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Black Beauty

14. James Howard
Early one morning in December John had just led me into my box after my daily
exercise, and was strapping my cloth on and James was coming in from the corn chamber
with some oats, when the master came into the stable. He looked rather serious, and held
an open letter in his hand. John fastened the door of my box, touched his cap, and waited
for orders.
"Good-morning, John," said the master. "I want to know if you have any complaint to
make of James."
"Complaint, sir? No, sir."
"Is he industrious at his work and respectful to you?"
"Yes, sir, always."
"You never find he slights his work when your back is turned?"
"Never, sir."
"That's well; but I must put another question. Have you no reason to suspect, when he
goes out with the horses to exercise them or to take a message, that he stops about talking
to his acquaintances, or goes into houses where he has no business, leaving the horses
outside?"
"No, sir, certainly not; and if anybody has been saying that about James, I don't believe it,
and I don't mean to believe it unless I have it fairly proved before witnesses; it's not for
me to say who has been trying to take away James' character, but I will say this, sir, that a
steadier, pleasanter, honester, smarter young fellow I never had in this stable. I can trust
his word and I can trust his work; he is gentle and clever with the horses, and I would
rather have them in charge with him than with half the young fellows I know of in laced
hats and liveries; and whoever wants a character of James Howard," said John, with a
decided jerk of his head, "let them come to John Manly."
The master stood all this time grave and attentive, but as John finished his speech a broad
smile spread over his face, and looking kindly across at James, who all this time had
stood still at the door, he said, "James, my lad, set down the oats and come here; I am
very glad to find that John's opinion of your character agrees so exactly with my own.
John is a cautious man," he said, with a droll smile, "and it is not always easy to get his
opinion about people, so I thought if I beat the bush on this side the birds would fly out,
and I should learn what I wanted to know quickly; so now we will come to business. I
have a letter from my brother-in-law, Sir Clifford Williams, of Clifford Hall. He wants
me to find him a trustworthy young groom, about twenty or twenty-one, who knows his
business. His old coachman, who has lived with him thirty years, is getting feeble, and he
wants a man to work with him and get into his ways, who would be able, when the old
man was pensioned off, to step into his place. He would have eighteen shillings a week at
first, a stable suit, a driving suit, a bedroom over the coachhouse, and a boy under him.
Sir Clifford is a good master, and if you could get the place it would be a good start for
you. I don't want to part with you, and if you left us I know John would lose his right
hand."
 
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