Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 743
Farmer Thoroughgood and his Grandson Willie
At the horse sale, Jack is of course placed with all the broken-down horses, some of whom are in such bad shape they should probably have just been shot out of mercy. Some of the buyers and sellers do not look much better than the pitiful creatures they are hoping to buy. A man approaches from the direction of the better horses. He appears to be a gentleman farmer who has a kind face and a young boy by his side. When he arrives at the pitiful group of horses, the man looks around until he sees Jack. He still has an impressive mane and tail, so he looks somewhat better than the horses around him. Jack perks up his ears and looks at the man.
The farmer tells his grandson that this was once a fine horse; the contours of his face and the structure of his neck and shoulders tell the man he is a purebred horse. He pats the animal on the neck, and Jack puts out his nose as an act of kindness. The boy strokes Jack’s face and asks if his grandfather can “buy him and make him young again” as he did with another horse named Ladybird. The boy believes the horse is not old or diseased, just in need of kindness and gentle treatment. The horse would grow young again in their meadows.
The man who brought Jack to the sale now speaks. He tells the gentleman that, indeed, this horse is not old and is simply in need of rest. He repeats the doctor’s pronouncement that six months of rest would make a new horse of him. In the last ten days of taking care of Jack, the man from the stables says the horse has been the most grateful and pleasant animal. Five pounds is a small price to buy the animal a chance to recover and become whole again. The boy reminds his grandfather that he made an extra five pounds on the sale of their colt, so he would be out nothing if he buys this horse.
The gentleman begins to examine the horse gently and carefully, estimating his age at thirteen or fourteen and then asking how much the man would be willing to take for the damaged horse. Five pounds is the answer, and the gentleman shakes his head as he gets the money and remarks on the gamble he is about to take. The stable man takes Jack to the inn; the new owners walk to the inn, as well. The boy can barely contain his delight, and the grandfather enjoys the boy’s pleasure. Jack is given a good feed and is then ridden gently to his new home and let loose into a large meadow with a shed in one corner.
Jack’s new master, Mr. Thoroughgood, orders good food for the horse every morning and night and says he should have the run of the meadow during the day. He gives Willie, his grandson, charge of the horse, and the boy undertakes his task with great seriousness and pride. The boy visits his new horse every day, always with kind words and caresses and sometimes with a special treat. Jack grows very fond of Willie, of course, and the boy calls him “Old Crony” because he is now in the habit of following the boy around the farm. Sometimes the boy’s grandfather comes to see the horse; when he does, he always looks closely at the animal’s legs. He tells Willie it is the legs that have been damaged but he expects to see a much healthier horse in the spring.
Rest, food, exercise, and soft ground soon work together to heal the damaged horse. Jack’s mother gave him a strong constitution, and he was never strained when he was young. Both facts give him more of a chance for a full recovery than other horses might have had. During the winter Jack’s legs improve so much he begins to feel quite young again. In the spring, Jack is finally hitched to a phaeton and driven for a few miles by the boy. Jack’s legs are no longer stiff, and he is able to pull this load easily. Now that the horse is well, the grandfather begins to look for a quiet, dignified place for the horse, someplace where he will be valued.