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Title: A Ride With A Mad Horse In A Freight-Car - 1898
Author: Murray, W. H. H.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Ride With A Mad Horse In A Freight-Car - 1898" ***


By W. H. H. Murray

Copyright, 1898, by William Henry Harrison Murray

It was at the battle of Malvern Hill--a battle where the carnage
was more frightful, as it seems to me, than in any this side of the
Alleghanies during the whole war--that my story must begin. I was then
serving as Major in the --th Massachusetts Regiment--the old --th, as we
used to call it--and a bloody time the boys had of it too. About 2 p. m.
we had been sent out to skirmish along the edge of the wood in which,
as our generals suspected, the Rebs lay massing for a charge across
the slope, upon the crest of which our army was posted. We had barely
entered the underbrush when we met the heavy formations of Magruder in
the very act of charging. Of course, our thin line of skirmishers was no
impediment to those onrushing masses. They were on us and over us before
we could get out of the way. I do not think that half of those running,
screaming masses of men ever knew that they had passed over the remnants
of as plucky a regiment as ever came out of the old Bay State. But many
of the boys had good reason to remember that afternoon at the base of
Malvern Hill, and I among the number; for when the last line of Rebs
had passed over me, I was left among the bushes with the breath nearly
trampled out of me and an ugly bayonet-gash through my thigh; and mighty
little consolation was it for me at that moment to see the fellow who
ran me through lying stark dead at my side, with a bullet-hole in his
head, his shock of coarse black hair matted with blood, and his stony
eyes looking into mine. Well, I bandaged up my limb the best I might,
and started to crawl away, for our batteries had opened, and the grape
and canister that came hurtling down the slope passed but a few feet
over my head. It was slow and painful work, as you can imagine, but at
last, by dint of perseverance, I had dragged myself away to the left
of the direct range of the batteries, and, creeping to the verge of the
wood, looked off over the green slope. I understood by the crash and
roar of the guns, the yells and cheers of the men, and that hoarse
murmur which those who have been in battle know, but which I can not
describe in words, that there was hot work going on out there; but
never have I seen, no, not in that three days' desperate mêlée at the
Wilderness, nor at that terrific repulse we had at Cold Harbor, such
absolute slaughter as I saw that afternoon on the green slope of Malvern
Hill. The guns of the entire army were massed on the crest, and thirty
thousand of our infantry lay, musket in hand, in front. For eight
hundred yards the hill sank in easy declension to the wood, and across
this smooth expanse the Rebs must charge to reach our lines. It was
nothing short of downright insanity to order men to charge that hill;
and so his generals told Lee, but he would not listen to reason that
day, and so he sent regiment after regiment, and brigade after brigade,
and division after division, to certain death. Talk about Grant's
disregard of human life, his efforts at Cold Harbor--and I ought to
know, for I got a Minie in my shoulder that day--was hopeful and easy
work to what Lee laid on Hill's and Ma-gruder's divisions at Malvern. It
was at the close of the second charge, when the yelling mass reeled back
from before the blaze of those sixty guns and thirty thousand rifles,
even as they began to break and fly backward toward the woods, that
I saw from the spot where I lay a riderless horse break out of the
confused and flying mass, and, with mane and tail erect and spreading
nostril, come dashing obliquely down the slope. Over fallen steeds and
heaps of the dead she leaped with a motion as airy as that of the flying
fox when, fresh and unjaded, he leads away from the hounds, whose sudden
cry has broken him off from hunting mice amid the bogs of the meadow. So
this riderless horse came vaulting along. Now from my earliest boyhood I
have had what horsemen call a 'weakness' for horses. Only give me a colt
of wild, irregular temper and fierce blood to tame, and I am perfectly
happy. Never did lash of mine, singing with cruel sound through the air,
fall on such a colt's soft hide. Never did yell or kick send his
hot blood from heart to head deluging his sensitive brain with fiery
currents, driving him into frenzy or blinding him with fear; but
touches, soft and gentle as a woman's caressing words, and oats given
from the open palm, and unfailing kindness, were the means I used to
'subjugate' him. Sweet subjugation, both to him who subdues and to him
who yields! The wild, unmannerly, and unmanageable colt, the fear of
horsemen the country round, finding in you not an enemy, but a friend,
receiving his daily food from you, and all those little 'nothings' which
go as far with a horse as a woman, to win and retain affection, grows
to look upon you as his protector and friend, and testifies in countless
ways his fondness for you. So when I saw this horse, with action so
free and motion so graceful, amid that storm of bullets, my heart
involuntarily went out to her, and my feelings rose higher and higher at
every leap she took from amid the whirlwind of fire and lead. And as she
plunged at last over a little hillock out of range and came careering
toward me as only a riderless horse might come, her head flung wildly
from side to side, her nostrils widely spread, her flank and shoulders
flecked with foam, her eye dilating, I forgot my wound and all the wild
roar of battle, and, lifting myself involuntarily to a sitting posture
as she swept grandly by, gave her a ringing cheer.

