Excerpt from “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helprin ~~Escape~~

Had it not been for the horse peering at him from behind the woodshed, the downed man might have stayed down. His name was Peter Lake, and he said to himself out loud, ‘You’re in bad shape when a horse takes pity on you, you stupid bastard,’ which got him moving. He rose to his feet and addressed the horse. The twelve men, who couldn’t see the horse standing behind the shed, thought that Peter Lake had gone mad or was playing a trick.

‘Horse!’ he called. The horse pulled back his head. ’Horse!’ shouted Peter Lake. ‘Please!’ and he opened his arms. The other men began to drop to the near side of the fence. They were taking their time because they were only a few feet away, the street was deserted, he was not moving, and they were sure that they had him.

Peter Lake’s heart beat so loud that it made his body jerk. He felt ridiculous and out of control, like an engine breaking itself apart. ‘Oh Jesus,’ he said, vibrating like a mechanical toy, ‘Oh Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, send me an armored steamroller.’ Everything depended on the horse.

The horse bolted over the pool of ice toward Peter Lake, and lowered his wide white neck. Peter Lake took possession of himself and, throwing his arms around what seemed like a swan, sprang to the horse’s back. He was up again, exulting even as the pistol shots rang out in the cold air. Having become his accomplice in one graceful motion, the horse turned and skittered, leaning back slightly on his haunches to get breath and power for an explosive start. In that moment, Peter Lake faced his stunned pursuers, and laughed at them. His entire being was one light perfect laugh. He felt the horse pitch forward, and then they raced up the street, leaving Pearly Soames and some of the Short Tail Gang backed against the iron rails, firing the pistols and cursing – all twelve of them save Pearly himself, who bit his lower lip, squinted, and began to think of new ways to trap his quarry. The noise from their many pistols was deafening.

Already out of range, Peter Lake rode at a gallop. Pounding the soft snow, passing the shuttered stores, they headed north through the awakening city in a cloud of speed.


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