When I was a little fellow, we used to study every day, and only on Sundays and holidays went out and played with our brothers.
Once my father said:
"The children must learn to ride. Send them to the riding-school!"
I was the youngest of the brothers, and I asked:
"May I, too, learn to ride?"
My father said:
"You will fall down."
I began to beg him to let me learn, and almost cried.
My father said:
"All right, you may go, too. Only look out! Don't cry when you fall off. He who does not once fall down from a horse will not learn to ride." When Wednesday came, all three of us were taken to the riding-school. We entered by a large porch, and from the large porch went to a smaller one. Beyond the porch was a very large room: instead of a floor it had sand. And in this room were gentlemen and ladies and just such boys as we. That was the riding-school. The riding-school was not very light, and there was a smell of horses, and you could hear them snap whips and call to the horses, and the horses strike their hoofs against the wooden walls. At first I was frightened and could not see things well. Then our valet called the riding-master, and said:
"Give these boys some horses: they are going to learn how to ride."
The master said:
Then he looked at me, and said:
"He is very small, yet."
But the valet said:
"He promised not to cry when he falls down."
The master laughed and went away.
Then they brought three saddled horses, and we took off our cloaks and walked down a staircase to the riding-school. The master was holding a horse by a cord, and my brothers rode around him. At first they rode at a slow pace, and later at a trot. Then they brought a pony. It was a red horse, and his tail was cut off. He was called Ruddy. The master laughed, and said to me:
"Well, young gentleman, get on your horse!" I was both happy and afraid, and tried to act in such a manner as not to be noticed by anybody. For a long time I tried to get my foot into the stirrup, but could not do it because I was too small. Then the master raised me up in his hands and put me on the saddle.
"The young master is not heavy,—about two pounds in weight, that is all." At first he held me by my hand, but I saw that my brothers were not held, and so I begged him to let go of me.
"Are you not afraid?"
I was very much afraid, but I said that I was not. I was so much afraid because Ruddy kept dropping his ears. I thought he was angry at me.
The master said:
"Look out, don't fall down!" and let go of me. At first Ruddy went at a slow pace, and I sat up straight. But the saddle was sleek, and I was afraid I would slip off. The master asked me: "Well, are you fast in the saddle?"
"Yes, I am."
"If so, go at a slow trot!" and the master clicked his tongue.
Ruddy started at a slow trot, and began to jog me. But I kept silent, and tried not to slip to one side.
The master praised me:
"Oh, a fine young gentleman, indeed!"
I was very glad to hear it. Just then the master's friend went up to him and began to talk with him, and the master stopped looking at me.
Suddenly I felt that I had slipped a little to one side on my saddle. I wanted to straighten myself up, but was unable to do so. I wanted to call out to the master to stop the horse, but I thought it would be a disgrace if I did it, and so kept silence. The master was not looking at me and Ruddy ran at a trot, and I slipped still more to one side. I looked at the master and thought that he would help me, but he was still talking with his friend, and without looking at me kept repeating:
"Well done, young gentleman!"
I was now altogether to one side, and was very much frightened. I thought that I was lost; but I felt ashamed to cry. Ruddy shook me up once more, and I slipped off entirely and fell to the ground. Then Ruddy stopped, and the master looked at the horse and saw that I was not on him. He said: "I declare, my young gentleman has dropped off!" and walked over to me. When I told him that I was not hurt, he laughed and said:
"A child's body is soft."
I felt like crying. I asked him to put me again on the horse, and I was lifted on the horse. After that I did not fall down again. Thus we rode twice a week in the riding-school, and I soon learned to ride well, and was not afraid of anything.