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Mark Twain > A Horse's Tale > Chapter IV

A Horse's Tale

Chapter IV


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

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