Under the enormous porch or passage, above which could be read on a long sign, "Hotel du Lion d'Argent," stood the stablemen and porters of the coaching-lines watching the lively start of the vehicles which deceives so many travellers, making them believe that the horses will be kept to that vigorous gait.
The Margrave's long beard and flowing hair were red; scarlet, one may say, but perhaps that was the fiery reflection from the torches. Servants, scullions, stablemen carried the lights; the men-at-arms had no encumbrance but their weapons, and the business-like way in which they lined up along the shore was a study in discipline, and a terror to any one unused to war.
The front gate was impossible. Back of the institution she saw a great barn then water! Oh, if she could but pass the stablemen. They would not be as keen to suspect as would be the guards. Every one seemed busy. They were cleaning the horses, and fixing up the big stables.
They got down and went inside with the driver for a drink, while the stablemen changed horses. The Bushmen raised their voices a little and argued. One of the passengers was a big, stout, hearty man a good-hearted, sporting man and a racehorse-owner, according to his brands. He had a round red face and a white cork hat. 'What's those chaps got on outside? he asked the publican.
The stableman said he had left the wagon a few moments after I had and had been stolen. The police accused the stablemen of being parties to the theft, in which I think they were right. Money could not buy that dog. He was an integral part of the expedition: always on the alert; always watchful of the wagon during my absence, and always willing to mind what I bade him do.
Stablemen, in the employ of the Government, will not take the trouble to halter and bridle-break them properly; and I have seen hundreds of mules, in the City of Washington, totally ruined by tying them up behind wagons while young, and literally dragging them through the streets. These mules had never, perhaps, had a halter on before.
On returning from the ball at the inn she found Dick still absent, and when at six o'clock he had not returned she called her father and they had set off together for the hills, toward which, the stablemen reported, Dick had ridden. They had met Oscar just outside the Springs, and had returned to the hotel for Baron von Marhof.
In the house itself carpenters or decorators were enclosed in some rooms, and at their business, but exterior order prevailed. In the courtyard stablemen were at work, and her own groom came forward touching his forehead. She paid a visit to the horses.
Yet there was that husky rider, back there in the straw. He was even more helpless and inefficient. Bartley licked his knuckles, and grinned. "There must have been a little mescal in that second punch," he thought. "I never hit so hard in my life." The stableman had retired to his bunk a habit of night stablemen. The stable was dark and still, save for the munching of the horses.
A dash of red for the painted brick walls, and of green for the mangers; a yellow blur for the mote-filled rays of sunshine streaming through the cows' white-curtained windows, and on the flower-pots adorning their window-sills; a trifle more elaboration for the carpet of sawdust stamped with an ornamental pattern, and the quaint design of the cupboard-beds for the stablemen in the wall opposite; a streak here and there for the cords which loop the cows' tails to nails in the ceiling; gorgeous spots of crimson and yellow for the piled cheeses.