“Ah, who can believe sellers!” said old Michael Mail in a carefully-cautious voice, by way of tiding-over this critical point of affairs.
“No one at all,” said Joseph Bowman, in the tone of a man fully agreeing with everybody.
“Ay,” said Mail, in the tone of a man who did not agree with everybody as a rule, though he did now; “I knowed a’ auctioneering feller once—a very friendly feller ’a was too. And so one hot day as I was walking down the front street o’ Casterbridge, jist below the King’s Arms, I passed a’ open winder and see him inside, stuck upon his perch, a-selling off. I jist nodded to en in a friendly way as I passed, and went my way, and thought no more about it. Well, next day, as I was oilen my boots by fuel-house door, if a letter didn’t come wi’ a bill charging me with a feather-bed, bolster, and pillers, that I had bid for at Mr. Taylor’s sale. The slim-faced martel had knocked ’em down to me because I nodded to en in my friendly way; and I had to pay for ’em too. Now, I hold that that was coming it very close, Reuben?”
“’Twas close, there’s no denying,” said the general voice.
“Too close, ’twas,” said Reuben, in the rear of the rest. “And as to Sam Lawson—poor heart! now he’s dead and gone too!—I’ll warrant, that if so be I’ve spent one hour in making hoops for that barrel, I’ve spent fifty, first and last. That’s one of my hoops”—touching it with his elbow—“that’s one of mine, and that, and that, and all these.”
“Ah, Sam was a man,” said Mr. Penny, contemplatively.
“Sam was!” said Bowman.
“Especially for a drap o’ drink,” said the tranter.
“Good, but not religious-good,” suggested Mr. Penny.
The tranter nodded. Having at last made the tap and hole quite ready, “Now then, Suze, bring a mug,” he said. “Here’s luck to us, my sonnies!”
The tap went in, and the cider immediately squirted out in a horizontal shower over Reuben’s hands, knees, and leggings, and into the eyes and neck of Charley, who, having temporarily put off his grief under pressure of more interesting proceedings, was squatting down and blinking near his father.
“There ’tis again!” said Mrs. Dewy.
“Devil take the hole, the cask, and Sam Lawson too, that good cider should be wasted like this!” exclaimed the tranter. “Your thumb! Lend me your thumb, Michael! Ram it in here, Michael! I must get a bigger tap, my sonnies.”
“Idd it cold inthide te hole?” inquired Charley of Michael, as he continued in a stooping posture with his thumb in the cork-hole.
“What wonderful odds and ends that chiel has in his head to be sure!” Mrs. Dewy admiringly exclaimed from the distance. “I lay a wager that he thinks more about how ’tis inside that barrel than in all the other parts of the world put together.”