a low voice.
“B’cause,” said Mr. Wilks, simply, “b’cause I don’t feel’s if I can stand. Goo’-night.”
He closed his eyes on the indignant Mrs. Silk and fell fast asleep. It was a sound sleep and dreamless, and only troubled by the occasional ineffectual attempts of his hostess to arouse him. She gave up the attempt at last, and taking up a pair of socks sat working thoughtfully the other side of the fire-place.
The steward awoke an hour or two later, and after what seemed a terrible struggle found himself standing at the open door with the cold night air blowing in his face, and a voice which by an effort of memory he identified as that of Edward Silk inviting him “to go home and lose no time about it.” Then the door slammed behind him and he stood balancing himself with some difficulty on the step, wondering what had happened. By the time he had walked up and down the deserted alley three or four times light was vouchsafed to him and, shivering slightly, he found his own door and went to bed.
Any hopes which Hardy might have entertained as to the attitude of Miss Nugent were dispelled the first time he saw her, that dutiful daughter of a strong-willed sire favouring him with a bow which was exactly half an inch in depth and then promptly bestowing her gaze elsewhere. He passed Captain Nugent next day, and for a week afterwards he had only to close his eyes to see in all its appalling virulence the glare with which that gentleman had acknowledged his attempt at recognition.