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The Talking Horse (1892, 1931 ed.)

by F. Anstey
(Pseud. for Thomas Anstey Guthrie) (1856-1934)

IT was on the way to Sandown Park that I met him first, on
that horribly wet July afternoon when Bendigo won the
Eclipse Stakes.  He sat opposite to me in the train going
down, and my attention was first attracted to him by the
marked contrast between his appearance and his attire: he
had not thought fit to adopt the regulation costume for such
occasions, and I think I never saw a man who had made
himself more aggressively horsey.  The mark of the beast was
sprinkled over his linen: he wore snaffle sleeve-links, a
hard hunting-hat, a Newmarket coat, and extremely tight
trousers.  And with all this, he fell as far short of the
genuine sportsman as any stage super who ever wore his spurs
upside down in a hunting chorus.  His expression was mild
and inoffensive, and his watery pale eyes and receding chin
gave one the idea that he was hardly to be trusted astride
anything more spirited than a gold-headed cane.  And yet,
somehow, he aroused compassion rather than any sense of the
ludicrous: he had the look of shrinking self-effacement
which comes of a recent humiliation, and, in spite of all
extravagances, he was obviously a gentleman; while something
in his manner indicated that his natural tendency would,
once at all events, have been to avoid any kind of extremes.

  He puzzled and interested me so much that I did my best to
enter into conversation with him, only to be baffled by the
jerky embarrassment with which he met all advances, and when
we got out at Esher, curiosity led me to keep him still in

  Evidently he had not come with any intention of making
money.  He avoided the grand stand, with the bookmakers
huddling in couples, like hoarse lovebirds; he kept away
from the members' inclosure, where the Guards' band was
endeavouring to defy the elements which emptied their vials
into the brazen instruments; he drifted listlessly about the
course till the clearing-bell rang and it seemed as if he
was searching for some one whom he only wished to discover
in order to avoid.

  Sandown, it must be admitted, was not as gay as usual that
day, with its "deluged park" and "unsummer'd sky," its
waterproofed toilettes and massed umbrellas, whose sides
gleamed livid as they caught the light — but there was a
general determination to ignore the unseasonable dampness as
far as possible, and an excitement over the main event of
the day which no downpour could quench.

  The Ten Thousand was run: ladies with marvellously
confected bonnets lowered their umbrellas without a murmur,
and smart men on drags shook hands effusively as, amidst a
frantic roar of delight, Bendigo strode past the post.  The
moment after, I looked round for my incongruous stranger,
and saw him engaged in a well-meant attempt to press a
currant bun upon a carriage-horse tethered to one of the
trees — a feat of abstraction which, at such a time, was only
surpassed by that of Archimedes at the sack of Syracuse.

  After that I could no longer control my curiosity — I felt
I must speak to him again, and I made an opportunity later,
as we stood alone on a stand which commanded the finish of
one of the shorter courses, by suggesting that he should
share my umbrella.

  Before accepting he glanced suspiciously at me through the
rills that streamed from his unprotected hat-brim, "I'm
afraid," I said, "it is rather like shutting the stable-door
after the steed is stolen."

  He started.  "He was stolen, then," he cried; "so
you have heard?"

  I explained that I had only used an old proverb which I
thought might appeal to him, and he sighed heavily.

  "I was misled for the moment," he said: "you have guessed,
then, that I have been accustomed to horses?"

  "You have hardly made any great secret of it."

  "The fact is," he said, instantly understanding this
allusion to his costume, "I — I put on these things so as not
to lose the habit of riding altogether — I have not been on
horseback lately.  At one time I used to ride
constantly — constantly.  I was a regular attendant in Rotten
Row — until something occurred which shook my nerve, and I am
only waiting now for the shock to subside."

  I did not like to ask any questions, and we walked back to
the station, and travelled up to Waterloo in company,
without any further reference to the subject. 

  As we were parting, however, he said, "I wonder if you
would care to hear my full story some day?  I cannot help
thinking it would interest you, and it would be a relief to

  I was ready enough to hear whatever he chose to tell me;
and persuaded him to dine with me at my rooms that evening,
and unbosom himself afterwards, which he did to an extent
for which I confess I was unprepared. 

  That he himself implicitly believed in his own story, I
could not doubt; and he told it throughout with the oddest
mixture of vanity and modesty, and an obvious struggle
between a dim perception of his own absurdity and the
determination to spare himself in no single particular,
which, though it did not overcome my scepticism, could not
fail to enlist sympathy.  But for all that, by the time he
entered upon the more sensational part of his case, I was
driven to form conclusions respecting it which, as they will
probably force themselves upon the reader's own mind, I need
not anticipate here.

  I give the story, as far as possible, in the words of its
author; and have only to add that it would never have been
published here without his full consent and approval. 

  My name (said he), is Gustavus Pulvertoft.  I have no
occupation, and six hundred a year.  I lived a quiet and
contented bachelor until I was twenty-eight, and then I met
Diana Chetwynd for the first time.  We were spending
Christmas at the same country-house, and it did not take me
long to become the most devoted of her many adorers.  She
was one of the most variously accomplished girls I had ever
met.  She was a skilled musician, a brilliant amateur
actress; she could give most men thirty out of a hundred at
billiards, and her judgment and daring across the most
difficult country had won her the warm admiration of all
hunting-men.  And she was neither fast nor horsey, seeming
to find but little pleasure in the society of mere
sportsmen, to whose conversation she infinitely preferred
that of persons who, like myself, were rather agreeable than
athletic.  I was not at that time, whatever I may be now,
without my share of good looks, and for some reason it
pleased Miss Chetwynd to show me a degree of favour which
she accorded to no other member of the house-party.

