“Certainly, sir,” said Herbert, driving the ax into the block upon which he had been splitting, prepared to accompany Mr. Richmond to the pasture.
They reached the bars dividing the pasture from the next field. Spitfire was cropping the grass just on the other side.
“There,” said the stranger, pointing him out, “that is the horse I was looking at.”
“That one!” repeated Herbert, in a tone of surprise.
“Yes, he is a fine-looking animal.”
“Ye-es,” said Herbert, hesitatingly.
“However, I don’t so much care about that, as for his being gentle. I want him for a family horse, such as my wife may drive, without fear, while I am away.”
“Did Mr. Holden say he’s gentle?” asked Herbert.
“Yes. He recommended him highly for that, and told me he had no serious defect.”
“Are you sure this is the horse?” asked Herbert.
“Certainly. I am not likely to be mistaken in it. I suppose it is all as he says?”
Herbert was in a perplexing position. He knew that if he told the truth he should incur Abner Holden’s anger, but his conscience revolted at suffering the stranger to be taken in, and thus, perhaps, exposing his wife to serious danger.
“I am afraid I cannot confirm what Mr. Holden says,” he answered, reluctantly. “The horse is very ill-tempered, and is blind of one eye.”
“Is it possible? Then I have had a narrow escape. You have done me a good service, my boy, in telling me the truth, for I am, myself, unused to horses, and should have taken the animal on your employer’s recommendation. Accept this acknowledgment of my indebtedness.”
He would have placed a five-dollar bill in Herbert’s hand, but our hero firmly refused to receive it.
“I have only done my duty, sir. I cannot accept money for doing that. Thank you all the same.”
“Perhaps you are right, my lad. If I ever have a chance to serve you, don’t hesitate to let me know it.”
“There’ll be a storm if Mr. Holden hears of this,” thought Herbert. “But I could not do otherwise.”
THE CLOUDS GATHER
At twelve o’clock Abner Holden returned home, still in good humor. As he did not anticipate another call from his expected customer until the afternoon, he made no inquiries.
“Perhaps he won’t hear about it,” thought Herbert, and as he did not wish to have any trouble with Mr. Holden, he hoped it might prove so.
Abner was so elated at the thought of his good bargain in prospect, that he could not keep it to himself.
“I’ve about sold Spitfire, Mrs. Bickford,” he said to the housekeeper.
“Sold Spitfire! Who wants to buy him?”
“A man that called here this morning. What do you think he wants him for?”
“To break his neck,” suggested the housekeeper.