MRS BOSENNA GIVES THE ROSE.
“It’s a delicate thing to say to a woman,” suggested Cai; “’specially when she happens to be your land-lady.”
“You do the talkin’, of course,” said ’Bias hurriedly.
“Must I? Why?”
“Well, to begin with, you knew her first.”
“I don’t see as that signifies.”
“No? Well, you used to make quite a point of it, as I remember. But anyway you’re a speaker, and it’ll need some gift, as you say.”
They had reached the small gate at the foot of the path. The day was hot, the highroad dusty. Cai halted and removed his hat; drew out a handkerchief and wiped his brow; wiped the lining of the hat; wiped his neck inside the collar.
“There’s another way of lookin’ at it,” he ventured. “Some might say as ’twas more tactful to let your feelin’s cool off by degrees.”
“That’s no way for me,” said ’Bias positively. “Short and sharp’s our motto.”
“’Tis the best, no doubt,” Cai agreed. “But there’s the trouble of puttin’ it into words. . . . I wish, now, I’d thought of consultin’ Peter Benny. There’d be no harm, after all, in steppin’ back and askin’ his advice.”
“No, you don’t,” said ’Bias shortly. “In my belief, if we hadn’t made so free wi’ consultin’ Peter Benny in the past, we shouldn’t be where we be at this moment.”
If Cai’s thought might be read in his face, he would not have greatly minded that, just now.
“In the matter of these letters for instance—”
“I wonder if she ever got ’em?”
“You bet she did. She’s been playin’ us off, one against t’other, ever since.”
“We let our feelin’s carry us away.”
“We let Peter Benny’s feelin’s carry us away,” ’Bias corrected him. “That’s the worst of these writin’ chaps. Before you know where you are they’ll harrow you up with feelin’s you wasn’t aware you entertained. Now I don’t mind confessin’ that, afore Benny had started to make out a fair copy I found myself over head an’ ears in love with the woman.”
“Me too,” agreed Cai, musing.
“You’re sure you’re not any longer?”
“Eh? . . . Of course I am sure. I was only thinkin’ how queer it was he should have pumped it out of us, so to say, with the same letters— almost to a syllable.”
“There’s two ways o’ lookin’ at that,” said ’Bias thoughtfully. “You may put it that marryin’s as common as dirt. Nine out o’ ten indulges in it; and, that bein’ so, the same form o’ words’ll do for everybody, more or less, in proposin’ it; just as (when you come to think) the same Marriage Service does for all when they come to the scratch. If all men meant different to all women, there wouldn’t be enough dictionary to go round.”
Cai shook his head. “I’m the better of it now,” he confessed; “but I got to own that, at the moment, though Benny did well enough, there didn’t seem enough dictionary to go round.”