I had awakened that morning to the sound of Trophy’s hooves on the dusty cobblestones outside my window. I jumped from my feather bed and ran to the window, flinging the shutters wide. Through the vines, I saw Trophy bobbing his head and waiting patiently as Malcolm Greenaway delivered milk to our doorstep and walked along the picket fence toward Bridey’s house. “Morning, Mr. Greenaway,” I called as he passed beneath my window.
“Morning, Jessica.” He waved, then continued on his way.
At the sound of my voice, Trophy swung his head slowly in my direction and peered at me from behind his blinders. “Hi, Trophy, old boy,” I whispered.
The black dappled horse followed his master, the milk wagon rumbling quietly behind. I leaned far out the window and pushed the green viny leaves aside, watching as the wagon turned the corner and went on down Church Street.
A horse is a beautiful creature, I thought, and sank back on my bed to stare at the ruffled canopy above. If Pa would only allow girls to ride horses, how much happier I would be! But my father held to the idea that girls and ladies should ride in wagons, with their skirts tucked neatly about their ankles. Grudgingly, I went to the washbasin, splashed water on my face and wrists, pulled my petticoat and dress on over my head, then ran downstairs.
After breakfast, Father took Steven by the hand and headed for the door. Then, without a thought for my feelings, he turned to Mother. “I’m taking Steven for his riding lesson,” he said. “We’ll not be long.”
When the door had closed behind them, Mother came to me. “I know how you feel, Jessica,” she whispered as she straightened my braids and fixed my collar. “But your father thinks riding is unladylike.”
A lump stuck in my throat. Then I swallowed and asked, “Shall I wipe the steps down, Mother?”
I was twelve and my brother, Steven, barely nine. Yet my dream was his reality! It was an unfairness that I could hardly stand! As I knelt on the hard wooden steps, I rubbed the banister railings until they shone. Then I bent my head and scrubbed the stairway, my tears mingling with the soapy water.
‘Course, I couldn’t blame Steven for his good fortune, but when he returned all smiles and smelling of horse and stable, I wanted to box his ears! Instead, I went to our granary and listened to the doves under the eaves. I could see Mother stirring apple butter in the iron kettle in our backyard, but it held no interest for me today.
I ran from the granary and across the meadow. And before I knew it, I was standing outside Malcolm Greenaway’s stable.
“Jessica?” Mr. Greenaway called. “Looking for someone?”
“No, Mr. Greenaway,” I replied. “Just wondering if I could feed Trophy.”
He walked over to me, his sleeves rolled to his elbows and a straw hat on his head. “Certainly!” he said with a smile. “I’m just going to join Mrs. Greenaway in the garden, so make yourself to home.”
I watched as he slanted his hat against the sun, then turned toward the garden. I stepped into the cool stable. Trophy bobbed his head over the door and greeted me with a snort. I held oats up to his mouth and watched his lips gently nibble them from my hand. Then—I don’t know what made me do it—I opened the stall door and stepped in beside Trophy.
He watched me for a moment with soft brown eyes. Then he nuzzled me with his nose, bumping me toward the side of the stall. Suddenly, I had an idea! I raised my skirts with a single motion and climbed up the side of the stall, where I perched on the top board and clicked my tongue till Trophy moved closer. Then, with trembling hands, I grasped his mane and swung my leg over his back. It seemed a long way up, and I thought I was in heaven. Trophy looked over his shoulder at me, then pushed the stall door open while I grabbed for his halter and hung on for dear life. Trophy slowly plodded out into the sunlight with me on his back. Gently I pulled on the halter, guiding him this way and that. I was riding!
Certainly it was a willful, deceitful thing to do, but every chance I had, I went to the stable. And if Mr. and Mrs. Greenaway were not about, I climbed up on Trophy’s back and circled him around the yard.
Then about two weeks later, when Steven was off gathering more berries and Mother and I were sealing preserves, we heard a frantic call. Mother rushed out the door, wiping her hands on her apron, and I followed, my dust cap flying. As we burst through the granary door, we saw Father sprawled on the floor, his leg twisted meanly beneath him. Mother cradled his head in her lap.
“Oh, please, Margaret,” he moaned. “Get the doctor, quick!”
Mother’s trembling hand went to her throat. “I can’t leave,” she said. “Jessica, please get help!”
I ran outside and called in every direction, but the yards were deserted and, without another thought, I ran toward the Greenaway’s stable. I pounded on their door, and although it was open, no one answered. Instantly, I ran to the stable and climbed onto Trophy’s back. Leaning forward, I grasped the halter and urged him toward Doctor Kroller’s house.
A short time later, Trophy stood frothy wet and snorting as I slipped from his back and banged on Doctor Kroller’s door. Panting, I explained about the accident, then watched as Doctor Kroller’s buggy raced toward our home.
Later, as I led Trophy to his stall, Mr. Greenaway came out of the house. “Young lady!” he snapped. “Your father would tan your hide if he knew you ran off with my horse!”
“Please, Mr. Greenaway … I had to fetch the doctor. My father’s had an accident in our granary,” I stammered.
“I’m sorry, child,” Mr. Greenaway replied quickly. “Come, let’s go see if everything is all right.”
After the doctor had left and Father was resting in bed, I tapped softly on his door.
“Come!” he replied.
I tiptoed into the room where the warm breezes of the afternoon blew through the open window. “I deceived you,” I said quietly.
He looked at me sternly, then patted the bed beside him. “I’m glad you came, Jessica. I have something to tell you.” He opened his arms and I slid into them, burying my head in his shoulder. “I know you rode Trophy to get the doctor, Jessica. Will you forgive me?”
I raised my head and stared into his face. “Forgive you, Father?”
“Forgive me for being a stubborn man.” He rocked me gently in his arms and spoke quietly into my hair. “We’re getting a horse, Jessica. It was to have been Steven’s and also to be used with a buggy. But now I see how unfair I’ve been. It will be as much your horse as Steven’s. And when Mother sends for clothing, I want you to look through the catalog and get a pair of riding—“
“Jodhpurs, Father?” I asked, hopefully.
“Yes, jodhpurs,” he said, his face beaming.
My father is a stern man, well educated and fair, and he always taught us to be truthful. I know he heard me when I said I’d deceived him, but he never mentioned it again, and somehow I know he forgave me.