Part 2 out of 4
Why, she in the workhouse and I hoeing turnips! Where would Black Beauty
and Ginger have been if you had only thought of number one? why,
roasted to death! No, Jim, no! that is a selfish, heathenish saying,
whoever uses it; and any man who thinks he has nothing to do
but take care of number one, why, it's a pity but what he had been drowned
like a puppy or a kitten, before he got his eyes open; that's what I think,"
said John, with a very decided jerk of his head.
James laughed at this; but there was a thickness in his voice when he said,
"You have been my best friend except my mother; I hope you won't forget me."
"No, lad, no!" said John, "and if ever I can do you a good turn
I hope you won't forget me."
The next day Joe came to the stables to learn all he could before James left.
He learned to sweep the stable, to bring in the straw and hay;
he began to clean the harness, and helped to wash the carriage.
As he was quite too short to do anything in the way of grooming
Ginger and me, James taught him upon Merrylegs, for he was to have
full charge of him, under John. He was a nice little bright fellow,
and always came whistling to his work.
Merrylegs was a good deal put out at being "mauled about," as he said,
"by a boy who knew nothing;" but toward the end of the second week
he told me confidentially that he thought the boy would turn out well.
At last the day came when James had to leave us; cheerful as he always was,
he looked quite down-hearted that morning.
"You see," he said to John, "I am leaving a great deal behind;
my mother and Betsy, and you, and a good master and mistress,
and then the horses, and my old Merrylegs. At the new place
there will not be a soul that I shall know. If it were not that
I shall get a higher place, and be able to help my mother better,
I don't think I should have made up my mind to it; it is a real pinch, John."
"Ay, James, lad, so it is; but I should not think much of you
if you could leave your home for the first time and not feel it. Cheer up,
you'll make friends there; and if you get on well, as I am sure you will,
it will be a fine thing for your mother, and she will be proud enough
that you have got into such a good place as that."
So John cheered him up, but every one was sorry to lose James;
as for Merrylegs, he pined after him for several days, and went quite off
his appetite. So John took him out several mornings with a leading rein,
when he exercised me, and, trotting and galloping by my side,
got up the little fellow's spirits again, and he was soon all right.
Joe's father would often come in and give a little help,
as he understood the work; and Joe took a great deal of pains to learn,
and John was quite encouraged about him.
18 Going for the Doctor
One night, a few days after James had left, I had eaten my hay
and was lying down in my straw fast asleep, when I was suddenly roused
by the stable bell ringing very loud. I heard the door of John's house open,
and his feet running up to the hall. He was back again in no time;
he unlocked the stable door, and came in, calling out, "Wake up, Beauty!
You must go well now, if ever you did;" and almost before I could think
he had got the saddle on my back and the bridle on my head.
He just ran round for his coat, and then took me at a quick trot
up to the hall door. The squire stood there, with a lamp in his hand.
"Now, John," he said, "ride for your life -- that is,
for your mistress' life; there is not a moment to lose.
Give this note to Dr. White; give your horse a rest at the inn,
and be back as soon as you can."
John said, "Yes, sir," and was on my back in a minute.
The gardener who lived at the lodge had heard the bell ring,
and was ready with the gate open, and away we went through the park,
and through the village, and down the hill till we came to the toll-gate.
John called very loud and thumped upon the door; the man was soon out
and flung open the gate.
"Now," said John, "do you keep the gate open for the doctor;
here's the money," and off he went again.
There was before us a long piece of level road by the river side;
John said to me, "Now, Beauty, do your best," and so I did;
I wanted no whip nor spur, and for two miles I galloped as fast as
I could lay my feet to the ground; I don't believe that my old grandfather,
who won the race at Newmarket, could have gone faster. When we came
to the bridge John pulled me up a little and patted my neck. "Well done,
Beauty! good old fellow," he said. He would have let me go slower,
but my spirit was up, and I was off again as fast as before.
The air was frosty, the moon was bright; it was very pleasant.
We came through a village, then through a dark wood, then uphill,
then downhill, till after eight miles' run we came to the town,
through the streets and into the market-place. It was all quite still
except the clatter of my feet on the stones -- everybody was asleep.
The church clock struck three as we drew up at Dr. White's door.
John rang the bell twice, and then knocked at the door like thunder.
A window was thrown up, and Dr. White, in his nightcap,
put his head out and said, "What do you want?"
"Mrs. Gordon is very ill, sir; master wants you to go at once;
he thinks she will die if you cannot get there. Here is a note."
"Wait," he said, "I will come."
He shut the window, and was soon at the door.
"The worst of it is," he said, "that my horse has been out all day
and is quite done up; my son has just been sent for,
and he has taken the other. What is to be done? Can I have your horse?"
"He has come at a gallop nearly all the way, sir, and I was to give him
a rest here; but I think my master would not be against it,
if you think fit, sir."
"All right," he said; "I will soon be ready."
John stood by me and stroked my neck; I was very hot. The doctor came out
with his riding-whip.
"You need not take that, sir," said John; "Black Beauty will go
till he drops. Take care of him, sir, if you can; I should not like
any harm to come to him."
"No, no, John," said the doctor, "I hope not," and in a minute
we had left John far behind.
I will not tell about our way back. The doctor was a heavier man than John,
and not so good a rider; however, I did my very best.
The man at the toll-gate had it open. When we came to the hill
the doctor drew me up. "Now, my good fellow," he said, "take some breath."
I was glad he did, for I was nearly spent, but that breathing helped me on,
and soon we were in the park. Joe was at the lodge gate;
my master was at the hall door, for he had heard us coming.
He spoke not a word; the doctor went into the house with him,
and Joe led me to the stable. I was glad to get home;
my legs shook under me, and I could only stand and pant.
I had not a dry hair on my body, the water ran down my legs,
and I steamed all over, Joe used to say, like a pot on the fire.
Poor Joe! he was young and small, and as yet he knew very little,
and his father, who would have helped him, had been sent to the next village;
but I am sure he did the very best he knew. He rubbed my legs and my chest,
but he did not put my warm cloth on me; he thought I was so hot
I should not like it. Then he gave me a pailful of water to drink;
it was cold and very good, and I drank it all; then he gave me
some hay and some corn, and thinking he had done right, he went away.
Soon I began to shake and tremble, and turned deadly cold; my legs ached,
my loins ached, and my chest ached, and I felt sore all over.
Oh! how I wished for my warm, thick cloth, as I stood and trembled.
I wished for John, but he had eight miles to walk, so I lay down in my straw
and tried to go to sleep. After a long while I heard John at the door;
I gave a low moan, for I was in great pain. He was at my side in a moment,
stooping down by me. I could not tell him how I felt,
but he seemed to know it all; he covered me up with two or three warm cloths,
and then ran to the house for some hot water; he made me some warm gruel,
which I drank, and then I think I went to sleep.
John seemed to be very much put out. I heard him say to himself
over and over again, "Stupid boy! stupid boy! no cloth put on,
and I dare say the water was cold, too; boys are no good;"
but Joe was a good boy, after all.
I was now very ill; a strong inflammation had attacked my lungs,
and I could not draw my breath without pain. John nursed me night and day;
he would get up two or three times in the night to come to me.
My master, too, often came to see me. "My poor Beauty," he said one day,
"my good horse, you saved your mistress' life, Beauty;
yes, you saved her life." I was very glad to hear that,
for it seems the doctor had said if we had been a little longer
it would have been too late. John told my master he never saw a horse
go so fast in his life. It seemed as if the horse knew what was the matter.
Of course I did, though John thought not; at least I knew as much as this --
that John and I must go at the top of our speed, and that it was
for the sake of the mistress.
19 Only Ignorance
I do not know how long I was ill. Mr. Bond, the horse-doctor,
came every day. One day he bled me; John held a pail for the blood.
I felt very faint after it and thought I should die, and I believe
they all thought so too.
Ginger and Merrylegs had been moved into the other stable,
so that I might be quiet, for the fever made me very quick of hearing;
any little noise seemed quite loud, and I could tell every one's footstep
going to and from the house. I knew all that was going on.
One night John had to give me a draught; Thomas Green came in to help him.
After I had taken it and John had made me as comfortable as he could,
he said he should stay half an hour to see how the medicine settled.
Thomas said he would stay with him, so they went and sat down on a bench
that had been brought into Merrylegs' stall, and put down the lantern
at their feet, that I might not be disturbed with the light.
For awhile both men sat silent, and then Tom Green said in a low voice:
"I wish, John, you'd say a bit of a kind word to Joe.
The boy is quite broken-hearted; he can't eat his meals, and he can't smile.
He says he knows it was all his fault, though he is sure he did the best
he knew, and he says if Beauty dies no one will ever speak to him again.
It goes to my heart to hear him. I think you might give him just a word;
he is not a bad boy."
After a short pause John said slowly, "You must not be too hard upon me, Tom.
I know he meant no harm, I never said he did; I know he is not a bad boy.
But you see, I am sore myself; that horse is the pride of my heart,
to say nothing of his being such a favorite with the master and mistress;
and to think that his life may be flung away in this manner
is more than I can bear. But if you think I am hard on the boy
I will try to give him a good word to-morrow -- that is,
I mean if Beauty is better."
"Well, John, thank you. I knew you did not wish to be too hard,
and I am glad you see it was only ignorance."
John's voice almost startled me as he answered:
"Only ignorance! only ignorance! how can you talk about only ignorance?
Don't you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness?
-- and which does the most mischief heaven only knows. If people can say,
`Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm,' they think it is all right.
I suppose Martha Mulwash did not mean to kill that baby
when she dosed it with Dalby and soothing syrups; but she did kill it,
and was tried for manslaughter."
"And serve her right, too," said Tom. "A woman should not undertake to nurse
a tender little child without knowing what is good and what is bad for it."
"Bill Starkey," continued John, "did not mean to frighten his brother
into fits when he dressed up like a ghost and ran after him in the moonlight;
but he did; and that bright, handsome little fellow, that might have been
the pride of any mother's heart is just no better than an idiot,
and never will be, if he lives to be eighty years old.
You were a good deal cut up yourself, Tom, two weeks ago,
when those young ladies left your hothouse door open, with a frosty east wind
blowing right in; you said it killed a good many of your plants."
"A good many!" said Tom; "there was not one of the tender cuttings
that was not nipped off. I shall have to strike all over again,
and the worst of it is that I don't know where to go to get fresh ones.
