Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/100

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"You always want good horses, Jem! Now you shall have your way.
Try these new beauties, for we sold your old team yesterday."

O'er clean-cut limb and sloping flank, arched neck and tossing head,
I marked Jem run his practised eye, though not a word he said;
Yet, as he clambered to his seat, and took the reins once more,
I saw a look upon his face it had not worn before.

The hostler open flung the gates. "Now, Tempest, show your pace,"
He cried, and with a careless hand he struck the leader's face.
The horse, beneath the sportive blow, reared as if poison-stung;
And, with his panic-stricken mates, to a mad gallop sprung.

We thundered through the gate, and out upon the stony road;
From side to side the great coach lurched, with all its priceless load:
Some cried aloud for help, and some, with terror-frozen tongue,
Clung, bruised and faint in every limb, the weaker to the strong.

And men who oft had looked on death, unblanched, by flood or field,
When every nerve to do and dare by agony was steeled,
Now moaned aloud, or gnashed their teeth in helpless rage,
To die, at whim of maddened brutes, like vermin in a cage!

Too well, alas! too well I knew the awful way we went,—
The little stretch of level road, and then the steep descent;
The boiling stream that seethed and roared far down the rocky ridge,
With death, like old Horatius, grim waiting at the bridge!