So ’Bias, the five shillings handed over, went his way; relieved of one burden, but not of the main one.
“Well, if I ever!” echoed Dinah, returning to the kitchen at Rilla. “If that wasn’t a masterpiece, and no mistake!”
“Is the bird gone?” asked her mistress. “Then you might fry me a couple of sausages and lay breakfast in the parlour.”
Dinah sighed. “’Tis lovely,” she said, “to be able to play the fool with men . . . ’tis lovely, and ’tis what women were made for. But ’tis wasteful o’ chances all the same. There goes two that’ll never come back.”
“You leave that to me,” said Mrs Bosenna, who had dried her eyes. “Joke or no, you’ll admit I paid them out for it. Now don’t you fall into sentiments, but attend to prickin’ the sausages. You know I hate a burst sausage.”
It is possible—though not, perhaps, likely—that had Cai obeyed his first impulse and pursued ’Bias down the valley, to overtake him, the two friends might after a few hot words have found reconciliation, or at least have patched up an honourable truce. As it was, ’Bias carried home a bitter sense of betrayal, supposing that he had left Cai master of the field. He informed Mrs Bowldler that he would dine and sup alone.
“Which the joint to-day is a goose,” protested that lady; “and one more difficult to halve at short notice I don’t know, for my part.”
“You must do the best you can.” He vouchsafed no other reply.
Mrs Bowldler considered this problem all the rest of the morning. “Palmerston,” she asked, as she opened the oven door to baste the bird, “supposin’ you were asked to halve a roast goose, how would you begin?”
“I’d say I wouldn’t,” answered Palmerston on brief reflection.
“But supposin’ you had to?”
Palmerston reflected for many seconds. “I’d start by gettin’ my knee on it,” he decided.
Mrs Bowldler, albeit much vexed in mind, deferred solving the problem, and was rewarded with good luck as procrastinators too often are in this world.
Dinner-time arrived, but Captain Hocken did not. She served the goose whole and carried it in to Captain Hunken.
“Eh?” said ’Bias, as she removed the cover. “What about—about Cap’n Hocken?”
“He have not arrove.”
‘Bias ground his teeth. “Havin’ dinner with her!” he told himself, and fell to work savagely to carve his solitary portion.
Having satisfied his appetite, he lit a pipe and smoked. But tobacco brought no solace, no charitable thoughts. While, as a matter of fact, Cai tramped the highroads, mile after mile, striving to deaden the pain at his heart, ’Bias sat puffing and let his wrath harden down into a fixed mould of resentment.