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Title: A Horse's Tale
Author: Twain, Mark
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Horse's Tale" ***

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Transcribed from the 1907 Harper and Brothers edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Book cover]

 [Picture: “Buffalo Bill took me on Soldier Boy to Thunder-Bird’s Camp”]



                              A Horse’s Tale


                                    BY
                                Mark Twain

                              ILLUSTRATED BY
                             LUCIUS HITCHCOCK

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                           LONDON AND NEW YORK
                            HARPER & BROTHERS
                           PUBLISHERS .. MCMVII

                                * * * * *

                Copyright, 1906, by Harper & Brothers.

                               * * * * *

                         _All rights reserved_

                       Published October, 1907.

                  _Printed in United States of America_.

                                * * * * *



Contents

CHAP.                                                             PAGE
       I.  SOLDIER BOY—PRIVATELY TO HIMSELF                          1
      II.  LETTER FROM ROUEN—TO GENERAL ALISON                      12
     III.  GENERAL ALISON TO HIS MOTHER                             19
      IV.  CATHY TO HER AUNT MERCEDES                               25
       V.  GENERAL ALISON TO MERCEDES                               33
      VI.  SOLDIER BOY AND THE MEXICAN PLUG                         56
     VII.  SOLDIER BOY AND SHEKELS                                  82
    VIII.  THE SCOUT-START.  BB AND LIEUTENANT-GENERAL              88
           ALISON
      IX.  SOLDIER BOY AND SHEKELS AGAIN                            90
       X.  GENERAL ALISON AND DORCAS                               100
      XI.  SEVERAL MONTHS LATER.  ANTONIO AND THORNDIKE            116
     XII.  MONGREL AND THE OTHER HORSE                             129
    XIII.  GENERAL ALISON TO HIS MOTHER                            133
     XIV.  SOLDIER BOY—TO HIMSELF                                  145
      XV.  GENERAL ALISON TO MRS. DRAKE, THE COLONEL’S WIFE        149



Illustrations

“Buffalo Bill took me on Soldier Boy to                 _Frontispiece_
Thunder-Bird’s Camp”
“Look at that file of cats in your chair”                        p. 48
“Every morning they go clattering down into the                     66
plain”
“There was nothing to do but stand by”                              92
“His strength failed and he fell at her feet”                      150



Acknowledgements


Although I have had several opportunities to see a bull-fight, I have
never seen one; but I needed a bull-fight in this book, and a trustworthy
one will be found in it.  I got it out of John Hay’s _Castilian Days_,
reducing and condensing it to fit the requirements of this small story.
Mr. Hay and I were friends from early times, and if he were still with us
he would not rebuke me for the liberty I have taken.

The knowledge of military minutiæ exhibited in this book will be found to
be correct, but it is not mine; I took it from _Army Regulations_, ed.
1904; _Hardy’s Tactics_—_Cavalry_, revised ed., 1861; and _Jomini’s
Handbook of Military Etiquette_, West Point ed., 1905.

It would not be honest in me to encourage by silence the inference that I
composed the Horse’s private bugle-call, for I did not.  I lifted it, as
Aristotle says.  It is the opening strain in _The Pizzicato_ in _Sylvia_,
by Delibes.  When that master was composing it he did not know it was a
bugle-call, it was I that found it out.

Along through the book I have distributed a few anachronisms and unborn
historical incidents and such things, so as to help the tale over the
difficult places.  This idea is not original with me; I got it out of
Herodotus.  Herodotus says, “Very few things happen at the right time,
and the rest do not happen at all: the conscientious historian will
correct these defects.”

The cats in the chair do not belong to me, but to another.

These are all the exceptions.  What is left of the book is mine.

                                                               MARK TWAIN.

LONE TREE HILL, DUBLIN,
NEW HAMPSHIRE, _October_, 1905.



Part I


I
SOLDIER BOY—PRIVATELY TO HIMSELF


I AM Buffalo Bill’s horse.  I have spent my life under his saddle—with
him in it, too, and he is good for two hundred pounds, without his
clothes; and there is no telling how much he does weigh when he is out on
the war-path and has his batteries belted on.  He is over six feet, is
young, hasn’t an ounce of waste flesh, is straight, graceful, springy in
his motions, quick as a cat, and has a handsome face, and black hair
dangling down on his shoulders, and is beautiful to look at; and nobody
is braver than he is, and nobody is stronger, except myself.  Yes, a
person that doubts that he is fine to see should see him in his beaded
buck-skins, on my back and his rifle peeping above his shoulder, chasing
a hostile trail, with me going like the wind and his hair streaming out
behind from the shelter of his broad slouch.  Yes, he is a sight to look
at then—and I’m part of it myself.

I am his favorite horse, out of dozens.  Big as he is, I have carried him
eighty-one miles between nightfall and sunrise on the scout; and I am
good for fifty, day in and day out, and all the time.  I am not large,
but I am built on a business basis.  I have carried him thousands and
thousands of miles on scout duty for the army, and there’s not a gorge,
nor a pass, nor a valley, nor a fort, nor a trading post, nor a
buffalo-range in the whole sweep of the Rocky Mountains and the Great
Plains that we don’t know as well as we know the bugle-calls.  He is
Chief of Scouts to the Army of the Frontier, and it makes us very
important.  In such a position as I hold in the military service one
needs to be of good family and possess an education much above the common
to be worthy of the place.  I am the best-educated horse outside of the
hippodrome, everybody says, and the best-mannered.  It may be so, it is
not for me to say; modesty is the best policy, I think.  Buffalo Bill
taught me the most of what I know, my mother taught me much, and I taught
myself the rest.  Lay a row of moccasins before me—Pawnee, Sioux,
Shoshone, Cheyenne, Blackfoot, and as many other tribes as you please—and
I can name the tribe every moccasin belongs to by the make of it.  Name
it in horse-talk, and could do it in American if I had speech.

I know some of the Indian signs—the signs they make with their hands, and
by signal-fires at night and columns of smoke by day.  Buffalo Bill
taught me how to drag wounded soldiers out of the line of fire with my
teeth; and I’ve done it, too; at least I’ve dragged _him_ out of the
battle when he was wounded.  And not just once, but twice.  Yes, I know a
lot of things.  I remember forms, and gaits, and faces; and you can’t
disguise a person that’s done me a kindness so that I won’t know him
thereafter wherever I find him.  I know the art of searching for a trail,
and I know the stale track from the fresh.  I can keep a trail all by
myself, with Buffalo Bill asleep in the saddle; ask him—he will tell you
so.  Many a time, when he has ridden all night, he has said to me at
dawn, “Take the watch, Boy; if the trail freshens, call me.”  Then he
goes to sleep.  He knows he can trust me, because I have a reputation.  A
scout horse that has a reputation does not play with it.

My mother was all American—no alkali-spider about _her_, I can tell you;
she was of the best blood of Kentucky, the bluest Blue-grass aristocracy,
very proud and acrimonious—or maybe it is ceremonious.  I don’t know
which it is.  But it is no matter; size is the main thing about a word,
and that one’s up to standard.  She spent her military life as colonel of
the Tenth Dragoons, and saw a deal of rough service—distinguished service
it was, too.  I mean, she _carried_ the Colonel; but it’s all the same.
Where would he be without his horse?  He wouldn’t arrive.  It takes two
to make a colonel of dragoons.  She was a fine dragoon horse, but never
got above that.  She was strong enough for the scout service, and had the
endurance, too, but she couldn’t quite come up to the speed required; a
scout horse has to have steel in his muscle and lightning in his blood.

My father was a bronco.  Nothing as to lineage—that is, nothing as to
recent lineage—but plenty good enough when you go a good way back.  When
Professor Marsh was out here hunting bones for the chapel of Yale
University he found skeletons of horses no bigger than a fox, bedded in
the rocks, and he said they were ancestors of my father.  My mother heard
him say it; and he said those skeletons were two million years old, which
astonished her and made her Kentucky pretensions look small and pretty
antiphonal, not to say oblique.  Let me see. . . . I used to know the
meaning of those words, but . . . well, it was years ago, and ’tisn’t as
vivid now as it was when they were fresh.  That sort of words doesn’t
keep, in the kind of climate we have out here.  Professor Marsh said
those skeletons were fossils.  So that makes me part blue grass and part
fossil; if there is any older or better stock, you will have to look for
it among the Four Hundred, I reckon.  I am satisfied with it.  And am a
happy horse, too, though born out of wedlock.

And now we are back at Fort Paxton once more, after a forty-day scout,
away up as far as the Big Horn.  Everything quiet.  Crows and Blackfeet
squabbling—as usual—but no outbreaks, and settlers feeling fairly easy.

The Seventh Cavalry still in garrison, here; also the Ninth Dragoons, two
artillery companies, and some infantry.  All glad to see me, including
General Alison, commandant.  The officers’ ladies and children well, and
called upon me—with sugar.  Colonel Drake, Seventh Cavalry, said some
pleasant things; Mrs. Drake was very complimentary; also Captain and Mrs.
Marsh, Company B, Seventh Cavalry; also the Chaplain, who is always kind
and pleasant to me, because I kicked the lungs out of a trader once.  It
was Tommy Drake and Fanny Marsh that furnished the sugar—nice children,
the nicest at the post, I think.

That poor orphan child is on her way from France—everybody is full of the
subject.  Her father was General Alison’s brother; married a beautiful
young Spanish lady ten years ago, and has never been in America since.
They lived in Spain a year or two, then went to France.  Both died some
months ago.  This little girl that is coming is the only child.  General
Alison is glad to have her.  He has never seen her.  He is a very nice
old bachelor, but is an old bachelor just the same and isn’t more than
about a year this side of retirement by age limit; and so what does he
know about taking care of a little maid nine years old?  If I could have
her it would be another matter, for I know all about children, and they
adore me.  Buffalo Bill will tell you so himself.

I have some of this news from over-hearing the garrison-gossip, the rest
of it I got from Potter, the General’s dog.  Potter is the great Dane.
He is privileged, all over the post, like Shekels, the Seventh Cavalry’s
dog, and visits everybody’s quarters and picks up everything that is
going, in the way of news.  Potter has no imagination, and no great deal
of culture, perhaps, but he has a historical mind and a good memory, and
so he is the person I depend upon mainly to post me up when I get back
from a scout.  That is, if Shekels is out on depredation and I can’t get
hold of him.



II
LETTER FROM ROUEN—TO GENERAL ALISON


_MY dear Brother-in-Law_,—Please let me write again in Spanish, I cannot
trust my English, and I am aware, from what your brother used to say,
that army officers educated at the Military Academy of the United States
are taught our tongue.  It is as I told you in my other letter: both my
poor sister and her husband, when they found they could not recover,
expressed the wish that you should have their little Catherine—as knowing
that you would presently be retired from the army—rather than that she
should remain with me, who am broken in health, or go to your mother in
California, whose health is also frail.

