I used to run with them, and had great fun; we used to gallop all together round and round the field as hard as we could go.
Sometimes we had rather rough play, for they would frequently bite and kick as well as gallop.
One day, when there was a good deal of kicking, my mother whinnied to me to come to her, and then she said: “I wish you to pay attention to what I am going to say to you.
The colts who live here are very good colts, but they are cart-horse colts, and of course they have not learned manners.
You have been well-bred and well-born; your father has a great name in these parts, and your grandfather won the cup two years at the Newmarket races; your grandmother had the sweetest temper of any horse I ever knew, and I think you have never seen me kick or bite.
I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play.” I have never forgotten my mother’s advice; I knew she was a wise old horse, and our master thought a great deal of her.
Her name was Duchess, but he often called her Pet.
Our master was a good, kind man.
He gave us good food, good lodging, and kind words; he spoke as kindly to us as he did to his little children.
We were all fond of him, and my mother loved him very much.
When she saw him at the gate she would neigh with joy, and trot up to him.
He would pat and stroke her and say, “Well, old Pet, and how is your little Darkie?” I was a dull black, so he called me Darkie; then he would give me a piece of bread, which was very good, and sometimes he brought a carrot for my mother.
All the horses would come to him, but I think we were his favorites.
My mother always took him to the town on a market day in a light gig.
There was a plowboy, Dick, who sometimes came into our field to pluck blackberries from the hedge.
When he had eaten all he wanted he would have what he called fun with the colts, throwing stones and sticks at them to make them gallop.
We did not much mind him, for we could gallop off; but sometimes a stone would hit and hurt us.
One day he was at this game, and did not know that the master was in the next field; but he was there, watching what was going on; over the hedge he jumped in a snap, and catching Dick by the arm, he gave him such a box on the ear as made him roar with the pain and surprise.
As soon as we saw the master we trotted up nearer to see what went on. “Bad boy!” he said, “bad boy! to chase the colts.
This is not the first time, nor the second, but it shall be the last.
There -take your money and go home; I shall not want you on my farm again.” So we never saw Dick any more.
Old Daniel, the man who looked after the horses, was just as gentle as our master, so we were well off. 02 The Hunt Before I was two years old a circumstance happened which I have never forgotten.
It was early in the spring; there had been a little frost in the night, and a light mist still hung over the woods and meadows.
I and the other colts were feeding at the lower part of the field when we heard, quite in the distance, what sounded like the cry of dogs.
The oldest of the colts raised his head, pricked his ears, and said, “There are the hounds!” and immediately cantered off, followed by the rest of us to the upper part of the field, where we could look over the hedge and see several fields beyond.
My mother and an old riding horse of our master’s were also standing near, and seemed to know all about it. “They have found a hare,” said my mother, “and if they come this way we shall see the hunt.” And soon the dogs were all tearing down the field of young wheat next to ours.
I never heard such a noise as they made.
They did not bark, nor howl, nor whine, but kept on a “yo! yo, o, o! yo! yo, o, o!” at the top of their voices.
After them came a number of men on horseback, some of them in green coats, all galloping as fast as they could.
The old horse snorted and looked eagerly after them, and we young colts wanted to be galloping with them, but they were soon away into the fields lower down; here it seemed as if they had come to a stand; the dogs left off barking, and ran about every way with their noses to the ground. “They have lost the scent,” said the old horse; “perhaps the hare will get off.” “What hare?” I said. “Oh! I don’t know what hare; likely enough it may be one of our own hares out of the woods; any hare they can find will do for the dogs and men to run after;” and before long the dogs began their “yo! yo, o, o!” again, and back they came altogether at full speed, making straight for our meadow at the part where the high bank and hedge overhang the brook. “Now we shall see the hare,” said my mother; and just then a hare wild with fright rushed by and made for the woods.
On came the dogs; they burst over the bank, leaped the stream, and came dashing across the field followed by the huntsmen.
Six or eight men leaped their horses clean over, close upon the dogs.
The hare tried to get through the fence; it was too thick, and she turned sharp round to make for the road, but it was too late; the dogs were upon her with their wild cries; we heard one shriek, and that was the end of her.
One of the huntsmen rode up and whipped off the dogs, who would soon have torn her to pieces.
He held her up by the leg torn and bleeding, and all the gentlemen seemed well pleased.
As for me, I was so astonished that I did not at first see what was going on by the brook; but when I did look there was a sad sight; two fine horses were down, one was struggling in the stream, and the other was groaning on the grass.
One of the riders was getting out of the water covered with mud, the other lay quite still. “His neck is broke,” said my mother. “And serve him right, too,” said one of the colts.
I thought the same, but my mother did not join with us. “Well, no,” she said, “you must not say that; but though I am an old horse, and have seen and heard a great deal, I never yet could make out why men are so fond of this sport; they often hurt themselves, often spoil good horses, and tear up the fields, and all for a hare or a fox, or a stag, that they could get more easily some other way; but we are only horses, and don’t know.” While my mother was saying this we stood and looked on.
Many of the riders had gone to the young man; but my master, who had been watching what was going on, was the first to raise him.
His head fell back and his arms hung down, and every one looked very serious.
There was no noise now; even the dogs were quiet, and seemed to know that something was wrong.
They carried him to our master’s house.
I heard afterward that it was young George Gordon, the squire’s only son, a fine, tall young man, and the pride of his family. There was now riding off in all directions to the doctor’s, to the farrier’s, and no doubt to Squire Gordon’s, to let him know about his son.
Bond, the farrier, came to look at the black horse that lay groaning on the grass, he felt him all over, and shook his head; one of his legs was broken.
Then some one ran to our master’s house and came back with a gun; presently there was a loud bang and a dreadful shriek, and then all was still; the black horse moved no more.
My mother seemed much troubled; she said she had known that horse for years, and that his name was “Rob Roy”; he was a good horse, and there was no vice in him.
She never would go to that part of the field afterward.
Not many days after we heard the church-bell tolling for a long time, and looking over the gate we saw a long, strange black coach that was covered with black cloth and was drawn by black horses; after that came another and another and another, and all were black, while the bell kept tolling, tolling.
They were carrying young Gordon to the churchyard to bury him.
He would never ride again.
What they did with Rob Roy I never knew; but ’twas all for one little hare. 03 My Breaking In I was now beginning to grow handsome; my coat had grown fine and soft, and was bright black.
I had one white foot and a pretty white star on my forehead.
I was thought very handsome; my master would not sell me till I was four years old; he said lads ought not to work like men, and colts ought not to work like horses till they were quite grown up.
When I was four years old Squire Gordon came to look at me.
He examined my eyes, my mouth, and my legs; he felt them all down; and then I had to walk and trot and gallop before him.
He seemed to like me, and said, “When he has been well broken in he will do very well.” My master said he would break me in himself, as he should not like me to be frightened or hurt, and he lost no time about it, for the next day he began.
Every one may not know what breaking in is, therefore I will describe it.
It means to teach a horse to wear a saddle and bridle, and to carry on his back a man, woman or child; to go just the way they wish, and to go quietly.
Besides this he has to learn to wear a collar, a crupper, and a breeching, and to stand still while they are put on; then to have a cart or a chaise fixed behind, so that he cannot walk or trot without dragging it after him; and he must go fast or slow, just as his driver wishes.
He must never start at what he sees, nor speak to other horses, nor bite, nor kick, nor have any will of his own; but always do his master’s will, even though he may be very tired or hungry; but the worst of all is, when his harness is once on, he may neither jump for joy nor lie down for weariness.
So you see this breaking in is a great thing.
I had of course long been used to a halter and a headstall, and to be led about in the fields and lanes quietly, but now I was to have a bit and bridle; my master gave me some oats as usual, and after a good deal of coaxing he got the bit into my mouth, and the bridle fixed, but it was a nasty thing! Those who have never had a bit in their mouths cannot think how bad it feels; a great piece of cold hard steel as thick as a man’s finger to be pushed into one’s mouth, between one’s teeth, and over one’s tongue, with the ends coming out at the corner of your mouth, and held fast there by straps over your head, under your throat, round your nose, and under your chin; so that no way in the world can you get rid of the nasty hard thing; it is very bad! yes, very bad! at least I thought so; but I knew my mother always wore one when she went out, and all horses did when they were grown up; and so, what with the nice oats, and what with my master’s pats, kind words, and gentle ways, I got to wear my bit and bridle.
Next came the saddle, but that was not half so bad; my master put it on my back very gently, while old Daniel held my head; he then made the girths fast under my body, patting and talking to me all the time; then I had a few oats, then a little leading about; and this he did every day till I began to look for the oats and the saddle.
At length, one morning, my master got on my back and rode me round the meadow on the soft grass.
It certainly did feel queer; but I must say I felt rather proud to carry my master, and as he continued to ride me a little every day I soon became accustomed to it.
The next unpleasant business was putting on the iron shoes; that too was very hard at first.
My master went with me to the smith’s forge, to see that I was not hurt or got any fright.
The blacksmith took my feet in his hand, one after the other, and cut away some of the hoof.
It did not pain me, so I stood still on three legs till he had done them all.
Then he took a piece of iron the shape of my foot, and clapped it on, and drove some nails through the shoe quite into my hoof, so that the shoe was firmly on.
My feet felt very stiff and heavy, but in time I got used to it.
And now having got so far, my master went on to break me to harness; there were more new things to wear.
First, a stiff heavy collar just on my neck, and a bridle with great side-pieces against my eyes called blinkers, and blinkers indeed they were, for I could not see on either side, but only straight in front of me; next, there was a small saddle with a nasty stiff strap that went right under my tail; that was the crupper.
I hated the crupper; to have my long tail doubled up and poked through that strap was almost as bad as the bit.
I never felt more like kicking, but of course I could not kick such a good master, and so in time I got used to everything, and could do my work as well as my mother.
I must not forget to mention one part of my training, which I have always considered a very great advantage.
My master sent me for a fortnight to a neighboring farmer’s, who had a meadow which was skirted on one side by the railway.
Here were some sheep and cows, and I was turned in among them.
I shall never forget the first train that ran by.
I was feeding quietly near the pales which separated the meadow from the railway, when I heard a strange sound at a distance, and before I knew whence it came — with a rush and a clatter, and a puffing out of smoke -a long black train of something flew by, and was gone almost before I could draw my breath.
I turned and galloped to the further side of the meadow as fast as I could go, and there I stood snorting with astonishment and fear.
In the course of the day many other trains went by, some more slowly; these drew up at the station close by, and sometimes made an awful shriek and groan before they stopped.
I thought it very dreadful, but the cows went on eating very quietly, and hardly raised their heads as the black frightful thing came puffing and grinding past.
For the first few days I could not feed in peace; but as I found that this terrible creature never came into the field, or did me any harm, I began to disregard it, and very soon I cared as little about the passing of a train as the cows and sheep did.
Since then I have seen many horses much alarmed and restive at the sight or sound of a steam engine; but thanks to my good master’s care, I am as fearless at railway stations as in my own stable.
Now if any one wants to break in a young horse well, that is the way. My master often drove me in double harness with my mother, because she was steady and could teach me how to go better than a strange horse.
She told me the better I behaved the better I should be treated, and that it was wisest always to do my best to please my master; “but,” said she, “there are a great many kinds of men; there are good thoughtful men like our master, that any horse may be proud to serve; and there are bad, cruel men, who never ought to have a horse or dog to call their own.
Besides, there are a great many foolish men, vain, ignorant, and careless, who never trouble themselves to think; these spoil more horses than all, just for want of sense; they don’t mean it, but they do it for all that.
I hope you will fall into good hands; but a horse never knows who may buy him, or who may drive him; it is all a chance for us; but still I say, do your best wherever it is, and keep up your good name.” — but only hardness, a hard voice, a hard eye, a hard hand; and I felt from the first that what he wanted was to wear all the spirit out of me, and just make me into a quiet, humble, obedient piece of horseflesh. `Horseflesh’! Yes, that is all that he thought about,” and Ginger stamped her foot as if the very thought of him made her angry.
