Horses go down the dingy lane,
But never a horse comes up again.
The greasy yard where the red hides lie
Marks the place where the horses die.
Wheat was sinking year by year,
I bought things cheap, I sold them dear;
Rent was heavy and taxes high,
And a weary-hearted man was I.
In Lindisfaire I walked my grounds,
I hadn’t the heart to ride to hounds;
And as I walked in black despair,
I saw my old bay hunter there.
He tried to nuzzle against my cheek,
He looked the grief he could not speak;
But no caress came back again,
For harder times make harder men.
My thoughts were set on stable rent,
On money saved and money spent,
On weekly bills for forage lost,
And all the old bay hunter cost.
For though a flier in the past,
His days of service long were past,
His gait was stiff, his eyes were dim,
And I could find no use for him.
I turned away with heart of gloom,
And sent for Will, my father’s groom,
The old, old groom, whose worn-out face
Was like the fortune of our race.
I gave my order sharp and hard,
“Go, ride him to the knacker’s yard;
He’ll fetch two pounds, it may be three;
Sell him, and bring the price to me.”
I saw the old groom wince away,
He looked the thoughts he dared not say;
Then from his fob he slowly drew
A leather pouch of faded hue.
“Master,” said he, “my means are small,
This purse of leather holds them all;
But I have neither kith nor kin,
I’ll pay your price for Prince’s skin.
“My brother rents the Nether Farm,
And he will hold him safe from harm
In the great field where he may graze,
And see the finish of his days.”
With dimming eyes I saw him stand,
Two pounds were in his shaking hand;
I gave a curse to drown the sob,
And thrust the purse within his fob.
“May God do this and more to me
If we should ever part, we three,
Master and horse and faithful friend,
We’ll share together to the end!”
You’ll think I’m playing it on you,
I give my word the thing is true;
I hadn’t hardly made the vow,
Before I heard a view-halloo.
And, looking round, whom should I see,
But Bookie Johnson hailing me;
Johnson, the man who bilked the folks
When Ethelrida won the Oaks.
He drew a wad from out his vest,
“Here are a thousand of the best;
Luck’s turned a bit with me of late,
And, as you see, I’m getting straight.”
That’s all. My luck was turning too;
If you have nothing else to do,
Run down some day to Lindisfaire,
You’ll find the old bay hunter there.