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How The Old Horse Won The Bet
by [?]


‘T WAS on the famous trotting-ground,
The betting men were gathered round
From far and near; the “cracks” were there
Whose deeds the sporting prints declare
The swift g. m., Old Hiram’s nag,
The fleet s. h., Dan Pfeiffer’s brag,
With these a third–and who is he
That stands beside his fast b. g.?
Budd Doble, whose catarrhal name
So fills the nasal trump of fame.
There too stood many a noted steed
Of Messenger and Morgan breed;
Green horses also, not a few;
Unknown as yet what they could do;
And all the hacks that know so well
The scourgings of the Sunday swell.

Blue are the skies of opening day;
The bordering turf is green with May;
The sunshine’s golden gleam is thrown
On sorrel, chestnut, bay, and roan;
The horses paw and prance and neigh,
Fillies and colts like kittens play,
And dance and toss their rippled manes
Shining and soft as silken skeins;
Wagons and gigs are ranged about,
And fashion flaunts her gay turn-out;
Here stands–each youthful Jehu’s dream
The jointed tandem, ticklish team!
And there in ampler breadth expand
The splendors of the four-in-hand;
On faultless ties and glossy tiles
The lovely bonnets beam their smiles;
(The style’s the man, so books avow;
The style’s the woman, anyhow);
From flounces frothed with creamy lace
Peeps out the pug-dog’s smutty face,
Or spaniel rolls his liquid eye,
Or stares the wiry pet of Skye,–
O woman, in your hours of ease
So shy with us, so free with these!

“Come on! I ‘ll bet you two to one
I ‘ll make him do it!” “Will you? Done!”

What was it who was bound to do?
I did not hear and can’t tell you,–
Pray listen till my story’s through.

Scarce noticed, back behind the rest,
By cart and wagon rudely prest,
The parson’s lean and bony bay
Stood harnessed in his one-horse shay–
Lent to his sexton for the day;
(A funeral–so the sexton said;
His mother’s uncle’s wife was dead.)

Like Lazarus bid to Dives’ feast,
So looked the poor forlorn old beast;
His coat was rough, his tail was bare,
The gray was sprinkled in his hair;
Sportsmen and jockeys knew him not,
And yet they say he once could trot
Among the fleetest of the town,
Till something cracked and broke him down,–
The steed’s, the statesman’s, common lot!
“And are we then so soon forgot?”
Ah me! I doubt if one of you
Has ever heard the name “Old Blue,”
Whose fame through all this region rung
In those old days when I was young!

“Bring forth the horse!” Alas! he showed
Not like the one Mazeppa rode;
Scant-maned, sharp-backed, and shaky-kneed,
The wreck of what was once a steed,
Lips thin, eyes hollow, stiff in joints;
Yet not without his knowing points.
The sexton laughing in his sleeve,
As if ‘t were all a make-believe,
Led forth the horse, and as he laughed
Unhitched the breeching from a shaft,
Unclasped the rusty belt beneath,
Drew forth the snaffle from his teeth,
Slipped off his head-stall, set him free
From strap and rein,–a sight to see!

So worn, so lean in every limb,
It can’t be they are saddling him!
It is! his back the pig-skin strides
And flaps his lank, rheumatic sides;
With look of mingled scorn and mirth
They buckle round the saddle-girth;
With horsey wink and saucy toss
A youngster throws his leg across,
And so, his rider on his back,
They lead him, limping, to the track,
Far up behind the starting-point,
To limber out each stiffened joint.