"Perhaps in the sound of a human voice of happy mood amid the awful din
she recognized a resemblance to the voice of him whose blood moistened
her shoulders and was even yet dripping from saddle and housings. Be
that as it may, no sooner had my voice sounded than she flung her head
with a proud upward movement into the air, swerved sharply to the left,
neighed as she might to a master at morning from her stall, and came
trotting directly up to where I lay, and, pausing, looked down upon
me as it were in compassion. I spoke again, and stretched out my hand
caressingly. She pricked her ears, took a step forward and lowered her
nose until it came in contact with my palm. Never did I fondle anything
more tenderly, never did I see an animal which seemed to so court and
appreciate human tenderness as that beautiful mare. I say 'beautiful.'
No other word might describe her. Never will her image fade from my
memory while memory lasts.

"In weight she might have turned, when well conditioned, nine hundred
and fifty pounds. In color she was a dark chestnut, with a velvety depth
and soft look about the hair indescribably rich and elegant. Many a time
have I heard ladies dispute the shade and hue of her plush-like coat as
they ran their white, jeweled fingers through her silken hair. Her body
was round in the barrel and perfectly symmetrical. She was wide in the
haunches, without projection of the hipbones, upon which the shorter
ribs seemed to lap. High in the withers as she was, the line of her back
and neck perfectly curved, while her deep, oblique shoulders and long,
thick forearm, ridgy with swelling sinews, suggested the perfection of
stride and power. Her knees across the pan were wide, the cannon-bone
below them short and thin; the pasterns long and sloping; her hoofs
round, dark, shiny, and well set on. Her mane was a shade darker than
her coat, fine and thin, as a thoroughbred's always is whose blood is
without taint or cross. Her ear was thin, sharply pointed, delicately
curved, nearly black around the borders, and as tremulous as the leaves
of an aspen. Her neck rose from the withers to the head in perfect
curvature, hard, devoid of fat, and well cut up under the chops. Her
nostrils were full, very full, and thin almost as parchment. The eyes,
from which tears might fall or fire flash, were well brought out, soft
as a gazelle's, almost human in their intelligence, while over the small
bony head, over neck and shoulders, yea, over the whole body and
clean down to the hoofs, the veins stood out as if the skin were but
tissue-paper against which the warm blood pressed, and which it might at
any moment burst asunder. 'A perfect animal,' I said to myself as I lay
looking her over--'an animal which might have been born from the wind
and the sunshine, so cheerful and so swift she seems; an animal which
a man would present as his choicest gift to the woman he loved, and yet
one which that woman, wife or lady-love, would give him to ride when
honor and life depended on bottom and speed.'

