“We ought to have some new things for the kitchen,” she said one day.
“No money,” said Mr. Gribble, laconically.
“And a mat for the bathroom.”
Mr. Gribble got up and went out.
She had to go to him for everything. Two hundred a year and not a penny she could call her own! She consulted her heart, and that faithful organ responded with a bound that set her nerves quivering. If she could only screw her courage to the sticking-point the question would be settled for once and all.
White and trembling she sat at breakfast on the first of November, waiting for the postman, while the unconscious Mr. Gribble went on with his meal. The double-knocks down the road came nearer and nearer, and Mr. Gribble, wiping his mouth, sat upright with an air of alert and pleased interest. Rapid steps came to the front door, and a double bang followed.
“Always punctual,” said Mr. Gribble, good-humouredly.
His wife made no reply, but, taking a blue-crossed envelope from the maid in her shaking fingers, looked round for a knife. Her gaze encountered Mr. Gribble’s outstretched hand.
“After you,” he said sharply.
Mrs. Gribble found the knife, and, hacking tremulously at the envelope, peeped inside it and, with her gaze fastened on the window, fumbled for her pocket. She was so pale and shook so much that the words died away on her husband’s lips.
“You—you had better let me take care of that,” he said, at last.
“It is—all right,” gasped his wife.
She put her hand to her throat and, hardly able to believe in her victory, sat struggling for breath. Before her, grim and upright, her husband sat, a figure of helpless smouldering wrath.
“You might lose it,” he said, at last. “I sha’n’t lose it,” said his wife.
To avoid further argument, she arose and went slowly upstairs. Through the doorway Mr. Gribble saw her helping herself up by the banisters, her left hand still at her throat. Then he heard her moving slowly about in the bedroom overhead.
He took out his pipe and filled it mechanically, and was just holding a match to the tobacco when he paused and gazed with a puzzled air at the ceiling. “Blamed if it don’t sound like somebody dancing!” he growled.
“Wonderful improvement,” said Mr. Jack Mills. “Show ’em to me again.”
Mr. Simpson took his pipe from his mouth and, parting his lips, revealed his new teeth.
“And you talk better,” said Mr. Mills, taking his glass from the counter and emptying it; “you ain’t got that silly lisp you used to have. What does your missis think of ’em?”
“She hasn’t seen ’em yet,” said the other. “I had ’em put in at dinner-time. I ate my dinner with ’em.”
Mr. Mills expressed his admiration. “If it wasn’t for your white hair and whiskers you’d look thirty again,” he said, slowly. “How old are you?”