DOUBTLESS a better horse never was made than the strawberry roan Jerry ! At least that is my own belief concerning the intelligent, affectionate animal, whose head is the head of a sage, and whose heart is, in Calabrian phrase, like a mountain. When I assert, in presence of men and of angels, that Jerry is the best and most beautiful of all the horses in the world, the men are apt to reply, with civil detraction, “ Well, that might be a matter of opinion,” or, “He appears to be a good, sound, honest horse. But I am sure that the angels, if they could be interpellated on the subject of Jerry, would recognize fully the noble qualities of his spirit, of which I catch delightful glimpses.
To come to plain facts: Jerry is a dark strawberry roan, with four long black stockings, in which he stands something over fifteen hands high. He is strongly built; not a showy animal, but well formed, with a deep chest and a fine head. His face is very attractive ; the brow is wide, and the eyes are extraordinarily large and lovely, with lids that have a charming curve toward the outer corner, such as is admired in portraits of the Empress Eugénie. The ears of Jerry are expressive, voluble, in their lively movements. He weighs about twelve hundred pounds ; the last hundred, they flatter me, is due to the sugar which, almost daily, he eats from my hand. When he first came to the stable he was thin from overwork, as one of a pair, in which partnership he did more than his half of the pulling. The roan’s nature, at once tender and energetic, had won me immediately, and my devotion crystallized into lumps of sugar. The hostlers assured me that the sugar was doing good to Jerry. “ Look,” they would say, “ how his barrel is filling out! ” And I, unteelinical but sympathizing, would stroke his silken sides, and murmur lovingly, “ Bless his dear sugar barrel! ”
In course of a year of petting Jerry became plump enough. He had gained one hundred pounds — and eaten as much sugar! He was a living proof of the oldfashioned housekeepers’ formula for preserving : “A pound of sugar to a pound of strawberry ” — roan.
Jerry is not really my horse, which renders it, perhaps, more permissible for me to boast concerning him. He is owned by the master of an excellent livery stable : his duty is to draw a coupé for any one who may hire it. But what does it matter that Jerry’s legs are at the command of the general public so long as his affections are mine ? Jerry performs his hours of hack work ; so do I. And then, like the good neighbors that we are, we have a refreshing interview, not uncheered by apples and sugar. We talk of so many things, exchanging whinnies and articulate words. A jeremiad no longer seems to me the synonym for dismal lamentation ; instead, I associate it with the nobly joyous neigh which Jerry, at the sound of my step or voice, launches into the air.
Jerry is the doyen of the stable. He is credited with great judiciousness, and has various privileges. He likes to roam about, visiting the other horses, touching them gently with his nose as if to ask after their welfare. He is also pleased to put that nose into the grain-bin for an extra mouthful. One day, when he was at the supplies, an hostler said to him, conversationally, as to another man, “ Jerry, will you let me come there a moment ? I want to get some grain for Dick.” Jerry quickly stepped aside, and waited until the measure was filled for Dick, then returned to thrust his nose again into the feed.
There is nothing mean about Jerry, not even when it is a question of food, which is for an animal the test of unselfishness that money is for mankind. And Jerry is gifted with an appetite that would have contented the old hostler in Lavengro. More than once Jerry has selected a small mouthful of hay, such as he hoped might suit a lady, and has offered it to me. I have thanked him, of course, but begged him to let me have the satisfaction of seeing him eat it instead, which he has obligingly and cheerfully done. One day Jerry was enjoying some slices of apple and lumps of sugar which I held before him in a basket. Across the stable yard stood a pair of iron-grays, high-spirited pets ; they gave each other a glance of intelligence, and then came prancing toward us. As they approached, Jerry raised his nose from the basket, and, withdrawing a step, invited Kitty and Dick to eat in his place. Then he caressed Kitty with his nose. But the lively mare soon overturned the basket. Somebody came and backed away the grays, while I picked up the remainder of the fruit and sugar, which, it is pleasant to remember, went to Jerry, after all. So it is that virtue is occasionally its own reward !
