“Jinks, my boy,” he said, laughing, “we must defer your explanation; come and go down. The Governor has sent me a note, and Tom is waiting. Let us descend.”
Mr. Jinks acquiesced.
They accordingly went down stairs, and issued forth.
At the door of the tavern was standing a negro, who, at sight of Ralph, respectfully removed his cap with one hand, while the other arm leaned on the neck of a donkey about three feet high, which had borne the stalwart fellow, as such animals only can.
The negro gave Mr. Ralph a message, in addition to the letter, of no consequence to our history, and received one in return.
He then bowed again, and was going to mount and ride away, when Ralph said, “Stop, Tom!”
Tom accordingly stopped.
EXPLOITS OF FODDER.
Ralph looked from the donkey to Mr. Jinks, and from Mr. Jinks to the donkey; then he laughed.
“I say, my dear fellow,” he observed, “you wanted a horse, did’nt you?”
“I did, sir,” said Mr. Jinks.
“What do you say to a donkey?”
Mr. Jinks appeared thoughtful, and gazing at the sky, as though the clouds interested him, replied:
“I have no objection to the animal, sir. It was in former times, I am assured, the animal used by kings, and even emperors. Far be it from me, therefore, to feel any pride—or look down on the donkey.”
“You’ll have to,” said Ralph.
“Have to what, sir?”
“Look down on Fodder here—we call him Fodder at the farm, because the rascal won’t eat thistles.”
“Fodder, sir?” said Mr. Jinks, gazing along the road, as though in search of some wagon, laden with cornstalks.
“Ah?—yes—true—the donkey! Really, a very handsome animal,” said Mr. Jinks, appearing to be aware of the existence of Fodder for the first time.
“I asked you how you would like a donkey, instead of a horse, meaning, in fact, to ask if Fodder would, for the time, answer your warlike and gallant purposes? If so, my dear fellow, I’ll lend him to you—Tom can go back to the farm in the wagon—it comes and goes every day.”
Tom looked at Mr. Jinks’ legs, scratched his head, and grinning from ear to ear, added the assurance that he was rather pleased to get rid of Fodder, who was too small for a man of his weight.
Mr. Jinks received these propositions and assurances, at first, with a shake of the head: he really could not deprive, etc.; then he looked dubious; then he regarded Fodder with admiration and affection; then he assented to Ralph’s arrangement, and put his arm affectionately around Fodder’s neck.
“I love that animal already!” cried the enthusiastic Mr. Jinks.
Ralph turned aside to laugh.
“That is highly honorable, Jinks, my boy,” he said; “there’s no trait of character more characteristic of a great and exalted intellect, than kindness to animals.”