The girl wished with all her heart that she was standing behind him that she might see if the hair on the back of his neck had risen.
A spirit of mischief overcame her.
“Mr. Joses’ll paint your horses for you,” she said demurely.
“Delighted, I’m sure,” laughed the artist.
“Thank you,” said the young man, with a brevity the girl herself could not have surpassed. His shyness had left him, and with it his tendency to stammer.
Boy felt herself snubbed, and was nettled accordingly.
“I’m going home by the wood,” she said.
“I’ll come with you,” said the artist.
The two moved away down the hill together toward the wood that thrust like a spear into the heart of the Paddock Close.
Silver watched them with steady eyes. As usual he had been left. That swift and slimy artist-chap had chipped in while he was thinking what he should do.
Silver hated artists—not as the result of experience, for he had never met one in the flesh before, but from instinct, conviction, and knowledge of the race acquired from books. Artists and poets: they were all alike—dirty beggars, all manners and no morals, who could talk the hind-leg off a she-ass.
And Silver, being dumb himself and very human, hated men who were articulate.
He watched the pair walking away from him down the hillside. An ill-matched couple they seemed to him: the slight, strenuous girl, her plait of hair like a spear of gold between her shoulders, her slim black legs, and air of a cold flame; and that loose, fat thing who gave the young man the impression of a suet pudding that had taken to drink.
The beast seemed disgustingly fatherly, too, rubbing shoulders with the girl, and fawning on her.
Silver sat down on a log and took out the cigarette-case, which was his habitual comforter.
The old mare grazed beside him in the dusk, and he began to laugh as he looked at her. Her laziness tickled and appealed to him. There was something great about it. She was indolent as was Nature, and for the same reason—that she was aware of immense reserves of power on which she could fall back at any moment.
A rabbit came out of the gorse to feed near by. The owl whooped and swooped and hovered behind her. The sea wind, fresh and crisp, came blowing up the valley; and the young stock, bursting with the ecstasy of life, thundered by in the dusk with downward heads and arched backs and far-flung heels.
Silver sat and smoked.
There was a funny feeling at his heart.
Some vast, deep, silent-running river of Life, of whose presence within him he had only become aware within the last few hours, had been thwarted for the moment, thrust back upon itself, and was tugging and tuzzling within him as it sought to pursue its majestic way toward the Open Sea.