Chapter 21: The Parting
Now I had lived in this happy place three years, but sad changes were about
to come over us. We heard from time to time that our mistress was ill.
The doctor was often at the house, and the master looked grave and anxious.
Then we heard that she must leave her home at once, and go to a warm country
for two or three years. The news fell upon the household like the tolling
of a deathbell. Everybody was sorry; but the master began directly
to make arrangements for breaking up his establishment and leaving England.
We used to hear it talked about in our stable; indeed,
nothing else was talked about.
John went about his work silent and sad, and Joe scarcely whistled.
There was a great deal of coming and going; Ginger and I had full work.
The first of the party who went were Miss Jessie and Flora,
with their governess. They came to bid us good-by.
They hugged poor Merrylegs like an old friend, and so indeed he was.
Then we heard what had been arranged for us. Master had sold Ginger and me
to his old friend, the Earl of W----, for he thought we should have
a good place there. Merrylegs he had given to the vicar,
who was wanting a pony for Mrs. Blomefield, but it was on the condition
that he should never be sold, and that when he was past work
he should be shot and buried.
Joe was engaged to take care of him and to help in the house,
so I thought that Merrylegs was well off. John had the offer
of several good places, but he said he should wait a little and look round.
The evening before they left the master came into the stable
to give some directions, and to give his horses the last pat.
He seemed very low-spirited; I knew that by his voice.
I believe we horses can tell more by the voice than many men can.
"Have you decided what to do, John?" he said. "I find you have not accepted
either of those offers."