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The Story of a Donkey - a fairy tale by Countess of Segur

 Read "The Story of a Donkey" fairy tale for all children. "The Story of a Donkey" story, is a short bedtime Story for kids written by Countess of Ségur about a donkey that belonged to a farmer's wife and she was very severe and ill-tempered. Each week the woman loaded all the eggs laid by her hens on the donkey's back, all the butter and cheese she made from cow's milk, and all the vegetables and fruits in the garden that were ready for the market. Then the woman climbed on the donkey's back and began to beat him with a thick stick because it seemed to her that the donkey was walking too slowly. The donkey trotted and almost galloped, but the farmer's wife was still beating him.

"The Story of a Donkey"
a fairy tale by Countess of Segur


CHAPTER I.

Men, poor things, can’t be expected to be as wise as donkeys, and therefore you probably do not know that there was a market in our country-town every Tuesday. At this market vegetables were sold, and butter, and eggs, and cheese, and fruit, and many other nice things.

Tuesday was a miserable day for the poor donkeys, and especially for me. I belonged to a farmer’s wife, and she was very severe and ill-tempered. Just think! every week she used to load up my back with all the eggs her hens laid, all the butter and cheese she made from the milk of her cows, all the vegetables and fruit that were ready for market out of her garden. Then she would get on the top of all this and beat me with a hard, knotty stick because my poor thin legs didn’t carry her to market with all that load as fast as she liked. I trotted, I almost galloped, but that farmer’s wife whipped me all the same. I used to get very angry at such cruelty and injustice. I tried to kick her off, but I was loaded down too heavily, and so I could only wobble about from side to side; but I did have the satisfaction of knowing that she was well jolted. Then she would growl, “Ah, you wretched animal! see if I don’t teach you to wobble!” and she would beat me again till I could scarcely keep on my legs.

One day we reached the market-town in this way, and the baskets with which my poor back had been nearly crushed were taken off and set down upon the ground. My mistress hitched me to a post, and went away to get her dinner. I was dying of hunger and thirst, but nobody thought of offering me a single blade of grass or a drop of water. While the farmer’s wife was away, I managed to get my head close to the basket of vegetables, and made a dinner of the cabbages and lettuces. I never tasted anything so good.

I had just finished the last cabbage and the last lettuce in that basket when my mistress came back. She cried out when she saw the empty basket, and I looked at her with such an impudent and self-satisfied air, that she at once guessed that I was the culprit. I won’t repeat to you the mean things she said to me. When she was angry she used language which was enough to make me blush, donkey as I am. So after heaping me with abuse, of which I took no notice, she seized her stick and began to beat me so severely, that at last I lost patience and launched out three kicks. The first kick broke her nose and two teeth, the second sprained her wrist, and the third knocked her flat.

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A score of people at once set upon me and knocked me about. They picked up my mistress and carried her away, leaving me fastened to the post, by the side of which were spread out the things I had brought to be sold in the market. I remained there a long while, and finding that no one paid any more attention to me, I ate a second basketful of excellent vegetables, and then with my teeth I gnawed through the cord that tied me up, and quietly took the road home.

The people I passed on the way were astonished to see me all alone.

“Look,” said one, “see that ass with the broken nose! He has run away.”

“Then he has run away from prison,” said the other, and they all began to laugh.

“He doesn’t carry a heavy load upon his back,” said a third.

“Certainly he has done some mischief,” a fourth one said.

“Catch him and we will put the little one upon his back,” said a woman.

“He will carry you as well as the little boy,” answered her husband.

I, wishing to give a good opinion of my kindness and good will, came gently towards the country woman and stopped near her to let her mount upon my back.

“He doesn’t seem a bad sort!” said the man, helping his wife to the saddle.

I smiled with pity on hearing this remark. Bad! as if a donkey kindly treated were ever bad! We become angry, disobedient, and obstinate only to revenge ourselves for the blows and injuries we receive. When we are well treated we are good,—much better, in fact, than many other animals.

I took the young woman and her little child of two years back to their home; they stroked me, were very much pleased with me, and would willingly have kept me.

But it was, I thought, not honest to stay with them. My masters had bought me and I belonged to them. I had already broken my mistress’s nose, teeth, and wrist, and had kicked her in the stomach. I was sufficiently revenged.

Seeing that the mother was going to give in to her little boy (who I noticed was a spoiled child), I jumped to one side, and before the mother could catch my bridle again, I ran away at a gallop and came back to my home.

Mary, my mistress’s little girl, saw me come back.

“Hallo, here’s Neddy,” she said; “how early he is! Jim, come and take off his pack-saddle.”

“That wretched donkey!” growled Jim; “always something to be done for him! Why is he alone? I suspect he has run away from mother.”

My saddle and bridle were taken off, and I galloped away to the meadow. Suddenly I heard shrieks. I looked over the hedge, and saw some men carrying my mistress home. Then I heard Jim say:—

“I say, father, I’m going to take the cart-whip, and I shall tie that donkey to a tree, and then whip him till he can’t stand.”

“All right, my lad,” said my master, “but mind and don’t kill him, for he cost money. I’ll sell him next fair-day.”

I shuddered when I heard this. There wasn’t a moment to be lost. This time I did not care whether they lost their money or not. I made a run and jumped clean over the hedge. Then I ran till I was out of sight and hearing in the depths of a beautiful large forest, where there was plenty of soft grass to eat, and plenty of sparkling brooks to drink from.

CHAPTER II.

Next day after, I thought over my good fortune. “Here I am saved,” thought I; “they never will find me, and in a couple of days, when I am quite rested, I will go farther on.”

Just then I heard the far-off barking of a dog; then of a second one; and several minutes afterwards the yelling of a whole pack. Restless and frightened, I got up and went towards a little brook that I had noticed in the morning. I had hardly ventured into the water, when I heard Jules saying to the dogs, “Go on, go on, dogs, search him out, find this miserable donkey, and bring him back to me.”

I nearly fell down with fright, but I quickly remembered that if I walked in the water the dogs could not follow my scent. So I began to run in the brook which was fortunately bordered on both sides with thick bushes.

I went on for a long time without stopping. The barking of the dogs as well as the voice of Jules became fainter, until at last I heard nothing more.

Breathless and exhausted I rested a minute to drink. I ate a few leaves off the bushes. My legs were stiff with cold, but I did not dare to get out of the water lest the dogs might come upon my scent again. When I had rested a little, I set off again, always following the brook until I got out of the forest. I then found myself in a meadow where over fifty cattle were grazing. I lay down in the sun in a corner of the field. The cattle paid no attention to me, so that I could rest at my ease.

Towards evening two men came into the meadow. “Brother,” said the taller of the two, “shall we take the cattle in to-night? They say there are wolves in the woods.”

“Wolves! Who told you that nonsense?”

“People say that the donkey from the farm has been taken away and eaten in the forest.”

“Bah! don’t believe it; the people of that farm are so wicked that they have killed their donkey with bad treatment.”

“Then why do they say that the wolves have eaten him?”

“So that people won’t know that they have killed him.”

“We had better take in our cattle, all the same.”

“Do as you wish, brother; it is all one to me.”

I was in such fear of being seen that I lay in my corner and did not stir; fortunately the grass was long and hid me; the cattle were not on the side where I was. The men drove them towards the gate, and then to the farm where their masters lived.

I was not afraid of wolves, because the donkey of whom they spoke was myself, and because I had not seen the tail of a wolf in the forest where I passed the night. So I slept beautifully and was finishing my breakfast when the cattle came back to the meadow, guarded by two large dogs.

I was looking at them, when one of the dogs saw me, and, barking fiercely, ran towards me, his companion following. What should I do? how could I escape them?

I flew towards the hedges surrounding the meadow, through which ran the brook I had followed. I was fortunate enough to jump over it, and I heard the voice of one of the men I had seen yesterday, calling off his dogs.

I went on my way at my ease, and walked as far as another forest, the name of which I don’t know. I must have gone more than ten miles. I was saved; nobody knew me; and I could show myself without fear of being taken back to my former masters.

But it began to grow cold, for winter was coming on, and I thought it high time to look out for a comfortable home. I trotted on right through the forest, and out at the other side, and after some days’ travelling, I arrived at a village that I had never seen or heard of before. Here I felt I should be safe.

Just outside the village there stood a little cottage in a garden quite by itself. It was very clean and neat. An old woman was sitting by the door doing some needlework. I thought she looked both kind and sad; so I went up to her, and put my head on her shoulder.

The good woman gave a shriek, and jumped up quickly.

I did not move, but lifted my face towards hers with a gentle and pleading look.

“Poor thing!” she said at last; “you don’t look like a bad creature. If you don’t belong to any one, you shall take the place of my poor Greycoat, who died the other day of old age, and I shall still be able to earn my living by taking my vegetables to market to sell. But,” she added, with a sigh, “you’ve got a master somewhere, I’ll be bound.”

“Granny, whom are you talking to?” said a pleasant voice from the house, and a nice little boy came out of the door. He was six or seven years old, poorly but very neatly dressed. He looked at me, half admiring, half afraid.

“Granny, may I stroke him?” he said.

“Of course you may, George, my dear; but take care he doesn’t bite you.”

The little boy stretched up his hand, but he was so short that he had to stand on tiptoe before he could reach my back. I didn’t move, for fear of frightening him; I only turned my head round, and licked his hand.

“Oh, granny, granny! just see! what a dear donkey! he licked my hand!”

“It’s very strange,” said George’s grandmother, “that he should be here all by himself. Go to the village, my dear, and ask whether anybody has lost a donkey. Perhaps his master is very anxious about him.”

George set off at a run, and I trotted after him. When he saw me come up, and then stand still by a mound on the roadside, he climbed up on my back, and said, “Gee up!”

I galloped along, and George was enchanted. When we got to the village inn, George cried, “Whoa back!” and I stopped immediately.

“What do you want, laddie?” said the innkeeper.

“Please, sir, do you know whose donkey this is?”

The innkeeper came out, and looked me all over. “No, my boy, he isn’t mine, and he doesn’t belong to any one I know. Go and ask farther on.”

So George went through the village asking the same question, but nobody had ever seen me before. At last we went back to the good old woman, who was still sitting with her work at the cottage door.

“So you can’t find his master, my dear? Very well, then, we may keep him till he is claimed. He mustn’t stay out all night. Take him to Greycoat’s shed, and give him some hay and a pail of water.”

The next morning George came to fetch me out of the shed, and gave me some breakfast. Then he put on the halter, and took me round to the cottage door. The old woman put a light pack-saddle on my back and mounted. Then George brought her a basket of vegetables, which she took on her knee, and we set off to market. Nobody in this market-town had ever seen or heard of me, and I came back joyfully to my new home.

I lived there for four years, and was very happy. I did my work well and never did anybody any harm. I loved my good old mistress and my little master. They never beat me or overworked me, and they gave me the best food they could. We donkeys are not dainty. The outside leaves of vegetables and plants that cows and horses won’t eat, and hay and potato-peel and carrots and turnips, are all we need.

CHAPTER III.

On some days, however, I was not so happy, for my mistress, now and then, hired me out to the children in the neighborhood. She was not well off, and on the days when she had nothing for me to do she was glad to earn something in this way.

And the people who hired me were not always good to me, as the following story will show:—

There were six donkeys in a row in the courtyard; I was the strongest and one of the most beautiful. Three little girls brought us oats in a bucket; as I ate I listened to the children talking.

Charles.—Come along, let us choose our donkeys. I’ll begin by taking this one (pointing me out with his finger).

“Yes, you always take what you think is the best,” said the six children all at once. “We must draw lots.”

Charles.—How can we draw lots, Caroline? Can we put the donkeys in a bag and draw them out like marbles?

Anthony.—Ha! ha! ha! The idea of donkeys in a bag! As if one could not number them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Put the numbers in a bag and draw them out as they come.

“That is so, that is so,” cried the five others. “Ernest, make the number slips while we write them on the backs of the donkeys.”

“These children are stupid,” said I to myself; “if they had the sense of a donkey, instead of giving themselves the trouble of writing the numbers on our backs, they would simply place us along the wall; then the first would be 1, the second 2, and so on.”

Meanwhile Anthony had brought a large piece of charcoal. I was the first. He wrote a large 1 on my flank; while he was writing 2 on that of my comrade, I shook myself to show him that his invention was not very clever. In a moment the 1 had disappeared. “Stupid,” cried he, “I must begin again.”

While he was doing his number 1 over again, my comrade, who had seen me, and who was clever, shook himself in his turn. There was the 2 gone. Then Anthony began to get angry, and the others laughed and teased him. I made a sign to my comrades to let them go on, and then not one of us moved after being marked. Ernest returned with the numbers in his pocket-handkerchief. Each one drew.

While they were looking at their numbers, I made another sign to my comrades, and we all shook ourselves vigorously. Charcoal and numbers disappeared and all must be done over again! The children were angry; Charles was triumphant and sneering; Ernest, Albert, Caroline, Cecil and Louise, crying out against Anthony, who stamped his feet. They began to quarrel with each other, and my comrades and I began to bray.

The noise brought out the fathers and the mothers, to whom the matter was explained. One of the fathers at last thought of placing us in order along the wall. Then they made the children draw the numbers. “One!” cried Ernest. It was I. “Two!” said Cecil. It was one of my friends. “Three!” said Anthony, and so on until the last donkey was drawn. “Now, let us go,” said Charles; “I will start first.” “Oh! I shall catch up with you,” quickly answered Ernest. “I’ll wager you won’t,” said Charles. “I’ll wager I will,” replied Ernest. Charles struck his donkey and started at a gallop. Before Ernest had time to strike me with his whip, I started also, and at a rate which enabled us soon to overtake Charles and his donkey.

Ernest was delighted; Charles was furious and beat his donkey repeatedly. Ernest had no need to beat me; I ran like the wind, and passed Charles in a minute. I heard the others following, laughing and shouting.

“Bravo! donkey Number 1! He runs like a horse.” Pride gave me courage. I continued to gallop until we reached a bridge, where I stopped suddenly, for I saw that one of the large boards of the bridge was rotten. I did not wish to fall into the water with Ernest, so I decided to return to the others, who were far, far behind us.

“Gee up! Gee up! Donkey!” said Ernest, “over the bridge, my friend, over the bridge.” I would not go on; he hit me with his stick, but I continued to walk towards the others. “Obstinate, stupid brute! will you turn round and cross the bridge?” said he. I walked on towards my comrades, and joined them in spite of the insults and blows of this wicked boy.

“Why do you beat your donkey, Ernest?” cried Caroline; “he is very good; he took you like lightning, and made you pass Charles.” “I beat him because he would not cross the bridge,” said Ernest; “he took it into his head to turn back.” “Nonsense! that was because he was alone; now that we are all together, he will cross the bridge like the others.”

“Unhappy children,” thought I, “they all will tumble into the river. I must try to show them that there is danger;”—and again I started at a gallop, running towards the bridge, to the great satisfaction of Ernest and the other children, who shouted with joy. I galloped to the bridge, but as soon as I got there, I stopped suddenly as if I were afraid. Ernest was astonished, and urged me to go on. I drew back with a frightened look which still more surprised Ernest. The silly fellow saw nothing: the rotten board was, nevertheless, in plain sight. Presently the others rejoined us and looked on laughingly at Ernest’s attempts to make me cross. Then they got off their donkeys and each one pushed me and beat me without pity. But I did not stir.

“Pull him by his tail,” cried Charles; “donkeys are so stubborn, that when you want them to go backwards they go forwards.” Then they tried to catch hold of my tail.

I defended myself by kicking, upon which they all beat me at once, but in spite of this I would not move.

“Wait, Ernest,” said Charles, “I will go over first; your donkey will certainly follow me.”

He started to go on; I put myself across the entrance to the bridge. He made me turn by dint of blows.

“All right,” said I, “if this naughty boy wishes to drown himself, let him. I did what I could to save him; let him drown if he wishes so much to do so.”

No sooner had his donkey put his foot upon the rotten board than it broke, and there was Charles and his donkey in the water!

There was no danger for my comrade, because, like all donkeys, he could swim.

Charles struggled in frantic attempts to get out. “A stick! a stick!” he cried. The children screamed and ran here and there. At last Caroline found a long stick, picked it up and gave it to Charles, who seized it; but his weight dragged down Caroline, who called out for help.

Ernest, Anthony, and Albert ran to her. At last the unhappy Charles, who had by this time got more than he bargained for, was pulled out of the water soaked from head to foot. When he was safe the children began to laugh at his doleful appearance. Charles growing angry, the children jumped upon their donkeys and advised him to return to his home to change his clothes. Dripping wet he remounted his donkey. I laughed to myself at his ridiculous appearance.

The current had swept away his hat and his shoes; the water ran in streams from his clothes; his soaked, wet hair stuck to his face, and his furious look made him a thoroughly comical sight. The children laughed; my comrades jumped and ran to express their joy. I must add that Charles’s donkey was detested by all of us, because, unlike most donkeys, he was quarrelsome, greedy, and stupid.

At last, Charles having disappeared, the children and my comrades were calmed down. Every one stroked me and admired my cleverness. We all set out again, I at the head of the party.

But these lively times were coming to an end. One day, George’s father, who was a soldier, came home from the army and bought a house in town. His mother and his little boy went to live with him, and I was sold to a neighboring farmer.

CHAPTER IV.

My new master was not a bad sort of man, but he had what I thought was an unpleasant habit of making everybody work very hard. He used to harness me to a little cart, and make me carry earth and apples and wood and many other things. I began to grow lazy; I didn’t enjoy going in harness, and I disliked market-days very much. It wasn’t that they made me draw too heavy a load or that they beat me, but I had to go without anything to eat from morning till three or four o’clock in the afternoon. When the weather was hot I nearly died of thirst, and yet I had to wait till everything was sold, and my master had got all his money.

I wasn’t always good in those days. I wanted them to treat me kindly, and as they didn’t, I began to think of revenge. You see that donkeys are not always stupid, but you also see that I was growing bad.

On market-days in the summer the people at the farm always got up very early to cut the vegetables and gather the eggs and churn the butter, while I was still lying out in the meadow. I used to watch all this going on, knowing that at eight o’clock they would come and fetch me to be harnessed to the cart.

One day I determined to play them a trick.

In the meadow I had noticed a deep ditch filled with thistles and blackberry bushes. “Now,” I said to myself, “I’ll hide in that ditch, so that when they come to fetch me there’ll be no donkey anywhere to be seen.” So, as soon as I saw the cart being filled and the people bustling about, I ran off to the side of the field, and lay down very softly in the ditch, so that I was quite hidden by the bushes.

In a little while I heard one of the farm boys call me, and then run looking about for me everywhere, and at last go back to the farm. In a few minutes I heard the farmer himself say, “He must have got through the hedge. But where could he have broken through? There doesn’t seem to be a hole anywhere. Oh, I know! some one must have left the gate open. Who was it? Here, boys, run out and look in the fields over yonder! He can’t be far off. And make haste, for it’s getting late.”

So all the farm help turned out to look for me. It was broiling weather, and after a while the poor people came back very hot, very limp, and panting for breath. The farmer declared that I must have been stolen, and that I was a great donkey to let any one steal me, and so on. Then he harnessed one of the horses to the cart, and drove off late to market, in a very bad temper.

When I saw that all was quiet again, and that nobody was looking, I scrambled out of my ditch, and galloped off to the other end of the meadow, so that they shouldn’t suspect where I’d been. Then I opened my mouth, and began to hee-haw! hee-haw! with all my might.

At this noise, all the people at the farm rushed out.

“Hello! why, there he is!” said the shepherd.

“Where has he been all this while?” said the mistress.

“How did he get in again?” said the carter.

I was so delighted not to go to market, that I went prancing up to them. They were very glad to see me; they patted me, and said I was a good, clever donkey to have managed to escape from the thieves who had stolen me, till I felt quite ashamed of myself, for I knew that I didn’t deserve all this, and that I did deserve the stick. Then they left me to graze all day in the meadow, and I should have enjoyed myself very much, if my conscience hadn’t given me such a bad time of it.

The farmer was very much surprised to see me when he came home. The next day he went all round the meadow, and carefully stopped up every hole he could find in the hedge, until there wasn’t room for a cat to get through.

The week passed quietly away until market-day came again, and then I hid myself in the ditch as before. The people at the farm could not make it out, and thought that the thieves who stole me were unusually clever.

