`Bother the boy!' said Gabriel. `Something is always going the wrong way down your throat, so that you can't tell what's necessary to be told.'
`Ahok! there! Please, Mister Oak, a gnat have just fleed into my stomach and brought the cough on again!'
`Yes, that's just it. Your mouth is always open, you young rascal!'
`'Tis terrible bad to have a gnat fly down yer throat, pore boy!' said Matthew Moon.
`Well, at Bath you saw--' prompted Gabriel.
`I saw our mistress,' continued the junior shepherd, `and a sojer, walking along. And bymeby they got closer and closer, and then they went arm-in-crook, like courting complete hok-hok! like courting complete - hok! - courting complete--' losing the thread of his narrative at this point simultaneously with his loss of breath, their informant looked up and down the field apparently for some clue to it. `Well, I see our mis'ess and a soldier - a-ha-a-wk!'
`Damn the boy!' said Gabriel.
`'Tis only my manner, Mister Oak, if ye'll excuse it,' said Cain Ball, looking reproachfully at Oak, with eyes drenched in their own dew.
`Here's some cider for him - that'll cure his throat,' said Jan Coggan, lifting a flagon of cider, pulling out the cork, and applying the hole to Cainy's mouth; Joseph Poorgrass in the meantime beginning to think apprehensively of the serious consequences that would follow Cainy Ball's strangulation in his cough, and the history of hid Bath adventures dying with him.
`For my poor self, I always say "please God" afore I do anything,' said Joseph, in an unboastful voice; `and so should you, Cain Ball. 'Tis a great safeguard, and might perhaps save you from being choked to death some day.'
Mr Coggan poured the liquor with unstinted liberality at the suffering Cain's circular mouth; half of it running down the side of the flagon, and half of what reached his mouth running down outside his throat, and half of what ran in going the wrong way, and being coughed and sneezed around the persons of the gathered reapers in the form of a cider fog, which for a moment hung in the sunny air like a small exhalation.
`There's a great clumsy sneeze! Why can't ye have better manners, you young dog!' said Coggan, withdrawing the flagon.
`The cider went up my nose!' cried Cainy, as soon as he could speak; `and now 'tis gone down my neck, and into my poor dumb felon, and over my shiny buttons and all my best cloze!'
`The poor lad's cough is terrible onfortunate,' said Matthew Moon. `And a great history on hand, too. Bump his back, shepherd.'
`'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 vary noble quality in ye.'
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