A Horse Fair
There is plenty to see at a horse fair, and undoubtedly it is a fine place to go for those who have nothing to lose. Hundreds of horses are there. Some are colts brought fresh from the country; some are cart horses; some are purebred horses (like Black Auster) which are now in the possession of middle-class owners because of blemishes or some condition or complaint. Some of the horses are splendid animals in their prime, prancing and showing their paces proudly. In the background, though, are the horses that have been broken down by hard work. These horses are pitiful to look at, with their dejected faces and their swayed backs. Some have sores or have their ribs showing; most look as if they no longer wish to live. It is a sad sight for both horses and men to see.
A horse fair is filled with much bargaining and movement, though the horses know there is also much lying and trickery. Black Auster is put with several other strong, useful-looking horses, and many people stop to look at them. The gentlemen who come always walk away when they see his scarred knees, though they are told the damage was done by a slip in the stall. Others examine the horse by opening his mouth, looking at his eyes, running their hands firmly along his body, and trying his paces. Each potential buyer has a different approach and feel, and the horse judges the men just as he is being judged.
Black Auster finds one man he wishes would become his next master. He is not a gentleman but a rather small man who clearly knows and understands horses. He speaks gently and has a kind look in his grey eyes. His clean, fresh smell is also attractive to the horse. There is no smell of stale beer or tobacco, which he has reason to hate; instead he smells like fresh hay. The man offers twenty-three pounds for the horse, but his offer is refused and he walks away. Others come and bargain for the horse, but finally the man with the kind voice raises his offer and buys Black Auster.
The man leads the horse to the inn where he is staying and feeds him oats as he talks to the horse. Shortly they are on their way to London, and the ride is pleasant. They wind their way through town and arrive at a long cab stand after dark. Some of the men call the master “Governor” and ask if he found a good horse. He tells them he is sure he did. They keep riding until they arrive on a very narrow side street with poor-looking houses on one side and what seem to be coach-houses and stables on the other. They pull up in front of one of the houses, and the master whistles.
The door opens and a young woman, followed by a boy and a girl, run out to greet them. It is a lively reunion. The man tells the boy, Harry, to open the gates while his mother fetches the lantern. Soon the entire family is gathered around Black Auster in the stable yard, and the daughter (Dolly) is gently patting him without the slightest fear or hesitation. This feels wonderful to the horse. Polly, the master’s wife, brings him a bran mash as her husband rubs his new horse down after the day’s drive. She has dinner ready for her husband as well.