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11. Plain Speaking
The longer I lived at Birtwick the more proud and happy I felt at having such a place. Our
master and mistress were respected and beloved by all who knew them; they were good
and kind to everybody and everything; not only men and women, but horses and donkeys,
dogs and cats, cattle and birds; there was no oppressed or ill-used creature that had not a
friend in them, and their servants took the same tone. If any of the village children were
known to treat any creature cruelly they soon heard about it from the Hall.
The squire and Farmer Grey had worked together, as they said, for more than twenty
years to get check-reins on the cart-horses done away with, and in our parts you seldom
saw them; and sometimes, if mistress met a heavily laden horse with his head strained up
she would stop the carriage and get out, and reason with the driver in her sweet serious
voice, and try to show him how foolish and cruel it was.
I don't think any man could withstand our mistress. I wish all ladies were like her. Our
master, too, used to come down very heavy sometimes. I remember he was riding me
toward home one morning when we saw a powerful man driving toward us in a light
pony chaise, with a beautiful little bay pony, with slender legs and a high-bred sensitive
head and face. Just as he came to the park gates the little thing turned toward them; the
man, without word or warning, wrenched the creature's head round with such a force and
suddenness that he nearly threw it on its haunches. Recovering itself it was going on,
when he began to lash it furiously. The pony plunged forward, but the strong, heavy hand
held the pretty creature back with force almost enough to break its jaw, while the whip
still cut into him. It was a dreadful sight to me, for I knew what fearful pain it gave that
delicate little mouth; but master gave me the word, and we were up with him in a second.
"Sawyer," he cried in a stern voice, "is that pony made of flesh and blood?"
"Flesh and blood and temper," he said; "he's too fond of his own will, and that won't suit
me." He spoke as if he was in a strong passion. He was a builder who had often been to
the park on business.
"And do you think," said master sternly, "that treatment like this will make him fond of
your will?"
"He had no business to make that turn; his road was straight on!" said the man roughly.
"You have often driven that pony up to my place," said master; "it only shows the
creature's memory and intelligence; how did he know that you were not going there
again? But that has little to do with it. I must say, Mr. Sawyer, that a more unmanly,
brutal treatment of a little pony it was never my painful lot to witness, and by giving way
to such passion you injure your own character as much, nay more, than you injure your
horse; and remember, we shall all have to be judged according to our works, whether
they be toward man or toward beast."
Master rode me home slowly, and I could tell by his voice how the thing had grieved
him. He was just as free to speak to gentlemen of his own rank as to those below him; for
another day, when we were out, we met a Captain Langley, a friend of our master's; he
was driving a splendid pair of grays in a kind of break. After a little conversation the
captain said: