Once Aboard the Lugger Part 17

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She gave him no answer.

Bob Chater discarded the laugh from his tone. "If you are angry, I'm very sorry. You must have known I was only fooling. It was only to make the kids laugh."

So far as was possible she kept her back to him.

The continued slight p.r.i.c.ked him. His voice hardened. "When I have the grace to apologise, I think you might have the grace to accept it."

Mary said in low tones: "If you meant only to make them laugh, of course I believe you. It is all right."

"Good. Well, now, may I see them tubbed?"

"I have told you I would rather not."

"Dash it all, Miss Humfray, you're rather unkind, aren't, you? Here have I been away nearly two years--I've been travelling on the Continent for the firm-you know that, don't you?"

She said she had heard Mr. and Mrs. Chater talking of it.

"Well, and yet you won't let me come near my darling little sister and my sweet little brother to tell 'em all about it?"

"But I'm not keeping you from them, Mr. Chater. You have had plenty of time."

"Time! Why, I only got back yesterday!"

"You have been in here this afternoon."

"Ah, they were shy. They're better when you are here."

She had finished her task, and she turned to him. "Mr. Chater, you know I could not keep David and Angela from you even if I dreamed of doing such a thing. Only, I say I would rather you did not come in while I bath them, that is all."

"Yes, but why?"

"Mrs. Chater would not like it for one thing, I feel sure."

"Oh, that's all rot. Mother wouldn't mind--anyway, I do as I like in this house."

From all she had heard of Mrs. Chater's beloved Bob, Mary guessed this to be true. Long prior to his arrival she had been prejudiced against him; acquaintance emphasised the prophetic impression.

"Another night, then," she said.

He felt he was winning. No girl withstood him long.

"No, to-night. Another thing--I want to know you better. This arrangement is all new to me. There was a nurse here in your place when I went. I've hardly spoken to you. Have you ever been abroad?"


"Well, I'll tell you--and the kids--some of my adventures while you're tubbing 'em. Lead on."

She was at the night-nursery door. Evidently this man would not see her conventional reason for not wis.h.i.+ng him at the tubbing. Angela had grown a biggish girl since he went away.

She said, "Please not to-night."

"I'm jolly well coming," he chuckled.

The lesson of dependence was wilfully forgotten. Mary agreed with Angela and David: she hated this Bob.

"No," she said sharply, "you are not."

He had thrown his cigar into the grate; taken out another; stooped to the hearth to scratch a match. His back was to her; to him all her tone conveyed was that a "rag" was on hand.

"We'll see," he laughed; struck the match.

She stepped swiftly within the door; closed it.

Bob Chater laughed again; ran across.

The lock clicked as she turned the key.

"Let me in!" he cried, rattling the handle. "Let me in!"

The splash of water answered him.

He thumped the panel. "Open the door!"

"Now, Angela," he heard her say, "quick as lightning with that chimmy."

Bob's face darkened; he d.a.m.ned beneath his breath. Then with a laugh he turned away. "I'm going to have some fun with that girl," he told himself; and on the way downstairs, her pretty face and figure in his mind, pleased himself with vicious antic.i.p.ation.


Excursions At A Dinner-Table.


Two distressing reasons combined to compel Mrs. Chater to give Mary place at the evening meal. There was the aggravating fact that mothers'-helps, just as if they were ordinary people, must be fed; there was also the contingency that servants most strongly objected to serving a special meal--even "on a tray"--to one who was not of the family, yet who had airs above the kitchen.

Except, then, when there were guests Miss Humfray must be accommodated at late dinner. Mrs. Chater considered it annoying, yet found in it certain comfortable advantages--as sympathy from friends: "Mustn't it be rather awkward sometimes, Mrs. Chater?" A plaintive shrug would ill.u.s.trate the answer: "Well, it is, of course, very awkward sometimes; but one must put up with it. That cla.s.s of person takes offence so easily, you know; and I always try to treat my lady-helps as well as possible." "I'm sure you do, Mrs. Chater. How grateful they should be!" And this time a sad little laugh would ill.u.s.trate: "Oh, one hardly expects grat.i.tude nowadays, does one?"

Mary at dinner must observe certain rules, however. Certain dishes--a little out of season, perhaps, or cla.s.sed as luxuries--were borne triumphantly past her by a glad parlour-maid acting upon a frown and a glance that Mrs. Chater signalled. Certain occasions, again, when private matters were to be discussed, were heralded by "Miss Humfray,"

in an inflexion of voice that set Mary to fold her napkin and from the room.

The girl greeted these early dismissals with considerable relief.

Dinner was to her a nightly ordeal whose atmosphere swept appet.i.te sky-high--took the savour from meats, dried the throat.

Once Aboard the Lugger Part 17

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Once Aboard the Lugger Part 17 summary

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