MARCO had a ride, at one time, during his travels along the canal, which interested him very much, though it ended rather disastrously. The circumstances were these.
It was at the time while he and Forester were stopping to spend the night at a small town on the line of the canal, when they were returning toward the Hudson river. They spent the night at the town, in order to have a more comfortable bed to sleep in than the berths of the packet. They were intending to take the boat again in the morning after breakfast. They found, however, on inquiring, that it would be two or three hours before the boat would come along. The question then arose, what they should do in the mean time.
"I vote to stay in the house and read," said Forester.
"And I vote to go out and take a walk and see the canal, " said Marco. "We will draw lots for it," said Forester.
"Well," replied Marco; "I will make the lots."
"Oh, we don't need any actual lots," said Forester. "Go to the window and look out, and if the first thing that you see is a dog, you get it, and if it is a horse I get it."
Marco ran to the window. He looked this way and that, up and down the street, as far as he could see, but there was neither a dog nor a horse in view.
"Wait there then," said Forester, "until one or the other comes along. In the mean time I will be reading the newspapers."
Marco was not obliged to wait long. It happened very curiously that a wagoner was coming by pretty soon, who had two horses and a dog. He kept the dog to watch his wagon when he left it in the streets, or in the tavernyard, at night. Now, as this wagon came into view before the window where Marco was sitting, the dog was walking along underneath it.
"It's a dog ! It's a dog !" said Marco, clapping his hands.
Forester looked up from his reading, and saw the wagon and the dog. The dog was walking very demurely beneath the wagon, little dreaming what consequences were pending upon his presence there.
"Yes," said Forester, "there is a dog, but there are horses too."
"Never mind," said Marco, "they all came along together."
"I think the horses came first," said Forester.
Marco laughed, but did not reply. Presently he called out to Forester, saying,
"Here is a line-boat coming along the canal. I wish, cousin Forester, that you would let me go and see if the boy won't give me a ride a little way on his horse."
"That will hardly do, I am afraid," said Forester, talking half to himself, as he went on reading his paper.
"I should like to be a canal-boy," said Marco. "I should be riding all the time." Forester made no reply.
"Cousin Forester," said Marco, "I wish that you would let me go and get a ride on that horse."
"No," said Forester, "but this I will do. If you will go out and hire two good saddle-horses, we will both go and take a ride."
Marco appeared extremely delighted at this proposal. He took his cap and sallied forth immediately to find the horses. The landlord of the tavern had one horse which he said that they might have; and he recommended to Marco to go to a certain Mr. Ball, who kept a stable for the canal-boat horses, to get another. Marco accordingly went in pursuit of Mr. Ball's.
After meeting with various adventures in finding the place, Marco came at length to a sort of street near the side of the canal, where there were a great many small shops and stores. From some of these buildings there issued the sound of a great deal of pounding and hammering. Marco came at length to a great stable door, over which was the sign, D. BALL, STABLING FOR HORSES.
"This is the place," said Marco to himself, and he walked in.
In the middle of the stable floor a groom was at work rubbing down a canal-boat horse, which seemed to have just come in. Another horse was standing near, waiting, apparently, for his turn. There was a door at one side which led into a little office where there was a desk. There was a rough-looking man standing in this door. His feet were set apart in the door-way, and his hands were in his pockets as if he had nothing to do but to keep people from going into the office.
The man surveyed Marco with rather a disdainful air as he entered, and then said,
" Well, Bob, and what do you want ?"
"My name is not Bob," said Marco. "I don't see what makes every body call me Bob."
The man make no reply to this, though his stern features relaxed into some semblance of a smile.
"Is Mr. Ball here ?" said Marco. "I want to see Mr. Ball."
"And what do you want of Mr. Ball ?" said the man. "They call me Ball sometimes."
"I want to get a horse," said Marco.
"A horse !" replied Mr. Ball. "You are not old enough to be trusted with a horse." So saying, Mr. Ball began to survey Marco from head to foot with a look of contempt.
