THE OLD OSTLER. 63
forgot to put on the brake as we went down-hill, nor to take it off at the right place. He kept our feet on the smoothest part of the road, and if the uphill was very long, he set the carriage wheels a little across the road, so as not to run back, and gave us a breathing. All these little things h'elp a horse very much, particularly if he gets kind words into the bargain.
We stopped once or twice on the road, and just as the sun was going down we reached the town where we were to spend the night. We stopped at the principal hotel, which was in the market-place. It was a very large one. We drove under an archway into a long yard, at the further end of which were the stables and coach-houses. Two ostlers came to take us out. The head ostler was a pleasant, active little man, with a crooked leg and a yellow striped waistcoat. I never saw a man unbuckle harness so quickly as he did, and with a pat and a good word he led me to a long stable, with six or eight stalls in it and two or three horses. The other man brought Ginger. James stood by while we were rubbed down and cleaned.
I never was cleaned so lightly and quickly as by that little old man. When he had done, James stepped up and felt me over, as if he thought I could not be thoroughly done, but he found my coat as clean and smooth as silk.
" Well," he said, " I thought I was pretty quick, and our John quicker still, but you do beat all I ever saw for being quick and thorough at the same time."
" Practice makes perfect," said the crooked little ostler, " and 'twould be a pity if it didn't; forty years' practice, and not perfect! ha, ha! that would be a pity; and, as to being quick, why, bless you! that is only a matter of habit; if you get into the habit of being quick, it is just as easy as being slow; easier, I should say; in fact, it don't agree with my health to be hulking about over a job twice as long as it need take. Bless you! I couldn't whistle