“Jimmy Delmar! Oh, yes; I know Jimmy,” answered Lord Cosmo Wentworth, of the Scots Fusileers, from the far depths of an arm-chair. “Knew him at Aldershot. Fine rider; give you a good bit of trouble, Beauty. Hasn’t been in England for years; troop been such a while at Calcutta. The Fancy take to him rather; offering very freely on him this morning in the village; and he’s got a rare good thing in the chestnut.”
“Not a doubt of it. The White Lily blood, out of that Irish mare D’Orleans Diamonds, too.”
“Never mind! Tenth won’t beat us. The Household will win safe enough, unless Forest King goes and breaks his back over Brixworth—eh, Beauty?” said the Seraph, who believed devoutly in his comrade, with all the loving loyalty characteristic of the House of Lyonnesse, that to monarchs and to friends had often cost it very dear.
“You put your faith in the wrong quarter, Rock; I may fail you, he never will,” said Cecil, with ever so slight a dash of sadness in his words; the thought crossed him of how boldly, how straightly, how gallantly the horse always breasted and conquered his difficulties—did he himself deal half so well with his own?
“Well! you both of you carry all our money and all our credit; so for the fair fame of the Household do ‘all you know.’ I haven’t hedged a shilling, not laid off a farthing, Bertie; I stand on you and the King, and nothing else—see what a sublime faith I have in you.”
“I don’t think you’re wise then, Seraph; the field will be very strong,” said Cecil languidly. The answer was indifferent, and certainly thankless; but under his drooped lids a glance, frank and warm, rested for the moment on the Seraph’s leonine strength and Raphaelesque head; it was not his way to say it, or to show it, or even much to think it; but in his heart he loved his old friend wonderfully well.
And they talked on of little else than of the great steeple-chase of the Service, for the next hour in the Tabak-Parliament, while the great clouds of scented smoke circled heavily round; making a halo of Turkish above the gold locks of the Titanic Seraph, steeping Chesterfield’s velvets in strong odors of Cavendish, and drifting a light rose-scented mist over Bertie’s long, lithe limbs, light enough and skilled enough to disdain all “training for the weights.”
“That’s not the way to be in condition,” growled “Tom,” getting up with a great shake as the clock clanged the strokes of five; they had only returned from a ball three miles off, when Cecil had paid his visit to the loose box. Bertie laughed; his laugh was like himself—rather languid, but very light-hearted, very silvery, very engaging.
“Sit and smoke till breakfast time if you like, Tom; it won’t make any difference to me.”
But the Smoke Parliament wouldn’t hear of the champion of the Household over the ridge and furrow risking the steadiness of his wrist and the keenness of his eye by any such additional tempting of Providence, and went off itself in various directions, with good-night iced drinks, yawning considerably like most other parliaments after a sitting.