Peter Lo was not quite so fortunate. He could not be happy except in the society of the stallion. He lost interest in work. He was in his element only when racing down the county roads behind his crony, or when he and Skobelef together conducted revival services beneath the very walls of the church. The rumor spread that he had taken to sleeping in the stable. Gossip would have it that horse and man were coming to resemble each other. Skobelef smiled out of the corner of his mouth when he met with his affinities, and Peter Lo greeted good friends at church with something like a whinny in his voice.
Peter Lo’s lot was not altogether enviable. He had a fondness for all things pretty, not excepting those that belonged to his neighbors. And when he got into an unusually bad scrape, he made a most pathetic figure. Then he would go to church and take holy communion. Many a time we saw him come driving, not the wild stallion but an old mare. His sour-visaged wife, wrapped in her shawl, would be sitting in the cart, at one side of which walked the sexton, and at the other side Peter Lo, with bowed head. On such a day he would have his mind made up to listen to the sermon with folded hands and not once to glance in the direction of the women’s pews—afterward he would step forward to the altar and partake of the sacrament. These penitential pilgrimages occasioned more than one good laugh. “Peter has had a sorry adventure again,” people would say.
A day or two later you would see him tearing down the highway with Skobelef. So he kept on laying up stores of gayety and aesthetic appreciation of the beautiful, until his conduct became more reprehensible than ever. His wife insisted upon Skobelef’s deportation from the farm; it was impossible to convert Peter to virtuous ways so long as he maintained a companionship of that sort.
Meanwhile, round about in the parish there grew up a numerous race of black, prancing horses, and the wheels rumbled faster on all the roads. A whinnying joy of life took sovereign possession of the community. Men lifted up their heads and cast jovial eyes on their surroundings, women plucked up courage actually to laugh out loud, and young folks discovered anew the pleasures of the dance.
But Skobelef was not to reach old age. He broke out of the stable one night and ran off in the mountains to find his affinities, who were’ accustomed to graze there during the summer.
When Peter Lo came along and saw the empty stable, he started shouting clamorous complaints; he evidently suspected at once that misfortune had stamped her mark upon his brow. He had a pretty shrewd idea where his comrade had fled; and witnesses reported that whole day long they heard Peter Lo tramping over the hills neighing just like Skobelef, calling and coaxing his old chum.
At last he found him. Skobelef was standing up to his neck in a marsh far off in the foothills. He had fought so hard to extricate himself that he had broken one of his forelegs, out of which protruded splinters of bone. The flies had stung his eyes till they bled.
Peter wiped his pal’s eyes with a tuft of grass and gave him a raw egg and a shot of whiskey. For a little while he let his own tears roll, but finally there was nothing to do but to draw his knife.
After that day Peter Lo drove more slowly along the roads. His head bent lower and his whiskers turned gray.
Now he is an old man; but he still dresses better than most of his neighbors and affects a city brogue as before. When someone reminds him of Skobelef, his eyes grow dim. “Yes, yes,” he replies; “Skobelef was not like other horses. He was a regular high school; he taught us all a thing or two.”