A Horse's Tale
Transcribed by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
A HORSE'S TALE
CHAPTER 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
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.
CHAPTER 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
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
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
"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!
CHAPTER 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
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
"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
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.
CHAPTER 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.
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
CHAPTER 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
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
"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."
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
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
"CHAPLAIN, diminutive of chap. LASS is masculine, LASSIE is
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,
"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
CHAPTER VI--SOLDIER BOY AND THE MEXICAN PLUG
"When did you come?"
"Arrived at sundown."
"Are you in the service?"
"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?"
"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
"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."
"Fossil. The first horses were fossils. They date back two
"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?"
"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
"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!"
"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
"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?"
"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
"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. . . .
"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!' . . .
[SOLDIER BOY'S BUGLE CALL]
. . . Now then, watch me leave a blue streak behind!"
CHAPTER 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
"For those others?"
"Stick to the subject, please. Did it turn out that my suspicions
"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."
CHAPTER 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!"
CHAPTER 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
"'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."
"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!
"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 Caesar 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
CHAPTER 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?"
"Who carries them?"
"Sometimes Potter, but mostly it's Shekels."
"Now come! who can find fault with such pretty make-believe as
"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
"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
"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,
"Well, then, forgive me; I didn't mean to laugh--I got caught
"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
"Why, SHE don't want him skinned; it would break her heart. Now--"
"Woman, this is perfectly unreasonable. What in the nation DOES
"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
"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
"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
"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?"
"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."
CHAPTER 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
"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-
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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."
CHAPTER XII--MONGREL AND THE OTHER HORSE
"Sage-Brush, you have been listening?"
"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
"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
CHAPTER 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.
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. . . .
. . . Then the bands thundered in, with "Rally round the flag,
boys, rally once again!" Next, she blew another call ("to the
Standard") . . .
[TO THE STANDARD]
. . . and the bands responded with "When we were marching through
Georgia." Straightway she sounded "boots and saddles," that
thrilling and most expediting call. . . .
[BOOTS AND SADDLES]
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. . . .
. . . 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.
CHAPTER 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
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!"
CHAPTER 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--
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.
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