Kate's Day with the Old Horse
by Clive Phillips Wolley
"Yes, Kate, we are as nearly as possible 'stone broke,' as your brother
would say. The time seems to have come, my girl, when 'honour may be
deemed dishonour, loyalty be called a crime,' at any rate in Ireland;
and as we can't make our tenants pay rent, we must go."
The speaker was a massive-looking old gentleman with clean-cut,
weather-beaten features, and a heavy white moustache. He had drawn his
chair away from the breakfast table, and was still knitting his brows
over his morning letters.
Poor old Lowry, like his fathers before him, had lived out of doors
amongst his own tenantry all his life, with a joke and a half-crown for
anyone who wanted them.
Almost all the harm he had ever done was to win a heart or two which he
did not want, or drink a glass or two more than was good for him. For
forty years he had paid rates and taxes, acted conscientiously as a
magistrate, and filled several other onerous but unpaid offices for his
Queen and such as are put in authority under her; he had drunk her
health loyally every night since he first learnt to drink strong drink,
and would have "knocked sparks out of" anyone who had spoken
disrespectfully of her before him; and now the property which his
fathers had honestly earned was left at the mercy of a league of avowed
rebels, and he himself was branded as an enemy of the people. Had he
and such as he been left to defend themselves, they would long ago have
put an end to these enemies of honest men and of the State, but their
hands were tied. They were bidden to wait for help, but no help came.
Lowry was still too loyal to murmur openly against the Government which
had ruined him, but he had just realized that their name and their
loyalty were almost the only things left to him and Kate, his daughter,
who sat playing nervously with an empty envelope and gazing out blankly
and sadly upon the old park she loved until her deep blue eyes filled
unconsciously with tears.
But Kate was not the girl to indulge in tears when a difficulty had to
be met, and in ten minutes she had mastered her emotion and was walking
with her father to the stables, gravely discussing affairs with the
stalwart old man, more like one man with another than like a young girl
with her father.
"So the horses are to go up next week, Dad, are they? It is a bit of a
wrench to say good-bye to you, Val," said the girl, as she laid her
hand lovingly on the neck of a great up-standing chestnut, "but you are
good enough to find yourself a situation, my boy. Father, though, what
about Joe? We could not let him go into a cab, and he is too old for
"True, Kate, and I can't bear to shoot the old fellow, and yet what are
we to do with a pensioner now?"
"Shoot him! No, father, we'll keep the bullets for other billets. A
loyal servant and friend like Joe has as much claim on you as your
daughter has; and whilst we have bread and cheese we can find Joe in
fodder. Poor old fellow, I believe he would rather eat his litter with
us than old oats in a strange stable."
It was a pretty picture, let latter day æsthetes deny it if they
will—the tall, strong girl, natural and unaffected, not a bit angelic,
but very womanly, caressing the old horse, who lowered his head to meet
her caresses, and shoved his honest old nose against her cheek.
And Kate was right. It is a hard thing that a horse who has
risked his neck a thousand times for his master, who has never known
fear or spared himself in that master's service, should be thought only
fit for a bullet when his limbs and wind begin to fail. We pension the
half-hearted human servants, we destroy the whole-hearted beasts who
have worn out their youth and strength prematurely in our employ.
"How are you going to keep Joe, if I let you try, Kate?"
"Well, father, I ought to be able to make a pound a month by
needlework, Christmas cards, and so forth; there is a bit of land at
the cottage, so that turned out on that in summer and not much worked
in winter, Joe need not cost much to keep, and I'll groom him myself."
"And what would the London aunts say to that, Kate?" laughed the
Kate put a hand trustingly on the old man's shoulder as she answered
smiling, "The London aunts say a good many things, Dad, which I don't
agree with, and you only pretend to, you know. Aunt Dorothy prefers her
carpets to sunshine, at least she keeps her rooms dark all day for fear
the sun should spoil their colours."
"I thought it was her colour which the sun spoilt, Kate?"