“This time,” said the farmer, “he must be really lost and gone for good,” and he harnessed one of the horses and went off to market as before. When everything was quiet I came out again, but this time I thought I had better not say “hee-haw!” to let them know I was there. When at last they found me, they didn’t stroke or pat me, and they said so little that I thought they must suspect something. But I didn’t care, and I said to myself,—

“Ah, yes, my good friends, you’ll think yourselves very clever if you find me out, but I don’t intend you shall,” and so when market-day came round, I made for my ditch for the third time.

But scarcely was I safely hidden among the thistles and blackberry bushes, when I heard the big watch-dog bark, and then the voice of the farmer say,—

“Here, Rover, Rover, good dog, then! go and look for him!” and in a moment Rover had pounced upon my hiding-place, and was growling and snapping at my heels in a most unpleasant manner. I made for the hedge, and tried to force a way through, but in vain.

“Good dog, good Rover, good dog!” shouted the farmer, and he threw a lasso at me, which caught me and stopped me short. Then he led me back and tied me up, and I heard that one of the farmer’s little boys had been watching the meadow from a place where I couldn’t see him, and that he had told where I was.

After that I was much more severely treated. They shut me up, but I learned how to draw bolts and lift up latches with my teeth, and so get out. All day long you might have heard the people of the farm saying, “Oh! there’s that donkey again!” The farmer grumbled and beat me, but I became worse and worse. I compared my wretched life now with the happy one I had led in former days under the same master, and instead of trying to leave off behaving badly, I became more and more naughty and obstinate every day. One day I went into the kitchen garden and ate up all the lettuce; another day I knocked down the little boy who had told tales about me; another day I drank up a bowl of cream that had been set outside the door ready for churning. I trod on the fowls, and bit the pigs, till at last the mistress said she couldn’t stand it any longer, and she begged her husband to sell me at the next fair.

So, when the fair-day came, my master took me away.

He sold me to a family where there was a little invalid girl whom I had to take out; but I didn’t stay there long, for the little girl died, and then her parents, who had never liked me, turned me adrift to go where I pleased, and to live as best I could.

CHAPTER V.

All the next winter I had no one to take care of me. I had to live in the forest, where I found scarcely enough to keep me from dying of hunger and thirst. I had plenty of time to think how wicked I’d been; how happy I was until I had given myself over to laziness, and spitefulness, and revenge; and to make up my mind to turn over a new leaf if ever I got the chance.

When the spring came, I went one day to a village on the edge of the forest, and was surprised to find quite a commotion there. The people were walking up and down; everybody had on his Sunday clothes; and, what was stranger still, all the donkeys in the neighborhood seemed to be there. They were sleek and fat, their heads were decorated with flowers and leaves, and not one of them was in harness or had a rider.

I trotted up to see if I could find out what all this was about, when suddenly one of the boys who were standing there saw me, and shouted,—

“Oh, I say, look here! here’s a fine donkey!”

“My word!” said another, “how well groomed he is! and how fat and well fed!” and they roared with laughter.

“I suppose he’s come to run in the donkey race,” said a third, “but he won’t win the prize! No fear!”

I was very much annoyed at these rude jokes and personal remarks; but I thought I should enjoy taking part in the race, so I listened again.

“Where are they going to run?” asked an old dame, who had just come up.

“In the meadow by the mill,” said a man named Andrew.

“How many donkeys are there?” asked the old woman.

“Sixteen, Mother Evans, and the one that comes in first will win a silver watch and a bag of money.”

“Oh, deary me!” said Mother Evans, “I do wish I had a donkey. I should so like to have a watch. I’ve never had the money to buy one.”

I liked the look of this old woman; I was justly proud of my running; I had been so long in the forest that I was not too fat, as some of these prize donkeys were; and so I would take part in the race. I trotted up to the others, and took my place among them, and then, to attract attention, I opened my mouth and brayed vigorously.

“Oh, you stop that!” cried out a man named Bill. “Hi! you there, donkey, you just stop that music, will you? and get out of there! You can’t run, you shabby brute! and, besides, you don’t belong to anybody.”

I held my tongue, but I didn’t budge an inch. Some laughed, and others were getting angry, when old Mother Evans said:—

“Well, he can have me for his mistress. I take him into my service from this minute. So now he can run for me.”

“Well,” said Bill, “do as you like, mother. Only if you want him to run, you’ve got to put a quarter into the bag the Squire has yonder.”

“All right, my dear,” said Mother Evans, and she hobbled off to where the Squire was sitting and paid her subscription into the bag.

“Very good,” said the Squire; “put Mrs. Evans’s name down, Richard.”

So the clerk put down my new mistress’s name. We were all drawn up in a line in the meadow. The Squire said, “One, two, three, and away!” the boys who held the donkeys let them go, and away we galloped as hard as we could, while the crowd ran cheering alongside.

The sixteen donkeys had not gone a hundred yards before I was in front of them all, an easy first. I thought I would beat them all now, at any rate, and I flew along as if I had wings. I passed proudly before the winning-post, not only first, but a long way ahead of all the rest, amid loud cheers from those who had no donkeys in the race.

The Squire sat at a table to give away the prizes, and Mother Evans, who was almost beside herself with delight, stroked and patted me, and led me up to the table with her to receive the first prize.

“Here, my good woman,” said the Squire; and he was just going to hand the watch and the bag of money to the old woman.

“Please, your worship, it isn’t fair!” cried Bill and Andrew. “It isn’t fair! That donkey doesn’t really belong to Mother Evans any more than it does to us! Our donkeys really got in first, not counting this one. The watch and money ought to be ours. It isn’t fair!”

“Did Mrs. Evans pay her quarter into the bag?” said the Squire.

“Well, your worship, she did, but—”

“Did any of you object to her doing so at the time?” asked the Squire.

“Well, no, your worship, but—”

“Did you raise any objection when the donkeys were just going to start?”

“Well, no, sir, but—”

“Very well, then. It’s all perfectly fair, and Mrs. Evans gets the watch and bag of money.”

“Please, sir, it isn’t fair, it isn’t fair! You—”

When I heard this, I at once put my head down on the table, and taking up the watch and bag in my teeth, put them into Mother Evans’s hands. This intelligent action on my part made the people roar with laughter, and won for me thunders of applause.

“There!” said the Squire, “the donkey has decided in favor of Mother Evans; and,” he added, with a smile, looking at Bill and Andrew, “I don’t think he is the biggest donkey present!”

“Bravo, your worship!” “Good for you!” resounded on all sides. And every one began to laugh at Andrew and Bill, who went away looking cross and ill-tempered.

And was I pleased? No, not at all. My pride was hurt. The Squire had been very rude to me; he had actually put men, these stupid men, on a level with an intelligent and right-minded donkey like myself! It was too much! I declined to stay in a place where I was so insulted, and I turned tail and trotted away from such an ignorant set of people.

CHAPTER VI.