  It was annoying to feel that my unfamiliarity with the
open-air sports in which she delighted debarred me from her
company to so great an extent; for it often happened that I
scarcely saw her until the evening, when I sometimes had the
bliss of sitting next to her at dinner; but on these
occasions I could not help seeing that she found some
pleasure in my society.

  I don't think I have mentioned that, besides being
exquisitely lovely, Diana was an heiress, and it was not
without a sense of my own presumption that I allowed myself
to entertain the hope of winning her at some future day. 
Still, I was not absolutely penniless, and she was her own
mistress, and I had some cause, as I have said, for
believing that she was, at least, not ill-disposed towards
me.  It seemed a favourable sign, for instance, when she
asked me one day why it was I never rode.  I replied that I
had not ridden for years — though I did not add that the
exact number of those years was twenty-eight.

  "Oh, but you must take it up again!" she said, with the
prettiest air of imperiousness.  "You ought to ride in the
Row next season."

  "If I did," I said, "would you let me ride with you

  "We should meet, of course," she said; "and it is such a
pity not to keep up your riding — you lose so much by not
doing so."

  Was I wrong in taking this as an intimation that, by
following her advice, I should not lose my reward?  If
you had seen her face as she spoke, you would have thought
as I did then — as I do now.

  And so, with this incentive, I overcame any private
misgivings, and soon after my return to town attended a
fashionable riding-school near Hyde Park, with the fixed
determination to acquire the whole art and mystery of

  That I found learning a pleasure I cannot conscientiously
declare.  I have passed happier hours than those I spent in
cantering round four bare whitewashed walls on a snorting
horse, with my interdicted stirrups crossed upon the saddle. 
The riding-master informed me from time to time that I was
getting on, and I knew instinctively when I was coming off;
but I must have made some progress, for my instructor became
more encouraging.  "Why, when you come here first, Mr.
Pulvertoft, sir, you were like a pair o' tongs on a wall, as
they say; whereas now — well, you can tell yourself how you
are," he would say; though, even then, I occasionally had
reason to regret that I was not on a wall.  However, I
persevered, inspired by the thought that each fresh horse I
crossed (and some were very fresh indeed) represented one
more barrier surmounted between myself and Diana, and
encouraged by the discovery, after repeated experiments,
that tan was rather soothing to fall upon than otherwise.

  When I walked in the Row, where a few horsemen were
performing as harbingers of spring, I criticised their
riding, which I thought indifferent, as they neglected
nearly all the rules.  I began to anticipate a day when I
should exhibit a purer and more classic style of
equestrianism.  And one morning I saw Diana, who pulled up
her dancing mare to ask me if I had remembered her advice,
and I felt proudly able to reply that I should certainly
make my appearance in the Row before very long.

  From that day I was perpetually questioning my
riding-master as to when he considered I should be ripe
enough for Rotten Row.  He was dubious, but not actually
dissuasive.  "It's like this, you see, sir," he explained,
"if you get hold of a quiet, steady horse — why, you won't
come to no harm; but if you go out on an animal that will
take advantage of you, Mr. Pulvertoft, why, you'll be all
no-how on him, sir."

  They would have mounted me at the school; but I knew most
of the stud there, and none of them quite came up to my
ideal of a "quiet, steady horse"; so I went to a
neighbouring job-master, from whom I had occasionally hired
a brougham, and asked to be shown an animal he could
recommend to one who had not had much practice lately.  He
admitted candidly enough that most of his horses "took a
deal of riding," but added that it so happened that he had
one just then which would suit me "down to the ground" — a
phrase which grated unpleasantly on my nerves, though I
consented to see the horse.  His aspect impressed me most
favourably.  He was a chestnut of noble proportions, with a
hogged mane; but what reassured me was the expression of his
eye, indicating as it did a self-respect and sagacity which
one would hardly expect for seven and sixpence an hour.

  "You won't get a showier Park 'ack than what he is, not to
be so quiet," said the owner.  "He's what you may call a
kind 'oss, and as gentle — you could ride him on a

  I considered reins safer, but I was powerfully drawn
towards the horse; he seemed to me sensible that he had a
character to lose, and to possess too high an intelligence
wilfully to forfeit his testimonials.  With hardly a second
thought, I engaged him for the following afternoon.

  I mounted at the stables, with just a passing qualm
perhaps, while my stirrup-leathers were being adjusted and a
little awkwardness in taking up my reins, which were more
twisted than I could have wished; however, at length, I
found myself embarked on the stream of traffic on the back
of the chestnut — whose name, by the way, was Brutus.

  Shall I ever forget the pride and ecstasy of finding that
I had my steed under perfect control, that we threaded the
maze of carriages with absolute security?  I turned him
into the Park, and clucked my tongue: he broke into a
canter, and how shall I describe my delight at the discovery
that it was not uncomfortable?  I said, "Woa," and he
stopped, so gradually that my equilibrium was not seriously
disturbed; he trotted, and still I accommodated myself to
his movements without any positive inconvenience.  I could
have embraced him for gratitude: never before had I been
upon a beast whose paces were so easy, whose behaviour was
so considerate.  I could ride at last! or, which amounted to
the same thing, I could ride the horse I was on, and I would
"use no other."  I was about to meet Diana Chetwynd, and
need not fear even to encounter her critical eyes.