Kate laughed, and with a squeeze of her father's arm and a saucy nod,
flitted off to see to some member of her animal kingdom.
Luckily for the Irish, they take trouble well, and though skinning is
an unpleasant process, they soon get used to it.
Three months after the events recorded in the preceding paragraphs,
Kate and her father were living at what had been their agent's cottage,
a tiny house with stabling for one horse. The Lowry's agent was now
Colonel Lowry himself, and his daughter (the best and straightest lady
rider in Gonaway) had laid aside her habit as a souvenir of happier
At the Hall a rich Londoner had replaced the old squire (as his
tenant), and a London young lady inflicted agony on the mouths of such
horses as she rode, and never disgraced her sex by an after-breakfast
visit to the stables.
Instead of the laughter of that tom-boy Kate, highly finished
performances on the piano frightened the blackbirds off the lawn, and
instead of jokes and half-crowns from a poor but warm-hearted native,
the peasantry now received pamphlets on market gardening and threepenny
pieces from an alien millionaire.
"Molly says they have just shot 'the Laurels' for the seventh time this
year, and there's not a hen pheasant left on the estate."
"Never mind, father, it won't matter to us. Mr Preece will have some
more down from Leadenhall Market or some such place next year; and,
after all, they pay our rent for us, and we couldn't live without
"Pay the rent," grumbled the squire; "I could have done that myself, if
I'd sold all the game, and never given a head to man or woman on the
"Then why didn't you, Dad?"
"Why didn't I, girl? Well then, it's just because I suppose I've always
belonged to 'the stupid party,' thank God for it."
Poor old Lowry was a red-hot Tory, without any Liberal instincts
whatever, a fact which sufficiently accounted for the mess he had made
of his life. And yet, somehow, the men who dared still to touch their
hats to this reprehensible old robber of the public lands, did so with
a smile in their eyes more hearty than the smirk they gave to his
successor, Mr Preece.
Since the first day we met her, a change has come over Kate. The
grey-blue eyes are just as beautiful, but there is less sparkle in
them; the lips are just as sweet, sweeter it may be, but the dimple has
gone. In the last few months she has seen more of the seamy and shabby
side of life than she had even guessed at in the twenty sunny years
which went before.
I don't think the squire has any suspicion of it, and Kate has neither
mother nor sister to tell it to, but her poor little heart has had its
stoutness tried a good deal of late. When Kate was queen at the Hall,
gallant George Vernon, somewhile captain of Hussars, and at present
master of the hounds and Kate's very distant cousin, had remembered the
tie of kinship to the bright young beauty quite as often as duty
required. Now his visits were like angel's visits in number and, to the
proud Kate, far less welcome.
George Vernon was no snob, but then Kate, the hostess at the Hall, the
reigning queen in the hunting-field, and Kate without a horse to her
name, in a cottage and out of the world altogether, were very different
persons, and George unconsciously showed that he felt the change.
Though man is fickle, perhaps George would not have allowed his
admiration for his cousin to cool so suddenly had there not been
Miss Preece (the daughter of the new tenant at the Hall) would have
passed as a pretty woman anywhere. If lemon-coloured locks, an abundant
fringe, bright colour, and the full, tempting figure of a young Juno,
make beauty, then Polly Preece was a belle. If reckless riding and a
smart habit make a horsewoman, Polly Preece was a very Amazon.
True she had never had a fall; true her horses cost three hundred
guineas apiece, and were clever enough to jump through hoops at a
circus, even though they had ten stone of fair humanity hung on to
their tortured mouths; and true, too, that though Polly laughed often
(and showed in doing so as dazzling a set of teeth as ever disappointed
a dentist), few people owed even a smile to any wit of hers.
