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Mark Twain > A Horse's Tale > Chapter XI

A Horse's Tale

Chapter XI


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

"Yes, this is Mongrel - and not a half-bad horse, either."

"I've noticed he keeps up his lick first-rate. Say - isn't it a
gaudy morning?"

"Right you are!"

"Thorndike, it's Andalusian! and when that's said, all's said."

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

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

"'What though the spicy breezes
Blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle - '

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

"More than thirteen years."

"It's a long time. Don't you ever get homesick?"

"Not till now."

"Why NOW? - after such a long cure."

"These preparations of the retiring commandant's have started it

"Of course. It's natural."

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

"They say the child is wild to see Spain."

"It's so; I know it from what I hear."

"Haven't you talked with her about it?"

"No. I've avoided it. I should soon be as wild as she is. That
would not be comfortable."

"I wish I was going, Antonio. There's two things I'd give a lot to
see. One's a railroad."

"She'll see one when she strikes Missouri."

"The other's a bull-fight."

"I've seen lots of them; I wish I could see another."

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

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

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

"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."

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