Then she went on: “If I did not do exactly what he wanted he would get put out, and make me run round with that long rein in the training field till he had tired me out.
I think he drank a good deal, and I am quite sure that the oftener he drank the worse it was for me.
One day he had worked me hard in every way he could, and when I lay down I was tired, and miserable, and angry; it all seemed so hard.
The next morning he came for me early, and ran me round again for a long time.
I had scarcely had an hour’s rest, when he came again for me with a saddle and bridle and a new kind of bit.
I could never quite tell how it came about; he had only just mounted me on the training ground, when something I did put him out of temper, and he chucked me hard with the rein.
The new bit was very painful, and I reared up suddenly, which angered him still more, and he began to flog me.
I felt my whole spirit set against him, and I began to kick, and plunge, and rear as I had never done before, and we had a regular fight; for a long time he stuck to the saddle and punished me cruelly with his whip and spurs, but my blood was thoroughly up, and I cared for nothing he could do if only I could get him off.
At last after a terrible struggle I threw him off backward.
I heard him fall heavily on the turf, and without looking behind me, I galloped off to the other end of the field; there I turned round and saw my persecutor slowly rising from the ground and going into the stable.
I stood under an oak tree and watched, but no one came to catch me.
The time went on, and the sun was very hot; the flies swarmed round me and settled on my bleeding flanks where the spurs had dug in.
I felt hungry, for I had not eaten since the early morning, but there was not enough grass in that meadow for a goose to live on.
I wanted to lie down and rest, but with the saddle strapped tightly on there was no comfort, and there was not a drop of water to drink.
The afternoon wore on, and the sun got low.
I saw the other colts led in, and I knew they were having a good feed. “At last, just as the sun went down, I saw the old master come out with a sieve in his hand.
He was a very fine old gentleman with quite white hair, but his voice was what I should know him by among a thousand.
It was not high, nor yet low, but full, and clear, and kind, and when he gave orders it was so steady and decided that every one knew, both horses and men, that he expected to be obeyed. He came quietly along, now and then shaking the oats about that he had in the sieve, and speaking cheerfully and gently to me: `Come along, lassie, come along, lassie; come along, come along.’ I stood still and let him come up; he held the oats to me, and I began to eat without fear; his voice took all my fear away.
He stood by, patting and stroking me while I was eating, and seeing the clots of blood on my side he seemed very vexed. `Poor lassie! it was a bad business, a bad business;’ then he quietly took the rein and led me to the stable; just at the door stood Samson.
I laid my ears back and snapped at him. `Stand back,’ said the master, `and keep out of her way; you’ve done a bad day’s work for this filly.’ He growled out something about a vicious brute. `Hark ye,’ said the father, `a bad-tempered man will never make a good-tempered horse.
You’ve not learned your trade yet, Samson.’ Then he led me into my box, took off the saddle and bridle with his own hands, and tied me up; then he called for a pail of warm water and a sponge, took off his coat, and while the stable-man held the pail, he sponged my sides a good while, so tenderly that I was sure he knew how sore and bruised they were. `Whoa! my pretty one,’ he said, `stand still, stand still.’ His very voice did me good, and the bathing was very comfortable.
The skin was so broken at the corners of my mouth that I could not eat the hay, the stalks hurt me.
He looked closely at it, shook his head, and told the man to fetch a good bran mash and put some meal into it.
How good that mash was! and so soft and healing to my mouth.
He stood by all the time I was eating, stroking me and talking to the man. `If a high-mettled creature like this,’ said he, `can’t be broken by fair means, she will never be good for anything.’ “After that he often came to see me, and when my mouth was healed the other breaker, Job, they called him, went on training me; he was steady and thoughtful, and I soon learned what he wanted.” 08 Ginger’s Story Continued The next time that Ginger and I were together in the paddock she told me about her first place. “After my breaking in,” she said, “I was bought by a dealer to match another chestnut horse.
For some weeks he drove us together, and then we were sold to a fashionable gentleman, and were sent up to London. I had been driven with a check-rein by the dealer, and I hated it worse than anything else; but in this place we were reined far tighter, the coachman and his master thinking we looked more stylish so.
We were often driven about in the park and other fashionable places.
You who never had a check-rein on don’t know what it is, but I can tell you it is dreadful. “I like to toss my head about and hold it as high as any horse; but fancy now yourself, if you tossed your head up high and were obliged to hold it there, and that for hours together, not able to move it at all, except with a jerk still higher, your neck aching till you did not know how to bear it.
Besides that, to have two bits instead of one -and mine was a sharp one, it hurt my tongue and my jaw, and the blood from my tongue colored the froth that kept flying from my lips as I chafed and fretted at the bits and rein.
It was worst when we had to stand by the hour waiting for our mistress at some grand party or entertainment, and if I fretted or stamped with impatience the whip was laid on.
It was enough to drive one mad.” “Did not your master take any thought for you?” I said. “No,” said she, “he only cared to have a stylish turnout, as they call it; I think he knew very little about horses; he left that to his coachman, who told him I had an irritable temper! that I had not been well broken to the check-rein, but I should soon get used to it; but he was not the man to do it, for when I was in the stable, miserable and angry, instead of being smoothed and quieted by kindness, I got only a surly word or a blow.
If he had been civil I would have tried to bear it.
I was willing to work, and ready to work hard too; but to be tormented for nothing but their fancies angered me.
What right had they to make me suffer like that? Besides the soreness in my mouth, and the pain in my neck, it always made my windpipe feel bad, and if I had stopped there long I know it would have spoiled my breathing; but I grew more and more restless and irritable, I could not help it; and I began to snap and kick when any one came to harness me; for this the groom beat me, and one day, as they had just buckled us into the carriage, and were straining my head up with that rein, I began to plunge and kick with all my might.
I soon broke a lot of harness, and kicked myself clear; so that was an end of that place. “After this I was sent to Tattersall’s to be sold; of course I could not be warranted free from vice, so nothing was said about that.
My handsome appearance and good paces soon brought a gentleman to bid for me, and I was bought by another dealer; he tried me in all kinds of ways and with different bits, and he soon found out what I could not bear. At last he drove me quite without a check-rein, and then sold me as a perfectly quiet horse to a gentleman in the country; he was a good master, and I was getting on very well, but his old groom left him and a new one came.
This man was as hard-tempered and hard-handed as Samson; he always spoke in a rough, impatient voice, and if I did not move in the stall the moment he wanted me, he would hit me above the hocks with his stable broom or the fork, whichever he might have in his hand.
Everything he did was rough, and I began to hate him; he wanted to make me afraid of him, but I was too high-mettled for that, and one day when he had aggravated me more than usual I bit him, which of course put him in a great rage, and he began to hit me about the head with a riding whip.
After that he never dared to come into my stall again; either my heels or my teeth were ready for him, and he knew it.
I was quite quiet with my master, but of course he listened to what the man said, and so I was sold again. “The same dealer heard of me, and said he thought he knew one place where I should do well. `’Twas a pity,’ he said, `that such a fine horse should go to the bad, for want of a real good chance,’ and the end of it was that I came here not long before you did; but I had then made up my mind that men were my natural enemies and that I must defend myself.
Of course it is very different here, but who knows how long it will last? I wish I could think about things as you do; but I can’t, after all I have gone through.” “Well,” I said, “I think it would be a real shame if you were to bite or kick John or James.” “I don’t mean to,” she said, “while they are good to me.
I did bite James once pretty sharp, but John said, `Try her with kindness,’ and instead of punishing me as I expected, James came to me with his arm bound up, and brought me a bran mash and stroked me; and I have never snapped at him since, and I won’t either.” I was sorry for Ginger, but of course I knew very little then, and I thought most likely she made the worst of it; however, I found that as the weeks went on she grew much more gentle and cheerful, and had lost the watchful, defiant look that she used to turn on any strange person who came near her; and one day James said, “I do believe that mare is getting fond of me, she quite whinnied after me this morning when I had been rubbing her forehead.” “Ay, ay, Jim, ’tis `the Birtwick balls’,” said John, “she’ll be as good as Black Beauty by and by; kindness is all the physic she wants, poor thing!” Master noticed the change, too, and one day when he got out of the carriage and came to speak to us, as he often did, he stroked her beautiful neck. “Well, my pretty one, well, how do things go with you now? You are a good bit happier than when you came to us, I think.” She put her nose up to him in a friendly, trustful way, while he rubbed it gently. “We shall make a cure of her, John,” he said. “Yes, sir, she’s wonderfully improved; she’s not the same creature that she was; it’s `the Birtwick balls’, sir,” said John, laughing.
This was a little joke of John’s; he used to say that a regular course of “the Birtwick horseballs” would cure almost any vicious horse; these balls, he said, were made up of patience and gentleness, firmness and petting, one pound of each to be mixed up with half a pint of common sense, and given to the horse every day. 09 Merrylegs Mr.
Blomefield, the vicar, had a large family of boys and girls; sometimes they used to come and play with Miss Jessie and Flora.
One of the girls was as old as Miss Jessie; two of the boys were older, and there were several little ones.
When they came there was plenty of work for Merrylegs, for nothing pleased them so much as getting on him by turns and riding him all about the orchard and the home paddock, and this they would do by the hour together.
One afternoon he had been out with them a long time, and when James brought him in and put on his halter he said: “There, you rogue, mind how you behave yourself, or we shall get into trouble.” “What have you been doing, Merrylegs?” I asked. “Oh!” said he, tossing his little head, “I have only been giving those young people a lesson; they did not know when they had had enough, nor when I had had enough, so I just pitched them off backward; that was the only thing they could understand.” “What!” said I, “you threw the children off? I thought you did know better than that! Did you throw Miss Jessie or Miss Flora?” He looked very much offended, and said: “Of course not; I would not do such a thing for the best oats that ever came into the stable; why, I am as careful of our young ladies as the master could be, and as for the little ones it is I who teach them to ride.
When they seem frightened or a little unsteady on my back I go as smooth and as quiet as old pussy when she is after a bird; and when they are all right I go on again faster, you see, just to use them to it; so don’t you trouble yourself preaching to me; I am the best friend and the best riding-master those children have.
It is not them, it is the boys; boys,” said he, shaking his mane, “are quite different; they must be broken in as we were broken in when we were colts, and just be taught what’s what.
The other children had ridden me about for nearly two hours, and then the boys thought it was their turn, and so it was, and I was quite agreeable.
They rode me by turns, and I galloped them about, up and down the fields and all about the orchard, for a good hour.
They had each cut a great hazel stick for a riding-whip, and laid it on a little too hard; but I took it in good part, till at last I thought we had had enough, so I stopped two or three times by way of a hint.
Boys, you see, think a horse or pony is like a steam-engine or a thrashing-machine, and can go on as long and as fast as they please; they never think that a pony can get tired, or have any feelings; so as the one who was whipping me could not understand I just rose up on my hind legs and let him slip off behind — that was all.
He mounted me again, and I did the same.
Then the other boy got up, and as soon as he began to use his stick I laid him on the grass, and so on, till they were able to understand — that was all.
They are not bad boys; they don’t wish to be cruel.
I like them very well; but you see I had to give them a lesson.
When they brought me to James and told him I think he was very angry to see such big sticks.
He said they were only fit for drovers or gypsies, and not for young gentlemen.” “If I had been you,” said Ginger, “I would have given those boys a good kick, and that would have given them a lesson.” “No doubt you would,” said Merrylegs; “but then I am not quite such a fool (begging your pardon) as to anger our master or make James ashamed of me.
Besides, those children are under my charge when they are riding; I tell you they are intrusted to me.
Why, only the other day I heard our master say to Mrs.
Blomefield, `My dear madam, you need not be anxious about the children; my old Merrylegs will take as much care of them as you or I could; I assure you I would not sell that pony for any money, he is so perfectly good-tempered and trustworthy;’ and do you think I am such an ungrateful brute as to forget all the kind treatment I have had here for five years, and all the trust they place in me, and turn vicious because a couple of ignorant boys used me badly? No, no! you never had a good place where they were kind to you, and so you don’t know, and I’m sorry for you; but I can tell you good places make good horses.
