“And to mine,” Cai agreed.
“The cunning of it, too! He to take the prize from her under your nose and you standin’ by and lookin’ foolish. For, let alone the craft, they say Cap’n Hunken can handle a small boat to beat any man in this harbour. He cleared a whole prize-list out in Barbadoes, I’ve heard.”
“What, ’Bias? Don’t you be afraid. He can’t steer a small boat for nuts.”
“Dear me! Then I must have been misinformed, indeed.”
“You have been,” Cai assured him. “I reckon Mitchell can knock up a boat to give fits to anything of Wyatt’s; and if ’Bias—if Cap’n Hunken is countin’ on Wyatt to help him put the fool on me, it may happen he’ll learn better.”
“’Tis good to wear a bit of colour again,” said Mrs Bosenna on Regatta morning, as she stood before her glass pinning to her bodice a huge bow of red, white, and blue ribbons. “Black never did become me.”
“It becomes ye well enough, mistress, and ye know it,” contradicted Dinah.
“’Tis monotonous, anyway. I can’t see why we poor widow-women should be condemned to wear it for life.”
“You bain’t,” Dinah contradicted again, and added slily, “d’ye wish me to fetch witnesses?”
Her mistress, tittivating the ribbons, ignored the question. “I do think we might be allowed to wear colours now and again—say on Sundays. As it is, I dare say many will be pickin’ holes in my character, even for this little outbreak.”
“There’s a notion, now! Why, ’tis Queen Victory’s Year—and a pretty business if one widow mayn’t pay her respects to another!”
“It do always seem strange to me,” Mrs Bosenna mused.
“Why, that the Queen should be a widow, same as any one else.”
“Low fever,” said Dinah. “And I’ve always heard as the Prince Consort had a delicate constitution.”
“It happened before I was born,” said Mrs Bosenna vaguely. “Think o’ that, now! . . . And yet ‘twasn’t the widowin’ I meant so much as the marryin’. I can’t manage to connect it in my mind with folks so high up in the world as Kings and Queens. ’Tis so intimate.”
“You may bet Providence tempers it to ’em somehow,” opined Dinah. “If they didn’ have families, what’d become o’ English history?”
If any tongues wagged against Mrs Bosenna for wearing the patriotic colours that day, they were not heard in the holiday crowd at the Passage Slip when, with nicely calculated unpunctuality, she arrived, at 11.32 (the time appointed having been 11.15), to be conveyed on board the Committee vessel. (It should be explained here that the aquatic half of Troy’s Passage Regatta is compressed within the forenoon: at midday Troy dines, and even on holidays observes Greenwich time for that event. Moreover, the afternoon sports of bicycle racing, steeplechasing, polo-bending, &c., were preluded in those days—before an electric-power station worked the haulage on the jetties—by a procession of huge horses, highly groomed and bedecked with ribbons: and this procession, starting at 1 P.M., allowed the avid holiday-keeper small margin for dallying over his meal.)