:
BROGUE
Category: Love Letters
The hunting season had come to an end, and the Mullets had not succeeded
in selling the Brogue.  There had been a kind of tradition in the family
for the past three or four years, a sort of fatalistic hope, that the
Brogue would find a purchaser before the hunting was over; but seasons
came and went without anything happening to justify such ill-founded
optimism.  The animal had been named Berserker in the earlier stages of
its career; it had been rechristened the Brogue later on, in recognition
of the fact that, once acquired, it was extremely difficult to get rid
of.  The unkinder wits of the neighbourhood had been known to suggest
that the first letter of its name was superfluous.  The Brogue had been
variously described in sale catalogues as a light-weight hunter, a lady's
hack, and, more simply, but still with a touch of imagination, as a
useful brown gelding, standing 15.1.  Toby Mullet had ridden him for four
seasons with the West Wessex; you can ride almost any sort of horse with
the West Wessex as long as it is an animal that knows the country.  The
Brogue knew the country intimately, having personally created most of the
gaps that were to be met with in banks and hedges for many miles round.
His manners and characteristics were not ideal in the hunting field, but
he was probably rather safer to ride to hounds than he was as a hack on
country roads.  According to the Mullet family, he was not really road-
shy, but there were one or two objects of dislike that brought on sudden
attacks of what Toby called the swerving sickness.  Motors and cycles he
treated with tolerant disregard, but pigs, wheelbarrows, piles of stones
by the roadside, perambulators in a village street, gates painted too
aggressively white, and sometimes, but not always, the newer kind of
beehives, turned him aside from his tracks in vivid imitation of the
zigzag course of forked lightning.  If a pheasant rose noisily from the
other side of a hedgerow the Brogue would spring into the air at the same
moment, but this may have been due to a desire to be companionable.  The
Mullet family contradicted the widely prevalent report that the horse was
a confirmed crib-biter.

It was about the third week in May that Mrs. Mullet, relict of the late
Sylvester Mullet, and mother of Toby and a bunch of daughters, assailed
Clovis Sangrail on the outskirts of the village with a breathless
catalogue of local happenings.

"You know our new neighbour, Mr. Penricarde?" she vociferated; "awfully
rich, owns tin mines in Cornwall, middle-aged and rather quiet.  He's
taken the Red House on a long lease and spent a lot of money on
alterations and improvements.  Well, Toby's sold him the Brogue!"

Clovis spent a moment or two in assimilating the astonishing news; then
he broke out into unstinted congratulation.  If he had belonged to a more
emotional race he would probably have kissed Mrs. Mullet.

"How wonderfully lucky to have pulled it off at last!  Now you can buy a
decent animal.  I've always said that Toby was clever.  Ever so many
congratulations."

"Don't congratulate me.  It's the most unfortunate thing that could have
happened!" said Mrs. Mullet dramatically.

Clovis stared at her in amazement.

"Mr. Penricarde," said Mrs. Mullet, sinking her voice to what she
imagined to be an impressive whisper, though it rather resembled a
hoarse, excited squeak, "Mr. Penricarde has just begun to pay attentions
to Jessie.  Slight at first, but now unmistakable.  I was a fool not to
have seen it sooner.  Yesterday, at the Rectory garden party, he asked
her what her favourite flowers were, and she told him carnations, and to-
day a whole stack of carnations has arrived, clove and malmaison and
lovely dark red ones, regular exhibition blooms, and a box of chocolates
that he must have got on purpose from London.  And he's asked her to go
round the links with him to-morrow.  And now, just at this critical
moment, Toby has sold him that animal.  It's a calamity!"

"But you've been trying to get the horse off your hands for years," said
Clovis.

"I've got a houseful of daughters," said Mrs. Mullet, "and I've been
trying--well, not to get them off my hands, of course, but a husband or
two wouldn't be amiss among the lot of them; there are six of them, you
know."

"I don't know," said Clovis, "I've never counted, but I expect you're
right as to the number; mothers generally know these things."

"And now," continued Mrs. Mullet, in her tragic whisper, "when there's a
rich husband-in-prospect imminent on the horizon Toby goes and sells him
that miserable animal.  It will probably kill him if he tries to ride it;
anyway it will kill any affection he might have felt towards any member
of our family.  What is to be done?  We can't very well ask to have the
horse back; you see, we praised it up like anything when we thought there
was a chance of his buying it, and said it was just the animal to suit
him."

"Couldn't you steal it out of his stable and send it to grass at some
farm miles away?" suggested Clovis; "write 'Votes for Women' on the
stable door, and the thing would pass for a Suffragette outrage.  No one
who knew the horse could possibly suspect you of wanting to get it back
again."

"Every newspaper in the country would ring with the affair," said Mrs.
Mullet; "can't you imagine the headline, 'Valuable Hunter Stolen by
Suffragettes'?  The police would scour the countryside till they found
the animal."

