Chapter 26: How it Ended
It must have been nearly midnight when I heard at a great distance
the sound of a horse's feet. Sometimes the sound died away, then it grew
clearer again and nearer. The road to Earlshall led through woods
that belonged to the earl; the sound came in that direction,
and I hoped it might be some one coming in search of us. As the sound
came nearer and nearer I was almost sure I could distinguish Ginger's step;
a little nearer still, and I could tell she was in the dog-cart.
I neighed loudly, and was overjoyed to hear an answering neigh from Ginger,
and men's voices. They came slowly over the stones, and stopped at
the dark figure that lay upon the ground.
One of the men jumped out, and stooped down over it. "It is Reuben,"
he said, "and he does not stir!"
The other man followed, and bent over him. "He's dead," he said;
"feel how cold his hands are."
They raised him up, but there was no life, and his hair was soaked
with blood. They laid him down again, and came and looked at me.
They soon saw my cut knees.
"Why, the horse has been down and thrown him! Who would have thought
the black horse would have done that? Nobody thought he could fall.
Reuben must have been lying here for hours! Odd, too,
that the horse has not moved from the place."
Robert then attempted to lead me forward. I made a step,
but almost fell again.
"Halloo! he's bad in his foot as well as his knees. Look here --
his hoof is cut all to pieces; he might well come down, poor fellow!
I tell you what, Ned, I'm afraid it hasn't been all right with Reuben.
Just think of his riding a horse over these stones without a shoe!
Why, if he had been in his right senses he would just as soon have tried
to ride him over the moon. I'm afraid it has been the old thing over again.
Poor Susan! she looked awfully pale when she came to my house
to ask if he had not come home. She made believe she was not a bit anxious,
and talked of a lot of things that might have kept him.
But for all that she begged me to go and meet him. But what must we do?
There's the horse to get home as well as the body, and that will be
no easy matter."