It wasnâ€™t yet autumn when we first met. Oh, to be sure it felt like autumn that late August day. The leaden sky was heavy with unfallen rain, the air was still as though awaiting a signal from above before beginning to sweep the early fallen leaves from beneath the trees. The quarter mile walk from my front porch to the mailbox and back left me wet and fatigued. No it was not yet autumn, but autumn was certainly in the air.
When the rain came, soon after I returned to my porch, I sat and watched. The wind had some moments before picked up and was busily sweeping the leaves into the drive, swirling them about in such a playful manner that I was tempted to abandon my duties and frolic among them. But alas, such was not possible. I had promised to be done husking the corn before Anna began preparing supper for the crew. This was not a favorite task, but it did help to pass the time while I awaited the arrival of my master and his new bride.
We did not speak, that day, though we did exchange glances and even a smile or two. Nor did we speak the next day or even the day following. Such a thing simply was not allowed. The master would have been most displeased.
I knew the horse she was riding, she had been in years past a show horse, all decked out with braided mane and tail, tied with brightly colored ribbons. That day though she had been long retired from the show circuit and served as a casual mount for hire. She was a proud beast still with her head held high. Still she had a look of doom about her, as though she knew her days were numbered and soon her master would send her away to be slaughtered.
I held her reigns as her passenger slipped to the ground aided by my master. As I led her to the stables she tugged playfully at her constraints. She wanted one last frolic in the green pasture before accepting her fate. As I removed her gear she nudged my hand, reminding me that I should move quickly to release her. I knew my master would be displeased for my having let her run free for a few moments before leading her to her stall in the stable, but on this point I cared little.
Once in the stable I dried and groomed her, gave her a ration of oats and hay and watched as she began her meal. I was quite pleased that the master was otherwise occupied.
Nearly three weeks passed before I first spoke to the mistress, and then only in response to her question about how the old mare was doing. Some days later she came into the stable as I was tending the horses. We didnâ€™t speak that day either, but I understood the purpose of her visit. As time passed, I saw her more frequently, in the gardens, the stables and even sometimes on the porch. We began to talk more freely. The master spent much time away, leaving the management of the estate to his bride. Often he was away for months at a time, even before his marriage. I wondered at this, thinking that surely now that he had a family he would certainly spend more time at home.
We last spoke on the eve of the masterâ€™s expected return. It was then that she informed me that she had purchased the mare and she was to be mine. She told me that is was a reward for my having seen to her care for the weeks and months she remained in our stables.
My master did not return the next day however, nor did he arrive the day following. Within a week the local sheriff arrived at the estate to inform my mistress that her husband had died in the city trying to escape a brothel during a raid. He fell from a third story ledge, landing on pile of rubble left behind by workers building next door.
I knew that day that my life had changed forever.
She left that day, never to return. As she boarded the awaiting coach she, without speaking, handed me a large envelope. When I opened it later I discovered that while she would retain ownership of the estate, I was to remain as manager and live in the house with my own wife and family once I married.