Joe Lovelady was a great, soft, lumbering fellow, who was considered rather a nonentity in Thornleigh; but Ted Wharton was a very different person.
As they retraced their steps the uncertain notes of Ted's concertina came floating after them, borne upon the evening breeze; gradually these shaped themselves into a tune, a tune which their incredulous ears were at last forced to identify. Joe Lovelady suddenly paused and threw out his hand. "'Ark, all on ye, 'ark at that! Do ye know the tune th' owd lad's hammerin' at?"
Hampton isn't here, is he?" she asked. "No. Come to think of it, he did say this morning that he would be out right after lunch to help me break Lovelady. But I haven't seen him." "He wanted me to stroll out here with him," Marcia explained. "And I wouldn't. It was too hot. Didn't you find it terribly hot about an hour ago, Mr. Lee?"
As a matter of fact Bud Lee had been altogether too busy an hour ago with the capers of Lovelady to note whether it was hot or cold. But he courteously agreed with Miss Langworthy. "Then," she ran on brightly, "it got cool all of a sudden. Or at least I did. And I thought that Polly had come out here, so I walked out to surprise him. And now, he isn't here!"
He was in the little meadow hidden from the ranch-house by gentle hills still green with young June. He had been working Lovelady, a newly broken saddle-mare. Standing with his back to a tree, a cigarette in the making in his hands, his black hat far back upon his head, he smilingly watched Lovelady as with regained freedom she galloped back across the meadow to her herd.
Joe Lovelady advanced and clapped him on the shoulder with a loud laugh; the others followed, less jubilantly; one or two of them, indeed, felt themselves somewhat aggrieved at Ted's unaccountable demeanour. "Coom," cried Joe, "thou mun explain a bit, Ted, lad. We're gettin' fair moidered wi' this job; how long dost thou mean to keep it up?"
Didn't it, Joe?" Joe again rolled a deprecatory eye at his crony and cleared his throat, but did not otherwise commit himself. "It mun ha' been a fit or soom sich thing," continued Ted, cocking his hat over his eye and glancing waggishly at Lovelady. "When Joe see it, says he, 'My word, there'll be a pretty to do!
It was Saturday afternoon, and Ted Wharton and Joe Lovelady had left off work early, as was their custom on that day of the week. They were now betaking themselves with solemn satisfaction to the "Thornleigh Arms," where a certain portion of their weekly wage would presently transfer itself from their own pockets to that of its jovial landlord.
After a pause he rose and crossed the room to a chest of drawers in the corner. Unlocking an upper drawer he took out a greasy leathern purse with which he returned to the expectant group. Opening it, with a kind of groan, he extracted five shillings, which he handed over to Joe Lovelady. "Theer," he said, "it is but fair when all's said an' done. Theer! ye can have a wet wi' that."