Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “A Stitch in Time Saves Nine” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/03/08)
TITLE: Next Time
By Ann Grover
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“There, me beauties,” soothed old Si, stroking the neck of the nearest great bay. “You’ll be off for your outing in a bit.”
The horse burrowed a velvety muzzle into Si’s woolen jacket, whickering softly and searching for a withered apple or carrot. Si grinned as he offered the sought for treat, and the beast chewed greedily, flecks of froth speckling the tremulous lips.
“Newt, where are you, boy?” Si patted the rump of the other horse.
“Here, sir.” The wiry boy ducked his head out the door of the carriage. “Just finishin’ the wipin’ down.” The boy disappeared inside the carriage again.
Si walked around the vehicle. One by one, he lifted down and returned the lamps after wiping them, then he polished the sides of the carriage, paying particular attention to the insignia on the door. Newt stepped out of the carriage, cleaning invisible dust from the step.
“Reckon she’s all ready to go for the day, sir?”
“I need you to check the brakes and wheels first, Newt.”
Newt scrambled beneath the carriage, but at that moment, the door to the carriage house opened.
“My lady and the girls are ready to go.” The buttons on the entering coachman’s jacket shone brightly. Smiling grimly, Hiram checked the harnesses, the interior of the carriage, and nodded approvingly. He swung up into the driver’s seat, even as Newt scooted out from underneath.
“Go open the doors, Newt. Be handy about it.” Si himself was already moving toward the double doors of the carriage house.
“Not now, Newt. Her Ladyship is ready to go.”
Hiram coaxed the bays into action, and the prancing hooves rolled the carriage into the warm sunshine. Rays glanced from the burnished hides, the breeze teased the raven tresses; if equine vanity could manifested, it was so, in their high steps and proud posture of their heads. Hiram pulled up in the circular drive, before the front steps of the grand house. Like a trio of colourful butterflies, the lady and her daughter descended and entered the carriage.
“Come, Newt, we can’t stand gawkin’ all day. We got stalls and whatnot to clean.”
Yes, sir, but...”
“No use complainin’ about shovellin’ out the stalls, boy. Get to it.”
“Yes, Si.” Newt resigned himself to the day’s tasks and carrying more than the repeated burdens in the wheelbarrow. He was relieved when the carriage returned at tea time, and the women alighted, laughing and swishing their bright skirts.
Hiram drove the carriage through, requesting that it be ready the next day at the same time. “It was lovely today. The ladies have a full day again tomorrow.”
Newt looked at Si, trying desperately to meet his eyes, but Si was already removing the harnesses and taking the first horse to its stall.
“Come along and start grooming, Newt.” Newt took the second horse to its stall and brushed it down. Soon, both horses were watered and contentedly munching their hay.
In the morning, both Si and Newt were polishing the carriage again, till it shone like a mirror. The horses were no less lustrous, and were brushing against Si for treats.
“Here’s Hiram for the carriage already.”
And away went the vividly dressed ladies, the prancing horses, and the brilliant carriage, Newt shading his eyes as he watched until Si cuffed him gently on the shoulder, reminding him to return to his stable tasks.
It was a different story that afternoon, however, when a neighbour’s carriage bore the ladies home, dresses muddied, hats askew, and curls bedraggled. Right behind, Hiram was driving the carriage; one door hung by a single hinge, a long gouge marred the side. The horses had fared no better; both were scratched and bloodied.
“Brake failed on Feller’s Hill,” Hiram explained. “See to the cuts straightaway. Master’s livid and wants to know why the brakes weren’t checked.”
Newt shrunk under Hiram’s gaze, and Si turned to Hiram with light dawning.
Si said to the coachman, “We’ll take care of the horses right away and begin repairin’ the carriage tomorrow. The ladies?”
“The ladies are shaken up, but otherwise fine.” Hiram strode from the carriage house.
“I’m an old man and a fool,” sighed Si. “You tried to tell me.”
Newt smiled faintly. This time, all was well. Next time, Si would listen.
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