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PAGE 6

Buying A Horse
by [?]

One evening after tea, the young gentleman, who was about to drive Billy out, stung by the reflection that he had not taken blackberries and cream twice, ran into the house to repair the omission, and left Billy, as usual, unhitched at the door. During his absence, Billy caught sight of his stable, and involuntarily moved towards it. Finding himself unchecked, he gently increased his pace; and when my friend, looking up from the melon-patch which he was admiring, called out, “Ho, Billy! Whoa, Billy!” and headed him off from the gap, Billy profited by the circumstance to turn into the pear orchard. The elastic turf under his unguided hoof seemed to exhilarate him; his pace became a trot, a canter, a gallop, a tornado; the reins fluttered like ribbons in the air; the phaeton flew ruining after. In a terrible cyclone the equipage swept round the neighbor’s house, vanished, reappeared, swooped down his lawn, and vanished again. It was incredible.

My friend stood transfixed among his melons. He knew that his neighbor’s children played under the porte-cochere on the other side of the house which Billy had just surrounded in his flight, and probably…. My friend’s first impulse was not to go and see, but to walk into his own house, and ignore the whole affair. But you cannot really ignore an affair of that kind. You must face it, and commonly it stares you out of countenance. Commonly, too, it knows how to choose its time so as to disgrace as well as crush its victim. His neighbor had people to tea, and long before my friend reached the house the host and his guests were all out on the lawn, having taken the precaution to bring their napkins with them.

“The children!” gasped my friend.

“Oh, they were all in bed,” said the neighbor, and he began to laugh. That was right; my friend would have mocked at the calamity if it had been his neighbor’s. “Let us go and look up your phaeton.” He put his hand on the naked flank of a fine young elm, from which the bark had just been stripped. “Billy seems to have passed this way.”

At the foot of a stone-wall four feet high lay the phaeton, with three wheels in the air, and the fourth crushed flat against the axle; the willow back was broken, the shafts were pulled out, and Billy was gone.

“Good thing there was nobody in it,” said the neighbor.

“Good thing it didn’t run down some Irish family, and get you in for damages,” said a guest.

It appeared, then, that there were two good things about this disaster. My friend had not thought there were so many, but while he rejoiced in this fact, he rebelled at the notion that a sorrow like that rendered the sufferer in any event liable for damages, and he resolved that he never would have paid them. But probably he would.

Some half-grown boys got the phaeton right-side up, and restored its shafts and cushions, and it limped away with them towards the carriage-house. Presently another half-grown boy came riding Billy up the hill. Billy showed an inflated nostril and an excited eye, but physically he was unharmed, save for a slight scratch on what was described as the off hind-leg; the reader may choose which leg this was.

“The worst of it is,” said the guest, “that you never can trust ’em after they’ve run off once.”

“Have some tea?” said the host to my friend.

“No, thank you,” said my friend, in whose heart the worst of it rankled; and he walked home embittered by his guilty consciousness that Billy ought never to have been left untied. But it was not this self-reproach; it was not the mutilated phaeton; it was not the loss of Billy, who must now be sold; it was the wreck of settled hopes, the renewed suspense of faith, the repetition of the tragical farce of buying another horse, that most grieved my friend.