Another act of Jerry exhibited in a different way his thoughtfulness and abnegation. Just at that time the stall to the left of his was occupied by a horse not really vicious, but inclined to nip and to let off his heels. One day, when, as usual, I went to visit Jerry, he insisted on standing over to the near side, and would absolutely have me enter on the off side. This being contrary to equine good manners, I patted and reproved and coaxed Jerry, until — evidently against his own judgment — he yielded. The next day his actions were the same. I, however, had begun to believe that he had some good and sufficient reason, and in obedience to his wish I entered on the off side. The day after that, the nipping and eager horse was away, and Jerry willingly and at once admitted me on the near side. In short, while that horse was tenant of the neighboring stall Jerry saw to it that I was not in reach of the stranger’s teeth, putting himself between me and any possible harm. Sir Walter Raleigh in his famous cloak act did not show himself so chivalrous as did Jerry, a noble by grace of nature!
Later, there was in the contiguous stall a horse, pathetically humble and gentle, named Peter. He had been sent out of the city for the winter ; and, as often happens, the trust had been abused, so that poor Peter came home with the bones almost outside the skin, and the shoulders so stiff and rheumatic that it was feared lest he were ruined. The hostler, an expert Australian horseman, gave Peter the best care. Jerry and I did a little ornamental charity in the way of lumps of sugar, and the invalid soon began to extend his nose for a share of the treat. Peter recovered health and spirits. He showed affection for those who had befriended him : to the humans by whinnies and caresses ; to Jerry in cleverly aiding and abetting a little scheme of the astute roan. Several times, the men, on entering the stable, found Jerry at large, visiting his colleagues, helping himself to hay from the common stock, and making free with things in general. They were surprised to see that he was without the halter, which, as they led him into his box, they found knotted to its ring, while the empty headstall lay on the floor. It appeared like a case of witchcraft! But the Australian posted himself where he could watch Jerry, and at last saw the roan thrust Ins head over the partition which separated him from Peter. The recognizant Peter comprehended, and in a few moments succeeded in unbuckling with his teeth the strap of Jerry’s headstall. Then the roan shook his head and freed it, the headstall fell to the floor, and Jerry backed out for a raid on the hay. Nowadays lie is not tied ; instead, a rope passes behind him and is hooked into a staple. But Jerry will probably find out this combination, also.
If only it were possible for us to learn the language of horses ! Their speech is duplex : a vocal utterance, which they use to communicate with one another at a distance, or with those crude intelligences of mankind, and a mute transference of thought, which passes from the muzzle of one horse to that of another near to him.
One day Jerry had been temporarily removed from his box, in favor of an ailing horse who needed the extra space and comfort. I was at a loss where to look for my pet, and questioned, “ Where are you, Jerry ? ”
From a remote corner sounded Jerry’s rich, full baritone, vivace con affetto. I answered him, and again be whinnied. It was a game of “ magical music.” Guided by his repeated calls, I went to a stall in a dusky corner, and then remained a little uncertain. “ Is it truly you, Jerry ? ” He replied with a soft trilling note that was an invitation, a word of tenderness, an affidavit of his identity. I doubted no more, and, stretching forth a hand, felt my way along his smooth flanks up to the face that soon was rubbing against mine.
Since then the horses have been removed to another building, more spacious and better lighted. There is a large sliding door, which my force is insufficient to open. The first time that I visited Jerry in the new quarters the door was closed, and I was obliged to knock for admittance. The men did not hear. Then I called, Jerry, are you there ? ” Instantly his clear and resonant neigh replied from the depths of the stable. Again and again Jerry called, beating his hoofs, until an hostler came to see what was wanted, and noticed my rappings at the door. When it was opened Jerry continued to neigh, but diminished the tone as I came nearer; so that finally, when I entered his stall, his whinny was not louder than the coo of a wood pigeon.
Jerry responds cordially to caresses. He covers my hands with kisses, sometimes holding the fingers lightly between his teeth, while his tongue plays over the wrist. Once he had the caprice to set a solemn — and moist — kiss precisely upon my right ear. Another day I told him, “ If you will put your neck around my neck, I will put mine against yours.” The phrase was a little complicated, and Jerry gazed under his feed-box, where he always looks for inspiration. The idea emerged for him. Promptly his great neck fell on my left shoulder, then curled around to the right. He glanced at me with inquiry. “ Yes, good Jerry! ” Then he tightened his clasp until he had gathered my head into the curve of his throat.
