The Arab Steed and the Chief

by W. H. G. Kingston

Monsieur De Lamartine’s beautiful story of the Arab chief and his favourite steed has often been told. It shall form one of our anecdotes of horses.

A chief, Abou el Marek, and his marauding tribe, had one night attacked a caravan. When returning with their plunder, they were surrounded by the troops of the Pacha of Acre, who killed several, and bound the rest with cords. Abou el Marek, wounded and faint from loss of blood, was among the latter. Thus bound, while lying on the ground at night, he heard the neigh of his favourite steed, picketed at a short distance off. Anxious to caress the horse for the last time, he dragged himself up to him. “Poor friend,” he said, “what will you do among these savage Turks? Shut up under the stifling roof of a khan, you will sicken and die. No longer will the women and children of the tent bring you barley, camel’s milk, or dhourra in the hollow of their hands. No longer will you gallop free as the wind across the desert; no longer cleave the waters with your breast, and lave your sides in the pure stream. If I am to be a slave, at least you shall go free. Hasten back to our tent. Tell my wife that Abou el Marek will return no more!”

With these words, his hands being tied, the old chief undid, by means of his teeth, the rope which held the courser fast; but the noble animal, instead of galloping away to the desert, bent his head over his master, and seeing him helpless on the ground, took his clothes gently between his teeth, and, lifting him up, set off at full speed towards his distant home. Arriving there, he laid his master at the feet of his wife and children, and dropped down dead with fatigue.

What a brave example of affection, duty, and self-sacrifice! You may never be called on to perform the one hundredth part of the task undertaken willingly by that gallant Arab steed, but how are you carrying the tiny, light burdens which your every-day duties place on you? True heroism consists not so much in the performance of one noble deed, which may become the poet’s theme, but in doing all that we have to do, and in seeking to do as much as we can of what there is to be done, to the very best of our power, and in bearing with patience what we are called on to bear.