Marco, without appearing to be much daunted by his uncivil reception, went on to explain to Mr. Ball, that he and his cousin Forester had been spending the night at the tavern, and that they were going away by the next boat; that in the mean time, as they were to have about two hours to spare, they proposed to go and take a ride, and that they had obtained one horse at the tavern, and now wanted another. Mr. Ball heard all this story in silence, looking intently at Marco all the time, and remaining immovably in the same position as at first. While Marco had been speaking, the groom had stopped his work, and he now stood, with his brush in his hand, looking toward Marco and Mr. Ball, as if waiting for Mr. Ball's decision.
When Marco had finished his statement, Mr. Ball paused a moment, still looking at Marco, and then said to the groom, "Give him Pompey."
Saying this, he turned round, went into the office, and sat down at the desk.
The groom led Pompey out of his stall, watered him, put on the saddle and bridle, and helped Marco to get on his back. Marco, feeling quite pleased at the success of his negotiation, rode out of the stable door, and then turned toward the tavern. The horse trotted briskly with him through the streets, and he was soon at the tavern door. One of the windows was open in the room where Marco had left Forester reading. Marco rode up before this window, and leaning down, he looked in.
"Forester," said he, "look here !"
Forester looked up and seemed quite surprised to find that Marco was actually mounted. He put his paper down immediately and came out. In a short time the other horse was saddled and bridled, and Forester was mounted upon him. The two riders then took their way together out of the tavern yard.
"Which way shall we go?" asked Marco.
"I propose that we go up on the hills," said Forester, "and get a view of the whole valley."
"And I propose," said Marco, " that we ride along in the tow-path of the canal, and see the boats."
"And how shall we decide which to do?" asked Forester.
"Can't we do both ?" asked Marco.
"No," replied Forester; "there will not be time for both. I will tell you what we will do. You shall take the direction of the ride until we meet a dog, and then I will take the direction the rest of the time."
"Oh, no," said Marco, "that will not be fair: for we shall meet a dog very soon, I know, and then my direction will be ended at once."
"Then I will take the direction," said Forester, "until we meet a dog, and after that you shall have it." " Agreed," said Marco.
" Then come, follow me," said Forester.
So saying, Forester turned his horse in a direction away from the village, by a road which just at this point opened before him on the right hand, and which seemed to lead of among the hills.
"I want to get out of the way of all dogs," continued Forester, "as soon as I can."
Marco laughed, and he and Forester trotted on along a very pleasant road, having a farm. house with all its sheds, barns and yards on one side, and the woods upon the other. The road soon began to ascend, winding at the same time through very picturesque and beautiful scenery.
"How pleasant it is here," said Forester; "I hope we shall not meet any dogs, I am sure, for then I suppose that you would turn immediately about, and go back to the canal."
"I don't know," replied Marco. "Perhaps I should keep on here. I like this road very much."
Presently they came to a long hill where the road ascended in a winding direction, with forests on either hand. On one side, concealed in the depths of the forest, there was a brook running along a wild and rocky bed, at the bottom of a deep ravine. Marco and Forester could hear the sound of the water, but they could not see the stream itself, so dense was the foliage by which it was hidden.
"I mean to get off," said Marco, "and walk up this hill."
"I advise you not to do any such thing," said Forester.
"Why not ?" asked Marco.
"Why I hardly know why not," said Forester, hesitating. "I have a sort of an idea that it is not wise. You will run a great many small risks by getting off."
"What risks ?" asked Marco.
"Why, you may fall and hurt yourself in dismounting," replied Forester; "then perhaps your horse will get away, or you may not be able to get on again."
" No," said Marco, "I can get of without falling, I am sure. Then I can keep hold of the bridle all the time, and so prevent the horse from getting away. And when I get to the top of the hill I can lead him up to the side of the fence, or up to some great stone, and so get on again."
"Well," said Forester, "you can do as you please. Perhaps you will not meet with any mishap. Though I have generally found that when we are dealing with horses the best way is go forward pretty steadily, and with as few experiments and changes as possible."