Presently I stopped. I was in a meadow. I felt tired and sad. I was just asking myself whether donkeys were not a great deal better than human beings, when a soft little hand touched me, and a soft little voice said:—

“Oh, poor donkey! How thin you are! Perhaps you’ve been badly treated. Come home and see my grandma! She’ll take good care of you.”

I looked round. There stood a nice little boy about five years old; his little sister, who was only three, was running by the side of their nurse.

“What’s that you’re saying, Master Jack?” said the nurse.

“Oh, nursie, I am telling him to come home with us to see grandma.”

“Yes, yes!” cried the little girl, whose name was Janie; “and let me ride on his back. Nurse, up, up!”

The nurse put the little girl on my back, and Jack wanted to lead me, but of course I had no bridle on, so he came up and stroked me softly and whispered in my ear:—

“Gee up, Neddy! Come along, dear Neddy!”

I was so pleased with this little boy’s trusting me, that I at once followed him all the way, occasionally touching his hand with my nose.

“Oh, nurse, nurse—look! He’s kissing me!” cried Jack.

“Nonsense, my dear!” said the nurse. “He does that because he smells the piece of bread you have in your pocket.”

I was so hurt at this unkind remark from the nurse, that I turned my head away all the rest of the time we were going to the house of the children’s grandmamma.

When we got there they left me at the door and ran in, and in a few minutes they returned with a kind-looking, pretty old lady with white hair.

“Look, grandma, isn’t he a dear donkey?” said Jack, clasping his hands. “And oh, grandma, may we keep him?”

“Let me see him closer, my dears,” said the old lady, and she came down and patted me, and felt my ears and put her hand into my mouth. I stood perfectly still, and was very careful not to bite her, even by mistake.

“Well, he does look gentle, my dears,” said the old lady. “Emily,” she added, to the nurse, “tell the coachman to make inquiries to find out to whom he belongs, and if he is not reclaimed, we will keep him, at any rate for the present. Poor creature, how thin and neglected he looks! Jack, go and call Robert; I shall have him put in the stable, with something to eat and drink.”

The stableman came and led me away, and Jack and Janie followed. I had two horses and another donkey for companions in the stable. Robert made me a nice litter of straw to sleep on, and then fetched me a measure of oats.

“Oh, Robert, give him more than that!” cried Jack, “it’s such a little, and Emily says he ran in the village race. He must be so tired and hungry. More, more!”

“But, Master Jack,” said Robert, “if you give him too many oats he will be too lively, and then neither you nor Miss Janie will be able to ride him.”

“Oh, he is such a kind donkey, I’m sure he will go quietly for us. Do, Robert, do please give him some more!”

So Robert gave me another measure of oats, a large pail of water, and some hay. I made an enormous supper, and then lay down on my straw, and slept like a king.

The next day I had nothing to do but to take the children for an hour’s ride. Jack brought me my oats himself, and, paying no heed to what Robert said, he gave me enough for three donkeys of my size. I ate it all up, and was delighted at having so many good things.

But on the third day I felt very ill. My head ached. I had indigestion. I was very feverish. I could eat neither oats nor hay. I couldn’t even get up, and was still lying stretched on my straw when Jack came to see me.

“Why, Neddy is still in bed!” cried Jack. “Get up, Neddy, it is breakfast time. I’ll give you your oats.”

I tried to lift up my head, but it fell heavily back on the straw.

“Oh, he’s ill, Neddy’s ill!” cried Jack, in a great fright. “Robert, quick, quick! Neddy’s very ill!”

“What’s the matter?” said Robert, coming in at the stable door. “I filled his manger early this morning. Ah,” he added, looking at the hay in the manger, which was quite untouched, “there must be something wrong.”

He felt my ears; they were very hot, and my sides were throbbing. He looked serious.

“Oh, what is it? what is it?” cried poor Jack, almost in tears.

“He’s got the fever, Master Jack, from overeating. I told you how it would be if you would give him all those oats. And now we shall have to send for the vet.”

“What’s the vet?” said Jack, looking still more scared.

“The veterinary surgeon, the animals’ doctor,” replied Robert. “You see, Master Jack, I told you not to do it. This poor donkey has lived very poorly all the winter, as any one can see from his thinness and the state of his coat. Then he got very hot in the donkey-race. He ought to have had cool grass to eat and a very few oats, but you gave him as much as he could eat.”

“Oh, poor Neddy, poor Neddy! He’ll die, and it’s all my fault!” and poor little Jack burst out crying.

“Come, Master Jack, he won’t die this time; but we shall have to bleed him and then turn him out to grass.”

Robert sent for the veterinary surgeon, and told Jack to go away. Then he took a lancet, and made a little hole with it in a vein in my neck. It bled, and I began to feel better. My head wasn’t so heavy, and I fetched my breath more easily; I was able to get up. Robert then stopped the bleeding, and in about an hour took me out, and left me in a fresh cool meadow.

I was better, but not yet well, and it was a whole week before I could do anything except rest in the meadow and crop the grass. Jack and Janie took the greatest care of me; they came to see me several times a day. They picked grass for me, so that I shouldn’t have to stoop my head down to get it for myself. They brought me cool juicy lettuce from the kitchen garden, and cabbage-leaves, and carrots; and every evening they came to see me home to my stable, and there filled my manger for my supper with what I liked best of all, potato-peel and salt. Jack wanted to give me his pillow one night, because he thought that my head was too low when I was asleep; and Janie wanted to fetch the counterpane off her bed to cover me up with, and keep me warm. Another day they came and put bits of cotton-wool round my feet, for fear they should get cold. I was quite unhappy at not knowing how to show them my gratitude for such great kindness; but, unfortunately, though I could understand all they said I was unable to say anything myself.

At last I was well again, and with Janie and Jack and some cousins of theirs who also came to stay with their grandmamma, I passed a very happy summer.

CHAPTER VII.

When the summer was nearly over, several of the children’s fathers and mothers came to stay at my mistress’s house, and the next day it was arranged that the gentlemen were to go out partridge shooting. Two of the bigger boys, who were thirteen or fourteen, and whose names were Teddy and Dick, were to be allowed to go shooting with their fathers for the first time, and a gentleman of the neighborhood, with his son Norman, who was nearly fifteen, was also to join the party.

The next morning Teddy and Dick were up before anybody else, and marched proudly about with their guns in their hands, and their game-bags slung across their shoulders, talking of all the game they were going to bring home.

“I say, Teddy,” said Dick, “when our game-bags are quite full, where shall we put the rest of the game we shall shoot?”

“That’s just what I was wondering,” said Teddy. “I know, we’ll put Neddy’s panniers on, and take him with us.”

I didn’t like this at all, because I knew these young sportsmen would fire at everything they saw and would be quite as likely to shoot me as they would a partridge. But there was no help for it, and so when the party assembled at the front door, I was there too, harnessed and ready.

“Bless me!” said Norman’s father, when, after a mile or two, he joined us with his son, “what’s that donkey for?”

