Chapter 48: Farmer Thoroughgood and His Grandson Willie
At this sale, of course I found myself in company with the old
broken-down horses -- some lame, some broken-winded, some old,
and some that I am sure it would have been merciful to shoot.
The buyers and sellers, too, many of them, looked not much better off
than the poor beasts they were bargaining about. There were poor old men,
trying to get a horse or a pony for a few pounds, that might drag about
some little wood or coal cart. There were poor men trying to sell
a worn-out beast for two or three pounds, rather than have the greater loss
of killing him. Some of them looked as if poverty and hard times
had hardened them all over; but there were others that I would have
willingly used the last of my strength in serving; poor and shabby,
but kind and human, with voices that I could trust.
There was one tottering old man who took a great fancy to me, and I to him,
but I was not strong enough -- it was an anxious time!
Coming from the better part of the fair, I noticed a man
who looked like a gentleman farmer, with a young boy by his side;
he had a broad back and round shoulders, a kind, ruddy face,
and he wore a broad-brimmed hat. When he came up to me and my companions
he stood still and gave a pitiful look round upon us. I saw his eye
rest on me; I had still a good mane and tail, which did something
for my appearance. I pricked my ears and looked at him.
"There's a horse, Willie, that has known better days."
"Poor old fellow!" said the boy, "do you think, grandpapa,
he was ever a carriage horse?"
"Oh, yes! my boy," said the farmer, coming closer, "he might have been
anything when he was young; look at his nostrils and his ears,
the shape of his neck and shoulder; there's a deal of breeding
about that horse." He put out his hand and gave me a kind pat on the neck.
I put out my nose in answer to his kindness; the boy stroked my face.
"Poor old fellow! see, grandpapa, how well he understands kindness.
Could not you buy him and make him young again as you did with Ladybird?"