“Headache?” repeated the astonished Miss Drewitt. “When did he go?”
“About ’arf an hour ago,” said Mr. Tasker; “just after the storm. I suppose that’s what caused it, though it seems funny, considering what a lot he must ha’ seen at sea. He said he’d go straight to bed and try and sleep it off. And I was to ask you to please not to make a noise.”
Miss Drewitt swept past him and mounted the stairs. At the captain’s door she paused, but the loud snoring of a determined man made her resolve to postpone her demands for an explanation to a more fitting opportunity. Tired, wet, and angry she gained her own room, and threw herself thoughtlessly into that famous old Chippendale chair which, in accordance with Mr. Tredgold’s instructions, had been placed against the wall.
The captain started in his sleep.
[Illustration: “She threw herself thoughtlessly into that famous old Chippendale chair.”]
Mr. Chalk’s anxiety during the negotiations for the purchase of the Fair Emily kept him oscillating between Tredgold and Stobell until those gentlemen fled at his approach and instructed their retainers to make untruthful statements as to their whereabouts. Daily letters from Captain Brisket stated that he was still haggling with Mr. Todd over the price, and Mr. Chalk quailed as he tried to picture the scene with that doughty champion.
[Illustration: “Instructed their retainers to make untruthful statements as to their whereabouts.”]
Three times at the earnest instigation of his friends, who pointed out the necessity of keeping up appearances, had he set out to pay a visit to Dialstone Lane, and three times had he turned back half-way as he realized the difficult nature of his task. As well ask a poacher to call on a gamekeeper the morning after a raid.
Captain Bowers, anxious to see him and sound him with a few carefully-prepared questions, noted his continued absence with regret. Despairing at last of a visit from Mr. Chalk, he resolved to pay one himself.
Mr. Chalk, who was listening to his wife, rose hastily at his entrance, and in great confusion invited him to a chair which was already occupied by Mrs. Chalk’s work-basket. The captain took another and, after listening to an incoherent statement about the weather, shook his head reproachfully at Mr. Chalk.
“I thought something must have happened to you,” he said. “Why, it must be weeks since I’ve seen you.”
“Weeks?” said Mrs. Chalk, suddenly alert.
“Why, he went out the day before yesterday to call on you.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Chalk, with an effort,” so I did, but half-way to yours I got a nail in my shoe and had to come home.”
“Home!” exclaimed his wife. “Why, you were gone two hours and thirty-five minutes.”
“It was very painful,” said Mr. Chalk, as the captain stared in open-eyed astonishment at this exact time-keeping. “One time I thought that I should hardly have got back.”