“That’s to fetch home the young gentlemen’s game, sir,” said the keeper, touching his hat, with a grin.

The partridges rose in great numbers. I stayed prudently at the rear. The gentlemen and the boys formed a broad line across the field; shots resounded all along the line; the dogs pricked up their ears, watched to see where the game fell, and fetched it in. I kept an eye on those young boasters; I saw them shoot, and shoot, and shoot again, but they never hit anything, not even when the three of them aimed at the same partridge at once, for it only flew all the better. At the end of two hours the gentlemen’s game-bags were full, and those of the boys still empty.

“Dear me!” said one of the gentlemen, as they passed me on the way to a neighboring farmhouse, where they had left their dinner; “are the panniers still empty? Ah, I suppose you have stuffed all your game into your game-bags. My dear boys, if you fill them so full, they’ll burst!” and the gentleman looked at the other sportsmen and laughed.

Dick, Teddy, and Norman got very red, but they said nothing, and presently they were all seated round a capital basket of provisions under a tree,—a chicken-pie, ham, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, and cake. The boys were ravenously hungry, and ate enough to frighten the people who passed by.

“Well, boys,” said Norman’s father, “so you’ve not been very lucky. Neddy doesn’t walk as if he were over-burdened with the game you’ve shot.”

“No,” said Norman; “you see, father, we had no dogs to fetch in the partridges we shot. You had all the dogs.”

“Oh, you have shot some, have you? Why didn’t you go and fetch them in yourselves?”

“Well, father, we didn’t see them fall, and so we didn’t know where they were.”

At this all the gentlemen, and even the keepers, roared with laughter, and the boys reddened angrily.

“Well, then, boys,” said Teddy’s father, “we will stay here and rest for an hour, and you shall go with one of the keepers and all our dogs, and see if you have better luck this time in finding the partridges you shoot, but can’t see fall.”

“Oh, how jolly! Thanks, father. Come on, Dick; come on, Norman; now we shall have our bags as full as theirs.”

The gentlemen told the keeper to keep close to the boys, and not let them do anything rash. They started off with the dogs, and I followed some way behind, as usual. The partridges rose in numbers, as they did in the morning; the dogs were on the watch, but they brought in no game, because there was none to bring.

At last Norman grew impatient at having as yet shot nothing, and seeing one of the dogs stop and prick up her ears, he thought a partridge must be just going to rise, and that it would be much easier to shoot it while it was still on the ground than when it was flying. So he took aim and fired.

There was a yell of pain, the dog made a leap into the air, and then rolled over quite dead.

“You stupid fellow!” shouted the keeper, as he ran to the spot, “you’ve shot our very best dog! Here’s a pretty end of your fine sport!”

Norman stood speechless from fright. Dick and Teddy looked scared out of their wits. The keeper restrained his anger, and stood looking at the poor dog without saying another word.

I went up to see who was the unfortunate victim of Norman’s stupid recklessness. Judge of my horror when I recognized my old friend Jenny! I had known Jenny as a puppy, when she lived at the dog fancier’s at the corner of the market to which I used to carry vegetables in bygone days. Poor old Jenny! she and I had been such friends! To think she should have come to this! That wretched, conceited boy!

We turned back towards the farm, a sad procession. The keeper put Jenny’s body into one of my panniers, and walked along by my side; the boys followed, with hanging heads and downcast looks.

The sportsmen were still sitting under the tree, and were surprised when they saw us coming. Seeing that something was wrong, and that one of my panniers was hanging heavily down, they got up and came quickly towards us. The boys hung back; the keeper went forward.

“What have they shot?” asked one of the gentlemen. “Is it a sheep or a calf?”

“It’s nothing to laugh at, sir,” replied the keeper; “it’s our very best dog, Jenny. That young gentleman shot her, thinking she was a partridge.”

“Jenny! Well! Catch me taking boys out shooting again!”

“Come here, Norman,” said his father. “Just see to what a pass your conceit has brought you! Say good-by to your friends, sir, and go straight home at once! You will put your gun in my room, and you will not lay a finger on it again till you have learned to have a more modest opinion of yourself!”

“But, father,” said Norman, trying to look as if he did not care, “everybody knows that all great sportsmen sometimes shoot their dogs by mistake!”

His father looked at him for a moment, and then, turning to the others with an air of disgust, he said:—

“Gentlemen, I really must apologize to you for having ventured to bring with me to-day a boy who has so little sense of decent behavior. I never imagined he was capable of such silly impertinence.” He then turned towards his son, and said severely:—

“You have heard my order, sir. Go at once!” Norman hung his head and departed in confusion.

“You see, boys,” said Teddy’s father, “what comes of conceit, of thinking you are so much more clever than you really are. This might have happened to either of you. You were so very sure that nothing was easier than shooting, and this is the result. It is quite clear that you are too young to be allowed to go shooting, so you can go back to your gardens and your childish games, and it will be better for all concerned.”

Dick and Teddy hung their heads without a word. The party turned sadly homewards, and, after tea, the boys buried my poor friend in the garden.

CHAPTER VIII.

A few days after this there was a fair in the next village, and my mistress’s grandchildren were to be taken there by their fathers and mothers. There were fifteen of them altogether, or sixteen including myself, for little Jack and his cousin Harry rode on my back, and the rest walked or drove.

When we got to the fair we heard some people talking about a wonderful performing donkey who was said to be very clever, and who would begin his tricks in ten minutes at the other end of the meadow where the fair was being held.

“Oh, father, we must go and see him,” said Teddy. “Please, may we?”

“Certainly, my boy; we ought to see this performing donkey, though, for my part, I don’t believe he could beat Neddy, there, for intelligence and sagacity.”

I was much pleased to hear the gentleman’s good opinion of me, and I headed the little procession to the other end of the field. Jack’s mother lifted him and Harry off my back and stood them upon a bench, close to the path that was left open for people to come into the enclosure, which was surrounded with seats. I stood outside, just behind my two little friends.

In a few minutes the showman appeared, leading in the donkey that was supposed to be so clever. He was a poor dismal-looking creature, who looked as if he wanted a good meal.

“Jack,” said little Harry to his cousin, loud enough for me to hear, “I don’t think that donkey looks very clever. I’m sure he’s not nearly so clever as our dear old Neddy.”

I agreed with him, and was very much pleased to hear what Harry said; so I thought to myself, “I’ll let them all know it before long, or my name’s not Neddy.” I left the place where I had been standing, and took my position near the entrance.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” began the showman, “I have the honor to introduce to you Mr. Muffles, the wonderful performing ass. This ass, ladies and gentlemen, is not such an ass as he looks. He knows a great deal, a great deal more than some of you. He is an ass without an equal. Come, Muffles, show the company what you can do. Make your bow, and let these ladies and gentlemen see that you have learned manners.”

The donkey went forward two of three steps, and bent his head in a most melancholy fashion. I was indignant with the showman; I thought to myself, “It’s quite easy to see that this poor Muffles has been taught his tricks by means of a rope’s end;” and I made up my mind to be revenged on that man before the performance was over.

