Rough was a Donkey
HE was a donkey, and we called him
Rough. He belonged to Gerald
and me. We didn’t keep him for his
useful qualities, and we certainly didn’t
keep him for his moral qualities; and I
don’t know what we did keep him for,
unless, for the best reason in the world,
that we loved him.
He was always getting us into scrapes,
the most renowned of which was one
Rough’s enemies were fond of alluding to.
We were bidden to a christening one
fair spring morning; and we not only accepted
the invitation, but promised to
bring apple-blossoms, to fill the font and
make the church look gay. We had an
old apple orchard, that bore beautiful
blossoms, but worthless fruit; and of
these blossoms we had leave to pick as
many as we chose.
So we filled the donkey-cart with them,
and set forth for the christening, which
was to be at a little church about a mile
or more distant from our farm. Rough’s
enemies will tell how we arrived when
the christening was all over, and our apple
We were never so happy as when we
had a whole leisure afternoon to go off
with Rough in the donkey-cart, and our
little sister Daisy by Gerald’s side, on the
board that served as seat, and I lying
on my back on the bottom of the cart,
with my heels dangling out of it. So I
would lie for hours, whistling and looking
up at the drifting clouds, or with my hat
over my eyes to keep out the sun.
One afternoon, early in March, when
the roads were almost knee deep in mud,
and the last of the melting snow made a
running stream on either side of the road,
we were slowly travelling along after the
manner I have described. We were going
to take a longing look at the skating
pond, two miles from our farm. We were
forbidden to try the dangerous ice, but
meant only to look upon the scene of our
“Some one’s in the pond!” cried
“How do ye know?” said I, not removing
my hat from my face.
You see Daisy was only six years old,
and I hadn’t much faith in her observation.
“Cos I sees ’em with my own eyes.”
I jumped up and looked. It was only
a hat I saw. Gerald meanwhile said
nothing, but had pulled up Rough (who
not only stopped, but lay down in the
mud), and looked. I watched him, to see
what he thought, or proposed to do.
People had a way of trusting to Gerald’s
judgment rather than their own, and were
generally better off for it.
“It is some one in the pond,” said
Gerald; and then followed a short discussion
as to whether we should leave Daisy
alone to the mercies of Rough, which
resulted in our leaving Rough, and taking
Daisy along with us down to the pond.
We could see a boy, apparently about
Gerald’s age, swimming and striving to
keep up, and catching at the ice, which
broke as he clung to it. He swam feebly,
as if benumbed and wearied.
“Keep a brave heart!” roared Gerald;
“we’ll save you!” and then began to take
off his boots and coat. The boy sank—under
the ice, this time. We could see
it bobbing up and down as he swam beneath
“Stay here till I call you,” said Gerald
to me, as he stepped from the shore on to
the ice, and walked out towards where
the swimmer was hidden by the ice. I
stood breathless, with my eye on Gerald.
The ice began to crack under him. He
lay down on his stomach, and pulled himself
forward with his hands. Up came
the swimmer not far from him.
“Keep up! Gerald will save you!”
The poor fellow cast one despairing
look at Gerald, and sank again. Gerald
had gone as far as was practicable on the
ice. I could hear it cracking all over,
and see the white cracks darting suddenly
over ice that had looked safe.
Up came the boy again.
“Keep up! keep up!” cried Daisy, in
an excited treble. “Gerald will save
But the boy could hear nothing. He
had his eyes closed, and seemed to have
fainted. Gerald reached out, and clutched
him by the arm. How the ice cracked all
about him! My heart was in my mouth;
I thought he was in. I began to take my
“A scarf!” said Gerald, speaking for
the first time.
I took off my own, and picked up Gerald’s
from the ground, and tied them firmly
together. I saw that they were too short.
Daisy offered hers. I took it, with an inward
fear, if the child should catch cold;
it seemed paltry to think of it at such a
moment. I stepped out on the ice, and
went a few steps, when Gerald cried,—
I obeyed like a soldier.
“Throw it now!”
I threw the long string of scarfs. Gerald
dexterously caught it, and upholding
the poor boy with one hand, with the other
passed the string under his arms, and tied
the ends of it to his own arm. Then he
paused a moment before attempting the
hazardous work of coming ashore, and
looked at me speculatively. I knew what
he meant. There was a shadow of trouble
in his face that had nothing to do with his
own danger. He was weighing the possibility
of his falling in, and my doing the
same in trying to save him, and Daisy
alone on the shore. I gave a cheering
“Go ahead, old fellow!” and he began to
push himself back again, dragging his
senseless burden after him by the scarf
tied to his arm.
