A secret for two by Quentin Reynolds

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by Quentin Reynolds
Montreal is a very large city. Like all large cities, it has small streets.

Streets, for example, Like Prince Edward Street-only four blocks

long. No one knew Prince Edward Street as well as Pierre Dupin. He

had delivered milk to the families on the street for thirty years.

For the past fifteen years. a large white horse pulled his milk

wagon. In Montreal, especially in the French part of the city, animals

and children are often given the names of saints. Pierre's horse had

no name when it first came to the milk company. Pierre was told he

could use the horse. He moved his hand gently and lovingly across

the horse's neck and sides. He looked into the animal's eyes.

"This is a gentle horse," Pierre said. "I can see a beautiful spirit

shining out of its eyes. I will name him after Saint Joseph, who also

was a gentle and beautiful spirit."
After about a year, the horse, Joseph, got to know every house that

received milk, and every house that did not.

Every morning at five, Pierre arrived at the milk company's stables

to find his wagon already filled with bottles of milk and Joseph

waiting for him, Pierre would call, "Bonjour, my old friend," as he

climbed into his seat, while Joseph turned his head toward the

The other drivers would smile. They said that the horse smiled at

Then Pierre would softly call to Joseph, "Avance, mon ami." And the

two would go proudly down the street. Without any order from

Pierre, the wagon would roll down three streets. Then it turned right

for two streets, before turning left to Saint Catherine Street. The

horse finally stopped at the first house on Prince Edward Street.

There, Joseph would wait perhaps thirty seconds for Pierre to get

down off his seat and put a bottle of milk at the front door. Then

the horse walked past the next two houses and stopped at the

third. And without being told, Joseph would turn around and come

back along the other side. Ah yes, Joseph was a smart horse.

Pierre would talk about Joseph. "I never touch the reins. He knows

just where to stop. Why, a blind man could deliver my milk with

Joseph pulling the wagon."

And so it went on for years-always the same. Pierre and Joseph

slowly grew old together. Pierre's huge walrus mustache was white

now and Joseph didn't lift his knees so high or raise his head quite

so much. Jacques, the bossman of the stables, never noticed that

they both were getting old until Pierre appeared one morning

carrying a heavy walking stick.

"Hey, Pierre," Jacques laughed. "Maybe you got the gout, hey?"

"Mais oui, Jacques," Pierre said. "One grows old. One's legs get

"Well, you should teach that horse to carry the milk to the front

door for you," Jacques told him. "He does everything else."

The horse knew every one of the forty families that got milk on

Prince Edward Street. The cooks knew that Pierre could not read or

write; so, instead of leaving orders in an empty milk bottle, they

simply sang out if they needed an extra bottle. "Bring an extra

bottle this morning, Pierre," they often sang when they heard

Pierre's wagon rumble over the street.

"So you have visitors for dinner tonight," Pierre would happily

Pierre also had a wonderful memory. When he arrived at the stable

he always remembered to tell Jacques, "The Pacquins took an extra

bottle this morning; the Lemoines bought a pint of cream..."

Most of the drivers had to make out the weekly bills and collect the

money, but Jacques, liking Pierre, never asked him to do this. All

Pierre had to do was arrive at five in the morning, walk to his

wagon, which always was in the same place, and deliver his milk. He

returned about two hours later, got down from his seat, called a

cheery "Au revoir" to Jacques, then walked slowly down the street.

One day the president of the milk company came to inspect the

early morning milk deliveries. Jacques pointed to Pierre and said,

"Watch how he talks to that horse. See how the horse listens and

how he turns his head toward Pierre? See the look in that horse's

eyes? You know, I think those two share a secret. I have often felt it.

It's as though they both sometimes laugh at us as they go off

Pierre...Pierre is a good man, Monsieur President, but he is getting

old. Maybe he ought to be given a rest, and a small pension."

"Oh but of course," the president laughed. 'I know Pierre's work. He

has been on this job now for thirty years. All who know him, love

him. Tell him it is time he rested. He'll get his pay every week as

But Pierre refused to leave his job. He said his life would be nothing

if he could not drive Joseph every day. "We are two old men," he

said to Jacques. "Let us wear out together. When Joseph is ready to

leave, then I too will do so."
There was something about Pierre and his horse that made a man

smile tenderly. Each seemed to get some hidden strength from the

other. As Pierre sat in his seat, with Joseph tied to the wagon,

neither seemed old. But when they finished their work-then Pierre

walked lamely down the street, seeming very old indeed, and the

horse's head dropped and he walked slowly to his stall.

Then one cold morning Jacques had terrible news for Pierre. It was

still dark. The air was like ice. Snow had fallen during the night.

Jacques said, "Pierre, your horse, Joseph, didn't wake up. He was

very old, Pierre. He was twenty-five and that is like being seventyfive

for a man."

"Yes," Pierre said slowly. "Yes. I am seventy-five. And I cannot see

Joseph again."

"Oh, of course you can," Jacques said softly. "He is over in his stall,

looking very peaceful. Go over and see him."

Pierre took one step forward, then turned. "No... no ... you don't

understand, Jacques."

Jacques patted him on he shoulder. "We'll find another horse just as

good as Joseph. Why, in a month you'll teach him to know all the

homes as well as Joseph did. We'll...." The look in Pierre's eyes

stopped him. For years Pierre had worn a large heavy cap that came

down low over his eyes. It kept out the bitter cold wind. Now,

Jacques looked into Pierreā€™s eyes and he saw something that

shocked him. He saw a dead, lifeless look in them.

"Take the day off, Pierre," Jacques said But Pierre was gone limping

down the street. Pierre walked to the comer and stepped into the

street. There was a warning shout from the driver of a big truck.

There was the screech of rubber tires as the truck tried to stop. But

Pierre... Pierre heard nothing.

Five minutes later a doctor said, "He's dead... kilted instantly."

"I couldn't help it," the truck driver said, "He walked in front of my

truck. He ... he never saw it, I guess. Why, he walked as though he

were blind."

The doctor bent down. "Blind? Of course the man was blind. See

those growths? This man has been blind for five years." He turned

to Jacques, "You say he worked for you? Didn't you know he was

"No ... no .. ." Jacques said softly. "None of us knew. Only one... only

one knew--a friend of his, named Joseph ... It was... it was a secret,

I think, just between those two."

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