“I didn’t see no envelope,” ses my missis. “This is all I found.”
Mrs. Smithers stepped on to the wharf and, taking ’old of my missis by the arm, led her away whispering. At the same moment the skipper walked across the deck and whispered to me.
“Wot d’ye mean by it?” he ses. “Wot d’ye mean by ’aving letters from Dorothy and not telling me about it?”
“I can’t help ’aving letters any more than you can,” I ses. “Now p’r’aps you’ll understand wot I meant by calling ’er a forward hussy.”
“Fancy ’er writing to you!” he ses, wrinkling ’is forehead. “Pph! She must be crazy.”
“P’r’aps it ain’t a gal at all,” I ses. “My belief is somebody is ’aving a game with us.”
“Don’t be a fool,” he ses. “I’d like to see the party as would make a fool of me like that. Just see ’im and get my ’ands on him. He wouldn’t want to play any more games.”
It was no good talking to ’im. He was ’arf crazy with temper. If I’d said the letter was meant for ’im he’d ’ave asked me wot I meant by opening it and getting ’im into more trouble with ’is missis, instead of giving it to ’im on the quiet. I just stood and suffered in silence, and thought wot a lot of ’arm eddication did for people.
“I want some money,” ses my missis, coming back at last with Mrs. Smithers.
That was the way she always talked when she’d got me in ’er power. She took two-and-tenpence—all I’d got—and then she ordered me to go and get a cab.
“Me and this lady are going to meet her,” she ses, sniffing at me.
“And tell her wot we think of ’er,” ses Mrs. Smithers, sniffing too.
“And wot we’ll do to ’er,” ses my missis.
I left ’em standing side by side, looking at the skipper as if ’e was a waxworks, while I went to find a cab. When I came back they was in the same persition, and ’e was smoking with ’is eyes shut.
They went off side by side in the cab, both of ’em sitting bolt-upright, and only turning their ’eads at the last moment to give us looks we didn’t want.
“I don’t wish her no ’arm,” ses the skipper, arter thinking for a long time. “Was that the fust letter you ’ad from ’er, Bill?”
“Fust and last,” I ses, grinding my teeth.
“I hope they won’t meet ’er, pore thing,” he ses.
“I’ve been married longer than wot you have,” I ses, “and I tell you one thing. It won’t make no difference to us whether they do or they don’t,” I ses.
And it didn’t.
“I’m the happiest man in the world,” said Mr. Farrer, in accents of dreamy tenderness.
Miss Ward sighed. “Wait till father comes in,” she said.
Mr. Farrer peered through the plants which formed a welcome screen to the window and listened with some uneasiness. He was waiting for the firm, springy step that should herald the approach of ex-Sergeant-Major Ward. A squeeze of Miss Ward’s hand renewed his courage.