Marco, who was always restless and fond of change, concluded, since Forester did not absolutely forbid his dismounting, to carry his original plan into effect. So he stopped the horse in the road, loosened his feet from the stirrup, and throwing his right leg over the horse behind him, so as to bring both legs on the same side, and then grasping the saddle with both hands, he slid down safely to the ground. He then called out to Forester, who had in the mean time gone on a little before him, saying,
"See ! Forester."
Forester looked around, smiled, and said,
"Yes," said Marco. "I want to walk up the hill; and besides, I am going to get a new switch out of the bushes."
"A new switch !" said Forester. "I advise you to be very careful. Getting new switches with a strange horse, is a very specially hazardous business."
Forester had been slowly riding on, during this conversation, up the hill, Marco following him and leading his horse by the bridle. Presently he let go the bridle for a moment, -- having his hand, however, all ready to grasp it in a moment, if the horse should make any movement indicating a design to run away. But Pompey walked steadily on with the most honest and innocent expression of countenance that could be imagined.
"See, Forester," said Marco. "Pompey is walking along by himself, without my holding him at all."
Forester turned round, and looked somewhat doubtfully, and yet with a smile upon his countenance, at this proof of Pompey's docility.
After a time Marco took hold of the bridle again and threw it over, of the horse's neck, and then passed his arm through it. He thought that in this way he could hold the horse more conveniently while he was cutting his switch. He led the horse accordingly out to one side of the road, so far that with the bridle on his arm he could reach and pull down a slender branch of a birch-tree which was growing near the wall. He took his knife out his pocket and began to cut the switch off. Pompey paid no attention to these proceedings, but putting down his head, began quietly to crop the grass by the roadside, while Marco finished cutting his switch. Marco then returned to the middle of the road again, and began to go up the hill.
Forester had reached the top of the hill already, and was waiting there for Marco. It was a wild and picturesque place, with rocks upon one side of the road and woods upon the other. There was an opening among the hills in one direction, through which there was to be seen a beautiful view of the valley below. Forester was admiring this prospect, as he sat upon his horse, and was endeavoring to trace the line of the canal along the valley.
Marco came walking up the hill by the side of the horse, and every now and then he would let go the bridle for a minute or two, and allow the horse to walk alone. Presently he began to walk a little before, leaving the horse to follow him like a dog. He felt more and more confidence in Pompey at every step, and when he came near the top of the hill he called out to Forester to see, saying,
"There is no danger of his getting away, at all. He will follow me just like a dog. Whoa !"
As Marco said "Whoa," he turned round and looked Pompey full in the face with a very authoritative air. Pompey stopped immediately. "Now come along again !" said Marco.
Marco moved forward as he said this, expecting Pompey to follow him; but Pompey did not move.
Marco turned round to repeat his command, but just then the thought of going home to his stable happened to come into Pompey's mind; and he accordingly began to turn too at the same instant. Marco made a hasty effort to seize the bridle, but in vain. The horse shook his head and trotted on a few steps down the hill.
"Forester ! Forester !" exclaimed Marco. "Come quick ! The horse is getting away."
Forester, who had been sitting upon his horse at the top of the hill all this time looking on, was afraid to advance suddenly toward Pompey, lest it should make him run away the faster. "
"Softly ! softly ! Marco," said he.
Marco walked along after the horse. The horse turned his head and looked at him, but continued to walk down the hill. Marco followed him, but Pompey went faster and faster, and presently began to trot, and was soon wholly lost to view.
Marco was very much chagrined at this result of his experiments upon Pompey's docility. In fact he was at first quite frightened, but Forester told him that there was no great harm done.
"The horse will go directly down to his stable, I presume," said he, "and we shall find him safe there when we get down."
Marco was much relieved when he found that Forester, instead of reproaching him for his foolishness, spoke kindly to him, in respect to the affair. In fact Forester thought that Marco would be sufficiently punished by his own mortification, without any harsh words from him. So he said,
"Never mind it, Marco. You have only lost a part of your ride. And now you can have your choice either to walk back to the village, or ride back behind me."
"Well," said Marco, "let me get up behind you."
So Forester drove his horse up to a great stone by the side of the road, and there Marco succeeded in mounting behind him; and thus they went back to the village, riding double.