“And you?” said Silver.
The little jockey thrust out his left leg.
“I was in ’orspital three months.... Howsomever, it come out in the wash next year.”
“That was Cannibal’s year, wasn’t it?” asked Silver.
“Ah!” said Monkey. “Cannibal!—his name and his nature, too. He was a man-eater, that ’orse was. Look like a camel and lep like a h’earthquake. It was just the very reverse that year. Chukkers was on Jezebel, Chukkers was. She was a varmint little thing enough—Syrian bred, I have ’eard ’em say. And he was out to win all right that journey. There was only us two in it when we come to Beecher’s Brook second time round.” He came a little closer. “So when we got to the Canal Turn I rides up alongside. ‘That you, Mr. Childers?’ I says, and bumps him. That shifted him for Valentine’s Brook. There’s a tidy drop there, sir, as you may remember. Chukkers lost his stirrup, and was crawling about on her withers. I hove up alongside agin’. He saw me comin’ and made a shockin’ face. ‘Clear!’ he screams, ’or I’ll welt you across the —— monkey mug!’ And just then, blest if old Cannibal didn’t make another mistake and cannon into him agin’. That spilt him proper! Oh, my, Mr. Silver!—my! And I sail ’ome alone. Oh, he was a reg’lar outrageous ’orse, Cannibal was.” He dropped his voice. “When he come out of ’orspital of course he made a fuss about it, he and Jaggers and Jew-boy Aaronsohnn. But of course I knew nothin’ about it; nor did nobody else. See, they all knew Chukkers. He’d tried it on ’em all one time or another. And I told the Stewards I was very sorry the fall had gone to ’is ’ead. Only little Bertie Butler—him with the squint, what won the Sefton this year, you know—who’d been following Chukkers—he says to me: ‘Next time you’re goin’ to play billiards with Chukkers, Mr. Brand, tip us the wink, will you?’”
The Paddock Close
The girl’s voice broke in on them.
“I’m going home now,” she cried abruptly.
“Right,” answered Silver. “May I come along?”
As he swung round, he saw the girl already jogging away. He pursued leisurely, anxious to talk about Make-Way-There, the Paris Meeting, and Chukkers and Monkey Brand’s gossip. But she flitted away in front of him. As he drew up to her she broke into a canter, and the young man took a pull.
His intuitions, like those of most slow-brained men, were unusually swift and sure. It was as though Nature, the Dispenser of Justice, to compensate him for an apparent dearth in one direction, had endowed him richly in another.
“Woa, my little lad, woa then!” he murmured as Heart of Oak bounced and fretted to catch the retreating roan.
He realised that the girl had withdrawn within herself again. On the cliff, in the excitement of action, she had forgotten herself for the moment. Now she was cold and shy once more, retreating behind her barriers, closing her visor. It was as though she had admitted him too close; and to recover herself must now swing to the other extreme.