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A Busy Year at the Old Squire's by C. A. Stephens

We saw one of the Percherons near the Morgan


But

the absent ones did not come. Ellen ventured the opinion that they might have jumped the fence and wandered off.

"Oh, they wouldn't separate up here in the woods," Addison said. "Colts keep together when off in a back pasture like this."

But when he went on calling and they still did not come, we began really to fear that they had got out and strayed.

"Let's go round the fence," Addison said at last, "and see if we find a gap, or hoofprints on the outside, where they have jumped over."

He and Theodora went one way, Ellen and I the other. We met halfway round the clearing without having discovered either gaps in the fence or tracks outside. Remembering that horses, when rolling, sometimes get cast in hollows between knolls, we searched the entire clearing, and even looked into the old barn, the door of which stood slightly ajar; but we found no trace of the missing animals and began to believe that they really had jumped out.

We gave the seven colts their salt and were about to start home to report to the old Squire when Ellen remarked that we had not actually looked among the alders down by the brook, where the colts went for water.

"Oh, but those colts would not stay down there by themselves all this time with us calling them!" Addison exclaimed.

justify;">"But let's just take a look, to be certain," Ellen replied, and she and I ran down there.

We had no more than pushed our way through the alder clumps when two crows rose silently and went flapping away; and then I caught sight of something that made me stop short: the body of one of the Morgan colts--our Lib--lying close to the brook!

"Oh!" gasped Ellen. "It's dead!"

Pushing on through the alders, we saw one of the Percherons near the Morgan. The sight affected Ellen so much that she turned back; but I went on and a little farther up the brook found the sorrel lying stark and stiff.

A moment later Ellen returned, with Addison and Theodora. Both girls were moved to tears as they gazed at poor Sylph; they felt even worse about her than about our own Morgan.

"Oh, what will Mrs. Kennard say?" Ellen cried. "How dreadfully she will feel!"

Addison closely examined the bodies of the colts. "I cannot understand what did it!" he exclaimed. "No marks. No blood. It wasn't wild animals. It couldn't have been lightning, for there hasn't been a thundershower this season. Must be something they've eaten."

We looked all along the brook, but could see no Indian poke, the fresh growths of which will poison stock. Nor had we ever seen ground hemlock or poisonous ivy there. The clearing was nearly all good, grassy upland such as farmers consider a safe pasturage. Truly the shadow of tragedy seemed to hover there.

We bore our sorrowful tidings home, and the old Squire was as much astonished and mystified as every one else. None of us had the heart either to carry the sad news or even to send word of it to Mrs. Kennard; but we notified the owner of the Percherons at once. He came to look into the matter the next morning.


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