A cold north-easter blew across the moor. The old thorns were budding, the 광주오피 daffodils were peeping from the turf, and the yellow of the gorse was beginning to show, so spring was at hand, but there were few other signs of it, for the season was late. If the chiffchaff had come, he had no time to make his presence known by song, his food was all too rare.

The chestnut mare and her son wandered on the sheltered side of holly and tall gorse, picking up what they could. Skewbald, now termed a yearling though not yet a year old, showed conspicuously in the landscape in his chestnut and white. But he was ragged and untidy to the last degree. His doormat-like coat was torn and tangled by conflict with the thorns. His face and neck had the same patchy appearance. But for the coarseness of his covering, his ribs would have shown, for, apart from his not yet having filled out, the severe weather had kept him “light.” His legs were still bony and ungainly, and he was plainly in the hobbledehoy stage. But he had a good gait, the bones of his shoulders and hind-quarters were of great strength, with plenty of room for muscular attachments, and when he walked, he covered plenty of ground.

The ponies wandered—wandered because they had not time to stand back to the wind as do stall-fed cattle, for both day and night was wanted for finding sustenance.

The mare had joined a herd led by a small but energetic stallion, whose shade of blackish-brown, and “mealy” or light-coloured nose, proclaimed his streak of Exmoor blood. Unlike Skewbald and other ponies, he had been looked after during the winter, and having only lately been turned out into the forest, was in splendid condition. He was full of spirit, alert, and mistrustful of the unusual, while as master of the herd he brooked no disobedience. One day after the herd had drunk at a favourite shallow, they were moving to another feeding-ground, and the stallion, looking over his company, noted the chestnut mare still standing motionless. Either she had not fully slaked her thirst or some old association made her reluctant to leave. The leader walked to her and snorted. She turned her head, but made no other sign of acquiescence, whereupon he lost patience, bared his teeth, depressed his ears, and made a little run at her as if to bite, when she at once made haste to comply with his command.

On the way, the party was joined by a young stallion of a blue roan hue, with white forehead blaze and pink nose, accompanied by an old bay mare with her yearling. For a time, the three having fallen in at the rear, all went well, but presently the grey left his place, and went forward as if for the express purpose of creating trouble for himself, for the leader, by his depressed ears and backward glance, showed that he considered he had a rival in the field, and was ready to take up the implied challenge. The grey was taller, but not in such good condition, having been left out during the winter.

The mealy-nosed stallion took to making little rushes at the interloper with extended neck and bared teeth. The younger at first contented himself by retreating or swerving, but at last the touch of teeth on his neck aroused his resentment and combativeness. He turned sharply, and flinging out his heels, kicked the leader on the shoulder. It was the first real blow, and as if by signal, the two reared up, and with fore-feet striking vigorously, tried to bite one another on the face and neck, until they had to come down to rest. Then the little stallion in his turn reversed, and let out a kick which took effect on his opponent’s hind-quarter. The grey screamed with pain and fury. Rearing, he threw himself at his enemy, knocked him down, and, unable to keep his balance, rolled right over him. The leader was up first, and standing on his prostrate opponent, belaboured him with his hoofs. The grey cried out under this treatment, and when he succeeded in getting to his feet, his adversary rushed at him with jaws agape and bristling mane, so that he fairly turned tail. Then the mealy-nosed one trumpeted shrilly, shook himself, pushed past the waiting herd to the head, and resumed the journey.

They crossed a road, and went down a rutted path, and this for a few yards became a causeway across an obviously boggy patch. The road had been made by dumping gravel into the swamp, its sides being strengthened by balks of timber. Near the edges of the bog, patches of lush grass, emerald of hue, were beginning to sprout. Skewbald strolled down to sample this luxury, but was recalled to her side by his mother’s sharp whinny. She knew the temptation this verdant growth had for youngsters, and its danger. A moment later, a tragedy occurred. A poor-looking, black yearling, motherless for some reason, strayed from the path, to nibble at a tempting patch, a yard or so from the edge. He walked confidently to it, but after a mouthful, sank below his knees, and a cry of fright broke from him. The herd showed signs of distress, and shrill whinnyings came from the mares as they plunged to and fro along the margin; but the colt’s efforts to reach his companions only involved him the more surely in the morass.