  We had crossed the Serpentine Bridge, and were just
turning in upon the Ride, when — and here I am only too
conscious that what I am about to say may strike you as
almost incredible — when I heard an unfamiliar voice
addressing me with, "I say — you!" and the moment afterwards
realised that it proceeded from my own horse!

  I am not ashamed to own that I was as nearly off as
possible; for a more practised rider than I could pretend to
be might have a difficulty in preserving his equanimity in
this all but unparalleled situation.  I was too much engaged
in feeling for my left stirrup to make any reply, and
presently the horse spoke once more.  "I say," he inquired,
and I failed to discern the slightest trace of respect in
his tone — "do you think you can ride?"  You can judge for
yourself how disconcerting the inquiry must have been from
such lips.  I felt rooted to the saddle — a sensation which,
with me, was sufficiently rare.  I looked round in helpless
bewilderment, at the shimmering Serpentine, and the white
houses in Park Lane gleaming out of a lilac haze, at the
cocoa-coloured Row, and the flash of distant carriage-wheels
in the sunlight: all looked as usual — and yet, there was I
on the back of a horse which had just inquired "whether I
thought I could ride"!

  "I have had two dozen lessons at a riding-school," I said
at last, with rather a flabby dignity.

  "I should hardly have suspected it," was his brutal
retort.  "You are evidently one of the hopeless cases."

  I was deeply hurt, the more so because I could not deny
that he had some claim to be a judge.  "I — I thought we were
getting on so nicely together," I faltered, and all he said
in reply to that was, "Did you?"

  "Do you know," I began, striving to be conversational, "I
never was on a horse that talked before." 

  "You are enough to make any horse talk," he answered; "but
I suppose I am an exception."

  "I think you must be," said I.  "The only horses I ever
heard of as possessing the gift of speech were the

  "How do you know I am not one of them?" he replied.

  "If you are, you will understand that I took the liberty
of mounting you under a very pardonable mistake; and if you
will have the goodness to stand still, I will no longer
detain you."

  "Not so fast," said he: "I want to know something more
about you first.  I should say now you were a man with
plenty of oats."

  "I am — well off," I said.  How I wished I was!

  "I have long been looking out for a proprietor who would
not overwork me: now, of course, I don't know but you
scarcely strike me as a hard rider."

  "I do not think I could be fairly accused of that," I
answered, with all the consciousness of innocence.

  "Just so — then buy me."

  "No," I gasped: "after the extremely candid opinion you
were good enough to express of my riding, I'm surprised that
you should even suggest such a thing."

  "Oh, I will put up with that — you will suit me well
enough, I dare say."

  "You must excuse me.  I prefer to keep my spare cash for
worthier objects; and, with your permission, I will spend
the remainder of the afternoon on foot."

  "You will do nothing of the sort," said he. 

  "If you won't stop, and let me get off properly," I said,
with firmness, "I shall roll off."  There were some
promenaders within easy hail; but how was I to word a call
for help, how explain such a dilemma as mine?

  "You will only reduce me to the painful necessity of
rolling on you," he replied.  "You must see that you are to
a certain extent in my power.  Suppose it occurred to me to
leap those rails and take you into the Serpentine, or to run
away and upset a mounted policeman with you — do you think
you could offer much opposition?"

  I could not honestly assert that I did.  "You were
introduced to me," I said reproachfully, "as a kind

  "And so I am — apart from matters of business.  Come, will
you buy, or be bolted with?  I hate indecision!"

  "Buy!" I said, with commercial promptness.  "If you will
take me back, I will arrange about it at once."

  It is needless to say that my own idea was to get safely
off his back: after which, neither honour nor law could
require me to execute a contract extorted from me by
threats.  But, as we were going down the mews, he said
reflectively, "I've been thinking — it will be better for all
parties, if you make your offer to my proprietor before
you dismount."  I was too vexed to speak: this animal's
infernal intelligence had foreseen my manoeuvre — he meant to
foil it, if he could.

  And then we clattered in under the glass-roofed yard of
the livery stables; and the job-master, who was alone there,
cast his eyes up at the sickly-faced clock, as if he were
comparing its pallor with my own.  "Why, you are home
early, sir," he said.  "You didn't find the 'orse too much
for you, did you?"  He said this without any suspicion of
the real truth; and, indeed, I may say, once for all, that
this weird horse — Houyhnhnm, or whatever else he might
be — admitted no one but myself into the secret of his
marvellous gifts, and in all his conversations with me,
managed (though how, I cannot pretend to say) to avoid being

  "Oh, dear no," I protested, "he carried me
admirably — admirably!" and I made an attempt to slip off.

  No such thing: Brutus instantly jogged my memory, and me,
by the slightest suggestion of a "buck."

  "He's a grand 'orse, sir, isn't he?" said the job-master

  "M--magnificent!" I agreed, with a jerk.  "Will you go to
his head, please?"

  But the horse backed into the centre of the yard, where he
plunged with a quiet obstinacy.  "I like him so much," I
called out, as I clung to the saddle, "that I want to know
if you're at all inclined to part with him?"  Here Brutus
became calm and attentive.

  "Would you be inclined to make me a orfer for him, sir?"

  "Yes," I said faintly.  "About how much would he be?"

  "You step into my orfice here, sir," said he, "and we'll
talk it over."

  I should have been only too willing, for there was no room
there for the horse, but the suspicious animal would not
hear of it: he began to revolve immediately.

  "Let us settle it now — here," I said, "I can't wait."

  The job-master stroked away a grin.  No doubt there was
something unbusinesslike and unpractical in such
precipitation, especially as combined with my appearance
at the time.

