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Strawberry Shakespeare

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Attention horse-lovers! The charming children's book, Minnie's Pet Horse, a 19th century classic by Mrs. Madeline Leslie, is available for your reading pleasure on Strawberry Shakespeare's Authorsden site. Check out this wonderful readaloud for the whole family. The seven chapters of this book are posted in seven installments. Enjoy the final installment, Chapter 7, right now!



A novel by Mrs. Madeline Leslie



"Now, father, I'm ready to hear about the Arab and his horse," cried
Minnie, one day, when, after following the gentleman about the grounds
for nearly an hour, they at length returned to the library.

Mr. Lee, with an arch glance at his wife, arose at once, and, taking a
large book from the shelves, opened to a chapter on Arabian horses.

"I will first read you a description, my dear, of the animal, before I
repeat to you the anecdote to which you refer.

"The celebrated horse of Arabia is of the smaller class of these
animals, very little exceeding fifty-six inches in height. As compared
with the horses of countries abounding in the grasses, their aspect is
lean, their form slender, and their chest narrow. But this slimness of
figure is not inconsistent with muscular force. Their movements are
agile, their natural paces swift, and their spirit is unmatched.

"Bishop Heber, while travelling through the upper part of India, gives a
more correct notion of the Arab than the more labored descriptions of

"My morning rides are very pleasant. My horse is a nice, quiet,
good-tempered little Arab, who is so fearless that he goes, without
starting, close to an elephant, and is so gentle and docile, that he
eats bread out of my hand, and has almost as much attachment and coaxing
ways as a dog.

"The temper of these beautiful horses is no less happily moulded than
their bodily powers to their condition. They are gentle, patient, and
attached to their rude and simple protectors. This, indeed, is greatly
the effect of training; for the same animals, under the charge of
Europeans, frequently manifest a vicious and indomitable temper. But the
Arab treats his horse as a companion, never beats him, but cheers him
with his voice, and only uses him with seeming cruelty in necessary
demands on his physical powers.

"In the desert, the mare of the Bedouin, and her foal, inhabit the same
tent as himself and his children. She is the friend and playmate of the
little household. The neck of the mare is often the pillow of the rider,
and more frequently of the children, who are rolling about upon her and
the foal; yet no accident occurs, and she acquires a friendship and love
for man which occasional ill-treatment will not cause her for a moment
to forget.

"She is obedient to her master's voice, and will neigh when she hears
his footsteps. Without a bit, she will obey the slightest motion of the
rider, stand at a word, or put herself to speed in an instant.

"These horses subsist on the scantiest fare, on which the English horses
would perish, and are patient of hunger and thirst in a degree unknown
in any other races except the African. They feed on the scanty plants
which the borders of the desert supply, and when these are wanting, they
are fed on a little barley, with chopped straw, withered herbs, roots
dragged from the sand, dates, when they can be obtained, and, in cases
of need, the milk of the camel. They drink at long intervals, and in
moderate quantities. They bear continued exposure to the fiercest heat,
and, day after day, pursue marches of incredible toil through the
burning sands of the wilderness.

"The mare usually has but one or two meals in twenty-four hours. During
the day, she is tied to the door of the tent, ready for the Bedouin to
spring, at a moment's warning, into the saddle; or she is turned out
before the tent ready saddled, the bridle merely taken off, and so
trained that she gallops up immediately upon hearing the call of her

"At night, she receives a little water, and with her scanty provender of
five or six pounds of barley or beans, and sometimes a little straw, she
lies down content in the midst of her master's family. She can, however,
endure great fatigue. She will travel fifty miles without stopping, and
on an emergency, one hundred and twenty; and occasionally neither she
nor her rider has tasted food for three whole days."

"O, father, how dreadful! I should think she would sink down and die."

"No doubt, my dear, both she and her master endured much suffering. But
notwithstanding the Arab lives with, and loves his horse beyond any
other treasure, the young filly, when about to be trained, is treated
with a cruelty scarcely to be believed. Take one who has never before
been mounted. She is led out, her owner springs on her back, and goads
her over the sand and rocks of the desert at full speed for sixty miles,
without one moment's respite. She is then forced, steaming and panting,
into water deep enough for her to swim. If, immediately after this, she
will eat as if nothing had occurred, her character is well established
forever afterwards.

