“So, then. All right, good dog. I’ll come, Jan.”
And after all, the Mistress had to go back for the flask, and to send word to the stable, while the Master walked out to the Downs. Jan was overjoyed by his victory; but within a few moments he was urging haste, and expressing obvious dissatisfaction with the Master’s slow pace.
“Now you just simmer down, my son, simmer down,” said the Master, soothingly. “We haven’t all got your turn of speed, so you might as well make up your mind to it. I’ll have a horse here directly, and then you shall have your head I promise you. Meantime, just keep your teeth out of this shooting-jacket. It may be old, but I won’t have it tattered. So you simmer down, my son.”
Jan did his best, but it clearly did seem to him that the Master’s pace was maddeningly slow; and so, to make up for this, Jan tried the experiment of covering just six times as much ground himself, apparently with the idea that hurrying ought to be done, and that if he could not make the Master do it the next best thing was to put in a double share himself. So Jan led the way downward in loops. He would gallop on for fifty yards, turn sharply, and canter back to the Master, emitting little whining noises through his nose. Having described a circle about the Master, on he would dash again, with more whines, only to repeat the process a few moments later.
Then Curtin, the groom, overtook them, riding Betty’s cob, Punch, and carrying the flask which had been given him by the Mistress, who herself was following on foot. The Master slipped the flask into his coat pocket and mounted Punch.
“Now then, Jan, my son,” said he, “I’m with you. Off you go!”
They were soon out of Curtin’s sight. Jan perfectly understood the position; and it seemed, too, that he communicated some idea of it to Punch, upon whose velvety nose he administered one hurried lick before starting. Then, with frequent backward glances over one shoulder, Jan lay down to his task, and, followed by Punch and the Master, began to fly over the springy turf with occasional short bays, his powerful tail waving flagwise over his haunches.
Within eighteen or twenty minutes they were a good four miles from Nuthill and nearing the gap in the high ridge through which one looked out over the Sussex weald from Desdemona’s cave. In another couple of minutes the Master was on the ground beside Betty, and Punch, with the nonchalance of his kind, was nosing the turf, as though to distract attention from his hard breathing. The gallop had been mostly up-hill.
Betty was genuinely glad to welcome her visitors, for she had already spent several hours in the chalky hollow where she now sat; the evening air was cold, and Betty was in some pain. Clambering on the steep Downside below Desdemona’s cave, she had trodden on a loose piece of chalk, her ankle had twisted as the chalk rolled, and Betty had fallen, with a sharp cry of pain, quite unable to put her injured foot to the ground. For a long while neither she nor Jan had thought of any way of obtaining assistance.