“Over and over agin,” assented Mr. Boxer, cheerfully. “It’s got to be a ’obby with me.”
“Was the first wife alive when you married my daughter?” demanded Mrs. Gimpson.
“Alive?” said Mr. Boxer. “O’ course she was. She’s alive now—bless her.”
He leaned back in his chair and regarded with intense satisfaction the horrified faces of the group in front.
“You—you’ll go to jail for this,” cried Mrs. Gimpson, breathlessly. “What is your first wife’s address?”
“I decline to answer that question,” said her son-in-law.
“What is your first wife’s address?” repeated Mrs. Gimpson.
“Ask the fortune-teller,” said Mr. Boxer, with an aggravating smile. “And then get ’im up in the box as a witness, little bowl and all. He can tell you more than I can.”
“I demand to know her name and address,” cried Mrs. Gimpson, putting a bony arm around the waist of the trembling Mrs. Boxer.
“I decline to give it,” said Mr. Boxer, with great relish. “It ain’t likely I’m going to give myself away like that; besides, it’s agin the law for a man to criminate himself. You go on and start your bigamy case, and call old red-eyes as a witness.”
Mrs. Gimpson gazed at him in speechless wrath and then stooping down conversed in excited whispers with Mrs. Thompson. Mrs. Boxer crossed over to her husband.
“Oh, John,” she wailed, “say it isn’t true, say it isn’t true.”
Mr. Boxer hesitated. “What’s the good o’ me saying anything?” he said, doggedly.
“It isn’t true,” persisted his wife. “Say it isn’t true.”
“What I told you when I first came in this evening was quite true,” said her husband, slowly. “And what I’ve just told you is as true as what that lying old fortune-teller told you. You can please yourself what you believe.”
“I believe you, John,” said his wife, humbly.
Mr. Boxer’s countenance cleared and he drew her on to his knee.
“That’s right,” he said, cheerfully. “So long as you believe in me I don’t care what other people think. And before I’m much older I’ll find out how that old rascal got to know the names of the ships I was aboard. Seems to me somebody’s been talking.”
Venia Turnbull in a quiet, unobtrusive fashion was enjoying herself. The cool living-room at Turnbull’s farm was a delightful contrast to the hot sunshine without, and the drowsy humming of bees floating in at the open window was charged with hints of slumber to the middle-aged. From her seat by the window she watched with amused interest the efforts of her father—kept from his Sunday afternoon nap by the assiduous attentions of her two admirers—to maintain his politeness.
“Father was so pleased to see you both come in,” she said, softly; “it’s very dull for him here of an afternoon with only me.”