"All that afternoon the beautiful mare stood over me, while away to the
right of us the hoarse tide of battle flowed and ebbed. What charm, what
delusion of memory held her there? Was my face to her as the face of her
dead master, sleeping a sleep from which not even the wildest roar of
battle, no, nor her cheerful neigh at morning, would ever wake him? Or
is there in animals some instinct, answering to our intuition, only more
potent, which tells them whom to trust and whom to avoid? I know not,
and yet some such sense they may have, they must have; or else why
should this mare so fearlessly attach herself to me? By what process of
reason or instinct I know not, but there she chose me for her mastery
for when some of my men at dusk came searching, and found me,
and, laying me on a stretcher, started toward our lines, the mare,
uncompelled, of her own free will, followed at my side; and all through
that stormy night of wind and rain, as my men struggled along through
the mud and mire toward Harrison's Landing, the mare followed, and ever
after, until she died, was with me, and was mine, and I, so far as man
might be, was hers. I named her Gulnare.

"As quickly as my wound permitted, I was transported to Washington,
whither I took the mare with me. Her fondness for me grew daily, and
soon became so marked as to cause universal comment. I had her boarded
while in Washington at the corner of ------ Street and ------ Avenue.
The groom had instructions to lead her around to the window against
which was my bed, at the hospital, twice every day, so that by opening
the sash I might reach out my hand and pet her. But the second day,
no sooner had she reached the street, than she broke suddenly from the
groom and dashed away at full speed. I was lying, bolstered up in bed,
reading, when I heard the rush of flying feet, and in an instant, with a
loud, joyful neigh, she checked herself in front of my window. And
when the nurse lifted the sash, the beautiful creature thrust her head
through the aperture, and rubbed her nose against my shoulder like a
dog. I am not ashamed to say that I put both my arms around her neck,
and, burying my face in her silken mane, kissed her again and again.
Wounded, weak, and away from home, with only strangers to wait upon me,
and scant service at that, the affection of this lovely creature for me,
so tender and touching, seemed almost human, and my heart went out to
her beyond any power of expression, as to the only being, of all the
thousands around me, who thought of me and loved me. Shortly after her
appearance at my window, the groom, who had divined where he should find
her, came into the yard. But she would not allow him to come near her,
much less touch her. If he tried to approach she would lash out at
him with her heels most spitefully, and then, laying back her ears and
opening her mouth savagely, would make a short dash at him, and, as the
terrified African disappeared around the corner of the hospital, she
would wheel, and, with a face bright as a happy child's, come trotting
to the window for me to pet her. I shouted to the groom to go back to
the stable, for I had no doubt but that she would return to her stall
when I closed the window. Rejoiced at the permission, he departed. After
some thirty minutes, the last ten of which she was standing with her
slim, delicate head in my lap, while I braided her foretop and combed
out her silken mane, I lifted her head, and, patting her softly on
either cheek, told her that she must 'go.' I gently pushed her head out
of the window and closed it, and then, holding up my hand, with the palm
turned toward her, charged her, making the appropriate motion, to 'go
away right straight back to her stable.' For a moment she stood looking
steadily at me, with an indescribable expression of hesitation and
surprise in her clear, liquid eyes, and then, turning lingeringly,
walked slowly out of the yard.

"Twice a day for nearly a month, while I lay in the hospital, did
Gulnare visit me. At the appointed hour the groom would slip her
headstall, and, without a word of command, she would dart out of the
stable, and, with her long, leopardlike lope, go sweeping down the
street and come dashing into the hospital yard, checking herself with
the same glad neigh at my window; nor did she ever once fail, at the
closing of the sash, to return directly to her stall. The groom informed
me that every morning and evening, when the hour of her visit drew near,
she would begin to chafe and worry, and, by pawing and pulling at the
halter, advertise him that it was time for her to be released.

