21. The Parting
Now I had lived in this happy place three years, but sad changes were about to come over
us. We heard from time to time that our mistress was ill. The doctor was often at the
house, and the master looked grave and anxious. Then we heard that she must leave her
home at once, and go to a warm country for two or three years. The news fell upon the
household like the tolling of a deathbell. Everybody was sorry; but the master began
directly to make arrangements for breaking up his establishment and leaving England.
We used to hear it talked about in our stable; indeed, nothing else was talked about.
John went about his work silent and sad, and Joe scarcely whistled. There was a great
deal of coming and going; Ginger and I had full work.
The first of the party who went were Miss Jessie and Flora, with their governess. They
came to bid us good-by. They hugged poor Merrylegs like an old friend, and so indeed he
was. Then we heard what had been arranged for us. Master had sold Ginger and me to his
old friend, the Earl of W----, for he thought we should have a good place there. Merrylegs
he had given to the vicar, who was wanting a pony for Mrs. Blomefield, but it was on the
condition that he should never be sold, and that when he was past work he should be shot
Joe was engaged to take care of him and to help in the house, so I thought that Merrylegs
was well off. John had the offer of several good places, but he said he should wait a little
and look round.
The evening before they left the master came into the stable to give some directions, and
to give his horses the last pat. He seemed very low-spirited; I knew that by his voice. I
believe we horses can tell more by the voice than many men can.
"Have you decided what to do, John?" he said. "I find you have not accepted either of
"No, sir; I have made up my mind that if I could get a situation with some first-rate colt-
breaker and horse-trainer, it would be the right thing for me. Many young animals are
frightened and spoiled by wrong treatment, which need not be if the right man took them
in hand. I always get on well with horses, and if I could help some of them to a fair start I
should feel as if I was doing some good. What do you think of it, sir?"
"I don't know a man anywhere," said master, "that I should think so suitable for it as
yourself. You understand horses, and somehow they understand you, and in time you
might set up for yourself; I think you could not do better. If in any way I can help you,
write to me. I shall speak to my agent in London, and leave your character with him."
Master gave John the name and address, and then he thanked him for his long and faithful
service; but that was too much for John. "Pray, don't, sir, I can't bear it; you and my dear
mistress have done so much for me that I could never repay it. But we shall never forget
you, sir, and please God, we may some day see mistress back again like herself; we must
keep up hope, sir." Master gave John his hand, but he did not speak, and they both left the