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( Originally Published 1894 )
The beauty, strength and speed of the Arabian horse are well known, and the affection which subsists between him and his master is the basis of many a pathetic story. These horses are generally of a brown colour; the mane and tail being short, and the hair black and tufted. The Arabs for the most part use the mares in their ordinary excursions, as they are less vicious than the males, and are more capable of sustaining abstinence and fatigue.
The Arab often shares his tent with his mare, the husband, the wife, the child, the mare, and the foal, lying together indiscriminately; and the youngest branches of the family embracing the neck, or reposing on the body, of the mare, without any idea of fear or danger.
St. Pierre in his "Studies of Nature" tells a pretty story of the Arab's affection for his horse: "The whole stock of a poor Arabian of the desert consisted of a beautiful mare; this the French consul at Said offered to purchase, with an intention to send her to Louis XIV. The Arab, pressed by want, hesitated a long time, but at length consented, on condition of receiving a very considerable sum of money, which he named. The consul wrote to France for permission to close the bargain; and, having obtained it, sent the information to the Arab. The man, so indigent as to possess only a miserable covering for his body, arrived with his magnificent courser; he dismounted, and first looking at the gold, then steadfastly at his mare, heaved a sigh. "To whom is it,' exclaimed he, `that 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 almost in a moment." This story forms the subject of the well known ballad by the Hon. Mrs. Norton, entitled "The Arab's farewell to his steed."
Clarke thus describes the way in which the Arab will address a horse:- Ibrahim went frequently to Rama to inquire news of the mare whom he dearly loved; he would embrace her, wipe her eyes with his handkerchief, would rub her with his shirt sleeves, would give her a thousand benedictions during whole hours that he would remain talking to her. `My eyes! my soul! my heart!' he would say, 'must I be so unfortunate as to have thee sold to so many masters, and not keep thee myself? I am poor, my antelope! I brought thee up in my dwelling as a child; I did never beat nor chide thee-" Arabs have been known to refuse enormous sums for horses, though actually themselves in a condition of extreme want. That the horse can reciprocate the kindness shown to him is proved by many a story of his fidelity. Chateaubriand says, " When I was at Jerusalem the feats of one of these steeds made a great noise. The Bedouin to whom the animal, a mare, belonged, being pursued by the governor's guards, rushed with her from the top of the hills that overlooked Jericho. The mare scoured at full gallop down an almost perpendicular declivity without stumbling, and left the soldiers lost in admiration and astonishment. The poor creature, however, dropped down dead on entering Jericho, and the Bedouin, who would not quit her, was taken, weeping over the body of his faithful companion."
More romantic is the story told by M. de Lamartine, thus quoted by Mrs. Bowdich. "An Arab chief and the tribe to which he belonged attacked a caravan in the night, and were returning with their plunder, when some horsemen belonging to the Pasha of Acre surrounded them, killed several, and bound the rest with cords. Among the latter was the chief Abou el Marek, who was carried to Acre, and, bound hand and foot, laid at the entrance of their tent during the night. Kept awake by the pain of his wounds he heard his horse, who was picketed at a distance from him, neigh. Wishing to caress him, perhaps for the last time, he dragged himself up to him, and said, I Poor friend! what will you do among the Turks? You will be shut up under the roof of a khan, with the horses of a Pasha or an Aga. No longer will the women and children of the tent bring you barley, camel's milk, or dhourra, in the hollow of their hands; no longer will you gallop free as the wind in the desert; no longer will you cleave the waters with your breast, and lave your sides, as pure as the foam from your lips. If I am to be a slave, at least you may go free. Return to our tent, tell my wife that Abon el Marek will return no more; but put your head still into the folds of the tent, and lick the hands of my beloved children.' With these words, as his hands were tied, the chief with his teeth undid the fetters which held the courser bound, and set him at liberty; but the noble animal, on recovering his freedom, instead of galloping away to the desert, bent his head over his master, and seeing him in fetters and on the ground, took his clothes gently between his teeth, lifted him up, and set off at full speed towards home. Without resting he made straight for the distant but well-known tent in the mountains of Arabia. He arrived there in safety, laid his master down at the feet of his wife and children, and immediately dropped down dead with fatigue. The whole tribe mourned him, the poets celebrated his fidelity, and his name is still constantly in the mouths of the Arabs of Jericho."
For the sake of the beautiful moral it contains the following story is well worth adding. In the tribe of Negde there was a mare of great reputation for beauty and swiftness, which a member of another tribe named Daber desired to possess. Having failed to obtain her by offering all he was worth, he sought to effect his object by stratagem. Disguised as a lame beggar he waited by a roadside, knowing that Nabee, the owner of the horse, would shortly pass that way. As soon as Nabee appeared, Daber cried out to him, begging assistance and pretending to be too weak to rise. Nabee thereupon dismounted from the mare, and helped the beggar to mount her. The moment he was mounted Daber declared himself and made off. Nabee called to him to stop, and on his turning round said to him, "Thou hast my mare, since it pleased God I wish you success but I conjure thee tell no one how thou hast come by her." "Why not?" said Daber. " Lest others should refrain from charity because I have been duped," said Nabee, whereupon Daber dismounted and returned the mare.