Bob and Brownie
by H. A. F.
The Chatterbox, issue 7 (1876)
Introductory Note: In “Bob and Brownie,” the young narrator champions the value and mettle of the country ponies she and her brother ride. The story is a tale of adventure, as she and her brother set out with the ponies to find a young man suspected of foul play.
When our London cousins came to see us last year, and we showed them our ponies, Bob and Brownie, Algernon called out, ‘Oh, what ugly, rough things!’ (They are very rough-looking, you know, with shaggy hair hanging over their eyes.) But brother Miles grew angry at this and said, ‘If they are ugly, they are a great deal cleverer than your smart park ponies, as Lilla could tell you.’ I am Lilla, and I always tell all Miles’s stories, because he stammers a little when he is excited.
So, as I thought there was going to be a dispute between Algy and him, I began quite quickly:—‘Oh, yes! you will like to hear about it, Algy, and so will Cissy; so listen. It was last autumn, and old Janet in the village had a letter from her brother, to say he had been lucky in his last trip;—he is a sea-captain, and he was sending her in the very next letter a note for a hundred pounds for a present. Janet has a young man living with her as her adopted son, though he is no relation of hers; and he is a gardener, and helps our man sometimes. Well, George was just as pleased as Janet at this good luck, and said how nice it was; his old mother would now have something to fall back on if anything ever happened to him; and all the village came to congratulate Janet on her good fortune, and we went, too, and had tea and muffins in her cottage.
‘Well, it might have been a week after this, and Miles and I were just finishing off two colds we had caught at a children’s party, when our gardener came up to us and we were running round the garden (mother had said we were not to sit down), and said, “This is a bad job, Mr. Miles, about George Warder.”
‘Miles stared, and I said, “Oh, what is it? please tell us.”
‘And then he said that George had gone off one day across the mountain, to do a day’s work at Sir John Fielder’s, and he had made some excuse to leave early, and walked off to Mirkdale Post-office, where they gave him Janet’s letter, with the hundred pounds in.’
‘“Well,” said I; and Miles called out, “Go on.”
‘“It’s most too bad to believe, sir,” said Thomas, “but he haven’t been seen since, and folk do say he’s made off to ’Merica with the poor old soul’s money—he that owed her everything!”
‘“What a lie!” said Miles.
‘Mother doesn’t like Miles to use strong words, but I did think he was right that once.
‘Neither he nor I would believe a word that the cruel people in the village said about George. We protested there was some mistake; some accident had happened to him, or he had suddenly been called away, but no one else thought so. George was known to have been of a roving turn, and even kindly-disposed people fancied that getting hold of so much money had turned his head.
‘“He has been missing twenty-four hours now,” Thomas said. Miles and I felt very unhappy. He got Robinson Crusoe to read, as he always does when things go wrong; and I ran down to the village, to see Janet and console her.
‘She was distracted, poor thing, between the loss of her money and the loss of George. She did not really believe he had stolen it, but the neighbours had so puzzled her poor old head that she did not know what to think.
‘Father was from home, so we had no one to advise us, but Miles and I made a plan overnight to search all Mirkdale and Broadholme, the big mountain between the post-office and our village, for we believed George to be lost or hurt in that wild country.
‘It was a whole holiday next day, luckily, and neither Miles nor I sneezed once at breakfast, so mother only sighed a little when we said we must have a good gallop on our ponies after being so long indoors.
‘We put two rolls from breakfast in our pockets, and Miles, with a very grave face, fetched something secretly out of father’s own room. He showed it me later on; it was a silver flask with brandy in it. “I don’t usually meddle with father’s private possessions,” he said, “but this may be needed.”
‘We had a lovely gallop to the foot of Broadholme. I am afraid we almost forgot poor George, we enjoyed it so; but climbing up the steep side we talked a great deal of him, and Miles settled which way I and Brownie were to go, and where we should meet him and Bob.
‘“And use your eyes well, Lilla,” he said. “Mind, George has a grey coat on, so study anything lumpish you see lying on the heather, and specially look the Blackstone precipice—he may have fallen down over.”
‘It made me shiver a little to hear all this, but I resolved to be brave and try my best to find George. Miles gave me half the brandy in an old gum-bottle and we separated.
‘Do what we could, though, there was no George to be seen; and when Miles and I met in sight of Mirkdale post-office, though two miles from it, we both had disappointed faces. We sat down and ate our rolls and told our adventures, while Bob and Brownie wandered away to get what luncheon they could off the mountain-side.
‘“We must have one more look Mirkdale way, and then go home, because mother will be getting frightened about us.” Miles was just saying that, when we heard a whinny from Brownie. She was standing, looking very excited, a little way off.
‘We took no notice, for we were both thinking of George.
‘In another minute she startled us by whinnying again, almost in our ears, and then she stooped down and caught Miles’ sleeve between her teeth.
‘“What does she want? I have no bread for her,” said Miles.
‘But all in a minute I felt my cheeks burn and I jumped up, for I guessed what she wanted.
‘When I stood up she looked at me and shook her head, trotting gently away, and every now and then peeping over her shoulder to see if we were following.
‘Of course we were; for Miles, too, guessed that the clever darling had come on purpose to fetch us.
‘We had not far to go. There was what Miles and I called a baby-precipice close by—a rock grassed to the edges, with a drop of about a dozen feet below on to a smooth grassy level. Here Bob and Brownie had wandered by a more gentle descent, and here stood Bob sniffing the form of—George Warder!
‘Yes, there he was, lying asleep or dead. Brownie looked so satisfied when she had brought us to the spot! He must have walked over the edge of the rock and been stunned by the fall.
‘He had such a peaceful expression on his face that Miles said directly, “He’s all right, Lil; hold his head while I get the brandy.”
‘And he did get all right, though his leg was broken, and he had lain helpless for two nights and a day in the open air.
‘Miles got help from the Post-office, and I watched beside George till he came back. The letter and the money were all safe in his pocket. He was looking at the direction, he said, and thinking of old Janet’s joy, when he fell over the rock.
‘You can fancy how happy we felt riding home, while four men carried George on a hurdle; and how we petted Bob and Brownie for being so clever. For Miles declares to this day that Bob told Brownie to go and rouse us while he stayed with George; just like we did afterwards. And I am quite satisfied that his pony should have half the honour of finding George.
‘Now don’t you think we have reason to be proud of Bob and Brownie?’
‘George’s leg? Oh, that is mended now, and he is in the garden to-day, helping Thomas, and father has put the hundred pounds out at good interest.’
‘And the people who said cruel things of him? Oh, they are all forgiven: every one was so glad to see George, and so anxious to help him in his illness, that everything that went before was forgotten.’
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How To Cite (MLA Format)
H. A. F.. “Bob and Brownie.” The Chatterbox, no. 7, 1876, pp. 54-5. Edited by Margaret Shen. Victorian Short Fiction Project, 10 June 2023, https://vsfp.byu.edu/index.php/title/bob-and-brownie/.
30 September 2016
9 June 2023