If, in my presence, he is being harnessed, he fixes his eyes on me, and often is oblivious of any order unless repeated by me. He is always treated with the utmost gentleness by the whole personnel of the stable; as indeed is necessary, for, large and powerful as he is, Jerry is peculiarly sensitive both of skin and of mouth. The lightest touch upon the rein can guide him. Once, as he was being put to the coupe, he thought best to trot off. As I was near, I volunteered to stop the runaway, but was afraid of hurting his mouth by catching the bridle at one side. So Iran in front of him, — he was not trotting at a speed to break any record, — and threw my arms around his neck. “ Whoa. Jerry ! ” And he, with nose nestled against my shoulder, ambled amiably back to the expectant shafts.
Jerry’s character is various, decided, and individual. He is one of those rare personalities who make virtue picturesque and amusing; his goodness is healthful, quite unconscious of itself. When he works, he pulls for all he is worth. When he rests, he lies down in the stall ; and he could give lessons to the disciples of Delsarte in the art of complete relaxation and repose of every muscle, and in committing the whole weight to the floor, He requires more grain and hay than any other horse in the stable. His neigh is peculiarly deep - chested and sonorous. His vigor and patience are untiring.
These serious excellences of the good Jerry are enlivened by a sense of humor and by a marked dramatic talent. He is charming in his play ; what an injustice to the graceful sportiveness of the equines is the common definition of “ horse-play ” ! The sole occasion when Jerry went beyond the limit of the most perfect taste in his humorous doings was once when, in order to recall me from talking with his proprietor, he caught the tip of my finger between his teeth and bit it slightly. It is certain that he had carefully calculated the degree of pressure, not willing to hurt me. But it proved a little too strong for a delicate finger, and I was in duty bound to teach Jerry that he must not do so again. So I tapped his nose with the pinched finger, at the same time scolding him. In a moment the tears began to gather in his great kind eyes. It was the first time — and the last — that Jerry was ever blamed by me. All was forgiven, and discipline ended in caresses. Another day, Jerry’s tender heart was so grieved at the sad tones in which some disaster was discussed in his presence that his eyes grew moist, and the conversation was instantly changed to felicitation upon the fine condition of Jerry! He likes to be talked to, and has especial pleasure to hear his own name mentioned. He comprehends what is said, often to a surprising degree. Once I told him, in the stall, “ Jerry, the rope behind you is unhooked ; why don’t you go and take a drink of water ? ” He immediately quitted his box, went to the water-trough, and had a noble drink.
He is a favorite with all those who have to do with him. His owner testifies that Jerry has never needed the least correction ; although now and then it becomes necessary to tell him, in friendly argument, that there are errands which do not take him to my door. He is fond of the men who take care of him, and interrupts with many kisses the process of grooming or of harnessing him. He likes to lift the cap from a man’s head ; then, after giving it a little shake, he replaces it.
Jerry is an admirable comedian. Once, well meaning but misguided, I offered him some carrots. It was fine to see his scorn of the vegetable. He sniffed contemptuously, shook his head, tossed the carrots from the basket, and trampled upon them in a war dance. But it was told me that after I had left the stable Jerry picked up the carrots and ate them with good relish. It had been simply that he expected choicer gifts at my hands.
He owns a blanket and hood, goldcolor, and by me embroidered with his respected name. He is proud of it; and who knows what satisfaction he feels when, as he passes along the street, the populace, admiring, reads aloud. JERKY ! His self-esteem demands good clothes ; so much so that one day, as I came into the stable yard, Jerry told me, by means of whinnying, beating his hoofs, and shaking vigorously in his teeth the rather ancient blanket which had been hastily thrown over him. that he wanted his own cover, and not any common rag whatever! So his Australian friend kindly brought the embroidered robe, — observing, however, that Jerry had not protested until my arrival. Arrayed in his good blanket, Jerry looked around with pride, and caressed with his nose the hands that had attired him.
Another comedy, of which Jerry was stage manager, was a five-o’clock tea, admirably enacted. He had eaten all the apples and sugar from my dish-sliaped basket. Then he had a luminous idea : he would now be host instead of guest at the banquet. He took the edge of the basket in his teeth, and, with a polite bow, proffered it to the Australian. It was accepted with thanks. Then Jerry took it again, and, with another bow, presented the Barmecide feast to me. I had not assisted at social functions for nothing, and received his civilities with many compliments. The tea party lasted for several minutes. Jerry was quite impartial in his attentions, and the affair was most enjoyable to everybody concerned.
