“But when I buy horses,” said the Squire, “I buy young, good ones, not very old and poor ones.”
“Oh, but do buy it, daddy! Perhaps it’s not had enough to eat, like that kitten I found in the ditch. And perhaps it’ll get fat, like her; and mamma said we wanted an old horse to go in the cart for luggage, and I’m sure that one’s very old. And that’s such a horrid man, like hump-backed Richard. And when nobody’s looking, he tugs it, and beats it. Oh, I wish I could beat him!” and Amabel danced dangerously upon the horsehair seat in her white gaiters with impotent indignation. The Squire was very weak when pressed by his daughter, but at horses, if at any thing, he looked with an eye to business. To buy such a creature would be ludicrous. Still, Amabel had made a strong point by what Lady Louisa had said. No one, too, knew better than the Squire what difference good and bad treatment can make in a horse, and this one had been good once, as his experienced eye told him. He said he “would see,” and strolled into the yard.
Long practice had given the Cheap Jack a quickness in detecting a possible purchaser which almost amounted to an extra sense, and he at once began to assail the Squire. But a nearer view of the white horse had roused Mr. Ammaby’s indignation.
“I wonder,” he said, “that you’re not ashamed to exhibit a poor beast that’s been so ill-treated. For heaven’s sake, take it to the knacker’s, and put it out of its misery at once.”
“Look ye, my lord,” said the Cheap Jack, touching his cap. “The horse have been ill-treated, I knows. I’m an afflicted man, my lord, and the boy I’ve employed, he’s treated him shameful; and when a man can’t feed hisself, he can’t keep his beast fat neither. That’s why I wants to get rid on him, my lord. I can’t keep him as I should, and I’d like to see him with a gentleman like yourself as’ll do him justice. He comes of a good stock, my lord. Take him for fifteen pound,” he added, waddling up to the Squire, “and when you’ve had him three months, you’ll sell him for thirty.”
This was too much. The Squire broke out in a furious rage.
“You unblushing scoundrel!” he cried. “D’ye think I’m a fool? Fifteen pounds for a horse you should be fined for keeping alive! Be off with it, and put it out of misery.” And he turned indignantly into the inn, the Cheap Jack calling after him, “Say ten pound, my lord!” the bystanders giggling, and the ostler whistling dryly through the straw in his mouth, “Take it to the knacker’s, Cheap John.”
“Oh, daddy dear! have you got him?” cried Amabel, as the Squire re-entered the parlor.
“No, my dear; the poor beast isn’t fit to draw carts, my darling. It’s been so badly treated, the only kindness now is to kill it, and put it out of pain. And I’ve told the hunchback so.”
It was a matter of course and humanity to the Squire, but it overwhelmed poor Amabel. She gasped, “Kill it!” and then bursting into a flood of tears she danced on the floor, wringing her hands and crying, “Oh, oh, oh! don’t, please, don’t let him be killed! Oh! do, do buy him and let him die comfortably in the paddock. Oh, do, do, do!”