“Don’t you speak to me,” said his wife, drawing closer to her mother, “because I won’t answer you.”
Mr. Boxer laughed, bitterly. “This is a nice home-coming,” he remarked.
He fell to the rear again and walked along raging, his temper by no means being improved by observing that Mrs. Thompson, doubtless with a firm belief in the saying that “Evil communications corrupt good manners,” kept a tight hold of her husband’s arm. His position as an outcast was clearly defined, and he ground his teeth with rage as he observed the virtuous uprightness of Mrs. Gimpson’s back. By the time they reached home he was in a spirit of mad recklessness far in advance of the character given him by the astrologer.
His wife gazed at him with a look of such strong interrogation as he was about to follow her into the house that he paused with his foot on the step and eyed her dumbly.
“Have you left anything inside that you want?” she inquired.
[Illustration: “‘Have you left anything inside that you want?’ she inquired.”]
Mr. Boxer shook his head. “I only wanted to come in and make a clean breast of it,” he said, in a curious voice; “then I’ll go.”
Mrs. Gimpson stood aside to let him pass, and Mr. Thompson, not to be denied, followed close behind with his faintly protesting wife. They sat down in a row against the wall, and Mr. Boxer, sitting opposite in a hang-dog fashion, eyed them with scornful wrath.
“Well?” said Mrs. Boxer, at last.
“All that he said was quite true,” said her husband, defiantly. “The only thing is, he didn’t tell the arf of it. Altogether, I married three dusky maidens.”
Everybody but Mr. Thompson shuddered with horror.
“Then I married a white girl in Australia,” pursued Mr. Boxer, musingly. “I wonder old Silver didn’t see that in the bowl; not arf a fortune-teller, I call ’im.”
“What they see in ’im!” whispered the astounded Mr. Thompson to his wife.
“And did you marry the beautiful girl in the photograph?” demanded Mrs. Boxer, in trembling accents.
“I did,” said her husband.
“Hussy,” cried Mrs. Boxer.
“I married her,” said Mr. Boxer, considering—“I married her at Camberwell, in eighteen ninety-three.”
“Eighteen ninety-three!” said his wife, in a startled voice. “But you couldn’t. Why, you didn’t marry me till eighteen ninety-four.”
“What’s that got to do with it?” inquired the monster, calmly.
Mrs. Boxer, pale as ashes, rose from her seat and stood gazing at him with horror-struck eyes, trying in vain to speak.
“You villain!” cried Mrs. Gimpson, violently. “I always distrusted you.”
[Illustration: “‘You villain!’ cried Mrs. Gimpson, violently. ’I always distrusted you.’”]
“I know you did,” said Mr. Boxer, calmly. “You’ve been committing bigamy,” cried Mrs. Gimpson.