“No,” quoth little Mistress, her black brows drawn down, her handsome owl’s eyes verily seeming to look him through and through in search of somewhat; for, in sooth, her rage abating before his jovial humour, the big burly laugher attracted her attention, though she was not disposed to show him that she leaned towards any favour or yielding.
“I am thy Dad,” he said. “’Twas thy Dad thou gavest such a trouncing. And thou hast an arm, too. Let’s cast an eye on it.”
He took her wrist and pushed up her sleeve, but she dragged back.
“Will not be mauled,” she cried. “Get away from me!”
He shouted with laughter again. He had seen that the little arm was as white and hard as marble, and had such muscles as a great boy might have been a braggart about.
“By Gad!” he said, elated. “What a wench of six years old. Wilt have my crop and trounce thy Dad again!”
He picked up the crop from the place where she had thrown it, and forthwith gave it in her hand. She took it, but was no more in the humour to beat him, and as she looked still frowning from him to the whip, the latter brought back to her mind the horse she had set out in search of.
“Where is my horse?” she said, and ’twas in the tone of an imperial demand. “Where is he?”
“Thy horse!” he echoed. “Which is thy horse then?”
“Rake is my horse,” she answered—“the big black one. The man took him again;” and she ripped out a few more oaths and unchaste expressions, threatening what she would do for the man in question; the which delighted him more than ever. “Rake is my horse,” she ended. “None else shall ride him.”
“None else?” cried he. “Thou canst not ride him, baggage!”
She looked at him with scornful majesty.
“Where is he?” she demanded. And the next instant hearing the beast’s restless feet grinding into the gravel outside as he fretted at having been kept waiting so long, she remembered what the stable-boy had said of having seen her favourite standing before the door, and struggling and dropping from the settle, she ran to look out; whereupon having done so, she shouted in triumph.
“He is here!” she said. “I see him;” and went pell-mell down the stone steps to his side.
Sir Jeoffry followed her in haste. ’Twould not have been to his humour now to have her brains kicked out.
“Hey!” he called, as he hurried. “Keep away from his heels, thou little devil.”
But she had run to the big beast’s head with another shout, and caught him round his foreleg, laughing, and Rake bent his head down and nosed her in a fumbling caress, on which, the bridle coming within her reach, she seized it and held his head that she might pat him, to which familiarity the beast was plainly well accustomed.
“He is my horse,” quoth she grandly when her father reached her. “He will not let Giles play so.”