Sirdar’s affections were quite simple. He realized, dimly, that should he ever find her mounted on his back, he would be more than happy to carry her safely to the ends of the earth or wherever else she might care to go.
As we have seen, the man’s affections and wishes were far more complex and extensive.
– “Rose Cottage”
Though horses and other animals are mentioned only in passing in “Pride and Prejudice,” they seem to creep, walk, or gallop into my stories on a pretty regular basis. Mr. Darcy’s riding-horse, Sirdar, is a character in “Rose Cottage.” Darcy has brought him to Hertfordshire and rides him everywhere. We learn that Sirdar is a tall and spirited bay horse, bred and born at Pemberley.
Sirdar becomes moody and irritable if he does not get a daily gallop, but he is well-trained, responsive, and obedient. He is also affectionate to those who are kind to him. Though his size tends to intimidate people, Elizabeth is unafraid of him. The two form a bond of affection that pleases Darcy, and he begins to ride Sirdar out to meet her as she goes on her daily walks.
It pleases me to imagine that the Darcy of “Rose Cottage” is a man who is merciful to his beasts. As the master of Pemberley, he owns a large number of horses. They draw the plows and pull the burdens at the estate, they provide transportation everywhere, and they serve as companion animals. I have portrayed Darcy as having a great deal of affection for what is clearly his favorite horse. Sirdar has undoubtedly been his companion during good times and bad.
Later in the story, we will be introduced to Noor, a stablemate of Sirdar’s from Pemberley, who is a gift from Darcy to Elizabeth. The Elizabeth of “Rose Cottage” is an accomplished horsewoman when she has the opportunity. She and the mare begin to form a friendship almost immediately. Later, Darcy will watch with tenderness and amusement as Elizabeth refuses to hand Noor off to a groom after a morning ride. Instead, she goes into the stall and unsaddles Noor, brushes and rubs her down, refills her hay and water, and even sweeps up a few stray droppings. When Darcy comments on this, Elizabeth replies, “She deserves it.” The horses provide the couple with a shared interest, a means of being together, and a way to escape the pressing burdens of their situation in the run-up to their wedding.
I had a great deal of help from several people who know and love horses well as I developed Sirdar as a character in my tale. The helped me to portray a real horse rather than an idealized or sentimental picture of a horse. I’m grateful for that help.
In later posts, I’ll talk about Mamacita, the stray tabby who became a queen at Pemberley. There will also be a post about Duke and Duchess, the massive deerhound companions of Georgiana Darcy. And finally, I won’t forget the dynamic and improbable team of Travis the Beagle and Murphy the Staffordshire, whose antics bring their human companions together.