"But of all exhibitions of happiness, either by beast or man, hers was
the most positive on that afternoon when, racing into the yard, she
found me leaning on a crutch outside the hospital building, The whole
corps of nurses came to the doors, and all the poor fellows that could
move themselves--for Gulnare had become a universal favorite, and the
boys looked for her daily visits nearly, if not quite, as ardently as I
did--crawled to the windows to see her. What gladness was expressed in
every movement! She would come prancing toward me, head and tail erect,
and pausing, rub her head against my shoulder, while I patted her glossy
neck; then suddenly, with a sidewise spring, she would break away, and
with her long tail elevated until her magnificent brush, fine and silken
as the golden hair of a blonde, fell in a great spray on either flank,
and, her head curved to its proudest arch, pace around me with that
high action and springing step peculiar to the thoroughbred. Then like
a flash, dropping her brush and laying back her ears and stretching
her nose straight out, she would speed away with that quick, nervous,
low-lying action which marks the rush of racers, when side by side and
nose to nose lapping each other, with the roar of cheers on either hand
and along the seats above them, they come straining up the home stretch.
Returning from one of these arrowy flights, she would come curvetting
back, now pacing side-wise as on parade, now dashing her hind feet high
into the air, and anon vaulting up and springing through the air, with
legs well under her, as if in the act of taking a five-barred gate, and
finally would approach and stand happy in her reward--my caress.

"The war, at last, was over. Gulnare and I were in at the death with
Sheridan at the Five Forks. Together we had shared the pageant at
Richmond and Washington, and never had I seen her in better spirits than
on that day at the capital. It was a sight indeed to see her as she came
down Pennsylvania Avenue. If the triumphant procession had been all
in her honor and mine, she could not have moved with greater grace and
pride. With dilating eye and tremulous ear, ceaselessly champing her
bit, her heated blood bringing out the magnificent lacework of veins
over her entire body, now and then pausing, and with a snort gathering
herself back upon her haunches as for a mighty leap, while she shook
the froth from her bits, she moved with a high, prancing step down the
magnificent street, the admired of all beholders. Cheer after cheer was
given, huzza after huzza rang out over her head from roofs and balcony,
bouquet after bouquet was launched by fair and enthusiastic admirers
before her; and yet, amid the crash and swell of music, the cheering and
tumult, so gentle and manageable was she, that, though I could feel her
frame creep and tremble under me as she moved through that whirlwind of
excitement, no check or curb was needed, and the bridle-lines--the same
she wore when she came to me at Malvern Hill--lay unlifted on the pommel
of the saddle. Never before had I seen her so grandly herself. Never
before had the fire and energy, the grace and gentleness, of her blood
so revealed themselves. This was the day and the event she needed. And
all the royalty of her ancestral breed--a race of equine kings--flowing
as without taint or cross from him that was the pride and wealth of the
whole tribe of desert rangers, expressed itself in her. I need not say
that I shared her mood. I sympathized in her every step. I entered into
all her royal humors. I patted her neck and spoke loving and cheerful
words to her. I called her my beauty, my pride, my pet. And did she not
understand me? Every word! Else why that listening ear turned back to
catch my softest whisper; why the responsive quiver through the frame,
and the low, happy neigh? 'Well,' I exclaimed, as I leaped from her back
at the close of the review--alas! that words spoken in lightest mood
should portend so much!--'well, Gulnare, if you should die, your life
has had its triumph. The nation itself, through its admiring capital,
has paid tribute to your beauty, and death can never rob you of your
fame. And I patted her moist neck and foam-flecked shoulders, while the
grooms were busy with head and loins.

"That night our brigade made its bivouac just over Long Bridge, almost
on the identical spot where four years before I had camped my company of
three months' volunteers. With what experiences of march and battle were
those four years filled! For three of these years Gulnare had been my
constant companion. With me she had shared my tent, and not rarely my
rations, for in appetite she was truly human, and my steward always
counted her as one of our 'mess.' Twice had she been wounded--once at
Fredericksburg, through the thigh; and once at Cold Harbor, where a
piece of shell tore away a part of her scalp. So completely did it stun
her, that for some months I thought her dead, but to my great joy she
shortly recovered her senses. I had the wound carefully dressed by our
brigade surgeon, from whose care she came in a month with the edges of
the wound so nicely united that the eye could with difficulty detect the
scar. This night, as usual, she lay at my side, her head almost touching
mine. Never before, unless when on a raid and in face of the enemy, had
I seen her so uneasy. Her movements during the night compelled
wakefulness on my part. The sky was cloudless, and in the dim light I
lay and watched her. Now she would stretch herself at full length, and
rub her head on the ground. Then she would start up, and, sitting on her
haunches, like a dog, lift one foreleg and paw her neck and ears. Anon
she would rise to her feet and shake herself, walk off a few rods,
return and lie down again by my side. I did not know what to make of it,
unless the excitement of the day had been too much for her sensitive
nerves. I spoke to her kindly and petted her. In response she would rub
her nose against me, and lick my hand with her tongue--a peculiar habit
of hers--like a dog. As I was passing my hand over her head, I
discovered that it was hot, and the thought of the old wound flashed
into my mind, with a momentary fear that something might be wrong about
her brain, but after thinking it over I dismissed it as incredible.
Still I was alarmed. I knew that something was amiss, and I rejoiced at
the thought that I should soon be at home where she could have quiet,
and, if need be, the best of nursing. At length the morning dawned, and
the mare and I took our last meal together on Southern soil--the last we
ever took together.

