“There!” said she proudly. “That’s a tea, and the finest yet grown, to my mind. That’s the rose for this Diamond Jubilee, and white as a diamond. A proper royal Widow’s rose!”
“Is that its name?” asked Cai.
Mrs Bosenna laughed and plucked the bloom.
“On the contrary,” said she with a mischievous twitch of the mouth, “’tis called The Bride! There’s only one bloom, you see, and I can’t offer to part it. Now which of you two ’d like it for a buttonhole?”
She held out the rose, challenging them.
“I—I—” stammered Cai, backing against ’Bias’s knuckles which dug him in the back—“I grant ye, ma’am, ’tis a fine rose—a lovely rose—but for my part, a trace o’ colour—”
“Bright red,” prompted ’Bias.
“Bright red—for both of us—”
“And now I’ve plucked it,” sighed Mrs Bosenna.
“Well, if you won’t, perhaps Mr Middlecoat will, rather than waste it.”
Mr Middlecoat stepped forward and allowed the enormous bloom to be inserted in his buttonhole, where its pure white threw up a fine contrast to his crimsoning face.
“You won’t think me forward, I hope?” said Mrs Bosenna, turning about. “The fact is—though I don’t want it generally known yet—that yesterday Mr Middlecoat, in his disagreeable way, made me promise to marry him?”
Before the pair could recover, she had moved to another bush.
“Red roses, you prefer? Red is rare amongst the Teas—there’s but one, as yet, that can be called red—if this suits you? And, by luck, there are two perfect buttonholes.”
She plucked the buds and held them out.
“It’s name,” said she, “is Liberty.”
For the best part of a week before the great Day of Jubilee Cai and ’Bias toiled together and toiled with a will, erecting the framework of a triumphal arch to span the roadway. Within-doors, in the intervals of household duty, Mrs Bowldler measured, drew, and cut out a number of capital letters in white linen, to be formed into a motto and sewn upon red Turkey twill, while Palmerston industriously constructed and wired gross upon gross of paper roses—an art in which he had been instructed by Fancy, who had read all about it in a weekly newspaper, ’The Cosy Hearth.’ The two friends talked little to one another during those busy June days. Strollers-by—and it had become an evening recreation in Troy to stroll from one end of the town to the other and mark how things were getting along for the 22nd—found Captain Hocken and Captain Hunken ever at work but little disposed to chat; and as everyone knew of the old quarrel, so everyone noted the reconciliation and marvelled how it had come to pass. Even Mr Philp was baffled. Mr Philp, passing and repassing many times a day, never missed to halt and attempt conversation; with small result, however.