27. Ruined and Going Downhill
As soon as my knees were sufficiently healed I was turned into a small meadow for a
month or two; no other creature was there; and though I enjoyed the liberty and the sweet
grass, yet I had been so long used to society that I felt very lonely. Ginger and I had
become fast friends, and now I missed her company extremely. I often neighed when I
heard horses' feet passing in the road, but I seldom got an answer; till one morning the
gate was opened, and who should come in but dear old Ginger. The man slipped off her
halter, and left her there. With a joyful whinny I trotted up to her; we were both glad to
meet, but I soon found that it was not for our pleasure that she was brought to be with me.
Her story would be too long to tell, but the end of it was that she had been ruined by hard
riding, and was now turned off to see what rest would do.
Lord George was young and would take no warning; he was a hard rider, and would hunt
whenever he could get the chance, quite careless of his horse. Soon after I left the stable
there was a steeplechase, and he determined to ride. Though the groom told him she was
a little strained, and was not fit for the race, he did not believe it, and on the day of the
race urged Ginger to keep up with the foremost riders. With her high spirit, she strained
herself to the utmost; she came in with the first three horses, but her wind was touched,
besides which he was too heavy for her, and her back was strained. "And so," she said,
"here we are, ruined in the prime of our youth and strength, you by a drunkard, and I by a
fool; it is very hard." We both felt in ourselves that we were not what we had been.
However, that did not spoil the pleasure we had in each other's company; we did not
gallop about as we once did, but we used to feed, and lie down together, and stand for
hours under one of the shady lime-trees with our heads close to each other; and so we
passed our time till the family returned from town.
One day we saw the earl come into the meadow, and York was with him. Seeing who it
was, we stood still under our lime-tree, and let them come up to us. They examined us
carefully. The earl seemed much annoyed.
"There is three hundred pounds flung away for no earthly use," said he; "but what I care
most for is that these horses of my old friend, who thought they would find a good home
with me, are ruined. The mare shall have a twelve-month's run, and we shall see what that
will do for her; but the black one, he must be sold; 'tis a great pity, but I could not have
knees like these in my stables."
"No, my lord, of course not," said York; "but he might get a place where appearance is
not of much consequence, and still be well treated. I know a man in Bath, the master of
some livery stables, who often wants a good horse at a low figure; I know he looks well
after his horses. The inquest cleared the horse's character, and your lordship's
recommendation, or mine, would be sufficient warrant for him."
"You had better write to him, York. I should be more particular about the place than the
money he would fetch."
After this they left us.
"They'll soon take you away," said Ginger, "and I shall lose the only friend I have, and
most likely we shall never see each other again. 'Tis a hard world!"