Mrs. Chalk watched the schooner until it was a mere white speck on the horizon, a faint idea that it might yet see the error of its ways and return for her chaining her to the spot. Compelled at last to recognise the inevitable, she rose from the turf on which she had been sitting and, her face crimson with wrath, denounced husbands in general and her own in particular.
“It’s my husband’s doing, I’m sure,” said Mrs. Stobell, with a side glance at her friend’s attire, not entirely devoid of self-congratulation. “That’s why he wouldn’t let me have a yachting costume. I can see it now.”
Mrs. Chalk turned and eyed her with angry disdain.
“And that’s why he wouldn’t let me bring more than one box,” continued Mrs. Stobell, with the air of one to whom all things had been suddenly revealed; “and why he wouldn’t shut the house up. Oh, just fancy what a pickle I should have been in if I had! I must say it was thoughtful of him.”
“Thoughtful!” exclaimed Mrs. Chalk, in a choking voice.
“And I ought to have suspected something,” continued Mrs. Stobell, “because he kissed me this morning. I can see now that he meant it for goodbye! Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. Robert always does get his own way.”
“If you hadn’t persuaded me to come ashore for that wretched luncheon,” said Mrs. Chalk, in a deep voice, “we should have been all right.”
“I’m sure I wasn’t to know,” said her friend, “although I certainly thought it odd when Robert said that he had got it principally for you. I could see you were a little bit flattered.”
Mrs. Chalk, trembling with anger, sought in vain for a retort.
“Well, it’s no good staying here,” said Mrs. Stobell, philosophically. “We had better get home.”
“Home!” cried Mrs. Chalk, as a vision of her bare floors and dismantled walls rose before her. “When I think of the deceitfulness of those men, giving us champagne and talking about the long evenings on board, I don’t know what to do with myself. And your father was one of them,” she added, turning suddenly upon Edward.
Mr. Tredgold disowned his erring parent with some haste, and, being by this time rather tired of the proceedings, suggested that they should return to the inn and look up trains—a proposal to which Mrs. Chalk, after a final glance seawards, silently assented. With head erect she led the way down to the town again, her bearing being so impressive that George the waiter, who had been watching for them, after handing her a letter which had been entrusted to him, beat a precipitate retreat.
The letter, which was from Mr. Stobell, was short and to the point. It narrated the artifice by which Mr. Chalk had been lured away, and concluded with a general statement that women were out of place on shipboard. This, Mrs. Stobell declared, after perusing the letter, was intended for an apology.