“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.
“I feel that I can smell the sea already,” he remarked.
Mr. Stobell put down his paper and sniffed; then he resumed it again and, meeting Mr. Tredgold’s eye over the top of it, sniffed more loudly than before.
“Have you told Edward that you are going to sea?” inquired Mr. Chalk, leaning over to Tredgold.
“Certainly not,” was the reply; “I don’t want anybody to know till the last possible moment. You haven’t given your wife any hint as to why you are going to Biddlecombe to-day, have you?”
Mr. Chalk shook his head. “I told her that you had got business there, and that I was going with you just for the outing,” he said. “What she’ll say when she finds out—”
His imagination failed him and, a prey to forebodings, he tried to divert his mind by looking out of window. His countenance cleared as they neared Biddlecombe, and, the line running for some distance by the side of the river, he amused himself by gazing at various small craft left high and dry by the tide.