"The brigade was formed in line for the last time, and as I rode down
the front to review the boys she moved with all her old battle grace and
power. Only now and then, by a shake of the head, was I reminded of her
actions during the night. I said a few words of farewell to the men whom
I had led so often to battle, with whom I had shared perils not a few,
and by whom, as I had reason to think, I was loved, and then gave, with
a voice slightly unsteady, the last order they would ever receive from
me: 'Brigade, Attention, Ready to break ranks, _Break Ranks_.'The order
was obeyed. But ere they scattered, moved by a common impulse, they gave
first three cheers for me, and then, with the same heartiness and even
more power, three cheers for Gulnare. And she, standing there, looking
with her bright, cheerful countenance full at the men, pawing with her
forefeet, alternately, the ground, seemed to understand the compliment;
for no sooner had the cheering died away than she arched her neck to its
proudest curve, lifted her thin, delicate head into the air, and gave a
short, joyful neigh.

"My arrangements for transporting her had been made by a friend the
day before. A large, roomy car had been secured, its floor strewn with
bright, clean straw, a bucket and a bag of oats provided, and everything
done for her comfort. The car was to be attached to the through express,
in consideration of fifty dollars extra, which I gladly paid, because of
the greater rapidity with which it enabled me to make my journey. As the
brigade broke up into groups, I glanced at my watch and saw that I had
barely time to reach the cars before they started. I shook the reins
upon her neck, and with a plunge, startled at the energy of my signal,
away she flew. What a stride she had! What an elastic spring! She
touched and left the earth as if her limbs were of spiral wire. When I
reached the car my friend was standing in front of it, the gang-plank
was ready, I leaped from the saddle and, running up the plank into the
car, whistled to her; and she, timid and hesitating, yet unwilling to be
separated from me, crept slowly and cautiously up the steep incline and
stood beside me. Inside I found a complete suit of flannel clothes with
a blanket and, better than all, a lunch-basket. My friend explained that
he had bought the clothes as he came down to the depot, thinking, as
he said, 'that they would be much better than your regimentals,' and
suggested that I doff the one and don the other. To this I assented the
more readily as I reflected that I would have to pass one night at
least in the car, with no better bed than the straw under my feet. I
had barely time to undress before the cars were coupled and started. I
tossed the clothes to my friend with the injunction to pack them in
my trunk and express them on to me, and waved him my adieu. I arrayed
myself in the nice, cool flannel and looked around. The thoughtfulness
of my friend had anticipated every want. An old cane-seated chair stood
in one corner. The lunch-basket was large and well supplied. Amid the
oats I found a dozen oranges, some bananas, and a package of real Havana
cigars. How I called down blessings on his thoughtful head as I took the
chair and, lighting one of the fine-flavored _figaros_, gazed out on the
fields past which we were gliding, yet wet with morning dew. As I sat
dreamily admiring the beauty before me, Gulnare came and, resting
her head upon my shoulder, seemed to share my mood. As I stroked her
fine-haired, satin-like nose, recollection quickened and memories of
our companionship in perils thronged into my mind. I rode again that
midnight ride to Knoxville, when Burnside lay intrenched, desperately
holding his own, waiting for news from Chattanooga of which I was the
bearer, chosen by Grant himself because of the reputation of my mare.
What riding that was! We started, ten riders of us in all, each with the
same message. I parted company the first hour out with all save one,
an iron-gray stallion of Messenger blood. Jack Murdock rode him,
who learned his horsemanship from buffalo and Indian hunting on the
plains--not a bad school to graduate from. Ten miles out of Knoxville
the gray, his flanks dripping with blood, plunged up abreast of the
mare's shoulders and fell dead; and Gulnare and I passed through the
lines alone. _I had ridden the terrible race without whip or spur_. With
what scenes of blood and flight she would ever be associated!

