There came a day at last when she had reached six years old, when by a trick of chance a turn was given to the wheel of her fate.
She had not reached three when a groom first set her on a horse's back and led her about the stable-yard, and she had so delighted in her exalted position, and had so shouted for pleasure and clutched her steed's rein and clucked at him, that her audience had looked on with roars of laughter. From that time she would be put up every day, and as time went on showed such unchildish courage and spirit that she furnished to her servant companions a new pastime. Soon she would not be held on, but riding astride like a boy, would sit up as straight as a man and swear at her horse, beating him with her heels and little fists if his pace did not suit her. She knew no fear, and would have used a whip so readily that the men did not dare to trust her with one, and knew they must not mount her on a steed too mettlesome. By the time she passed her sixth birthday she could ride as well as a grown man, and was as familiar with her father's horses as he himself, though he knew nothing of the matter, it being always contrived that she should be out of sight when he visited his hunters.
It so chanced that the horse he rode the oftenest was her favourite, and many were the tempests of rage she fell into when she went to the stable to play with the animal and did not find him in his stall, because his master had ordered him out. At such times she would storm at the men in the stable-yard and call them ill names for their impudence in letting the beast go, which would cause them great merriment, as she knew nothing of who the man was who had balked her, since she was, in truth, not so much as conscious of her father's existence, never having seen or even heard more of him than his name, which she in no manner connected with herself.
"Could Sir Jeoffry himself but once see and hear her when she storms at us and him, because he dares to ride his own beast," one of the older men said once, in the midst of their laughter, "I swear he would burst forth laughing and be taken with her impudent spirit, her temper is so like his own. She is his own flesh and blood, and as full of hell-fire as he."
Upon this morning which proved eventful to her, she had gone to the stables, as was her daily custom, and going into the stall where the big black horse was wont to stand, she found it empty. Her spirit rose hot within her in the moment. She clenched her fists, and began to stamp and swear in such a manner as it would be scarce fitting to record.
"Where is he now?" she cried. "He is my own horse, and shall not be ridden. Who is the man who takes him? Who? Who?"
"'Tis a fellow who hath no manners," said the man she stormed at, grinning and thrusting his tongue in his cheek. "He says 'tis his beast, and not yours, and he will have him when he chooses."
"'Tis not his--'tis mine!" shrieked Miss, her little face inflamed with passion. "I will kill him! 'Tis my horse. He SHALL be mine!"