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Buying A Horse
by [?]

“A wheelbarrow.”

“Well! I never see the hoss yet that wouldn’t shy at a wheelbarrow.”

My friend owned that a wheelbarrow was of an alarming presence, but he had his reserves respecting the self-control and intelligence of this pony-horse. The dealer amiably withdrew him, and said that he would bring next day a horse–if he could get the owner to part with a family pet–that would suit; but upon investigation it appeared that this treasure was what is called a calico-horse, and my friend, who was without the ambition to figure in the popular eye as a stray circus-rider, declined to see him.

These adventurous spirits were not squeamish. They thrust their hands into the lathery mouths of their brutes to show the state of their teeth, and wiped their fingers on their trousers or grass afterwards, without a tremor, though my friend could never forbear a shudder at the sight. If sometimes they came with a desirable animal, the price was far beyond his modest figure; but generally they seemed to think that he did not want a desirable animal. In most cases, the pony-horse pronounced sentence upon himself by some gross and ridiculous blemish; but sometimes my friend failed to hit upon any tenable excuse for refusing him. In such an event, he would say, with an air of easy and candid comradery, “Well, now, what’s the matter with him?” And then the dealer, passing his hand down one of the pony-horse’s fore-legs, would respond, with an upward glance of searching inquiry at my friend, “Well, he’s a leetle mite tender for’a’d.”

I am afraid my friend grew to have a cruel pleasure in forcing them to this exposure of the truth; but he excused himself upon the ground that they never expected him to be alarmed at this tenderness forward, and that their truth was not a tribute to virtue, but was contempt of his ignorance. Nevertheless, it was truth; and he felt that it must be his part thereafter to confute the common belief that there is no truth in horse-trades.

These people were not usually the owners of the horses they brought, but the emissaries or agents of the owners. Often they came merely to show a horse, and were not at all sure that his owner would part with him on any terms, as he was a favorite with the ladies of the family. An impenetrable mystery hung about the owner, through which he sometimes dimly loomed as a gentleman in failing health, who had to give up his daily drives, and had no use for the horse. There were cases in which the dealer came secretly, from pure zeal, to show a horse whose owner supposed him still in the stable, and who must be taken back before his absence was noticed. If my friend insisted upon knowing the owner and conferring with him, in any of these instances, it was darkly admitted that he was a gentleman in the livery business over in Somerville or down in the Lower Port. Truth, it seemed, might be absent or present in a horse-trade, but mystery was essential.

The dealers had a jargon of their own, in which my friend became an expert. They did not say that a horse weighed a thousand pounds, but ten hundred; he was not worth a hundred and twenty-five dollars, but one and a quarter; he was not going on seven years old, but was coming seven. There are curious facts, by the way, in regard to the age of horses which are not generally known. A horse is never of an even age: that is, he is not six, or eight, or ten, but five, or seven, or nine years old; he is sometimes, but not often, eleven; he is never thirteen; his favorite time of life is seven, and he rarely gets beyond it, if on sale. My friend found the number of horses brought into the world in 1871 quite beyond computation.