In twelve days, from September 22, 1878, until October 3, 1878, Robert Louis Stevenson walked from Le Monastier to St. Jean du Gard in the Cevennes. His only companion was Modestine, a donkey. He traveled as his fancy led him, stopping to sleep whenever occasion offered. One morning after a night’s sleep out of doors Stevenson scattered coins along the road upon the turf in payment for his night’s lodging.
Modestine, the donkey, demanded that her owner exercise all his ingenuity. At first he loathed her for her intractable differences of opinion displayed concerning the rate of travel to be maintained. Repeated blows seemed not to influence her until he learned to use the magical word “Proot” to get her moving. Later he obtained a real goad from a sympathetic innkeeper at Bouchet St. Nicolas. Modestine was dainty in her eating. She seemed to prefer white bread, but she learned to share half of Stevenson’s brown loaves with him.
Modestine and her owner quarreled about a short cut. She hacked, she reared; she even brayed in a loud, aggrieved tone. However, he forced her to give in. A few days later Stevenson began to understand his strong-willed donkey; he came to understand her stupidity, and he overlooked her flights of ill-judged light-heartedness.
Stevenson, like many who buy at the insistence of others and sell at their own pleasure, was eager to dismiss the matter of Modestine’s cost. He had paid sixty-five francs and a glass of brandy for her, but he sold her for thirty-five francs. Stevenson commented that the pecuniary gain was not obvious, but that he had bought freedom into the bargain.
More absorbing than the pleasure with which Stevenson...
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