I was nearly mad when I came in and saw what was done."
"And yet," said John, "I am sure the young ladies did not mean it;
it was only ignorance."
I heard no more of this conversation, for the medicine did well
and sent me to sleep, and in the morning I felt much better;
but I often thought of John's words when I came to know more of the world.
20 Joe Green
Joe Green went on very well; he learned quickly, and was so
attentive and careful that John began to trust him in many things;
but as I have said, he was small of his age, and it was seldom
that he was allowed to exercise either Ginger or me; but it so happened
one morning that John was out with Justice in the luggage cart,
and the master wanted a note to be taken immediately to a gentleman's house,
about three miles distant, and sent his orders for Joe to saddle me
and take it, adding the caution that he was to ride steadily.
The note was delivered, and we were quietly returning when we came
to the brick-field. Here we saw a cart heavily laden with bricks;
the wheels had stuck fast in the stiff mud of some deep ruts,
and the carter was shouting and flogging the two horses unmercifully.
Joe pulled up. It was a sad sight. There were the two horses
straining and struggling with all their might to drag the cart out,
but they could not move it; the sweat streamed from their legs and flanks,
their sides heaved, and every muscle was strained, while the man,
fiercely pulling at the head of the fore horse, swore and lashed
"Hold hard," said Joe; "don't go on flogging the horses like that;
the wheels are so stuck that they cannot move the cart."
The man took no heed, but went on lashing.
"Stop! pray stop!" said Joe. "I'll help you to lighten the cart;
they can't move it now."
"Mind your own business, you impudent young rascal, and I'll mind mine!"
The man was in a towering passion and the worse for drink,
and laid on the whip again. Joe turned my head, and the next moment
we were going at a round gallop toward the house of the master brick-maker.
I cannot say if John would have approved of our pace, but Joe and I
were both of one mind, and so angry that we could not have gone slower.
The house stood close by the roadside. Joe knocked at the door,
and shouted, "Halloo! Is Mr. Clay at home?" The door was opened,
and Mr. Clay himself came out.
"Halloo, young man! You seem in a hurry; any orders from the squire
"No, Mr. Clay, but there's a fellow in your brick-yard
flogging two horses to death. I told him to stop, and he wouldn't;
I said I'd help him to lighten the cart, and he wouldn't; so I have come
to tell you. Pray, sir, go." Joe's voice shook with excitement.
"Thank ye, my lad," said the man, running in for his hat;
then pausing for a moment, "Will you give evidence of what you saw
if I should bring the fellow up before a magistrate?"
"That I will," said Joe, "and glad too." The man was gone,
and we were on our way home at a smart trot.
"Why, what's the matter with you, Joe? You look angry all over," said John,
as the boy flung himself from the saddle.
"I am angry all over, I can tell you," said the boy, and then in hurried,
excited words he told all that had happened. Joe was usually such a quiet,
gentle little fellow that it was wonderful to see him so roused.
"Right, Joe! you did right, my boy, whether the fellow gets a summons or not.
Many folks would have ridden by and said it was not their business
to interfere. Now I say that with cruelty and oppression it is
everybody's business to interfere when they see it; you did right, my boy."
Joe was quite calm by this time, and proud that John approved of him,
and cleaned out my feet and rubbed me down with a firmer hand than usual.
They were just going home to dinner when the footman came down to the stable
to say that Joe was wanted directly in master's private room;
there was a man brought up for ill-using horses, and Joe's evidence
was wanted. The boy flushed up to his forehead, and his eyes sparkled.
"They shall have it," said he.
"Put yourself a bit straight," said John. Joe gave a pull at his necktie
and a twitch at his jacket, and was off in a moment. Our master being
one of the county magistrates, cases were often brought to him to settle,
or say what should be done. In the stable we heard no more for some time,
as it was the men's dinner hour, but when Joe came next into the stable
I saw he was in high spirits; he gave me a good-natured slap, and said,
"We won't see such things done, will we, old fellow?" We heard afterward
that he had given his evidence so clearly, and the horses were in such
an exhausted state, bearing marks of such brutal usage, that the carter
was committed to take his trial, and might possibly be sentenced
to two or three months in prison.
It was wonderful what a change had come over Joe. John laughed,
and said he had grown an inch taller in that week, and I believe he had.
He was just as kind and gentle as before, but there was more purpose
and determination in all that he did -- as if he had jumped at once
from a boy into a man.
21 The Parting
Now I had lived in this happy place three years, but sad changes were about
to come over us. We heard from time to time that our mistress was ill.
The doctor was often at the house, and the master looked grave and anxious.
Then we heard that she must leave her home at once, and go to a warm country
for two or three years. The news fell upon the household like the tolling
of a deathbell. Everybody was sorry; but the master began directly
to make arrangements for breaking up his establishment and leaving England.
We used to hear it talked about in our stable; indeed,
nothing else was talked about.
John went about his work silent and sad, and Joe scarcely whistled.
There was a great deal of coming and going; Ginger and I had full work.
The first of the party who went were Miss Jessie and Flora,
with their governess. They came to bid us good-by.
They hugged poor Merrylegs like an old friend, and so indeed he was.
Then we heard what had been arranged for us. Master had sold Ginger and me
to his old friend, the Earl of W----, for he thought we should have
a good place there. Merrylegs he had given to the vicar,
who was wanting a pony for Mrs. Blomefield, but it was on the condition
that he should never be sold, and that when he was past work
he should be shot and buried.
Joe was engaged to take care of him and to help in the house,
so I thought that Merrylegs was well off. John had the offer
of several good places, but he said he should wait a little and look round.
The evening before they left the master came into the stable
to give some directions, and to give his horses the last pat.
He seemed very low-spirited; I knew that by his voice.
I believe we horses can tell more by the voice than many men can.
"Have you decided what to do, John?" he said. "I find you have not accepted
either of those offers."
"No, sir; I have made up my mind that if I could get a situation
with some first-rate colt-breaker and horse-trainer, it would be
the right thing for me. Many young animals are frightened and spoiled
by wrong treatment, which need not be if the right man took them in hand.
I always get on well with horses, and if I could help some of them
to a fair start I should feel as if I was doing some good.
What do you think of it, sir?"
"I don't know a man anywhere," said master, "that I should think
so suitable for it as yourself. You understand horses,
and somehow they understand you, and in time you might set up for yourself;
I think you could not do better. If in any way I can help you, write to me.
I shall speak to my agent in London, and leave your character with him."
Master gave John the name and address, and then he thanked him
for his long and faithful service; but that was too much for John.
"Pray, don't, sir, I can't bear it; you and my dear mistress have done
so much for me that I could never repay it. But we shall never forget you,
sir, and please God, we may some day see mistress back again like herself;
we must keep up hope, sir." Master gave John his hand, but he did not speak,
and they both left the stable.
The last sad day had come; the footman and the heavy luggage had gone off
the day before, and there were only master and mistress and her maid.
Ginger and I brought the carriage up to the hall door for the last time.
The servants brought out cushions and rugs and many other things;
and when all were arranged master came down the steps carrying the mistress
in his arms (I was on the side next to the house, and could see
all that went on); he placed her carefully in the carriage,
while the house servants stood round crying.
"Good-by, again," he said; "we shall not forget any of you," and he got in.
"Drive on, John."
Joe jumped up, and we trotted slowly through the park
and through the village, where the people were standing at their doors
to have a last look and to say, "God bless them."
When we reached the railway station I think mistress walked from the carriage
to the waiting-room. I heard her say in her own sweet voice, "Good-by, John.
God bless you." I felt the rein twitch, but John made no answer;
perhaps he could not speak. As soon as Joe had taken the things
out of the carriage John called him to stand by the horses,
while he went on the platform. Poor Joe! he stood close up to our heads
to hide his tears. Very soon the train came puffing up into the station;
then two or three minutes, and the doors were slammed to, the guard whistled,
and the train glided away, leaving behind it only clouds of white smoke
and some very heavy hearts.
When it was quite out of sight John came back.
"We shall never see her again," he said -- "never." He took the reins,
mounted the box, and with Joe drove slowly home; but it was not our home now.
The next morning after breakfast Joe put Merrylegs into
the mistress' low chaise to take him to the vicarage; he came first
and said good-by to us, and Merrylegs neighed to us from the yard.
Then John put the saddle on Ginger and the leading rein on me,
and rode us across the country about fifteen miles to Earlshall Park,
where the Earl of W---- lived. There was a very fine house
and a great deal of stabling. We went into the yard through a stone gateway,
and John asked for Mr. York. It was some time before he came.
He was a fine-looking, middle-aged man, and his voice said at once
that he expected to be obeyed. He was very friendly and polite to John,
and after giving us a slight look he called a groom to take us to our boxes,
and invited John to take some refreshment.
We were taken to a light, airy stable, and placed in boxes
adjoining each other, where we were rubbed down and fed.
In about half an hour John and Mr. York, who was to be our new coachman,
came in to see us.
"Now, Mr. Manly," he said, after carefully looking at us both,
"I can see no fault in these horses; but we all know that horses
have their peculiarities as well as men, and that sometimes they need
different treatment. I should like to know if there is anything particular
in either of these that you would like to mention."
"Well," said John, "I don't believe there is a better pair of horses
in the country, and right grieved I am to part with them,
but they are not alike. The black one is the most perfect temper
I ever knew; I suppose he has never known a hard word or a blow
since he was foaled, and all his pleasure seems to be to do what you wish;
but the chestnut, I fancy, must have had bad treatment;
we heard as much from the dealer. She came to us snappish and suspicious,
but when she found what sort of place ours was, it all went off by degrees;
for three years I have never seen the smallest sign of temper,
and if she is well treated there is not a better, more willing animal
than she is. But she is naturally a more irritable constitution
than the black horse; flies tease her more; anything wrong in the harness
frets her more; and if she were ill-used or unfairly treated
she would not be unlikely to give tit for tat. You know that
many high-mettled horses will do so."
"Of course," said York, "I quite understand; but you know it is not easy
in stables like these to have all the grooms just what they should be.
I do my best, and there I must leave it. I'll remember what you have said
about the mare."
They were going out of the stable, when John stopped and said,
"I had better mention that we have never used the check-rein
with either of them; the black horse never had one on,
and the dealer said it was the gag-bit that spoiled the other's temper."
