He made what she called a childish game of it. Every day on the ride home, Sabre ceased pedalling at precisely the same point on the slope down into Penny Green and coasted until the machine came to a standstill within a few yards of his own gate. This point of cessation was never twice in a week at the same spot; and Sabre found great interest in seeing every day exactly where it would be, and by intense wriggling of his front wheel and prodigious feats of balancing, squeezing out of the machine’s momentum the last possible fraction of an inch. There was a magnificent distance record when, on one single occasion only, he had been deposited plumb in line with his own gate; and there was a divertingly lamentable shortage record, touched on more than one occasion, when he had come to ground plumb in line with the gate of Mr. Fargus, his neighbour on that side.
Each of these records, though marked by the gates, was also and more exactly marked by a peg hammered into the edge of the Green.
This was childish; and Mabel said it was childish when her attention was drawn to the diversion. On the day the great distance record was created he came rather animatedly into the kitchen where she happened to be. “I say, what’s happened to that small wood axe? Is it in here?”
Mabel followed the direction of the convulsive start made by Low Jinks and produced the small wood axe from under the dresser, also directing at Low Jinks a glance which told Low Jinks what she perfectly well knew: namely that under the dresser was not the place for the small wood axe. “Whatever do you want it for all of a sudden?” Mabel asked.
He felt the edge with his thumb. “Low”—Mabel’s face twitched. He had persisted in the idiotic and indecorous names, and her face always twitched when he used them—“Low, do you keep my axe for chopping coal or what?” And he addressed Mabel. “I’m getting fat, I think. I don’t want the axe to cut lumps off myself, though. I’m going to chop a marking peg. I’ve done a heavyweight world’s record on that run in on my bike—”
“Oh, that!” said Mabel.
And when he had gone out into the wood yard, Low Jinks staring after him with the uplifted eyebrows with which both sisters, the glum and the grim, commonly received the master’s “ways”, Mabel said in the gently pained way which was her admirable method of administering rebukes in the kitchen: “The woodshed is the place for the small wood axe, Rebecca.”
Rebecca promptly unsmirked her smirk. “Yes, m’m.”
A little later the sound of loud hammering took Mabel to the gate. Across the road, at the edge of the Green, Sabre was energetically driving in the peg with the back of the axe. He was squatting and he looked up highly pleased with himself and, his words implied, with her. “Come to see it? Good! How’s that for an effort, eh? Look here now. Yesterday I only got as far as here,” and he walked some paces towards Mr. Fargus’s gate and struck his heel in the ground and looked at her, smiling. “Absolutely the same conditions, mind you. No wind. And I always start from the top practically at rest; and yet always finish up different. Jolly funny, eh?”