She gave him a look askance under her long fringed lids--a surly yet half-slyly relenting look, because she wanted to get her way of him, and had the cunning wit and shrewdness of a child witch.
"Ay!" quoth she. "Put me up--Dad!"
He was not a man of quick mind, his brain having been too many years bemuddled with drink, but he had a rough instinct which showed him all the wondrous shrewdness of her casting that last word at him to wheedle him, even though she looked sullen in the saying it. It made him roar again for very exultation.
"Put me up, Dad!" he cried. "That will I--and see what thou wilt do."
He lifted her, she springing as he set his hands beneath her arms, and flinging her legs over astride across the saddle when she reached it. She was all fire and excitement, and caught the reins like an old huntsman, and with such a grasp as was amazing. She sat up with a straight, strong back, her whole face glowing and sparkling with exultant joy. Rake seemed to answer to her excited little laugh almost as much as to her hand. It seemed to wake his spirit and put him in good-humour. He started off with her down the avenue at a light, spirited trot, while she, clinging with her little legs and sitting firm and fearless, made him change into canter and gallop, having actually learned all his paces like a lesson, and knowing his mouth as did his groom, who was her familiar and slave. Had she been of the build ordinary with children of her age, she could not have stayed upon his back; but she sat him like a child jockey, and Sir Jeoffry, watching and following her, clapped his hands boisterously and hallooed for joy.
"Lord, Lord!" he said. "There's not a man in the shire has such another little devil--and Rake, 'her horse,'" grinning--"and she to ride him so. I love thee, wench--hang me if I do not!"
She made him play with her and with Rake for a good hour, and then took him back to the stables, and there ordered him about finely among the dogs and horses, perceiving that somehow this great man she had got hold of was a creature who was in power and could be made use of.
When they returned to the house, he had her to eat her mid-day meal with him, when she called for ale, and drank it, and did good trencher duty, making him the while roar with laughter at her impudent child-talk.