I wouldn’t vex our people for anything; I love them, I do,” said Merrylegs, and he gave a low “ho, ho, ho!” through his nose, as he used to do in the morning when he heard James’ footstep at the door. “Besides,” he went on, “if I took to kicking where should I be? Why, sold off in a jiffy, and no character, and I might find myself slaved about under a butcher’s boy, or worked to death at some seaside place where no one cared for me, except to find out how fast I could go, or be flogged along in some cart with three or four great men in it going out for a Sunday spree, as I have often seen in the place I lived in before I came here; no,” said he, shaking his head, “I hope I shall never come to that.” — A Talk in the Orchard Ginger and I were not of the regular tall carriage horse breed, we had more of the racing blood in us.
We stood about fifteen and a half hands high; we were therefore just as good for riding as we were for driving, and our master used to say that he disliked either horse or man that could do but one thing; and as he did not want to show off in London parks, he preferred a more active and useful kind of horse.
As for us, our greatest pleasure was when we were saddled for a riding party; the master on Ginger, the mistress on me, and the young ladies on Sir Oliver and Merrylegs.
It was so cheerful to be trotting and cantering all together that it always put us in high spirits.
I had the best of it, for I always carried the mistress; her weight was little, her voice was sweet, and her hand was so light on the rein that I was guided almost without feeling it.
Oh! if people knew what a comfort to horses a light hand is, and how it keeps a good mouth and a good temper, they surely would not chuck, and drag, and pull at the rein as they often do.
Our mouths are so tender that where they have not been spoiled or hardened with bad or ignorant treatment, they feel the slightest movement of the driver’s hand, and we know in an instant what is required of us.
My mouth has never been spoiled, and I believe that was why the mistress preferred me to Ginger, although her paces were certainly quite as good.
She used often to envy me, and said it was all the fault of breaking in, and the gag bit in London, that her mouth was not so perfect as mine; and then old Sir Oliver would say, “There, there! don’t vex yourself; you have the greatest honor; a mare that can carry a tall man of our master’s weight, with all your spring and sprightly action, does not need to hold her head down because she does not carry the lady; we horses must take things as they come, and always be contented and willing so long as we are kindly used.” I had often wondered how it was that Sir Oliver had such a very short tail; it really was only six or seven inches long, with a tassel of hair hanging from it; and on one of our holidays in the orchard I ventured to ask him by what accident it was that he had lost his tail. “Accident!” he snorted with a fierce look, “it was no accident! it was a cruel, shameful, cold-blooded act! When I was young I was taken to a place where these cruel things were done; I was tied up, and made fast so that I could not stir, and then they came and cut off my long and beautiful tail, through the flesh and through the bone, and took it away. “How dreadful!” I exclaimed. “Dreadful, ah! it was dreadful; but it was not only the pain, though that was terrible and lasted a long time; it was not only the indignity of having my best ornament taken from me, though that was bad; but it was this, how could I ever brush the flies off my sides and my hind legs any more? You who have tails just whisk the flies off without thinking about it, and you can’t tell what a torment it is to have them settle upon you and sting and sting, and have nothing in the world to lash them off with.
I tell you it is a lifelong wrong, and a lifelong loss; but thank heaven, they don’t do it now.” “What did they do it for then?” said Ginger. “For fashion!” said the old horse with a stamp of his foot; “for fashion! if you know what that means; there was not a well-bred young horse in my time that had not his tail docked in that shameful way, just as if the good God that made us did not know what we wanted and what looked best.” “I suppose it is fashion that makes them strap our heads up with those horrid bits that I was tortured with in London,” said Ginger. “Of course it is,” said he; “to my mind, fashion is one of the wickedest things in the world.
Now look, for instance, at the way they serve dogs, cutting off their tails to make them look plucky, and shearing up their pretty little ears to a point to make them both look sharp, forsooth.
I had a dear friend once, a brown terrier; `Skye’ they called her.
She was so fond of me that she never would sleep out of my stall; she made her bed under the manger, and there she had a litter of five as pretty little puppies as need be; none were drowned, for they were a valuable kind, and how pleased she was with them! and when they got their eyes open and crawled about, it was a real pretty sight; but one day the man came and took them all away; I thought he might be afraid I should tread upon them.
But it was not so; in the evening poor Skye brought them back again, one by one in her mouth; not the happy little things that they were, but bleeding and crying pitifully; they had all had a piece of their tails cut off, and the soft flap of their pretty little ears was cut quite off.
How their mother licked them, and how troubled she was, poor thing! I never forgot it.
They healed in time, and they forgot the pain, but the nice soft flap, that of course was intended to protect the delicate part of their ears from dust and injury, was gone forever.
Why don’t they cut their own children’s ears into points to make them look sharp? Why don’t they cut the end off their noses to make them look plucky? One would be just as sensible as the other.
What right have they to torment and disfigure God’s creatures?” Sir Oliver, though he was so gentle, was a fiery old fellow, and what he said was all so new to me, and so dreadful, that I found a bitter feeling toward men rise up in my mind that I never had before.
Of course Ginger was very much excited; she flung up her head with flashing eyes and distended nostrils, declaring that men were both brutes and blockheads. “Who talks about blockheads?” said Merrylegs, who just came up from the old apple-tree, where he had been rubbing himself against the low branch. “Who talks about blockheads? I believe that is a bad word.” “Bad words were made for bad things,” said Ginger, and she told him what Sir Oliver had said. “It is all true,” said Merrylegs sadly, “and I’ve seen that about the dogs over and over again where I lived first; but we won’t talk about it here. You know that master, and John and James are always good to us, and talking against men in such a place as this doesn’t seem fair or grateful, and you know there are good masters and good grooms beside ours, though of course ours are the best.” This wise speech of good little Merrylegs, which we knew was quite true, cooled us all down, especially Sir Oliver, who was dearly fond of his master; and to turn the subject I said, “Can any one tell me the use of blinkers?” “No!” said Sir Oliver shortly, “because they are no use.” “They are supposed,” said Justice, the roan cob, in his calm way, “to prevent horses from shying and starting, and getting so frightened as to cause accidents.” “Then what is the reason they do not put them on riding horses; especially on ladies’ horses?” said I. “There is no reason at all,” said he quietly, “except the fashion; they say that a horse would be so frightened to see the wheels of his own cart or carriage coming behind him that he would be sure to run away, although of course when he is ridden he sees them all about him if the streets are crowded.
I admit they do sometimes come too close to be pleasant, but we don’t run away; we are used to it, and understand it, and if we never had blinkers put on we should never want them; we should see what was there, and know what was what, and be much less frightened than by only seeing bits of things that we can’t understand.
Of course there may be some nervous horses who have been hurt or frightened when they were young, who may be the better for them; but as I never was nervous, I can’t judge.” “I consider,” said Sir Oliver, “that blinkers are dangerous things in the night; we horses can see much better in the dark than men can, and many an accident would never have happened if horses might have had the full use of their eyes.
Some years ago, I remember, there was a hearse with two horses returning one dark night, and just by Farmer Sparrow’s house, where the pond is close to the road, the wheels went too near the edge, and the hearse was overturned into the water; both the horses were drowned, and the driver hardly escaped.
Of course after this accident a stout white rail was put up that might be easily seen, but if those horses had not been partly blinded, they would of themselves have kept further from the edge, and no accident would have happened.
When our master’s carriage was overturned, before you came here, it was said that if the lamp on the left side had not gone out, John would have seen the great hole that the road-makers had left; and so he might, but if old Colin had not had blinkers on he would have seen it, lamp or no lamp, for he was far too knowing an old horse to run into danger.
As it was, he was very much hurt, the carriage was broken, and how John escaped nobody knew.” “I should say,” said Ginger, curling her nostril, “that these men, who are so wise, had better give orders that in the future all foals should be born with their eyes set just in the middle of their foreheads, instead of on the side; they always think they can improve upon nature and mend what God has made.” Things were getting rather sore again, when Merrylegs held up his knowing little face and said, “I’ll tell you a secret: I believe John does not approve of blinkers; I heard him talking with master about it one day.
The master said that `if horses had been used to them, it might be dangerous in some cases to leave them off’; and John said he thought it would be a good thing if all colts were broken in without blinkers, as was the case in some foreign countries.
So let us cheer up, and have a run to the other end of the orchard; I believe the wind has blown down some apples, and we might just as well eat them as the slugs.” Merrylegs could not be resisted, so we broke off our long conversation, and got up our spirits by munching some very sweet apples which lay scattered on the grass. 11 Plain Speaking The longer I lived at Birtwick the more proud and happy I felt at having such a place.
Our master and mistress were respected and beloved by all who knew them; they were good and kind to everybody and everything; not only men and women, but horses and donkeys, dogs and cats, cattle and birds; there was no oppressed or ill-used creature that had not a friend in them, and their servants took the same tone.
If any of the village children were known to treat any creature cruelly they soon heard about it from the Hall.
The squire and Farmer Grey had worked together, as they said, for more than twenty years to get check-reins on the cart-horses done away with, and in our parts you seldom saw them; and sometimes, if mistress met a heavily laden horse with his head strained up she would stop the carriage and get out, and reason with the driver in her sweet serious voice, and try to show him how foolish and cruel it was.
I don’t think any man could withstand our mistress.
I wish all ladies were like her.
Our master, too, used to come down very heavy sometimes.
I remember he was riding me toward home one morning when we saw a powerful man driving toward us in a light pony chaise, with a beautiful little bay pony, with slender legs and a high-bred sensitive head and face.
Just as he came to the park gates the little thing turned toward them; the man, without word or warning, wrenched the creature’s head round with such a force and suddenness that he nearly threw it on its haunches.
Recovering itself it was going on, when he began to lash it furiously.
The pony plunged forward, but the strong, heavy hand held the pretty creature back with force almost enough to break its jaw, while the whip still cut into him.
It was a dreadful sight to me, for I knew what fearful pain it gave that delicate little mouth; but master gave me the word, and we were up with him in a second. “Sawyer,” he cried in a stern voice, “is that pony made of flesh and blood?” “Flesh and blood and temper,” he said; “he’s too fond of his own will, and that won’t suit me.” He spoke as if he was in a strong passion.
He was a builder who had often been to the park on business. “And do you think,” said master sternly, “that treatment like this will make him fond of your will?” “He had no business to make that turn; his road was straight on!” said the man roughly. “You have often driven that pony up to my place,” said master; “it only shows the creature’s memory and intelligence; how did he know that you were not going there again? But that has little to do with it.
I must say, Mr.
Sawyer, that a more unmanly, brutal treatment of a little pony it was never my painful lot to witness, and by giving way to such passion you injure your own character as much, nay more, than you injure your horse; and remember, we shall all have to be judged according to our works, whether they be toward man or toward beast.” Master rode me home slowly, and I could tell by his voice how the thing had grieved him.
He was just as free to speak to gentlemen of his own rank as to those below him; for another day, when we were out, we met a Captain Langley, a friend of our master’s; he was driving a splendid pair of grays in a kind of break.
After a little conversation the captain said: “What do you think of my new team, Mr.
Douglas? You know, you are the judge of horses in these parts, and I should like your opinion.” The master backed me a little, so as to get a good view of them. “They are an uncommonly handsome pair,” he said, “and if they are as good as they look I am sure you need not wish for anything better; but I see you still hold that pet scheme of yours for worrying your horses and lessening their power.” “What do you mean,” said the other, “the check-reins? Oh, ah! I know that’s a hobby of yours; well, the fact is, I like to see my horses hold their heads up.” “So do I,” said master, “as well as any man, but I don’t like to see them held up; that takes all the shine out of it.
Now, you are a military man, Langley, and no doubt like to see your regiment look well on parade, `heads up’, and all that; but you would not take much credit for your drill if all your men had their heads tied to a backboard! It might not be much harm on parade, except to worry and fatigue them; but how would it be in a bayonet charge against the enemy, when they want the free use of every muscle, and all their strength thrown forward? I would not give much for their chance of victory.
