Dagobert, entering one of these stables, took from off a chest the portion of oats destined for his horse, and, pouring it into a winnowing basket, shook it as he approached Jovial.
To his great astonishment, his old travelling companion did not respond with a joyous neigh to the rustle of the oats rattling on the wicker work. Alarmed, he called Jovial with a friendly voice; but the animal, instead of turning towards his master a look of intelligence, and impatiently striking the ground with his fore-feet, remained perfectly motionless.
More and more surprised, the soldier went up to him. By the dubious light of a stable-lantern, he saw the poor animal in an attitude which implied terror—his legs half bent, his head stretched forward, his ears down, his nostrils quivering; he had drawn tight his halter, as if he wished to break it, in order to get away from the partition that supported his rack and manger; abundant cold-sweat had speckled his hide with bluish stains, and his coat altogether looked dull and bristling, instead of standing out sleek and glossy from the dark background of the stable; lastly, from time to time, his body shook with convulsive starts.
“Why, old Jovial!” said the soldier, as he put down the basket, in order to soothe his horse with more freedom, “you are like thy master—afraid!—Yes,” he added with bitterness, as he thought of the offence he had himself endured, “you are afraid—though no coward in general.”
Notwithstanding the caresses and the voice of his master, the horse continued to give signs of terror; he pulled somewhat less violently at his halter, and approaching his nostrils to the hand of Dagobert, sniffed audibly, as if he doubted it were he.
“You don’t know me!” cried Dagobert. “Something extraordinary must be passing here.”
The soldier looked around him with uneasiness. It was a large stable, faintly lighted by the lantern suspended from the roof, which was covered with innumerable cobwebs; at the further end, separated from Jovial by some stalls with bars between, were the three strong, black, horses of the brute-tamer—as tranquil as Jovial was frightened.
Dagobert, struck with this singular contrast, of which he was soon to have the explanation, again caressed his horse; and the animal, gradually reassured by his master’s presence, licked his hands, rubbed his head against him, uttered a low neigh, and gave him his usual tokens of affection.
“Come, come, this is how I like to see my old Jovial!” said Dagobert, as he took up the winnowing-basket, and poured its contents into the manger. “Now eat with a good appetite, for we have a long day’s march tomorrow; and, above all, no more of these foolish fears about nothing! If thy comrade, Spoil-sport, was here, he would keep you in heart; but he is along with the children, and takes care of them in my absence. Come, eat! Instead of staring at me in that way.”