It was cold when we left, 38 deg. F., hard frost. All the world seemed buttoned up and great-coated; the trees seemed wiry and cheerless; the legs of the pack-horses seemed brittle, and I felt so. Breath issued visibly from the mouth as I trudged along. My boy and I nearly came to blows in the early morning. I wanted to lie on; he did not. If he could not entertain himself for half an hour with his own thoughts, I, who could, thought it no fault of mine. I was a reasoning being, a rational creature, and thought it a fine way of spending a sensible, impartial half-hour. But I had to get up, and then came the benumbed fingers, a quivering body, a frozen towel, and a floor upon which the mud was frozen stiff. Little did he know that he was pulling me out to the most eventful and unfortunate day of my trip.
At Chao-t’ong I had bought a pony in case of emergency—one of those sturdy little brutes that never grow tired, cost little to keep, and are unexcelled for the amount of work they can get through every day in the week. Its color was black, a smooth, glossy black—the proverbial dark horse—and when dressed in its English saddle and bridle looked even smart enough for the use of the distinguished traveler, who smiled the smile of pleasant ownership as it was led on in front all day long, seeming to return a satanic grin for my foolishness at not riding it.[U]
The first I saw of it was when it was standing full on its hind legs pinning a man between the railings and a wall in a corner of the mission premises. It looked well. Truly, it was a blood beast!
On the second day out, whilst walking merrily along in the early morning, the little brute lifted its heels, lodged them most precisely on to my right forearm with considerable force—more forceful than affectionate—sending the stick which I carried thirty feet from me up the cliffs. The limb ached, and I felt sick. My boy—he had been a doctor’s boy on one of the gunboats at Chung-king—thought it was bruised. I acquiesced, and sank fainting to a stone. On the strength of my boy’s diagnosis we rubbed it, and found that it hurt still more. Then diving into a cottage, I brought out a piece of wood, three inches wide and twenty inches long, placed my arm on it, bade my boy take off one of my puttees from one of my legs, used it as a bandage, and trudged on again.
Not realizing that my arm was broken, in the evening I determined to chastise the animal in a manner becoming to my disgust. Mounting at the foot of a long hill, I laid on the stick as hard as I could, and found that my pony had a remarkable turn of speed. At the brow of the hill was a twenty-yard dip, at the base of which was a pond.
Down, down, down we went, and, despite my full strength (with the left arm) at its mouth, the pony plunged in with a dull splash, only to find that his feet gave way under him in a clay bottom. He could not free himself to swim. Farther and farther we sank together, every second deeper into the mire, when just at the moment I felt the mud clinging about my waist, and I had visions of a horrible death away from all who knew me, I plunged madly to reach the side.