And it is just the same with horses: you fret and worry their tempers, and decrease their power; you will not let them throw their weight against their work, and so they have to do too much with their joints and muscles, and of course it wears them up faster.
You may depend upon it, horses were intended to have their heads free, as free as men’s are; and if we could act a little more according to common sense, and a good deal less according to fashion, we should find many things work easier; besides, you know as well as I that if a horse makes a false step, he has much less chance of recovering himself if his head and neck are fastened back.
And now,” said the master, laughing, “I have given my hobby a good trot out, can’t you make up your mind to mount him, too, captain? Your example would go a long way.” “I believe you are right in theory,” said the other, “and that’s rather a hard hit about the soldiers; but — well -I’ll think about it,” and so they parted. 12 A Stormy Day — “Is he industrious at his work and respectful to you?” “Yes, sir, always.” “You never find he slights his work when your back is turned?” “Never, sir.” “That’s well; but I must put another question.
Have you no reason to suspect, when he goes out with the horses to exercise them or to take a message, that he stops about talking to his acquaintances, or goes into houses where he has no business, leaving the horses outside?” “No, sir, certainly not; and if anybody has been saying that about James, I don’t believe it, and I don’t mean to believe it unless I have it fairly proved before witnesses; it’s not for me to say who has been trying to take away James’ character, but I will say this, sir, that a steadier, pleasanter, honester, smarter young fellow I never had in this stable.
I can trust his word and I can trust his work; he is gentle and clever with the horses, and I would rather have them in charge with him than with half the young fellows I know of in laced hats and liveries; and whoever wants a character of James Howard,” said John, with a decided jerk of his head, “let them come to John Manly.” The master stood all this time grave and attentive, but as John finished his speech a broad smile spread over his face, and looking kindly across at James, who all this time had stood still at the door, he said, “James, my lad, set down the oats and come here; I am very glad to find that John’s opinion of your character agrees so exactly with my own.
John is a cautious man,” he said, with a droll smile, “and it is not always easy to get his opinion about people, so I thought if I beat the bush on this side the birds would fly out, and I should learn what I wanted to know quickly; so now we will come to business.
I have a letter from my brother-in-law, Sir Clifford Williams, of Clifford Hall.
He wants me to find him a trustworthy young groom, about twenty or twenty-one, who knows his business.
His old coachman, who has lived with him thirty years, is getting feeble, and he wants a man to work with him and get into his ways, who would be able, when the old man was pensioned off, to step into his place.
He would have eighteen shillings a week at first, a stable suit, a driving suit, a bedroom over the coachhouse, and a boy under him.
Sir Clifford is a good master, and if you could get the place it would be a good start for you.
I don’t want to part with you, and if you left us I know John would lose his right hand.” “That I should, sir,” said John, “but I would not stand in his light for the world.” “How old are you, James?” said master. “Nineteen next May, sir.” “That’s young; what do you think, John?” “Well, sir, it is young; but he is as steady as a man, and is strong, and well grown, and though he has not had much experience in driving, he has a light firm hand and a quick eye, and he is very careful, and I am quite sure no horse of his will be ruined for want of having his feet and shoes looked after.” “Your word will go the furthest, John,” said the master, “for Sir Clifford adds in a postscript, `If I could find a man trained by your John I should like him better than any other;’ so, James, lad, think it over, talk to your mother at dinner-time, and then let me know what you wish.” In a few days after this conversation it was fully settled that James should go to Clifford Hall, in a month or six weeks, as it suited his master, and in the meantime he was to get all the practice in driving that could be given to him.
I never knew the carriage to go out so often before; when the mistress did not go out the master drove himself in the two-wheeled chaise; but now, whether it was master or the young ladies, or only an errand, Ginger and I were put in the carriage and James drove us.
At the first John rode with him on the box, telling him this and that, and after that James drove alone.
Then it was wonderful what a number of places the master would go to in the city on Saturday, and what queer streets we were driven through.
He was sure to go to the railway station just as the train was coming in, and cabs and carriages, carts and omnibuses were all trying to get over the bridge together; that bridge wanted good horses and good drivers when the railway bell was ringing, for it was narrow, and there was a very sharp turn up to the station, where it would not have been at all difficult for people to run into each other, if they did not look sharp and keep their wits about them. 15 The Old Hostler After this it was decided by my master and mistress to pay a visit to some friends who lived about forty-six miles from our home, and James was to drive them.
The first day we traveled thirty-two miles.
There were some long, heavy hills, but James drove so carefully and thoughtfully that we were not at all harassed.
He never forgot to put on the brake as we went downhill, nor to take it off at the right place.
He kept our feet on the smoothest part of the road, and if the uphill was very long, he set the carriage wheels a little across the road, so as not to run back, and gave us a breathing.
All these little things help a horse very much, particularly if he gets kind words into the bargain.
We stopped once or twice on the road, and just as the sun was going down we reached the town where we were to spend the night.
We stopped at the principal hotel, which was in the market-place; it was a very large one; we drove under an archway into a long yard, at the further end of which were the stables and coachhouses.
Two hostlers came to take us out.
The head hostler was a pleasant, active little man, with a crooked leg, and a yellow striped waistcoat.
I never saw a man unbuckle harness so quickly as he did, and with a pat and a good word he led me to a long stable, with six or eight stalls in it, and two or three horses.
The other man brought Ginger; James stood by while we were rubbed down and cleaned.
I never was cleaned so lightly and quickly as by that little old man.
When he had done James stepped up and felt me over, as if he thought I could not be thoroughly done, but he found my coat as clean and smooth as silk. “Well,” he said, “I thought I was pretty quick, and our John quicker still, but you do beat all I ever saw for being quick and thorough at the same time.” “Practice makes perfect,” said the crooked little hostler, “and ‘twould be a pity if it didn’t; forty years’ practice, and not perfect! ha, ha! that would be a pity; and as to being quick, why, bless you! that is only a matter of habit; if you get into the habit of being quick it is just as easy as being slow; easier, I should say; in fact it don’t agree with my health to be hulking about over a job twice as long as it need take.
Bless you! I couldn’t whistle if I crawled over my work as some folks do! You see, I have been about horses ever since I was twelve years old, in hunting stables, and racing stables; and being small, ye see, I was jockey for several years; but at the Goodwood, ye see, the turf was very slippery and my poor Larkspur got a fall, and I broke my knee, and so of course I was of no more use there.
But I could not live without horses, of course I couldn’t, so I took to the hotels.
And I can tell ye it is a downright pleasure to handle an animal like this, well-bred, well-mannered, well-cared-for; bless ye! I can tell how a horse is treated.
Give me the handling of a horse for twenty minutes, and I’ll tell you what sort of a groom he has had.
Look at this one, pleasant, quiet, turns about just as you want him, holds up his feet to be cleaned out, or anything else you please to wish; then you’ll find another fidgety, fretty, won’t move the right way, or starts across the stall, tosses up his head as soon as you come near him, lays his ears, and seems afraid of you; or else squares about at you with his heels.
Poor things! I know what sort of treatment they have had.
If they are timid it makes them start or shy; if they are high-mettled it makes them vicious or dangerous; their tempers are mostly made when they are young.
Bless you! they are like children, train ’em up in the way they should go, as the good book says, and when they are old they will not depart from it, if they have a chance.” “I like to hear you talk,” said James, “that’s the way we lay it down at home, at our master’s.” “Who is your master, young man? if it be a proper question.
I should judge he is a good one, from what I see.” “He is Squire Gordon, of Birtwick Park, the other side the Beacon Hills,” said James. “Ah! so, so, I have heard tell of him; fine judge of horses, ain’t he? the best rider in the county.” “I believe he is,” said James, “but he rides very little now, since the poor young master was killed.” “Ah! poor gentleman; I read all about it in the paper at the time.
A fine horse killed, too, wasn’t there?” “Yes,” said James; “he was a splendid creature, brother to this one, and just like him.” “Pity! pity!” said the old man; “’twas a bad place to leap, if I remember; a thin fence at top, a steep bank down to the stream, wasn’t it? No chance for a horse to see where he is going.
Now, I am for bold riding as much as any man, but still there are some leaps that only a very knowing old huntsman has any right to take.
A man’s life and a horse’s life are worth more than a fox’s tail; at least, I should say they ought to be.” During this time the other man had finished Ginger and had brought our corn, and James and the old man left the stable together. 16 The Fire Later on in the evening a traveler’s horse was brought in by the second hostler, and while he was cleaning him a young man with a pipe in his mouth lounged into the stable to gossip. “I say, Towler,” said the hostler, “just run up the ladder into the loft and put some hay down into this horse’s rack, will you? only lay down your pipe.” “All right,” said the other, and went up through the trapdoor; and I heard him step across the floor overhead and put down the hay.
James came in to look at us the last thing, and then the door was locked.
I cannot say how long I had slept, nor what time in the night it was, but I woke up very uncomfortable, though I hardly knew why.
I got up; the air seemed all thick and choking.
I heard Ginger coughing and one of the other horses seemed very restless; it was quite dark, and I could see nothing, but the stable seemed full of smoke, and I hardly knew how to breathe.
The trapdoor had been left open, and I thought that was the place it came through.
I listened, and heard a soft rushing sort of noise and a low crackling and snapping.
I did not know what it was, but there was something in the sound so strange that it made me tremble all over.
The other horses were all awake; some were pulling at their halters, others stamping.
At last I heard steps outside, and the hostler who had put up the traveler’s horse burst into the stable with a lantern, and began to untie the horses, and try to lead them out; but he seemed in such a hurry and so frightened himself that he frightened me still more.
The first horse would not go with him; he tried the second and third, and they too would not stir.
He came to me next and tried to drag me out of the stall by force; of course that was no use.
He tried us all by turns and then left the stable.
No doubt we were very foolish, but danger seemed to be all round, and there was nobody we knew to trust in, and all was strange and uncertain.
The fresh air that had come in through the open door made it easier to breathe, but the rushing sound overhead grew louder, and as I looked upward through the bars of my empty rack I saw a red light flickering on the wall.
Then I heard a cry of “Fire!” outside, and the old hostler quietly and quickly came in; he got one horse out, and went to another, but the flames were playing round the trapdoor, and the roaring overhead was dreadful.
The next thing I heard was James’ voice, quiet and cheery, as it always was. “Come, my beauties, it is time for us to be off, so wake up and come along.” I stood nearest the door, so he came to me first, patting me as he came in. “Come, Beauty, on with your bridle, my boy, we’ll soon be out of this smother.” It was on in no time; then he took the scarf off his neck, and tied it lightly over my eyes, and patting and coaxing he led me out of the stable.
Safe in the yard, he slipped the scarf off my eyes, and shouted, “Here somebody! take this horse while I go back for the other.” A tall, broad man stepped forward and took me, and James darted back into the stable.
I set up a shrill whinny as I saw him go.
Ginger told me afterward that whinny was the best thing I could have done for her, for had she not heard me outside she would never have had courage to come out.
There was much confusion in the yard; the horses being got out of other stables, and the carriages and gigs being pulled out of houses and sheds, lest the flames should spread further.
On the other side the yard windows were thrown up, and people were shouting all sorts of things; but I kept my eye fixed on the stable door, where the smoke poured out thicker than ever, and I could see flashes of red light; presently I heard above all the stir and din a loud, clear voice, which I knew was master’s: “James Howard! James Howard! Are you there?” There was no answer, but I heard a crash of something falling in the stable, and the next moment I gave a loud, joyful neigh, for I saw James coming through the smoke leading Ginger with him; she was coughing violently, and he was not able to speak. “My brave lad!” said master, laying his hand on his shoulder, “are you hurt?” James shook his head, for he could not yet speak. “Ay,” said the big man who held me; “he is a brave lad, and no mistake.” “And now,” said master, “when you have got your breath, James, we’ll get out of this place as quickly as we can,” and we were moving toward the entry, when from the market-place there came a sound of galloping feet and loud rumbling wheels. “‘Tis the fire-engine! the fire-engine!” shouted two or three voices, “stand back, make way!” and clattering and thundering over the stones two horses dashed into the yard with a heavy engine behind them.