"Well," said York, "if they come here they must wear the check-rein.
I prefer a loose rein myself, and his lordship is always very reasonable
about horses; but my lady -- that's another thing; she will have style,
and if her carriage horses are not reined up tight she wouldn't look at them.
I always stand out against the gag-bit, and shall do so,
but it must be tight up when my lady rides!"
"I am sorry for it, very sorry," said John; "but I must go now,
or I shall lose the train."
He came round to each of us to pat and speak to us for the last time;
his voice sounded very sad.
I held my face close to him; that was all I could do to say good-by;
and then he was gone, and I have never seen him since.
The next day Lord W---- came to look at us; he seemed pleased
with our appearance.
"I have great confidence in these horses," he said, "from the character
my friend Mr. Gordon has given me of them. Of course they are not
a match in color, but my idea is that they will do very well for the carriage
while we are in the country. Before we go to London I must try
to match Baron; the black horse, I believe, is perfect for riding."
York then told him what John had said about us.
"Well," said he, "you must keep an eye to the mare,
and put the check-rein easy; I dare say they will do very well
with a little humoring at first. I'll mention it to your lady."
In the afternoon we were harnessed and put in the carriage,
and as the stable clock struck three we were led round to the front
of the house. It was all very grand, and three or four times as large
as the old house at Birtwick, but not half so pleasant,
if a horse may have an opinion. Two footmen were standing ready,
dressed in drab livery, with scarlet breeches and white stockings.
Presently we heard the rustling sound of silk as my lady came down
the flight of stone steps. She stepped round to look at us; she was a tall,
proud-looking woman, and did not seem pleased about something,
but she said nothing, and got into the carriage. This was the first time
of wearing a check-rein, and I must say, though it certainly was a nuisance
not to be able to get my head down now and then, it did not pull my head
higher than I was accustomed to carry it. I felt anxious about Ginger,
but she seemed to be quiet and content.
The next day at three o'clock we were again at the door,
and the footmen as before; we heard the silk dress rustle
and the lady came down the steps, and in an imperious voice she said,
"York, you must put those horses' heads higher; they are not fit to be seen."
York got down, and said very respectfully, "I beg your pardon, my lady,
but these horses have not been reined up for three years,
and my lord said it would be safer to bring them to it by degrees;
but if your ladyship pleases I can take them up a little more."
"Do so," she said.
York came round to our heads and shortened the rein himself -- one hole,
I think; every little makes a difference, be it for better or worse,
and that day we had a steep hill to go up. Then I began to understand
what I had heard of. Of course, I wanted to put my head forward
and take the carriage up with a will, as we had been used to do; but no,
I had to pull with my head up now, and that took all the spirit out of me,
and the strain came on my back and legs. When we came in Ginger said,
"Now you see what it is like; but this is not bad,
and if it does not get much worse than this I shall say nothing about it,
for we are very well treated here; but if they strain me up tight,
why, let 'em look out! I can't bear it, and I won't."
Day by day, hole by hole, our bearing reins were shortened,
and instead of looking forward with pleasure to having my harness put on,
as I used to do, I began to dread it. Ginger, too, seemed restless,
though she said very little. At last I thought the worst was over;
for several days there was no more shortening, and I determined
to make the best of it and do my duty, though it was now a constant harass
instead of a pleasure; but the worst was not come.
23 A Strike for Liberty
One day my lady came down later than usual, and the silk rustled
more than ever.
"Drive to the Duchess of B----'s," she said, and then after a pause,
"Are you never going to get those horses' heads up, York?
Raise them at once and let us have no more of this humoring and nonsense."
York came to me first, while the groom stood at Ginger's head.
He drew my head back and fixed the rein so tight that it was
almost intolerable; then he went to Ginger, who was impatiently
jerking her head up and down against the bit, as was her way now.
She had a good idea of what was coming, and the moment York took the rein
off the terret in order to shorten it she took her opportunity
and reared up so suddenly that York had his nose roughly hit
and his hat knocked off; the groom was nearly thrown off his legs.
At once they both flew to her head; but she was a match for them,
and went on plunging, rearing, and kicking in a most desperate manner.
At last she kicked right over the carriage pole and fell down,
after giving me a severe blow on my near quarter. There is no knowing
what further mischief she might have done had not York promptly
sat himself down flat on her head to prevent her struggling,
at the same time calling out, "Unbuckle the black horse!
Run for the winch and unscrew the carriage pole! Cut the trace here,
somebody, if you can't unhitch it!" One of the footmen ran for the winch,
and another brought a knife from the house. The groom soon set me free
from Ginger and the carriage, and led me to my box. He just turned me in
as I was and ran back to York. I was much excited by what had happened,
and if I had ever been used to kick or rear I am sure I should have
done it then; but I never had, and there I stood, angry, sore in my leg,
my head still strained up to the terret on the saddle,
and no power to get it down. I was very miserable and felt much inclined
to kick the first person who came near me.
Before long, however, Ginger was led in by two grooms, a good deal
knocked about and bruised. York came with her and gave his orders,
and then came to look at me. In a moment he let down my head.
"Confound these check-reins!" he said to himself; "I thought we should have
some mischief soon. Master will be sorely vexed. But there,
if a woman's husband can't rule her of course a servant can't;
so I wash my hands of it, and if she can't get to the duchess' garden party
I can't help it."
York did not say this before the men; he always spoke respectfully
when they were by. Now he felt me all over, and soon found the place
above my hock where I had been kicked. It was swelled and painful;
he ordered it to be sponged with hot water, and then some lotion was put on.
Lord W---- was much put out when he learned what had happened;
he blamed York for giving way to his mistress, to which he replied
that in future he would much prefer to receive his orders only from
his lordship; but I think nothing came of it, for things went on
the same as before. I thought York might have stood up better
for his horses, but perhaps I am no judge.
Ginger was never put into the carriage again, but when she was
well of her bruises one of the Lord W----'s younger sons
said he should like to have her; he was sure she would make a good hunter.
As for me, I was obliged still to go in the carriage, and had a fresh partner
called Max; he had always been used to the tight rein.
I asked him how it was he bore it.
"Well," he said, "I bear it because I must; but it is shortening my life,
and it will shorten yours too if you have to stick to it."
"Do you think," I said, "that our masters know how bad it is for us?"
"I can't say," he replied, "but the dealers and the horse-doctors
know it very well. I was at a dealer's once, who was training me
and another horse to go as a pair; he was getting our heads up, as he said,
a little higher and a little higher every day. A gentleman who was there
asked him why he did so. `Because,' said he, `people won't buy them
unless we do. The London people always want their horses
to carry their heads high and to step high. Of course it is very bad
for the horses, but then it is good for trade. The horses soon wear up,
or get diseased, and they come for another pair.' That," said Max,
"is what he said in my hearing, and you can judge for yourself."
What I suffered with that rein for four long months in my lady's carriage
it would be hard to describe; but I am quite sure that, had it lasted
much longer, either my health or my temper would have given way.
Before that, I never knew what it was to foam at the mouth,
but now the action of the sharp bit on my tongue and jaw,
and the constrained position of my head and throat, always caused me
to froth at the mouth more or less. Some people think it very fine
to see this, and say, "What fine spirited creatures!" But it is just
as unnatural for horses as for men to foam at the mouth; it is a sure sign
of some discomfort, and should be attended to. Besides this,
there was a pressure on my windpipe, which often made my breathing
very uncomfortable; when I returned from my work my neck and chest
were strained and painful, my mouth and tongue tender,
and I felt worn and depressed.
In my old home I always knew that John and my master were my friends;
but here, although in many ways I was well treated, I had no friend.
York might have known, and very likely did know, how that rein harassed me;
but I suppose he took it as a matter of course that it could not be helped;
at any rate, nothing was done to relieve me.
24 The Lady Anne, or a Runaway Horse
Early in the spring, Lord W---- and part of his family went up to London,
and took York with them. I and Ginger and some other horses
were left at home for use, and the head groom was left in charge.
The Lady Harriet, who remained at the hall, was a great invalid,
and never went out in the carriage, and the Lady Anne preferred
riding on horseback with her brother or cousins. She was
a perfect horsewoman, and as gay and gentle as she was beautiful.
She chose me for her horse, and named me "Black Auster".
I enjoyed these rides very much in the clear cold air, sometimes with Ginger,
sometimes with Lizzie. This Lizzie was a bright bay mare,
almost thoroughbred, and a great favorite with the gentlemen,
on account of her fine action and lively spirit; but Ginger,
who knew more of her than I did, told me she was rather nervous.
There was a gentleman of the name of Blantyre staying at the hall;
he always rode Lizzie, and praised her so much that one day Lady Anne ordered
the side-saddle to be put on her, and the other saddle on me.
When we came to the door the gentleman seemed very uneasy.
"How is this?" he said. "Are you tired of your good Black Auster?"
"Oh, no, not at all," she replied, "but I am amiable enough
to let you ride him for once, and I will try your charming Lizzie.
You must confess that in size and appearance she is far more like
a lady's horse than my own favorite."
"Do let me advise you not to mount her," he said;
"she is a charming creature, but she is too nervous for a lady.
I assure you, she is not perfectly safe; let me beg you
to have the saddles changed."
"My dear cousin," said Lady Anne, laughing, "pray do not trouble
your good careful head about me. I have been a horsewoman
ever since I was a baby, and I have followed the hounds a great many times,
though I know you do not approve of ladies hunting;
but still that is the fact, and I intend to try this Lizzie
that you gentlemen are all so fond of; so please help me to mount,
like a good friend as you are."
There was no more to be said; he placed her carefully on the saddle,
looked to the bit and curb, gave the reins gently into her hand,
and then mounted me. Just as we were moving off a footman came out
with a slip of paper and message from the Lady Harriet.
"Would they ask this question for her at Dr. Ashley's, and bring the answer?"
The village was about a mile off, and the doctor's house was the last in it.
We went along gayly enough till we came to his gate. There was a short drive
up to the house between tall evergreens.
Blantyre alighted at the gate, and was going to open it for Lady Anne,
but she said, "I will wait for you here, and you can hang Auster's rein
on the gate."
He looked at her doubtfully. "I will not be five minutes," he said.
"Oh, do not hurry yourself; Lizzie and I shall not run away from you."
