Reflections in A Horse Pond by MaX.


Let me consider a little where I am! My senses are beginning to clear at present, albeit my body is sticking in the mud, and seems to think of nothing less. This plunge, disagreeable as it is, has been of service to me: we should be thankful for everything, for they say "everything is for the best;" and, upon this principle, a tumble into a horse-pond may be a good. I shall, however, ascertain this better to-morrow (that is, if I ever get out of the mud,—of which I am doubtful). In the mean time I will, by way of passing the time, acknowledge my obligation. I am a regenerated creature! Thanks be to Heaven! I can see: before my tumble into these revivifying waters, my thoughts were wandering, and my sight was dazzled; now they are fixed, immoveably fixed,—to this horse-pond; and I only behold one moon instead of two.

I do not exactly know how I came hither. I spent last evening with Tom Rattlebrain, Ned Flighty, and Will Scamper; we had a famous supper, and resolved to make a night of it. The weather was hot, stormy, and goblinish; it led us to tell ghost-stories, which we did till our marrow froze, and our parched throats cried out, like the horse-leech's two daughters, "Give! give!" Purely to raise our courage and moisten our palates, we had a couple of bottles additionally. I recollect that after this we told some stories partaking more of the flesh than the spirit, and that at two o'clock in the morning I agreed to ride home on Daylight, hand in hand, like the fire-office insignia, with Scamper, who was mounted on Wildfire. I remember something of trying to force Daylight to cross that which I took to be a ferry. I recollect something of our dispute upon this subject, but faintly; I can only guess how the matter ended by the result,—for he is gone, and I am here!

I suppose I must have struggled, flopped, and floundered about a good deal before I could have been so firmly wedged in the mud as I am at this moment. The water all around me is up to my chin, and the mud beneath me is up to my knees; I have sunk considerably above my calves. I really cut a very ridiculous figure!

The first thing I remember distinctly was seeing my lighted cigar floating, fizzing, and spitting peevishly upon the water. Poor thing! it did not relish regeneration. I put out my hand to catch it; but it fizzed angrily, and floated away from me. This "was the unkindest cut of all;" and when I saw its light go out, I felt as if abandoned by all the world.

It just occurs to me that I have another cause of thanksgiving: since one must sometimes fall into a horse-pond, I am grateful that it is an English one. In some countries, now, those devils of the air—the birds of prey—would keep wheeling, whirling, and shrieking above my head, complimenting each other upon the good supper prepared for them, and then coolly peck out my two eyes before my face!

This idea is suggested by a somewhat uncomfortable circumstance,  which, notwithstanding my patience, I cannot but be sensible of. Something—I conjecture either an eel or a rat—is gnawing at the boot on my right leg; no other animals venture so deeply into the mud. I wish I could raise my foot.

If it be a rat, he will content himself with the leather, and gnaw away till it be gone; but the eel prefers a bit of meat, and in that case he is only busying himself to open his "pantry-door." Pray Heavens it be a rat!

I am a most enduring man. I remember suffering infinite misery a whole season at the house of a particular friend; I was lodged in the best bedroom, and a superb apartment it was. The bed was a magnificent one; but, to my cost, there was a flea in it,—"the last flea of summer!" Never shall I forget what I suffered from that single tormentor. I should have known it was only one, from the peculiar pungency of his bite, even if the invariable character of the mark had not also been a witness. The room had been for a long period unoccupied, save by this flea, the survivor of all his family and friends, who had died of starvation in the course of the summer. I bore it patiently enough for several nights, thinking that it was a tax to flea-manity which must be paid; but when, night after night, week after week, the same torture continued, I began to grow nervous and irritable. I sought after him diligently in the morning, but never found anything save his trail. Like Destiny, he was always to be felt, but never seen. In the night, scarcely had I torn the skin off my shoulder, ere I was imperiously called upon to apply the same remedy to my leg. I felt him hop across my hand as I raised it up; and so rapid were his movements, that he seemed to be jumping in every part of my body at once: like the Indian Apollo, he appeared to have the power of multiplying his person, and of being in fifty places at the same time. He was a single fiend "whose name was Legion." I started in anguish; shook my sheets and my shirt; called upon God, upon the devil; apostrophised the mistress of the house, and mentally sent the housemaid to the hottest place I could think of. It was all to no purpose; he seemed to have some extraordinary power of disgorging his prey and clearing his stomach, which, like Time, was always devouring,—never full. So rapidly did his constant consecutive meals of breakfast, luncheon, dinner, tea, and supper tread upon each other's heels, that I seemed to live twenty days in one tortured night. I longed to complain to the master of the house; but how tell him there was a flea in his best bed,—that bed in which he took such pride, and beheld with so much admiration? At length I met the housemaid on the stairs. She was as ugly as Repentance, crabbed as Chastity, and old as Mother Shipton: nevertheless I addressed her as "My dear little girl!" gave her a kiss and a piece of money, and entreated her to kill the fleas in my bed. The next day I met her, and she said, "There bean't no fleas in your bed as now, sir." Alas! I knew that,—there was but one; and he was a flea of Fate, beyond her power to destroy. Still the torture went on; still did I lie, night after night, miserable, feverish, sleepless, pinched, torn, and tortured in every part of my burning skin. At length, considering the enormous power possessed by my tormentor, his divisibility, his invisibility, his infallibility, I came at last to the conclusion, that it was no living flea that thus distracted  and disturbed me, but the ghost of some starved tenant of former times, who was allowed this recreation to make amends for past sufferings. This idea once established, I knew that I had no hope; I had nothing for it but to fly: so I went to my friend, declared (to his astonishment) my intention, and, when hard pressed for my reason, painfully and reluctantly gave it. "A flea!" shouted he in a voice between displeasure and mirth, "a flea—and in that bed!—then you must have brought it!" Now was not this too much? I thought my heart would have broken. I, who had endured so much—I, who had suffered torture in silence for six long weeks, to be accused of having brought that alderman of fleas with me! It was beyond human nature to bear. I burst from his presence, packed up my clothes, and, though I am a very good-tempered man, have not seen that friend since. I can never forgive his accusation—I can never forget what I suffered! As I call to mind that burning sorrow, I take comfort in the knowledge that I am standing up to my neck in a horse-pond!