The firemen leaped to the ground; there was no need to ask where the fire was -it was rolling up in a great blaze from the roof.
We got out as fast as we could into the broad quiet market-place; the stars were shining, and except the noise behind us, all was still.
Master led the way to a large hotel on the other side, and as soon as the hostler came, he said, “James, I must now hasten to your mistress; I trust the horses entirely to you, order whatever you think is needed,” and with that he was gone.
The master did not run, but I never saw mortal man walk so fast as he did that night.
There was a dreadful sound before we got into our stalls -the shrieks of those poor horses that were left burning to death in the stable — it was very terrible! and made both Ginger and me feel very bad.
We, however, were taken in and well done by.
The next morning the master came to see how we were and to speak to James.
I did not hear much, for the hostler was rubbing me down, but I could see that James looked very happy, and I thought the master was proud of him.
Our mistress had been so much alarmed in the night that the journey was put off till the afternoon, so James had the morning on hand, and went first to the inn to see about our harness and the carriage, and then to hear more about the fire.
When he came back we heard him tell the hostler about it.
At first no one could guess how the fire had been caused, but at last a man said he saw Dick Towler go into the stable with a pipe in his mouth, and when he came out he had not one, and went to the tap for another.
Then the under hostler said he had asked Dick to go up the ladder to put down some hay, but told him to lay down his pipe first.
Dick denied taking the pipe with him, but no one believed him.
I remember our John Manly’s rule, never to allow a pipe in the stable, and thought it ought to be the rule everywhere.
James said the roof and floor had all fallen in, and that only the black walls were standing; the two poor horses that could not be got out were buried under the burnt rafters and tiles. — a six-days’ license, and I find it better all the way round.” “Well, of course,” replied Mr.
Briggs, “it is very proper that every person should have rest, and be able to go to church on Sundays, but I should have thought you would not have minded such a short distance for the horse, and only once a day; you would have all the afternoon and evening for yourself, and we are very good customers, you know.” “Yes, sir, that is true, and I am grateful for all favors, I am sure; and anything that I could do to oblige you, or the lady, I should be proud and happy to do; but I can’t give up my Sundays, sir, indeed I can’t.
I read that God made man, and he made horses and all the other beasts, and as soon as He had made them He made a day of rest, and bade that all should rest one day in seven; and I think, sir, He must have known what was good for them, and I am sure it is good for me; I am stronger and healthier altogether, now that I have a day of rest; the horses are fresh too, and do not wear up nearly so fast.
The six-day drivers all tell me the same, and I have laid by more money in the savings bank than ever I did before; and as for the wife and children, sir, why, heart alive! they would not go back to the seven days for all they could see.” “Oh, very well,” said the gentleman. “Don’t trouble yourself, Mr.
Barker, any further.
I will inquire somewhere else,” and he walked away. “Well,” says Jerry to me, “we can’t help it, Jack, old boy; we must have our Sundays.” “Polly!” he shouted, “Polly! come here.” She was there in a minute. “What is it all about, Jerry?” “Why, my dear, Mr.
Briggs wants me to take Mrs.
Briggs to church every Sunday morning.
I say I have only a six-days’ license.
He says, `Get a seven-days’ license, and I’ll make it worth your while;’ and you know, Polly, they are very good customers to us.
Briggs often goes out shopping for hours, or making calls, and then she pays down fair and honorable like a lady; there’s no beating down or making three hours into two hours and a half, as some folks do; and it is easy work for the horses; not like tearing along to catch trains for people that are always a quarter of an hour too late; and if I don’t oblige her in this matter it is very likely we shall lose them altogether.
What do you say, little woman?” “I say, Jerry,” says she, speaking very slowly, “I say, if Mrs.
Briggs would give you a sovereign every Sunday morning, I would not have you a seven-days’ cabman again.
We have known what it was to have no Sundays, and now we know what it is to call them our own.
Thank God, you earn enough to keep us, though it is sometimes close work to pay for all the oats and hay, the license, and the rent besides; but Harry will soon be earning something, and I would rather struggle on harder than we do than go back to those horrid times when you hardly had a minute to look at your own children, and we never could go to a place of worship together, or have a happy, quiet day.
God forbid that we should ever turn back to those times; that’s what I say, Jerry.” “And that is just what I told Mr.
Briggs, my dear,” said Jerry, “and what I mean to stick to.
So don’t go and fret yourself, Polly” (for she had begun to cry); “I would not go back to the old times if I earned twice as much, so that is settled, little woman.
Now, cheer up, and I’ll be off to the stand.” Three weeks had passed away after this conversation, and no order had come from Mrs.
Briggs; so there was nothing but taking jobs from the stand.
Jerry took it to heart a good deal, for of course the work was harder for horse and man.
But Polly would always cheer him up, and say, “Never mind, father, never, mind. “`Do your best, And leave the rest, ‘Twill all come right Some day or night.'” It soon became known that Jerry had lost his best customer, and for what reason.
Most of the men said he was a fool, but two or three took his part. “If workingmen don’t stick to their Sunday,” said Truman, “they’ll soon have none left; it is every man’s right and every beast’s right.
By God’s law we have a day of rest, and by the law of England we have a day of rest; and I say we ought to hold to the rights these laws give us and keep them for our children.” “All very well for you religious chaps to talk so,” said Larry; “but I’ll turn a shilling when I can.
I don’t believe in religion, for I don’t see that your religious people are any better than the rest.” “If they are not better,” put in Jerry, “it is because they are not religious.
You might as well say that our country’s laws are not good because some people break them.
If a man gives way to his temper, and speaks evil of his neighbor, and does not pay his debts, he is not religious, I don’t care how much he goes to church.
If some men are shams and humbugs, that does not make religion untrue.
Real religion is the best and truest thing in the world, and the only thing that can make a man really happy or make the world we live in any better.” “If religion was good for anything,” said Jones, “it would prevent your religious people from making us work on Sundays, as you know many of them do, and that’s why I say religion is nothing but a sham; why, if it was not for the church and chapel-goers it would be hardly worth while our coming out on a Sunday.
But they have their privileges, as they call them, and I go without.
I shall expect them to answer for my soul, if I can’t get a chance of saving it.” Several of the men applauded this, till Jerry said: “That may sound well enough, but it won’t do; every man must look after his own soul; you can’t lay it down at another man’s door like a foundling and expect him to take care of it; and don’t you see, if you are always sitting on your box waiting for a fare, they will say, `If we don’t take him some one else will, and he does not look for any Sunday.’ Of course, they don’t go to the bottom of it, or they would see if they never came for a cab it would be no use your standing there; but people don’t always like to go to the bottom of things; it may not be convenient to do it; but if you Sunday drivers would all strike for a day of rest the thing would be done.” “And what would all the good people do if they could not get to their favorite preachers?” said Larry. “‘Tis not for me to lay down plans for other people,” said Jerry, “but if they can’t walk so far they can go to what is nearer; and if it should rain they can put on their mackintoshes as they do on a week-day.
If a thing is right it can be done, and if it is wrong it can be done without; and a good man will find a way.
And that is as true for us cabmen as it is for the church-goers.” 37 The Golden Rule Two or three weeks after this, as we came into the yard rather late in the evening, Polly came running across the road with the lantern (she always brought it to him if it was not very wet). “It has all come right, Jerry; Mrs.
Briggs sent her servant this afternoon to ask you to take her out to-morrow at eleven o’clock.
I said, `Yes, I thought so, but we supposed she employed some one else now.'” “`Well,’ said he, `the real fact is, master was put out because Mr.
Barker refused to come on Sundays, and he has been trying other cabs, but there’s something wrong with them all; some drive too fast, and some too slow, and the mistress says there is not one of them so nice and clean as yours, and nothing will suit her but Mr.
Barker’s cab again.'” Polly was almost out of breath, and Jerry broke out into a merry laugh. “`’Twill all come right some day or night’: you were right, my dear; you generally are.
Run in and get the supper, and I’ll have Jack’s harness off and make him snug and happy in no time.” After this Mrs.
Briggs wanted Jerry’s cab quite as often as before, never, however, on a Sunday; but there came a day when we had Sunday work, and this was how it happened.
We had all come home on the Saturday night very tired, and very glad to think that the next day would be all rest, but so it was not to be.
On Sunday morning Jerry was cleaning me in the yard, when Polly stepped up to him, looking very full of something. “What is it?” said Jerry. “Well, my dear,” she said, “poor Dinah Brown has just had a letter brought to say that her mother is dangerously ill, and that she must go directly if she wishes to see her alive.
The place is more than ten miles away from here, out in the country, and she says if she takes the train she should still have four miles to walk; and so weak as she is, and the baby only four weeks old, of course that would be impossible; and she wants to know if you would take her in your cab, and she promises to pay you faithfully, as she can get the money.” “Tut, tut! we’ll see about that.
It was not the money I was thinking about, but of losing our Sunday; the horses are tired, and I am tired, too — that’s where it pinches.” “It pinches all round, for that matter,” said Polly, “for it’s only half Sunday without you, but you know we should do to other people as we should like they should do to us; and I know very well what I should like if my mother was dying; and Jerry, dear, I am sure it won’t break the Sabbath; for if pulling a poor beast or donkey out of a pit would not spoil it, I am quite sure taking poor Dinah would not do it.” “Why, Polly, you are as good as the minister, and so, as I’ve had my Sunday-morning sermon early to-day, you may go and tell Dinah that I’ll be ready for her as the clock strikes ten; but stop -just step round to butcher Braydon’s with my compliments, and ask him if he would lend me his light trap; I know he never uses it on the Sunday, and it would make a wonderful difference to the horse.” Away she went, and soon returned, saying that he could have the trap and welcome. “All right,” said he; “now put me up a bit of bread and cheese, and I’ll be back in the afternoon as soon as I can.” “And I’ll have the meat pie ready for an early tea instead of for dinner,” said Polly; and away she went, while he made his preparations to the tune of “Polly’s the woman and no mistake”, of which tune he was very fond.
I was selected for the journey, and at ten o’clock we started, in a light, high-wheeled gig, which ran so easily that after the four-wheeled cab it seemed like nothing.
It was a fine May day, and as soon as we were out of the town, the sweet air, the smell of the fresh grass, and the soft country roads were as pleasant as they used to be in the old times, and I soon began to feel quite fresh.
Dinah’s family lived in a small farmhouse, up a green lane, close by a meadow with some fine shady trees; there were two cows feeding in it.
A young man asked Jerry to bring his trap into the meadow, and he would tie me up in the cowshed; he wished he had a better stable to offer. “If your cows would not be offended,” said Jerry, “there is nothing my horse would like so well as to have an hour or two in your beautiful meadow; he’s quiet, and it would be a rare treat for him.” “Do, and welcome,” said the young man; “the best we have is at your service for your kindness to my sister; we shall be having some dinner in an hour, and I hope you’ll come in, though with mother so ill we are all out of sorts in the house.” Jerry thanked him kindly, but said as he had some dinner with him there was nothing he should like so well as walking about in the meadow.
When my harness was taken off I did not know what I should do first -whether to eat the grass, or roll over on my back, or lie down and rest, or have a gallop across the meadow out of sheer spirits at being free; and I did all by turns.
Jerry seemed to be quite as happy as I was; he sat down by a bank under a shady tree, and listened to the birds, then he sang himself, and read out of the little brown book he is so fond of, then wandered round the meadow, and down by a little brook, where he picked the flowers and the hawthorn, and tied them up with long sprays of ivy; then he gave me a good feed of the oats which he had brought with him; but the time seemed all too short -I had not been in a field since I left poor Ginger at Earlshall.
We came home gently, and Jerry’s first words were, as we came into the yard, “Well, Polly, I have not lost my Sunday after all, for the birds were singing hymns in every bush, and I joined in the service; and as for Jack, he was like a young colt.” When he handed Dolly the flowers she jumped about for joy. 38 Dolly and a Real Gentleman Winter came in early, with a great deal of cold and wet.