It is very tantalizing when Jerry turns upon me his beautiful eyes and whinnies half a dozen phrases with a charming variety of intonations. He is telling me something which I am greatly interested to hear; but the density of human nonintelligence is like a fog between Jerry’s mind and mine.
One morning he walked beside me, a courteous escort, talking of the fine weather and of the news of the day. “ What you say, Jerry,” I answered him, “is not only true, but also finely expressed. What a pity that I’m too stupid to understand it! ”
Another day, as I entered the yard, Jerry stood there harnessed. He immediately began the recital of some pleasant occurrence ; whinnying, moving his ears, and tossing his head with evident delight. One of the men came from the stable, and asked me, “Has Jerry told you the news ? ”
“ He has ; but I have not quite understood.”
“ He had his photograph taken this morning. A man with a camera came into the yard; and I said, Jerry is such a good horse he ought to have his picture taken. So we put on his best blanket, and he stood for his likeness. He was very pleased about it.”
On another occasion, Jerry, by means of his silent language, helped me out of a little dilemma of equine society. He had been eating fruit and sugar from my hands ; and in the basket there remained only a few hits of sugar, when one of our friends, a black horse, trotted up for a share of the treat. I knew by experience that the black liked apples, but not sugar ; so that there was nothing for him. “ I’m so sorry, Wally,” I told him, “ but Jerry lias eaten all the fruit, and you do not care for sugar. The next time you shall have a fine apple, if you will go away now.”
The black did not comprehend ; he kept gently pushing his nose against my shoulder. It was grievous to disappoint the good animal. With a sudden impulse I said to the roan, “You, Jerry, know both languages. Please tell Wally that I am very sorry that the apples are all eaten : but if he will go away now, in patience, to-morrow I will bring him a large red apple for himself.”
Jerry looked at me, as if to take the message; then approached his nose to that of Wally. It appeared to me that the current of intelligence was almost visible, — something as the warm air is seen to pass in transparent ripples along the outside of a heated iron pipe. The message repeated, Wally glanced pleasantly at me as if to accept the terms of my offer, and then trotted away. Needless to say that the next day he had the promised apple, and of the largest and reddest.
Another time Jerry took me in the coupe, on some errands. Whenever, in shopping or on paying visits, I leave the carriage, a regular fee of two lumps of sugar is due to Jerry. But that time he had met a friend, a horse whom I did not know, and they began at once to talk together intently, without a sound. When I offered the sugar, Jerry declined it. Supposing that his good manners might not permit him to eat alone, I invited the other horse to partake. He touched my fingers with a delicate salutation, as a friend of Jerry’s, but refused the sugar. Then Jerry gave me a reproving look which said plainly, “ When gentlemen are talking on business and politics, they do not wish to he interrupted by little women with lumps of sugar ! ” And I entered a shop quite repressed.
Jerry is a person of fastidious taste. For instance, when a box of bonbons is presented to me, it is a pleasure to give some of them to him. The first day, when they are fresh from the confectioner’s, Jerry adores the bonbons ; the second day he likes them well enough ; but after that he lets me know that they are become stale, flat, and unprofitable to his palate, while I, without criterion, still consider the candies very good.
Not to make the praise of Jerry an endless serial, to the exclusion of all other matter from the pages of The Atlantic Monthly, only one more story shall here he related about my dear horse. On a fine summer day it was proposed that there should be a picnic in honor of Jerry. The squire, immemorially a colleague of mine when fun is the order of the day, accompanied me in the coupé. The driver was that appreciative person who caused the roan to he photographed. Jerry should have an afternoon in the fields, — such a free scamper over the grass as he had not enjoyed since he left the Western prairies of his colthood. We took him to a meadow where were pastured some high-bred animals : a horse, and a mare and two fillies, one a yearling, and the other only a few months old. The field was ample, divided into two pastures by a deep railway cut, well fenced, and spanned by an arched bridge, also with sufficient railing, over which the horses could pass at will. The grass had been mowed, and was velvety and inviting. When Jerry was unharnessed, he at first looked around, not realizing that he was master to do as he pleased. He began to nibble the grass ; then it suddenly occurred to him that he was at liberty. With a joyous whinny, he flung himself on the turf, and rolled over and over in an abandon of comfort. The horizon seemed full of Jerry’s enraptured heels. Then he arose, and stood tranquil and dignified.
