“I hear,” came the little sodden voice from the waiting-room. “And I says nothing. There’s One Above’ll see me right.”
Joses shook his curls at Silver.
“Won’t wash,” he said. “Really it won’t. What the lawyers call collusion. You didn’t know I was trained for the Bar, did you? Another little surprise packet for you. Come, Mr. Silver, you must do a little better than that—an old hand like you.”
The young man observed him with slow, admiring eyes.
“Joses,” he said deliberately, “you’re a clever rogue.”
The fat man’s eye became almost genial. He looked warily round, and then came a step closer.
“Ain’t I?” he whispered.
Silver, laughing gently, handed him his cloak.
“Here it is,” he said. “I’m keeping the little bit of paper that was in the pocket.”
The other’s pupils contracted.
“What paper’s that?”
“The prescription of the dope mixture you handed in to Burgess and Williams, the Brighton chemists, yesterday morning. They put their stamp on it and the date. I’ve just come back from a chat with them.”
The fat man watched the other as a rabbit watches a weasel.
“Are you going to peach?” he said.
“I’ll tell you after the National,” replied the other.
Joses dropped his voice into his boots.
“Make it a monkey and I’ll quit,” he muttered. “She’s worth it,” he added cunningly.
Silver looked at him.
The tout came a sudden step closer.
“I know,” he whispered.
The Grand National is always the great event of the chasing year. This year it was something more. As the American Ambassador in England, speaking at the Pilgrim’s Club a week before the race, said, it was an international affair fraught with possibilities for two great peoples, one in blood and tongue and history, whom an unhappy accident had parted for a moment in the past.
The mare indeed was a magnet. At the time that England is loud with the voice of lambs, and the arabis in Sussex gardens begins to attract the bees, she was drawing men to her from all the ends of the earth.
They came hurrying across the seas in their thousands to see the Hope of the Young Countries triumphant, and above all to compel fair play for their champion.
Indeed, there was an undeniable touch of defiance about the attitude of most of them. Last year the old folks at home—God bless em!—John Bull, the leariest of frank-spoken rogues!—had done her in.
The mare had won and had been disqualified. Those were the simple facts; and no casuistry by the cleverest of London lawyers could get away from them.
On the question of Chukkers and the Bully Boys, as the English cheap press called them, showed themselves eminently reasonable.