One morning, therefore, found Joses established on the hill before the horse and his two attendants had arrived.
He had no desire to be seen.
He squirmed his way with many pants through the gorse to the edge of the gallop, adjusted his glasses, and watched the little group of three ascend the brow half a mile away.
One of the two attendant sprites slung the other up on to the back of the phantom horse tossing against the sky.
Then without a thought of fuss the phantom settled to his stride and came down the slope, butting the mists away from his giant chest, the rhythmical beat of his hoofs rising to a terrifying roar as he gathered way.
Joses dropped on to his hands and huddled against the soaking ground as the pair came thundering by. He need not have feared detection: the rider’s head was low over the horse’s neck, the rider’s face averted. All he saw was the back of a fair head, close-cropped.
Kneeling up, he turned his glasses once again on the little figure waiting now alone upon the brow.
As he stared, he heard the quiet footfall of a horse climbing the hill behind him.
He dropped his glasses and looked round.
Silver on Heart of Oak had come to a halt close by and was looking at him.
“Early bird,” said the young man. “Looking for worms, I suppose.”
Joses grinned as he closed his glasses, and rising to his feet brushed his sopping knees.
“Yes,” he said. “And finding ’em.”
Maudie was not the only one who had cause to complain
that life at
Putnam’s was changed now greatly for the worse.
It all centred round that great, calm, munching creature in the loose-box, with the big blue dog curled underneath the manger.
Monkey Brand was moody; Old Mat irritable; his daughter curt; Silver puzzled, and Mrs. Woodburn perturbed.
For once in her life that habitually tranquil lady was restless, and betrayed her trouble.
The young man marked it and was genuinely sorry for her.
She saw it and appealed to him.
“Mr. Silver,” she said, taking him suddenly, “is she going to ride?”
The other met her with clearly honest eyes.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The old lady’s distress was obvious.
“Mr. Silver,” she said, “please tell me. Do you want her to ride?”
“No!” he cried, almost with indignation. “Of course I don’t. I’ve seen too many Nationals.”
“Have you asked her not to?”
He grinned a little sheepishly.
“The truth is I’ve annoyed her,” he said. “And she’s all spikes when I touch her.”
Mrs. Woodburn appealed to her husband, but got nothing out of him.
“It’s no good comin’ to me, Mar. I don’t know nothin’ at all about it,” he said shortly. “She’s trainin’ the hoss. If I so much as looks at him I gets my nose bit off.”