‘I don’t know,’ said Clovis, ‘I’ve never counted, but I expect you’re right as to the number; mothers generally know these things.’

‘And now,’ continued Mrs Mullet, in her tragic whisper, ‘when there’s a rich husband-in-prospect imminent on the horizon Toby goes and sells him that miserable animal. It will probably kill him if he tries to ride it; anyway it will kill any affection he might have felt towards any member of our family. What is to be done? We can’t very well ask to have the horse back; you see, we praised it up like anything when we thought there was a chance of his buying it, and said it was just the animal to suit him.’

‘Couldn’t you steal it out of his stable and send it to grass at some farm miles away?’ suggested Clovis. ‘Write “Votes for Women” on the stable door, and the thing would pass for a Suffragette outrage. No one who knew the horse could possibly suspect you of wanting to get it back again.’

‘Every newspaper in the country would ring with the affair,’ said Mrs Mullet; ‘can’t you imagine the headline, “Valuable Hunter Stolen by Suffragettes”? The police would scour the countryside till they found the animal.’

‘Well, Jessie must try and get it back from Penricarde on the plea that it’s an old favourite. She can say it was only sold because the stable had to be pulled down under the terms of an old repairing lease, and that now it has been arranged that the stable is to stand for a couple of years longer.’

‘It sounds a queer proceeding to ask for a horse back when you’ve just sold him,’ said Mrs Mullet, ‘but something must be done, and done at once. The man is not used to horses, and I believe I told him it was as quiet as a lamb. After all, lambs go kicking and twisting about as if they were demented, don’t they?’

‘The lamb has an entirely unmerited character for sedateness,’ agreed Clovis.

Jessie came back from the golf links next day in a state of mingled elation and concern.

‘It’s all right about the proposal,’ she announced, ‘he came out with it at the sixth hole. I said I must have time to think it over. I accepted him at the seventh.’

‘My dear,’ said her mother, ‘I think a little more maidenly reserve and hesitation would have been advisable, as you’ve known him so short a time. You might have waited till the ninth hole.’

‘The seventh is a very long hole,’ said Jessie; ‘besides, the tension was putting us both off our game. By the time we’d got to the ninth hole we’d settled lots of things. The honeymoon is to be spent in Corsica, with perhaps a flying visit to Naples if we feel like it, and a week in London to wind up with. Two of his nieces are to be asked to be bridesmaids, so with our lot there will be seven, which is rather a lucky number. You are to wear your pearl grey, with any amount of Honiton lace jabbed into it. By the way, he’s coming over this evening to ask your consent to the whole affair. So far all’s well, but about the Brogue it’s a different matter. I told him the legend about the stable, and how keen we were about buying the horse back, but he seems equally keen on keeping it. He said he must have horse exercise now that he’s living in the country, and he’s going to start riding tomorrow. He’s ridden a few times in the Row on an animal that was accustomed to carry octogenarians and people undergoing rest cures, and that’s about all his experience in the saddle—oh, and he rode a pony once in Norfolk, when he was fifteen and the pony twenty-four; and tomorrow he’s going to ride the Brogue! I shall be a widow before I’m married, and I do so want to see what Corsica’s like; it looks so silly on the map.’

Clovis was sent for in haste, and the developments of the situation put before him.

‘Nobody can ride that animal with any safety,’ said Mrs Mullet, ‘except Toby, and he knows by long experience what it is going to shy at, and manages to swerve at the same time.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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