But the Bruisers (as the men of the Gonaway hounds were called) voted
her a right good sort, if only she would give them a little more time
at their fences and not always pick the tenderest part of a man to jump
George Vernon did the civil at first as Master. In a week's time he was
her pilot, and in a month half a dozen of the Bruisers were sadly
afraid that he would ere long be her husband, thereby robbing them of
the greatest prize in the local market of matrimony and of the merriest
bachelor in the hunt. As for George himself, he thought honestly enough
that the Preece girl was "very good fun," but if he could have had her
dollars without her he would have been a happy man. Unfortunately,
circumstances, especially the bills connected with the maintenance of a
crack pack of fox-hounds, were beginning to impress upon him more and
more the necessity for converting Miss Preece into a connecting link
between himself and her papa's money bags.
This was, roughly, the state of affairs on Monday, November 2nd, 1885,
the first regular meet of the Bruisers for the season.
It was a time-honoured custom that the first meet should be held at the
Hall, and though the master of the house who had entertained them so
often was there no longer, still the house stood and the custom
"I suppose you would hardly care to go to the meet to-day, Dad?"
queried Kate at breakfast.
"Not go to the meet, girl, after keeping the old tryst so many years,
"Oh, I don't know, only I thought you might not."
"What, because another fellow provides the sherry and is master at the
Hall? Of course I don't like it, but providing he does not give the men
Hamburg stuff, I'll go and be thankful to him for doing what I can no
longer afford to do. Put on a leather petticoat, little woman, and
we'll run with them since we can't ride."
I think the old man struck the match to light his pipe a shade more
viciously than was necessary, but he never winced, though he was
perhaps remembering another 2nd of November when the little woman was
yet unborn, and he himself on the best horse in the country was as good
a man "as ever holloaed to a hound," and in one fair woman's eyes the
Suddenly he put down his pipe and called, "Kate."
"Come down again for a minute."
"All right, in half a second;" and almost as soon as she had promised
Kate was in the room again.
"What is your will, sir?" said she with a little mocking courtesy.
"Why, child, I was thinking that you at any rate might ride to the
meet. Your habit is packed away somewhere; Joe looked yesterday as fit
as paint, and, as Tim expressed it, 'is brimful of consate.' I declare
he has waxed fat and kicks, to the serious detriment of his old
"No, father, if you don't ride, I shan't. If you run, so shall I."
"Do as you are bid, Kate, or rather, since you never do that, ride if
it is only half-a-dozen fences, just to please your old father, and to
show that young woman at the Hall the difference between riding and
being carried, between hands and paws."
Those who loved Kate best would always have been the first to admit
that she had just "the laste bit of the divvle in her, God bless her,"
and hence it was perhaps that her father's diplomatic suggestion as to
the eclipse of her rival brought the colour to her cheek and the light
to her eyes.
"Do you really want me to, father?"
"Really, really, Kate, and now let us go and have a look at Joe."
I am ashamed to say how old Joe was. Like ladies, horses don't care to
have their ages published on every house-top, and though they cannot
lie for themselves on this important point, they have no difficulty in
finding many to lie for them.
Joe was said to have been eight when the Lowrys bought him, and they
had ridden the gallant brown for seven years. But eight is a queer age
in a horse, as expansive and uncertain as the adjective "young" when
applied to spinsters. At the lowest computation Joe was not less than
fifteen, and a "vet." who wanted to buy him once pledged his
professional credit that he was twenty-six at least. Be this as it may,
when an hour later he walked out of his loose box, he looked the very
type and beau idéal of a twelve-stone hunter. From the carriage
of his lean game head and trimly-docked tail, from the cheery snort
with which he welcomed the fresh air, from the muscle on his square and
massive quarters, from his hard, clean legs and full, bold eye, you
might have fancied he was a six-year-old. A veteran strapper who had
followed the squire from the Hall to the cottage, had spent an hour in
dressing the old horse, and the squire's own hands had put the
finishing touches to his toilette. Proud and gay the old rascal looked
before his mistress mounted, but when she was in the saddle he gave one
wild kick from mere exuberance of spirits and then trotted out of the
yard, as old Tim expressed it, "for all the world as if he was tridding
"Ye gods! she is a dazzler! Quite takes my breath away," said a
shiny-hatted, faultlessly-breeched stranger from Dublin to a young
local Nimrod; "why, there are not half-a-dozen girls, even with the
Meath, who have ventured out yet in Busvine's scarlet array, and here
is a young lady in the wilds of Gonaway with a seat like a sack of
potatoes and raiment more magnificent than Solomon in all his glory."
