He shut the door.
“Who’s goin’ to ride him?” asked Cherry.
“Me or Monkey,” said Albert. “’Taint settled yet. Will be this morning.”
He led along toward the saddle-room.
“You got your work cut if you’re goin’ to beat her,” said Cherry.
“No fear!” answered Albert. “Got the Sunday paper? What are they layin’?”
“Sevens the favourite,” replied the old ostler, producing it. “The rest any price.”
The youth glanced at the betting news.
“Sevens it is,” he said. “Price shortening. I suppose the stable’s got all the money they want on her, and so they don’t bother to tell no more lies.”
Albert opened the saddle-room door. Cherry passed in. The lad followed, and locked the door behind him.
“Now don’t mind me,” he said. “I’m busy.”
The Bible Class
In the old days, when Mat had been in his prime, there had not seldom been as many as a hundred horses on occasion billeted in and around Putnam’s.
At that time Mat had done a bit of dealing in addition to his training, and had kept hunters as well as ’chasers.
The Lads’ Barn, as it was called, was at the back of the old hunter-stables, somewhat removed from the yard, and opening on to the Paddock Close.
It was big, black, with red-tiled roof, raftered, and ideal for its purpose; for it served as the Lads’ Club, instituted by Mrs. Woodburn when first she came to live at Putnam’s. Here in winter they had singsongs, dances, and entertainments; and in the summer they played games, read, and held their committee meetings.
At one end was a mattress, a wooden horse, parallel bars and rings, and the ordinary appurtenances of a Boys’ Club; at the other a raised platform, and on it a blackboard and harmonium.
Now some twenty lads were gathered in the barn, waiting for Miss Woodburn to take the Bible Class.
To-day the girl for once was late. And the lads were glad. They had plenty to talk about this morning, and they welcomed an opportunity for misconduct at this time all the more because it rarely offered. There was a delicious relish about wrongdoing in the one hour a week devoted to seeking good and ensuing it.
Some of them were smoking, some playing cards.
Both acts were forbidden—the latter absolutely, the former in the main; for no lad under seventeen years was allowed to smoke in the Putnam stable.
The consequence was that the lads over the age limit bought and owned the cigarettes, and with fine capitalist instinct let them out to the youngsters at a farthing the puff. Albert when under age had instituted the puff, and when over it had organized the tariff. By the puff-a-farthing method the cigarettes could not be confiscated, for they belonged only to those who had a prescriptive right to them, while the puffers, with a little cunning, were able to enjoy illicit smokes.