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HOME > Classical Novels > The Admirable Tinker > CHAPTER FIVE TINKER'S BIRTHDAY BLOODHOUND
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 Hildebrand Anne came out of the long glass doors of the morning room of the Refuge, as Sir Tancred had happily named the cottage at Farndon-Pryze, which he had bought soon after Jeddah won the Derby at a hundred to one, and whither he retired1 when he was at loggerheads with Fortune, or Hildebrand Anne began to look fagged by London life. His father was reading a newspaper at the end of the lawn, and he walked across to him.  
Sir Tancred looked up from his paper, and said with a sigh:
"I'm afraid there's no birthday present for you, Tinker."
"That's all right, sir," said Tinker cheerfully.
Father and son made an admirable pair, a pair of an extraordinary distinction. Reckless pride and sorrow had impressed on Sir Tancred's dark, sombre face much of the look of Lucifer, Son of the Morning; Tinker was very fair with close-cropped golden curls clustering round his small head, features as finely cut as those of his father, sunny blue eyes, lips curved like Cupid's bow, and the air of a seraph2. The name had clung to him from its perfect inappropriateness. A tinker is but a gritty sight, and Hildebrand Anne had grown up, to the eye, an angel child, of a cleanliness uncanny in a small boy.
"Even if there were anything to buy in Farndon-Pryze, our fortunes are at a low ebb," said Sir Tancred with faint sorrow.
Tinker heaved a sympathetic sigh, and said again, "Oh, that's all right, sir."
"And the papers offer no suggestions for a new campaign," and Sir Tancred, looking with some contempt at the score of grey, pink, yellow, and green sheets which littered the grass around his long cane3 chair, fanned himself with his panama; for, though the month was May, the morning was hot.
"We shall have lots of money soon," said Tinker cheerily.
"Well, I hope so. It is no use my reading these wretched rags, unless they put me in the way of a coup4."
"We always do," said Tinker with conviction; and he strolled away, pondering idly the question of riches.
From the end of the garden of the Refuge, Tinker scanned the country round with dissatisfied eyes. None of the low hills was hollowed by a pirates', or brigands5', or even a smugglers' cave with its buried hoard6, no ruin tottered7 above a secret treasure-chamber. For himself he did not mind; it was all one to him whether he hunted his prey8 in the Champs Elysées or the long, straggling street of Farndon-Pryze. There were men in both places; and, though the methods of enraging9 them were different, they grew crimson10 to much the same fieriness11. He found, indeed, an angry Frenchman more entertaining than an angry Englishman, but he was no epicure12 in sensations: only, he liked them exciting. But he would fain have discovered treasure for the sake of his father who, as he well knew, did not find in Farndon-Pryze the entertainment which satisfied his simpler, boyish heart.
As he scanned the unsatisfactory landscape, he heard the sound of hoofs13, and looking round, saw James Alloway, a young farmer of the neighbourhood, riding along the highway. His face brightened; the coast was clear; it was the very morning to play toreador. In a breath he was through the hedge, and on the way to the village. He approached it after the manner of a red Indian, only pausing to cut a switch from a hedge. He had a score to settle with Josiah Wilby, a boy whose talebearing had procured14 him his last, well-earned whacking15. Fortune favoured him: he spied his prey playing in careless security with two other boys on the village green; crept between two cottages; and was out on him or ever he was aware of the coming of an avenger16. At the sight of Tinker, Josiah bolted for home; but he had not gone twenty yards before the stinging switch was curling round him. He ran the harder, howling and roaring; and Tinker accompanied him to the door of his father's cottage. As the roaring Josiah rushed in, the infuriated Mrs. Wilby rushed out, and Tinker withdrew. From a convenient distance, he raised his hat, and protested his regret at having had to instruct her son in the first principles of honour. Mrs. Wilby took his politeness as an insult, and with a rustic17 disregard of his pretty manners called him a limb, and threatened him with merciless punishment on the return of her husband. Tinker shrugged18 his shoulders, spread out his hands, gestures he had acquired in France, and hurried off on his main errand.
He came swiftly to a small field in which there browsed19 a large and solitary20 ram21, by name Billy, Tinker's playfellow in the game of bull-fighting. With a somewhat unfair casting of the star part, Tinker always played the matador22, Billy played the bull.
Drawing a stout23 wooden sword, the handiwork of Sir Tancred, who never dreamed of the purpose it served, from its hiding-place in the hedge, Tinker slipped over the gate. Billy greeted his playfellow with an ill-conditioned grunt24 expressive25 of no joy at all. Tinker saluted26, walked up to within ten yards, and waved his hat at him. Billy watched him with a wicked eye, affected27 to graze, and of a sudden charged with all his speed. Tinker sprang aside as the ram's head went down to butt28, and as he hurtled past, prodded29 him with the sword behind the shoulder.
Billy pulled himself up as soon as he could check his momentum30, and turned and stood blinking. Twice he rapped the ground hard with his forefoot. Tinker again drew to within ten yards of him; again Billy charged; and again he was prodded behind the shoulder. It was a beautiful game, and Tinker's lightness of foot, quickness of eye, and coolness of head did every credit to the education he had received from his father.