You do not know the child, therefore I must tell you something about her.
You will not be ashamed of her looks, for she is a copy in little of her
beautiful mother—and it is that Andalusian beauty which is not
surpassable, even in your country.  She has her mother’s charm and grace
and good heart and sense of justice, and she has her father’s vivacity
and cheerfulness and pluck and spirit of enterprise, with the
affectionate disposition and sincerity of both parents.

My sister pined for her Spanish home all these years of exile; she was
always talking of Spain to the child, and tending and nourishing the love
of Spain in the little thing’s heart as a precious flower; and she died
happy in the knowledge that the fruitage of her patriotic labors was as
rich as even she could desire.

Cathy is a sufficiently good little scholar, for her nine years; her
mother taught her Spanish herself, and kept it always fresh upon her ear
and her tongue by hardly ever speaking with her in any other tongue; her
father was her English teacher, and talked with her in that language
almost exclusively; French has been her everyday speech for more than
seven years among her playmates here; she has a good working use of
governess—German and Italian.  It is true that there is always a faint
foreign fragrance about her speech, no matter what language she is
talking, but it is only just noticeable, nothing more, and is rather a
charm than a mar, I think.  In the ordinary child-studies Cathy is
neither before nor behind the average child of nine, I should say.  But I
can say this for her: in love for her friends and in high-mindedness and
good-heartedness she has not many equals, and in my opinion no superiors.
And I beg of you, let her have her way with the dumb animals—they are her
worship.  It is an inheritance from her mother.  She knows but little of
cruelties and oppressions—keep them from her sight if you can.  She would
flare up at them and make trouble, in her small but quite decided and
resolute way; for she has a character of her own, and lacks neither
promptness nor initiative.  Sometimes her judgment is at fault, but I
think her intentions are always right.  Once when she was a little
creature of three or four years she suddenly brought her tiny foot down
upon the floor in an apparent outbreak of indignation, then fetched it a
backward wipe, and stooped down to examine the result.  Her mother said:

“Why, what is it, child?  What has stirred you so?”

“Mamma, the big ant was trying to kill the little one.”

“And so you protected the little one.”

“Yes, manure, because he had no friend, and I wouldn’t let the big one
kill him.”

“But you have killed them both.”

Cathy was distressed, and her lip trembled.  She picked up the remains
and laid them upon her palm, and said:

“Poor little anty, I’m so sorry; and I didn’t mean to kill you, but there
wasn’t any other way to save you, it was such a hurry.”

She is a dear and sweet little lady, and when she goes it will give me a
sore heart.  But she will be happy with you, and if your heart is old and
tired, give it into her keeping; she will make it young again, she will
refresh it, she will make it sing.  Be good to her, for all our sakes!

My exile will soon be over now.  As soon as I am a little stronger I
shall see my Spain again; and that will make me young again!

                                                                 MERCEDES.



III
GENERAL ALISON TO HIS MOTHER


I AM glad to know that you are all well, in San Bernardino.

. . . That grandchild of yours has been here—well, I do not quite know
how many days it is; nobody can keep account of days or anything else
where she is!  Mother, she did what the Indians were never able to do.
She took the Fort—took it the first day!  Took me, too; took the
colonels, the captains, the women, the children, and the dumb brutes;
took Buffalo Bill, and all his scouts; took the garrison—to the last man;
and in forty-eight hours the Indian encampment was hers, illustrious old
Thunder-Bird and all.  Do I seem to have lost my solemnity, my gravity,
my poise, my dignity?  You would lose your own, in my circumstances.
Mother, you never saw such a winning little devil.  She is all energy,
and spirit, and sunshine, and interest in everybody and everything, and
pours out her prodigal love upon every creature that will take it, high
or low, Christian or pagan, feathered or furred; and none has declined it
to date, and none ever will, I think.  But she has a temper, and
sometimes it catches fire and flames up, and is likely to burn whatever
is near it; but it is soon over, the passion goes as quickly as it comes.
Of course she has an Indian name already; Indians always rechristen a
stranger early.  Thunder-Bird attended to her case.  He gave her the
Indian equivalent for firebug, or fire-fly.  He said:

“’Times, ver’ quiet, ver’ soft, like summer night, but when she mad she
blaze.”

Isn’t it good?  Can’t you see the flare?  She’s beautiful, mother,
beautiful as a picture; and there is a touch of you in her face, and of
her father—poor George! and in her unresting activities, and her fearless
ways, and her sunbursts and cloudbursts, she is always bringing George
back to me.  These impulsive natures are dramatic.  George was dramatic,
so is this Lightning-Bug, so is Buffalo Bill.  When Cathy first
arrived—it was in the forenoon—Buffalo Bill was away, carrying orders to
Major Fuller, at Five Forks, up in the Clayton Hills.  At mid-afternoon I
was at my desk, trying to work, and this sprite had been making it
impossible for half an hour.  At last I said:

“Oh, you bewitching little scamp, _can’t_ you be quiet just a minute or
two, and let your poor old uncle attend to a part of his duties?”

“I’ll try, uncle; I will, indeed,” she said.

“Well, then, that’s a good child—kiss me.  Now, then, sit up in that
chair, and set your eye on that clock.  There—that’s right.  If you
stir—if you so much as wink—for four whole minutes, I’ll bite you!”

It was very sweet and humble and obedient she looked, sitting there,
still as a mouse; I could hardly keep from setting her free and telling
her to make as much racket as she wanted to.  During as much as two
minutes there was a most unnatural and heavenly quiet and repose, then
Buffalo Bill came thundering up to the door in all his scout finery,
flung himself out of the saddle, said to his horse, “Wait for me, Boy,”
and stepped in, and stopped dead in his tracks—gazing at the child.  She
forgot orders, and was on the floor in a moment, saying:

“Oh, you are so beautiful!  Do you like me?”

“No, I don’t, I love you!” and he gathered her up with a hug, and then
set her on his shoulder—apparently nine feet from the floor.

She was at home.  She played with his long hair, and admired his big
hands and his clothes and his carbine, and asked question after question,
as fast as he could answer, until I excused them both for half an hour,
in order to have a chance to finish my work.  Then I heard Cathy
exclaiming over Soldier Boy; and he was worthy of her raptures, for he is
a wonder of a horse, and has a reputation which is as shining as his own
silken hide.



IV
CATHY TO HER AUNT MERCEDES


OH, it is wonderful here, aunty dear, just paradise!  Oh, if you could
only see it! everything so wild and lovely; such grand plains, stretching
such miles and miles and miles, all the most delicious velvety sand and
sage-brush, and rabbits as big as a dog, and such tall and noble
jackassful ears that that is what they name them by; and such vast
mountains, and so rugged and craggy and lofty, with cloud-shawls wrapped
around their shoulders, and looking so solemn and awful and satisfied;
and the charming Indians, oh, how you would dote on them, aunty dear, and
they would on you, too, and they would let you hold their babies, the way
they do me, and they _are_ the fattest, and brownest, and sweetest little
things, and never cry, and wouldn’t if they had pins sticking in them,
which they haven’t, because they are poor and can’t afford it; and the
horses and mules and cattle and dogs—hundreds and hundreds and hundreds,
and not an animal that you can’t do what you please with, except uncle
Thomas, but _I_ don’t mind him, he’s lovely; and oh, if you could hear
the bugles: _too—too—too-too—too—too_, and so on—perfectly beautiful!  Do
you recognize that one?  It’s the first toots of the _reveille_; it goes,
dear me, _so_ early in the morning!—then I and every other soldier on the
whole place are up and out in a minute, except uncle Thomas, who is most
unaccountably lazy, I don’t know why, but I have talked to him about it,
and I reckon it will be better, now.  He hasn’t any faults much, and is
charming and sweet, like Buffalo Bill, and Thunder-Bird, and Mammy
Dorcas, and Soldier Boy, and Shekels, and Potter, and Sour-Mash,
and—well, they’re _all_ that, just angels, as you may say.

The very first day I came, I don’t know how long ago it was, Buffalo Bill
took me on Soldier Boy to Thunder-Bird’s camp, not the big one which is
out on the plain, which is White Cloud’s, he took me to _that_ one next
day, but this one is four or five miles up in the hills and crags, where
there is a great shut-in meadow, full of Indian lodges and dogs and
squaws and everything that is interesting, and a brook of the clearest
water running through it, with white pebbles on the bottom and trees all
along the banks cool and shady and good to wade in, and as the sun goes
down it is dimmish in there, but away up against the sky you see the big
peaks towering up and shining bright and vivid in the sun, and sometimes
an eagle sailing by them, not flapping a wing, the same as if he was
asleep; and young Indians and girls romping and laughing and carrying on,
around the spring and the pool, and not much clothes on except the girls,
and dogs fighting, and the squaws busy at work, and the bucks busy
resting, and the old men sitting in a bunch smoking, and passing the pipe
not to the left but to the right, which means there’s been a row in the
camp and they are settling it if they can, and children playing _just_
the same as any other children, and little boys shooting at a mark with
bows, and I cuffed one of them because he hit a dog with a club that
wasn’t doing anything, and he resented it but before long he wished he
hadn’t: but this sentence is getting too long and I will start another.
Thunder-Bird put on his Sunday-best war outfit to let me see him, and he
was splendid to look at, with his face painted red and bright and intense
like a fire-coal and a valance of eagle feathers from the top of his head
all down his back, and he had his tomahawk, too, and his pipe, which has
a stem which is longer than my arm, and I never had such a good time in
an Indian camp in my life, and I learned a lot of words of the language,
and next day BB took me to the camp out on the Plains, four miles, and I
had another good time and got acquainted with some more Indians and dogs;
and the big chief, by the name of White Cloud, gave me a pretty little
bow and arrows and I gave him my red sash-ribbon, and in four days I
could shoot very well with it and beat any white boy of my size at the
post; and I have been to those camps plenty of times since; and I have
learned to ride, too, BB taught me, and every day he practises me and
praises me, and every time I do better than ever he lets me have a
scamper on Soldier Boy, and _that’s_ the last agony of pleasure! for he
is the charmingest horse, and so beautiful and shiny and black, and
hasn’t another color on him anywhere, except a white star in his
forehead, not just an imitation star, but a real one, with four points,
shaped exactly like a star that’s hand-made, and if you should cover him
all up but his star you would know him anywhere, even in Jerusalem or
Australia, by that.  And I got acquainted with a good many of the Seventh
Cavalry, and the dragoons, and officers, and families, and horses, in the
first few days, and some more in the next few and the next few and the
next few, and now I know more soldiers and horses than you can think, no
matter how hard you try.  I am keeping up my studies every now and then,
but there isn’t much time for it.  I love you so! and I send you a hug
and a kiss.

                                                                    CATHY.

P.S.—I belong to the Seventh Cavalry and Ninth Dragoons, I am an officer,
too, and do not have to work on account of not getting any wages.