  "Well, you 'ave took a voilent fancy to the 'orse and no
mistake, sir," he remarked.

  "I never crossed a handsomer creature," I said; which was
hardly a prudent remark for an intending purchaser, but
then, there was the animal himself to be conciliated.

  "I don't know, really, as I can do without him just at
this time of year," said the man.  "I'm under'orsed as it is
for the work I've got to do."

  A sweet relief stole over me: I had done all that could be
expected of me.  "I'm very sorry to hear that," I said,
preparing to dismount.  "That is a  disappointment; but if
you can't there's an end of it."

  "Don't you be afraid," said Brutus, "he'll sell me
readily enough: make him an offer, quick!"

  "I'll give you thirty guineas for him, come!" I said,
knowing well enough that he would not take twice the money.

  "I thought a gentleman like you would have had more
insight into the value of a 'orse," he said: "why, his
action alone is worth that, sir."

  "You couldn't let me have the action without the horse,
I suppose?" I said, and I must have intended some joke.

  It is unnecessary to prolong a painful scene.  Brutus ran
me up steadily from sum to sum, until his owner said at
last: "Well, we won't 'aggle, sir, call it a hundred."

  I had to call it a hundred, and what is more, it was a
hundred.  I took him without a warranty, without even a
veterinary opinion.  I could have been induced to take my
purchase away then and there, as if I had been buying a
canary, so unaccustomed was I to transactions of this kind,
and I am afraid the job-master considered me little better
than a fool.

  So I found myself the involuntary possessor of a
Houyhnhnm, or something even worse, and I walked back to my
rooms in Park Street in a state of stupor.  What was I to do
with him?  To ride an animal so brutally plainspoken would
be a continual penance; and yet, I should have to keep him,
for I knew he was cunning enough to outwit any attempt to
dispose of him.  And to this, Love and Ambition had led me! 
I could not, after all I had said, approach Diana with any
confidence as a mere pedestrian: the fact that I was in
possession of a healthy horse which I never rode, would be
sure to leak out in time, and how was I to account for it? 
I could see no way, and I groaned under an embarrassment
which I dared not confide to the friendliest ear.  I hated
the monster that had saddled himself upon me, and looked in
vain for any mode of escape.

  I had to provide Brutus with stabling in another part of
the town, for he proved exceedingly difficult to please: he
found fault with everything, and I only wonder he did not
demand that his stable should be fitted up with blue china
and mezzotints.  In his new quarters I left him for some
days to his own devices: a course which I was glad to find,
on visiting him again, had considerably reduced his
arrogance.  He wanted to go in the Row and see the other
horses, and it did not at all meet his views to be exercised
there by a stableman at unfashionable hours.  So he proposed
a compromise.  If I would only consent to mount him, he
engaged to treat me with forbearance, and pointed out that
he could give me, as he expressed it, various "tips" which
would improve my seat.  I was not blind to the advantages of
such an arrangement.  It is not everyone who secures a
riding-master in the person of his own horse; the horse is
essentially a generous animal, and I felt that I might trust
to Brutus's honour.  And to do him justice, he observed the
compact with strict good faith.  Some of his "tips," it is
true, very nearly tipped me off, but their result was to
bring us closer together; our relations were less strained;
it seemed to me that I gained more mastery over him every
day, and was less stiff afterwards.

  But I was not allowed to enjoy this illusion long.  One
day when I innocently asked him if he found my hands
improving, he turned upon me his off sardonic eye.  "You'll
never improve, old sack-of-beans" (for he had come to
address me with a freedom I burned to resent); "hands! why,
you're sawing my mouth off all the time.  And your feet
'home,' and tickling me under my shoulders at every
stride — why, I'm half ashamed to be seen about with you."

  I was deeply hurt.  "I will spare you for the future," I
said coldly; "this is my last appearance."

  "Nonsense," he said, "you needn't show temper over it. 
Surely, if I can put up with it, you can!  But we will
make a new compact." (I never knew such a beast as he was
for bargains!)  "You only worry me by interfering with the
reins.  Let 'em out, and leave everything to me.  Just
mention from time to time where you want to go, and I'll
attend to it, — if I've nothing better to do."

  I felt that such an understanding was destructive of all
dignity, subverting, as it did, the natural relations
between horse and rider; but I had hardly any self-respect
left, and I consented, since I saw no way of refusing.  And
on the whole, I cannot say, even now, that I had any grave
reason for finding fault with the use Brutus made of my
concessions; he showed more tact than I could have expected
in disguising the merely nominal nature of my authority.

  I had only one serious complaint against him, which was
that he had a habit of breaking suddenly away, with a merely
formal apology, to exchange equine civilities with some cob
or mare, to whose owner I was a perfect stranger, thus
driving me to invent the most desperate excuses to cover my
seeming intrusion: but I managed to account for it in
various ways, and even made a few acquaintances in this
irregular and involuntary manner.  I could have wished he
had been a less susceptible animal for, though his
flirtations were merely Platonic, it is rather humiliating
to have to play "gooseberry" to one's own horse — a part
which I was constantly being called upon to perform!

  As it happened, Diana was away in Paris that Easter, and
we had not met since my appearance in the Row; but I knew
she would be in town again shortly, and with consummate
diplomacy I began to excite Brutus's curiosity by sundry
careless, half-slighting allusions to Miss Chetwynd's little
mare, Wild Rose.  "She's too frisky for my taste," I said,
"but she's been a good deal admired, though I dare say you
wouldn't be particularly struck by her."