Thank you, gentle lady moon! I am grateful for any kind of attention, even though it should be of no use to me; but yours is. I wish I was a poet now!—I could make something of this scenery. I have read a good deal about "moonlight on the waters;" but I never was so near its dancing beams before. The devil take this rat—how he nibbles! My boots are new—a hole in them at least! There's a villanous odour that comes over me from some part of the horse-pond, "at which my nose is in great indignation." It strikes me also, from something uncomfortable in my stomach, that in my plunge I must have swallowed a good allowance of Mark Anthony's liquor. (See Shakspeare's Anthony and Cleopatra, Act 1, scene 4.) The bare idea is enough to make me faint;—only who would be fool enough to faint in a horse-pond?

I have been in my life several times taken in, besides to-night, by these waters.

Thank you again, dear gracious moon! She's very bright just now. There is a large tract of blue in the heavens over which, for at least the next twenty minutes, she may travel without being "capped by a cloud;" so I shall have time to look around me. I am nearly in the centre of the pond; the water is perfectly tranquil, except when it bobs against my chin, disturbed by the movement of my head. Lord help me! suppose I should die here!—as, if nobody come to my assistance, I certainly shall.

On my first ascertaining the character of my position, recollecting that horse-ponds are generally in the neighbourhood of towns or farms, I hallooed so lustily that I found my voice grow husky; so I determined to reserve it for a better occasion—I mean in case any persons should approach—Heaven send them! This would be a comfortless bed to die in!

A huge frog has just discovered me; and he sits amongst the weeds below the opposite bank, croaking out his speculations as to what I can be. He stares earnestly; so do I. He takes my eye for a challenge—he is a frog of courage, however, for he plunges into the water, swims towards me, and plants himself directly opposite to my face. He croaks; I answer very naturally, for the water has qualified my voice. The frog stares again: "The voice is the voice  of Esau, but the form is Jacob's." Now he very gravely swims entirely round my head, and then again plants himself in front. I laugh aloud; he backs a little. I open my eyes very wide at him; he returns the compliment. My chin splashes the water about him; he takes fright and disappears.

Hark! there are certainly footsteps in the neighbourhood. Halloo!—ough!—ah!—mercy upon me! my voice is quite gone, and I shall be compelled to live in this horse-pond the remainder of my days. Who will feed me, I wonder: the rat will not be so civil to me as the ravens were to Elijah; and I have affronted the frog. Ha! the footsteps come nearer—and nearer. 'Tis a man—I see him—a groom—I'll call. Hallook!—ouk!—cro-ak!

"D—n your croaking soul!" quoth the vagabond; and he flings a huge stone at my head.

Despair and distraction! what shall I do? Die! No, that's cowardly: I'll live bravely; that is, if I can. The fellow is gone, and "I am all alone!" Alone! What do I hear? Voices—yes; they come—most sweet voices. A gentleman and the rascally groom aforesaid.

"You have not dragged this pond to-night," says the master.

"Indeed, sir, we did,—from one end of it to the other," replies the fellow: "see how the weeds are disturbed."

"You lie, you rascal! you did not, or you would have found me there," said I.

"Heighday!" cried the master; "what have we here?"

"A gentleman in distress."

"I should think so: but how came you in this pond?"

"I'll tell you when I am out."

"Help, all of you, fellows!" says the gentleman. "Now, sir, hold fast: I was in search of a drunken uncle who has escaped from his servants. Pull away, boys!—I expected to find him in this horse-pond, and I discover a sober gentleman in his place."

N.B. I did not think it necessary to rectify this latter mistake.