Meanwhile the equine aristocrats had noticed the new-comer. “ Is he eligible to our society ? What are the credentials of this Mr. Jerry Roan? Let us see.”
In a formal procession they approached him : first the horse, then the mare followed by her daughters. The horse rubbed his nose over Jerry; not rudely, but with the serious investigation which Jerry, as a horse of the world, would comprehend to be indispensable before he could he presented to the acquaintance of madam and the fillies. Jerry accepted the situation with the calm of an individual who knows himself worthy. The mare also sniffed daintily around Jerry’s head, and the little ones tried to imitate the ways of their mamma. Then the four aristocrats withdrew for a family council; their heads close together, their bodies radiating toward the four points of the compass. Jerry remained motionless, in an attitude of serene self-respect.
Soon, the others, in regular order of procession, returned to him. The horse rubbed his face against that of Jerry, and they embraced mutually with their necks ; the mare saluted him as befitted “the lady of the herd,” and then she pushed forward her fdlies to receive a kiss from the new friend of the family. Mr. Jerry Roan was voted persona grata. Although he had not his pedigree with him at the moment, his innate nobility had accredited itself. The five horses, abreast, set out for a gallop across the meadow, and Jerry led the van ! He seemed another horse from the steady, businesslike animal of his workadays.
That was a delicious afternoon for Jerry, and for us who enjoyed the sight of his pleasure. He did a thousand charming things. He brought the yearling up to me and requested sugar for two. He challenged the horse to a race, and easily won. Whenever an engine came puffing through the railway cut, Jerry — one of whose virtues it is to stand undisturbed amid a confusion of trains at a station —dramatized himself as a wild steed of the plains, uttered a scream better than that of a locomotive, and led the herd flying off in a delicious panic of feigned terror. When supper was served to the other horses, Jerry was kindly invited to join them at the grain.
When the happy afternoon was ended, and it was time for Jerry to be harnessed again, he was in the upper field with the other horses; and our driver went to bring him to the lower pasture, where the squire and I, near the coupe, awaited him. As Jerry crossed the bridge, he understood that his picnic was finished. He paused for an instant on the centre of the arch. He was magnificent: a dark silhouette against the pale golden sky, prancing, with head flung up and mane streaming on the air. He gave one great epic shout, of recognition of the pleasure that had been his, of farewell to the other horses ; his superb cry echoed far over the quiet space of the fields.
It was not easy for Jerry to resign himself to be put to the carriage. The driver had much to do to harness him ; the squire held him with a strong hand by the bridle, while I aided materially by caressing Jerry’s face and giving him a lump of sugar whenever he plunged. Then it was that I learned the literal meaning of “ a fiery-nostriled steed.” In each of Jerry’s nostrils, quivering and distended, there was like a live coal, reddening as every heartbeat sent the generous blood through his veins.
In that afternoon we had witnessed the splendid possibilities of Jerry. He had displayed his latent speed and beauty of motion. He had made his own apotheosis. Having thus gloriously asserted himself, he settled down again to his business of drawing the coupd back to the city. But for days afterward, whenever I entered his stall, Jerry would fling up his head and prance in a reminiscent manner. “ We had a fine picnic, had n’t we, Jerry ? And then he would kiss my hands as if to thank me for having planned the excursion for his pleasure.
Whoever has cared to read this record of Jerry’s traits, and has done me the honor to recognize my intent to show how distinct a personality is this dear horse, will like to know that Jerry and I shall never lose sight of each other. Jerry is now about twelve years old, — the very fullness of vigor for a horse who, like him, has always been well treated,—and he will be happy with his present owner and employment for some years to come. Then, when the eoupd is a little too heavy for him and he begins to grow old, he is to be altogether mine. "I know a bank ” where is hoarded a railroad bond, earned by the writing of fiction (this sketch of Jerry, however, is no fiction, but the truth about him) : that bond, then, will purchase him and go toward his maintenance. For Jerry and I shall keep near each other as long as we live ; and his latter days shall be as happy as those of his colthood, if affection and money can make them so. If he should survive me, he will have an annuity, suitably secured for his benefit; gained by the pen that seems never ready to cease from praising him, good Jerry the roan.