“So will Mrs. Stobell,” said that lady’s proprietor, “but she won’t.”
“She mustn’t hear of it till the last moment,” said Tredgold, dictatorially; “the quieter we keep the whole thing the better. You’re not to divulge a word of the cruise to anybody. When it does leak out it must be understood we are just going for a little pleasure jaunt. Mind, you’ve sworn to keep the whole affair secret.”
Mr. Chalk screwed up his features in anxious perplexity, but made no comment.
“The weather’s fine,” continued Tredgold, “and there’s nothing gained by delay. On Wednesday we’ll take the train to Biddlecombe and have a look round. My idea is to buy a small, stout sailing-craft second-hand; ship a crew ostensibly for a pleasure trip, and sail as soon as possible.”
Mr. Chalk’s face brightened. “And we’ll take some beads, and guns, and looking-glasses, and trade with the natives in the different islands we pass,” he said, cheerfully. “We may as well see something of the world while we’re about it.”
Mr. Tredgold smiled indulgently and said they would see. Messrs. Stobell and Chalk, after a final glance at the map and a final perusal of the instructions at the back, took their departure.
“It’s like a dream,” said the latter gentleman, as they walked down the High Street.
“That Vickers girl ud like more dreams o’ the same sort,” said Mr. Stobell, as he thrust his hand in his empty pocket.
“It’s all very well for you,” continued Mr. Chalk, uneasily. “But my wife is sure to insist upon coming.”
Mr. Stobell sniffed. “I’ve got a wife too,” he remarked.
“Yes,” said Mr. Chalk, in a burst of unwonted frankness, “but it ain’t quite the same thing. I’ve got a wife and Mrs. Stobell has got a husband—that’s the difference.”
Mr. Stobell pondered this remark for the rest of the way home. He came to the conclusion that the events of the evening had made Mr. Chalk a little light-headed.
Until he stood on the platform on Wednesday morning with his brother adventurers Mr. Chalk passed the time in a state of nervous excitement, which only tended to confirm his wife in her suspicions of his behaviour. Without any preliminaries he would burst out suddenly into snatches of sea-songs, the “Bay of Biscay” being an especial favourite, until Mrs. Chalk thought fit to observe that, “if the thunder did roar like that she should not be afraid of it.” Ever sensitive to a fault, Mr. Chalk fell back upon “Tom Bowling,” which he thought free from openings of that sort, until Mrs. Chalk, after commenting upon the inability of the late Mr. Bowling to hear the tempest’s howling, indulged in idle speculations as to what he would have thought of Mr. Chalk’s. Tredgold and Stobell bought papers on the station, but Mr. Chalk was in too exalted a mood for reading. The bustle and life as the train became due were admirably attuned to his feelings, and when it drew up and they embarked, to the clatter of milk-cans and the rumbling of trolleys, he was beaming with satisfaction.