“I did not,” replied Silver, calm and cold as Joses was hot.
“Then I don’t believe you,” cried the tout.
Silver looked down at him.
“I’ve said I’m sorry. I’ve no more to say,” he remarked quietly.
“Haven’t you?” cried the fat man. “I have, though.”
He made a snatch at Banjo’s rein.
The gray reared, backed away into the ditch, collapsed there on his quarters, and recovered himself with the grunt and flounder of a hippopotamus emerging from a river.
A little crowd was collecting swiftly, drawn by the hopes of a row.
Then there came the clatter of a horse’s feet. Boy was coming back to the group at a gallop.
“I saw what happened,” she said, her deep voice a little sharp. “Your horse shied and splashed Mr. Joses.” She appealed swiftly to him. “Wasn’t that it?”
“Yes,” said Silver coldly. “I splashed him by accident and apologised.”
“And he turned nasty!”
The intervening voice was harsh and unfamiliar. Silver turned to see a tall inspector of police sitting like a pillar of salt in a dog-cart, which had drawn up in the road.
Joses, who had seen him, too, began to shake, and more horrible still to laugh.
“He was naturally a bit annoyed,” said Silver.
The tall inspector was looking Joses up and down. There was a dreadful air of domination about him.
“If you’re satisfied, sir, I say no more,” said the inspector, reluctant as a dog to leave a bone.
“I’m satisfied,” replied Silver.
The inspector withdrew. The little knot of people who had gathered began to disperse. The young man and the girl trotted on their way.
“Most unfortunate,” muttered Silver.
“Most,” Boy answered.
In Joses’s eyes she had seen again that look of the wild beast, caged and cowering.
The young man felt censure in her voice.
“Well, I don’t think it was my fault,” he said, nettled.
“I know it wasn’t,” she cried. “But—”
“That inspector’s way with him. Like a slavedriver.”
“I know,” said Silver. “Horrible.”
The Black Bird
The last meet of the season was, as always, at Folkington Green, close enough to Lewes to draw the townsfolk out on bicycles and in char-a-bancs.
The morning was fine after rain, and there was a full attendance on the green under the swinging sign of The Beehive.
Old Mat sat by the muddy pond on his three-cornered cob. He was dressed, as always, in flat-topped hat, trousers, and elastic-sided boots; and he swung his legs mechanically against Ichabod’s hardened sides.
About him was gathered the usual group of admiring ladies. They liked Old Mat as much as they disliked his daughter.