Chapter 24: The Lady Anne, or a Runaway Horse
There was no more to be said; he placed her carefully on the saddle,
looked to the bit and curb, gave the reins gently into her hand,
and then mounted me. Just as we were moving off a footman came out
with a slip of paper and message from the Lady Harriet.
"Would they ask this question for her at Dr. Ashley's, and bring the answer?"
The village was about a mile off, and the doctor's house was the last in it.
We went along gayly enough till we came to his gate. There was a short drive
up to the house between tall evergreens.
Blantyre alighted at the gate, and was going to open it for Lady Anne,
but she said, "I will wait for you here, and you can hang Auster's rein
on the gate."
He looked at her doubtfully. "I will not be five minutes," he said.
"Oh, do not hurry yourself; Lizzie and I shall not run away from you."
He hung my rein on one of the iron spikes, and was soon hidden
among the trees. Lizzie was standing quietly by the side of the road
a few paces off, with her back to me. My young mistress was sitting easily
with a loose rein, humming a little song. I listened to my rider's footsteps
until they reached the house, and heard him knock at the door.
There was a meadow on the opposite side of the road, the gate of which
stood open; just then some cart horses and several young colts
came trotting out in a very disorderly manner, while a boy behind
was cracking a great whip. The colts were wild and frolicsome,
and one of them bolted across the road and blundered up against
Lizzie's hind legs, and whether it was the stupid colt,
or the loud cracking of the whip, or both together, I cannot say,
but she gave a violent kick, and dashed off into a headlong gallop.
It was so sudden that Lady Anne was nearly unseated,
but she soon recovered herself. I gave a loud, shrill neigh for help;
again and again I neighed, pawing the ground impatiently,
and tossing my head to get the rein loose. I had not long to wait.
Blantyre came running to the gate; he looked anxiously about,
and just caught sight of the flying figure, now far away on the road.
In an instant he sprang to the saddle. I needed no whip, no spur,
for I was as eager as my rider; he saw it, and giving me a free rein,
and leaning a little forward, we dashed after them.