As a sick man emerging from a fever, Selwyn let the refreshing vigour of the morning lave his temples with its potency. Looking towards the stables, he saw Mathews, the groom, come out of his domain to cast an approving glance on Nature’s performance. Selwyn decided that he would go and say good-bye to the fellow. There was something both sturdy and picturesque about him, and the American presumed that even the head-groom of the Durwents would not be averse to a ten-shilling gratuity. He therefore left his room, and reaching the lawn, strolled over to the stables.
‘Good-morning, Mr. Selwyn,’ said the groom cheerily, touching his forehead in a semi-nautical greeting.
‘Good-day, Mathews. How are all your family this morning?’
’Meaning the hosses, sir, or opposite-like, my old mare and her colt? Likewise and sim’lar, and no disrespeck meant, meaning my old woman and little Wellington.’
‘Well,’ Selwyn smiled at the worthy man’s ramifications, ’I did mean the horses, but I am even more anxious to know how Mrs. Mathews is.’
‘She’s a-bloomin’, Mr. Selwyn, she is. When I sees ‘er t’ other night dancin’ at the village, I says to myself, “Criky! If she hain’t got a action like a young filly!” Real proud I was of ’er, and ’er being no two-year-old neither, but opposite-wise free of the rheumatiz, as is getting into my withers like.’
‘And how is—did you say his name was Wellington?’
’That’s ’is ‘andle, Mr. Selwyn, conseckens o’ ’is being born with the largest nose I ever sees on a hoffspring o’ his age. He’s only four year and a little better, but—criky!—if ’e ain’t the knowingest little colt as ever I raised! When my old woman gives ’im ’is bath ’e goes “Hiss-ss, hiss-ss,” just like a proper groom rubbin’ down a hoss. But ’e’s a hunfeeling wretch, ’e is, for when I goes ‘ome arter feedin’-time o’ nights, and thinks I’ll just smoke a quiet pipe, ’e ups and says, “Lincoln Steeplechase, guv’nor, and I’m a-riding you.” And there he has everything around the room—’is little table and chairs and toy pianner, and I’ve got to jump over ’em on my ’ands and knees with that there wicious scoundrel a-sitting on my neck and yelling, “Come on, you d—d old slow-coach! Wot did I give you them oats for?” Now I puts it to you, Mr. Selwyn, if a himp as makes ’is fayther jump over a toy pianner is the kind o’ child as is like to be a comfort to a feller in ’is old age.’
With which harrowing query the groom slapped his pipe on his heel and blew violently through it to try to disguise his gratification at the paternal reminiscence.
‘I don’t think I’ve seen all the horses,’ said Selwyn. ’Can you spare a few minutes to show them to me?’