He hung my rein on one of the iron spikes, and was soon hidden
among the trees. Lizzie was standing quietly by the side of the road
a few paces off, with her back to me. My young mistress was sitting easily
with a loose rein, humming a little song. I listened to my rider's footsteps
until they reached the house, and heard him knock at the door.
There was a meadow on the opposite side of the road, the gate of which
stood open; just then some cart horses and several young colts
came trotting out in a very disorderly manner, while a boy behind
was cracking a great whip. The colts were wild and frolicsome,
and one of them bolted across the road and blundered up against
Lizzie's hind legs, and whether it was the stupid colt,
or the loud cracking of the whip, or both together, I cannot say,
but she gave a violent kick, and dashed off into a headlong gallop.
It was so sudden that Lady Anne was nearly unseated,
but she soon recovered herself. I gave a loud, shrill neigh for help;
again and again I neighed, pawing the ground impatiently,
and tossing my head to get the rein loose. I had not long to wait.
Blantyre came running to the gate; he looked anxiously about,
and just caught sight of the flying figure, now far away on the road.
In an instant he sprang to the saddle. I needed no whip, no spur,
for I was as eager as my rider; he saw it, and giving me a free rein,
and leaning a little forward, we dashed after them.
For about a mile and a half the road ran straight,
and then bent to the right, after which it divided into two roads.
Long before we came to the bend she was out of sight.
Which way had she turned? A woman was standing at her garden gate,
shading her eyes with her hand, and looking eagerly up the road.
Scarcely drawing the rein, Blantyre shouted, "Which way?"
"To the right!" cried the woman, pointing with her hand, and away we went
up the right-hand road; then for a moment we caught sight of her;
another bend and she was hidden again. Several times we caught glimpses,
and then lost them. We scarcely seemed to gain ground upon them at all.
An old road-mender was standing near a heap of stones, his shovel dropped
and his hands raised. As we came near he made a sign to speak.
Blantyre drew the rein a little. "To the common, to the common, sir;
she has turned off there." I knew this common very well;
it was for the most part very uneven ground, covered with heather
and dark-green furze bushes, with here and there a scrubby old thorn-tree;
there were also open spaces of fine short grass, with ant-hills
and mole-turns everywhere; the worst place I ever knew for a headlong gallop.
We had hardly turned on the common, when we caught sight again
of the green habit flying on before us. My lady's hat was gone,
and her long brown hair was streaming behind her. Her head and body
were thrown back, as if she were pulling with all her remaining strength,
and as if that strength were nearly exhausted. It was clear
that the roughness of the ground had very much lessened Lizzie's speed,
and there seemed a chance that we might overtake her.
While we were on the highroad, Blantyre had given me my head; but now,
with a light hand and a practiced eye, he guided me over the ground
in such a masterly manner that my pace was scarcely slackened,
and we were decidedly gaining on them.
About halfway across the heath there had been a wide dike recently cut,
and the earth from the cutting was cast up roughly on the other side.
Surely this would stop them! But no; with scarcely a pause
Lizzie took the leap, stumbled among the rough clods and fell.
Blantyre groaned, "Now, Auster, do your best!" He gave me a steady rein.
I gathered myself well together and with one determined leap
cleared both dike and bank.
Motionless among the heather, with her face to the earth,
lay my poor young mistress. Blantyre kneeled down and called her name:
there was no sound. Gently he turned her face upward: it was ghastly white
and the eyes were closed. "Annie, dear Annie, do speak!"
But there was no answer. He unbuttoned her habit, loosened her collar,
felt her hands and wrist, then started up and looked wildly round him
At no great distance there were two men cutting turf, who,
seeing Lizzie running wild without a rider, had left their work to catch her.
Blantyre's halloo soon brought them to the spot. The foremost man
seemed much troubled at the sight, and asked what he could do.
"Can you ride?"
"Well, sir, I bean't much of a horseman, but I'd risk my neck
for the Lady Anne; she was uncommon good to my wife in the winter."
"Then mount this horse, my friend -- your neck will be quite safe --
and ride to the doctor's and ask him to come instantly; then on to the hall;
tell them all that you know, and bid them send me the carriage,
with Lady Anne's maid and help. I shall stay here."
"All right, sir, I'll do my best, and I pray God the dear young lady
may open her eyes soon." Then, seeing the other man, he called out,
"Here, Joe, run for some water, and tell my missis to come
as quick as she can to the Lady Anne."
He then somehow scrambled into the saddle, and with a "Gee up"
and a clap on my sides with both his legs, he started on his journey,
making a little circuit to avoid the dike. He had no whip,
which seemed to trouble him; but my pace soon cured that difficulty,
and he found the best thing he could do was to stick to the saddle
and hold me in, which he did manfully. I shook him as little
as I could help, but once or twice on the rough ground he called out,
"Steady! Woah! Steady!" On the highroad we were all right;
and at the doctor's and the hall he did his errand like a good man and true.
They asked him in to take a drop of something. "No, no," he said;
"I'll be back to 'em again by a short cut through the fields,
and be there afore the carriage."
There was a great deal of hurry and excitement after the news became known.
I was just turned into my box; the saddle and bridle were taken off,
and a cloth thrown over me.
Ginger was saddled and sent off in great haste for Lord George,
and I soon heard the carriage roll out of the yard.
It seemed a long time before Ginger came back, and before we were left alone;
and then she told me all that she had seen.
"I can't tell much," she said. "We went a gallop nearly all the way,
and got there just as the doctor rode up. There was a woman
sitting on the ground with the lady's head in her lap.
The doctor poured something into her mouth, but all that I heard was,
`She is not dead.' Then I was led off by a man to a little distance.
After awhile she was taken to the carriage, and we came home together.
I heard my master say to a gentleman who stopped him to inquire,
that he hoped no bones were broken, but that she had not spoken yet."
When Lord George took Ginger for hunting, York shook his head;
he said it ought to be a steady hand to train a horse for the first season,
and not a random rider like Lord George.
Ginger used to like it very much, but sometimes when she came back
I could see that she had been very much strained, and now and then
she gave a short cough. She had too much spirit to complain,
but I could not help feeling anxious about her.
Two days after the accident Blantyre paid me a visit;
he patted me and praised me very much; he told Lord George that he was sure
the horse knew of Annie's danger as well as he did. "I could not have
held him in if I would," said he, "she ought never to ride any other horse."
I found by their conversation that my young mistress was now out of danger,
and would soon be able to ride again. This was good news to me
and I looked forward to a happy life.
25 Reuben Smith
Now I must say a little about Reuben Smith, who was left in charge
of the stables when York went to London. No one more thoroughly
understood his business than he did, and when he was all right
there could not be a more faithful or valuable man.
He was gentle and very clever in his management of horses,
and could doctor them almost as well as a farrier,
for he had lived two years with a veterinary surgeon.
He was a first-rate driver; he could take a four-in-hand or a tandem
as easily as a pair. He was a handsome man, a good scholar,
and had very pleasant manners. I believe everybody liked him;
certainly the horses did. The only wonder was that he should be
in an under situation and not in the place of a head coachman like York;
but he had one great fault and that was the love of drink.
He was not like some men, always at it; he used to keep steady for weeks
or months together, and then he would break out and have a "bout" of it,
as York called it, and be a disgrace to himself, a terror to his wife,
and a nuisance to all that had to do with him. He was, however, so useful
that two or three times York had hushed the matter up and kept it
from the earl's knowledge; but one night, when Reuben had to drive a party
home from a ball he was so drunk that he could not hold the reins,
and a gentleman of the party had to mount the box and drive the ladies home.
Of course, this could not be hidden, and Reuben was at once dismissed;
his poor wife and little children had to turn out of the pretty cottage
by the park gate and go where they could. Old Max told me all this,
for it happened a good while ago; but shortly before Ginger and I came
Smith had been taken back again. York had interceded for him with the earl,
who is very kind-hearted, and the man had promised faithfully
that he would never taste another drop as long as he lived there.
He had kept his promise so well that York thought he might be safely trusted
to fill his place while he was away, and he was so clever and honest
that no one else seemed so well fitted for it.
It was now early in April, and the family was expected home some time in May.
The light brougham was to be fresh done up, and as Colonel Blantyre
was obliged to return to his regiment it was arranged that Smith
should drive him to the town in it, and ride back; for this purpose
he took the saddle with him, and I was chosen for the journey.
At the station the colonel put some money into Smith's hand
and bid him good-by, saying, "Take care of your young mistress, Reuben,
and don't let Black Auster be hacked about by any random young prig
that wants to ride him -- keep him for the lady."
We left the carriage at the maker's, and Smith rode me to the White Lion,
and ordered the hostler to feed me well, and have me ready for him at
four o'clock. A nail in one of my front shoes had started as I came along,
but the hostler did not notice it till just about four o'clock.
Smith did not come into the yard till five, and then he said he should
not leave till six, as he had met with some old friends. The man then
told him of the nail, and asked if he should have the shoe looked to.
"No," said Smith, "that will be all right till we get home."
He spoke in a very loud, offhand way, and I thought it very unlike him
not to see about the shoe, as he was generally wonderfully particular
about loose nails in our shoes. He did not come at six nor seven, nor eight,
and it was nearly nine o'clock before he called for me,
and then it was with a loud, rough voice. He seemed in a very bad temper,
and abused the hostler, though I could not tell what for.
The landlord stood at the door and said, "Have a care, Mr. Smith!"
but he answered angrily with an oath; and almost before
he was out of the town he began to gallop, frequently giving me a sharp cut
with his whip, though I was going at full speed. The moon had not yet risen,
and it was very dark. The roads were stony, having been recently mended;
going over them at this pace, my shoe became looser,
and as we neared the turnpike gate it came off.
If Smith had been in his right senses he would have been sensible
of something wrong in my pace, but he was too drunk to notice.
Beyond the turnpike was a long piece of road, upon which fresh stones
had just been laid -- large sharp stones, over which no horse could be
driven quickly without risk of danger. Over this road, with one shoe gone,
I was forced to gallop at my utmost speed, my rider meanwhile cutting into me
with his whip, and with wild curses urging me to go still faster.
Of course my shoeless foot suffered dreadfully; the hoof was broken and split
down to the very quick, and the inside was terribly cut by the sharpness
of the stones.