V
GENERAL ALISON TO MERCEDES


SHE has been with us a good nice long time, now.  You are troubled about
your sprite because this is such a wild frontier, hundreds of miles from
civilization, and peopled only by wandering tribes of savages?  You fear
for her safety?  Give yourself no uneasiness about her.  Dear me, she’s
in a nursery! and she’s got more than eighteen hundred nurses.  It would
distress the garrison to suspect that you think they can’t take care of
her.  They think they can.  They would tell you so themselves.  You see,
the Seventh Cavalry has never had a child of its very own before, and
neither has the Ninth Dragoons; and so they are like all new mothers,
they think there is no other child like theirs, no other child so
wonderful, none that is so worthy to be faithfully and tenderly looked
after and protected.  These bronzed veterans of mine are very good
mothers, I think, and wiser than some other mothers; for they let her
take lots of risks, and it is a good education for her; and the more
risks she takes and comes successfully out of, the prouder they are of
her.  They adopted her, with grave and formal military ceremonies of
their own invention—solemnities is the truer word; solemnities that were
so profoundly solemn and earnest, that the spectacle would have been
comical if it hadn’t been so touching.  It was a good show, and as
stately and complex as guard-mount and the trooping of the colors; and it
had its own special music, composed for the occasion by the bandmaster of
the Seventh; and the child was as serious as the most serious war-worn
soldier of them all; and finally when they throned her upon the shoulder
of the oldest veteran, and pronounced her “well and truly adopted,” and
the bands struck up and all saluted and she saluted in return, it was
better and more moving than any kindred thing I have seen on the stage,
because stage things are make-believe, but this was real and the players’
hearts were in it.

It happened several weeks ago, and was followed by some additional
solemnities.  The men created a couple of new ranks, thitherto unknown to
the army regulations, and conferred them upon Cathy, with ceremonies
suitable to a duke.  So now she is Corporal-General of the Seventh
Cavalry, and Flag-Lieutenant of the Ninth Dragoons, with the privilege
(decreed by the men) of writing U.S.A. after her name!  Also, they
presented her a pair of shoulder-straps—both dark blue, the one with F.
L. on it, the other with C. G.  Also, a sword.  She wears them.  Finally,
they granted her the _salute_.  I am witness that that ceremony is
faithfully observed by both parties—and most gravely and decorously, too.
I have never seen a soldier smile yet, while delivering it, nor Cathy in
returning it.

Ostensibly I was not present at these proceedings, and am ignorant of
them; but I was where I could see.  I was afraid of one thing—the
jealousy of the other children of the post; but there is nothing of that,
I am glad to say.  On the contrary, they are proud of their comrade and
her honors.  It is a surprising thing, but it is true.  The children are
devoted to Cathy, for she has turned their dull frontier life into a sort
of continuous festival; also they know her for a stanch and steady
friend, a friend who can always be depended upon, and does not change
with the weather.

She has become a rather extraordinary rider, under the tutorship of a
more than extraordinary teacher—BB, which is her pet name for Buffalo
Bill.  She pronounces it _beeby_.  He has not only taught her seventeen
ways of breaking her neck, but twenty-two ways of avoiding it.  He has
infused into her the best and surest protection of a
horseman—_confidence_.  He did it gradually, systematically, little by
little, a step at a time, and each step made sure before the next was
essayed.  And so he inched her along up through terrors that had been
discounted by training before she reached them, and therefore were not
recognizable as terrors when she got to them.  Well, she is a daring
little rider, now, and is perfect in what she knows of horsemanship.
By-and-by she will know the art like a West Point cadet, and will
exercise it as fearlessly.  She doesn’t know anything about side-saddles.
Does that distress you?  And she is a fine performer, without any saddle
at all.  Does that discomfort you?  Do not let it; she is not in any
danger, I give you my word.

You said that if my heart was old and tired she would refresh it, and you
said truly.  I do not know how I got along without her, before.  I was a
forlorn old tree, but now that this blossoming vine has wound itself
about me and become the life of my life, it is very different.  As a
furnisher of business for me and for Mammy Dorcas she is exhaustlessly
competent, but I like my share of it and of course Dorcas likes hers, for
Dorcas “raised” George, and Cathy is George over again in so many ways
that she brings back Dorcas’s youth and the joys of that long-vanished
time.  My father tried to set Dorcas free twenty years ago, when we still
lived in Virginia, but without success; she considered herself a member
of the family, and wouldn’t go.  And so, a member of the family she
remained, and has held that position unchallenged ever since, and holds
it now; for when my mother sent her here from San Bernardino when we
learned that Cathy was coming, she only changed from one division of the
family to the other.  She has the warm heart of her race, and its lavish
affections, and when Cathy arrived the pair were mother and child in five
minutes, and that is what they are to date and will continue.  Dorcas
really thinks she raised George, and that is one of her prides, but
perhaps it was a mutual raising, for their ages were the same—thirteen
years short of mine.  But they were playmates, at any rate; as regards
that, there is no room for dispute.

Cathy thinks Dorcas is the best Catholic in America except herself.  She
could not pay any one a higher compliment than that, and Dorcas could not
receive one that would please her better.  Dorcas is satisfied that there
has never been a more wonderful child than Cathy.  She has conceived the
curious idea that Cathy is _twins_, and that one of them is a boy-twin
and failed to get segregated—got submerged, is the idea.  To argue with
her that this is nonsense is a waste of breath—her mind is made up, and
arguments do not affect it.  She says:

“Look at her; she loves dolls, and girl-plays, and everything a girl
loves, and she’s gentle and sweet, and ain’t cruel to dumb brutes—now
that’s the girl-twin, but she loves boy-plays, and drums and fifes and
soldiering, and rough-riding, and ain’t afraid of anybody or anything—and
that’s the boy-twin; ’deed you needn’t tell _me_ she’s only _one_ child;
no, sir, she’s twins, and one of them got shet up out of sight.  Out of
sight, but that don’t make any difference, that boy is in there, and you
can see him look out of her eyes when her temper is up.”

Then Dorcas went on, in her simple and earnest way, to furnish
illustrations.

“Look at that raven, Marse Tom.  Would anybody befriend a raven but that
child?  Of course they wouldn’t; it ain’t natural.  Well, the Injun boy
had the raven tied up, and was all the time plaguing it and starving it,
and she pitied the po’ thing, and tried to buy it from the boy, and the
tears was in her eyes.  That was the girl-twin, you see.  She offered him
her thimble, and he flung it down; she offered him all the doughnuts she
had, which was two, and he flung them down; she offered him half a paper
of pins, worth forty ravens, and he made a mouth at her and jabbed one of
them in the raven’s back.  That was the limit, you know.  It called for
the other twin.  Her eyes blazed up, and she jumped for him like a
wild-cat, and when she was done with him she was rags and he wasn’t
anything but an allegory.  That was most undoubtedly the other twin, you
see, coming to the front.  No, sir; don’t tell _me_ he ain’t in there.
I’ve seen him with my own eyes—and plenty of times, at that.”

“Allegory?  What is an allegory?”

“I don’t know, Marse Tom, it’s one of her words; she loves the big ones,
you know, and I pick them up from her; they sound good and I can’t help
it.”

“What happened after she had converted the boy into an allegory?”

“Why, she untied the raven and confiscated him by force and fetched him
home, and left the doughnuts and things on the ground.  Petted him, of
course, like she does with every creature.  In two days she had him so
stuck after her that she—well, _you_ know how he follows her everywhere,
and sets on her shoulder often when she rides her breakneck rampages—all
of which is the girl-twin to the front, you see—and he does what he
pleases, and is up to all kinds of devilment, and is a perfect nuisance
in the kitchen.  Well, they all stand it, but they wouldn’t if it was
another person’s bird.”

Here she began to chuckle comfortably, and presently she said:

“Well, you know, she’s a nuisance herself, Miss Cathy is, she _is_ so
busy, and into everything, like that bird.  It’s all just as innocent,
you know, and she don’t mean any harm, and is so good and dear; and it
ain’t her fault, it’s her nature; her interest is always a-working and
always red-hot, and she can’t keep quiet.  Well, yesterday it was
‘Please, Miss Cathy, don’t do that’; and, ‘Please, Miss Cathy, let that
alone’; and, ‘Please, Miss Cathy, don’t make so much noise’; and so on
and so on, till I reckon I had found fault fourteen times in fifteen
minutes; then she looked up at me with her big brown eyes that can plead
so, and said in that odd little foreign way that goes to your heart,

“’Please, mammy, make me a compliment.”

“And of course you did it, you old fool?”

“Marse Tom, I just grabbed her up to my breast and says, ‘Oh, you po’
dear little motherless thing, you ain’t got a fault in the world, and you
can do anything you want to, and tear the house down, and yo’ old black
mammy won’t say a word!’”

“Why, of course, of course—_I_ knew you’d spoil the child.”

She brushed away her tears, and said with dignity:

“Spoil the child? spoil _that_ child, Marse Tom?  There can’t _anybody_
spoil her.  She’s the king bee of this post, and everybody pets her and
is her slave, and yet, as you know, your own self, she ain’t the least
little bit spoiled.”  Then she eased her mind with this retort: “Marse
Tom, she makes you do anything she wants to, and you can’t deny it; so if
she could be spoilt, she’d been spoilt long ago, because you are the very
_worst_!  Look at that pile of cats in your chair, and you sitting on a
candle-box, just as patient; it’s because they’re her cats.”

          [Picture: “‘Look at that pile of cats in your chair’”]

If Dorcas were a soldier, I could punish her for such large frankness as
that.  I changed the subject, and made her resume her illustrations.  She
had scored against me fairly, and I wasn’t going to cheapen her victory
by disputing it.  She proceeded to offer this incident in evidence on her
twin theory:

“Two weeks ago when she got her finger mashed open, she turned pretty
pale with the pain, but she never said a word.  I took her in my lap, and
the surgeon sponged off the blood and took a needle and thread and began
to sew it up; it had to have a lot of stitches, and each one made her
scrunch a little, but she never let go a sound.  At last the surgeon was
so full of admiration that he said, ‘Well, you _are_ a brave little
thing!’ and she said, just as ca’m and simple as if she was talking about
the weather, ‘There isn’t anybody braver but the Cid!’  You see? it was
the boy-twin that the surgeon was a-dealing with.

“Who is the Cid?”

“I don’t know, sir—at least only what she says.  She’s always talking
about him, and says he was the bravest hero Spain ever had, or any other
country.  They have it up and down, the children do, she standing up for
the Cid, and they working George Washington for all he is worth.”

“Do they quarrel?”

“No; it’s only disputing, and bragging, the way children do.  They want
her to be an American, but she can’t be anything but a Spaniard, she
says.  You see, her mother was always longing for home, po’ thing! and
thinking about it, and so the child is just as much a Spaniard as if
she’d always lived there.  She thinks she remembers how Spain looked, but
I reckon she don’t, because she was only a baby when they moved to
France.  She is very proud to be a Spaniard.”

Does that please you, Mercedes?  Very well, be content; your niece is
loyal to her allegiance: her mother laid deep the foundations of her love
for Spain, and she will go back to you as good a Spaniard as you are
yourself.  She has made me promise to take her to you for a long visit
when the War Office retires me.

