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Left alone, for all the other men had gone to dress, Hugh's first act was to cast a wary eye round the pitch lest Big Dan should be near: and he was relieved to see him in the act of disappearing into the blue caravan. The grooms were leading the horses used in the ring towards a tent pitched so that it opened towards the Big Top: his heart led him there, and he thought it safe to follow its leading. He slipped into it, making himself as inconspicuous as possible, and feasted his eyes on the horses.

They were all groomed until every hair shone. Manes and tails like silk, forelocks carefully arranged under the colored brow-bands, hoofs polished until they gleamed. There was little Merrylegs, standing soberly now, though his fine head was always alert. There were the great horses for the bare-back riding, wearing only a broad surcingle with a vaulting-pad: the grooms were rubbing resin into their backs, to give the riders' feet a better hold—he learned later that their ring name was "rosin-backs." Blacks, browns, bays, grays: horses piebald and horses skewbald, and a couple of roans with the kind, wise look that so often stamps a roan horse. Hugh had loved to see them all, even when covered with the dust of travel. But here, shining with every art that could make them fit for the ring, with touches of color that brought out the beauty of the glossy coats, he feit that he could have looked at them forever.

A groom noticed him, however, and scowlingly told him to "clear out." He found that the space between the two tents had been closed by tarpaulin curtains, so that no