My Early Home
The first home Darkie remembers is pleasant in every way. It is a large meadow with a clear pond in it. Around the pond grow shady trees, rushes, and water lilies. On one side of the meadow is a plowed field; on the other is the gate to his master’s house. At the top of the meadow are fir trees, and at the bottom of it is a running brook with a steep bank.
When he is young, Darkie drinks his mother’s milk; later, when he is old enough, he eats grass and his mother goes off to work all day. Each day he runs by his mother’s side, and each night he sleeps next to her. On hot days, they stand together under the trees, and when it is cold, they stay in the warm shed close to the plantation.
Six other colts live in the meadow with Darkie, all older than he and some almost the size of grown-up horses. They play by galloping around the field as fast as they can go. Sometimes they play more roughly, biting or kicking, as well as galloping. One day when the play gets too rough, Darkie’s mother calls him to her and tells him he must listen closely to her. She explains that while all the colts are very good, they will be ordinary cart horses one day and have not yet learned their manners. Darkie, on the other hand, is well bred and has a family history of greatness. He is always to remember that his family does not bite or kick, nor should he. She wants him to grow up strong and good, avoiding bad habits and working with a good spirit. He is never to kick or bite, even in play. He has never forgotten his mother’s advice.
His mother’s name is Duchess, but their master often calls her “Pet”; she is well loved and wise. Their master is a kind man who treats his horses well and speaks to them only with kindness. Duchess loves him and neighs with joy whenever she sees him near the fence. He always pats her before asking about her son, Darkie (a name he chose because the colt was a dull black). He then gives the colt a piece of bread. All the horses would come to him, but Darkie is sure their master loves him and his mother best.
One of the plowboys, Dick, sometimes comes to their field to pick and eat blackberries. After he is full, Dick plays roughly with the colts, throwing stones and sticks at them to make them gallop. Though he rarely hits his target, when he does it hurts them. One day he is “playing” in this way and does not know the master is watching. When he sees Dick taunting his horses, the master jumps over the hedge and boxes Dick on the ear, scolding him for his treatment of the horses. He pays the boy what he owes him and sends him away from the farm. The remaining stable hand, Old Daniel, is as kind as his master, so the horses are well cared for on this farm.