’Bias scratched his head.
“As for that, ma’am, I don’t see how we can oblige. There’s money on it—bets.”
“There won’t be money’s worth left in my field, at the rate you’re spoilin’ it.” She turned upon the two judges, who were advancing timidly to placate her, while the crowd hung back. “And now, Mr Nicholls—now, Mr Widger—I’d like to hear what you have to say to this!”
“’Tis a pretty old cauch, sure ’nough,” allowed Mr Sam Nicholls, pushing up the brim of his hat on one side and scratching his head while his eye travelled along the furrows. “Cruel!”
“And you permitted it! You, that might be supposed to have some knowledge o’ farmin’!”
“Why, to be sure, ma’am,” interposed Mr Widger, “we never reckoned as ’twould be so bad as all this. . . . Young Bill Crago came to us with word as how these—these two gentlemen—had made a match, and he asked us to do the judgin’ same as for the classes ’pon the bills—”
“And so you started them? And then, I suppose, you couldn’t stop for laughin’?”
“Something like that, ma’am, as you say,” Mr Widger confessed.
“And what sort o’ speech will you make, down to County Council, when I send in my bill for damages?—you that complained to me, only this mornin’, how the rates were goin’ up by leaps and bounds! . . . As for these gentlemen,” said Mrs Bosenna, turning on Cai and ’Bias with just a twinkle of mischief in her eyes, “I shall be at home to-morrow morning if they choose to call and make me an offer—unless, o’ course, they prefer to do so by letter.”
At this, Dinah put up her hand suddenly to cover her mouth. But Cai and ’Bias were in no state of mind to catch the double innuendo.
Having thus reduced the judges to contrition, and having proceeded to call forward the local secretary and to extort from him a long and painful apology, Mrs Bosenna wound up with a threat to bundle the whole Demonstration out of her field if she heard of any further nonsense, and, taking Dinah’s arm, sailed off (so to speak) with all the trophies of war.
Cai and ’Bias walked away shamefacedly to seek out their bottleholders and collect each his hat, coat, and waistcoat.
“But which of ee’s won?” demanded their backers.
“Damn who’s won!” was ’Bias’s answer; and he looked too dangerous to be pressed further.
A wager is a wager, however; and the judges’ decision was clamoured for, with threats that, until it was given, the Agricultural Demonstration would not be suffered to proceed. Mr Sam Nicholls consulted hastily with Mr Widger, and announced the award as follows:—
“We consider Captain Hunken’s ploughin’ to be the very worst ploughin’ we’ve ever seen. But we award him the prize all the same, because we don’t consider Captain Hocken’s ploughin’ to be any ploughin’ at all.”
Solvuntur risu tabulae—They can laugh, too, at Troy!