  So that, on the first afternoon of Diana's return to the
Row, I found it easy, under cover of giving Brutus an
opportunity of forming an opinion, to prevail on him to
carry me to her side.  Diana, who was with a certain    
Lady Verney, her chaperon, welcomed me with a charming

  "I had no idea you could ride so well," she said, "you
manage that beautiful horse of yours so very easily — with
such light hands, too."

  This was not irony, for I could now give my whole mind to
my seat; and, as I never interfered at all with the steering
apparatus, my hands must have seemed the perfection of

  "He wants delicate handling," I answered carelessly, "but
he goes very well with me."

  "I wish you would let me try his paces some morning,
Pulvertoft," struck in a Colonel Cockshott, who was riding
with them, and whom I knew slightly: "I've a notion he would
go better on the curb."

  "I shall be very happy," I began, when, just in time, I
noticed a warning depression in Brutus's ears.  The Colonel
rode about sixteen stone, and with spurs!  "I mean," I added
hastily, "I should have been — only, to tell you the truth, I
couldn't conscientiously trust anyone on him but myself."

  "My dear fellow!" said the Colonel, who I could see was
offended, "I've not met many horses in my time that I
couldn't get upon terms with."

  "I think Mr. Pulvertoft is quite right," said Diana. 
"When a horse gets accustomed to one he does so resent a
strange hand: it spoils his temper for days.  I never will
lend Wild Rose to anybody for that very reason!"

  The Colonel fell back in the rear in a decided sulk. 
"Poor dear Colonel Cockshott!" said Diana, "he is so proud
of his riding, but I think he dragoons a horse.  I don't
call that riding, do you?"

  "Well — hardly," I agreed, with easy disparagement.  "I
never believe in ruling a horse by fear."

  "I suppose you are very fond of yours?" she said. 

  "Fond is not the word!" I exclaimed — and it certainly was

  "I am not sure that what I said about lending Wild Rose
would apply to you," she said.  "I think you would be
gentle with her."

  I was certain that I should treat her with all
consideration; but as I doubted whether she would wholly
reciprocate it, I said with much presence of mind, that I
should regard riding her as akin to profanation.

  As Brutus and I were going home, he observed that it was a
good thing I had not agreed to lend him to the Colonel.

  "Yes," I said, determined to improve the occasion, "you
might not have found him as considerate as — well, as some

  "I meant it was a good thing for you!" he hinted darkly,
and I did not care to ask for an explanation.  "What did you
mean," he resumed, "by saying that I should not admire Wild
Rose?  Why, she is charming — charming!"

  "In that case," I said, "I don't mind riding with her
mistress occasionally — to oblige you."

  "You don't mind!" he said; "you will have to, my
boy, — and every afternoon!"

  I suppressed a chuckle: after all, man is the nobler
animal.  I could manage a horse — in my own way.  My little
ruse had succeeded: I should have no more forced
introductions to mystified strangers.

  And now for some weeks my life passed in a happy dream.  I
only lived for those hours in the Row, where Brutus turned
as naturally to Wild Rose as the sunflower to the sun, and
Diana and I grew more intimate every day.  Happiness and
security made me almost witty.  I was merciless in my
raillery of the eccentric exhibitions of horsemanship which
were to be met with, and Diana was provoked by my comments
to the sweetest silvery laughter.  As for Colonel Cockshott,
whom I had once suspected of a desire to be my rival, he had
long become a "negligible quantity"; and if I delayed in
asking Diana to trust me with her sweet self, it was only
because I found an epicurean pleasure in prolonging a
suspense that was so little uncertain.

  And then, without warning, my riding was interrupted for a
while.  Brutus was discovered, much to his annoyance, to
have a saddle-raw, and was even so unjust as to lay the
blame on me, though, for my own part, I thought it a mark of
apt, though tardy, retribution.  I was not disposed to tempt
Fortune upon any other mount, but I could not keep away from
the Row, nevertheless, and appeared there on foot.  I saw
Diana riding with the Colonel, who seemed to think his
opportunity had come at last; but whenever she passed the
railings on which I leaned, she would raise her eyebrows and
draw her mouth down into a little curve of resigned boredom,
which completely reassured me.  Still, I was very glad when
Brutus was well again, and we were cantering down the Row
once more, both in the highest spirits. 

  "I never heard the horses here whinny so much as they do
this season," I said, by way of making conversation.  "Can
you account for it at all?"  For he sometimes gave me pieces
of information which enabled me to impress Diana afterwards
by my intimate knowledge of horses. 

  "Whinnying?" he said.  "They're laughing, that's what
they're doing — and no wonder!"

  "Oh!" said I, "and what's the joke?"

  "Why, you are!" he replied.  "You don't suppose you take
them in, do you?  They know all about you, bless your

  "Oh, do they?" I said blankly.  This brute took a positive
pleasure, I believe, in reducing my self-esteem. 

  "I dare say it has got about through Wild Rose," he
continued.  "She was immensely tickled when I told her.  I'm
afraid she must have been feeling rather dull all these
days, by the by."

  I felt an unworthy impulse to take his conceit down as he
had lowered mine.

  "Not so very, I think," I said.  "She seemed to me to find
that brown hunter of Colonel Cockshott's a very agreeable

  Late as it is for reparation, I must acknowledge with
shame that in uttering this insinuation, I did that poor
little mare (for whom I entertained the highest respect) a
shameful injustice; and I should like to state here, in the
most solemn and emphatic manner, my sincere belief that,
from first to last, she conducted herself in a manner that
should have shielded her from all calumny.

