“Nonsense, Amabel, you mustn’t dance like that. Remember, you promised to be good,” said the Squire. The child gulped down her tears, and stood quite still, with her face pale from very misery.
“I don’t want not to be good,” said she. “But, oh dear, I do wish I had some money, that I might buy that poor old horse, and let him die comfortably at home.”
It was not the money the Squire grudged; it was against all his instincts to buy a bad horse. But Amabel’s wan face overcame him, and he went out again. He never lingered over disagreeable business, and, going straight up to the Cheap Jack, he said, “My little girl is so distressed about it, that I’ll give you five pounds for the poor brute, to stop its sufferings.”
“Say eight, my lord,” said the Cheap Jack. Once more the Squire was turning away in wrath, when he caught sight of Amabel’s face at the window. He turned back, and, biting his lip, said, “I’ll give you five pounds if you’ll take it now, and go. If you beat me down again, I’ll offer you four. I’ll take off a pound for every bate you utter; and, when I speak, I mean what I say. Do you think I don’t know one horse from another?”
It is probable that the Cheap Jack would have made another effort to better his bargain, but his wife had come to seek him, and to her sharp eyes the Squire’s resolution was beyond mistake.
“We’ll take the five guineas, and thank you, sir,” she said, courtesying. The Squire did not care to dispute the five shillings which she had dexterously added, and he paid the sum, and the worthy couple went away.
“Miles!” said the Squire. The servant he had brought with him in reference to the donkey appeared, and touched his hat.
“Miss Amabel has persuaded me to buy this poor brute, that it may die in peace in the paddock. Can you get it home, d’ye think?”
“I think I can, sir, this evening; after a feed and some rest.”
The white horse had suddenly become a centre of interest in the inn-yard. Everybody, from the landlord to the stable-boy, felt its legs, and patted it, and suggested various lines of treatment.
Before he drove away, Mr. Ammaby overheard the landlord saying, “He be a sharp hand, is the Squire. I shouldn’t wonder if he brought the beast round yet.” Which, for his credit’s sake, the Squire devoutly hoped he might. But, after all, he had his reward when Amabel, sobbing with joy, flung her arms round him, and cried, —
“Oh, you dear, darling, good daddy! How I love you and how the white horse loves you!”
Master Swift at home.—Rufus.—The ex-pig-minder.—Jan and the schoolmaster.
It was a lovely autumn evening the same year, when the school having broken up for the day, Master Swift returned to his home for tea. He lived in a tiny cottage on the opposite side of the water-meadows to that on which Dame Datchett dwelt, and farther down towards the water-mill. He had neither wife nor child, but a red dog with a plaintive face, and the name of Rufus, kept his house when he was absent, and kept him company when he was at home.