The girl found herself gulping.
She looked at him through shining eyes. And as she did so it came in upon her that this degraded creature had once been beautiful. Ruin as he was, there was still about him something tragic and forlorn as of a great moor over which a beaten host has retreated, leaving desolation in its wake.
The man in the Gap wrung his wrist.
The girl took a step toward him.
“May I look at it?” she said.
He glanced up at her again, much as glances a dog which has had a licking and is uncertain whether the hand stretched out is that of an enemy or a friend.
“Likely,” he snarled. “You’d bite.”
Two on the Downs
Silver came trotting up with Ragamuffin trailing discontentedly behind.
The old roan didn’t really mind being caught, but he dearly loved to pretend he did.
Billy Bluff, who had already forgotten his injury, limped along behind, busy and cheerful.
Both man and dog had on their faces the same jolly grin of health and happiness, the result of a sound conscience and still more a sound digestion.
“He didn’t take much catching,” said the young man. “And Billy Bluff helped.”
Boy looked at her dog.
“I saw him helping,” she said sternly. “You old scoundrel, you!”
The young dog lay on the ground and gnawed his wounded paw complacently. He loved being scolded by his mistress when she was not too serious.
The girl stuffed her towel and all it contained into the forage bag.
“Shall I give you a leg up?” asked Silver.
“It’s all right,” she answered.
She mounted and rode alongside him.
“Where’s our friend?” he asked.
“Gone to earth.”
“What!—down the Gap?” He turned on her with that delightful eagerness which constantly revealed him to her as a boy in spite of that plain, grave face of his. “Shall I draw him?”
She shook her head gravely.
“Poor old thing,” she said.
He steadied instantly to her mood.
“Are you sorry for him?” he asked.
Boy looked away, shy and wary.
“Sometimes,” she said. “He must have had a pig’s time to be so rotten as that.”
It was a new view to the young man, and sobered him.
“Perhaps,” he said doubtfully. He was thinking out the question in his slow way. “It may be his own fault,” he said. “You make yourself, I think.”
“Part,” answered the girl. “And part you are made by your surroundings. That’s the way with young stock anyhow. It’s a bit how they are bred—the blood in them; and part the food they get, and the air and liberty and sun they’re allowed.”
“I suppose so,” said Silver quietly. “Certainly our friend’s food don’t seem to have suited him.”