"Fits her well for all that, and suits her style, milk and roses and
that sort of thing, you know," replied the local, himself rather a
captive to the fair equestrienne.
"Milk and roses! Milk and fiddlestick! Lemon and white I should
describe her if she was in the setter class; but tell me, who is she,
and has she any money?"
Needless, perhaps, to explain that poor Polly Preece was the subject of
this irreverent banter, which in a measure perhaps she had deserved,
for though a pretty woman in "the lady's pink" is a fair picture in a
showy frame, she must not be hurt if she is a little stared at on her
first appearance. And, indeed, Polly was not hurt. On the contrary she
was flattered and in high spirits. Her new jacket fitted her to
perfection; her horse was well-mannered and easy to ride; she had drawn
the attention of every one to her sweet self, and she felt for the
moment that "blues" or fear had for her neither existence nor meaning.
A large group of late comers was still standing in the doorway and on
the broad steps of the hall, chaffing each other or pledging their host
in a last stirrup cup.
"What is that madcap daughter of mine about now?" exclaimed old Preece,
as Polly broke from the throng and sent her horse along over the turf
at a rattling gallop, followed by two or three of her admirers.
From the steps to the line of elms no fence was visible to the
spectators, and yet before reaching the avenue, three of the horses
rose at something, and the fourth and his rider seemed to be swallowed
"Good heavens! young Voyle is down in the Park fence," cried Preece;
and sure enough the exquisite from Dublin shortly after emerged from
the abyss, his hat crushed, his breeches smirched, and his temper
somewhat soured by the loss of a good horse.
"Really, Mr Preece, you must curb that young lady's pluck; she will
break her neck some day if you don't take care," suggested an elderly
"Break her neck," growled old Preece; "it isn't pluck, it is folly;
wait until she has had a fall; you'll see she will learn better."
Kate had been sitting a quiet spectator of this little episode, though
the old horse had backed and fidgetted with impatient desire to join in
As Polly rode back from the fence she caught sight of Kate, and with
that sweetness which women show to rivals they detest, wreathed her
face in smiles and laid a caressing hand on Joe's mane.
"Oh, Kate, how glad I am to see you out! I wish, dear, you had let me
know that you meant to come. You might have ridden Dennis or my bay. I
am afraid your dear old horse is almost past work now!"
"Doesn't look like it, does he, Miss Preece?" retorted Kate, as Joe
champed his bit and pawed the velvet turf. Polly hated to be called
Miss Preece by Kate, and would fain have passed for her bosom friend;
but Kate unfortunately chose her own friends for herself, and Polly was
not of them.
"Cousin Kate is a rare believer in the old horse," remarked George
Vernon as he joined the two girls.
"Yes," assented Polly, "your cousin is a very antiquary; she likes
everything that is old, and only what is old. She has even spoken
slightingly of this miracle of Mr Busvine's. From politics to
petticoats, Miss Lowry is a Tory, like her father!"
"I admit all you say, Miss Preece, and glory in it. I do prefer old
habits, sartorial and otherwise, to any others."
There was a deepening in the blue of Kate's eyes as this word-play went
on, which looked as if she was more than half in earnest.
"Well, I don't agree with you, and for the sake of example I will back
my young chestnut against your veteran in the field to-day," quoth
"Oh, come, Miss Preece, that's hardly fair," broke in George; six
against twenty-six, isn't it, Kate?"
"It may be, Cousin George, but the old horse can quite take care of
himself, thank you. Yes, I'll match my old one against your chestnut,
owners up; who is to be judge?"
"Would you mind, Captain Vernon?" pleaded Polly.
"No, certainly. What are the stakes?"
"Oh, say a pair of gloves; I am too much of a pauper to make the bet in
dozens," replied Kate, and so the bet was made.
