Horse lowered into a mine Émile Zola, Germinal, 1885

« But work was continuing in the pits: the signalling hammer beat four times; a horse was being lowered. This was always something of a spectacle, for sometimes the animal would be so terrified that it would be pulled out of the cage dead. At the top of the shaft, it would fight desperately when it was put into a net; then, once it felt the ground disappear from under its feet, it would remain petrified; as it disappeared from view, it would be absolutely still, its huge eyes staring ahead. This particular one was too big to pass between the guides, so it had to be suspended from underneath the cage, its head turned back and roped to its side. The descent lasted almost three minutes, the mechanism being slowed down as a precaution. And down below, the tension mounted as everyone waited. What was going on? Were they going to leave it stuck there hanging halfway down in the darkness? At last the horse appeared, immobile as a stone, its look frozen and its eyes dilated with terror. It was a bay horse, about three years old, named Trompette.
"Careful!" shouted old Mouque, who was charged with receiving the animal.
"Bring it this way. Don't untie it yet."
Very soon Trompette was lying on the iron flooring in a heap. He didn't budge, but seemed lost in this nightmare, this infinite black cave full of strange noises. They began to untie him when Bataille, who had recently been unharnessed, approached; he stretched out his neck to sniff the new companion who had just dropped down out of the sky. The miners stepped back to give him room, and they joked: what did he think of this new smell? But Bataille ignored their mockery and grew animated. He must have scented the good smell of clean air, the forgotten smell of the sun on the grass. And he broke out into a loud whinny, musical and light, with a note of tender sadness in it like a sigh. This was his song of welcome, combining the joy of those old things that had come along like a puff of fresh air, with the melancholy of seeing the arrival of yet another prisoner who would never leave again."

Lowering a horse in the mine, by François Bonhommé, 1866
Collection : Musée de l'histoire du fer Nancy-Jarville / Photo Claude Philippot