It was, indeed, a fine game, but as dangerous as it was fine; if Billy had once downed the boy, he would never have left him till he had ground the life out of him. This Tinker did not know, so that he did not draw all the excitement out of the game he would have done. It had grown more and more dangerous, also; for, by dint31 of playing it, Billy, who had started as a fat, clumsy, and sulky beast, had grown thin, nimble, and vicious. Alloway, indeed, often declared that he did not know what ailed32 the ram; his food never seemed to be doing him any good, and neither man, woman, nor child dare cross the field in which he browsed.
The game lasted some twenty minutes; and Tinker's skill, sureness, and lightness of movement was the prettiest sight. Sometimes, with a snorting bleat33, Billy would turn sharply at the end of his charge, and charge again; then the concentration on the matter in hand, which his father had so carefully cultivated in Tinker, proved a most fortunate possession: he was never caught off his guard. But he was beginning to think that he had had enough of it, and Billy was sure that he had, when there came a roar from the road, and there sat Alloway on his horse. Or rather, he was no longer sitting on his horse, he was throwing himself off it.
Without one word of thanks to his playfellow for the pleasant game he had enjoyed with him, Tinker bolted for the further hedge, Billy after him, and Alloway after both. Tinker knew the ground, ran for a post and rails which filled a gap, and skipped over them a few yards ahead of his energetic playfellow, who stood gazing after him with a rueful vindictiveness35. Alloway came rushing up, and took no heed36 of the disappointed ram, who butted37 his right leg against the rails with great promptitude and violence. Alloway emulated38 his violence not only in his language, but by cutting him as hard as he could with the whip he carried, and rushed on after Tinker. Tinker could run at an admirable pace for a boy of eleven, and he was used to keeping it up longer than the rustic wind would last. But Alloway was brisker than a farm hand, or a keeper, and at the end of a couple of fields he began to gain. Tinker was soon aware of the painful fact, and knew that retribution was on him. But, though he could not escape, he could postpone39; and his quick mind leaped to the fact that the more done Alloway was, the less vigorously would he ply34 his whip; besides, there was a chance that he might suddenly collapse40.
At the entrance to the village there was a bare fifty yards between them. As he came up to the smithy, Blazer, the blacksmith's dog, the terror of the village, began to bark; and Tinker's saving idea came to him. He ran into the yard, and walked quietly up to Blazer, who barked and strained at his chain with every advertisement of savage41 fury. Tinker knew a good deal about dogs; he came quietly up to him, and tried to pat his head. Blazer caught at the hand, and Tinker left it passive in his teeth. Blazer's teeth bruised42 the skin, but did not pierce: and suddenly he realised that he did not know what to do with it.
With a sheepish air he let it go, and resumed his barking. Tinker stepped right up to his kennel43, and the barking Blazer danced about him in an agony of indecision. Alloway rushed into the yard, and crying, "I've got you, you young devil! Have I?" made for Tinker.
Blazer saw a happy way out of his awkward uncertainty44, and bit Alloway's leg.
Alloway jumped back with a roar; and, lashing45 at Blazer, hopped46 about.
The blacksmith ran out of the smithy, and took in the situation at a glance.
"Take away your dog, Green! Take him away!" shouted Alloway. "I'm going to warm the young gentleman's jacket! He's been worriting my ram!"
Alloway was a good customer; but Tinker was a familiar friend, and the astute47 blacksmith scratched his head at great length before he said slowly, "If zo be as you've 'it Blaazer, you'll 'av ter tak 'im away yoursel'. I dussn't go near 'im; no, not wuz it ever so."
"I'm going to larrup the young limb!" cried Alloway obstinately48.
"You'll 'ave to wait, then, till Blaazer gits quiet. I dussn't meddle49 with 'im; an' I'm shoeing Mr. 'Utton's graay maare." And with a natural, untrained diplomacy50 the blacksmith retired quickly into the smithy.
For a minute or two Alloway cursed and Blazer barked. Then Tinker sat quietly down on the threshold of the kennel, and fanned himself with his hat. The empurpled Alloway grew purpler at the sight of a coolness he did not share.
"You young rip!" he roared, dancing lightly in his exasperation51, "I'll larrup you if I stay here till to-morrow morning!"
"If you're speaking to me, Mr. Alloway, you needn't speak so loud. I'm not deaf," said Tinker with gentle severity.
Mr. Alloway in his violent, rustic way, uttered a good many remarks quite unfit for boyish ears.
Tinker paid no heed to him, but chirrupped to Blazer, who came to him in a wondering sulkiness, and with many protesting growls52 suffered himself to be patted. Alloway put his hands in his pockets, and stood stolidly53 with his legs wide apart, a picture of florid manliness54 and grim, but whiskered determination. Some small boys, heavy with their midday meal, came to the gate of the yard, and in an idle repletion55 exhausted56 themselves in conjectures57 as to the true inwardness of Tinker's relation with Blazer, and Alloway's absorption in it. Twice the blacksmith came to the smithy door, and a large, slow grin spread painfully over his bovine58 face.