"Well, Jessie must try and get it back from Penricarde on the plea that
it's an old favourite.  She can say it was only sold because the stable
had to be pulled down under the terms of an old repairing lease, and that
now it has been arranged that the stable is to stand for a couple of
years longer."

"It sounds a queer proceeding to ask for a horse back when you've just
sold him," said Mrs. Mullet, "but something must be done, and done at
once.  The man is not used to horses, and I believe I told him it was as
quiet as a lamb.  After all, lambs go kicking and twisting about as if
they were demented, don't they?"

"The lamb has an entirely unmerited character for sedateness," agreed
Clovis.

Jessie came back from the golf links next day in a state of mingled
elation and concern.

"It's all right about the proposal," she announced; "he came out with it
at the sixth hole.  I said I must have time to think it over.  I accepted
him at the seventh."

"My dear," said her mother, "I think a little more maidenly reserve and
hesitation would have been advisable, as you've known him so short a
time.  You might have waited till the ninth hole."

"The seventh is a very long hole," said Jessie; "besides, the tension was
putting us both off our game.  By the time we'd got to the ninth hole
we'd settled lots of things.  The honeymoon is to be spent in Corsica,
with perhaps a flying visit to Naples if we feel like it, and a week in
London to wind up with.  Two of his nieces are to be asked to be
bridesmaids, so with our lot there will be seven, which is rather a lucky
number.  You are to wear your pearl grey, with any amount of Honiton lace
jabbed into it.  By the way, he's coming over this evening to ask your
consent to the whole affair.  So far all's well, but about the Brogue
it's a different matter.  I told him the legend about the stable, and how
keen we were about buying the horse back, but he seems equally keen on
keeping it.  He said he must have horse exercise now that he's living in
the country, and he's going to start riding to-morrow.  He's ridden a few
times in the Row, on an animal that was accustomed to carry octogenarians
and people undergoing rest cures, and that's about all his experience in
the saddle--oh, and he rode a pony once in Norfolk, when he was fifteen
and the pony twenty-four; and to-morrow he's going to ride the Brogue!  I
shall be a widow before I'm married, and I do so want to see what
Corsica's like; it looks so silly on the map."

Clovis was sent for in haste, and the developments of the situation put
before him.

"Nobody can ride that animal with any safety," said Mrs. Mullet, "except
Toby, and he knows by long experience what it is going to shy at, and
manages to swerve at the same time."

"I did hint to Mr. Penricarde--to Vincent, I should say--that the Brogue
didn't like white gates," said Jessie.

"White gates!" exclaimed Mrs. Mullet; "did you mention what effect a pig
has on him?  He'll have to go past Lockyer's farm to get to the high
road, and there's sure to be a pig or two grunting about in the lane."

"He's taken rather a dislike to turkeys lately," said Toby.

"It's obvious that Penricarde mustn't be allowed to go out on that
animal," said Clovis, "at least not till Jessie has married him, and
tired of him.  I tell you what: ask him to a picnic to-morrow, starting
at an early hour; he's not the sort to go out for a ride before
breakfast.  The day after I'll get the rector to drive him over to
Crowleigh before lunch, to see the new cottage hospital they're building
there.  The Brogue will be standing idle in the stable and Toby can offer
to exercise it; then it can pick up a stone or something of the sort and
go conveniently lame.  If you hurry on the wedding a bit the lameness
fiction can be kept up till the ceremony is safely over."

Mrs. Mullet belonged to an emotional race, and she kissed Clovis.

It was nobody's fault that the rain came down in torrents the next
morning, making a picnic a fantastic impossibility.  It was also nobody's
fault, but sheer ill-luck, that the weather cleared up sufficiently in
the afternoon to tempt Mr. Penricarde to make his first essay with the
Brogue.  They did not get as far as the pigs at Lockyer's farm; the
rectory gate was painted a dull unobtrusive green, but it had been white
a year or two ago, and the Brogue never forgot that he had been in the
habit of making a violent curtsey, a back-pedal and a swerve at this
particular point of the road.  Subsequently, there being apparently no
further call on his services, he broke his way into the rectory orchard,
where he found a hen turkey in a coop; later visitors to the orchard
found the coop almost intact, but very little left of the turkey.

Mr. Penricarde, a little stunned and shaken, and suffering from a bruised
knee and some minor damages, good-naturedly ascribed the accident to his
own inexperience with horses and country roads, and allowed Jessie to
nurse him back into complete recovery and golf-fitness within something
less than a week.

In the list of wedding presents which the local newspaper published a
fortnight or so later appeared the following item:

"Brown saddle-horse, 'The Brogue,' bridegroom's gift to bride."

"Which shows," said Toby Mullet, "that he knew nothing."

"Or else," said Clovis, "that he has a very pleasing wit."



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