BESS John Nicholas raised horses. He had many horses of all kinds, but his favorite was Bess, a gentle old mare we had grown up with. He no longer rode her, for all she could do now was just amble along. Bess spent her days gazing peacefully in a meadow. That summer, for the fun of it, John Nicholas went into a fortune-teller's booth. The fortune-teller studied her cards. "I see danger ahead for you," she said. "Your favorite horse will cause you to die. I don't know when, but it will happen. It is on the cards." John Nicholas laughed. The idea that Bess would cause his death was nonsense. She was as dangerous as a bowl of soup. Yet from then on, whenever he saw her, he remembered the fortune-teller's warning. That fall a farmer from the other end of the country asked if he could have Bess. He had been thinking that the old horse would be perfect for his children to ride. "That's a good idea," John said. "It would be fun for them, and it would give Bess something to do." Later John told his wife about it. "Now Bess won't kill me," he said, and they both laughed. A few months later, he saw the farmer who had taken her. "How's my Bess?" he asked. "Oh, she was fine for a while," the farmer said. "The children loved her. Then she got sick. I had to shoot her to put her out of her misery. It was a shame." Despite himself John breathed a sigh of relief. He has often wondered if in some crazy way, through some strange accident, Bess would kill him. Now, of course, she could not. "I'd like to see her," said John. "Just to say good- bye. She was my favorite." The bones of the dead horse were in a far corner of the man's farm. John kneeled down and patted Bess's sun-bleached skull. Just then a rattlesnake, which had made its home inside the skull, sank its fangs into John Nicholas's arm and killed him.
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