SOME TRUE STORIES OP HORSES AND DONKEYS

By W. H. G. Kingston

The horse becomes the willing servant of man, and when kindly treated looks upon him as a friend and protector.

I have an interesting story to tell you of a mare which belonged to Captain Ió, an old settler in New Zealand. She and her foal had been placed in a paddock, between which and her master's residence, three or four miles away, several high fences intervened. The paddock itself was surrounded by a still higher fence.

One day, however, as Captain Iówas standing with a friend in front of his house, he was surprised to see the mare come galloping up. Supposing that the fence of her paddock had been broken down, and that, pleased at finding herself at liberty, she had leaped the others, he ordered a servant to take her back. The mare willingly followed the man; but in a short time was seen galloping up towards the house in as great a hurry as before. The servant, who arrived some time afterwards, assured his master that he had put the mare safely into the paddock. Captain Iótold him again to take back the animal, and to examine the fence more thoroughly, still believing that it must have been broken down in some part or other, though the gate might be secure.

Captain Ióand his friend then retired into the house, and were seated at dinner, when the sound of horse's hoofs reached their ears. The friend, who had on this got up to look out of the window, saw that it was the mare come back for the third time; and observing the remarkable manner in which she was running up and down, apparently trying even to get into the house, exclaimed, "What can that mare want? I am sure that there is something the matter." Captain Ióon hearing this hurried out to ascertain the state of the case. No sooner did the mare see him than she began to frisk about and exhibit the most lively satisfaction; but instead of stopping to receive the accustomed caress, off she set again of her own accord towards the paddock, looking back to ascertain whether her master was following. His friend now joined him, and the mare, finding that they were keeping close behind her, trotted on till the gate of the paddock was reached, where she waited for them. On its being opened, she led them across the field to a deep ditch on the farther side, when, what was their surprise to find that her colt had fallen into it, and was struggling on its back with its legs in the air, utterly unable to extricate itself. In a few minutes more probably it would have been dead. The mare, it was evident, finding that the servant did not comprehend her wishes, had again and again sought her master, in whom she had learned from past experience to confide. Here was an example of strong maternal affection eliciting a faculty superior to instinct, which fully merits the name of reason.

[Illustration: GINGER AND I WERE STANDING ALONE IN THE SHADE From the painting by Maude Scrivener]

The memory of horses is remarkable. The newsman of a country paper was in the habit of riding his horse once or twice a week to the houses of fifty or sixty of his customers, the horse invariably stopping of his own accord at each house as he reached it.

But the memory of the horse was exhibited in a still more curious manner. It happened that there were two persons on the route who took one paper between them, and each claimed the privilege of having it first on each alternate week. The horse soon became accustomed to this regulation, and though the parties lived two miles distant, he stopped once a fortnight at the door of the half-customer at one place, and once a fortnight at the door of the half-customer at the other; and never did he forget this arrangement, which lasted for several years.

I was once travelling in the interior of Portugal with several companions. My horse had never been in that part of the country before. We left our inn at daybreak, and proceeded through a mountainous district to visit some beautiful scenery. On our return evening was approaching, when I stopped behind my companions to tighten the girths of my saddle. Believing that there was only one path to take, I rode slowly on, but shortly reached a spot where I was in some doubt whether I should go forward or turn off to the left. I shouted, but heard no voice in reply, nor could I see any trace of my friends. Darkness was coming rapidly on. My horse seeming inclined to take the left hand, I thought it best to let him do so. In a short time the sky became overcast, and there was no moon. The darkness was excessive. Still my steed stepped boldly on. So dense became the obscurity, that I could not see his ears; nor could I, indeed, distinguish my own hand held out at arms-length. I had no help for it but to place the reins on my horse's neck and let him go forward.

We had heard of robberies and murders committed; and I knew that there were steep precipices, down which, had my horse fallen, we should have been dashed to pieces. Still the firm way in which he trotted gave me confidence. Hour after hour passed by. The darkness would, at all events, conceal me from the banditti, if such were in waitóthat was one consolation; but then I could not tell where my horse might be taking me. It might be far away from where I hoped to find my companions.

At length I heard a dog bark, and saw a light twinkling far down beneath me, by which I knew that I was still on the mountain-side. Thus on my steady steed proceeded, till I found that he was going along a road, and I fancied I could distinguish the outlines of trees on either hand. Suddenly he turned on one side, when my hat was nearly knocked off by striking against the beam of a trellised porch, covered with vines; and to my joy I found that he had brought me up to the door of the inn which we had left in the morning.

My companions, trusting to their human guide, had not arrived, having taken a longer though safer route. My steed had followed the direct path over the mountains which we had pursued in the morning.