There was snow, or sleet, or rain almost every day for weeks, changing only for keen driving winds or sharp frosts.
The horses all felt it very much.
When it is a dry cold a couple of good thick rugs will keep the warmth in us; but when it is soaking rain they soon get wet through and are no good.
Some of the drivers had a waterproof cover to throw over, which was a fine thing; but some of the men were so poor that they could not protect either themselves or their horses, and many of them suffered very much that winter.
When we horses had worked half the day we went to our dry stables, and could rest, while they had to sit on their boxes, sometimes staying out as late as one or two o’clock in the morning if they had a party to wait for. When the streets were slippery with frost or snow that was the worst of all for us horses.
One mile of such traveling, with a weight to draw and no firm footing, would take more out of us than four on a good road; every nerve and muscle of our bodies is on the strain to keep our balance; and, added to this, the fear of falling is more exhausting than anything else.
If the roads are very bad indeed our shoes are roughed, but that makes us feel nervous at first.
When the weather was very bad many of the men would go and sit in the tavern close by, and get some one to watch for them; but they often lost a fare in that way, and could not, as Jerry said, be there without spending money.
He never went to the Rising Sun; there was a coffee-shop near, where he now and then went, or he bought of an old man, who came to our rank with tins of hot coffee and pies.
It was his opinion that spirits and beer made a man colder afterward, and that dry clothes, good food, cheerfulness, and a comfortable wife at home, were the best things to keep a cabman warm.
Polly always supplied him with something to eat when he could not get home, and sometimes he would see little Dolly peeping from the corner of the street, to make sure if “father” was on the stand.
If she saw him she would run off at full speed and soon come back with something in a tin or basket, some hot soup or pudding Polly had ready.
It was wonderful how such a little thing could get safely across the street, often thronged with horses and carriages; but she was a brave little maid, and felt it quite an honor to bring “father’s first course”, as he used to call it.
She was a general favorite on the stand, and there was not a man who would not have seen her safely across the street, if Jerry had not been able to do it.
One cold windy day Dolly had brought Jerry a basin of something hot, and was standing by him while he ate it.
He had scarcely begun when a gentleman, walking toward us very fast, held up his umbrella.
Jerry touched his hat in return, gave the basin to Dolly, and was taking off my cloth, when the gentleman, hastening up, cried out, “No, no, finish your soup, my friend; I have not much time to spare, but I can wait till you have done, and set your little girl safe on the pavement.” So saying, he seated himself in the cab.
Jerry thanked him kindly, and came back to Dolly. “There, Dolly, that’s a gentleman; that’s a real gentleman, Dolly; he has got time and thought for the comfort of a poor cabman and a little girl.” Jerry finished his soup, set the child across, and then took his orders to drive to Clapham Rise.
Several times after that the same gentleman took our cab.
I think he was very fond of dogs and horses, for whenever we took him to his own door two or three dogs would come bounding out to meet him.
Sometimes he came round and patted me, saying in his quiet, pleasant way, “This horse has got a good master, and he deserves it.” It was a very rare thing for any one to notice the horse that had been working for him.
I have known ladies to do it now and then, and this gentleman, and one or two others have given me a pat and a kind word; but ninety-nine persons out of a hundred would as soon think of patting the steam engine that drew the train.
The gentleman was not young, and there was a forward stoop in his shoulders as if he was always going at something.
His lips were thin and close shut, though they had a very pleasant smile; his eye was keen, and there was something in his jaw and the motion of his head that made one think he was very determined in anything he set about.
His voice was pleasant and kind; any horse would trust that voice, though it was just as decided as everything else about him.
One day he and another gentleman took our cab; they stopped at a shop in R—- Street, and while his friend went in he stood at the door.
A little ahead of us on the other side of the street a cart with two very fine horses was standing before some wine vaults; the carter was not with them, and I cannot tell how long they had been standing, but they seemed to think they had waited long enough, and began to move off.
Before they had gone many paces the carter came running out and caught them.
He seemed furious at their having moved, and with whip and rein punished them brutally, even beating them about the head.
Our gentleman saw it all, and stepping quickly across the street, said in a decided voice: “If you don’t stop that directly, I’ll have you arrested for leaving your horses, and for brutal conduct.” The man, who had clearly been drinking, poured forth some abusive language, but he left off knocking the horses about, and taking the reins, got into his cart; meantime our friend had quietly taken a note-book from his pocket, and looking at the name and address painted on the cart, he wrote something down. “What do you want with that?” growled the carter, as he cracked his whip and was moving on.
A nod and a grim smile was the only answer he got.
On returning to the cab our friend was joined by his companion, who said laughingly, “I should have thought, Wright, — Poor Ginger One day, while our cab and many others were waiting outside one of the parks where music was playing, a shabby old cab drove up beside ours.
The horse was an old worn-out chestnut, with an ill-kept coat, and bones that showed plainly through it, the knees knuckled over, and the fore-legs were very unsteady.
I had been eating some hay, and the wind rolled a little lock of it that way, and the poor creature put out her long thin neck and picked it up, and then turned and looked about for more.
There was a hopeless look in the dull eye that I could not help noticing, and then, as I was thinking where I had seen that horse before, she looked full at me and said, “Black Beauty, is that you?” It was Ginger! but how changed! The beautifully arched and glossy neck was now straight, and lank, and fallen in; the clean straight legs and delicate fetlocks were swelled; the joints were grown out of shape with hard work; the face, that was once so full of spirit and life, was now full of suffering, and I could tell by the heaving of her sides, and her frequent cough, how bad her breath was.
Our drivers were standing together a little way off, so I sidled up to her a step or two, that we might have a little quiet talk.
It was a sad tale that she had to tell.
After a twelvemonth’s run off at Earlshall, she was considered to be fit for work again, and was sold to a gentleman.
For a little while she got on very well, but after a longer gallop than usual the old strain returned, and after being rested and doctored she was again sold.
In this way she changed hands several times, but always getting lower down. “And so at last,” said she, “I was bought by a man who keeps a number of cabs and horses, and lets them out.
You look well off, and I am glad of it, but I could not tell you what my life has been.
When they found out my weakness they said I was not worth what they gave for me, and that I must go into one of the low cabs, and just be used up; that is what they are doing, whipping and working with never one thought of what I suffer — they paid for me, and must get it out of me, they say.
The man who hires me now pays a deal of money to the owner every day, and so he has to get it out of me too; and so it’s all the week round and round, with never a Sunday rest.” I said, “You used to stand up for yourself if you were ill-used.” “Ah!” she said, “I did once, but it’s no use; men are strongest, and if they are cruel and have no feeling, there is nothing that we can do, but just bear it — bear it on and on to the end.
I wish the end was come, I wish I was dead.
I have seen dead horses, and I am sure they do not suffer pain; I wish I may drop down dead at my work, and not be sent off to the knackers.” I was very much troubled, and I put my nose up to hers, but I could say nothing to comfort her.
I think she was pleased to see me, for she said, “You are the only friend I ever had.” Just then her driver came up, and with a tug at her mouth backed her out of the line and drove off, leaving me very sad indeed.
A short time after this a cart with a dead horse in it passed our cab-stand.
The head hung out of the cart-tail, the lifeless tongue was slowly dropping with blood; and the sunken eyes! but I can’t speak of them, the sight was too dreadful.
It was a chestnut horse with a long, thin neck.
I saw a white streak down the forehead.
I believe it was Ginger; I hoped it was, for then her troubles would be over.
Oh! if men were more merciful they would shoot us before we came to such misery. 41 The Butcher I saw a great deal of trouble among the horses in London, and much of it might have been prevented by a little common sense.
We horses do not mind hard work if we are treated reasonably, and I am sure there are many driven by quite poor men who have a happier life than I had when I used to go in the Countess of W—-‘s carriage, with my silver-mounted harness and high feeding.
It often went to my heart to see how the little ponies were used, straining along with heavy loads or staggering under heavy blows from some low, cruel boy.
Once I saw a little gray pony with a thick mane and a pretty head, and so much like Merrylegs that if I had not been in harness I should have neighed to him.
He was doing his best to pull a heavy cart, while a strong rough boy was cutting him under the belly with his whip and chucking cruelly at his little mouth.
Could it be Merrylegs? It was just like him; but then Mr.
Blomefield was never to sell him, and I think he would not do it; but this might have been quite as good a little fellow, and had as happy a place when he was young.
I often noticed the great speed at which butchers’ horses were made to go, though I did not know why it was so till one day when we had to wait some time in St.
There was a butcher’s shop next door, and as we were standing a butcher’s cart came dashing up at a great pace.
The horse was hot and much exhausted; he hung his head down, while his heaving sides and trembling legs showed how hard he had been driven.
The lad jumped out of the cart and was getting the basket when the master came out of the shop much displeased.
After looking at the horse he turned angrily to the lad. “How many times shall I tell you not to drive in this way? You ruined the last horse and broke his wind, and you are going to ruin this in the same way.
If you were not my own son I would dismiss you on the spot; it is a disgrace to have a horse brought to the shop in a condition like that; you are liable to be taken up by the police for such driving, and if you are you need not look to me for bail, for I have spoken to you till I’m tired; you must look out for yourself.” During this speech the boy had stood by, sullen and dogged, but when his father ceased he broke out angrily.
It wasn’t his fault, and he wouldn’t take the blame; he was only going by orders all the time. “You always say, `Now be quick; now look sharp!’ and when I go to the houses one wants a leg of mutton for an early dinner and I must be back with it in a quarter of an hour; another cook has forgotten to order the beef; I must go and fetch it and be back in no time, or the mistress will scold; and the housekeeper says they have company coming unexpectedly and must have some chops sent up directly; and the lady at No. 4, in the Crescent, never orders her dinner till the meat comes in for lunch, and it’s nothing but hurry, hurry, all the time.
If the gentry would think of what they want, and order their meat the day before, there need not be this blow up!” “I wish to goodness they would,” said the butcher; “‘twould save me a wonderful deal of harass, and I could suit my customers much better if I knew beforehand — But there! what’s the use of talking -who ever thinks of a butcher’s convenience or a butcher’s horse! Now, then, take him in and look to him well; mind, he does not go out again to-day, and if anything else is wanted you must carry it yourself in the basket.” With that he went in, and the horse was led away.
But all boys are not cruel.
I have seen some as fond of their pony or donkey as if it had been a favorite dog, and the little creatures have worked away as cheerfully and willingly for their young drivers as I work for Jerry.
It may be hard work sometimes, but a friend’s hand and voice make it easy.
There was a young coster-boy who came up our street with greens and potatoes; he had an old pony, not very handsome, but the cheerfullest and pluckiest little thing I ever saw, and to see how fond those two were of each other was a treat.
The pony followed his master like a dog, and when he got into his cart would trot off without a whip or a word, and rattle down the street as merrily as if he had come out of the queen’s stables.
Jerry liked the boy, and called him “Prince Charlie”, for he said he would make a king of drivers some day.
There was an old man, too, who used to come up our street with a little coal cart; he wore a coal-heaver’s hat, and looked rough and black.
He and his old horse used to plod together along the street, like two good partners who understood each other; the horse would stop of his own accord at the doors where they took coal of him; he used to keep one ear bent toward his master.
The old man’s cry could be heard up the street long before he came near.
I never knew what he said, but the children called him “Old Ba-a-ar Hoo”, for it sounded like that.
Polly took her coal of him, and was very friendly, and Jerry said it was a comfort to think how happy an old horse might be in a poor place. 42 The Election As we came into the yard one afternoon Polly came out. “Jerry! I’ve had Mr.
B—- here asking about your vote, and he wants to hire your cab for the election; he will call for an answer.” “Well, Polly, you may say that my cab will be otherwise engaged.
I should not like to have it pasted over with their great bills, and as to making Jack and Captain race about to the public-houses to bring up half-drunken voters, why, I think ‘twould be an insult to the horses.
