“You come home with me,” said the captain, recovering.
The command was given in his most imperious manner, and his daughter dropped her muff in some resentment as she rose, in order to let him have the pleasure of seeing Mr. Hardy pick it up. It rolled, however, in his direction, and he stooped for it just as Hardy darted forward. Their heads met with a crash, and Miss Nugent forgot her own consternation in the joy of beholding the pitiable exhibition which terror made of Mr. Wilks.
“I’m very sorry,” said Hardy, as he reverently dusted the muff on his coat-sleeve before returning it. “I’m afraid it was my fault.”
“It was,” said the infuriated captain, as he held the door open for his daughter. “Now, Kate.”
Miss Nugent passed through, followed by her father, and escorted to the front door by the steward, whose faint “Good-night” was utterly ignored by his injured commander. He stood at the door until they had turned the corner, and, returning to the kitchen, found his remaining guest holding his aching head beneath the tap.
[Illustration: “He found his remaining guest holding his aching head beneath the tap.”]
“And now,” said the captain, sternly, to his daughter, “how dare you sit and talk to that young cub? Eh? How dare you?”
“He was there when I went in,” said his daughter. “Why didn’t you come out, then?” demanded her father.
“I was afraid of disturbing you and Sam,” said Miss Nugent. “Besides, why shouldn’t I speak to him?”
“Why?” shouted the captain. “Why? Because I won’t have it.”
“I thought you liked him,” said Miss Nugent, in affected surprise. “You patted him on the head.”
The captain, hardly able to believe his ears, came to an impressive stop in the roadway, but Miss Nugent walked on. She felt instinctively that the joke was thrown away on him, and, in the absence of any other audience, wanted to enjoy it without interruption. Convulsive and half-suppressed sounds, which she ascribed to a slight cold caught while waiting in the kitchen, escaped her at intervals for the remainder of the journey home.
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.”