“How did you get the reins? I thought they all came down with me, under the horses’ heels.”
“Yes,” said Marco, “they did, and I climbed down upon the pole and got them.”
“Well,” said the driver, “you’re a smart boy. But don’t tell them inside that I tumbled off. Tell them I gave you the reins, and jumped down to see the sailor.”
After receiving this charge, Marco would have been under a strong temptation to tell a falsehood, if the company in the coach had asked him any questions about it. But they did not. They were so much occupied in expressing their astonishment that the sailor did not break his neck, that they asked very few questions, and after riding a short time, they relapsed into silence again. The fact that both the driver and the sailor escaped being seriously hurt, was not so wonderful as it might seem. Horses have generally an instinctive caution about not stepping upon any thing under their feet. If a little child were lying asleep in the middle of a road, and a horse were to come galloping along without any rider, the mother, who should see the sight from the window of the house, would doubtless be exceedingly terrified; but in all probability the horse would pass the child without doing it any injury. He would leap over it, or go around it, as he would if it were a stone. This is one reason why, in so many cases, persons are run over without being hurt. The driver and the sailor, however, fell rather behind the horses’ heels, and escaped them in that way, and they came down so exactly into the middle of the road, that they were out of the way of the track of the wheels, and thus they escaped serious injury.
The misfortunes of the evening, however, did not end here. The road was rather rough, and there were many ruts and joltings; and one or two of the passengers seemed to feel some fear lest the stage should upset. One, who sat near the door, put his arm out at the window over the door, so as to get his hand upon the handle of the catch, in order, as he said, to be ready to open the door and spring out, at a moment’s warning. The gentleman on the back seat advised him not to do it.
“If you have your arm out,” said he, “the coach may fall over upon it, and break it. That’s the way people get hurt by the upsetting of coaches, by thrusting out their legs and arms in all directions, when they find they are going over, and thus get them broken. You ought to fold your arms and draw in your feet, and when you find that we are going over, go in an easy attitude, with all the muscles relaxed, as if your body was a bag of corn.”