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Buying A Horse
by [?]

He also found that most hard-working horses were sick or ailing, as most hard-working men and women are; that perfectly sound horses are as rare as perfectly sound human beings, and are apt, like the latter, to be vicious.

He began to have a quick eye for the characteristics of horses, and could walk round a proffered animal and scan his points with the best. “What,” he would ask, of a given beast, “makes him let his lower lip hang down in that imbecile manner?”

“Oh, he’s got a parrot-mouth. Some folks like ’em.” Here the dealer would pull open the creature’s flabby lips, and discover a beak like that of a polyp; and the cleansing process on the grass or trousers would take place.

Of another. “What makes him trot in that spread-out, squatty way, behind?” he demanded, after the usual tour of the block.

“He travels wide. Horse men prefer that.”

They preferred any ugliness or awkwardness in a horse to the opposite grace or charm, and all that my friend could urge, in meek withdrawal from negotiation, was that he was not of an educated taste. In the course of long talks, which frequently took the form of warnings, he became wise in the tricks practiced by all dealers except his interlocutor. One of these, a device for restoring youth to an animal nearing the dangerous limit of eleven, struck him as peculiarly ingenious. You pierce the forehead, and blow into it with a quill; this gives an agreeable fullness, and erects the drooping ears in a spirited and mettlesome manner, so that a horse coming eleven will look for a time as if he were coming five.

After a thorough course of the volunteer dealers, and after haunting the Chevaliers’ stables for several weeks, my friend found that not money alone was needed to buy a horse. The affair began to wear a sinister aspect. He had an uneasy fear that in several cases he had refused the very horse he wanted with the aplomb he had acquired in dismissing undesirable beasts. The fact was he knew less about horses than when he began to buy, while he had indefinitely enlarged his idle knowledge of men, of their fatuity and hollowness. He learned that men whom he had always envied their brilliant omniscience in regard to horses, as they drove him out behind their dashing trotters, were quite ignorant and helpless in the art of buying; they always got somebody else to buy their horses for them. “Find a man you can trust,” they said, “and then put yourself in his hands. And never trust anybody about the health of a horse. Take him to a veterinary surgeon, and have him go all over him.”

My friend grew sardonic; then he grew melancholy and haggard. There was something very strange in the fact that a person unattainted of crime, and not morally disabled in any known way, could not take his money and buy such a horse as he wanted with it. His acquaintance began to recommend men to him. “If you want a horse, Captain Jenks is your man.” “Why don’t you go to Major Snaffle? He’d take pleasure in it.” But my friend, naturally reluctant to trouble others, and sickened by long failure, as well as maddened by the absurdity that if you wanted a horse you must first get a man, neglected this really good advice. He lost his interest in the business, and dismissed with lack-lustre indifference the horses which continued to be brought to his gate. He felt that his position before the community was becoming notorious and ridiculous. He slept badly; his long endeavor for a horse ended in nightmares.

One day he said to a gentleman whose turn-out he had long admired, “I wonder if you couldn’t find me a horse!”

“Want a horse?”

“Want a horse! I thought my need was known beyond the sun. I thought my want of a horse was branded on my forehead.”