She glanced at her glass, and turned about sharply.
“Dinah, you designing woman! I believe you slipped that box into his pocket? Yes, when you pretended that his coat wanted brushing,—I saw you!”
As they departed and went their way down the coombe, a constrained silence fell between the two friends. Nor did either break it until they came again in sight of the railway station.
“I don’t altogether like the air in this valley,” announced ’Bias.
“It is a trifle close, now you mention it,” Cai agreed.
“Nor I don’t altogether cotton to the valley, neither. Pretty enough, you may say; but it gives you a feelin’—like as if you didn’t know what was goin’ to happen next.”
“Places do have that effect with some,” Cai assented again, but more dejectedly. Horrid apprehension—if ’Bias should extend his dislike to Troy itself!
“I’m feeling better already,” ’Bias continued, answering and allaying this unspoken fear. “Is that the gasworks yonder?”
“Yes. The real scenery’s at the other end o’ the town.”
“The smell’s healthy, they tell me.” ’Bias halted in the roadway, and casting back his head took a long stare up at the gasometer. “You mustn’ hurry me,” he said, “I’ve got to enjoy everything.”
“No hurry at all,” said Cai, from whose heart the words lifted a burden at least as heavy as the musical box under his arm. “Hullo! here’s Bill Tregaskis with his missus! . . . Evenin’, William—good evenin’, ma’am!” Captain Cai pulled off his hat. “I hope you find your husband none the worse for the voyage?—though, to be sure, ‘tisn’ fair on him nor on any seamen, the way some folks reproaches us when we get back home.”
Mrs Tregaskis dropped a curtsey. “But be sure, sir—what reproaches?”
“Your looks, ma’am—your looks, if I may say so! . . . William married you soon as he could, I’ll wager; but, to be fair, that should ha’ been ten years afore you married him.”
“La, sir!” answered Mrs Tregaskis blushing. “I wonder you never married, yourself—you talk such nonsense! But you’re in spirits to-day, as any one can see.” She glanced at the broad back of Captain Tobias, who stood a few paces away, with legs planted wide and gaze still wrapped in contemplation of the gasometer. “Makin’ so bold, sir, is that your friend we’ve heard tell so much about?”
“It is, ma’am,” Captain Cai turned about to call up ’Bias to be introduced, when Mr Tregaskis gently checked him, laying a hand on the musical box.
“I didn’ think it worth mentionin’ at the time, sir; but these instruments aren’t intended for carryin’ about.”
“No, no,” Captain Cai agreed hastily. “Here, ‘Bias! Look around an’ see who’s the first to welcome ye! Tregaskis, of all men! And this here’s his missus.”