“I daresay,” he said irritably. “Not as it matters to me. Not as nothin’ matters to me now. Work you to the bone while you can work, and scrap you when they’ve wore you out. It’s a bloody world, as I’ve said afore.”
“Come!” cried the fat man. “The game’s not up. There’s more masters than one in the world!”
The little man was not to be consoled.
“See where it is, Mr. Joses: I’m too old to start afresh.”
“Have they sacked you then?”
The other shook his head.
“They’ll keep me on till after the National. He’s not everybody’s ’orse, Four-Pound ain’t. If they was to make a change now, he might go back on himself.”
The tout’s breathing came a little quicker in the darkness.
“D’you see to him?”
“Me and Albert.”
“Is Albert goin’ to ride him?”
“Don’t you believe it?” mocked the little jockey.
The tout drew closer.
“Who is, then?”
Monkey ducked his head and patted the back of it.
“Never!” cried Joses.
The other raised a deprecatory hand and turned away.
“You know best, o’ course, Mr. Joses,” he said. “You’ve the run o’ Putnam’s same as me. And you’re an eddicated man from Oxford College, where they knows all there is to know.”
He was limping away.
Joses hung on his heels.
“Steady on, old sport,” he said. “D’you mean that?”
Monkey swung about.
“See here, Mr. Joses,” he whispered. “When a gal’s out to win a man she’ll do funny things.”
The fat man breathed heavily.
Then he began to laugh.
“And it’s win the National or lose the man!” he said. “Quite a romance!”
The Early Bird
Next Sunday found Joses among the earliest and most attentive of the worshippers at church.
Boy Woodburn entered later, walked slowly up the aisle, and took her place in the front pew. As she bowed her head in her hands, the fat man, watching with all his eyes, learned what he had come to learn.
After service he waited outside.
As he stood among the tomb-stones, the girl passed, not seeing him.
“Good morning, Miss Woodburn,” he said ironically.
She looked up suddenly, resentfully.
His presence there clearly surprised and even startled the girl.
She passed on without a word and with the faintest
The fat man, with a chuckle, thought he could diagnose the cause of her annoyance.
Next morning he met Boy in the village.
She was wearing a close-fitting woollen cap, that covered her hair, and the collar of her coat was turned up.
The collar of the girl’s coat was always turned up now, he remarked sardonically, though the sun was gaining daily in power and the wind losing its nip.