"And then I thought of home, unvisited for four long years--that home I
left a stripling, but to which I was returning a bronzed and brawny man.
I thought of mother and Bob--how they would admire her!--Of old Ben, the
family groom, and of that one who shall be nameless, whose picture I had
so often shown to Gulnare as the likeness of her future mistress; had
they not all heard of her, my beautiful mare, she who came to me from
the smoke and whirlwind, my battle-gift? How they would pat her soft,
smooth sides, and tie her mane with ribbons, and feed her with all sweet
things from open and caressing palm! And then I thought of one who might
come after her to bear her name and repeat at least some portion of her
beauty--a horse honored and renowned the country through, because of the
transmission of the mother's fame.

"About three o'clock in the afternoon a change came over Gulnare. I had
fallen asleep upon the straw, and she had come and awakened me with a
touch of her nose. The moment I started up I saw that something was the
matter. Her eyes were dull and heavy. Never before had I seen the light
go out of them. The rocking of the car as it went jumping and vibrating
along seemed to irritate her. She began to rub her head against the side
of the car. Touching it, I found that the skin over the brain was hot
as fire. Her breathing grew rapidly louder and louder. Each breath was
drawn with a kind of gasping effort. The lids with their silken fringe
dropped wearily over the lustreless eyes. The head sank lower and lower,
until the nose almost touched the floor. The ears, naturally so lively
and erect, hung limp and widely apart. The body was cold and senseless.
A pinch elicited no motion. Even my voice was at last unheeded. To word
and touch there came, for the first time in all our intercourse, no
response. I knew as the symptoms spread what was the matter. The
signs bore all one way. She was in the first stages of phrenitis, or
inflammation of the brain. In other words, _my beautiful mare mas going

"I was well versed in the anatomy of the horse. Loving horses from my
very childhood, there was little in veterinary practice with which I
was not familiar. Instinctively, as soon as the symptoms had developed
themselves, and I saw under what frightful disorder Gulnare was
laboring, I put my hand into my pocket for my knife, in order to open
a vein. _There was no knife there_. Friends, I have met with many
surprises. More than once in battle and scout have I been nigh death;
but never did my blood desert my veins and settle so' around my heart,
never did such a sickening sensation possess me, as when standing in
that car with my beautiful mare before me marked with those horrible
symptoms, I made that discovery. My knife, my sword, my pistols even,
were with my suit in the care of my friend, two hundred miles away.
Hastily, and with trembling fingers, I searched my clothes, the
lunch-basket, my linen; not even a pin could I find. I shoved open
the sliding door, and swung my hat and shouted, hoping to attract some
brakeman's attention. The train was thundering along at full speed, and
none saw or heard me. I knew her stupor would not last long. A slight
quivering of the lip, an occasional spasm running through the frame,
told me too plainly that the stage of frenzy would soon begin. 'My God,'
I exclaimed in despair, as I shut the door and turned toward her, 'must
I see you die, Gulnare, when the opening of a vein would save you? Have
you borne me, my pet, through all these years of peril, the icy chill of
winter, the heat and torment of summer, and all the thronging dangers
of a hundred bloody battles, only to die torn by fierce agonies, when so
near a peaceful home?'

