“What in the world’s happened?” demanded Fancy the first to arrive.
“There was a man!” Mrs Bowldler ran her eyes over her protectors and turned them, with a slow shudder, towards the window. “I seen him distinctly. It sent my blood all of a cream.”
“A man? What was he doing?” they asked.
“He was a-looking in boldly through the window . . .” Mrs Bowldler covered her face with her hands.
“Well?” Fancy prompted her impatiently, while Captain Cai stepped out to the front door in quest of the apparition.
“He had on a great black hat. I thought ’twas Death itself come after me!”
While Mrs Bowldler paused to take breath and record her further emotions, Captain Cai, reaching the front door, threw it open, looked out into the roadway, and recoiled with a start. Close on his right a man in black stood peering, as Mrs Bowldler had described, but now into the drawing-room window; shielding, for a better view, the brim of a tall hat which Captain Cai recognised with an exclamation—
Mr Philp withdrew his gaze, turned about and nodded without embarrassment.
“Good evenin’, Cap’n. Friend arrived?”
“Funny way to behave, isn’t it?” asked Captain Cai with sternness. “Pokin’ an’ pryin’ in at somebody else’s windows—what makes ye do it?”
“I was curious to know what might be goin’ on inside.”
There was a finality about this which held Captain Cai gravelled for a moment. It hardly seemed to admit of a reply. At length he said—
“Well, you’ve frightened a woman into hysterics by it, if that’s any consolation.”
“There, now! Mrs Bosenna?”
“No, it was not Mrs Bosenna. . . . By the way, that reminds me. I’ve changed my mind over that hat.”
“I find I’ve a use for it, after all.”
But at this moment ’Bias appeared in the doorway behind him.
“Seen anything?” demanded ’Bias.
“Interduce me,” said Mr Philp with majestic calm.
Captain Cai, caught in this act of secret traffic, blushed in his confusion, but obeyed.
“’Bias,” said he, “this is the gentleman that caused the mischief inside. His name’s Philp, and he’d like to make your acquaintance.”
It was August, and the weather for weeks had been superb. It was also the week of Troy’s annual regatta, and a whole fleet of yachts lay anchored in the little harbour, getting ready their riding lights. Two or three belated ones—like large white moths in the grey offing— had yet to make the rendezvous, and were creeping towards it with all canvas piled: for the wind—light and variable all day—had now at sunset dropped almost to a flat calm.