I attend to her studies myself; has she told you that?  Yes, I am her
school-master, and she makes pretty good progress, I think, everything
considered.  Everything considered—being translated—means holidays.  But
the fact is, she was not born for study, and it comes hard.  Hard for me,
too; it hurts me like a physical pain to see that free spirit of the air
and the sunshine laboring and grieving over a book; and sometimes when I
find her gazing far away towards the plain and the blue mountains with
the longing in her eyes, I have to throw open the prison doors; I can’t
help it.  A quaint little scholar she is, and makes plenty of blunders.
Once I put the question:

“What does the Czar govern?”

She rested her elbow on her knee and her chin on her hand and took that
problem under deep consideration.  Presently she looked up and answered,
with a rising inflection implying a shade of uncertainty,

“The dative case?”

Here are a couple of her expositions which were delivered with tranquil
confidence:

“_Chaplain_, diminutive of chap.  _Lass_ is masculine, _lassie_ is
feminine.”

She is not a genius, you see, but just a normal child; they all make
mistakes of that sort.  There is a glad light in her eye which is pretty
to see when she finds herself able to answer a question promptly and
accurately, without any hesitation; as, for instance, this morning:

“Cathy dear, what is a cube?”

“Why, a native of Cuba.”

She still drops a foreign word into her talk now and then, and there is
still a subtle foreign flavor or fragrance about even her exactest
English—and long may this abide! for it has for me a charm that is very
pleasant.  Sometimes her English is daintily prim and bookish and
captivating.  She has a child’s sweet tooth, but for her health’s sake I
try to keep its inspirations under cheek.  She is obedient—as is proper
for a titled and recognized military personage, which she is—but the
chain presses sometimes.  For instance, we were out for a walk, and
passed by some bushes that were freighted with wild goose-berries.  Her
face brightened and she put her hands together and delivered herself of
this speech, most feelingly:

“Oh, if I was permitted a vice it would be the _gourmandise_!”

Could I resist that?  No.  I gave her a gooseberry.

You ask about her languages.  They take care of themselves; they will not
get rusty here; our regiments are not made up of natives alone—far from
it.  And she is picking up Indian tongues diligently.



VI
SOLDIER BOY AND THE MEXICAN PLUG


“WHEN did you come?”

“Arrived at sundown.”

“Where from?”

“Salt Lake.”

“Are you in the service?”

“No.  Trade.”

“Pirate trade, I reckon.”

“What do you know about it?”

“I saw you when you came.  I recognized your master.  He is a bad sort.
Trap-robber, horse-thief, squaw-man, renegado—Hank Butters—I know him
very well.  Stole you, didn’t he?”

“Well, it amounted to that.”

“I thought so.  Where is his pard?”

“He stopped at White Cloud’s camp.”

“He is another of the same stripe, is Blake Haskins.”  (_Aside_.)  They
are laying for Buffalo Bill again, I guess.  (_Aloud_.)  “What is your
name?”

“Which one?”

“Have you got more than one?”

“I get a new one every time I’m stolen.  I used to have an honest name,
but that was early; I’ve forgotten it.  Since then I’ve had thirteen
_aliases_.”

“Aliases?  What is alias?”

“A false name.”

“Alias.  It’s a fine large word, and is in my line; it has quite a
learned and cerebrospinal incandescent sound.  Are you educated?”

“Well, no, I can’t claim it.  I can take down bars, I can distinguish
oats from shoe-pegs, I can blaspheme a saddle-boil with the college-bred,
and I know a few other things—not many; I have had no chance, I have
always had to work; besides, I am of low birth and no family.  You speak
my dialect like a native, but you are not a Mexican Plug, you are a
gentleman, I can see that; and educated, of course.”

“Yes, I am of old family, and not illiterate.  I am a fossil.”

“A which?”

“Fossil.  The first horses were fossils.  They date back two million
years.”

“Gr-eat sand and sage-brush! do you mean it?”

“Yes, it is true.  The bones of my ancestors are held in reverence and
worship, even by men.  They do not leave them exposed to the weather when
they find them, but carry them three thousand miles and enshrine them in
their temples of learning, and worship them.”

“It is wonderful!  I knew you must be a person of distinction, by your
fine presence and courtly address, and by the fact that you are not
subjected to the indignity of hobbles, like myself and the rest.  Would
you tell me your name?”

“You have probably heard of it—Soldier Boy.”

“What!—the renowned, the illustrious?”

“Even so.”

“It takes my breath!  Little did I dream that ever I should stand face to
face with the possessor of that great name.  Buffalo Bill’s horse!  Known
from the Canadian border to the deserts of Arizona, and from the eastern
marches of the Great Plains to the foot-hills of the Sierra!  Truly this
is a memorable day.  You still serve the celebrated Chief of Scouts?”

“I am still his property, but he has lent me, for a time, to the most
noble, the most gracious, the most excellent, her Excellency Catherine,
Corporal-General Seventh Cavalry and Flag-Lieutenant Ninth Dragoons,
U.S.A.,—on whom be peace!”

“Amen.  Did you say _her_ Excellency?”

“The same.  A Spanish lady, sweet blossom of a ducal house.  And truly a
wonder; knowing everything, capable of everything; speaking all the
languages, master of all sciences, a mind without horizons, a heart of
gold, the glory of her race!  On whom be peace!”

“Amen.  It is marvellous!”

“Verily.  I knew many things, she has taught me others.  I am educated.
I will tell you about her.”

“I listen—I am enchanted.”

“I will tell a plain tale, calmly, without excitement, without eloquence.
When she had been here four or five weeks she was already erudite in
military things, and they made her an officer—a double officer.  She rode
the drill every day, like any soldier; and she could take the bugle and
direct the evolutions herself.  Then, on a day, there was a grand race,
for prizes—none to enter but the children.  Seventeen children entered,
and she was the youngest.  Three girls, fourteen boys—good riders all.
It was a steeplechase, with four hurdles, all pretty high.  The first
prize was a most cunning half-grown silver bugle, and mighty pretty, with
red silk cord and tassels.  Buffalo Bill was very anxious; for he had
taught her to ride, and he did most dearly want her to win that race, for
the glory of it.  So he wanted her to ride me, but she wouldn’t; and she
reproached him, and said it was unfair and unright, and taking advantage;
for what horse in this post or any other could stand a chance against me?
and she was very severe with him, and said, ‘You ought to be ashamed—you
are proposing to me conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.’  So
he just tossed her up in the air about thirty feet and caught her as she
came down, and said he was ashamed; and put up his handkerchief and
pretended to cry, which nearly broke her heart, and she petted him, and
begged him to forgive her, and said she would do anything in the world he
could ask but that; but he said he ought to go hang himself, and he
_must_, if he could get a rope; it was nothing but right he should, for
he never, never could forgive himself; and then _she_ began to cry, and
they both sobbed, the way you could hear him a mile, and she clinging
around his neck and pleading, till at last he was comforted a little, and
gave his solemn promise he wouldn’t hang himself till after the race; and
wouldn’t do it at all if she won it, which made her happy, and she said
she would win it or die in the saddle; so then everything was pleasant
again and both of them content.  He can’t help playing jokes on her, he
is so fond of her and she is so innocent and unsuspecting; and when she
finds it out she cuffs him and is in a fury, but presently forgives him
because it’s him; and maybe the very next day she’s caught with another
joke; you see she can’t learn any better, because she hasn’t any deceit
in her, and that kind aren’t ever expecting it in another person.

“It was a grand race.  The whole post was there, and there was such
another whooping and shouting when the seventeen kids came flying down
the turf and sailing over the hurdles—oh, beautiful to see!  Half-way
down, it was kind of neck and neck, and anybody’s race and nobody’s.
Then, what should happen but a cow steps out and puts her head down to
munch grass, with her broadside to the battalion, and they a-coming like
the wind; they split apart to flank her, but _she_?—why, she drove the
spurs home and soared over that cow like a bird! and on she went, and
cleared the last hurdle solitary and alone, the army letting loose the
grand yell, and she skipped from the horse the same as if he had been
standing still, and made her bow, and everybody crowded around to
congratulate, and they gave her the bugle, and she put it to her lips and
blew ‘boots and saddles’ to see how it would go, and BB was as proud as
you can’t think!  And he said, ‘Take Soldier Boy, and don’t pass him back
till I ask for him!’ and I can tell you he wouldn’t have said that to any
other person on this planet.  That was two months and more ago, and
nobody has been on my back since but the Corporal-General Seventh Cavalry
and Flag-Lieutenant of the Ninth Dragoons, U.S.A.,—on whom be peace!”

     [Picture: Every morning they go clattering down into the plain]

“Amen.  I listen—tell me more.”

“She set to work and organized the Sixteen, and called it the First
Battalion Rocky Mountain Rangers, U.S.A., and she wanted to be bugler,
but they elected her Lieutenant-General and Bugler.  So she ranks her
uncle the commandant, who is only a Brigadier.  And doesn’t she train
those little people!  Ask the Indians, ask the traders, ask the soldiers;
they’ll tell you.  She has been at it from the first day.  Every morning
they go clattering down into the plain, and there she sits on my back
with her bugle at her mouth and sounds the orders and puts them through
the evolutions for an hour or more; and it is too beautiful for anything
to see those ponies dissolve from one formation into another, and waltz
about, and break, and scatter, and form again, always moving, always
graceful, now trotting, now galloping, and so on, sometimes near by,
sometimes in the distance, all just like a state ball, you know, and
sometimes she can’t hold herself any longer, but sounds the ‘charge,’ and
turns me loose! and you can take my word for it, if the battalion hasn’t
too much of a start we catch up and go over the breastworks with the
front line.

“Yes, they are soldiers, those little people; and healthy, too, not
ailing any more, the way they used to be sometimes.  It’s because of her
drill.  She’s got a fort, now—Fort Fanny Marsh.  Major-General Tommy
Drake planned it out, and the Seventh and Dragoons built it.  Tommy is
the Colonel’s son, and is fifteen and the oldest in the Battalion; Fanny
Marsh is Brigadier-General, and is next oldest—over thirteen.  She is
daughter of Captain Marsh, Company B, Seventh Cavalry.
Lieutenant-General Alison is the youngest by considerable; I think she is
about nine and a half or three-quarters.  Her military rig, as
Lieutenant-General, isn’t for business, it’s for dress parade, because
the ladies made it.  They say they got it out of the Middle Ages—out of a
book—and it is all red and blue and white silks and satins and velvets;
tights, trunks, sword, doublet with slashed sleeves, short cape, cap with
just one feather in it; I’ve heard them name these things; they got them
out of the book; she’s dressed like a page, of old times, they say.  It’s
the daintiest outfit that ever was—you will say so, when you see it.
She’s lovely in it—oh, just a dream!  In some ways she is just her age,
but in others she’s as old as her uncle, I think.  She is very learned.
She teaches her uncle his book.  I have seen her sitting by with the book
and reciting to him what is in it, so that he can learn to do it himself.

