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Buying A Horse
by [?]

This gentleman laughed, and then he said, “I’ve just seen a mare that would suit you. I thought of buying her, but I want a match, and this mare is too small. She’ll be round here in fifteen minutes, and I’ll take you out with her. Can you wait?”

“Wait!” My friend laughed in his turn.

The mare dashed up before the fifteen minutes had passed. She was beautiful, black as a coal; and kind as a kitten, said her driver. My friend thought her head was rather big. “Why, yes, she’s a pony-horse; that’s what I like about her.”

She trotted off wonderfully, and my friend felt that the thing was now done.

The gentleman, who was driving, laid his head on one side, and listened. “Clicks, don’t she?”

“She does click,” said my friend obligingly.

“Hear it?” asked the gentleman.

“Well, if you ask me,” said my friend, “I don’t hear it. What is clicking?”

“Oh, striking the heel of her fore-foot with the toe of her hind-foot. Sometimes it comes from bad shoeing. Some people like it. I don’t myself.” After a while he added, “If you can get this mare for a hundred and twenty-five, you’d better buy her.”

“Well, I will,” said my friend. He would have bought her, in fact, if she had clicked like a noiseless sewing-machine. But the owner, remote as Medford, and invisibly dealing, as usual, through a third person, would not sell her for one and a quarter; he wanted one and a half. Besides, another Party was trying to get her; and now ensued a negotiation which for intricacy and mystery surpassed all the others. It was conducted in my friend’s interest by one who had the difficult task of keeping the owner’s imagination in check and his demands within bounds, for it soon appeared that he wanted even more than one and a half for her. Unseen and inaccessible, he grew every day more unmanageable. He entered into relations with the other Party, and it all ended in his sending her out one day after my friend had gone into the country, and requiring him to say at once that he would give one and a half. He was not at home, and he never saw the little mare again. This confirmed him in the belief that she was the very horse he ought to have had.

People had now begun to say to him, “Why don’t you advertise? Advertise for a gentleman’s pony-horse and phaeton and harness complete. You’ll have a perfect procession of them before night.” This proved true. His advertisement, mystically worded after the fashion of those things, found abundant response. But the establishments which he would have taken he could not get at the figure he had set, and those which his money would buy he would not have. They came at all hours of the day; and he never returned home after an an absence without meeting the reproach that now the very horse he wanted had just been driven away, and would not be brought back, as his owner lived in Billerica, and only happened to be down. A few equipages really appeared desirable, but in regard to these his jaded faculties refused to work: he could decide nothing; his volition was extinct; he let them come and go.

It was at this period that people who had at first been surprised that he wished to buy a horse came to believe that he had bought one, and were astonished to learn that he had not. He felt the pressure of public opinion.

He began to haunt the different sale-stables in town, and to look at horses with a view to buying at private sale. Every facility for testing them was offered him, but he could not make up his mind. In feeble wantonness he gave appointments which he knew he should not keep, and, passing his days in an agony of multitudinous indecision, he added to the lies in the world the hideous sum of his broken engagements. From time to time he forlornly appeared at the Chevaliers’, and refreshed his corrupted nature by contact with their sterling integrity. Once he ventured into their establishment just before an auction began, and remained dazzled by the splendor of a spectacle which I fancy can be paralleled only by some dream of a mediaeval tournament. The horses, brilliantly harnessed, accurately shod, and standing tall on burnished hooves, their necks curved by the check rein and their black and blonde manes flowing over the proud arch, lustrous and wrinkled like satin, were ranged in a glittering hemicycle. They affected my friend like the youth and beauty of his earliest evening parties; he experienced a sense of bashfulness, of sickening personal demerit. He could not have had the audacity to bid on one of those superb creatures, if all the Chevaliers together had whispered him that here at last was the very horse.