"'Tis my nater," mourned Cain. "Mother says I always was so excitable when my feelings were worked up to a point!"
"True, true," said Joseph Poorgrass. "The Balls were always a very excitable family. I knowed the boy's grandfather — a truly nervous and modest man, even to genteel refinery. 'Twas blush, blush with him, almost as much as 'tis with me — not but that 'tis a fault in me!"
"Not at all, Master Poorgrass," said Coggan. "'Tis a very noble quality in ye."
"Heh-heh! well, I wish to noise nothing abroad — nothing at all," murmured Poorgrass, diffidently. "But we be born to things — that's true. Yet I would rather my trifle were hid; though, perhaps, a high nater is a little high, and at my birth all things were possible to my Maker, and he may have begrudged no gifts . . . . But under your bushel, Joseph! under your bushel with 'ee! A strange desire, neighbours, this desire to hide, and no praise due. Yet there is a Sermon on the Mount with a calendar of the blessed at the head, and certain meek men may be named therein."
"Cainy's grandfather was a very clever man," said Matthew Moon. "Invented a' apple-tree out of his own head, which is called by his name to this day — the Early Ball. You know 'em, Jan? A Quarrenden grafted on a Tom Putt, and a Rathe-ripe upon top o' that again. 'Tis trew 'a used to bide about in a public-house wi' a 'ooman in a way he had no business to by rights, but there — 'a were a clever man in the sense of the term."
"Now then," said Gabriel, impatiently, "what did you see, Cain?"
"I seed our mis'ess go into a sort of a park place, where there's seats, and shrubs and flowers, arm-in-crook with a sojer," continued Cainy, firmly, and with a dim sense that his words were very effective as regarded Gabriel's emotions. "And I think the sojer was Sergeant Troy. And they sat there together for more than half-an-hour, talking moving things, and she once was crying a'most to death. And when they came out her eyes were shining and she was as white as a lily; and they looked into one another's faces, as far-gone friendly as a man and woman can be."
Gabriel's features seemed to get thinner. "Well, what did you see besides?"
"Oh, all sorts."
"White as a lily? You are sure 'twas she?"
"Well, what besides?"
"Great glass windows to the shops, and great clouds in the sky, full of rain, and old wooden trees in the country round."
"You stun-poll! What will ye say next?" said Coggan.
"Let en alone," interposed Joseph Poorgrass. "The boy's meaning is that the sky and the earth in the kingdom of Bath is not altogether different from ours here. 'Tis for our good to gain knowledge of strange cities, and as such the boy's words should be suffered, so to speak it."
"And the people of Bath," continued Cain, "never need to light their fires except as a luxury, for the water springs up out of the earth ready boiled for use."
"'Tis true as the light," testified Matthew Moon. "I've heard other navigators say the same thing."
"They drink nothing else there," said Cain, "and seem to enjoy it, to see how they swaller it down."
"Well, it seems a barbarian practice enough to us, but I daresay the natives think nothing o' it," said Matthew.
"And don't victuals spring up as well as drink?" asked Coggan, twirling his eye.
"No — I own to a blot there in Bath — a true blot. God didn't provide 'em with victuals as well as drink, and 'twas a drawback I couldn't get over at all."
"Well, 'tis a curious place, to say the least," observed Moon; "and it must be a curious people that live therein."
"Miss Everdene and the soldier were walking about together, you say?" said Gabriel, returning to the group.
"Ay, and she wore a beautiful gold-colour silk gown, trimmed with black lace, that would have stood alone 'ithout legs inside if required. 'Twas a very winsome sight; and her hair was brushed splendid. And when the sun shone upon the bright gown and his red coat — my! how handsome they looked. You could see 'em all the length of the street."
"And what then?" murmured Gabriel.
"And then I went into Griffin's to hae my boots hobbed, and then I went to Riggs's batty-cake shop, and asked 'em for a penneth of the cheapest and nicest stales, that were all but blue-mouldy, but not quite. And whilst I was chawing 'em down I walked on and seed a clock with a face as big as a baking trendle — "
"But that's nothing to do with mistress!"
"I'm coming to that, if you'll leave me alone, Mister Oak!" remonstrated Cainy. "If you excites me, perhaps you'll bring on my cough, and then I shan't be able to tell ye nothing."
"Yes — let him tell it his own way," said Coggan.
Gabriel settled into a despairing attitude of patience, and Cainy went on: —
"And there were great large houses, and more people all the week long than at Weatherbury club-walking on White Tuesdays. And I went to grand churches and chapels. And how the parson would pray! Yes; he would kneel down and put up his hands together, and make the holy gold rings on his fingers gleam and twinkle in yer eyes, that he'd earned by praying so excellent well! — Ah yes, I wish I lived there."
"Our poor Parson Thirdly can't get no money to buy such rings," said Matthew Moon, thoughtfully. "And as good a man as ever walked. I don't believe poor Thirdly have a single one, even of humblest tin or copper. Such a great ornament as they'd be to him on a dull afternoon, when he's up in the pulpit lighted by the wax candles! But 'tis impossible, poor man. Ah, to think how unequal things be."
"Perhaps he's made of different stuff than to wear 'em," said Gabriel, grimly. "Well, that's enough of this. Go on, Cainy — quick."