Chapter 18: Going for the Doctor
One night, a few days after James had left, I had eaten my hay
and was lying down in my straw fast asleep, when I was suddenly roused
by the stable bell ringing very loud. I heard the door of John's house open,
and his feet running up to the hall. He was back again in no time;
he unlocked the stable door, and came in, calling out, "Wake up, Beauty!
You must go well now, if ever you did;" and almost before I could think
he had got the saddle on my back and the bridle on my head.
He just ran round for his coat, and then took me at a quick trot
up to the hall door. The squire stood there, with a lamp in his hand.
"Now, John," he said, "ride for your life -- that is,
for your mistress' life; there is not a moment to lose.
Give this note to Dr. White; give your horse a rest at the inn,
and be back as soon as you can."
John said, "Yes, sir," and was on my back in a minute.
The gardener who lived at the lodge had heard the bell ring,
and was ready with the gate open, and away we went through the park,
and through the village, and down the hill till we came to the toll-gate.
John called very loud and thumped upon the door; the man was soon out
and flung open the gate.
"Now," said John, "do you keep the gate open for the doctor;
here's the money," and off he went again.
There was before us a long piece of level road by the river side;
John said to me, "Now, Beauty, do your best," and so I did;
I wanted no whip nor spur, and for two miles I galloped as fast as
I could lay my feet to the ground; I don't believe that my old grandfather,
who won the race at Newmarket, could have gone faster. When we came
to the bridge John pulled me up a little and patted my neck. "Well done,
Beauty! good old fellow," he said. He would have let me go slower,
but my spirit was up, and I was off again as fast as before.
The air was frosty, the moon was bright; it was very pleasant.
We came through a village, then through a dark wood, then uphill,
then downhill, till after eight miles' run we came to the town,
through the streets and into the market-place. It was all quite still
except the clatter of my feet on the stones -- everybody was asleep.
The church clock struck three as we drew up at Dr. White's door.
John rang the bell twice, and then knocked at the door like thunder.
A window was thrown up, and Dr. White, in his nightcap,
put his head out and said, "What do you want?"