Nor did the great slapping brown horse, Hercules, turn out less imposingly than his master. Leather, though not the man to work himself, had a very good idea of work, and right manfully he made the helpers at the Eclipse livery and bait stables strap and groom his horses. Hercules was a fine animal. It did not require a man to be a great judge of a horse to see that. Even the ladies, though perhaps they would rather have had him a white or a cream colour, could not but admire his nut-brown muzzle, his glossy coat, his silky mane, and the elegant way in which he carried his flowing tail. His step was delightful to look at -- so free, so accurate, and so easy. And that reminds us that we may as well be getting Mr Sponge up -- a feat of no easy accomplishment. Few hack hunters are without their little peculiarities. Some are runaways -- some kick -- some bite -- some go tail first on the road -- some go tail first at their fences -- some rush as if they were going to eat them, others baulk them altogether -- and few, very few, give satisfaction. Those that do, generally retire from the public stud to the private one. But to our particular quadruped, ‘Hercules.’

Mr Sponge was not without his misgivings that, regardless of being on his preferment, the horse might exhibit more of his peculiarity than would forward his master’s interests, and, independently of the disagreeableness of being kicked off at the cover side, not being always compensated for by falling soft, Mr Sponge thought, as the meet was not far off, and he did not sport a cover hack, it would look quite as well to ride his horse quietly on as go in a fly, provided always he could accomplish the mount -- the mount -- like the man walking with his head under his arm -- being the first step to everything.

Accordingly, Mr Leather had the horse saddled and accoutred as quietly as possible -- his warm clothing put over the saddle immediately, and everything kept as much in the usual course as possible, so that the noble animal’s temper might not be ruffled by unaccustomed trouble or unusual objects. Leather having seen that the horse could not eject Mr Sponge even in trousers, had little fear of his dislodging him in boots and breeches; still it was desirable to avoid all unseemly contention, and maintain the high character of the stud, by which means Leather felt that his own character and consequence would best be maintained. Accordingly, he refrained from calling in the aid of any of the stable assistants, preferring for once to do a little work himself, especially when the rider was up to the trick, and not ‘a gent’ to be cajoled into ‘trying a horse.’ Mr Sponge, punctual to his time, appeared at the stable, and after much patting, whistling, so -- so -- ing, my man, and general ingratiation, the redoubtable nag was led out of the stable into a well-littered straw-yard, where, though he might be gored by a bull if he fell, the ‘eyes of England’ at all events would not witness the floorer. Horses, however, have wonderful memories and discrimination. Though so differently attired to what he was on the occasion of his trial, the horse seemed to recognise Mr Sponge, and independently of a few snorts as he was led out, and an indignant stamp or two of his foot as it was let down, after Mr Sponge was mounted he took things very quietly.

‘Now,’ said Leather, in an undertone, patting the horse’s arched neck, ‘I’ll give you a hint; they’re a goin’ to run a drag to try what he’s made on, so be on the look-out.’

‘How do you know?’ asked Mr Sponge, in surprise, drawing his reins as he spoke.

I know,’ replied Mr Leather, with a wink.

Just then the horse began to plunge, and paw, and give symptoms of uneasiness, and not wishing to fret or exhibit his weak points, Mr Sponge gave him his head, and passing through the side-gate was presently in the street. He didn’t exactly understand it, but having full confidence in his horsemanship, and believing the one he was on required nothing but riding, he was not afraid to take his chance.

Not being the man to put his candle under a bushel, Mr Sponge took the principal streets on his way out of town. We are not sure that he did not go rather out of his way to get them in, but that is neither here nor there, seeing he was a stranger who didn’t know the way. What a sensation his appearance created as the gallant brown stepped proudly and freely up Coronation Street, throwing his smart, clean, well-put-on head up and down on the unrestrained freedom of the snaffle.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.