An uncle had just given her a Spanish saddle, and her father had promised to buy her a donkey. He had heard of one, and was going to drive to the town to see the owner. With great difficulty Amabel had got permission from her mother and grandmother to go with the Squire in the pony carriage. As she had faithfully promised to “be good,” she submitted to be “well wrapped up,” under her grandmother’s direction, and staggered downstairs in coat, cape, gaiters, comforter, muffatees, and with a Shetland veil over her burning cheeks. She even displayed a needless zeal by carrying a big shawl in a lump in her arms, which she would give up to no one.
“No, no!” she cried, as the Squire tried to take it from her. “Lift me in, daddy, lift me in!”
The Squire laughed, and obeyed her, saying, “Why, bless my soul, Amabel, I think you grow heavier every day.”
Amabel came up crimson from some disposal of the shawl after her own ideas, and her eyes twinkled as he spoke, though her fat cheeks kept their gravity. It was not till they were far on their way that a voice from below the seat cried, “Yap!”
“Why, there’s one of the dogs in the carriage,” said the Squire.
On which, clinging to one of his arms and caressing him, Amabel confessed, “It’s only the pug, dear daddy. I brought him in under the shawl. I did so want him to have a treat too. And grandmamma is so hard! She hardly thinks I ought to have treats, and she never thinks of treats for the dogs.”
The Squire only laughed, and said she must take care of the dog when they got to the town; and Amabel was encouraged to ask if she might take off the Shetland veil. Hesitating between his fear of Amabel’s catching cold, and a common-sense conviction that it was ludicrous to dress her according to her invalid mother’s susceptibilities, the Squire was relieved from the responsibility of deciding by Amabel’s promptly exposing her rosy cheeks to the breeze, and they drove on happily to the town. The Squire had business with the Justices, and Amabel was left at the Crown. When he came back, Amabel jumped down from the window and the black blind over which she was peeping into the yard, and ran up to her father with tears on her face.
“Oh, daddy!” she cried, “dear, good daddy! I don’t want you to buy me a donkey, I want you to buy me a horse.”
“That’s modest!” said the Squire; “but what are you crying for?”
“Oh, it’s such a poor horse! Such a very old, poor horse!” cried Amabel. And from the window Mr. Ammaby was able to confirm her statements. It was the Cheap Jack’s white horse, which he had been trying to persuade the landlord to buy as a cab-horse. More lean, more scarred, more drooping than ever, it was a pitiful sight, now and then raising its soft nose and intelligent eyes to the window, as if it knew what a benevolent little being was standing on a slippery chair, with her arms round the Squire’s neck, pleading its cause.