Chapter 30: A Thief
"Autumn, fiddlesticks!" said the farmer. "Why, this is only August;
and with your light work and good food he ought not to go down like this,
even if it was autumn. How do you feed him?"
My master told him. The other shook his head slowly,
and began to feel me over.
"I can't say who eats your corn, my dear fellow, but I am much mistaken
if your horse gets it. Have you ridden very fast?"
"No, very gently."
"Then just put your hand here," said he, passing his hand over my neck
and shoulder; "he is as warm and damp as a horse just come up from grass.
I advise you to look into your stable a little more.
I hate to be suspicious, and, thank heaven, I have no cause to be,
for I can trust my men, present or absent; but there are mean scoundrels,
wicked enough to rob a dumb beast of his food. You must look into it."
And turning to his man, who had come to take me, "Give this horse
a right good feed of bruised oats, and don't stint him."
"Dumb beasts!" Yes, we are; but if I could have spoken I could have
told my master where his oats went to. My groom used to come every morning
about six o'clock, and with him a little boy, who always had a covered basket
with him. He used to go with his father into the harness-room,
where the corn was kept, and I could see them, when the door stood ajar,
fill a little bag with oats out of the bin, and then he used to be off.
Five or six mornings after this, just as the boy had left the stable,
the door was pushed open, and a policeman walked in, holding the child tight
by the arm; another policeman followed, and locked the door on the inside,
saying, "Show me the place where your father keeps his rabbits' food."
The boy looked very frightened and began to cry; but there was no escape,
and he led the way to the corn-bin. Here the policeman found
another empty bag like that which was found full of oats in the boy's basket.