She set down her teacup and looked up at him. She was beginning to think him a fairly safe and well-behaved man, although she would have been more comfortable if he had been shut in a cage.
“If I had a pair o’ skates,” said she, faintly, with a look of inquiry at her sister, “I dunno but I’d try ’em.”
Miss Letitia began to laugh silently.
“I’d begin with overshoes,” said the teacher, “A pair of overshoes and a walk on the crust every morning before breakfast; increase the dose gradually.”
The two old maids were now more at ease with their guest. His kindly manner and plentiful good spirits had begun to warm and cheer them. Miss S’mantha even cherished a secret resolve to slide if the chance came.
After tea Sidney Trove, against their protest, began to help with the dishes. Miss S’mantha prudently managed to keep the stove between him and her. A fire and candles were burning in the parlour. He asked permission, however, to stay where he could talk with them. Tunk Hosely, the man of all work, came in for his supper. He was an odd character. Some, with a finger on their foreheads, confided the opinion that he was “a little off.” All agreed he was no fool—in a tone that left it open to argument. He had a small figure and a big squint. His perpetual squint and bristly, short beard were a great injustice to him. They gave him a look severer than he deserved. A limp and leaning shoulder complete the inventory of external traits. Having eaten, he set a candle in the old barn lantern.
“Wal, mister,” said he, when all was ready, “come out an’ look at my hoss.”
The teacher went with him out under a sky bright with stars to the chill and gloomy stable.
“Look at me,” said Tunk, holding up the lantern as he turned about. “Gosh all fish-hooks! I’m a wreck.”
“What’s the matter?” Sidney Trove inquired.
“All sunk in—right here,” Tunk answered impressively, his hand to his chest.
“How did it happen?”
“Kicked by a boss; that’s how it happened,” was the significant answer. “Lord! I’m all shucked over t’ one side—can’t ye see it?”
“A list t’ sta’b’rd—that’s what they call it, I believe,” said the teacher.
“See how I limp,” Tunk went on, striding to show his pace. “Ain’t it awful!”
“How did that happen?”
“Sprung my ex!” he answered, turning quickly with a significant look. “Thrown from a sulky in a hoss race an’ sprung my ex. Lord! can’t ye see it?”
The teacher nodded, not knowing quite how to take him.
“Had my knee unsot, too,” he went on, lifting his knee as he turned the light upon it. “Jes’ put yer finger there,” said he, indicating a slight protuberance. “Lord! it’s big as a bog spavin.”
He had planned to provoke a query, and it came.
“How did you get it?”
“Kicked ag’in,” said Tunk, sadly. “Heavens! I’ve had my share o’ bangin’. Can’t conquer a skittish hoss without sufferin’ some—not allwus. Now, here’s a boss,” he added, as they walked to a stall. “He ain’t much t’ look at, but—”