Tinker continued to pet Blazer till the surprised and mollified dog sat down between his feet, and put his head on his knee. Then Tinker began to apply that power of concentration in which he had been trained by his father to the discovery of a method of final escape. Presently Alloway went to the gate, and, climbing onto it, sat waiting for his triumph in a stubborn doggedness.
After a while Tinker said gently, "That's a good horse you ride, Mr. Alloway."
The farmer said nothing.
"He's young, isn't he?" said Tinker.
An acute and scornful expression of "You don't get round me!" filled all of the farmer's face that was not covered with whiskers.
"Did you think to tie him up before you ran after me?" said Tinker earnestly.
Alloway sprang from the gate as though a very sharp nail had of a sudden sprouted59 up immediately beneath him, slapped his thigh60, and stood shaking his whip at Tinker with expressive, but starting eyes.
"I dare say he's out of the county by now," said Tinker thoughtfully.
"You young blackguard!" said Alloway, and stepped towards the kennel. Blazer shot out to the length of his chain; and Alloway, in his fury, cut him savagely61 with his whip. Blazer roared rather than barked; the noise stimulated62 Tinker's wits; and he saw his way.
Alloway recovered himself sufficiently63 to say with choking emphasis, "Horse, or no horse, you don't get me to leave here!" and went back to the gate.
Tinker let him climb on it, and then he said gently, "Have you ever played at being a runaway64 slave hunted by bloodhounds, Mr. Alloway?"
Alloway scowled65 at him most malignantly66.
"I should think it would be quite an exciting game. It doesn't really matter that Blazer's only a bull terrier; we can call him a bloodhound, you know," Tinker went on, looking at the dog a little regretfully.
Alloway, coddling his fury, scarcely heard him.
"I'll be the slave-owner," said Tinker, fumbling67 with the chain.
It came out of the staple68; and Alloway roared, "What are you doing, you young rascal69?"
"Oh, it's all right," said Tinker. "Don't be frightened; I'll keep him on leash70 till you get a good lead."
Alloway jumped down from the gate, on the other side of it, his anger changed to uncertainty spiced with discomfort71.
Blazer felt the chain loosen, and darted72 forward, jerking Tinker after him.
"I can't hold him!" yelled Tinker.
Alloway turned, dropped his whip, and bolted up through the village.
Blazer dashed at the gate, clawing it; Tinker got a better grip on the chain, opened the gate, snatched up the whip as Blazer jerked him through; and they set off down the road after Alloway. The farmer ran better than ever, faster than he had run after Tinker, faster, probably, than he had ever run before in his life.
Blazer, though Tinker dragged for all he was worth, made a very fair pace after him. But by the time they were a hundred yards beyond the village, the throttling73 drag began to tell; Blazer slowed down; and Alloway, still going hard, disappeared round the corner.
Blazer and Tinker fell into a walk, and then stopped.
Sir Tancred Beauleigh, on his quiet way to the village post-office, was surprised at being nearly knocked down by one of the most respectable young farmers of the neighbourhood, who was running with the speed and face of a man pursued by all the tigers of Bengal. A hundred yards further on he heard yells and screams, and shouts of laughter; and coming round a corner, he saw a small boy rolling in recurring74 paroxysms of joy on the grass by the roadside, watched by a puzzled bull-terrier. He had no difficulty in connecting them with the flying farmer.
He came up to the absorbed pair unnoticed, and standing75 over them, said quietly, "What's the joke, Tinker?"
Tinker sprang to his feet, and wiping away the joyful76 tears, said, "I have been playing at hunting runaway slaves."
"Ah, Alloway was the slave?" said Sir Tancred.
"Yes, sir," said Tinker.
Sir Tancred dropped the subject; he knew by experience that the truth might be painful hearing, and that he would probably hear it from Tinker's flying partner in the game quite soon enough.
"What are you doing with that dog?" he said.
"I borrowed him," said Tinker.
Sir Tancred looked Blazer carefully over. "He's a very good dog," he said. "How would you like him for a birthday present?"
Tinker's eyes shone as a long vista77 of scrapes, out of which Blazer's teeth might help him, opened before his mind.
"Ever so much!" he said quickly.
"Come on, then, we'll go and try to buy him." And they set out for the village.
Mr. Green stood in the door of the smithy, and grinned enormously at the sight of the returning Tinker. Sir Tancred said, "Good-morning, Green; do you care to sell this dog? I'll give you three pounds for him."
Mr. Green said, "Three pound," and stared helplessly at the cottages opposite, confused by the need to assimilate, on the spur of the moment, a new idea.
"Three pounds?" said Tinker quickly. "Why, he only cost fifteen shillings a year ago!"
"An orfer is an orfer!" said Mr. Green quickly, his wits spurred at the sudden prospect78 of a lowering of the price. "And I takes it."
As he led away Blazer, with a new proprietary79 pride Tinker said firmly to Sir Tancred, "I shall go on considering him a bloodhound, sir."

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