The three moved off the hill.
Stanley had already gone on with Make-Way-There, and Albert followed with the young horse still snorting and blowing.
Billy Bluff patrolled between his mistress and his friend, doing his best to keep the two parties together.
Monkey Brand was left alone.
“Took it ’ard!” muttered Old Mat, jerking his head.
“He’ll be all right,” said Boy, glancing back. “Give him time to get his second wind.”
The little jockey went back to pick up a plate Make-Way-There had dropped.
Joses strolled up to him with portentous brow.
“Turned you down!” he said. “You’re not horseman enough for them, it seems.”
The little man gathered himself. He was very grim, curling his lips inward and whistling between his teeth as though to relieve inward pressure.
“How long have you ridden for ’em?” asked the fat man.
“Twenty-five year,” the other answered, with the quiet of one labouring under a great emotion.
The other rumbled out his ironical laughter.
“And now they chuck you,” he said. “Too old at forty. What?”
The little man spat on the ground.
“Blast ’em,” he said. “Blast you. Blast the lot. It’s a bloody world.”
The Lovers’ Quarrel
Boy did not appear at dinner.
The midday meal, especially on Sunday, she generally skipped.
Old Mat, Ma, and Silver lunched together and in silence.
The old trainer was absorbed in himself, and there was no question that he found himself exceedingly good company. His face became pink and his eye wet with the excellence of the joke he was brewing in his deeps. He slobbered over his food and spilt it. Mrs. Woodburn watched him with amused sympathy.
“You’ve been up to something you shouldn’t, dad,” she said. “I know you.”
He held up a shaking hand in protest.
“Now don’t you, Mar!” he said. “I been to church—that’s all I done. Mr. Haggard preach a booriffle sermon on the ’Oly Innocents. ’There’s some is saints,’ he says, and he looks full glare at me; ’and there’s some as isn’t.’ And he looks at his missus. ’There’s some as is where they ought to be Sundays,’ and he looks full glare at me. ’And there’s some as isn’t.’ And he stares at the empty seat aside o’ me. Yes, my dear, you’ll cop it on the crumpet to-morrow when he comes to see you, and you’ll deserve it, too.”
After lunch, as the old man left the room, he beckoned mysteriously to Silver, and toddled away down the passage with hunched shoulders to his sanctum.
The young man followed him with amused eyes. He knew very well what was coming.
Once inside his office, Mat closed the door in his most secretive way.
“Only one thing for it,” he whispered hoarsely. “The gal must ride.”