This could not go on; no horse could keep his footing
under such circumstances; the pain was too great. I stumbled,
and fell with violence on both my knees. Smith was flung off by my fall,
and, owing to the speed I was going at, he must have fallen with great force.
I soon recovered my feet and limped to the side of the road,
where it was free from stones. The moon had just risen above the hedge,
and by its light I could see Smith lying a few yards beyond me.
He did not rise; he made one slight effort to do so,
and then there was a heavy groan. I could have groaned, too,
for I was suffering intense pain both from my foot and knees;
but horses are used to bear their pain in silence. I uttered no sound,
but I stood there and listened. One more heavy groan from Smith;
but though he now lay in the full moonlight I could see no motion.
I could do nothing for him nor myself, but, oh! how I listened for the sound
of horse, or wheels, or footsteps! The road was not much frequented,
and at this time of the night we might stay for hours before help came to us.
I stood watching and listening. It was a calm, sweet April night;
there were no sounds but a few low notes of a nightingale,
and nothing moved but the white clouds near the moon and a brown owl
that flitted over the hedge. It made me think of the summer nights long ago,
when I used to lie beside my mother in the green pleasant meadow
at Farmer Grey's.
26 How it Ended
It must have been nearly midnight when I heard at a great distance
the sound of a horse's feet. Sometimes the sound died away, then it grew
clearer again and nearer. The road to Earlshall led through woods
that belonged to the earl; the sound came in that direction,
and I hoped it might be some one coming in search of us. As the sound
came nearer and nearer I was almost sure I could distinguish Ginger's step;
a little nearer still, and I could tell she was in the dog-cart.
I neighed loudly, and was overjoyed to hear an answering neigh from Ginger,
and men's voices. They came slowly over the stones, and stopped at
the dark figure that lay upon the ground.
One of the men jumped out, and stooped down over it. "It is Reuben,"
he said, "and he does not stir!"
The other man followed, and bent over him. "He's dead," he said;
"feel how cold his hands are."
They raised him up, but there was no life, and his hair was soaked
with blood. They laid him down again, and came and looked at me.
They soon saw my cut knees.
"Why, the horse has been down and thrown him! Who would have thought
the black horse would have done that? Nobody thought he could fall.
Reuben must have been lying here for hours! Odd, too,
that the horse has not moved from the place."
Robert then attempted to lead me forward. I made a step,
but almost fell again.
"Halloo! he's bad in his foot as well as his knees. Look here --
his hoof is cut all to pieces; he might well come down, poor fellow!
I tell you what, Ned, I'm afraid it hasn't been all right with Reuben.
Just think of his riding a horse over these stones without a shoe!
Why, if he had been in his right senses he would just as soon have tried
to ride him over the moon. I'm afraid it has been the old thing over again.
Poor Susan! she looked awfully pale when she came to my house
to ask if he had not come home. She made believe she was not a bit anxious,
and talked of a lot of things that might have kept him.
But for all that she begged me to go and meet him. But what must we do?
There's the horse to get home as well as the body, and that will be
no easy matter."
Then followed a conversation between them, till it was agreed that Robert,
as the groom, should lead me, and that Ned must take the body.
It was a hard job to get it into the dog-cart, for there was no one
to hold Ginger; but she knew as well as I did what was going on,
and stood as still as a stone. I noticed that, because, if she had a fault,
it was that she was impatient in standing.
Ned started off very slowly with his sad load, and Robert came and looked
at my foot again; then he took his handkerchief and bound it closely round,
and so he led me home. I shall never forget that night walk;
it was more than three miles. Robert led me on very slowly,
and I limped and hobbled on as well as I could with great pain.
I am sure he was sorry for me, for he often patted and encouraged me,
talking to me in a pleasant voice.
At last I reached my own box, and had some corn; and after Robert
had wrapped up my knees in wet cloths, he tied up my foot in a bran poultice,
to draw out the heat and cleanse it before the horse-doctor saw it
in the morning, and I managed to get myself down on the straw,
and slept in spite of the pain.
The next day after the farrier had examined my wounds, he said he hoped
the joint was not injured; and if so, I should not be spoiled for work,
but I should never lose the blemish. I believe they did the best
to make a good cure, but it was a long and painful one. Proud flesh,
as they called it, came up in my knees, and was burned out with caustic;
and when at last it was healed, they put a blistering fluid over the front
of both knees to bring all the hair off; they had some reason for this,
and I suppose it was all right.
As Smith's death had been so sudden, and no one was there to see it,
there was an inquest held. The landlord and hostler at the White Lion,
with several other people, gave evidence that he was intoxicated
when he started from the inn. The keeper of the toll-gate
said he rode at a hard gallop through the gate; and my shoe was picked up
among the stones, so that the case was quite plain to them,
and I was cleared of all blame.
Everybody pitied Susan. She was nearly out of her mind;
she kept saying over and over again, "Oh! he was so good -- so good!
It was all that cursed drink; why will they sell that cursed drink?
Oh Reuben, Reuben!" So she went on till after he was buried; and then,
as she had no home or relations, she, with her six little children,
was obliged once more to leave the pleasant home by the tall oak-trees,
and go into that great gloomy Union House.
27 Ruined and Going Downhill
As soon as my knees were sufficiently healed I was turned into a small meadow
for a month or two; no other creature was there; and though I enjoyed
the liberty and the sweet grass, yet I had been so long used to society
that I felt very lonely. Ginger and I had become fast friends,
and now I missed her company extremely. I often neighed when I heard
horses' feet passing in the road, but I seldom got an answer;
till one morning the gate was opened, and who should come in
but dear old Ginger. The man slipped off her halter, and left her there.
With a joyful whinny I trotted up to her; we were both glad to meet,
but I soon found that it was not for our pleasure that she was brought
to be with me. Her story would be too long to tell, but the end of it was
that she had been ruined by hard riding, and was now turned off
to see what rest would do.
Lord George was young and would take no warning; he was a hard rider,
and would hunt whenever he could get the chance, quite careless of his horse.
Soon after I left the stable there was a steeplechase, and he determined
to ride. Though the groom told him she was a little strained,
and was not fit for the race, he did not believe it,
and on the day of the race urged Ginger to keep up with the foremost riders.
With her high spirit, she strained herself to the utmost;
she came in with the first three horses, but her wind was touched,
besides which he was too heavy for her, and her back was strained.
"And so," she said, "here we are, ruined in the prime of our
youth and strength, you by a drunkard, and I by a fool; it is very hard."
We both felt in ourselves that we were not what we had been. However,
that did not spoil the pleasure we had in each other's company;
we did not gallop about as we once did, but we used to feed,
and lie down together, and stand for hours under one of the shady lime-trees
with our heads close to each other; and so we passed our time
till the family returned from town.
One day we saw the earl come into the meadow, and York was with him.
Seeing who it was, we stood still under our lime-tree,
and let them come up to us. They examined us carefully.
The earl seemed much annoyed.
"There is three hundred pounds flung away for no earthly use," said he;
"but what I care most for is that these horses of my old friend,
who thought they would find a good home with me, are ruined.
The mare shall have a twelve-month's run, and we shall see
what that will do for her; but the black one, he must be sold;
'tis a great pity, but I could not have knees like these in my stables."
"No, my lord, of course not," said York; "but he might get
a place where appearance is not of much consequence,
and still be well treated. I know a man in Bath, the master
of some livery stables, who often wants a good horse at a low figure;
I know he looks well after his horses. The inquest cleared
the horse's character, and your lordship's recommendation, or mine,
would be sufficient warrant for him."
"You had better write to him, York. I should be more particular
about the place than the money he would fetch."
After this they left us.
"They'll soon take you away," said Ginger, "and I shall lose
the only friend I have, and most likely we shall never see each other again.
'Tis a hard world!"
About a week after this Robert came into the field with a halter,
which he slipped over my head, and led me away. There was no leave-taking
of Ginger; we neighed to each other as I was led off,
and she trotted anxiously along by the hedge, calling to me
as long as she could hear the sound of my feet.
Through the recommendation of York, I was bought by the master
of the livery stables. I had to go by train, which was new to me,
and required a good deal of courage the first time;
but as I found the puffing, rushing, whistling, and, more than all,
the trembling of the horse-box in which I stood did me no real harm,
I soon took it quietly.
When I reached the end of my journey I found myself
in a tolerably comfortable stable, and well attended to.
These stables were not so airy and pleasant as those I had been used to.
The stalls were laid on a slope instead of being level, and as my head
was kept tied to the manger, I was obliged always to stand on the slope,
which was very fatiguing. Men do not seem to know yet that horses
can do more work if they can stand comfortably and can turn about;
however, I was well fed and well cleaned, and, on the whole,
I think our master took as much care of us as he could.
He kept a good many horses and carriages of different kinds for hire.
Sometimes his own men drove them; at others, the horse and chaise
were let to gentlemen or ladies who drove themselves.
28 A Job Horse and His Drivers
Hitherto I had always been driven by people who at least knew how to drive;
but in this place I was to get my experience of all the different kinds
of bad and ignorant driving to which we horses are subjected;
for I was a "job horse", and was let out to all sorts of people
who wished to hire me; and as I was good-tempered and gentle, I think I was
oftener let out to the ignorant drivers than some of the other horses,
because I could be depended upon. It would take a long time
to tell of all the different styles in which I was driven,
but I will mention a few of them.
First, there were the tight-rein drivers -- men who seemed to think
that all depended on holding the reins as hard as they could, never relaxing
the pull on the horse's mouth, or giving him the least liberty of movement.
They are always talking about "keeping the horse well in hand",
and "holding a horse up", just as if a horse was not made to hold himself up.
Some poor, broken-down horses, whose mouths have been made
hard and insensible by just such drivers as these, may, perhaps,
find some support in it; but for a horse who can depend upon his own legs,
and who has a tender mouth and is easily guided, it is not only tormenting,
but it is stupid.
Then there are the loose-rein drivers, who let the reins lie easily
on our backs, and their own hand rest lazily on their knees. Of course,
such gentlemen have no control over a horse, if anything happens suddenly.
If a horse shies, or starts, or stumbles, they are nowhere,
and cannot help the horse or themselves till the mischief is done.
Of course, for myself I had no objection to it, as I was not in the habit
either of starting or stumbling, and had only been used to depend on
my driver for guidance and encouragement. Still, one likes
to feel the rein a little in going downhill, and likes to know
that one's driver is not gone to sleep.
