Willon chewed another bit of straw, glanced at the horse as though he were a human thing to hear, to witness, and to judge, grew a little pale; and stooped forward.
“Hush! Somebody’ll spy on us. It’s a bargain.”
“Done! And you’ll paint him, eh?”
The assent was very husky, and dragged slowly out, while his eyes glanced with a furtive, frightened glance over the loose-box. Then—still with that cringing, terrified look backward to the horse, as an assassin may steal a glance before his deed at his unconscious victim—the head groom and his comrade went out and closed the door of the loose-box and passed into the hot, lowering summer night.
Forest King, left in solitude, shook himself with a neigh; took a refreshing roll in the straw, and turned with an appetite to his neglected gruel. Unhappily for himself, his fine instincts could not teach him the conspiracy that lay in wait for him and his; and the gallant beast, content to be alone, soon slept the sleep of the righteous.
A stag hunt au Clair de la lune.
“Seraph—I’ve been thinking,” said Cecil musingly, as they paced homeward together from the Scrubs, with the long line of the First Life stretching before and behind their chargers, and the hands of the Household Cavalry plying mellowly in their rear.
“You don’t mean it. Never let it ooze out, Beauty; you’ll ruin your reputation!”
Cecil laughed a little, very languidly; to have been in the sun for four hours, in full harness, had almost taken out of him any power to be amused at anything.
“I’ve been thinking,” he went on undisturbed, pulling down his chin-scale. “What’s a fellow to do when he’s smashed?”
“Eh?” The Seraph couldn’t offer a suggestion; he had a vague idea that men who were smashed never did do anything except accept the smashing; unless, indeed, they turned up afterward as touts, of which he had an equally vague suspicion.
“What do they do?” pursued Bertie.
“Go to the bad,” finally suggested the Seraph, lighting a great cigar, without heeding the presence of the Duke, a Field-Marshal, and a Serene Highness far on in front.
Cecil shook his head.
“Can’t go where they are already. I’ve been thinking what a fellow might do that was up a tree; and on my honor there are lots of things one might turn to——”
“Well, I suppose there are,” assented the Seraph, with a shake of his superb limbs in his saddle till his cuirass and chains and scabbard rang again. “I should try the P. R., only they will have you train.”
“One might do better than the P. R. Getting yourself into prime condition, only to be pounded out of condition and into a jelly, seems hardly logical or satisfactory—specially to your looking-glass, though, of course, it’s a matter of taste. But now, if I had a cropper, and got sold up——”