At a sale I found myself in company with a lot of horses--some lame,
some broken-winded, some old, and some that I am sure it would have been
merciful to shoot.
The buyers and sellers, too, many of them, looked not much better off
than the poor beasts they were bargaining about. There were poor old
men, trying to get a horse or pony for a few pounds, that might drag
about some little wood or coal cart. There were poor men trying to sell
a worn-out beast for two or three pounds, rather than have the greater
loss of killing him. Some of them looked as if poverty and hard times
had hardened them all over; but there were others that I would have
willingly used the last of my strength in serving; poor and shabby, but
kind and humane, with voices that I could trust. There was one tottering
old man that took a great fancy to me, and I to him, but I was not
strong enough--it was an anxious time! Coming from the better part of
the fair, I noticed a man who looked like a gentleman farmer, with a
young boy by his side; he had a broad back and round shoulders, a kind,
ruddy face, and he wore a broad-brimmed hat. When he came up to me and
my companions, he stood still, and gave a pitiful look round upon us. I
saw his eye rest on me; I had still a good mane and tail, which did
something for my appearance. I pricked my ears and looked at him.
"There's a horse, Willie, that has known better days."
"Poor old fellow!" said the boy; "do you think, grandpapa, he was ever a
"Oh, yes! my boy," said the farmer, coming closer, "he might have been
anything when he was young; look at his nostrils and his ears, the shape
of his neck and shoulder; there's a deal of breeding about that horse."
He put out his hand and gave me a kind pat on the neck. I put out my
nose in answer to his kindness; the boy stroked my face.
"Poor old fellow! see, grandpapa, how well he understands kindness.
Could not you buy him and make him young again as you did with
"My dear boy, I can't make all old horses young; besides, Ladybird was
not so very old, as she was run down and badly used."
"Well, grandpapa, I don't believe that this one is old; look at his mane
and tail. I wish you would look into his mouth, and then you could tell;
though he is so very thin, his eyes are not sunk like some old horses."
The old gentleman laughed. "Bless the boy! he is as horsey as his old
"But do look at his mouth, grandpapa, and ask the price; I am sure he
would grow young in our meadows."
The man who had brought me for sale now put in his word. "The young
gentleman's a real knowing one, sir. Now, the fact is, this 'ere hoss is
just pulled down with over-work in the cabs; he's not an old one, and I
heard as how the vetenary said that a six-months' run off would set him
right up, being as how his wind was not broken. I've had the tending of
him these ten days past, and a gratefuller, pleasanter animal I never
met with, and 'twould be worth a gentleman's while to give a five-pound
note for him, and let him have a chance. I'll be bound he'd be worth
twenty pounds next spring."
The old gentleman laughed, and the little boy looked up eagerly. "O,
grandpapa, did you not say the colt sold for five pounds more than you
expected? You would not be poorer if you did buy this one."
The farmer slowly felt my legs, which were much swelled and strained;
then he looked at my mouth. "Thirteen or fourteen, I should say; just
trot him out, will you?"
I arched my poor thin neck, raised my tail a little and threw out my
legs as well as I could, for they were very stiff.
"What is the lowest you will take for him?" said the farmer as I came
back. "Five pounds, sir; that was the lowest price my master set."
"'Tis a speculation," said the old gentleman, shaking his head, but at
the same time slowly drawing out his purse, "quite a speculation! Have
you any more business here?" he said, counting the sovereigns into his
hand. "No, sir, I can take him for you to the inn, if you please."
"Do so, I am now going there."