“Every Saturday she hires little Injuns to garrison her fort; then she
lays siege to it, and makes military approaches by make-believe trenches
in make-believe night, and finally at make-believe dawn she draws her
sword and sounds the assault and takes it by storm.  It is for practice.
And she has invented a bugle-call all by herself, out of her own head,
and it’s a stirring one, and the prettiest in the service.  It’s to call
_me_—it’s never used for anything else.  She taught it to me, and told me
what it says: ‘_It is I_, _Soldier—come_!’ and when those thrilling notes
come floating down the distance I hear them without fail, even if I am
two miles away; and then—oh, then you should see my heels get down to
business!

“And she has taught me how to say good-morning and good-night to her,
which is by lifting my right hoof for her to shake; and also how to say
good-bye; I do that with my left foot—but only for practice, because
there hasn’t been any but make-believe good-byeing yet, and I hope there
won’t ever be.  It would make me cry if I ever had to put up my left foot
in earnest.  She has taught me how to salute, and I can do it as well as
a soldier.  I bow my head low, and lay my right hoof against my cheek.
She taught me that because I got into disgrace once, through ignorance.
I am privileged, because I am known to be honorable and trustworthy, and
because I have a distinguished record in the service; so they don’t
hobble me nor tie me to stakes or shut me tight in stables, but let me
wander around to suit myself.  Well, trooping the colors is a very solemn
ceremony, and everybody must stand uncovered when the flag goes by, the
commandant and all; and once I was there, and ignorantly walked across
right in front of the band, which was an awful disgrace: Ah, the
Lieutenant-General was so ashamed, and so distressed that I should have
done such a thing before all the world, that she couldn’t keep the tears
back; and then she taught me the salute, so that if I ever did any other
unmilitary act through ignorance I could do my salute and she believed
everybody would think it was apology enough and would not press the
matter.  It is very nice and distinguished; no other horse can do it;
often the men salute me, and I return it.  I am privileged to be present
when the Rocky Mountain Rangers troop the colors and I stand solemn, like
the children, and I salute when the flag goes by.  Of course when she
goes to her fort her sentries sing out ‘Turn out the guard!’ and then . . .
do you catch that refreshing early-morning whiff from the
mountain-pines and the wild flowers?  The night is far spent; we’ll hear
the bugles before long.  Dorcas, the black woman, is very good and nice;
she takes care of the Lieutenant-General, and is Brigadier-General
Alison’s mother, which makes her mother-in-law to the Lieutenant-General.
That is what Shekels says.  At least it is what I think he says, though I
never can understand him quite clearly. He—”

“Who is Shekels?”

“The Seventh Cavalry dog.  I mean, if he _is_ a dog.  His father was a
coyote and his mother was a wild-cat.  It doesn’t really make a dog out
of him, does it?”

“Not a real dog, I should think.  Only a kind of a general dog, at most,
I reckon.  Though this is a matter of ichthyology, I suppose; and if it
is, it is out of my depth, and so my opinion is not valuable, and I don’t
claim much consideration for it.”

“It isn’t ichthyology; it is dogmatics, which is still more difficult and
tangled up.  Dogmatics always are.”

“Dogmatics is quite beyond me, quite; so I am not competing.  But on
general principles it is my opinion that a colt out of a coyote and a
wild-cat is no square dog, but doubtful.  That is my hand, and I stand
pat.”

“Well, it is as far as I can go myself, and be fair and conscientious.  I
have always regarded him as a doubtful dog, and so has Potter.  Potter is
the great Dane.  Potter says he is no dog, and not even poultry—though I
do not go quite so far as that.

“And I wouldn’t, myself.  Poultry is one of those things which no person
can get to the bottom of, there is so much of it and such variety.  It is
just wings, and wings, and wings, till you are weary: turkeys, and geese,
and bats, and butterflies, and angels, and grasshoppers, and flying-fish,
and—well, there is really no end to the tribe; it gives me the heaves
just to think of it.  But this one hasn’t any wings, has he?”

“No.”

“Well, then, in my belief he is more likely to be dog than poultry.  I
have not heard of poultry that hadn’t wings.  Wings is the _sign_ of
poultry; it is what you tell poultry by.  Look at the mosquito.”

“What do you reckon he is, then?  He must be something.”

“Why, he could be a reptile; anything that hasn’t wings is a reptile.”

“Who told you that?”

“Nobody told me, but I overheard it.”

“Where did you overhear it?”

“Years ago.  I was with the Philadelphia Institute expedition in the Bad
Lands under Professor Cope, hunting mastodon bones, and I overheard him
say, his own self, that any plantigrade circumflex vertebrate bacterium
that hadn’t wings and was uncertain was a reptile.  Well, then, has this
dog any wings?  No.  Is he a plantigrade circumflex vertebrate bacterium?
Maybe so, maybe not; but without ever having seen him, and judging only
by his illegal and spectacular parentage, I will bet the odds of a bale
of hay to a bran mash that he looks it.  Finally, is he uncertain?  That
is the point—is he uncertain?  I will leave it to you if you have ever
heard of a more uncertainer dog than what this one is?”

“No, I never have.”

“Well, then, he’s a reptile.  That’s settled.”

“Why, look here, whatsyourname—”

“Last alias, Mongrel.”

“A good one, too.  I was going to say, you are better educated than you
have been pretending to be.  I like cultured society, and I shall
cultivate your acquaintance.  Now as to Shekels, whenever you want to
know about any private thing that is going on at this post or in White
Cloud’s camp or Thunder-Bird’s, he can tell you; and if you make friends
with him he’ll be glad to, for he is a born gossip, and picks up all the
tittle-tattle.  Being the whole Seventh Cavalry’s reptile, he doesn’t
belong to anybody in particular, and hasn’t any military duties; so he
comes and goes as he pleases, and is popular with all the house cats and
other authentic sources of private information.  He understands all the
languages, and talks them all, too.  With an accent like gritting your
teeth, it is true, and with a grammar that is no improvement on
blasphemy—still, with practice you get at the meat of what he says, and
it serves. . . Hark!  That’s the reveille. . . .

               [Picture: Music score for The Reveille] {80}

“Faint and far, but isn’t it clear, isn’t it sweet?  There’s no music
like the bugle to stir the blood, in the still solemnity of the morning
twilight, with the dim plain stretching away to nothing and the spectral
mountains slumbering against the sky.  You’ll hear another note in a
minute—faint and far and clear, like the other one, and sweeter still,
you’ll notice.  Wait . . . listen.  There it goes!  It says, ‘_It is I_,
_Soldier—come_!’ . . .

            [Picture: Soldier Boy’s Bugle Call [music score]]

. . . Now then, watch me leave a blue streak behind!”



VII
SOLDIER BOY AND SHEKELS


“DID you do as I told you?  Did you look up the Mexican Plug?”

“Yes, I made his acquaintance before night and got his friendship.”

“I liked him.  Did you?”

“Not at first.  He took me for a reptile, and it troubled me, because I
didn’t know whether it was a compliment or not.  I couldn’t ask him,
because it would look ignorant.  So I didn’t say anything, and soon liked
him very well indeed.  Was it a compliment, do you think?”

“Yes, that is what it was.  They are very rare, the reptiles; very few
left, now-a-days.”

“Is that so?  What is a reptile?”

“It is a plantigrade circumflex vertebrate bacterium that hasn’t any
wings and is uncertain.”

“Well, it—it sounds fine, it surely does.”

“And it _is_ fine.  You may be thankful you are one.”

“I am.  It seems wonderfully grand and elegant for a person that is so
humble as I am; but I am thankful, I am indeed, and will try to live up
to it.  It is hard to remember.  Will you say it again, please, and say
it slow?”

“Plantigrade circumflex vertebrate bacterium that hasn’t any wings and is
uncertain.”

“It is beautiful, anybody must grant it; beautiful, and of a noble sound.
I hope it will not make me proud and stuck-up—I should not like to be
that.  It is much more distinguished and honorable to be a reptile than a
dog, don’t you think, Soldier?”

“Why, there’s no comparison.  It is awfully aristocratic.  Often a duke
is called a reptile; it is set down so, in history.”

“Isn’t that grand!  Potter wouldn’t ever associate with me, but I reckon
he’ll be glad to when he finds out what I am.”

“You can depend upon it.”

“I will thank Mongrel for this. He is a very good sort, for a Mexican
Plug.  Don’t you think he is?”

“It is my opinion of him; and as for his birth, he cannot help that.  We
cannot all be reptiles, we cannot all be fossils; we have to take what
comes and be thankful it is no worse.  It is the true philosophy.”

“For those others?”

“Stick to the subject, please.  Did it turn out that my suspicions were
right?”

“Yes, perfectly right.  Mongrel has heard them planning.  They are after
BB’s life, for running them out of Medicine Bow and taking their stolen
horses away from them.”

“Well, they’ll get him yet, for sure.”

“Not if he keeps a sharp look-out.”

“_He_ keep a sharp lookout!  He never does; he despises them, and all
their kind.  His life is always being threatened, and so it has come to
be monotonous.”

“Does he know they are here?”

“Oh yes, he knows it.  He is always the earliest to know who comes and
who goes.  But he cares nothing for them and their threats; he only
laughs when people warn him.  They’ll shoot him from behind a tree the
first he knows.  Did Mongrel tell you their plans?”

“Yes.  They have found out that he starts for Fort Clayton day after
to-morrow, with one of his scouts; so they will leave to-morrow, letting
on to go south, but they will fetch around north all in good time.”

“Shekels, I don’t like the look of it.”



VIII
THE SCOUT-START.  BB AND LIEUTENANT-GENERAL ALISON


BB (_saluting_).  “Good! handsomely done!  The Seventh couldn’t beat it!
You do certainly handle your Rangers like an expert, General.  And where
are you bound?”

“Four miles on the trail to Fort Clayton.”

“Glad am I, dear!  What’s the idea of it?”

“Guard of honor for you and Thorndike.”

“Bless—your—_heart_!  I’d rather have it from you than from the
Commander-in-Chief of the armies of the United States, you incomparable
little soldier!—and I don’t need to take any oath to that, for you to
believe it.”

“I _thought_ you’d like it, BB.”

“_Like_ it?  Well, I should say so!  Now then—all ready—sound the
advance, and away we go!”



IX
SOLDIER BOY AND SHEKELS AGAIN


“WELL, this is the way it happened.  We did the escort duty; then we came
back and struck for the plain and put the Rangers through a rousing
drill—oh, for hours!  Then we sent them home under Brigadier-General
Fanny Marsh; then the Lieutenant-General and I went off on a gallop over
the plains for about three hours, and were lazying along home in the
middle of the afternoon, when we met Jimmy Slade, the drummer-boy, and he
saluted and asked the Lieutenant-General if she had heard the news, and
she said no, and he said:

“‘Buffalo Bill has been ambushed and badly shot this side of Clayton, and
Thorndike the scout, too; Bill couldn’t travel, but Thorndike could, and
he brought the news, and Sergeant Wilkes and six men of Company B are
gone, two hours ago, hotfoot, to get Bill.  And they say—’

“‘_Go_!’ she shouts to me—and I went.”

