12. A Stormy Day
One day late in the autumn my master had a long journey to go on business. I was put
into the dog-cart, and John went with his master. I always liked to go in the dog-cart, it
was so light and the high wheels ran along so pleasantly. There had been a great deal of
rain, and now the wind was very high and blew the dry leaves across the road in a
shower. We went along merrily till we came to the toll-bar and the low wooden bridge.
The river banks were rather high, and the bridge, instead of rising, went across just level,
so that in the middle, if the river was full, the water would be nearly up to the woodwork
and planks; but as there were good substantial rails on each side, people did not mind it.
The man at the gate said the river was rising fast, and he feared it would be a bad night.
Many of the meadows were under water, and in one low part of the road the water was
halfway up to my knees; the bottom was good, and master drove gently, so it was no
When we got to the town of course I had a good bait, but as the master's business
engaged him a long time we did not start for home till rather late in the afternoon. The
wind was then much higher, and I heard the master say to John that he had never been out
in such a storm; and so I thought, as we went along the skirts of a wood, where the great
branches were swaying about like twigs, and the rushing sound was terrible.
"I wish we were well out of this wood," said my master.
"Yes, sir," said John, "it would be rather awkward if one of these branches came down
The words were scarcely out of his mouth when there was a groan, and a crack, and a
splitting sound, and tearing, crashing down among the other trees came an oak, torn up by
the roots, and it fell right across the road just before us. I will never say I was not
frightened, for I was. I stopped still, and I believe I trembled; of course I did not turn
round or run away; I was not brought up to that. John jumped out and was in a moment at
"That was a very near touch," said my master. "What's to be done now?"
"Well, sir, we can't drive over that tree, nor yet get round it; there will be nothing for it,
but to go back to the four crossways, and that will be a good six miles before we get
round to the wooden bridge again; it will make us late, but the horse is fresh."
So back we went and round by the crossroads, but by the time we got to the bridge it was
very nearly dark; we could just see that the water was over the middle of it; but as that
happened sometimes when the floods were out, master did not stop. We were going along
at a good pace, but the moment my feet touched the first part of the bridge I felt sure
there was something wrong. I dare not go forward, and I made a dead stop. "Go on,
Beauty," said my master, and he gave me a touch with the whip, but I dare not stir; he
gave me a sharp cut; I jumped, but I dare not go forward.
"There's something wrong, sir," said John, and he sprang out of the dog-cart and came to
my head and looked all about. He tried to lead me forward. "Come on, Beauty, what's the
matter?" Of course I could not tell him, but I knew very well that the bridge was not safe.