Besides, a slovenly way of driving gets a horse into bad
and often lazy habits, and when he changes hands he has to be
whipped out of them with more or less pain and trouble.
Squire Gordon always kept us to our best paces and our best manners.
He said that spoiling a horse and letting him get into bad habits was
just as cruel as spoiling a child, and both had to suffer for it afterward.
Besides, these drivers are often careless altogether,
and will attend to anything else more than their horses.
I went out in the phaeton one day with one of them; he had a lady
and two children behind. He flopped the reins about as we started,
and of course gave me several unmeaning cuts with the whip,
though I was fairly off. There had been a good deal of road-mending
going on, and even where the stones were not freshly laid down
there were a great many loose ones about. My driver was laughing and joking
with the lady and the children, and talking about the country
to the right and the left; but he never thought it worth while
to keep an eye on his horse or to drive on the smoothest parts of the road;
and so it easily happened that I got a stone in one of my fore feet.
Now, if Mr. Gordon or John, or in fact any good driver, had been there,
he would have seen that something was wrong before I had gone three paces.
Or even if it had been dark a practiced hand would have felt by the rein
that there was something wrong in the step, and they would have got down
and picked out the stone. But this man went on laughing and talking,
while at every step the stone became more firmly wedged between
my shoe and the frog of my foot. The stone was sharp on the inside
and round on the outside, which, as every one knows,
is the most dangerous kind that a horse can pick up, at the same time
cutting his foot and making him most liable to stumble and fall.
Whether the man was partly blind or only very careless I can't say,
but he drove me with that stone in my foot for a good half-mile
before he saw anything. By that time I was going so lame with the pain
that at last he saw it, and called out, "Well, here's a go! Why,
they have sent us out with a lame horse! What a shame!"
He then chucked the reins and flipped about with the whip, saying,
"Now, then, it's no use playing the old soldier with me;
there's the journey to go, and it's no use turning lame and lazy."
Just at this time a farmer came riding up on a brown cob.
He lifted his hat and pulled up.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, "but I think there is something the matter
with your horse; he goes very much as if he had a stone in his shoe.
If you will allow me I will look at his feet; these loose scattered stones
are confounded dangerous things for the horses."
"He's a hired horse," said my driver. "I don't know what's the matter
with him, but it is a great shame to send out a lame beast like this."
The farmer dismounted, and slipping his rein over his arm
at once took up my near foot.
"Bless me, there's a stone! Lame! I should think so!"
At first he tried to dislodge it with his hand, but as it was now
very tightly wedged he drew a stone-pick out of his pocket,
and very carefully and with some trouble got it out. Then holding it up
he said, "There, that's the stone your horse had picked up.
It is a wonder he did not fall down and break his knees into the bargain!"
"Well, to be sure!" said my driver; "that is a queer thing!
I never knew that horses picked up stones before."
"Didn't you?" said the farmer rather contemptuously; "but they do, though,
and the best of them will do it, and can't help it sometimes on such roads
as these. And if you don't want to lame your horse you must look sharp
and get them out quickly. This foot is very much bruised," he said,
setting it gently down and patting me. "If I might advise, sir,
you had better drive him gently for awhile; the foot is a good deal hurt,
and the lameness will not go off directly."
Then mounting his cob and raising his hat to the lady he trotted off.
When he was gone my driver began to flop the reins about
and whip the harness, by which I understood that I was to go on,
which of course I did, glad that the stone was gone,
but still in a good deal of pain.
This was the sort of experience we job horses often came in for.
Then there is the steam-engine style of driving; these drivers
were mostly people from towns, who never had a horse of their own
and generally traveled by rail.
They always seemed to think that a horse was something like a steam-engine,
only smaller. At any rate, they think that if only they pay for it
a horse is bound to go just as far and just as fast and with just as heavy
a load as they please. And be the roads heavy and muddy, or dry and good;
be they stony or smooth, uphill or downhill, it is all the same -- on, on,
on, one must go, at the same pace, with no relief and no consideration.
These people never think of getting out to walk up a steep hill. Oh, no,
they have paid to ride, and ride they will! The horse? Oh, he's used to it!
What were horses made for, if not to drag people uphill? Walk!
A good joke indeed! And so the whip is plied and the rein is chucked
and often a rough, scolding voice cries out, "Go along, you lazy beast!"
And then another slash of the whip, when all the time we are doing
our very best to get along, uncomplaining and obedient,
though often sorely harassed and down-hearted.
This steam-engine style of driving wears us up faster than any other kind.
I would far rather go twenty miles with a good considerate driver
than I would go ten with some of these; it would take less out of me.
Another thing, they scarcely ever put on the brake, however steep
the downhill may be, and thus bad accidents sometimes happen;
or if they do put it on, they often forget to take it off
at the bottom of the hill, and more than once I have had to pull
halfway up the next hill, with one of the wheels held by the brake,
before my driver chose to think about it; and that is a terrible strain
on a horse.
Then these cockneys, instead of starting at an easy pace,
as a gentleman would do, generally set off at full speed
from the very stable-yard; and when they want to stop, they first whip us,
and then pull up so suddenly that we are nearly thrown on our haunches,
and our mouths jagged with the bit -- they call that pulling up with a dash;
and when they turn a corner they do it as sharply as if there were
no right side or wrong side of the road.
I well remember one spring evening I and Rory had been out for the day.
(Rory was the horse that mostly went with me when a pair was ordered,
and a good honest fellow he was.) We had our own driver, and as he was
always considerate and gentle with us, we had a very pleasant day.
We were coming home at a good smart pace, about twilight.
Our road turned sharp to the left; but as we were close to the hedge
on our own side, and there was plenty of room to pass, our driver did not
pull us in. As we neared the corner I heard a horse and two wheels
coming rapidly down the hill toward us. The hedge was high,
and I could see nothing, but the next moment we were upon each other.
Happily for me, I was on the side next the hedge. Rory was on
the left side of the pole, and had not even a shaft to protect him.
The man who was driving was making straight for the corner,
and when he came in sight of us he had no time to pull over to his own side.
The whole shock came upon Rory. The gig shaft ran right into the chest,
making him stagger back with a cry that I shall never forget.
The other horse was thrown upon his haunches and one shaft broken.
It turned out that it was a horse from our own stables,
with the high-wheeled gig that the young men were so fond of.
The driver was one of those random, ignorant fellows, who don't even know
which is their own side of the road, or, if they know, don't care.
And there was poor Rory with his flesh torn open and bleeding,
and the blood streaming down. They said if it had been a little more
to one side it would have killed him; and a good thing for him, poor fellow,
if it had.
As it was, it was a long time before the wound healed,
and then he was sold for coal-carting; and what that is,
up and down those steep hills, only horses know. Some of the sights
I saw there, where a horse had to come downhill with a heavily loaded
two-wheel cart behind him, on which no brake could be placed,
make me sad even now to think of.
After Rory was disabled I often went in the carriage with a mare named Peggy,
who stood in the next stall to mine. She was a strong, well-made animal,
of a bright dun color, beautifully dappled, and with a dark-brown
mane and tail. There was no high breeding about her,
but she was very pretty and remarkably sweet-tempered and willing.
Still, there was an anxious look about her eye, by which I knew
that she had some trouble. The first time we went out together
I thought she had a very odd pace; she seemed to go partly a trot,
partly a canter, three or four paces, and then a little jump forward.
It was very unpleasant for any horse who pulled with her,
and made me quite fidgety. When we got home I asked her
what made her go in that odd, awkward way.
"Ah," she said in a troubled manner, "I know my paces are very bad,
but what can I do? It really is not my fault; it is just because
my legs are so short. I stand nearly as high as you,
but your legs are a good three inches longer above your knee than mine,
and of course you can take a much longer step and go much faster.
You see I did not make myself. I wish I could have done so;
I would have had long legs then. All my troubles come from my short legs,"
said Peggy, in a desponding tone.
"But how is it," I said, "when you are so strong and good-tempered
"Why, you see," said she, "men will go so fast, and if one can't
keep up to other horses it is nothing but whip, whip, whip, all the time.
And so I have had to keep up as I could, and have got into this ugly
shuffling pace. It was not always so; when I lived with my first master
I always went a good regular trot, but then he was not in such a hurry.
He was a young clergyman in the country, and a good, kind master he was.
He had two churches a good way apart, and a great deal of work,
but he never scolded or whipped me for not going faster.
He was very fond of me. I only wish I was with him now;
but he had to leave and go to a large town, and then I was sold to a farmer.
"Some farmers, you know, are capital masters; but I think this one
was a low sort of man. He cared nothing about good horses or good driving;
he only cared for going fast. I went as fast as I could,
but that would not do, and he was always whipping; so I got into this way
of making a spring forward to keep up. On market nights he used to stay
very late at the inn, and then drive home at a gallop.
"One dark night he was galloping home as usual, when all of a sudden
the wheel came against some great heavy thing in the road,
and turned the gig over in a minute. He was thrown out and his arm broken,
and some of his ribs, I think. At any rate, it was the end
of my living with him, and I was not sorry. But you see it will be the same
everywhere for me, if men must go so fast. I wish my legs were longer!"
Poor Peggy! I was very sorry for her, and I could not comfort her,
for I knew how hard it was upon slow-paced horses to be put with fast ones;
all the whipping comes to their share, and they can't help it.
She was often used in the phaeton, and was very much liked by some of
the ladies, because she was so gentle; and some time after this she was sold
to two ladies who drove themselves, and wanted a safe, good horse.
I met her several times out in the country, going a good steady pace,
and looking as gay and contented as a horse could be. I was very glad
to see her, for she deserved a good place.
After she left us another horse came in her stead. He was young,
and had a bad name for shying and starting, by which he had lost
a good place. I asked him what made him shy.
"Well, I hardly know," he said. "I was timid when I was young,
and was a good deal frightened several times, and if I saw anything strange
I used to turn and look at it -- you see, with our blinkers
one can't see or understand what a thing is unless one looks round --
and then my master always gave me a whipping, which of course made me
start on, and did not make me less afraid. I think if he would have let me
just look at things quietly, and see that there was nothing to hurt me,
it would have been all right, and I should have got used to them.
One day an old gentleman was riding with him, and a large piece
of white paper or rag blew across just on one side of me.
