“Which,” resumed Mrs Bowldler, after a pause and a sigh, “it may be un-Christian to say so of a man that goes about in a bath-chair with one foot in the grave, but in my belief Mr Rogers sends us short weight.”
“I’ll order some more this very morning, eh, ’Bias?”
’Bias grunted approval.
“And while we’re about it, we may as well order in a quantity,—as much as the sheds will hold. We’ve pretty well reached the end o’ summer, an’ prices will be risin’ before long. . . . If I were you, Mrs Bowldler,” added Cai with a severity beyond his wont, “I shouldn’t call people dishonest on mere suspicion.”
“If you were me, sir—makin’ so bold,—you’d ha’ seen more of the world with its Rogerses and Dodgerses. There now!” Mrs Bowldler set down a dish of fried potatoes and stood resigned. “Dismiss me you may, Captain Hocken, and this instant. I ask no less. It was bound to come. As my sister warned me, ’You was always high in the instep, from a child, and,’ says she, ‘high insteps are out of place in the Reduced.’”
“God bless the woman!” Cai laid down the paper and stared. “Who ever talked of dismissin’ you?”
“I have rode in my time in a side-saddle: and that, sir, is not easily forgotten. But if you will overlook it, gentlemen,” said Mrs Bowldler tearfully, “I might go on to mention that Palmerston have had a misfortune with a tumbler last night.”
Cai continued to stare. “I saw a couple performin’ in the street yesterday. How did the boy get mixed up in it?”
“He broke it clearin’ up the debree in the summer-house after the visitors had gone,” Mrs Bowldler explained. “Which being a new departure, I hope you will allow me to pass it by in his case with a caution.”
In the course of the forenoon Cai paid a call at Mr Rogers’s harbour-side store, where he found Mr Rogers himself superintending, from his invalid-chair, the weighing out of coal. Fancy Tabb was in attendance.
“Hullo!” Mr Rogers greeted him. “Well, the show went very well yesterday, and I see your name in the papers this morning.”
Cai confessed that he, too, had seen it.
“And it won’t be the last time either, not by a long way. I was wantin’ a word with you. Cap’n Hunken,—eh, but that’s the sort of friend to have—a man in a thousand—Cap’n Hunken was tellin’ me, a few days back, as he’d a mind to see ye in public life.”
“Thank’ee,” said Cai. “‘Bias has been nursin’ that notion about me, I know. But I hope I can make up my own mind.”
“He said ’twould be a distraction for ye.”
“Very likely.” Cai was nettled without knowing why. “But supposin’ I don’t need bein’ distracted, not at this present?”
“Not at this present,” Mr Rogers agreed. “Your friend allowed that; but he said as, all human life bein’ uncertain, he was worried in mind what was goin’ to become o’ you in the years to come.”