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!"
A HORSE'S TALE
"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 hep
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 mili
tary 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
A HORSE'S TALE
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-by;
I do that with my left foot but only for practice,
because there hasn't been any but make-believe
good-bying 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 Lieu tenant-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
A HORSE'S TALE
"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
"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?"
4 ' 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 verte
brate 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 bac
terium? 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 blas
phemy still, with practice you get at the meat of
what he says, and it serves. . . . Hark! That's the
reveille. . . .
A HORSE'S TALE
At West Point the bugle is supposed to bo saying:
"I can't get 'em up,
I can't get "em up,
I can't get 'em up in the morning!"
"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
v . . Now then, watch me leave a blue streak
SOLDIER BOY AND SHEKELS
DID you do as I told you ? Did you look up the
"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 I 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 bac
terium 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
"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."
A HORSE'S TALE
"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 aristo
cratic. 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 hell 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 can
not 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'slife, 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 lookout."
"He keep a sharp lookout! He never does; he
despises them, and all their kind. His life is al
ways being threatened, and so it has come to be
"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
"Shekels, I don't like the look of it."
THE SCOUT-START. BB AND LIEUTENANT-
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
"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!"
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 Wflkes and six men
of Company B are gone, two hours ago, hotfoot, to
get Bill. And they say '
' 'Go!' she shouted 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-
A HORSE'S TALE
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 ! 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 ven
tured 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 sur
vivors, 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 Thorn-
dike had killed 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
A HORSE'S TALE
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!"
GENERAL ALISON AND DORCAS
TOO much company for her, Marse Tom. Be
twixt you, and Shekels, and 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.
"You want her all to yourself, you stingy old
"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
A HORSE'S TALE
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 that?"
"But it ain't make-believe, Marse Tom. She does
"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
"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 seel he's turned his head away.
It's because he was caught caught in the act. Ill
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 every
thing 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."
4 ' 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?"
A HORSE'S TALE
"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."