“Now, Muffles, take this nosegay, and give it to the prettiest lady here.”

Muffles took the bunch of flowers in his teeth, walked sadly all round the ring, and at last went and dropped the nosegay into the lap of a very ugly, fat woman. She was close to me, and I could see that she had a piece of sugar concealed in her hand. “What a fraud!” I thought. “Of course, she’s the showman’s wife.” I was so disgusted with what looked like the donkey’s bad taste that, before any one could stop me, I leaped clear into the ring, seized the nosegay in my teeth, and trotted round and laid it at the feet of little Janie.

The crowd all clapped vigorously. They wondered who I was. “So intelligent!” they said to each other. Muffles’s master, however, did not seem pleased. As for Muffles himself, he took no notice whatever. I began to think he must really be rather a stupid animal, and that isn’t common with us donkeys.

When the audience was quiet again, the showman said:—

“Now, Muffles, you’ve shown us the prettiest lady here. Now go and point out the silliest person present,” and so saying he gave him a big dunce-cap made of colored paper and adorned with rosettes.

Muffles took it in his teeth, and going straight to a heavy-looking fat boy, with a face exactly like that of a pig, put it on his head. The fat boy was so like the fat woman that it was quite easy to see he must be the showman’s son, and of course in the trick.

“Good!” said I to myself, “my time has come!”

Before they could think of stopping me, I had taken the cap off the boy’s head, and was chasing the showman himself round and round the ring. The crowd roared with laughter, and clapped till they were tired. All at once the showman tripped, and went down on one knee; I profited by this to put the cap firmly on his head, and to ram it down till it covered his chin.

The showman shouted, and danced about trying to tear the cap off, and I stood on my hind legs and capered about just as he did until the crowd nearly died from laughing. “Well done, donkey! Bravo, donkey! It’s you that’s the real performing donkey!” they shouted.

There was no doing anything more after this. Hundreds of people crowded into the ring, and were so anxious to caress me that I was afraid they would tear me to pieces. The people from our own village, who knew me, were more than proud of me, and before very long all the people in the place were telling wonderful tales of my intelligence and my adventures.

They said I had once been at a fire, and worked a fire-engine all by myself; that I had gone up a ladder to the third story, opened my mistress’s door, awakened her, picked her up, and jumped off the roof with her in safety to the ground. They said that another time I had, all alone, slain fifty robbers, strangling them so cleverly one after the other with my teeth when they were asleep, that not one had time to wake up and give the alarm to the others; that I had then gone into the caves where the robbers lived, and had set free a hundred and fifty prisoners whom the robbers had captured. At another time, they said, I had beaten in a race all the swiftest horses in the country, and had run seventy-five miles in five hours without stopping.

The crowd grew thicker and thicker to hear these wonderful tales, until the crush was so great that some of the people could hardly breathe, and the police had to come to the rescue. It was with the greatest difficulty, even with the help of the policemen, that I was able to get away, and I was obliged to pretend both to bite and to kick in order to clear a path; but of course I didn’t hurt anybody.

At last I got free from the crowd and into the road. I looked about for Jack and Harry and the others, but they were nowhere to be seen; for as soon as the crowding became dangerous, their parents had hurried them away. Losing no time, I took the road home. Before I had gone a mile I overtook them, fifteen people packed into the two carriages; and by tea-time we all reached home safe and sound, everybody delighted with my remarkable sagacity.

But after it was all over, I began to think of the unfortunate showman, and I felt very, very sorry for the unkind trick I had played him.

CHAPTER IX.

I never could like that boy Norman; I thought him both cowardly and conceited. I could not forget that he had killed my friend, the poor dog, Jenny. One day, when he came to my mistress’s house on a visit, he insisted on riding on my back. “Now,” thought I to myself, “I’ll have my revenge.”

Just beyond the garden there was a wood, and beyond the wood there was a very deep and dirty ditch, generally full to the brim with mud. Norman had been boasting what an excellent rider he was, and invited the others to come with him through the wood to see him jump the ditch. They all came, though they did not believe he could do it.

Scarcely had they started, Norman on my back, and the others running by my side along the path through the wood, when I threw up my heels and dashed aside from the path into the bushes. “All right,” shouted Norman, “you run on by the path as far as the ditch, and see whether I don’t jump it before you get there.”

“Oh, you will?” I said to myself. I went quietly along for a little way, where the bushes were thin and fairly far apart, and then, without any warning, I plunged right into a thicket of brambles. My skin is tough, so I didn’t mind them, but Norman’s face and hands and stockinged legs were scratched, and the thorns stuck into his clothes from head to foot. He was a nice object by the time we got to the ditch: he had quite given up his boastful idea of jumping over it, and did all he could to make me stop and let him get off my back.

“Not if I know it,” thought I. “I shall never get such a chance again of punishing you for shooting Jenny;” so I galloped along the edge of the ditch, and when I had reached a very steep and slippery place, I suddenly stopped short, and jerked Norman off my back. He was unable to gain his footing, and pitched headlong into the thick, black mud.

Just then the other children came racing down the path; but what was their surprise and alarm to find me looking into the ditch, and Norman nowhere to be seen.

“Norman! Norman!” they shouted, “where are you?”

“Here—oh, help!” said a half-stifled voice at last. They looked into the ditch, and there was Norman, half drowned in mud; he was on his feet again, and was standing on the bottom of the ditch; but it was nearly five feet deep, and the mud was up to his neck. “Help me out! oh, help me out! I shall be drowned!”

Norman’s screams attracted the attention of two farm-hands who were passing near at hand, and they ran up to see what was the matter. In a few minutes they had got a long pole and had let one end down into the ditch so that Norman could catch hold of it. Then the men pulled slowly at the other end of the pole, and at last Norman managed to scramble out. He was covered with mud, and his teeth were chattering with cold and fright. I began to be sorry for what I had done, and kept behind the children, who were hurrying Norman home as fast as he could go.

I heard the next day that Norman was very ill; he was obliged to stay in bed. The doctor was afraid he was going to have a bad fever, and be ill a long while. He shook his head when the children went to inquire after Norman, and advised my mistress not to let the children ride me at present, until Norman was better, and could tell them how the accident had happened.

I knew it was not an accident, and began to be much afraid in consequence of what I had done. When Norman got well enough to tell them all about it, and how badly I had behaved, they all looked at me very seriously.

The next morning, when Robert, the stableman, came as usual to fetch me to be saddled, and to take Jack and Janie for a ride, he said nothing to me, but, to my great alarm, groomed and saddled the other donkey that lived in the stable. In a few minutes Jack came in at the door, his face very sad, and his eyes full of tears.

“Neddy,” he said, “I’m very, very sorry, but grandma won’t let me ride you any more. She’s afraid you’ll be naughty again, and kick me off, as you did poor Norman. Oh, Neddy dear, how could you do it?”

