Mr. Wilks obeyed, and again thanking him warmly for his invaluable services sat down to compile a few facts about his newly acquired wife, warranted to stand the severest cross-examination which might be brought to bear upon them, a task interspersed with malicious reminiscences of Mrs. Silk’s attacks on his liberty. He also insisted on giving up his bed to Nugent for the night.
“I suppose,” he said later on, as Mr. Nugent, after a faint objection or two, took his candle—“I suppose this yarn about my being married will get about?”
“I suppose so,” said Nugent, yawning, as he paused with his foot on the stair. “What about it?”
“Nothing,” said Mr. Wilks, in a somewhat dissatisfied voice. “Nothing.”
“What about it?” repeated Mr. Nugent, sternly.
“Nothing, sir,” said Mr. Wilks, with an insufferable simper. “Nothing, only it’ll make things a little hit slow for me, that’s all.”
Mr. Nugent eyed him for a space in speechless amazement, and then, with a few strong remarks on ingratitude and senile vanity, mounted the winding little stairs and went to bed.
The day after Mr. Silk’s sudden and unexpected assertion of his marital rights Mr. Kybird stood in the doorway of his shop, basking in the sun. The High Street was in a state of post-prandial repose, and there was no likelihood of a customer to interfere with his confidential chat with Mr. Nathan Smith, who was listening with an aspect of great severity to his explanations.
“It ought not to ’ave happened,” he said, sharply. “It was Teddy done it,” said Mr. Kybird, humbly.
[Illustration: “‘It was Teddy done it,’ said Mr. Kybird, humbly.”]
Mr. Smith shrugged his shoulders. “It wouldn’t ’ave happened if I’d been there,” he observed, arrogantly.
“I don’t see ’ow” began Mr. Kybird.
“No, o’ course you don’t,” said his friend. “Still, it’s no use making a fuss now. The thing is done. One thing is, I don’t suppose it’ll make any diff——”
“Difference,” suggested Mr. Kybird, after waiting for him to finish.
“Difference,” said Mr. Smith, with an obvious effort. His face had lost its scornful expression and given way to one almost sheepish in its mildness. Mr. Kybird, staring at him in some surprise, even thought that he detected a faint shade of pink.
“We ain’t all as clever as wot you are, Nat,” he said, somewhat taken aback at this phenomenon. “It wouldn’t do.”
Mr. Smith made a strange noise in his throat and turned on him sharply. Mr. Kybird, still staring in surprise at his unwonted behaviour, drew back a little, and then his lips parted and his eyes grew round as he saw the cause of his friend’s concern. An elderly gentleman with a neatly trimmed white beard and a yellow rose in his button-hole was just passing on the other side of the road. His tread was elastic, his figure as upright as a boy’s, and he swung a light cane in his hand as he walked. As Mr. Kybird gazed he bestowed a brisk nod upon the bewildered Mr. Smith, and crossed the road with the evident intention of speaking to him.