Chapter 13

Groom and cob - Strength and symmetry - Where’s the saddle? - The first ride - No more fatigue - Love for horses - Pursuit of words - Philologist and Pegasus - The smith - What more, agrah? - Sassannach tenpence.

AND it came to pass that, as I was standing by the door of the barrack stable, one of the grooms came out to me, saying, ‘I say, young gentleman, I wish you would give the cob a breathing this fine morning.’

‘Why do you wish me to mount him?’ said I; ‘you know he is dangerous. I saw him fling you off his back only a few days ago.’

‘Why, that’s the very thing, master. I’d rather see anybody on his back than myself; he does not like me; but, to them he does, he can be as gentle as a lamb.’

‘But suppose,’ said I, ‘that he should not like me?’

‘We shall soon see that, master,’ said the groom; ‘and, if so be he shows temper, I will be the first to tell you to get down. But there’s no fear of that; you have never angered or insulted him, and to such as you, I say again, he’ll be as gentle as a lamb.’

‘And how came you to insult him,’ said I, ‘knowing his temper as you do?’

‘Merely through forgetfulness, master: I was riding him about a month ago, and having a stick in my hand, I struck him, thinking I was on another horse, or rather thinking of nothing at all. He has never forgiven me, though before that time he was the only friend I had in the world; I should like to see you on him, master.’

‘I should soon be off him; I can’t ride.’

‘Then you are all right, master; there’s no fear. Trust him for not hurting a young gentleman, an officer’s son, who can’t ride. If you were a blackguard dragoon, indeed, with long spurs, ‘twere another thing; as it is, he’ll treat you as if he were the elder brother that loves you. Ride! He’ll soon teach you to ride if you leave the matter with him. He’s the best riding-master in all Ireland, and the gentlest.’

The cob was led forth; what a tremendous creature! I had frequently seen him before, and wondered at him; he was barely fifteen hands, but he had the girth of a metropolitan dray-horse; his head was small in comparison with his immense neck, which curved down nobly to his wide back: his chest was broad and fine, and his shoulders models of symmetry and strength; he stood well and powerfully upon his legs, which were somewhat short. In a word, he was a gallant specimen of the genuine Irish cob, a species at one time not uncommon, but at the present day nearly extinct.

‘There!’ said the groom, as he looked at him, half admiringly, half sorrowfully, ‘with sixteen stone on his back, he’ll trot fourteen miles in one hour, with your nine stone, some two and a half more ay, and clear a six-foot wall at the end of it.’

‘I’m half afraid,’ said I; ‘I had rather you would ride him.’

‘I’d rather so, too, if he would let me; but he remembers the blow. Now, don’t be afraid, young master, he’s longing to go out himself. He’s been trampling with his feet these three days, and I know what that means; he’ll let anybody ride him but myself, and thank them; but to me he says, “No! you struck me.”’

‘But,’ said I, ‘where’s the saddle?’

‘Never mind the saddle; if you are ever to be a frank rider, you must begin without a saddle; besides, if he felt a saddle, he would think you don’t trust him, and leave you to yourself. Now, before you mount, make his acquaintance - see there, how he kisses you and licks your face, and see how he lifts his foot, that’s to shake hands. You may trust him - now you are on his back at last; mind how you hold the bridle -

  By PanEris using Melati.

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