Chapter 31: A Humbug
My master was not immediately suited, but in a few days my new groom came.
He was a tall, good-looking fellow enough; but if ever there was a humbug
in the shape of a groom Alfred Smirk was the man. He was very civil to me,
and never used me ill; in fact, he did a great deal of stroking and patting
when his master was there to see it. He always brushed my mane and tail
with water and my hoofs with oil before he brought me to the door,
to make me look smart; but as to cleaning my feet or looking to my shoes,
or grooming me thoroughly, he thought no more of that
than if I had been a cow. He left my bit rusty, my saddle damp,
and my crupper stiff.
Alfred Smirk considered himself very handsome; he spent a great deal of time
about his hair, whiskers and necktie, before a little looking-glass
in the harness-room. When his master was speaking to him it was always,
"Yes, sir; yes, sir" -- touching his hat at every word;
and every one thought he was a very nice young man and that Mr. Barry
was very fortunate to meet with him. I should say he was the laziest,
most conceited fellow I ever came near. Of course, it was a great thing
not to be ill-used, but then a horse wants more than that.
I had a loose box, and might have been very comfortable if he had not been
too indolent to clean it out. He never took all the straw away,
and the smell from what lay underneath was very bad;
while the strong vapors that rose made my eyes smart and inflame,
and I did not feel the same appetite for my food.
One day his master came in and said, "Alfred, the stable smells
rather strong; should not you give that stall a good scrub
and throw down plenty of water?"
"Well, sir," he said, touching his cap, "I'll do so if you please, sir;
but it is rather dangerous, sir, throwing down water in a horse's box;
they are very apt to take cold, sir. I should not like to do him an injury,
but I'll do it if you please, sir."