“If ’tisn’t too late,” answered Cai.
He pulled out his watch, whilst ’Bias turned about to the mantel-shelf and the clock his bulk had been hiding.
“Nine-thirty,” announced Cai.
“Almost to a tick,” agreed ’Bias. “’Stonishing what good time we’ve kept ever since we set this clock.”
“’Stonishing,” Cai assented.
They played two games of cribbage and retired to bed. As he undressed Cai remembered his omission to warn ’Bias explicitly of what—according to Mrs Bowldler—the parrot was capable. The warning had been once or twice on the tip of his tongue during the early part of the conversation: but always (as he remembered) he had been interrupted.
“I’ll warn him after breakfast to-morrow,” said Cai to himself magnanimously, as he arose from his prayers. “Poor old ’Bias—what a good fellow it is, after all!”
He slept soundly, and was awakened next morning by Palmerston with the information, “Breakfast in the adjoining to-day, sir!”—this and “We are at home for breakfast” being the alternative formulae invented by Mrs Bowldler.
“And Captain Hunken requests of you not to wait,” added Palmerston, again repeating what Mrs Bowldler had imparted.
“Is he lying late to-day?” asked Cai.
“He have a-gone out for an early ramble,” answered Palmerston stolidly.
“Ah! to clear his brain—poor old ’Bias!” said Cai to himself, and thought no more about it. Nor did it occur to his mind that, overnight, Mrs Bowldler had point-blank refused to lay another meal in the room inhabited by the parrot, until, descending to ’Bias’s parlour and becoming aware, as he lifted the teapot, that the room was brighter and sunnier than usual, he cast a glance toward the window. The parrot-cage no longer darkened it. Parrot and cage, in fact, were gone.
He turned sternly upon Mrs Bowldler. But Mrs Bowldler, setting down a dish of poached eggs, had noted his glance and anticipated his question.
“Which,” said she, “I am obliged to you, sir, and prompter Captain Hunken could not have behaved. A nod, as they say, is as good as a wink to a blind horse; but Captain Hunken, being neither blind nor a horse, and anything so vulgar as winking out of the question, it may not altogether apply, though the result is the same.”
Having breakfasted, read his newspaper, and smoked his pipe (and still no sign of the missing ’Bias), Cai brushed his hat and set forth to pay a call on Mr Peter Benny.