“Fast?”

“Don’t ask foolish questions.  It was an awful pace.  For four hours
nothing happened, and not a word said, except that now and then she said,
‘Keep it up, Boy, keep it up, sweetheart; we’ll save him!’  I kept it up.
Well, when the dark shut down, in the rugged hills, that poor little chap
had been tearing around in the saddle all day, and I noticed by the slack
knee-pressure that she was tired and tottery, and I got dreadfully
afraid; but every time I tried to slow down and let her go to sleep, so I
could stop, she hurried me up again; and so, sure enough, at last over
she went!

            [Picture: “There was nothing to do but stand by”]

“Ah, that was a fix to be in I for she lay there and didn’t stir, and
what was I to do?  I couldn’t leave her to fetch help, on account of the
wolves.  There was nothing to do but stand by.  It was dreadful.  I was
afraid she was killed, poor little thing!  But she wasn’t.  She came to,
by-and-by, and said, ‘Kiss me, Soldier,’ and those were blessed words.  I
kissed her—often; I am used to that, and we like it.  But she didn’t get
up, and I was worried.  She fondled my nose with her hand, and talked to
me, and called me endearing names—which is her way—but she caressed with
the same hand all the time.  The other arm was broken, you see, but I
didn’t know it, and she didn’t mention it.  She didn’t want to distress
me, you know.

“Soon the big gray wolves came, and hung around, and you could hear them
snarl, and snap at each other, but you couldn’t see anything of them
except their eyes, which shone in the dark like sparks and stars.  The
Lieutenant-General said, ‘If I had the Rocky Mountain Rangers here, we
would make those creatures climb a tree.’  Then she made believe that the
Rangers were in hearing, and put up her bugle and blew the ‘assembly’;
and then, ‘boots and saddles’; then the ‘trot’; ‘gallop’; ‘charge!’  Then
she blew the ‘retreat,’ and said, ‘That’s for you, you rebels; the
Rangers don’t ever retreat!’

“The music frightened them away, but they were hungry, and kept coming
back.  And of course they got bolder and bolder, which is their way.  It
went on for an hour, then the tired child went to sleep, and it was
pitiful to hear her moan and nestle, and I couldn’t do anything for her.
All the time I was laying for the wolves.  They are in my line; I have
had experience.  At last the boldest one ventured within my lines, and I
landed him among his friends with some of his skull still on him, and
they did the rest.  In the next hour I got a couple more, and they went
the way of the first one, down the throats of the detachment.  That
satisfied the survivors, and they went away and left us in peace.

“We hadn’t any more adventures, though I kept awake all night and was
ready.  From midnight on the child got very restless, and out of her
head, and moaned, and said, ‘Water, water—thirsty’; and now and then,
‘Kiss me, Soldier’; and sometimes she was in her fort and giving orders
to her garrison; and once she was in Spain, and thought her mother was
with her.  People say a horse can’t cry; but they don’t know, because we
cry inside.

“It was an hour after sunup that I heard the boys coming, and recognized
the hoof-beats of Pomp and Cæsar and Jerry, old mates of mine; and a
welcomer sound there couldn’t ever be.

Buffalo Bill was in a horse-litter, with his leg broken by a bullet, and
Mongrel and Blake Haskins’s horse were doing the work.  Buffalo Bill and
Thorndike had lolled both of those toughs.

“When they got to us, and Buffalo Bill saw the child lying there so
white, he said, ‘My God!’ and the sound of his voice brought her to
herself, and she gave a little cry of pleasure and struggled to get up,
but couldn’t, and the soldiers gathered her up like the tenderest women,
and their eyes were wet and they were not ashamed, when they saw her arm
dangling; and so were Buffalo Bill’s, and when they laid her in his arms
he said, ‘My darling, how does this come?’ and she said, ‘We came to save
you, but I was tired, and couldn’t keep awake, and fell off and hurt
myself, and couldn’t get on again.’  ‘You came to save me, you dear
little rat?  It was too lovely of you!’  ‘Yes, and Soldier stood by me,
which you know he would, and protected me from the wolves; and if he got
a chance he kicked the life out of some of them—for you know he would,
BB.’  The sergeant said, ‘He laid out three of them, sir, and here’s the
bones to show for it.’  ‘He’s a grand horse,’ said BB; ‘he’s the grandest
horse that ever was! and has saved your life, Lieutenant-General Alison,
and shall protect it the rest of his life—he’s yours for a kiss!’  He got
it, along with a passion of delight, and he said, ‘You are feeling better
now, little Spaniard—do you think you could blow the advance?’  She put
up the bugle to do it, but he said wait a minute first.  Then he and the
sergeant set her arm and put it in splints, she wincing but not
whimpering; then we took up the march for home, and that’s the end of the
tale; and I’m her horse.  Isn’t she a brick, Shekels?

“Brick?  She’s more than a brick, more than a thousand bricks—she’s a
reptile!”

“It’s a compliment out of your heart, Shekels.  God bless you for it!”



X
GENERAL ALISON AND DORCAS


“TOO much company for her, Marse Tom.  Betwixt you, and Shekels, the
Colonel’s wife, and the Cid—”

“The Cid?  Oh, I remember—the raven.”

“—and Mrs. Captain Marsh and Famine and Pestilence the baby _coyotes_,
and Sour-Mash and her pups, and Sardanapalus and her kittens—hang these
names she gives the creatures, they warp my jaw—and Potter: you—all
sitting around in the house, and Soldier Boy at the window the entire
time, it’s a wonder to me she comes along as well as she does.  She—”

“You want her all to yourself, you stingy old thing!”

“Marse Tom, you know better.  It’s too much company.  And then the idea
of her receiving reports all the time from her officers, and acting upon
them, and giving orders, the same as if she was well!  It ain’t good for
her, and the surgeon don’t like it, and tried to persuade her not to and
couldn’t; and when he _ordered_ her, she was that outraged and indignant,
and was very severe on him, and accused him of insubordination, and said
it didn’t become him to give orders to an officer of her rank.  Well, he
saw he had excited her more and done more harm than all the rest put
together, so he was vexed at himself and wished he had kept still.
Doctors _don’t_ know much, and that’s a fact.  She’s too much interested
in things—she ought to rest more.  She’s all the time sending messages to
BB, and to soldiers and Injuns and whatnot, and to the animals.”

“To the animals?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Who carries them?”

“Sometimes Potter, but mostly it’s Shekels.”

“Now come! who can find fault with such pretty make-believe as that?”

“But it ain’t make-believe, Marse Tom.  She does send them.”

“Yes, I don’t doubt that part of it.”

“Do you doubt they get them, sir?”

“Certainly.  Don’t you?”

“No, sir.  Animals talk to one another.  I know it perfectly well, Marse
Tom, and I ain’t saying it by guess.”

“What a curious superstition!”

“It ain’t a superstition, Marse Tom.  Look at that Shekels—look at him,
_now_.  Is he listening, or ain’t he?  _Now_ you see! he’s turned his
head away.  It’s because he was caught—caught in the act.  I’ll ask
you—could a Christian look any more ashamed than what he looks now?—_lay
down_!  You see? he was going to sneak out.  Don’t tell _me_, Marse Tom!
If animals don’t talk, I miss _my_ guess.  And Shekels is the worst.  He
goes and tells the animals everything that happens in the officers’
quarters; and if he’s short of facts, he invents them.  He hasn’t any
more principle than a blue jay; and as for morals, he’s empty.  Look at
him now; look at him grovel.  He knows what I am saying, and he knows
it’s the truth.  You see, yourself, that he can feel shame; it’s the only
virtue he’s got.  It’s wonderful how they find out everything that’s
going on—the animals.  They—”

“Do you really believe they do, Dorcas?”

“I don’t only just believe it, Marse Tom, I know it.  Day before
yesterday they knew something was going to happen.  They were that
excited, and whispering around together; why, anybody could see that
they— But my! I must get back to her, and I haven’t got to my errand
yet.”

“What is it, Dorcas?”

“Well, it’s two or three things.  One is, the doctor don’t salute when he
comes . . . Now, Marse Tom, it ain’t anything to laugh at, and so—”

“Well, then, forgive me; I didn’t mean to laugh—I got caught unprepared.”

“You see, she don’t want to hurt the doctor’s feelings, so she don’t say
anything to him about it; but she is always polite, herself, and it hurts
that kind for people to be rude to them.”

“I’ll have that doctor hanged.”

“Marse Tom, she don’t _want_ him hanged.  She—”

“Well, then, I’ll have him boiled in oil.”

“But she don’t _want_ him boiled.  I—”

“Oh, very well, very well, I only want to please her; I’ll have him
skinned.”

“Why, _she_ don’t want him skinned; it would break her heart.  Now—”

“Woman, this is perfectly unreasonable.  What in the nation _does_ she
want?”

“Marse Tom, if you would only be a little patient, and not fly off the
handle at the least little thing.  Why, she only wants you to speak to
him.”

“Speak to him!  Well, upon my word!  All this unseemly rage and row about
such a—a— Dorcas, I never saw you carry on like this before.  You have
alarmed the sentry; he thinks I am being assassinated; he thinks there’s
a mutiny, a revolt, an insurrection; he—”

“Marse Tom, you are just putting on; you know it perfectly well; I don’t
know what makes you act like that—but you always did, even when you was
little, and you can’t get over it, I reckon.  Are you over it now, Marse
Tom?”

“Oh, well, yes; but it would try anybody to be doing the best he could,
offering every kindness he could think of, only to have it rejected with
contumely and . . . Oh, well, let it go; it’s no matter—I’ll talk to the
doctor.  Is that satisfactory, or are you going to break out again?”

“Yes, sir, it is; and it’s only right to talk to him, too, because it’s
just as she says; she’s trying to keep up discipline in the Rangers, and
this insubordination of his is a bad example for them—now ain’t it so,
Marse Tom?”

“Well, there _is_ reason in it, I can’t deny it; so I will speak to him,
though at bottom I think hanging would be more lasting.  What is the rest
of your errand, Dorcas?”

“Of course her room is Ranger headquarters now, Marse Tom, while she’s
sick.  Well, soldiers of the cavalry and the dragoons that are off duty
come and get her sentries to let them relieve them and serve in their
place.  It’s only out of affection, sir, and because they know military
honors please her, and please the children too, for her sake; and they
don’t bring their muskets; and so—”

“I’ve noticed them there, but didn’t twig the idea.  They are standing
guard, are they?”

“Yes, sir, and she is afraid you will reprove them and hurt their
feelings, if you see them there; so she begs, if—if you don’t mind coming
in the back way—”

“Bear me up, Dorcas; don’t let me faint.”

“There—sit up and behave, Marse Tom.  You are not going to faint; you are
only pretending—you used to act just so when you was little; it does seem
a long time for you to get grown up.”