No, I shan’t do it.” “I suppose you’ll vote for the gentleman? He said he was of your politics.” “So he is in some things, but I shall not vote for him, Polly; you know what his trade is?” “Yes.” “Well, a man who gets rich by that trade may be all very well in some ways, but he is blind as to what workingmen want; I could not in my conscience send him up to make the laws.
I dare say they’ll be angry, but every man must do what he thinks to be the best for his country.” On the morning before the election, Jerry was putting me into the shafts, when Dolly came into the yard sobbing and crying, with her little blue frock and white pinafore spattered all over with mud. “Why, Dolly, what is the matter?” “Those naughty boys,” she sobbed, “have thrown the dirt all over me, and called me a little raga– raga–” “They called her a little `blue’ ragamuffin, father,” said Harry, who ran in looking very angry; “but I have given it to them; they won’t insult my sister again.
I have given them a thrashing they will remember; a set of cowardly, rascally `orange’ blackguards.” Jerry kissed the child and said, “Run in to mother, my pet, and tell her I think you had better stay at home to-day and help her.” Then turning gravely to Harry: “My boy, I hope you will always defend your sister, and give anybody who insults her a good thrashing — that is as it should be; but mind, I won’t have any election blackguarding on my premises.
There are as many `blue’ blackguards as there are `orange’, and as many white as there are purple, or any other color, and I won’t have any of my family mixed up with it.
Even women and children are ready to quarrel for the sake of a color, and not one in ten of them knows what it is about.” “Why, father, I thought blue was for Liberty.” “My boy, Liberty does not come from colors, they only show party, and all the liberty you can get out of them is, liberty to get drunk at other people’s expense, liberty to ride to the poll in a dirty old cab, liberty to abuse any one that does not wear your color, and to shout yourself hoarse at what you only half-understand -that’s your liberty!” “Oh, father, you are laughing.” “No, Harry, I am serious, and I am ashamed to see how men go on who ought to know better.
An election is a very serious thing; at least it ought to be, and every man ought to vote according to his conscience, and let his neighbor do the same.” 43 A Friend in Need — for it is very difficult to get a cab in this part of London to-day.” “I shall be proud to serve you, ma’am; I am right glad I happened to be here.
Where may I take you to, ma’am?” “To the Paddington Station, and then if we are in good time, as I think we shall be, you shall tell me all about Mary and the children.” We got to the station in good time, and being under shelter the lady stood a good while talking to Jerry.
I found she had been Polly’s mistress, and after many inquiries about her she said: “How do you find the cab work suit you in winter? I know Mary was rather anxious about you last year.” “Yes, ma’am, she was; I had a bad cough that followed me up quite into the warm weather, and when I am kept out late she does worry herself a good deal.
You see, ma’am, it is all hours and all weathers, and that does try a man’s constitution; but I am getting on pretty well, and I should feel quite lost if I had not horses to look after.
I was brought up to it, and I am afraid I should not do so well at anything else.” “Well, Barker,” she said, “it would be a great pity that you should seriously risk your health in this work, not only for your own but for Mary’s and the children’s sake; there are many places where good drivers or good grooms are wanted, and if ever you think you ought to give up this cab work let me know.” Then sending some kind messages to Mary she put something into his hand, saying, “There is five shillings each for the two children; Mary will know how to spend it.” Jerry thanked her and seemed much pleased, and turning out of the station we at last reached home, and I, at least, was tired. 44 Old Captain and His Successor Captain and I were great friends.
He was a noble old fellow, and he was very good company.
I never thought that he would have to leave his home and go down the hill; but his turn came, and this was how it happened.
I was not there, but I heard all about it.
He and Jerry had taken a party to the great railway station over London Bridge, and were coming back, somewhere between the bridge and the monument, when Jerry saw a brewer’s empty dray coming along, drawn by two powerful horses.
The drayman was lashing his horses with his heavy whip; the dray was light, and they started off at a furious rate; the man had no control over them, and the street was full of traffic.
One young girl was knocked down and run over, and the next moment they dashed up against our cab; both the wheels were torn off and the cab was thrown over.
Captain was dragged down, the shafts splintered, and one of them ran into his side.
Jerry, too, was thrown, but was only bruised; nobody could tell how he escaped; he always said ’twas a miracle.
When poor Captain was got up he was found to be very much cut and knocked about.
Jerry led him home gently, and a sad sight it was to see the blood soaking into his white coat and dropping from his side and shoulder.
The drayman was proved to be very drunk, and was fined, and the brewer had to pay damages to our master; but there was no one to pay damages to poor Captain.
The farrier and Jerry did the best they could to ease his pain and make him comfortable.
The fly had to be mended, and for several days I did not go out, and Jerry earned nothing.
The first time we went to the stand after the accident the governor came up to hear how Captain was. “He’ll never get over it,” said Jerry, “at least not for my work, so the farrier said this morning.
He says he may do for carting, and that sort of work.
It has put me out very much.
Carting, indeed! I’ve seen what horses come to at that work round London.
I only wish all the drunkards could be put in a lunatic asylum instead of being allowed to run foul of sober people.
If they would break their own bones, and smash their own carts, and lame their own horses, that would be their own affair, and we might let them alone, but it seems to me that the innocent always suffer; and then they talk about compensation! You can’t make compensation; there’s all the trouble, and vexation, and loss of time, besides losing a good horse that’s like an old friend -it’s nonsense talking of compensation! If there’s one devil that I should like to see in the bottomless pit more than another, it’s the drink devil.” “I say, Jerry,” said the governor, “you are treading pretty hard on my toes, you know; I’m not so good as you are, more shame to me; I wish I was.” “Well,” said Jerry, “why don’t you cut with it, governor? You are too good a man to be the slave of such a thing.” “I’m a great fool, Jerry, but I tried once for two days, and I thought I should have died; how did you do?” “I had hard work at it for several weeks; you see I never did get drunk, but I found that I was not my own master, and that when the craving came on it was hard work to say `no’.
I saw that one of us must knock under, the drink devil or Jerry Barker, and I said that it should not be Jerry Barker, God helping me; but it was a struggle, and I wanted all the help I could get, for till I tried to break the habit I did not know how strong it was; but then Polly took such pains that I should have good food, and when the craving came on I used to get a cup of coffee, or some peppermint, or read a bit in my book, and that was a help to me; sometimes I had to say over and over to myself, `Give up the drink or lose your soul! Give up the drink or break Polly’s heart!’ But thanks be to God, and my dear wife, my chains were broken, and now for ten years I have not tasted a drop, and never wish for it.” “I’ve a great mind to try at it,” said Grant, “for ’tis a poor thing not to be one’s own master.” “Do, governor, do, you’ll never repent it, and what a help it would be to some of the poor fellows in our rank if they saw you do without it.
I know there’s two or three would like to keep out of that tavern if they could.” At first Captain seemed to do well, but he was a very old horse, and it was only his wonderful constitution, and Jerry’s care, that had kept him up at the cab work so long; now he broke down very much.
The farrier said he might mend up enough to sell for a few pounds, but Jerry said, no! a few pounds got by selling a good old servant into hard work and misery would canker all the rest of his money, and he thought the kindest thing he could do for the fine old fellow would be to put a sure bullet through his head, and then he would never suffer more; for he did not know where to find a kind master for the rest of his days.
The day after this was decided Harry took me to the forge for some new shoes; when I returned Captain was gone.
I and the family all felt it very much.
Jerry had now to look out for another horse, and he soon heard of one through an acquaintance who was under-groom in a nobleman’s stables. He was a valuable young horse, but he had run away, smashed into another carriage, flung his lordship out, and so cut and blemished himself that he was no longer fit for a gentleman’s stables, and the coachman had orders to look round, and sell him as well as he could. “I can do with high spirits,” said Jerry, “if a horse is not vicious or hard-mouthed.” “There is not a bit of vice in him,” said the man; “his mouth is very tender, and I think myself that was the cause of the accident; you see he had just been clipped, and the weather was bad, and he had not had exercise enough, and when he did go out he was as full of spring as a balloon.
Our governor (the coachman, I mean) had him harnessed in as tight and strong as he could, with the martingale, and the check-rein, a very sharp curb, and the reins put in at the bottom bar.
It is my belief that it made the horse mad, being tender in the mouth and so full of spirit.” “Likely enough; I’ll come and see him,” said Jerry.
The next day Hotspur, that was his name, came home; he was a fine brown horse, without a white hair in him, as tall as Captain, with a very handsome head, and only five years old.
I gave him a friendly greeting by way of good fellowship, but did not ask him any questions.
The first night he was very restless.
Instead of lying down, he kept jerking his halter rope up and down through the ring, and knocking the block about against the manger till I could not sleep.
However, the next day, after five or six hours in the cab, he came in quiet and sensible.
Jerry patted and talked to him a good deal, and very soon they understood each other, and Jerry said that with an easy bit and plenty of work he would be as gentle as a lamb; and that it was an ill wind that blew nobody good, for if his lordship had lost a hundred-guinea favorite, the cabman had gained a good horse with all his strength in him.
Hotspur thought it a great come-down to be a cab-horse, and was disgusted at standing in the rank, but he confessed to me at the end of the week that an easy mouth and a free head made up for a great deal, and after all, the work was not so degrading as having one’s head and tail fastened to each other at the saddle.
In fact, he settled in well, and Jerry liked him very much. 45 Jerry’s New Year For some people Christmas and the New Year are very merry times; but for cabmen and cabmen’s horses it is no holiday, though it may be a harvest.
There are so many parties, balls, and places of amusement open that the work is hard and often late.
Sometimes driver and horse have to wait for hours in the rain or frost, shivering with the cold, while the merry people within are dancing away to the music.
I wonder if the beautiful ladies ever think of the weary cabman waiting on his box, and his patient beast standing, till his legs get stiff with cold.
I had now most of the evening work, as I was well accustomed to standing, and Jerry was also more afraid of Hotspur taking cold.
We had a great deal of late work in the Christmas week, and Jerry’s cough was bad; but however late we were, Polly sat up for him, and came out with a lantern to meet him, looking anxious and troubled.
On the evening of the New Year we had to take two gentlemen to a house in one of the West End Squares.
We set them down at nine o’clock, and were told to come again at eleven, “but,” said one, “as it is a card party, you may have to wait a few minutes, but don’t be late.” As the clock struck eleven we were at the door, for Jerry was always punctual.
The clock chimed the quarters, one, two, three, and then struck twelve, but the door did not open.
The wind had been very changeable, with squalls of rain during the day, but now it came on sharp, driving sleet, which seemed to come all the way round; it was very cold, and there was no shelter.
Jerry got off his box and came and pulled one of my cloths a little more over my neck; then he took a turn or two up and down, stamping his feet; then he began to beat his arms, but that set him off coughing; so he opened the cab door and sat at the bottom with his feet on the pavement, and was a little sheltered.
Still the clock chimed the quarters, and no one came.
At half-past twelve he rang the bell and asked the servant if he would be wanted that night. “Oh, yes, you’ll be wanted safe enough,” said the man; “you must not go, it will soon be over,” and again Jerry sat down, but his voice was so hoarse I could hardly hear him.
At a quarter past one the door opened, and the two gentlemen came out; they got into the cab without a word, and told Jerry where to drive, that was nearly two miles.
My legs were numb with cold, and I thought I should have stumbled.
When the men got out they never said they were sorry to have kept us waiting so long, but were angry at the charge; however, as Jerry never charged more than was his due, so he never took less, and they had to pay for the two hours and a quarter waiting; but it was hard-earned money to Jerry.
At last we got home; he could hardly speak, and his cough was dreadful.
Polly asked no questions, but opened the door and held the lantern for him. “Can’t I do something?” she said. “Yes; get Jack something warm, and then boil me some gruel.” This was said in a hoarse whisper; he could hardly get his breath, but he gave me a rub-down as usual, and even went up into the hayloft for an extra bundle of straw for my bed.
Polly brought me a warm mash that made me comfortable, and then they locked the door.
It was late the next morning before any one came, and then it was only Harry.
He cleaned us and fed us, and swept out the stalls, then he put the straw back again as if it was Sunday.
