She laughed now, and archly—“Because, as a fact, I was fixing them on you at the very moment Dinah showed you in!” She threw him a look which might mean little or much. Cai took it to mean much.
“Ma’am,—” he began, but she had turned and was appealing to ’Bias.
“Captain Hunken and I were at that moment agreeing that a man of your abilities—a native of Troy, too—and, so to speak, at the height of his powers—ought not to be rusting or allowed to rust in a little place where so much wants to be done. For my part,”—her eyes still interrogated ’Bias,—“I could never live with a man, and look up to him, unless he put his heart into some work, be it farming, or public affairs, or what else you like. I put that as an illustration, of course: just to show you how it appeals to us women; and we do make up half the world, however much you bachelor gentlemen may pretend to despise us.”
“That settles poor old ’Bias, anyhow,” thought Cai, and at the same moment was conscious of a returning gush of affection for his old friend, and of some self-reproach mingling in the warm flow.
“Why, as for that, ma’am,” said he, “though you put it a deal too kindly—’twas about something o’ that natur’ I came to consult you.”
“School Board?” suggested ’Bias.
“That’s right. I knew Rogers had dropped a hint to you about it: but o’ course, seein’ you here, I never guessed—”
Mrs Bosenna clapped her hands together. “And on that hint away comes Captain Hunken to ask my advice: knowing that I should be interested too. Ah, if only we women understood friendship as men do! . . . But you come and consult us, you see. . . . And now you must both stop for dinner and talk it over.”
“What I feel about it,” said Cai modestly at dinner, “is that I mightn’t be equal to the position, not havin’ studied education.”
“Education!” echoed Mrs Bosenna in a high tone of contempt and with a half vicious dig of her carving-fork into the breast of a goose that Dinah had browned to a turn. (Both Cai and ’Bias had offered to carve for her, but she had declined their services, being anxious to provoke no further jealousy. Also be it said that the operation lends itself, even better than does the game of spillikins, to a pretty display of hands and wrists). “Education! You know enough, I hope, to tell the Board to get rid of their latest craze. You’ll hardly believe it,” she went on, turning to ‘Bias, “but I happened to pass the Girls’ School the other day, and if there wasn’t a piano going!—yes, actually a piano! When you come to think that the parents of some of those children don’t earn sixteen shillings a-week!”
“Mons’rous,” ’Bias agreed.
“But I don’t understand, ma’am,” said Cai, “that the children themselves play the piano. I made inquiries about that, it being a new thing since my day: and I’m told it’s for the teachers to use in singin’ lessson, an’ to help the children to keep time at drill an’ what-not.”