  It was only a mean desire to retaliate, a petty and
ignoble spite, that prompted me thus to poison Brutus's
confidence, and I regretted the words as soon as I had
uttered them.

  "That beast!" he said, starting as if I had touched him
with a whip — a thing I never used — "why, he hasn't two ideas
in his great fiddle-head.  The only sort of officer he
ought to carry is a Salvationist!"

  "I grant he has not your personal advantages and charm of
manner," I said.  "No doubt I was wrong to say anything
about it."

  "No," he said, "you — you have done me a service," and he
relapsed into a sombre silence.

  I was riding with Diana as usual, and was about to express
my delight at being able to resume our companionship, when
her mare drew slightly ahead and lashed out suddenly,
catching me on the left leg, and causing intense agony for
the moment.

  Diana showed the sweetest concern, imploring me to go home
in a cab at once, while her groom took charge of Brutus.  I
declined the cab; but, as my leg was really painful, and
Brutus was showing an impatience I dared not disregard, I
had to leave her side.

  On our way home, Brutus said moodily, "It is all over
between us — you saw that?"

  "I felt it!" I replied.  "She nearly broke my leg."

  "It was intended for me," he said.  "It was her way of
signifying that we had better be strangers for the future. 
I taxed her with her faithlessness; she denied it, of
course — every mare does; we had an explanation, and
everything is at an end!"

  I did not ride him again for some days, and when I did, I
found him steeped in Byronic gloom.  He even wanted at first
to keep entirely on the Bayswater side of the Park, though I
succeeded in arguing him out of such weakness.  "Be a
horse!" I said.  "Show her you don't care.  You only flatter
her by betraying your feelings."

  This was a subtlety that had evidently not occurred to
him, but he was intelligent enough to feel the force of what
I said.  "You are right," he admitted; "you are not quite a
fool in some respects.  She shall see how little I care!"

  Naturally, after this, I expected to accompany Diana as
usual, and it was a bitter disappointment to me to find that
Brutus would not hear of doing so.  He had an old
acquaintance in the Park, a dapple-grey, who, probably from
some early disappointment, was a confirmed cynic, and whose
society he thought would be congenial just then.  The grey
was ridden regularly by a certain Miss Gittens, whose
appearance as she titupped laboriously up and down had often
furnished Diana and myself with amusement.

  And now, in spite of all my efforts, Brutus made straight
to the grey.  I was not in such difficulties as might have
been expected, for I happened to know Miss Gittens slightly,
as a lady no longer in the bloom of youth, who still
retained a wiry form of girlishness.  Though rather
disliking her than not, I found it necessary just then to
throw some slight effusion into my greeting.  She, not
unnaturally perhaps, was flattered by my preference, and
begged me to give her a little instruction in riding,
which — Heaven forgive me for it! — I took upon myself to do.

  Even now I scarcely see how I could have acted otherwise:
I could not leave her side until Brutus had exhausted the
pleasures of cynicism with his grey friend, and the time had
to be filled up somehow.  But, oh, the torture of seeing
Diana at a distance, and knowing that only a miserable
misunderstanding between our respective steeds kept us
apart, feeling constrained even to avoid looking in her
direction, lest she should summon me to her side!

  One day, as I was riding with Miss Gittens, she glanced
coyly at me over her sharp right shoulder, and said, "Do you
know, only such a little while ago, I never even dreamed
that we should ever become as intimate as we are now; it
seems almost incredible, does it not?"

  "You must not say so," I replied.  "Surely there is
nothing singular in my helping you a little with your
riding?"  Though it struck me that it would have been very
singular if I had.

  "Perhaps not singular," she murmured, looking modestly
down her nose; "but will you think me very unmaidenly if I
confess that, to me, those lessons have developed a dawning

  "You are perfectly safe on the grey," I said.

  "I — I was not thinking of the grey," she returned.  "Dear
Mr. Pulvertoft, I must speak frankly a girl has so many
things to consider, and I am afraid you have made me forget
how wrongly and thoughtlessly I have been behaving of late. 
I cannot help suspecting that you must have some motive in
seeking my society in so — so marked a manner."

  "Miss Gittens," said I, "I can disguise nothing: I have."

  "And you have not been merely amusing yourself all this

  "Before Heaven," I cried with fervour, "I have not!"

  "You are not one of those false men who give their
bridle-reins a shake, and ride off with 'Adieu-for
evermore!' — tell me you are not?"

  I might shake my bridle-reins till I was tired and
nothing would come of it unless Brutus was in the humour to
depart; so that I was able to assure her with truth that I
was not at all that kind of person. 

  "Then why not let your heart speak?"

  "There is such a thing," I said gloomily, "as a heart that
is gagged."

  "Can no word, no hint of mine loosen the gag?" she wished
to know.  "What, you are silent still?  Then, Mr.
Pulvertoft, though I may seem harsh and cruel in saying it,
our pleasant intercourse must end — we must ride together no

  No more?  What would Brutus say to that?  I was horrified. 
"Miss Gittens," I said in great agitation, "I entreat you to
unsay those words.  I — I am afraid I could not undertake to
accept such a dismissal.  Surely, after that, you will not

  She sighed.  "I am a weak, foolish girl," she said; "you
are only too able to overcome my judgment.  Then, Mr.
Pulvertoft, look happy again — I relent.  You may stay if you

  You must believe that I felt thoroughly ashamed of myself,
for I could not be blind to the encouragement which, though
I sought to confine my words to strict truth, I was
innocently affording.  But, with a horse like mine, what was
a man to do?  What would you have done yourself?  As soon as
was prudent, I hinted to Brutus that his confidences had
lasted long enough; and as he trotted away with me, he
remarked, "I thought you were never going."  Was he weary of
the grey already?  My heart leaped.  "Brutus," I said
thickly, "are you strong enough to bear a great joy?"