He was very still, and neither whistled nor sang.
At noon he came again and gave us our food and water; this time Dolly came with him; she was crying, and I could gather from what they said that Jerry was dangerously ill, and the doctor said it was a bad case.
So two days passed, and there was great trouble indoors.
We only saw Harry, and sometimes Dolly.
I think she came for company, for Polly was always with Jerry, and he had to be kept very quiet.
On the third day, while Harry was in the stable, a tap came at the door, and Governor Grant came in. “I wouldn’t go to the house, my boy,” he said, “but I want to know how your father is.” “He is very bad,” said Harry, “he can’t be much worse; they call it `bronchitis’; the doctor thinks it will turn one way or another to-night.” “That’s bad, very bad,” said Grant, shaking his head; “I know two men who died of that last week; it takes ’em off in no time; but while there’s life there’s hope, so you must keep up your spirits.” “Yes,” said Harry quickly, “and the doctor said that father had a better chance than most men, because he didn’t drink.
He said yesterday the fever was so high that if father had been a drinking man it would have burned him up like a piece of paper; but I believe he thinks he will get over it; don’t you think he will, Mr.
Grant?” The governor looked puzzled. “If there’s any rule that good men should get over these things, I’m sure he will, my boy; he’s the best man I know.
I’ll look in early to-morrow.” Early next morning he was there. “Well?” said he. “Father is better,” said Harry. “Mother hopes he will get over it.” “Thank God!” said the governor, “and now you must keep him warm, and keep his mind easy, and that brings me to the horses; you see Jack will be all the better for the rest of a week or two in a warm stable, and you can easily take him a turn up and down the street to stretch his legs; but this young one, if he does not get work, he will soon be all up on end, as you may say, and will be rather too much for you; and when he does go out there’ll be an accident.” “It is like that now,” said Harry. “I have kept him short of corn, but he’s so full of spirit I don’t know what to do with him.” “Just so,” said Grant. “Now look here, will you tell your mother that if she is agreeable I will come for him every day till something is arranged, and take him for a good spell of work, and whatever he earns, I’ll bring your mother half of it, and that will help with the horses’ feed.
Your father is in a good club, I know, but that won’t keep the horses, and they’ll be eating their heads off all this time; I’ll come at noon and hear what she says,” and without waiting for Harry’s thanks he was gone.
At noon I think he went and saw Polly, for he and Harry came to the stable together, harnessed Hotspur, and took him out.
For a week or more he came for Hotspur, and when Harry thanked him or said anything about his kindness, he laughed it off, saying it was all good luck for him, for his horses were wanting a little rest which they would not otherwise have had.
Jerry grew better steadily, but the doctor said that he must never go back to the cab work again if he wished to be an old man.
The children had many consultations together about what father and mother would do, and how they could help to earn money.
One afternoon Hotspur was brought in very wet and dirty. “The streets are nothing but slush,” said the governor; “it will give you a good warming, my boy, to get him clean and dry.” “All right, governor,” said Harry, “I shall not leave him till he is; you know I have been trained by my father.” “I wish all the boys had been trained like you,” said the governor.
While Harry was sponging off the mud from Hotspur’s body and legs Dolly came in, looking very full of something. “Who lives at Fairstowe, Harry? Mother has got a letter from Fairstowe; she seemed so glad, and ran upstairs to father with it.” “Don’t you know? Why, it is the name of Mrs.
Fowler’s place -mother’s old mistress, you know — the lady that father met last summer, who sent you and me five shillings each.” “Oh! Mrs.
Of course, I know all about her.
I wonder what she is writing to mother about.” “Mother wrote to her last week,” said Harry; “you know she told father if ever he gave up the cab work she would like to know.
I wonder what she says; run in and see, Dolly.” Harry scrubbed away at Hotspur with a huish! huish! like any old hostler.
In a few minutes Dolly came dancing into the stable. “Oh! Harry, there never was anything so beautiful; Mrs.
Fowler says we are all to go and live near her.
There is a cottage now empty that will just suit us, with a garden and a henhouse, and apple-trees, and everything! and her coachman is going away in the spring, and then she will want father in his place; and there are good families round, where you can get a place in the garden or the stable, or as a page-boy; and there’s a good school for me; and mother is laughing and crying by turns, and father does look so happy!” “That’s uncommon jolly,” said Harry, “and just the right thing, I should say; it will suit father and mother both; but I don’t intend to be a page-boy — The old gentleman laughed. “Bless the boy! he is as horsey as his old grandfather.” “But do look at his mouth, grandpapa, and ask the price; I am sure he would grow young in our meadows.” The man who had brought me for sale now put in his word. “The young gentleman’s a real knowing one, sir.
Now the fact is, this ‘ere hoss is just pulled down with overwork in the cabs; he’s not an old one, and I heerd as how the vetenary should say, that a six months’ run off would set him right up, being as how his wind was not broken.
I’ve had the tending of him these ten days past, and a gratefuller, pleasanter animal I never met with, and ‘twould be worth a gentleman’s while to give a five-pound note for him, and let him have a chance.
I’ll be bound he’d be worth twenty pounds next spring.” The old gentleman laughed, and the little boy looked up eagerly. “Oh, grandpapa, did you not say the colt sold for five pounds more than you expected? You would not be poorer if you did buy this one.” The farmer slowly felt my legs, which were much swelled and strained; then he looked at my mouth. “Thirteen or fourteen, I should say; just trot him out, will you?” I arched my poor thin neck, raised my tail a little, and threw out my legs as well as I could, for they were very stiff. “What is the lowest you will take for him?” said the farmer as I came back. “Five pounds, sir; that was the lowest price my master set.” “‘Tis a speculation,” said the old gentleman, shaking his head, but at the same time slowly drawing out his purse, “quite a speculation! Have you any more business here?” he said, counting the sovereigns into his hand. “No, sir, I can take him for you to the inn, if you please.” “Do so, I am now going there.” They walked forward, and I was led behind.
The boy could hardly control his delight, and the old gentleman seemed to enjoy his pleasure.
I had a good feed at the inn, and was then gently ridden home by a servant of my new master’s, and turned into a large meadow with a shed in one corner of it.
Thoroughgood, for that was the name of my benefactor, gave orders that I should have hay and oats every night and morning, and the run of the meadow during the day, and, “you, Willie,” said he, “must take the oversight of him; I give him in charge to you.” The boy was proud of his charge, and undertook it in all seriousness.
There was not a day when he did not pay me a visit; sometimes picking me out from among the other horses, and giving me a bit of carrot, or something good, or sometimes standing by me while I ate my oats.
He always came with kind words and caresses, and of course I grew very fond of him.
He called me Old Crony, as I used to come to him in the field and follow him about.
Sometimes he brought his grandfather, who always looked closely at my legs. “This is our point, Willie,” he would say; “but he is improving so steadily that I think we shall see a change for the better in the spring.” The perfect rest, the good food, the soft turf, and gentle exercise, soon began to tell on my condition and my spirits.
I had a good constitution from my mother, and I was never strained when I was young, so that I had a better chance than many horses who have been worked before they came to their full strength.
During the winter my legs improved so much that I began to feel quite young again.
The spring came round, and one day in March Mr.
Thoroughgood determined that he would try me in the phaeton.
I was well pleased, and he and Willie drove me a few miles.
My legs were not stiff now, and I did the work with perfect ease. “He’s growing young, Willie; we must give him a little gentle work now, and by mid-summer he will be as good as Ladybird.
He has a beautiful mouth and good paces; they can’t be better.” “Oh, grandpapa, how glad I am you bought him!” “So am I, my boy; but he has to thank you more than me; we must now be looking out for a quiet, genteel place for him, where he will be valued.” 49 My Last Home One day during this summer the groom cleaned and dressed me with such extraordinary care that I thought some new change must be at hand; he trimmed my fetlocks and legs, passed the tarbrush over my hoofs, and even parted my forelock.
I think the harness had an extra polish.
Willie seemed half-anxious, half-merry, as he got into the chaise with his grandfather. “If the ladies take to him,” said the old gentleman, “they’ll be suited and he’ll be suited.
We can but try.” At the distance of a mile or two from the village we came to a pretty, low house, with a lawn and shrubbery at the front and a drive up to the door.
Willie rang the bell, and asked if Miss Blomefield or Miss Ellen was at home.
Yes, they were.
So, while Willie stayed with me, Mr.
Thoroughgood went into the house.
In about ten minutes he returned, followed by three ladies; one tall, pale lady, wrapped in a white shawl, leaned on a younger lady, with dark eyes and a merry face; the other, a very stately-looking person, was Miss Blomefield.
They all came and looked at me and asked questions.
The younger lady — that was Miss Ellen — took to me very much; she said she was sure she should like me, I had such a good face.
The tall, pale lady said that she should always be nervous in riding behind a horse that had once been down, as I might come down again, and if I did she should never get over the fright. “You see, ladies,” said Mr.
Thoroughgood, “many first-rate horses have had their knees broken through the carelessness of their drivers without any fault of their own, and from what I see of this horse I should say that is his case; but of course I do not wish to influence you.
If you incline you can have him on trial, and then your coachman will see what he thinks of him.” “You have always been such a good adviser to us about our horses,” said the stately lady, “that your recommendation would go a long way with me, and if my sister Lavinia sees no objection we will accept your offer of a trial, with thanks.” It was then arranged that I should be sent for the next day.
In the morning a smart-looking young man came for me.
At first he looked pleased; but when he saw my knees he said in a disappointed voice: “I didn’t think, sir, you would have recommended my ladies a blemished horse like that.” “`Handsome is that handsome does’,” said my master; “you are only taking him on trial, and I am sure you will do fairly by him, young man.
If he is not as safe as any horse you ever drove send him back.” I was led to my new home, placed in a comfortable stable, fed, and left to myself.
The next day, when the groom was cleaning my face, he said: “That is just like the star that `Black Beauty’ had; he is much the same height, too.
I wonder where he is now.” A little further on he came to the place in my neck where I was bled and where a little knot was left in the skin.
He almost started, and began to look me over carefully, talking to himself. “White star in the forehead, one white foot on the off side, this little knot just in that place;” then looking at the middle of my back — “and, as I am alive, there is that little patch of white hair that John used to call `Beauty’s three-penny bit’.
It must be `Black Beauty’! Why, Beauty! Beauty! do you know me? — little Joe Green, that almost killed you?” And he began patting and patting me as if he was quite overjoyed.
I could not say that I remembered him, for now he was a fine grown young fellow, with black whiskers and a man’s voice, but I was sure he knew me, and that he was Joe Green, and I was very glad.
I put my nose up to him, and tried to say that we were friends.
I never saw a man so pleased. “Give you a fair trial! I should think so indeed! I wonder who the rascal was that broke your knees, my old Beauty! you must have been badly served out somewhere; well, well, it won’t be my fault if you haven’t good times of it now.
I wish John Manly was here to see you.” In the afternoon I was put into a low park chair and brought to the door.
Miss Ellen was going to try me, and Green went with her.
I soon found that she was a good driver, and she seemed pleased with my paces.
I heard Joe telling her about me, and that he was sure I was Squire Gordon’s old “Black Beauty”.
When we returned the other sisters came out to hear how I had behaved myself.
She told them what she had just heard, and said: “I shall certainly write to Mrs.
Gordon, and tell her that her favorite horse has come to us.
How pleased she will be!” After this I was driven every day for a week or so, and as I appeared to be quite safe, Miss Lavinia at last ventured out in the small close carriage.
After this it was quite decided to keep me and call me by my old name of “Black Beauty”.
I have now lived in this happy place a whole year.
Joe is the best and kindest of grooms.
My work is easy and pleasant, and I feel my strength and spirits all coming back again.
Thoroughgood said to Joe the other day: “In your place he will last till he is twenty years old — perhaps more.” Willie always speaks to me when he can, and treats me as his special friend.
My ladies have promised that I shall never be sold, and so I have nothing to fear; and here my story ends.
My troubles are all over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at Birtwick, standing with my old friends under the apple-trees.
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