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22. Earlshall
The next morning after breakfast Joe put Merrylegs into the mistress' low chaise to take
him to the vicarage; he came first and said good-by to us, and Merrylegs neighed to us
from the yard. Then John put the saddle on Ginger and the leading rein on me, and rode
us across the country about fifteen miles to Earlshall Park, where the Earl of W---- lived.
There was a very fine house and a great deal of stabling. We went into the yard through a
stone gateway, and John asked for Mr. York. It was some time before he came. He was a
fine-looking, middle-aged man, and his voice said at once that he expected to be obeyed.
He was very friendly and polite to John, and after giving us a slight look he called a
groom to take us to our boxes, and invited John to take some refreshment.
We were taken to a light, airy stable, and placed in boxes adjoining each other, where we
were rubbed down and fed. In about half an hour John and Mr. York, who was to be our
new coachman, came in to see us.
"Now, Mr. Manly," he said, after carefully looking at us both, "I can see no fault in these
horses; but we all know that horses have their peculiarities as well as men, and that
sometimes they need different treatment. I should like to know if there is anything
particular in either of these that you would like to mention."
"Well," said John, "I don't believe there is a better pair of horses in the country, and right
grieved I am to part with them, but they are not alike. The black one is the most perfect
temper I ever knew; I suppose he has never known a hard word or a blow since he was
foaled, and all his pleasure seems to be to do what you wish; but the chestnut, I fancy,
must have had bad treatment; we heard as much from the dealer. She came to us snappish
and suspicious, but when she found what sort of place ours was, it all went off by
degrees; for three years I have never seen the smallest sign of temper, and if she is well
treated there is not a better, more willing animal than she is. But she is naturally a more
irritable constitution than the black horse; flies tease her more; anything wrong in the
harness frets her more; and if she were ill-used or unfairly treated she would not be
unlikely to give tit for tat. You know that many high-mettled horses will do so."
"Of course," said York, "I quite understand; but you know it is not easy in stables like
these to have all the grooms just what they should be. I do my best, and there I must leave
it. I'll remember what you have said about the mare."
They were going out of the stable, when John stopped and said, "I had better mention that
we have never used the check-rein with either of them; the black horse never had one on,
and the dealer said it was the gag-bit that spoiled the other's temper."
"Well," said York, "if they come here they must wear the check-rein. I prefer a loose rein
myself, and his lordship is always very reasonable about horses; but my lady -- that's
another thing; she will have style, and if her carriage horses are not reined up tight she
wouldn't look at them. I always stand out against the gag-bit, and shall do so, but it must
be tight up when my lady rides!"
"I am sorry for it, very sorry," said John; "but I must go now, or I shall lose the train."
He came round to each of us to pat and speak to us for the last time; his voice sounded
very sad.