I was dreadfully upset by this, and wanted to explain to Jack that it was because I hated Norman, and that I shouldn’t think of doing it to him, or Janie, or anybody else whom I loved, and who was kind to me. But I didn’t know how to say this to Jack, so I only drooped my head, and touched his shoulder with my nose.

“Mind, Master Jack,” said Robert, “don’t let that vicious donkey touch you. Perhaps he’ll bite you. Come away, my lad, directly,” and Robert seized Jack by the hand, and pulled him away.

“Yes, the horrid brute!” said Teddy, who, with the others, had come to the stable door. “Of course, Norman isn’t always nice, but Neddy had no business to try to drown him. I’ll take good care that I have nothing more to do with such a donkey.”

“And I, too,” said Dick, and so said all the others. Jack looked very sorrowful, but as Robert put him on the other donkey’s back and led him away he looked round and said to me in his usual kind little voice:—

“Poor, poor Neddy! Never mind, I’ll always love you just the same, though I mustn’t ride you any more, and perhaps some day you’ll be good again, won’t you, dear Neddy?”

I could have cried when I heard this. It was more than I could bear. As soon as Jack was gone, I crept out of the stable, and made my way into the fields. Then I lay down and thought of all the wicked things I had done in my life: how I had knocked my first mistress down, and broken her nose; how I had deceived the farmer, and how revengeful and evil I had been when he punished me for my deceit. I thought of all the happy life I had led in my present home, and how very, very kind they had all been to me until I had done this wicked thing to Norman. Norman had killed poor Jenny, it is true; but then he didn’t do it on purpose, and his father had punished him for it; what business had I to give way to feelings of revenge? I thought of dear little Janie and Jack, and how good and kind they had been to me when I was ill; and when I remembered that, owing to my wickedness, they were not to be allowed to ride me any more, I felt so unhappy that I could not keep still any longer. I began to run as hard as I could, trying to run away from myself, but the faster I ran, the more miserable I was, until at last I ran my head right up against a stone wall, and fell down senseless.

When I came to myself it was late in the afternoon, and I couldn’t tell where I was. Three people were sitting a little way off by the roadside, but as their backs were turned they didn’t see me. What was my astonishment to recognize in them the owner of the performing donkey Muffles, with his wife and son! They looked unhappy and hungry, and I learned from what they said that poor Muffles had been badly hurt by the crowd that day at the fair, and that they had been obliged to leave him for a time with a kind farmer who offered to turn him out to grass in his field, while they went about looking for a little work to keep them alive until Muffles was once more well enough to perform at fairs.

When I heard all this, I felt still more unhappy, for it was all my fault that Muffles had been hurt, and the showman’s family forced to go hungry because they had no money to buy food. Then I suddenly remembered that little Jack hoped I would some day turn good again. “I can begin to be good again this very minute,” thought I. “I can follow these people to the next village, and earn some money for them by performing tricks.” So I jumped up, and trotted behind them until they stopped at the door of a little inn to ask the host if he would let them stay there that night. They said they had no money to pay for a night’s lodging, but perhaps he could give them some work to do instead. The host shook his head, and said that he had plenty of people in his house to do all his work, and that the showman must go somewhere else.

Just as they were turning sorrowfully away from the door, I trotted up, bowed to the innkeeper, and then stood up on my hind legs and began to dance. I did several of the tricks that Muffles was accustomed to do, and I did them so gracefully that quite a large crowd collected. At last I thought it was time to make the collection, so I picked up the showman’s hat in my teeth and took it round to everybody in the crowd. Before I had finished my round the hat was so full of money that I had to empty it into the showman’s hands, and when he came to count his gains there proved to be nearly ten dollars. So the showman and his wife and boy were able to have a good supper and a night’s lodging at the inn, and they gave me a supper and a night’s lodging in the stable.

In the morning I followed them to the next place, and we gave two or three performances in different parts of the town; so that before dinner-time I had earned for the showman no less than sixteen dollars, and then I thought I had atoned for my unkindness to him on the day of the fair, and that I would go back and try to show Jack that I was now good.

I soon found the right road, and reached the house in the afternoon when everything was quiet, and all the people indoors at tea. Just as I came up to the high wall of the kitchen garden, on my way to the stable, I saw a tramp trying to climb over it, doubtless intending to steal things out of the garden. I made a jump, caught the tramp’s foot in my mouth, and pulled him down. He called out for help, but in another moment he fell, hitting his head, and lay still. At this moment another tramp came running up; I gave him a kick as he passed me, and stretched him flat by his friend. The second tramp howled so loudly that all the servants came running out of the house to see what was the matter. I was still standing over the tramps, ready to kick them if they offered to get up. When they were questioned, their replies were so suspicious that they were taken into the house, and the police sent for.

So I had saved my good mistress’s garden, and perhaps several other people’s houses, from being robbed. They were all so pleased with my intelligence that they said I should be forgiven for my past wickedness, and that the bigger boys should ride me for a time; and if they found me always gentle and quiet, then perhaps they would let Janie and Jack ride me as before.

To crown all, I heard in a few days that Norman was nearly well again, and that he bore me no ill-will, for he said I must have seen something or other in the path, perhaps a toad, or a piece of paper, that frightened me and made me run away. How dreadfully ashamed of myself I felt when I heard this! After all, Norman seemed a much better and more generous boy than I had at first imagined him to be. At any rate, he was not revengeful.

CONCLUSION.

From that day onward I lived a very happy life. My kind old mistress said that I should never be sent away; that I should never want for anything, but should remain with the family as long as I lived, and that they would do all in their power to take care of me. Jack had loved me even when I was wicked and miserable, so I was always looked upon as Jack’s donkey, even when Jack was at home in London. He always paid his grandmamma a long visit every summer, until he was ten years old, and then he went away with Janie and his father and mother to Australia. After that I was considered to be Harry’s donkey, because Harry, of all her grandchildren, paid the most frequent visits to his grandmamma. Harry is not so good as Jack was, but he is a kind boy; he never treats me roughly, he always takes great care of me, and calls me his dear old Neddy.

A series of talks between Harry and his cousins made me think of writing my memoirs. Harry always said that I did not understand what I did, nor why I did it. His cousins and Jack admitted my intelligence and my desire to do good. I profited by a severe winter which did not permit my being much out of doors, to compose and write this account of some of the important events of my life. Perhaps they may amuse you, my young friends, and in any case they will make you understand that if you wish to be well served, you must treat your servants well; that those you fancy the most stupid are not always so stupid as they appear; that a donkey, as well as others, has a heart to love his masters and to suffer from bad treatment; a will to revenge himself or to show his affection; that he can, thanks to his masters, be happy or unhappy, be a friend or an enemy, poor donkey though he be. I live happily; I am loved by everybody, cared for like a friend by my little master Harry. I begin to grow old, but donkeys live long, and as long as I can walk and stand up, I will hold my strength and my intelligence at the service of my master.

Your affectionate friend,    
Neddy

The End

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