  "Speak out," he said, "and do try to keep those heels out
of my ribs."

  "I cannot see you suffer," I told him, with a sense of my
own hypocrisy all the time.  "I must tell you — circumstances
have come to my knowledge which lead me to believe that we
have both judged Wild Rose too hastily.  I am sure that her
heart is yours still.  She is only longing to tell you that
she has never really swerved from her allegiance."

  "It is too late now," he said, and the back of his head
looked inflexibly obstinate; "we have kept apart too long."

   "No," I said, "listen.  I take more interest in you than
you are, perhaps, aware of, and I have thought of a little
plan for bringing you together again.  What if I find an
opportunity to see the lady she belongs to — we have not met
lately, as you know, and I do not pretend that I desire a
renewal of our intimacy ——"
  "You like the one on the grey best; I saw that long ago,"
he said; and I left him in his error.

  "In any case, for your sake, I will sacrifice myself," I
said magnanimously.  "I will begin to-morrow.  Come, you
will not let your lives be wrecked by a foolish lovers'

  He made a little half-hearted opposition, but finally, as
I knew he would, consented.  I had gained my point: I was
free from Miss Gittens at last! 

  That evening I met Diana in the hall of a house in Eaton
Square.  She was going downstairs as I was making my way to
the ball-room, and greeted me with a rather cool little nod.

  "You have quite deserted me lately," she said, smiling,
but I could read the reproach in her eyes, "you never ride
with us now."

  My throat was swelling with passionate eloquence — and I
could not get any of it out.

  "No, I never do," was all my stupid tongue could find to

  "You have discovered a more congenial companion," said
cruel Diana.

  "Miss Chetwynd," I said eagerly, "you don't know how I
have been wishing ——!  Will you let me ride with you
to-morrow, as — as you used to do?"

  "You are quite sure you won't be afraid of my naughty Wild
Rose?" she said.  "I have given her such a scolding, that I
think she is thoroughly ashamed of herself."

  "You thought it was that that kept me!" I cried.  "Oh,
if I could tell you!"

  She smiled: she was my dear, friendly Diana again.

  "You shall tell me all about it to-morrow," she said. 
"You will not have another opportunity, because we are going
to Aix on Friday.  And now, good-night.  I am stopping the
way, and the linkman is getting quite excited over it."

  She passed on, and the carriage rolled away with her, and
I was too happy to mind very much — had she not forgiven me? 
Should we not meet to-morrow?  I should have two whole hours
to declare myself in, and this time I would dally with
Fortune no longer.

  How excited I was the following day: how fearful, when the
morning broke grey and lowering: how grateful, when the
benignant sun shone out later, and promised a brilliant
afternoon: how careful I dressed, and what a price I paid
for the flower for my buttonhole!

  So we cantered on to the Row, as goodly a couple (if I may
be pardoned this retrospective vanity) as any there; and by
and by, I saw, with the quick eye of a lover, Diana's
willowy form in the distance.  She was not alone, but I knew
that the Colonel would soon have to yield his place to me.

  As soon as she saw me, she urged her mare to a trot, and
came towards me with the loveliest faint blush and dawning
smile of welcome, when, all at once, Brutus came to a dead
stop, which nearly threw me on his neck, and stood quivering
in every limb.

  "Do you see that?" he said hoarsely.  "And I was about to
forgive her!"

  I saw: my insinuation, baseless enough at the beginning,
was now but too well justified.  Colonel Cockshott was on
his raw-boned brown hunter, and even my brief acquaintance
with horses enabled me to see that Wild Rose no longer
regarded him with her former indifference.

  Diana and the Colonel had reigned up and seemed waiting
for me — would Brutus never move?  "Show your pride," I said
in an agonised whisper, "Treat her with the contempt she

  "I will," he said between his bit and clenched teeth.

  And then Miss Gittens came bumping by on the grey and,
before I could interfere, my Houyhnhnm was off like a shot
in pursuit.  I saw Diana's sweet, surprised face: I heard
the Colonel's jarring laugh as I passed, and I — I could only
bow in mortified appeal, and long for a gulf to leap into
like Curtius!

  I don't know what I said to Miss Gittens.  I believe I
made myself recklessly amiable, and I remember she lingered
over parting in a horrible emotional manner.  I was too
miserable to mind: all the time I was seeing Diana's
astonished eyes, hearing Colonel Cockshott's heartless
laugh.  Brutus made a kind of explanation on our way home:
"You meant well," he said, "but you see you were wrong. 
Your proposed sacrifice, for which I am just as grateful to
you as if it had been effected, was useless.  All I could do
in return was to take you where your true inclination lay. 
I, too, can be unselfish."

  I was too dejected to curse his unselfishness.  I did not
even trouble myself to explain what it had probably cost me. 
I only felt drearily that I had had my last ride, I had had
enough horsemanship for ever!

  That evening I went to the theatre, I wanted to deaden
thought for the moment; and during one of the intervals I
saw Lady Verney in the stalls, and went up to speak to her. 
"Your niece is not with you?" I said; "I thought I should
have had a chance of — of saying goodbye to her before she
left for the continent."

  I had a lingering hope that she might ask me to lunch,
that I might have one more opportunity of explaining.

  "Oh," said Lady Verney, "but that is all changed; we are
not going — at least, not yet."

  "Not going!" I cried, incredulous for very joy.