“Dorcas, the way the child is progressing, I shall be out of my job
before long—she’ll have the whole post in her hands.  I must make a
stand, I must not go down without a struggle.  These encroachments. . . .
Dorcas, what do you think she will think of next?”

“Marse Tom, she don’t mean any harm.”

“Are you sure of it?”

“Yes, Marse Tom.”

“You feel sure she has no ulterior designs?”

“I don’t know what that is, Marse Tom, but I know she hasn’t.”

“Very well, then, for the present I am satisfied.  What else have you
come about?”

“I reckon I better tell you the whole thing first, Marse Tom, then tell
you what she wants.  There’s been an emeute, as she calls it.  It was
before she got back with BB.  The officer of the day reported it to her
this morning.  It happened at her fort.  There was a fuss betwixt
Major-General Tommy Drake and Lieutenant-Colonel Agnes Frisbie, and he
snatched her doll away, which is made of white kid stuffed with sawdust,
and tore every rag of its clothes off, right before them all, and is
under arrest, and the charge is conduct un—”

“Yes, I know—conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman—a plain case,
too, it seems to me.  This is a serious matter.  Well, what is her
pleasure?”

“Well, Marse Tom, she has summoned a court-martial, but the doctor don’t
think she is well enough to preside over it, and she says there ain’t
anybody competent but her, because there’s a major-general concerned; and
so she—she—well, she says, would you preside over it for her? . . . Marse
Tom, _sit_ up!  You ain’t any more going to faint than Shekels is.”

“Look here, Dorcas, go along back, and be tactful.  Be persuasive; don’t
fret her; tell her it’s all right, the matter is in my hands, but it
isn’t good form to hurry so grave a matter as this.  Explain to her that
we have to go by precedents, and that I believe this one to be new.  In
fact, you can say I know that nothing just like it has happened in our
army, therefore I must be guided by European precedents, and must go
cautiously and examine them carefully.  Tell her not to be impatient, it
will take me several days, but it will all come out right, and I will
come over and report progress as I go along.  Do you get the idea,
Dorcas?”

“I don’t know as I do, sir.”

“Well, it’s this.  You see, it won’t ever do for me, a brigadier in the
regular army, to preside over that infant court-martial—there isn’t any
precedent for it, don’t you see.  Very well.  I will go on examining
authorities and reporting progress until she is well enough to get me out
of this scrape by presiding herself.  Do you get it now?”

“Oh, yes, sir, I get it, and it’s good, I’ll go and fix it with her.
_Lay down_! and stay where you are.”

“Why, what harm is he doing?”

“Oh, it ain’t any harm, but it just vexes me to see him act so.”

“What was he doing?”

“Can’t you see, and him in such a sweat?  He was starting out to spread
it all over the post.  _Now_ I reckon you won’t deny, any more, that they
go and tell everything they hear, now that you’ve seen it with yo’ own
eyes.”

“Well, I don’t like to acknowledge it, Dorcas, but I don’t see how I can
consistently stick to my doubts in the face of such overwhelming proof as
this dog is furnishing.”

“There, now, you’ve got in yo’ right mind at last!  I wonder you can be
so stubborn, Marse Tom.  But you always was, even when you was little.
I’m going now.”

“Look here; tell her that in view of the delay, it is my judgment that
she ought to enlarge the accused on his parole.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll tell her.  Marse Tom?”

“Well?”

“She can’t get to Soldier Boy, and he stands there all the time, down in
the mouth and lonesome; and she says will you shake hands with him and
comfort him?  Everybody does.”

“It’s a curious kind of lonesomeness; but, all right, I will.”



XI
SEVERAL MONTHS LATER.  ANTONIO AND THORNDIKE


“THORNDIKE, isn’t that Plug you’re riding an assert of the scrap you and
Buffalo Bill had with the late Blake Haskins and his pal a few months
back?”

“Yes, this is Mongrel—and not a half-bad horse, either.”

“I’ve noticed he keeps up his lick first-rate.  Say—isn’t it a gaudy
morning?”

“Right you are!”

“Thorndike, it’s Andalusian! and when that’s said, all’s said.”

“Andalusian _and_ Oregonian, Antonio!  Put it that way, and you have my
vote.  Being a native up there, I know.  You being Andalusian-born—”

“Can speak with authority for that patch of paradise?  Well, I can.  Like
the Don! like Sancho!  This is the correct Andalusian dawn now—crisp,
fresh, dewy, fragrant, pungent—”

    “‘What though the spicy breezes
    Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle—’

—_git_ up, you old cow! stumbling like that when we’ve just been praising
you! out on a scout and can’t live up to the honor any better than that?
Antonio, how long have you been out here in the Plains and the Rockies?”

“More than thirteen years.”

“It’s a long time.  Don’t you ever get homesick?”

“Not till now.”

“Why _now_?—after such a long cure.”

“These preparations of the retiring commandant’s have started it up.”

“Of course.  It’s natural.”

“It keeps me thinking about Spain.  I know the region where the Seventh’s
child’s aunt lives; I know all the lovely country for miles around; I’ll
bet I’ve seen her aunt’s villa many a time; I’ll bet I’ve been in it in
those pleasant old times when I was a Spanish gentleman.”

“They say the child is wild to see Spain.”

“It’s so; I know it from what I hear.”

“Haven’t you talked with her about it?”

“No.  I’ve avoided it.  I should soon be as wild as she is.  That would
not be comfortable.”

“I wish I was going, Antonio.  There’s two things I’d give a lot to see.
One’s a railroad.”

“She’ll see one when she strikes Missouri.”

“The other’s a bull-fight.”

“I’ve seen lots of them; I wish I could see another.”

“I don’t know anything about it, except in a mixed-up, foggy way,
Antonio, but I know enough to know it’s grand sport.”

“The grandest in the world!  There’s no other sport that begins with it.
I’ll tell you what I’ve seen, then you can judge.  It was my first, and
it’s as vivid to me now as it was when I saw it.  It was a Sunday
afternoon, and beautiful weather, and my uncle, the priest, took me as a
reward for being a good boy and because of my own accord and without
anybody asking me I had bankrupted my savings-box and given the money to
a mission that was civilizing the Chinese and sweetening their lives and
softening their hearts with the gentle teachings of our religion, and I
wish you could have seen what we saw that day, Thorndike.

“The amphitheatre was packed, from the bull-ring to the highest
row—twelve thousand people in one circling mass, one slanting, solid
mass—royalties, nobles, clergy, ladies, gentlemen, state officials,
generals, admirals, soldiers, sailors, lawyers, thieves, merchants,
brokers, cooks, housemaids, scullery-maids, doubtful women, dudes,
gamblers, beggars, loafers, tramps, American ladies, gentlemen,
preachers, English ladies, gentlemen, preachers, German ditto, French
ditto, and so on and so on, all the world represented: Spaniards to
admire and praise, foreigners to enjoy and go home and find fault—there
they were, one solid, sloping, circling sweep of rippling and flashing
color under the downpour of the summer sun—just a garden, a gaudy,
gorgeous flower-garden!  Children munching oranges, six thousand fans
fluttering and glimmering, everybody happy, everybody chatting gayly with
their intimates, lovely girl-faces smiling recognition and salutation to
other lovely girl-faces, gray old ladies and gentlemen dealing in the
like exchanges with each other—ah, such a picture of cheery contentment
and glad anticipation! not a mean spirit, nor a sordid soul, nor a sad
heart there—ah, Thorndike, I wish I could see it again.

“Suddenly, the martial note of a bugle cleaves the hum and murmur—clear
the ring!

“They clear it.  The great gate is flung open, and the procession marches
in, splendidly costumed and glittering: the marshals of the day, then the
picadores on horseback, then the matadores on foot, each surrounded by
his quadrille of _chulos_.  They march to the box of the city fathers,
and formally salute.  The key is thrown, the bull-gate is unlocked.
Another bugle blast—the gate flies open, the bull plunges in, furious,
trembling, blinking in the blinding light, and stands there, a
magnificent creature, centre of those multitudinous and admiring eyes,
brave, ready for battle, his attitude a challenge.  He sees his enemy:
horsemen sitting motionless, with long spears in rest, upon blindfolded
broken-down nags, lean and starved, fit only for sport and sacrifice,
then the carrion-heap.

“The bull makes a rush, with murder in his eye, but a picador meets him
with a spear-thrust in the shoulder.  He flinches with the pain, and the
picador skips out of danger.  A burst of applause for the picador, hisses
for the bull.  Some shout ‘Cow!’ at the bull, and call him offensive
names.  But he is not listening to them, he is there for business; he is
not minding the cloak-bearers that come fluttering around to confuse him;
he chases this way, he chases that way, and hither and yon, scattering
the nimble banderillos in every direction like a spray, and receiving
their maddening darts in his neck as they dodge and fly—oh, but it’s a
lively spectacle, and brings down the house!  Ah, you should hear the
thundering roar that goes up when the game is at its wildest and
brilliant things are done!

“Oh, that first bull, that day, was great!  From the moment the spirit of
war rose to flood-tide in him and he got down to his work, he began to do
wonders.  He tore his way through his persecutors, flinging one of them
clear over the parapet; he bowled a horse and his rider down, and plunged
straight for the next, got home with his horns, wounding both horse and
man; on again, here and there and this way and that; and one after
another he tore the bowels out of two horses so that they gushed to the
ground, and ripped a third one so badly that although they rushed him to
cover and shoved his bowels back and stuffed the rents with tow and rode
him against the bull again, he couldn’t make the trip; he tried to
gallop, under the spur, but soon reeled and tottered and fell, all in a
heap.  For a while, that bull-ring was the most thrilling and glorious
and inspiring sight that ever was seen.  The bull absolutely cleared it,
and stood there alone! monarch of the place.  The people went mad for
pride in him, and joy and delight, and you couldn’t hear yourself think,
for the roar and boom and crash of applause.”

“Antonio, it carries me clear out of myself just to hear you tell it; it
must have been perfectly splendid.  If I live, I’ll see a bull-fight yet
before I die.  Did they kill him?”

“Oh yes; that is what the bull is for.  They tired him out, and got him
at last.  He kept rushing the matador, who always slipped smartly and
gracefully aside in time, waiting for a sure chance; and at last it came;
the bull made a deadly plunge for him—was avoided neatly, and as he sped
by, the long sword glided silently into him, between left shoulder and
spine—in and in, to the hilt.  He crumpled down, dying.”

“Ah, Antonio, it _is_ the noblest sport that ever was.  I would give a
year of my life to see it.  Is the bull always killed?”

“Yes.  Sometimes a bull is timid, finding himself in so strange a place,
and he stands trembling, or tries to retreat.  Then everybody despises
him for his cowardice and wants him punished and made ridiculous; so they
hough him from behind, and it is the funniest thing in the world to see
him hobbling around on his severed legs; the whole vast house goes into
hurricanes of laughter over it; I have laughed till the tears ran down my
cheeks to see it.  When he has furnished all the sport he can, he is not
any longer useful, and is killed.”