The morning was a bright one, with a touch of hoar frost on the grass,
which none but the early risers saw.
At 11.15 the rime had all gone, and the air was as "balmy as May," the
sun shone brightly, and men's spirits were as brilliant as the weather.
But the first draw was a long one, and a blank. The second was like it,
and again no noisy note replied to what Captain Pennell Elmhirst calls
"the huntsman's tuneful pleading."
Faces began to lengthen. A blank at Tod Hall had never been heard of in
the memory of man. The gentlemen in velveteen who had taken a somewhat
prominent part in the morning's proceedings had disappeared by noon,
and men spoke disparagingly of the race which some sportsmen aver is a
compound of policeman and poacher.
It was easy by two o'clock to tell the men who rode horses from those
who only "talked horse."
The "customers" were all looking grim and silent; the men of the road
were brightly conversational, and sat in groups discussing their cigars
and whisky flasks at every point from which they could not possibly
see, should the hounds slip quietly and suddenly away.
The little group near the corner of the covert had grown weary of
waiting. The glow which follows a sharp trot to covert on your
favourite hack, and the consumption of "just one glass" of orange
brandy, had worn off, and the damp chill of a November afternoon had
begun to pierce through the stoutest of pinks and to chill the gayest
The horses had fretted themselves into a white lather with impatience,
or stood with drooping heads and staring coats, mute witnesses to the
chill which had come with afternoon and hope deferred. Everything
suggested that fox-hunting was an overrated amusement.
Little by little the hounds had drawn away from the Hall and its
overstocked coverts, until now, at 2 P.M., they were thrown
into a small outlying wood, where pheasants were never reared and
At last there was a doubtful whimper; then a hard-looking man in mufti
(a local horse dealer) stood up in his stirrups and held his hat high
above his head. A dozen keen pair of eyes saw the signal, and though no
foolish halloa imperilled their chance of a run, the light and colour
came back into the men's faces, and they forgot in a moment the
miseries of the morning as they marked the lithe red form of reynard
steal out of covert, and with a whisk of his grey-tagged brush, make
off leisurely, with his head set straight for the stiffest line in the
By this time the first doubtful whimper had been caught up and repeated
in fuller and more certain tones, and there was little need of the horn
to call loiterers from covert.
One after another the beauties tumbled out in hot haste, hackles up.
For one moment each seemed to dwell as he cleared the brakes, and then
with a rush they gathered to where old Monitor had the line under the
lee of a grey stone wall, along which the whole pack glanced, swift and
close packed as wild fowl on the wing, while the keen November air
thrilled with the maddest, merriest music that ever made a sportsman's
blood tingle in his veins.
The wild freshness of the morning, with its bright sunshine, had given
place to frost, and men settled grimly down to their work with the
conviction that with such a burning scent and an afternoon fox few
would live with hounds to the finish.
The field was never a large one from the start. None but those who got
away at once had a chance of seeing the run, for the first mile was
ridden at racing pace over a lovely grass country, with nothing to stop
hounds or men save low stone walls, over which they slipped without a
rattle like the phantoms of a dream. Amongst those still with hounds at
the end of the first mile were the two ladies and the master. Polly's
red jacket had followed George Vernon as the needle follows the
magnet—a little too closely, perhaps, for the comfort of the magnet.
Kate had been in trouble on the right, her old horse, fresh and mad
with excitement and out of temper with the long restraint of the
morning, had got his ears laid flat back and the bit in his teeth.
For the moment the temperate habits of past years were forgotten, and
poor Kate, with arms aching and powerless, felt herself flashing over
stout stone walls at a pace which would have been dangerous over sheep
Polly's chestnut, on the contrary, was behaving in a manner which would
have done credit to the best horse in Galway or with the Heythrop,
steadying himself at every wall and popping over with the least
possible exertion to himself or risk to his rider.
And now five of the "pursuers" were in one field, grass beneath their
feet and a fair stone wall without a gap in it in front.