  "No, it is all very sudden; but, — well, you are almost
like an old friend, and you are sure to hear it sooner or
later.  I only knew myself this afternoon, when she came in
from her ride.  Colonel Cockshott has proposed and she has
accepted him.  We're so pleased about it.  Wasn't dear 
Mrs.  —— delightful in that last act?  I positively saw
real tears on her face!"

  If I had waited much longer she would have seen a similar
display of realism on mine.  But I went back and sat the
interval out, and listened critically to the classical
selection of chamber-music from the orchestra, and saw the
rest of the play, though I have no notion how it ended. 

  All that night my heart was slowly consumed by a dull rage
that grew with every sleepless hour; but the object of my
resentment was not Diana.  She had only done what as a woman
she was amply justified in doing after the pointed slight I
had apparently inflicted upon her.  Her punishment was
sufficient already, for, of course, I guessed that she had
only accepted the Colonel under the first intolerable sting
of desertion.  No: I reserved all my wrath for Brutus, who
had betrayed me at the moment of triumph.  I planned
revenge.  Cost what it might I would ride him once more.  In
the eyes of the law I was his master.  I would exercise my
legal rights to the full.

  The afternoon came at last.  I was in a white heat of
anger, though as I ascended to the saddle there were
bystanders who put a more uncharitable construction upon my

  Brutus cast an uneasy eye at my heels as we started: "What
are those things you've got on?" he inquired.

  "Spurs," I replied curtly

  "You shouldn't wear them till you have learnt to turn your
toes in," he said.  "And a whip, too!  May I ask what that
is for?"

  "We will discuss that presently," I said very coldly; for
I did not want to have a scene with my horse in the street.

  When we came round by the statue of Achilles and on to the
Ride, I shortened my reins, and got a better hold of the
whip, while I found that, from some cause I cannot explain,
the roof of my mouth grew uncomfortably dry.

  "I shall be glad of a little quiet talk with you, if
you've no objection," I began.

  "I am quite at your disposal," he said, champing his bit
with a touch of irony.

  "First, let me tell you," I said, "that I have lost my
only love for ever."

  "Well," he retorted flippantly, "you won't die of it.  So
have I.  We must endeavour to console one another!"

  I still maintained a deadly calm.  "You seem unaware that
you are the sole cause of my calamity," I said.  "Had you
only consented to face Wild Rose yesterday, I should have
been a happy man by this time!"

  "How was I to know that, when you let me think all your
affections were given to the elderly thing who is trotted
out by my friend the grey?"

  "We won't argue, please," I said hastily.  "It is enough
that your infernal egotism and self-will have ruined my
happiness.  I have allowed you to usurp the rule, to reverse
our natural positions.  I shall do so no more.  I intend to
teach you a lesson you will never forget."

  For a horse, he certainly had a keen sense of humour.  I
thought the girths would have snapped. 

  "And when do you intend to begin?" he asked, as soon as he
could speak.

  I looked in front of me: there were Diana and her accepted
lover riding towards us; and so natural is dissimulation,
even to the sweetest and best women, that no one would have
suspected from her radiant face that her gaiety covered an
aching heart.

  "I intend to begin now," I said.  "Monster, demon,
whatever you are that have held me in thrall so long, I have
broken my chains!  I have been a coward long enough.  You
may kill me if you like.  I rather hope you will; but first
I mean to pay you back some of the humiliation with which
you have loaded me.  I intend to thrash you as long as I
remain in the saddle."

  I have been told by eye-witnesses that the chastisement
was of brief duration, but while it lasted, I flatter
myself, it was severe.  I laid into him with a stout whip,
of whose effectiveness I had assured myself by experiments
upon my own legs.  I dug my borrowed spurs into his flanks. 
I jerked his mouth.  I dare say he was almost as much
surprised as pained.  But he was pained!

  I was about to continue my practical rebuke, when my
victim suddenly evaded my grasp; and for one vivid second I
seemed to be gazing upon a bird's-eye view of his back; and
then there was a crash, and I lay, buzzing like a bee, in an
iridescent fog, and each colour meant a different pain, and
they faded at last into darkness, and I remember no more.

  "It was weeks," concluded Mr. Pulvertoft, "before the
darkness lifted and revealed me to myself as a strapped and
bandaged invalid.  But — and this is perhaps the most curious
part of my narrative — almost the first sounds that reached
my ears were those of wedding bells; and I knew, without
requiring to be told, that they were ringing for Diana's
marriage with the Colonel.  That showed there wasn't much
the matter with me, didn't it?  Why, I can hear them
everywhere now.  I don't think she ought to have had them
rung at Sandown though: it was just a little ostentatious,
so long after the ceremony; don't you think so?"

  "Yes — yes," I said; "but you never told me what became of
the horse."

  "Ah! the horse — yes.  I am looking for him.  I'm not so
angry with him as I was, and I don't like to ask too many
questions at the stables, for fear they may tell me one day
that they had to shoot him while I was so ill.  You knew I
was ill, I dare say?" he broke off: "there were bulletins
about me in the papers.  Look here."

  He handed me a cutting on which I read:

     change as yet in Mr. Pulvertoft's condition.  The
     unfortunate gentleman is still lying unconscious at his
     rooms in Park Street; and his medical attendants fear
     that, even if he recovers his physical strength, the
     brain will be permanently injured."

  "But that was all nonsense!" said Mr. Pulvertoft, with a
little nervous laugh, "it wasn't injured a bit, or how could
I remember everything so clearly as I do, you know?"

  And this was an argument that was, of course,