“Well, it is perfectly grand, Antonio, perfectly beautiful.  Burning a
nigger don’t begin.”



XII
MONGREL AND THE OTHER HORSE


“SAGE-BRUSH, you have been listening?”

“Yes.”

“Isn’t it strange?”

“Well, no, Mongrel, I don’t know that it is.”

“Why don’t you?”

“I’ve seen a good many human beings in my time.  They are created as they
are; they cannot help it.  They are only brutal because that is their
make; brutes would be brutal if it was _their_ make.”

“To me, Sage-Brush, man is most strange and unaccountable.  Why should he
treat dumb animals that way when they are not doing any harm?”

“Man is not always like that, Mongrel; he is kind enough when he is not
excited by religion.”

“Is the bull-fight a religious service?”

“I think so.  I have heard so.  It is held on Sunday.”

(_A reflective pause_, _lasting some moments_.)  Then:

“When we die, Sage-Brush, do we go to heaven and dwell with man?”

“My father thought not.  He believed we do not have to go there unless we
deserve it.”



Part II
IN SPAIN


XIII
GENERAL ALISON TO HIS MOTHER


IT was a prodigious trip, but delightful, of course, through the Rockies
and the Black Hills and the mighty sweep of the Great Plains to
civilization and the Missouri border—where the railroading began and the
delightfulness ended.  But no one is the worse for the journey; certainly
not Cathy, nor Dorcas, nor Soldier Boy; and as for me, I am not
complaining.

Spain is all that Cathy had pictured it—and more, she says.  She is in a
fury of delight, the maddest little animal that ever was, and all for
joy.  She thinks she remembers Spain, but that is not very likely, I
suppose.  The two—Mercedes and Cathy—devour each other.  It is a rapture
of love, and beautiful to see.  It is Spanish; that describes it.  Will
this be a short visit?

No.  It will be permanent.  Cathy has elected to abide with Spain and her
aunt.  Dorcas says she (Dorcas) foresaw that this would happen; and also
says that she wanted it to happen, and says the child’s own country is
the right place for her, and that she ought not to have been sent to me,
I ought to have gone to her.  I thought it insane to take Soldier Boy to
Spain, but it was well that I yielded to Cathy’s pleadings; if he had
been left behind, half of her heart would have remained with him, and she
would not have been contented.  As it is, everything has fallen out for
the best, and we are all satisfied and comfortable.  It may be that
Dorcas and I will see America again some day; but also it is a case of
maybe not.

We left the post in the early morning.  It was an affecting time.  The
women cried over Cathy, so did even those stern warriors, the Rocky
Mountain Rangers; Shekels was there, and the Cid, and Sardanapalus, and
Potter, and Mongrel, and Sour-Mash, Famine, and Pestilence, and Cathy
kissed them all and wept; details of the several arms of the garrison
were present to represent the rest, and say good-bye and God bless you
for all the soldiery; and there was a special squad from the Seventh,
with the oldest veteran at its head, to speed the Seventh’s Child with
grand honors and impressive ceremonies; and the veteran had a touching
speech by heart, and put up his hand in salute and tried to say it, but
his lips trembled and his voice broke, but Cathy bent down from the
saddle and kissed him on the mouth and turned his defeat to victory, and
a cheer went up.

The next act closed the ceremonies, and was a moving surprise.  It may be
that you have discovered, before this, that the rigors of military law
and custom melt insensibly away and disappear when a soldier or a
regiment or the garrison wants to do something that will please Cathy.
The bands conceived the idea of stirring her soldierly heart with a
farewell which would remain in her memory always, beautiful and unfading,
and bring back the past and its love for her whenever she should think of
it; so they got their project placed before General Burnaby, my
successor, who is Cathy’s newest slave, and in spite of poverty of
precedents they got his permission.  The bands knew the child’s favorite
military airs.  By this hint you know what is coming, but Cathy didn’t.
She was asked to sound the “reveille,” which she did.

                    [Picture: Reveille [music score]]

With the last note the bands burst out with a crash: and woke the
mountains with the “Star-Spangled Banner” in a way to make a body’s heart
swell and thump and his hair rise!  It was enough to break a person all
up, to see Cathy’s radiant face shining out through her gladness and
tears.  By request she blew the “assembly,” now. . . .

                  [Picture: The Assembly [music score]]

. . . Then the bands thundered in, with “Rally round the flag, boys,
rally once again!”  Next, she blew another call (“to the Standard”) . . .

                 [Picture: To the Standard [music score]]

. . . and the bands responded with “When we were marching through
Georgia.”  Straightway she sounded “boots and saddles,” that thrilling
and most expediting call. . . .

                [Picture: Boots and Saddles [music score]]

and the bands could hardly hold in for the final note; then they turned
their whole strength loose on “Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys are
marching,” and everybody’s excitement rose to blood-heat.

Now an impressive pause—then the bugle sang “TAPS”—translatable, this
time, into “Good-bye, and God keep us all!” for taps is the soldier’s
nightly release from duty, and farewell: plaintive, sweet, pathetic, for
the morning is never sure, for him; always it is possible that he is
hearing it for the last time. . . .

                      [Picture: Taps [music score]]

. . . Then the bands turned their instruments towards Cathy and burst in
with that rollicking frenzy of a tune, “Oh, we’ll all get blind drunk
when Johnny comes marching home—yes, we’ll all get blind drunk when
Johnny comes marching home!” and followed it instantly with “Dixie,” that
antidote for melancholy, merriest and gladdest of all military music on
any side of the ocean—and that was the end.  And so—farewell!

I wish you could have been there to see it all, hear it all, and feel it:
and get yourself blown away with the hurricane huzza that swept the place
as a finish.

When we rode away, our main body had already been on the road an hour or
two—I speak of our camp equipage; but we didn’t move off alone: when
Cathy blew the “advance” the Rangers cantered out in column of fours, and
gave us escort, and were joined by White Cloud and Thunder-Bird in all
their gaudy bravery, and by Buffalo Bill and four subordinate scouts.
Three miles away, in the Plains, the Lieutenant-General halted, sat her
horse like a military statue, the bugle at her lips, and put the Rangers
through the evolutions for half an hour; and finally, when she blew the
“charge,” she led it herself.  “Not for the last time,” she said, and got
a cheer, and we said good-bye all around, and faced eastward and rode
away.

_Postscript_.  _A Day Later_.  Soldier Boy was stolen last night.  Cathy
is almost beside herself, and we cannot comfort her.  Mercedes and I are
not much alarmed about the horse, although this part of Spain is in
something of a turmoil, politically, at present, and there is a good deal
of lawlessness.  In ordinary times the thief and the horse would soon be
captured.  We shall have them before long, I think.



XIV
SOLDIER BOY—TO HIMSELF


IT is five months.  Or is it six?  My troubles have clouded my memory.  I
have been all over this land, from end to end, and now I am back again
since day before yesterday, to that city which we passed through, that
last day of our long journey, and which is near her country home.  I am a
tottering ruin and my eyes are dim, but I recognized it.  If she could
see me she would know me and sound my call.  I wish I could hear it once
more; it would revive me, it would bring back her face and the mountains
and the free life, and I would come—if I were dying I would come!  She
would not know _me_, looking as I do, but she would know me by my star.
But she will never see me, for they do not let me out of this shabby
stable—a foul and miserable place, with most two wrecks like myself for
company.

How many times have I changed hands?  I think it is twelve times—I cannot
remember; and each time it was down a step lower, and each time I got a
harder master.  They have been cruel, every one; they have worked me
night and day in degraded employments, and beaten me; they have fed me
ill, and some days not at all.  And so I am but bones, now, with a rough
and frowsy skin humped and cornered upon my shrunken body—that skin which
was once so glossy, that skin which she loved to stroke with her hand.  I
was the pride of the mountains and the Great Plains; now I am a scarecrow
and despised.  These piteous wrecks that are my comrades here say we have
reached the bottom of the scale, the final humiliation; they say that
when a horse is no longer worth the weeds and discarded rubbish they feed
to him, they sell him to the bull-ring for a glass of brandy, to make
sport for the people and perish for their pleasure.

To die—that does not disturb me; we of the service never care for death.
But if I could see her once more! if I could hear her bugle sing again
and say, “It is I, Soldier—come!”



XV
GENERAL ALISON TO MRS. DRAKE, THE COLONEL’S WIFE


TO return, now, to where I was, and tell you the rest.  We shall never
know how she came to be there; there is no way to account for it.  She
was always watching for black and shiny and spirited horses—watching,
hoping, despairing, hoping again; always giving chase and sounding her
call, upon the meagrest chance of a response, and breaking her heart over
the disappointment; always inquiring, always interested in sales-stables
and horse accumulations in general.  How she got there must remain a
mystery.

At the point which I had reached in a preceding paragraph of this
account, the situation was as follows: two horses lay dying; the bull had
scattered his persecutors for the moment, and stood raging, panting,
pawing the dust in clouds over his back, when the man that had been
wounded returned to the ring on a remount, a poor blindfolded wreck that
yet had something ironically military about his bearing—and the next
moment the bull had ripped him open and his bowls were dragging upon the
ground: and the bull was charging his swarm of pests again.  Then came
pealing through the air a bugle-call that froze my blood—“_It is I_,
_Soldier—come_!”  I turned; Cathy was flying down through the massed
people; she cleared the parapet at a bound, and sped towards that
riderless horse, who staggered forward towards the remembered sound; but
his strength failed, and he fell at her feet, she lavishing kisses upon
him and sobbing, the house rising with one impulse, and white with
horror!  Before help could reach her the bull was back again—

         [Picture: His strength failed, and he fell at her feet]

She was never conscious again in life.  We bore her home, all mangled and
drenched in blood, and knelt by her and listened to her broken and
wandering words, and prayed for her passing spirit, and there was no
comfort—nor ever will be, I think.  But she was happy, for she was far
away under another sky, and comrading again with her Rangers, and her
animal friends, and the soldiers.  Their names fell softly and
caressingly from her lips, one by one, with pauses between.  She was not
in pain, but lay with closed eyes, vacantly murmuring, as one who dreams.
Sometimes she smiled, saying nothing; sometimes she smiled when she
uttered a name—such as Shekels, or BB, or Potter.  Sometimes she was at
her fort, issuing commands; sometimes she was careering over the plain at
the head of her men; sometimes she was training her horse; once she said,
reprovingly, “You are giving me the wrong foot; give me the left—don’t
you know it is good-bye?”

After this, she lay silent some time; the end was near.  By-and-by she
murmured, “Tired . . . sleepy . . . take Cathy, mamma.”  Then, “Kiss me,
Soldier.”  For a little time, she lay so still that we were doubtful if
she breathed.  Then she put out her hand and began to feel gropingly
about; then said, “I cannot find it; blow ‘taps.’”  It was the end.

                      [Picture: Taps [music score]]



FOOTNOTES


{80}  At West Point the bugle is supposed to be saying:

    “I can’t get ’em up,
    I can’t get ’em up,
    I can’t get ’em up in the morning!”





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