All except Polly probably noticed the rushes which grew in tiny bunches
beneath the wall, and guessed from them and from the sudden dip of the
land that the take-off would be a boggy one.
In vain Kate tried to get a pull at her horse. On the left Vernon and
Polly had got over with a scramble. One man was down, and a second felt
that the roan was worth another fifty at least for the way he kicked
himself clear of the dirt.
With a rush which would have landed him well on the other side of
twenty feet of water, the brown went at the highest place he could find
in the wall. Kate knew what must come, but hardened her heart and faced
it. As the old horse tried to rise, he stuck in the heavy bog. There
was a crash; for a moment everything spun round, and Kate was down with
a stunning fall.
Had anyone seen her, of course even the run of the season would have
been given up to render her assistance, but her only companions in this
particular field had the lead of her, and the side walls hid her from
other people's view, besides which Kate Lowry was one who had long
since established her right to look after herself in the hunting-field.
For a minute or two the slim girl's figure lay prone and motionless on
the damp turf, while her horse stood by, hanging his wise old head
regretfully over the ruin he had made. Then the girl raised herself on
her elbow, pushed the fair hair out of her eyes, and sitting up, looked
into the old horse's wistful face with a half smile.
"You old fool, Joe!" she said; "you ought to have known better at your
time of life."
Rising to her feet, she leaned her head for a moment on her saddle,
pressing her hand to her side as if in pain, and then backing her horse
so that he stood close alongside the wall, she climbed slowly and with
difficulty back into the saddle.
"I wonder how long we lay under that wall, Joe?" soliloquized Kate, as
she walked him through a gap in the next wall; "and I wonder, too,
where the hounds are, and if I must give it up and let that Preece girl
Listening intently, she sat for a moment by the roadside, the old
horse's ears pricked keenly forward. At last she thought she heard
hounds running, it seemed, to her right. Without a moment's hesitation
she turned Joe round, and, sobered by his fall, that mud-besmeared
veteran popped over the wall as cleverly as a cat, only to be reined up
short as he lit, for there, streaming over another wall, were the whole
pack, going as keenly and as fiercely now as in the first three fields.
With them were only two horsemen, the master and the man in mufti.
As the three joined forces, George noticed for the first time his
cousin's white face and muddy garments.
"Why, Kate, where have you been? Not hurt, I hope?" and though the
words were curt and simple, the expression in his face was less
careless than it might have been.
"No, thanks; more mud than bruises, I think. Where is Miss Preece?"
"Rolled off in the only piece of plough in the county, and seems to
have taken root there," laughed the ungallant M.F.H.
"No damage done, I hope?" said Kate.
"Hurt? No. Her clever chestnut put his feet into a furrow and stumbled,
la belle Polly rolled off, and though we put her up again, she
seemed to have had enough, especially as she believed that you had
given up the chase some time since."
"Oh, indeed," laughed Kate, a little grimly. "You see hers was her
first fall; it makes a difference."
And now the conversation dropped. Each of those three riders had his or
her hands full for the time. The fox in front of them was, indeed, a
straight-necked one. Save for the one turn which had given Kate a
second chance, he had gone straight as the crow flies since the find.
Save for a check of a short five minutes, the hounds had run almost as
if they were coursing him, and it was already a full half-hour since
the find, and the spire of Kempford church was now visible on the
right. At the back of Kempford village was a well-known drain, in which
more than one stout fox had found safety. For this reynard seemed to be
making, and to judge of the frequency with which each of the three
horses rattled their walls as they skimmed over them, his pursuers were
hardly likely to get there even if he was.
But between the Kempford drain and him there ran the deep and broad
stream of the Cheln, unfordable, and rarely, if ever, crossed (save by
a bridge) in the annals of fox-hunting. As the three neared the river,
they were (thanks to a lucky turn) in the same field with the hounds.
"By Jove, there he is," cried the "dealer," breaking silence for the
first time, and there, sure enough, dragging his gallant but draggled
person up the bank opposite was poor "pug," in full view of the pack.
