“To ride the National winner.”
She peeped to see if he was mocking. He was sober as a judge.
“You may yet.”
“Why not?” he asked. “Because it’s against the National Hunt Rules?”
“Not that,” she said with scorn. “I could get round their rotten rules if I wanted.”
“How?” he asked.
She glanced at him warily.
“Eighteen months ago a lad came into our stable who was rather like me.”
He laughed merrily.
“Good for you!” he cried. “Now put your idea into practise.”
She shook her head.
“I don’t want to win the National now.”
She looked up into his face.
“I’m too old,” she said. “I’ve got to put my hair up this winter.”
The confidence once made frightened her.
She broke into a canter, Heart of Oak striding at her side. The hill steepened against them just under the brow, and they came back into a walk.
“If I was my own master I should farm and breed horses,” said the young man.
She glanced at him keenly.
“Aren’t you your own master?”
He shook his head.
“I’ve got to stick to the desk.”
“D’you like it?”
He looked away.
“I shall never make a banker,” he said. “You see, I’m no good at sums.” He flicked at the turf with his thong. “Now my father was a born financier. He could do that—and nothing much else. If there are no banks in heaven I’m afraid he’ll be terribly bored. But I’m a farmer—or a fool; I’m not quite sure which. If my father had lived it might have been different. He might have entered me. But he died during my second year at Oxford four years ago, and I had to buckle to and do the best I could for myself.”
“Bad luck,” said the girl.
“It was, rather,” admitted the young man. “But it gave me my head in one way. You see, father didn’t approve of horses, though he was a farmer’s son himself. He was afraid of the Turf. But he was always very good to me. He let me hunt when I was a boy though he didn’t like it.” The young man laughed. “But when I grew big he was awfully pleased. ‘You’ll never make a jockey now,’ he used to say. And I never shall.”
Boy ran her eye approvingly over his loose, big-limbed figure.
“You play polo, don’t you?” she said.
“I do, a bit,” he admitted.
“Back for England, isn’t it?” she asked.
“This old pony did,” Silver answered. “And he used to take me along sometimes.”
“Don’t you play still?” she inquired.
“I haven’t this season, and I sha’n’t again,” he answered. “To play first-class polo you must be in the top of condition. And they keep my nose too close to the grindstone. Besides, pup-polo’s very jolly, but ’chasing’s the thing!”
They topped the brow. The crest of the Downs swelled away before them like a great green carpet lifted by the wind.