Best American Humorous Short Stories
he would not rack his own nervous system by accompanying him. Therefore it was that
he had not yet visited the beautiful upland country residence of Mr. Podington.
At last this state of things grew awkward. Mrs. Buller and Mrs. Podington, often with
their families, visited each other at their country houses, but the fact that on these
occasions they were never accompanied by their husbands caused more and more gossip
among their neighbors both in the upland country and by the sea.
One day in spring as the two sat in their city office, where Mr. Podington had just
repeated his annual invitation, his friend replied to him thus:
"William, if I come to see you this summer, will you visit me? The thing is beginning to
look a little ridiculous, and people are talking about it."
Mr. Podington put his hand to his brow and for a few moments closed his eyes. In his
mind he saw a cat-boat upon its side, the sails spread out over the water, and two men,
almost entirely immersed in the waves, making efforts to reach the side of the boat. One
of these was getting on very well--that was Buller. The other seemed about to sink, his
arms were uselessly waving in the air--that was himself. But he opened his eyes and
looked bravely out of the window; it was time to conquer all this; it was indeed growing
ridiculous. Buller had been sailing many years and had never been upset.
"Yes," said he; "I will do it; I am ready any time you name."
Mr. Buller rose and stretched out his hand.
"Good!" said he; "it is a compact!"
Buller was the first to make the promised country visit. He had not mentioned the subject
of horses to his friend, but he knew through Mrs. Buller that Podington still continued to
be his own driver. She had informed him, however, that at present he was accustomed to
drive a big black horse which, in her opinion, was as gentle and reliable as these animals
ever became, and she could not imagine how anybody could be afraid of him. So when,
the next morning after his arrival, Mr. Buller was asked by his host if he would like to
take a drive, he suppressed a certain rising emotion and said that it would please him very
When the good black horse had jogged along a pleasant road for half an hour Mr. Buller
began to feel that, perhaps, for all these years he had been laboring under a
misconception. It seemed to be possible that there were some horses to which
surrounding circumstances in the shape of sights and sounds were so irrelevant that they
were to a certain degree entirely safe, even when guided and controlled by an amateur
hand. As they passed some meadow-land, somebody behind a hedge fired a gun; Mr.
Buller was frightened, but the horse was not.
"William," said Buller, looking cheerfully around him,