No otter hounds ever took water more savagely than did old Monitor and
his comrades, almost whining with impatience to close with their
"Kate, for God's sake, don't try it," cried Vernon.
It was too late; the old horse had already been driven in, and the
first woman who ever swam a horse across the Cheln was already battling
with the stream, her lips hard set, her grey-blue eyes full of fire,
and her whole face recalling vividly for the moment, in spite of its
natural softness, the stern outlines of those ancestors whose war-worn
profiles adorned the long galleries of the Hall.
It was a difficult swim, but old Joe's limbs were borne up bravely by
the brave heart within, and it was not till long after the dripping
habit had been dried that it occurred to Kate that, like Lord Cardigan,
she had forgotten that she could not swim.
The M.F.H. and his cousin were now the only two left with the hounds,
and in front of them rose, perhaps, the worst fence in the Gonaway
country, a stiff stone wall, the stones all firmly morticed, and on the
top a row of rough-edged slabs set on end like the teeth of a saw.
Under the take-off side ran a deep, little stream, nowhere less than
six feet wide, and even at that the banks were undermined and unsafe.
The cousins were alongside in the field which this mantrap bounded.
Every atom of colour had left her cheeks now, and her lips were white
with pain. Had George's whole heart and mind not been in the chase, he
must have seen, and insisted on her returning home. As it was, he only
said, "They've killed him, Kate; I must have it and save a bit of the
best fox I ever hunted." And if hounds' tongues could be believed, they
had indeed at last pulled the gallant old fox down, though the rugged
piece of masonry before alluded to hid the pack from view.
"Is there no other way, George?"
"No, don't you follow me; go back by the lane and I'll bring you the
brush if I can save it."
So saying, the master turned his horse and set himself at the place
where the wall looked lowest. Kate had been bred in a hunting country,
but truth to tell, her heart hung on that leap.
"One thrust to his hat and two to the sides of his brown," and then he
shot to the front, seat steady and hands well down. Right bravely the
horse rose at the leap, but the bank broke as he rose, his knees caught
the coping stone with a jarring thud, and man and horse lay stunned on
the other side.
To the wild cry of "George, George!" no answer came back, and then it
was for the first time that poor Kate knew how irretrievably her heart
had been lost to her dashing cousin.
To gallop to the gate was useless, though she essayed it. The gate was
six barred and locked, moreover, the wall and its guarding stream still
ran on beyond the gate. Kate had lost her head and her heart, but not
"Just one more try, Joe," she whispered, and with a rush that seemed
born of the last energies of a gallant heart the brave old horse faced
and cleared the coping stone. Many fresh horses might have cleared that
wall; but they talk of that leap still in Gonaway. Nearly five feet of
hard stone and a biggish brook in front was no small feat, they say,
for a tired horse, even with bonny Kate Lowry on his back.
Under the wall lay the grey, stone dead, and under him George Vernon,
his white face looking up at the sky now darkly bright with the frost
of a November evening.
How Kate got her cousin from under his horse and watched the colour
creep back to his bronzed cheek, no one knows, for she kept these
things in her own sweet heart, but it was late in the evening that a
party sent out to search met an old woman leading along a donkey cart,
on which lay poor Vernon, his leg and collar bone broken, while beside
him sat a lady, her face white with pain, which her colour alone
betrayed, and after them came a yokel leading old Joe, and followed by
the best pack in Ireland.
The day had one more event in store for the villagers of Kempford.
Arrived at the inn, Kate Lowry did what no Lowry had ever been known to
do before—she fainted. On recovering, she shame-facedly exclaimed, "I
think I must have broken something when I fell at the beginning of the
run, and it has hurt me rather ever since."
She had broken something. No more nor less than three ribs; but if she
had refused a humble prayer made to her three weeks later she would
have broken something more important—"the heart" of the M.F.H. for
Gonaway, who to this day may be heard to declare "that there is no
pluck like a woman's, and I ought to know, for I married the pluckiest
girl in old Ireland."