I shied and started forward. My master as usual whipped me smartly,
but the old man cried out, `You're wrong! you're wrong!
You should never whip a horse for shying; he shies because he is frightened,
and you only frighten him more and make the habit worse.'
So I suppose all men don't do so. I am sure I don't want to shy
for the sake of it; but how should one know what is dangerous
and what is not, if one is never allowed to get used to anything?
I am never afraid of what I know. Now I was brought up in a park
where there were deer; of course I knew them as well as I did
a sheep or a cow, but they are not common, and I know many sensible horses
who are frightened at them, and who kick up quite a shindy
before they will pass a paddock where there are deer."
I knew what my companion said was true, and I wished that every young horse
had as good masters as Farmer Grey and Squire Gordon.
Of course we sometimes came in for good driving here. I remember one morning
I was put into the light gig, and taken to a house in Pulteney Street.
Two gentlemen came out; the taller of them came round to my head;
he looked at the bit and bridle, and just shifted the collar with his hand,
to see if it fitted comfortably.
"Do you consider this horse wants a curb?" he said to the hostler.
"Well," said the man, "I should say he would go just as well without;
he has an uncommon good mouth, and though he has a fine spirit
he has no vice; but we generally find people like the curb."
"I don't like it," said the gentleman; "be so good as to take it off,
and put the rein in at the cheek. An easy mouth is a great thing
on a long journey, is it not, old fellow?" he said, patting my neck.
Then he took the reins, and they both got up. I can remember now
how quietly he turned me round, and then with a light feel of the rein,
and drawing the whip gently across my back, we were off.
I arched my neck and set off at my best pace. I found I had
some one behind me who knew how a good horse ought to be driven.
It seemed like old times again, and made me feel quite gay.
This gentleman took a great liking to me, and after trying me
several times with the saddle he prevailed upon my master to sell me
to a friend of his, who wanted a safe, pleasant horse for riding.
And so it came to pass that in the summer I was sold to Mr. Barry.
30 A Thief
My new master was an unmarried man. He lived at Bath, and was much engaged
in business. His doctor advised him to take horse exercise,
and for this purpose he bought me. He hired a stable a short distance
from his lodgings, and engaged a man named Filcher as groom.
My master knew very little about horses, but he treated me well,
and I should have had a good and easy place but for circumstances
of which he was ignorant. He ordered the best hay with plenty of oats,
crushed beans, and bran, with vetches, or rye grass,
as the man might think needful. I heard the master give the order,
so I knew there was plenty of good food, and I thought I was well off.
For a few days all went on well. I found that my groom
understood his business. He kept the stable clean and airy,
and he groomed me thoroughly; and was never otherwise than gentle.
He had been an hostler in one of the great hotels in Bath.
He had given that up, and now cultivated fruit and vegetables for the market,
and his wife bred and fattened poultry and rabbits for sale.
After awhile it seemed to me that my oats came very short; I had the beans,
but bran was mixed with them instead of oats, of which there were very few;
certainly not more than a quarter of what there should have been.
In two or three weeks this began to tell upon my strength and spirits.
The grass food, though very good, was not the thing to keep up my condition
without corn. However, I could not complain, nor make known my wants.
So it went on for about two months; and I wondered that my master
did not see that something was the matter. However, one afternoon
he rode out into the country to see a friend of his, a gentleman farmer,
who lived on the road to Wells.
This gentleman had a very quick eye for horses; and after he had
welcomed his friend he said, casting his eye over me:
"It seems to me, Barry, that your horse does not look so well as he did
when you first had him; has he been well?"
"Yes, I believe so," said my master; "but he is not nearly so lively
as he was; my groom tells me that horses are always dull and weak
in the autumn, and that I must expect it."
"Autumn, fiddlesticks!" said the farmer. "Why, this is only August;
and with your light work and good food he ought not to go down like this,
even if it was autumn. How do you feed him?"
My master told him. The other shook his head slowly,
and began to feel me over.
"I can't say who eats your corn, my dear fellow, but I am much mistaken
if your horse gets it. Have you ridden very fast?"
"No, very gently."
"Then just put your hand here," said he, passing his hand over my neck
and shoulder; "he is as warm and damp as a horse just come up from grass.
I advise you to look into your stable a little more.
I hate to be suspicious, and, thank heaven, I have no cause to be,
for I can trust my men, present or absent; but there are mean scoundrels,
wicked enough to rob a dumb beast of his food. You must look into it."
And turning to his man, who had come to take me, "Give this horse
a right good feed of bruised oats, and don't stint him."
"Dumb beasts!" Yes, we are; but if I could have spoken I could have
told my master where his oats went to. My groom used to come every morning
about six o'clock, and with him a little boy, who always had a covered basket
with him. He used to go with his father into the harness-room,
where the corn was kept, and I could see them, when the door stood ajar,
fill a little bag with oats out of the bin, and then he used to be off.
Five or six mornings after this, just as the boy had left the stable,
the door was pushed open, and a policeman walked in, holding the child tight
by the arm; another policeman followed, and locked the door on the inside,
saying, "Show me the place where your father keeps his rabbits' food."
The boy looked very frightened and began to cry; but there was no escape,
and he led the way to the corn-bin. Here the policeman found
another empty bag like that which was found full of oats in the boy's basket.
Filcher was cleaning my feet at the time, but they soon saw him,
and though he blustered a good deal they walked him off to the "lock-up",
and his boy with him. I heard afterward that the boy was not held
to be guilty, but the man was sentenced to prison for two months.
31 A Humbug
My master was not immediately suited, but in a few days my new groom came.
He was a tall, good-looking fellow enough; but if ever there was a humbug
in the shape of a groom Alfred Smirk was the man. He was very civil to me,
and never used me ill; in fact, he did a great deal of stroking and patting
when his master was there to see it. He always brushed my mane and tail
with water and my hoofs with oil before he brought me to the door,
to make me look smart; but as to cleaning my feet or looking to my shoes,
or grooming me thoroughly, he thought no more of that
than if I had been a cow. He left my bit rusty, my saddle damp,
and my crupper stiff.
Alfred Smirk considered himself very handsome; he spent a great deal of time
about his hair, whiskers and necktie, before a little looking-glass
in the harness-room. When his master was speaking to him it was always,
"Yes, sir; yes, sir" -- touching his hat at every word;
and every one thought he was a very nice young man and that Mr. Barry
was very fortunate to meet with him. I should say he was the laziest,
most conceited fellow I ever came near. Of course, it was a great thing
not to be ill-used, but then a horse wants more than that.
I had a loose box, and might have been very comfortable if he had not been
too indolent to clean it out. He never took all the straw away,
and the smell from what lay underneath was very bad;
while the strong vapors that rose made my eyes smart and inflame,
and I did not feel the same appetite for my food.
One day his master came in and said, "Alfred, the stable smells
rather strong; should not you give that stall a good scrub
and throw down plenty of water?"
"Well, sir," he said, touching his cap, "I'll do so if you please, sir;
but it is rather dangerous, sir, throwing down water in a horse's box;
they are very apt to take cold, sir. I should not like to do him an injury,
but I'll do it if you please, sir."
"Well," said his master, "I should not like him to take cold;
but I don't like the smell of this stable. Do you think the drains
are all right?"
"Well, sir, now you mention it, I think the drain does sometimes
send back a smell; there may be something wrong, sir."
"Then send for the bricklayer and have it seen to," said his master.
"Yes, sir, I will."
The bricklayer came and pulled up a great many bricks,
but found nothing amiss; so he put down some lime and charged the master
five shillings, and the smell in my box was as bad as ever.
But that was not all: standing as I did on a quantity of moist straw
my feet grew unhealthy and tender, and the master used to say:
"I don't know what is the matter with this horse; he goes very fumble-footed.
I am sometimes afraid he will stumble."
"Yes, sir," said Alfred, "I have noticed the same myself,
when I have exercised him."
Now the fact was that he hardly ever did exercise me,
and when the master was busy I often stood for days together
without stretching my legs at all, and yet being fed just as high
as if I were at hard work. This often disordered my health,
and made me sometimes heavy and dull, but more often restless and feverish.
He never even gave me a meal of green food or a bran mash,
which would have cooled me, for he was altogether as ignorant
as he was conceited; and then, instead of exercise or change of food,
I had to take horse balls and draughts; which, beside the nuisance
of having them poured down my throat, used to make me feel ill
One day my feet were so tender that, trotting over some fresh stones
with my master on my back, I made two such serious stumbles that,
as he came down Lansdown into the city, he stopped at the farrier's,
and asked him to see what was the matter with me. The man took up my feet
one by one and examined them; then standing up and dusting his hands
one against the other, he said:
"Your horse has got the `thrush', and badly, too; his feet are very tender;
it is fortunate that he has not been down. I wonder your groom has not
seen to it before. This is the sort of thing we find in foul stables,
where the litter is never properly cleaned out. If you will
send him here to-morrow I will attend to the hoof, and I will direct your man
how to apply the liniment which I will give him."
The next day I had my feet thoroughly cleansed and stuffed with tow
soaked in some strong lotion; and an unpleasant business it was.
The farrier ordered all the litter to be taken out of my box day by day,
and the floor kept very clean. Then I was to have bran mashes,
a little green food, and not so much corn, till my feet were well again.
With this treatment I soon regained my spirits; but Mr. Barry was
so much disgusted at being twice deceived by his grooms that he determined
to give up keeping a horse, and to hire when he wanted one.
I was therefore kept till my feet were quite sound, and was then sold again.
32 A Horse Fair
No doubt a horse fair is a very amusing place to those who have
nothing to lose; at any rate, there is plenty to see.
Long strings of young horses out of the country, fresh from the marshes;
and droves of shaggy little Welsh ponies, no higher than Merrylegs;
and hundreds of cart horses of all sorts, some of them with their long tails
braided up and tied with scarlet cord; and a good many like myself,
handsome and high-bred, but fallen into the middle class, through some
accident or blemish, unsoundness of wind, or some other complaint.
There were some splendid animals quite in their prime, and fit for anything;
they were throwing out their legs and showing off their paces in high style,
as they were trotted out with a leading rein, the groom running by the side.