Another horse of mine, which always appeared a gentle animal, and which constantly carried a lady, was, during my absence, ridden by a friend with spurs. On my return, I found that he had on several occasions attacked his rider, when dismounted, with his fore-feet, and had once carried off the rim of his hat. From that time forward he would allow no one to approach him if he saw spurs on his heels; and I was obliged to blindfold him when mounting and dismounting, as he on several occasions attacked me as he had done my friend.

A horse was shut up in a paddock near Leeds, in a corner of which stood a pump with a tub beneath it.

The groom, however, often forgot to fill the tub, the horse having thus no water to drink. The animal had observed the way in which water was procured, and one night, when the tub was empty, was seen to take the pump handle in his mouth, and work it with his head till he had procured as much water as he required.

A remarkable instance of a horse saving human life occurred some years ago at the Cape of Good Hope. A storm was raging when a vessel, dragging her anchors, was driven on the rocks and speedily dashed to pieces. Many of those on board perished. The remainder were seen clinging to the wreck, or holding on to the fragments which were washing to and fro amid the breakers. No boat could put off. When all hope had gone of saving the unfortunate people, a settler, somewhat advanced in life, appeared on horseback on the shore. His horse was a bold and strong animal, and noted for excelling as a swimmer. The farmer, moved with compassion for the unfortunate seamen, resolved to attempt saving them. Fixing himself firmly in the saddle, he pushed into the midst of the breakers. At first both horse and rider disappeared; but soon they were seen buffeting the waves, and swimming towards the wreck. Calling two of the seamen, he told them to hold on by his boots; then turning his horse's head, he brought them safely to land.

No less than seven times did he repeat this dangerous exploit, thus saving fourteen lives. For the eighth time he plunged in, when, encountering a formidable wave, the brave man lost his balance, and was instantly overwhelmed. The horse swam safely to shore; but his gallant rider, alas! was no more.

Some horses in the county of Limerick, which were pastured in a field, broke bounds like a band of unruly schoolboys, and scrambling through a gap which they had made in a fence, found themselves in a narrow lane. Along the quiet by-road they galloped helter-skelter, at full speed, snorting and tossing their manes in the full enjoyment of their freedom, but greatly to the terror of a party of children who were playing in the lane. As the horses were seen tearing wildly along, the children scrambled up the bank into the hedge, and buried themselves in the bushes, regardless of thorns,ówith the exception of one poor little thing, who, too small to run, fell down on its face, and lay crying loudly in the middle of the narrow way.

On swept the horses; but when the leader of the troop saw the little child lying in his path, he suddenly stopped, and so did the others behind him. Then stooping his head, he seized the infant's clothes with his teeth, and carefully lifted it to the side of the road, laying it gently and quite unhurt on the tender grass.

He and his companions then resumed their gallop in the lane, unconscious of having performed a remarkable act.

We have no less an authority than Dr. Franklin to prove that donkeys enjoy music.

The mistress of a chateau in France where he visited had an excellent voice, and every time she began to sing, a donkey belonging to the establishment invariably came near the window, and listened with the greatest attention. One day, during the performance of a piece of music which apparently pleased it more than any it had previously heard, the animal, quitting its usual post outside the window, unceremoniously entered the room, and, to exhibit its satisfaction, began to bray with all its might.

Donkeys sometimes exert their ingenuity to their own advantage. A certain ass had his quarters in a shed, in front of which was a small yard. On one side of the yard was a kitchen garden, separated from it by a wall, in which was a door fastened by two bolts and a latch. The owner of the premises one morning, in taking a turn round his garden, observed the footprints of an ass on the walks and beds. "Surely some one must have left the door open at night," thought the master. He accordingly took care to see that it was closed.

Again, however, he found that the ass had visited the garden.

The next night, curious to know how this had happened, he watched from a window overlooking the yard. At first he kept a light burning near him. The ass, however, remained quietly at his stall. After a time, to enable him to see the better, he had it removed, when what was his surprise to see the supposed stupid donkey come out of the shed, go to the door, and, rearing himself on his hind-legs, unfasten the upper bolt of the door with his nose. This done, he next withdrew the lower bolt; then lifted the latch, and walked into the garden. He was not long engaged in his foraging expedition, and soon returned with a bunch of carrots in his mouth. Placing them in his shed, he went back and carefully closed the door and began at his ease to munch the provender he had so adroitly got possession of.

The owner, suspecting that people would not believe his story, invited several of his neighbours to witness the performance of the ass. Not till the light, however, had been taken away, would the creature commence his operations, evidently conscious that he was doing wrong.

A lock was afterwards put on the door, which completely baffled the ingenuity of the cunning animal.