5. A Fair Start
The name of the coachman was John Manly; he had a wife and one little child, and they
lived in the coachman's cottage, very near the stables.
The next morning he took me into the yard and gave me a good grooming, and just as I
was going into my box, with my coat soft and bright, the squire came in to look at me,
and seemed pleased. "John," he said, "I meant to have tried the new horse this morning,
but I have other business. You may as well take him around after breakfast; go by the
common and the Highwood, and back by the watermill and the river; that will show his
"I will, sir," said John. After breakfast he came and fitted me with a bridle. He was very
particular in letting out and taking in the straps, to fit my head comfortably; then he
brought a saddle, but it was not broad enough for my back; he saw it in a minute and
went for another, which fitted nicely. He rode me first slowly, then a trot, then a canter,
and when we were on the common he gave me a light touch with his whip, and we had a
"Ho, ho! my boy," he said, as he pulled me up, "you would like to follow the hounds, I
As we came back through the park we met the Squire and Mrs. Gordon walking; they
stopped, and John jumped off.
"Well, John, how does he go?"
"First-rate, sir," answered John; "he is as fleet as a deer, and has a fine spirit too; but the
lightest touch of the rein will guide him. Down at the end of the common we met one of
those traveling carts hung all over with baskets, rugs, and such like; you know, sir, many
horses will not pass those carts quietly; he just took a good look at it, and then went on as
quiet and pleasant as could be. They were shooting rabbits near the Highwood, and a gun
went off close by; he pulled up a little and looked, but did not stir a step to right or left. I
just held the rein steady and did not hurry him, and it's my opinion he has not been
frightened or ill-used while he was young."
"That's well," said the squire, "I will try him myself to-morrow."
The next day I was brought up for my master. I remembered my mother's counsel and my
good old master's, and I tried to do exactly what he wanted me to do. I found he was a
very good rider, and thoughtful for his horse too. When he came home the lady was at the
hall door as he rode up.
"Well, my dear," she said, "how do you like him?"
"He is exactly what John said," he replied; "a pleasanter creature I never wish to mount.
What shall we call him?"
"Would you like Ebony?" said she; "he is as black as ebony."
"No, not Ebony."