But round in the background there were a number of poor things,
sadly broken down with hard work, with their knees knuckling over
and their hind legs swinging out at every step, and there were some
very dejected-looking old horses, with the under lip hanging down
and the ears lying back heavily, as if there were no more pleasure in life,
and no more hope; there were some so thin you might see all their ribs,
and some with old sores on their backs and hips. These were sad sights
for a horse to look upon, who knows not but he may come to the same state.
There was a great deal of bargaining, of running up and beating down;
and if a horse may speak his mind so far as he understands,
I should say there were more lies told and more trickery at that horse fair
than a clever man could give an account of. I was put with
two or three other strong, useful-looking horses, and a good many people
came to look at us. The gentlemen always turned from me
when they saw my broken knees; though the man who had me
swore it was only a slip in the stall.
The first thing was to pull my mouth open, then to look at my eyes,
then feel all the way down my legs, and give me a hard feel
of the skin and flesh, and then try my paces. It was wonderful
what a difference there was in the way these things were done.
Some did it in a rough, offhand way, as if one was only a piece of wood;
while others would take their hands gently over one's body,
with a pat now and then, as much as to say, "By your leave."
Of course I judged a good deal of the buyers by their manners to myself.
There was one man, I thought, if he would buy me, I should be happy.
He was not a gentleman, nor yet one of the loud, flashy sort
that call themselves so. He was rather a small man, but well made,
and quick in all his motions. I knew in a moment by the way he handled me,
that he was used to horses; he spoke gently, and his gray eye had a kindly,
cheery look in it. It may seem strange to say -- but it is true
all the same -- that the clean, fresh smell there was about him
made me take to him; no smell of old beer and tobacco, which I hated,
but a fresh smell as if he had come out of a hayloft.
He offered twenty-three pounds for me, but that was refused,
and he walked away. I looked after him, but he was gone,
and a very hard-looking, loud-voiced man came. I was dreadfully afraid
he would have me; but he walked off. One or two more came
who did not mean business. Then the hard-faced man came back again
and offered twenty-three pounds. A very close bargain was being driven,
for my salesman began to think he should not get all he asked,
and must come down; but just then the gray-eyed man came back again.
I could not help reaching out my head toward him. He stroked my face kindly.
"Well, old chap," he said, "I think we should suit each other.
I'll give twenty-four for him."
"Say twenty-five and you shall have him."
"Twenty-four ten," said my friend, in a very decided tone,
"and not another sixpence -- yes or no?"
"Done," said the salesman; "and you may depend upon it
there's a monstrous deal of quality in that horse, and if you want him
for cab work he's a bargain."
The money was paid on the spot, and my new master took my halter,
and led me out of the fair to an inn, where he had a saddle and bridle ready.
He gave me a good feed of oats and stood by while I ate it,
talking to himself and talking to me. Half an hour after
we were on our way to London, through pleasant lanes and country roads,
until we came into the great London thoroughfare, on which
we traveled steadily, till in the twilight we reached the great city.
The gas lamps were already lighted; there were streets to the right,
and streets to the left, and streets crossing each other, for mile upon mile.
I thought we should never come to the end of them. At last,
in passing through one, we came to a long cab stand, when my rider called out
in a cheery voice, "Good-night, governor!"
"Halloo!" cried a voice. "Have you got a good one?"
"I think so," replied my owner.
"I wish you luck with him."
"Thank you, governor," and he rode on. We soon turned up
one of the side streets, and about halfway up that we turned into
a very narrow street, with rather poor-looking houses on one side,
and what seemed to be coach-houses and stables on the other.
My owner pulled up at one of the houses and whistled. The door flew open,
and a young woman, followed by a little girl and boy, ran out.
There was a very lively greeting as my rider dismounted.
"Now, then, Harry, my boy, open the gates, and mother will bring us
The next minute they were all standing round me in a small stable-yard.
"Is he gentle, father?"
"Yes, Dolly, as gentle as your own kitten; come and pat him."
At once the little hand was patting about all over my shoulder without fear.
How good it felt!
"Let me get him a bran mash while you rub him down," said the mother.
"Do, Polly, it's just what he wants; and I know you've got a beautiful mash
ready for me."
"Sausage dumpling and apple turnover!" shouted the boy,
which set them all laughing. I was led into a comfortable,
clean-smelling stall, with plenty of dry straw, and after a capital supper
I lay down, thinking I was going to be happy.
33 A London Cab Horse
Jeremiah Barker was my new master's name, but as every one called him Jerry,
I shall do the same. Polly, his wife, was just as good a match
as a man could have. She was a plump, trim, tidy little woman,
with smooth, dark hair, dark eyes, and a merry little mouth.
The boy was twelve years old, a tall, frank, good-tempered lad;
and little Dorothy (Dolly they called her) was her mother over again,
at eight years old. They were all wonderfully fond of each other;
I never knew such a happy, merry family before or since. Jerry had
a cab of his own, and two horses, which he drove and attended to himself.
His other horse was a tall, white, rather large-boned animal
called "Captain". He was old now, but when he was young
he must have been splendid; he had still a proud way of holding his head
and arching his neck; in fact, he was a high-bred, fine-mannered,
noble old horse, every inch of him. He told me that in his early youth
he went to the Crimean War; he belonged to an officer in the cavalry,
and used to lead the regiment. I will tell more of that hereafter.
The next morning, when I was well-groomed, Polly and Dolly came into the yard
to see me and make friends. Harry had been helping his father
since the early morning, and had stated his opinion that I should turn out
a "regular brick". Polly brought me a slice of apple,
and Dolly a piece of bread, and made as much of me as if I had been
the "Black Beauty" of olden time. It was a great treat to be petted again
and talked to in a gentle voice, and I let them see as well as I could
that I wished to be friendly. Polly thought I was very handsome,
and a great deal too good for a cab, if it was not for the broken knees.
"Of course there's no one to tell us whose fault that was," said Jerry,
"and as long as I don't know I shall give him the benefit of the doubt;
for a firmer, neater stepper I never rode. We'll call him `Jack',
after the old one -- shall we, Polly?"
"Do," she said, "for I like to keep a good name going."
Captain went out in the cab all the morning. Harry came in after school
to feed me and give me water. In the afternoon I was put into the cab.
Jerry took as much pains to see if the collar and bridle fitted comfortably
as if he had been John Manly over again. When the crupper
was let out a hole or two it all fitted well. There was no check-rein,
no curb, nothing but a plain ring snaffle. What a blessing that was!
After driving through the side street we came to the large cab stand
where Jerry had said "Good-night". On one side of this wide street
were high houses with wonderful shop fronts, and on the other
was an old church and churchyard, surrounded by iron palisades.
Alongside these iron rails a number of cabs were drawn up,
waiting for passengers; bits of hay were lying about on the ground;
some of the men were standing together talking; some were sitting
on their boxes reading the newspaper; and one or two
were feeding their horses with bits of hay, and giving them a drink of water.
We pulled up in the rank at the back of the last cab. Two or three men
came round and began to look at me and pass their remarks.
"Very good for a funeral," said one.
"Too smart-looking," said another, shaking his head in a very wise way;
"you'll find out something wrong one of these fine mornings,
or my name isn't Jones."
"Well," said Jerry pleasantly, "I suppose I need not find it out till it
finds me out, eh? And if so, I'll keep up my spirits a little longer."
Then there came up a broad-faced man, dressed in a great gray coat
with great gray cape and great white buttons, a gray hat,
and a blue comforter loosely tied round his neck; his hair was gray, too;
but he was a jolly-looking fellow, and the other men made way for him.
He looked me all over, as if he had been going to buy me;
and then straightening himself up with a grunt, he said,
"He's the right sort for you, Jerry; I don't care what you gave for him,
he'll be worth it." Thus my character was established on the stand.
This man's name was Grant, but he was called "Gray Grant",
or "Governor Grant". He had been the longest on that stand
of any of the men, and he took it upon himself to settle matters
and stop disputes. He was generally a good-humored, sensible man;
but if his temper was a little out, as it was sometimes
when he had drunk too much, nobody liked to come too near his fist,
for he could deal a very heavy blow.
The first week of my life as a cab horse was very trying.
I had never been used to London, and the noise, the hurry,
the crowds of horses, carts, and carriages that I had to make my way through
made me feel anxious and harassed; but I soon found that I could
perfectly trust my driver, and then I made myself easy and got used to it.
Jerry was as good a driver as I had ever known, and what was better,
he took as much thought for his horses as he did for himself.
He soon found out that I was willing to work and do my best,
and he never laid the whip on me unless it was gently drawing the end of it
over my back when I was to go on; but generally I knew this quite well
by the way in which he took up the reins, and I believe his whip
was more frequently stuck up by his side than in his hand.
In a short time I and my master understood each other as well
as horse and man can do. In the stable, too, he did all that he could
for our comfort. The stalls were the old-fashioned style,
too much on the slope; but he had two movable bars fixed across
the back of our stalls, so that at night, and when we were resting,
he just took off our halters and put up the bars, and thus we could
turn about and stand whichever way we pleased, which is a great comfort.
Jerry kept us very clean, and gave us as much change of food as he could,
and always plenty of it; and not only that, but he always gave us plenty
of clean fresh water, which he allowed to stand by us both night and day,
except of course when we came in warm. Some people say that a horse
ought not to drink all he likes; but I know if we are allowed to drink
when we want it we drink only a little at a time, and it does us
a great deal more good than swallowing down half a bucketful at a time,
because we have been left without till we are thirsty and miserable.
Some grooms will go home to their beer and leave us for hours
with our dry hay and oats and nothing to moisten them; then of course
we gulp down too much at once, which helps to spoil our breathing
and sometimes chills our stomachs. But the best thing we had here
was our Sundays for rest; we worked so hard in the week
that I do not think we could have kept up to it but for that day;
besides, we had then time to enjoy each other's company.
It was on these days that I learned my companion's history.
34 An Old War Horse
Captain had been broken in and trained for an army horse;
his first owner was an officer of cavalry going out to the Crimean war.
He said he quite enjoyed the training with all the other horses,
trotting together, turning together, to the right hand or the left,
halting at the word of command, or dashing forward at full speed
at the sound of the trumpet or signal of the officer. He was,
when young, a dark, dappled iron-gray, and considered very handsome.
His master, a young, high-spirited gentleman, was very fond of him,
and treated him from the first with the greatest care and kindness.
He told me he thought the life of an army horse was very pleasant;
but when it came to being sent abroad over the sea in a great ship,
he almost changed his mind.