* * * * *
Next Saturday, when Mr. Silver came down, she told him of the incident.
“You didn’t say anything to the police, did you?” she asked anxiously.
“No,” he said. “I meant to, but I forgot.”
She repeated Joses’s remark about the cage.
“He’s been in the cage,” she said quietly.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
She nodded with set lips.
“How d’you know?”
“I saw it in his eyes.”
The young man was genuinely moved.
“Poor beggar!” he said.
The little affair of Joses was one of the many trifles that made for intimacy between the young man and the girl.
In spite of herself Boy found her opposition dying away. Indeed, she could no more resist him than she could resist the elements. She might put her umbrella up, but that did not stop the rain. And if the rain chose to go on long enough, the umbrella would wear away. The choice lay with the rain and not with the umbrella.
By the autumn Boy had ceased even to pretend to be unfriendly. It was no use, and she was never much good at pretending.
Then with the fall of the leaves old Ragamuffin began to tumble to pieces.
She watched him closely for a week. Then one October dawn, the mists hanging white in the hollows, she led him out to the edge of the wood before the lads were about. Only Monkey Brand accompanied her.
Herself she held the old pony alongside the new-dug grave, talking to him, stroking his nose. Monkey Brand, of the steady hand and loving heart, did the rest. A quarter of an hour later the girl and the little jockey came back to the yard alone. She was carrying a halter in her hand and talking of Four-Pound-the-Second.
The lads watched her surreptitiously and with brimming eyes. Albert, who prided himself on the hardness of his heart, wept and swore he hadn’t.
“I’ll lay she feels it,” blubbered Stanley, who was not clever enough to conceal his tears.
* * * * *
When Silver came down for the week-end, Old Mat told him what had happened.
“That’s the strength in her,” he whispered. “Just took and did it, she and Monkey Brand. Never a word to her mother or me—before or since.”
But the young man noticed that the girl looked haggard, wistful, more spiritual than usual. He was shy of her, and she of him.
When that evening she met him in the yard and said, “Will you come and see?” he was amazed and touched.
They stood together by the new-made grave under the wood. Jim was far more moved than when his mother died.
“Dear old Ragamuffin!” he said.
She seemed to quaver in the dusk.
“You mustn’t,” she said, in strained and muffled voice, and for a moment laid a finger on his arm.