Chapter 30: A Thief
My new master was an unmarried man. He lived at Bath, and was much engaged
in business. His doctor advised him to take horse exercise,
and for this purpose he bought me. He hired a stable a short distance
from his lodgings, and engaged a man named Filcher as groom.
My master knew very little about horses, but he treated me well,
and I should have had a good and easy place but for circumstances
of which he was ignorant. He ordered the best hay with plenty of oats,
crushed beans, and bran, with vetches, or rye grass,
as the man might think needful. I heard the master give the order,
so I knew there was plenty of good food, and I thought I was well off.
For a few days all went on well. I found that my groom
understood his business. He kept the stable clean and airy,
and he groomed me thoroughly; and was never otherwise than gentle.
He had been an hostler in one of the great hotels in Bath.
He had given that up, and now cultivated fruit and vegetables for the market,
and his wife bred and fattened poultry and rabbits for sale.
After awhile it seemed to me that my oats came very short; I had the beans,
but bran was mixed with them instead of oats, of which there were very few;
certainly not more than a quarter of what there should have been.
In two or three weeks this began to tell upon my strength and spirits.
The grass food, though very good, was not the thing to keep up my condition
without corn. However, I could not complain, nor make known my wants.
So it went on for about two months; and I wondered that my master
did not see that something was the matter. However, one afternoon
he rode out into the country to see a friend of his, a gentleman farmer,
who lived on the road to Wells.
This gentleman had a very quick eye for horses; and after he had
welcomed his friend he said, casting his eye over me:
"It seems to me, Barry, that your horse does not look so well as he did
when you first had him; has he been well?"
"Yes, I believe so," said my master; "but he is not nearly so lively
as he was; my groom tells me that horses are always dull and weak
in the autumn, and that I must expect it."