"But little time was given me to mourn. My life was soon to be in peril,
and I must summon up the utmost power of eye and limb to escape the
violence of my frenzied mare. Did you ever see a mad horse when his
madness is on him? Take your stand with me in that car, and you shall
see what suffering a dumb creature can endure before it dies. In no
malady does a horse suffer more than in phrenitis, or inflammation of
the brain. Possibly in severe cases of colic, probably in rabies in its
fiercest form, the pain is equally intense. These three are the most
agonizing of all the diseases to which the noblest of animals is
exposed. Had my pistols been with me, I should then and there, with
whatever strength Heaven granted, have taken my companion's life, that
she might be spared the suffering which was so soon to rack and wring
her sensitive frame. A horse laboring under an attack of phrenitis is as
violent as a horse can be. He is not ferocious as is one in a fit of
rabies. He may kill his master, but he does it without design. There is
in him no desire of mischief for its own sake, no cruel cunning, no
stratagem and malice. A rabid horse is conscious in every act and
motion. He recognizes the man he destroys. There is in him an insane
_desire_ to _kill_. Not so with the phrenetic horse. He is unconscious
in his violence. He sees and recognizes no one. There is no method or
purpose in his madness. He kills without knowing it.

"I knew what was coming. I could not jump out, that would be certain
death. I must abide in the car, and take my chance of life. The car was
fortunately high, long, and roomy. I took my position in front of my
horse, watchful, and ready to spring. Suddenly her lids, which had
been closed, came open with a snap, as if an electric shock had passed
through her, and the eyes, wild in their brightness, stared directly at
me. And what eyes they were! The membrane grew red and redder until it
was of the color of blood, standing out in frightful contrast with the
transparency of the cornea. The pupil gradually dilated until it seemed
about to burst out of the socket. The nostrils, which had been sunken
and motionless, quivered, swelled, and glowed. The respiration became
short, quick and gasping. The limp and dripping ears stiffened and stood
erect, pricked sharply forward, as if to catch the slightest sound.
Spasms, as the car swerved and vibrated, ran along her frame. More
horrid than all, the lips slowly contracted, and the white, sharp-edged
teeth stood uncovered, giving an indescribable look of ferocity to the
partially opened mouth. The car suddenly reeled as it dashed around a
curve, swaying her almost off her feet, and, as a contortion shook her,
she recovered herself, and rearing upward as high as the car permitted,
plunged directly at me. I was expecting the movement, and dodged. Then
followed exhibitions of pain which I pray God I may never see again.
Time and again did she dash herself upon the floor, and roll over and
over, ladling out with her feet in all directions. Pausing a moment, she
would stretch her body to its extreme length, and, lying upon her side,
pound the floor with her head as if it were a maul. Then like a flash
she would leap to her feet, and whirl round and round until from very
giddiness she would stagger and fall. She would lay hold of the straw
with her teeth, and shake it as a dog shakes a struggling woodchuck;
then dashing it from her mouth, she would seize hold of her own sides,
and send herself. Springing up, she would rush against the end of the
car, falling all in a heap from the violence of the concussion. For some
fifteen minutes without intermission the frenzy lasted. I was nearly
exhausted. My efforts to avoid her mad rushes, the terrible tension
of my nervous system produced by the spectacle of such exquisite and
prolonged suffering, were weakening me beyond what I should have thought
it possible an hour before for anything to weaken me. In fact, I felt
my strength leaving me. A terror such as I had never yet felt was taking
possession of my mind. I sickened at the sight before me, and at the
thought of agonies yet to come. 'My God,' I exclaimed, 'must I be killed
by own horse in this miserable car!' Even as I spoke the end came. The
mare raised herself until her shoulders touched the roof, then dashed
her body upon the floor with a violence which threatened the stout frame
beneath her. I leaned, panting and exhausted, against the side of the
car. Gulnare did not stir. She lay motionless, her breath coming and
going in lessening respirations. I tottered toward her, and, as I stood
above her, my ear detected a low gurgling sound. I can not describe the
feeling that followed. Joy and grief contended within me. I knew the
meaning of that sound. Gulnare, in her frenzied violence, had broken a
blood-vessel, and was bleeding internally. Pain and life were passing
away together.

"I knelt down by her side."

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Ride With A Mad Horse In A Freight-Car - 1898" ***

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