“I might, ma’am,” answered Mr Philp solemnly. “I don’t doubt it, ma’am. But as a matter of fact I have just come from a funeral.”
“Oh! . . . I—I beg your pardon—I didn’t know—”
“There’s no call to apologise, ma’am. . . . The deceased was not a relative. A farm-servant, ma’am—female—at the far end of the parish: Tuckworthy’s farm, to be precise: and the woman, Sarah Jane Collins by name. Probably you didn’t know her. No more did I except by sight: but a very respectable woman—a case of Bright’s disease. In the midst of life we are in death, and, much as I enjoy Passage Regatta—”
“You have missed it then?”
“The woman had saved money, ma’am. There was a walled grave, by request.” Mr Philp sighed over this remembered consolation. “She could not help it clashin’, poor soul.”
“And you may or may not have noticed it, ma’am, but when a man sets duty before pleasure, often as not he gets rewarded. Comin’ back along the town before the streets filled, I picked up a piece o’ news, and hurried along with it. I reckoned it might be of interest if I could reach here ahead of ‘God Save the Queen.’”
“Gracious! What has happened?” Mrs Bosenna clasped her hands. Indeed Mr Philp, big with his news and important, had somehow contrived to overawe everyone on deck.
“The news is,” he announced slowly, “that the Saltypool has gone down, within fifty miles of Philadelphia. Crew saved in the boats. Cable reached Mr Rogers at eleven o’clock, and”—he paused impressively, “there and then Rogers had a second stroke. Point o’ death, they say.”
Above the sympathetic murmur of Mr Philp’s audience there broke, on the instant, a gasping cry—followed by a yet more terrible sound, as of one in the last agony of strangulation.
All turned, as Palmerston—dashing forward between the music-stands of the band and scattering them to right and left—flung himself between Cai and ’Bias at their very feet.
“Masters—masters! I’ve a-swallowed the stakes!”
FANCY BRINGS NEWS.
“Which,” Mrs Bowldler reported to Fancy, who had left her master’s sick-bed to pay a fleeting visit to Palmerston’s, “the treatment was drastic for a growin’ child. First of all Mrs Bosenna, that never had a child of her own, sent down to the cabin for the mustard that had been left over from the Sailin’ Committee’s sangwidges, and mixed up a drink with it and a little cold water. Which the results was nil; that is to say, pecuniarily speakin’. Then somebody fetched along Mr Clogg the vet. from Tregarrick, that had come over for the day to judge the horses, and he said as plain salt-and-water was worth all the mustard in the world, so they made the poor boy swallow the best part of a pint, and he brought up eighteenpence.”