The girls hid their faces and sank sobbing into the heather. The men cursed Torode volubly, and regretted that he had not gone with Black Boy.
And it was none but black looks that greeted him when, after standing a moment, he came on across the Coupee and joined the rest.
“It is a misfortune,” he said brusquely, as he came among us.
“It is sheer murder and brutality,” said Charles Vaudin roughly.
“Guyabble! It’s you that ought to be down there, not yon poor brute,” said Guerin.
“Tuts then! A horse! I’ll make him good to Hamon.”
“And, unless I’m mistaken, you promised him not to ride the Coupee,” I said angrily, for I knew how George Hamon would feel about Black Boy.
“Diable! I believe I did, but I forgot all about it in seeing you others crawling across. Will you lend me your horse to ride back, Carre? Mademoiselle rides home with me.”
“Mademoiselle does not, and I won’t lend you a hair of him.”
“That was the understanding. Mademoiselle promised.”
“Well, she will break her promise,—with better reason than you had. I shall see her safely home.”
“Right, Phil! Stick to that!” said the others; and Torode looking round felt himself in a very small minority, and turned sulkily and walked back across the Coupee.
The pleasure of the day was broken. Black Boy’s face and scream and fall were with us still, and presently we all went cautiously back across the narrow way. And no girl rode, but each one shuddered as she passed the spot where the loose edge of the cliff was scored with two deep grooves; and we others, looking down, saw a tumbled black mass lying in the white surf among the rocks.
HOW I FELT THE GOLDEN SPUR
George Hamon was sorely put out at the loss of his horse and by so cruel a death. In his anger he laid on young Torode a punishment hard to bear.
For when the young man offered to pay for Black Boy, Uncle George gave him the sharpest edge of his tongue in rough Norman French, and turned him out of his house, and would take nothing from him.
“You pledged me your word and you broke it,” said he, “and you think to redeem it with money. Get out of this and never speak to me again! We are honest men in Sercq, and you—you French scum, you don’t know what honour means.” And Torode was forced to go with the unpayable debt about his neck, and the certain knowledge that all Sercq thought with his angry creditor and ill of himself. And to such a man that was bitterness itself.
During the ten days that followed Riding Day, my mind was very busy settling, as it supposed, the future,—mine and Carette’s. For, whether she desired me in hers or not, I had no doubts whatever as to what I wanted myself. My only doubts were as to the possibilities of winning such a prize.