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The Little Horses and Horsemen of Padstow
Silhouettes of tiny men on horseback on the top of the roof.

At the bottom of the same old town there is a house which has two tiny little men on horseback on the top of its roof. They have stood there for hundreds of years, and they never leave their places save when they hear the great church clock strike the hour of midnight, when, it is said, they leave the red tiles, and gallop round the market-place and through the streets of the little town.

These gallant little horsemen have seen the house on which they stand almost rebuilt—changed from an old-world building with quaint windows and doors [142]into quite a modern one—and they have the sorrow of knowing that the only things left that are ancient are the walls, the red tile-ridge, their little horses, and themselves.

Long generations of Padstow children have seen these quaint little men on horseback, and many a question have they asked concerning them; but the only thing they ever learnt was that whenever they hear the church clock strike twelve in the middle of the night they come down from the roof, gallop round the market, and through the streets, as we have just said. But as children are generally in bed at that late hour, none were ever fortunate enough to see them do this wonderful feat, except little Robin Curgenven, the son of a toymaker, and it happened in this way:

One evening when Robin was about nine years old his father and mother went to a party; and as it was a party only for grown-up people, they left him at home asleep in bed.

Robin slept sound as a ringer till just before twelve, when he awoke, and finding he was alone in the house, he crept out of bed, opened the front door, which was under the roof, and went out and stood on the top of an external stone stairway which led down to the market-place.

The house where he lived was as quaint and old as the one on which the little men rode so gallantly, and it faced it. As he stood at the head of the steps the church clock began to strike the hour of midnight. [143]It had only struck four or five when he remembered what he had heard about those wonderful little horsemen and their steeds, and he looked across the market to see if what he had been told about them was really true.

He could see the house quite plainly, and the little horses and horsemen, for it was a clear night and full moon.

The moment the clock had done striking Robin saw to his great delight the two little men on their two little horses leave the housetop and leap into the street, and go galloping round and round the market-place as his parents assured him they did when they heard the clock strike twelve.

The little horses galloped so funnily, and the tiny riders sat so bolt upright on their quaint little steeds, that Robin laughed to see them, and said they looked exactly like the wooden toy horses and horsemen in his father’s shop. And as they went galloping, galloping that queer little gallop, he clapped his hands and cheered like a Cornishman.

The tiny little horsemen took no notice of the excited boy on the top of the stairs, and the moment they had finished their gallop round the old market they came through the narrow opening at the foot of the stairs, and galloped away up the street as fast as they could.

So excited was little Robin Curgenven when he saw the tiny horsemen gallop away that he flew down the steps and tore after them, quite forgetting [144]that his feet were bare, and that he had nothing on save his little white nightshirt.

He ran very fast; but fast as he ran, he could not overtake those swift little horses, and by the time he got to the bottom of Middle Street they were nearly at the top.

When they reached the head of that street the tiny horsemen pulled up their horses for a minute outside an ancient-looking house with a porch-room set on wooden pillars, and then they turned up Workhouse Hill and disappeared.

Robin ran faster than before, and the tails of his little nightshirt flew out behind him on the wind as he ran; and he never stopped running till he was half-way up Church Street, when he saw the little horses and their riders galloping down towards him.

They had been to the head of the town, and were returning; and he got on the footpath and stood near an arched passage, and waited for them to pass.

He did not have to wait long, and so fast did they come you would have thought they were galloping for a wager. They seemed to be enjoying their gallop through the streets of the sleeping old town amazingly; and Robin, as he fixed his bright young eyes upon them, saw, or thought he saw, a broad grin on their queer little faces as they galloped by.
They galloped much faster than he could run.

They galloped much faster than he could run.

The barefooted little lad, in his little night-garment, ran beside the quaint little horses and the little horsemen for a short distance, but they galloped [147]much faster than he could run, and soon outdistanced him; and, run as hard as ever he could, he could not overtake them, but he heard the ringing of the tiny horses’ hoofs on the hard road as they went galloping down through the town.

When he reached the bottom of the town and the house where the little men and their horses usually stood, he glanced up, and to his surprise saw them standing on the tile-ridge, looking as if they had never left it.

Robin gazed at them till he began to feel cold, and then he went back across the market to his own house; and half an hour later, when his father and mother came home from the party, they found him fast asleep on one of the steps with his toes tucked up under him.

‘The funny little horses and little horsemen did hear the clock strike twelve, and galloped round the market and through the town same as you told me,’ said Robin in a sleepy voice, when his father picked him up and carried him into the house. ‘I saw them with my own eyes, and I ran after them up as far as Church Street. They galloped so funnily and so fast; I am glad I saw them.’

‘So am I,’ said his father, laughing, thinking his small son had dreamt it as he lay asleep on the step. ‘You are the first little chap who ever saw them come down from the roof and gallop, and I fancy you will be the last.’

Little Robin Curgenven may have been the first [148]to see them gallop as his father said, but he may not be the last, for the quaint little horses and horsemen are still on the roof of the house, and it is told that they still gallop through Padstow streets, and round what once was the market, when they hear the church clock strike twelve!


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