"The master does not seem to be conscious of the cruelty which he thus
inflicts. It is the custom of the country, and custom will induce us to
inflict many a pang on those whom, after all, we love."

Minnie sighed.

"I remember," added her father, affectionately patting her head, "an
anecdote which proves the strong affection of the Arabian horse for home
and friends.

"One of these animals was taken by the Persians in an attack made by an
Arab tribe on a party of the royal family of Persia. The chief heading
the party was killed, and his horse, running into the Persian lines, was
taken. A ransom--enormous for so poor a tribe--was offered by the Arabs
for their noble charger, but refused; and he was taken to England by Sir
John McNeil, who was at that time the British resident at the court of

"When his portrait was being painted, he was languid, from the cold of
the weather. It was desired to arouse him a little, and the idea
occurred of trying the effect of some tones of simple music.

"The sounds no sooner struck his ear, than his whole frame was agitated;
his heart throbbed so violently that its beating could be seen; and so
great was his excitement, that it was necessary instantly to stop the
music. Some chord of feeling had been struck; perchance he was reminded,
for a moment, of his desert home, and of the friends from whom he had
been so rudely severed."

"O, father," said Minnie, with glistening eyes, "I wish I could see that
horse. I would be ever so kind to him. Please tell another story as good
as that; can't you?"

"When the Arab falls from his mare, and is unable to rise," the
gentleman went on, "she will stand by his side and neigh till assistance
arrives. If he lies down to sleep in the midst of the desert, she stands
watchful over him,--her body being the only shield between him and the
fierce rays of the sun,--and neighs to rouse him, if man or beast
approaches during his slumbers.

"There was once an old Arab who had a valuable mare, that had carried
him for fifteen years in many a hard-fought battle, and many a rapid,
weary march. At last, when eighty years old, and unable longer to ride
her, he gave her, and a cimeter that had been his father's, to his
eldest son, and told him to appreciate their value, and never lie down
to rest until he had rubbed them both as bright as a looking-glass.

"In the first skirmish in which the young man was engaged he was killed,
and the mare fell into the hands of the enemy. When the news reached the
old man, he exclaimed, 'Life is no longer worth preserving. I have lost
my son and my mare. I grieve as much for the one as the other.' After
this, he sickened and died."

"How much the old man did love him!" said Minnie, thoughtfully. "Is that
the story you promised me?"

"No, dear," said Mr. Lee, looking at his watch; "but I must tell you at
once, for I have an engagement soon."

"There was a poor Arab in the desert--so poor that he had nothing but
his mare. The French consul saw her, and offered to purchase her, in
order to send her to his sovereign, Louis XIV. The Arab would have
rejected the proposal at once with indignation and scorn, but for his
poverty. He had no means of supplying his most urgent wants, or
procuring the barest necessaries of life. Still he hesitated. He had
scarcely a rag to cover him; his wife and children were starving. The
sum offered was great--it would be sufficient for his whole life.

"At length, and reluctantly, he consented to the sacrifice. He brought
the mare to the dwelling of the consul; he dismounted; he stood leaning
upon her; he looked now at the gold, and then at his favorite, while
large tears rolled down his swarthy cheek. He sighed repeatedly, and at
length exclaimed, 'To whom is it I am going to yield thee up? To
Europeans, who will tie thee close, who will beat thee, who will render
thee miserable? Return with me, my beauty, my jewel, and rejoice the
hearts of my children.'

"As he pronounced the last words, he sprang upon her back, and was out
of sight in a moment."

Minnie laughed and clapped her hands, though tears of sympathy with the
poor Arab were running down her cheeks.

"O, father!" she cried, "how glad, how very glad I am! I think, too,
that the French consul, when he saw how the man loved his mare, should
have given him money to buy his children food and clothes. I'm sure you
would have done so."

Mr. Lee smiled, and thanked God for the child's loving heart.

About Strawberry Shakespeare

Strawberry Shakespeare is the author of three bestselling children's horse books for ages 8-12. Click the link below now to visit Strawberry Shakespeare's AuthorsDen site and discover why her debut novel, SAVING BLUESTONE BELLE, and her latest hot releases, HOPE'S HORSE: The Mystery of Shadow Ridge and THE CLOUD HORSE, make perfect holiday gifts for your horse-loving kid!

Click here now for Children's Books by Strawberry Shakespeare







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