A Stormy Day
One day late in the autumn my master had a long journey to go on business. I was put into the dog- cart, and John went with his master. I always liked to go in the dog-cart, it was so light and the high wheels ran along so pleasantly. There had been a great deal of rain, and now the wind was very high and blew the dry leaves across the road in a shower. We went along merrily till we came to the toll- bar and the low wooden bridge. The river banks were rather high, and the bridge, instead of rising, went across just level, so that in the middle, if the river was full, the water would be nearly up to the woodwork and planks; but as there were good substantial rails on each side, people did not mind it.
The man at the gate said the river was rising fast, and he feared it would be a bad night. Many of the meadows were under water, and in one low part of the road the water was halfway up to my knees; the bottom was good, and master drove gently, so it was no matter.
When we got to the town of course I had a good bait, but as the masters business engaged him a long time we did not start for home till rather late in the afternoon. The wind was then much higher, and I heard the master say to John that he had never been out in such a storm; and so I thought, as we went along the skirts of a wood, where the great branches were swaying about like twigs, and the rushing sound was terrible.
I wish we were well out of this wood, said my master.
Yes, sir, said John, it would be rather awkward if one of these branches came down upon us.
The words were scarcely out of his mouth when there was a groan, and a crack, and a splitting sound, and tearing, crashing down among the other trees came an oak, torn up by the roots, and it fell right across the road just before us. I will never say I was not frightened, for I was. I stopped still, and I believe I trembled; of course I did not turn round or run away; I was not brought up to that. John jumped out and was in a moment at my head.
That was a very near touch, said my master. Whats to be done now?
Well, sir, we cant drive over that tree, nor yet get round it; there will be nothing for it, but to go back to the four crossways, and that will be a good six miles before we get round to the wooden bridge again; it will make us late, but the horse is fresh.
So back we went and round by the crossroads, but by the time we got to the bridge it was very nearly dark; we could just see that the water was over the middle of it; but as that happened sometimes when the floods were out, master did not stop. We were going along at a good pace, but the moment my feet touched the first part of the bridge I felt sure there was something wrong. I dare not go forward, and I made a dead stop. Go on, Beauty, said my master, and he gave me a touch with the whip, but I dare not stir; he gave me a sharp cut; I jumped, but I dare not go forward.
Theres something wrong, sir, said John, and he sprang out of the dog-cart and came to my head and looked all about. He tried to lead me forward. Come on, Beauty, whats the matter? Of course I could not tell him, but I knew very well that the bridge was not safe.
Just then the man at the toll-gate on the other side ran out of the house, tossing a torch about like one mad.
Hoy, hoy, hoy! halloo! stop! he cried.
Whats the matter? shouted my master.
The bridge is broken in the middle, and part of it is carried away; if you come on youll be into the river.
Thank God! said my master. You Beauty! said John, and took the bridle and gently turned me round to the right-hand road by the river side. The sun had set some time; the wind seemed to have lulled
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