Chapter 17 Summary

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John Manly’s Talk

The rest of the journey is easy, and the Squire's party arrives at his friends’ house shortly after sunset. The horses are taken into a cozy stable and treated well by a kind coachman. When he hears of the fire, the coachman commends James for his willingness to risk his life for the horses, knowing they would not have come out if they had not recognized his calming voice and presence. After several days, the group heads back home, and the horses are glad to be back in their own stalls. John is equally glad to see them.

When James wonders who will be taking his place once he leaves, John tells him little Joe Green will come to learn the job. He is young, not even fifteen, but he is a quick learner, willing to work; Joe's father likes the prospect, and the master wants to give the boy a chance. John has agreed to a six-week trial, but James says that is too short a time for Joe to learn the job. John is willing to work extra until the "little chap" is able to do everything he will need to do. James admires John for his unselfishness.

John does not usually speak of himself, but he explains that he once was given a similar chance when both his parents died and left him alone with his crippled sister, Nelly. The two young children had no relatives who could help them. John hired himself out to do farm work but did not make enough to support his sister; Nelly would have been sent to the poorhouse if their mistress had not provided lodging for her, as well as small jobs to do when she was able. Also, the master hired John as a stable boy and gave him a place to live, clothes to wear, and a few shillings to help Nelly.

Norman was an older man in charge of the stables, and he could have said he did not want to bother with John, who was so young; instead, he acted as a father to John. Years later, after Norman died, John stepped into his place. Now he is paid top wages, and Nelly is “happy as a bird.” That is why he is willing to allow such a young boy to learn from him. He is not a selfish man. John believes that one should perform a kindness whenever he can.

The next day Joe begins working in the stables, hoping to learn as much as he can before James takes his new job. Joe is too short to groom any horse but Merrylegs, so that is the horse he is given charge of for now. On the morning James is to leave, he is not his usual cheery self. He is sad because he is leaving the people and animals that he has grown to love. He would never leave them if it were not for such a good position, and John commends him for having such feelings. Joe continues to work hard as John teaches him, encouraged by the boy’s progress.

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