Crack! crack! crack! went the ice all
about him, and little tides of water flooded
it. At last it seemed a little firmer. Gerald
rose to his feet, and dragging the boy still
in the water after him, began to walk
slowly towards the shore, not seeming to
notice how the sharp edges of the ice
cut the face and forehead of the poor
Again the ice began to crack and undulate.
Gerald stood still for a moment,
and the piece on which he stood broke
away from the rest, and began to float
out. He jumped to the next, which broke,
and so to the next, and the next, till he
neared the shore. Then he paused a
moment, and looked at me.
“Go ashore!” he roared like a sea
Then I noticed that I stood on a detached
piece of ice, but nearer land than
Gerald. I found no difficulty in gaining
“Now stand firm and give a hand!”
I grasped his hand, and he jumped
ashore, and together we lifted the boy
out of the water. Daisy burst into tears,
“O, Gerald, Gerald, I thought you’d
Gerald very gently put her clinging
arms away from him, saying, firmly,—
“Don’t cry, Daisy. We have our
hands full with this poor fellow.”
I got the skates off the “poor fellow,”
and gave them to Daisy to hold. She,
brave little woman, gulped down her
tears, and only gave vent to her emotion,
now and then, by a little suppressed sob.
Gerald began beating the hands and
breathing into the mouth and nostrils of
the seeming lifeless form before us.
“Is he dead, Gery?” said I.
“No!” said Gerald, fiercely. It was
evident that he wouldn’t believe he had
gone through so much trouble to bring
a dead man ashore. “Look for his
handkerchief, and see if there’s a mark
I fished a wet rag out of the wet trousers
pocket, and found in one corner of it
the name “Stevens.”
“There’s a farmer of that name two miles
farther on. I don’t know any one else of
that name. Must be his son. We’ll take
him home;” and he began wrapping his
coat about the poor boy; but I insisted
on mine being used for the purpose, as
Gerald was half wet, and his teeth were
already chattering. “We must get him
off this wet ground as soon as possible,”
said Gerald; and together we lifted him,
and slowly and laboriously bore him to
the donkey-cart in the road.
By this time Gerald had only strength
enough to hold the reins, and we set out
forthwith for the Stevens farm, I, with
what help Daisy could give, trying to
bring some show of life back to the stranger.
Perhaps the jolting of the cart
helped,—I don’t know,—but by and by
he began to revive, and at last we propped
him up in one corner of the cart, with his
head supported by Daisy’s knee.
I shall not soon forget how long the
road seemed, and how I got out and
walked in deep mud, and how, when poor
Rough seemed straining every muscle to
make the little cart move at all, Gerald
insisted on getting out, too, and leading
Rough; how the sun set as we were wading
through a long road, where willow
trees grew thick on either side, and Daisy
said, “See; all the little pussies are out!”
how, at last, we reached the Stevens farm,
and restored the half-drowned boy to his
parents. I remember, too, how they were
so utterly absorbed, very naturally, in the
welfare of their boy, as to forget all about
us, and offer us no quicker means of return
home than our donkey-cart.
They came to call on us the next day,
and to thank us, and specially Gerald,
with tears of gratitude. And Gerald was
a hero in the village from that day forth.
I remember well how dark it grew as
we waded slowly and silently home, and
how poor little Rough did his very best,
and never stopped once.
I think he understood the importance
of the occasion; but those who were not
Rough’s friends, believe it was a recollection,
and expectation of supper, that made
him acquit himself so honorably.
As we neared our home, we saw a tall
figure looming up in the dark, and soon,
by the voice, we knew it was Michael,
one of the farm hands, sent to seek us.
“Bluder an nouns,” he exclaimed, “it
is you, Mister Gery! An’ yer muther,
poor leddy, destroyed wid the fright. An’
kapin’ the chilt out to this hair. Hadn’t
ye moor sense?”
We explained briefly; and Daisy begged
to be carried, as the cart was all wet.
With many Irish expressions of sympathy,
Michael took the child in his arms;
and so we arrived at home, and found
father and mother half distracted with
anxiety, and the farm hands sent in all
directions to look for us. We were at
once, all three of us, put to bed, and made
to drink hot lemonade, and have hot
stones at our feet, and not till then tell
all our experiences, which were listened
Daisy escaped unhurt, I with a slight
cold, but Gerald and poor little Rough
were the ones who suffered. Gerald had
a severe attack of pneumonia, from which
we had much ado to bring him back to
health, and Rough was ill. They brought
us the news from the stable on the next
morning. We couldn’t tell what was the
matter; perhaps he had strained himself,
perhaps had caught cold. We could not
tell, nor could the veterinary surgeon we
brought to see him. Poor Rough lay ill
for weeks, and one bright spring morning
They told us early in the morning, before
we were out of bed, how, an hour ago,
Rough had died.