Well, this Captain Broun, I trotted him up and down quite a ways, and then Andy took Monarch out with us for a few miles.
After a while, though, I lit out–left ’em behind, and came back to meet them when Captain Broun turned me around.
I’d put a lot of energy into that ride, ’cause the way I figured it, if I was going to this War place, wherever it was, I didn’t want to go with a man who couldn’t live up to me and go along with me doing things _my_ way.
But this Captain Broun, pretty soon I could tell that though he warn’t nothing like the top-notchers Andy and Jim was, all the same he liked an energetic horse and he liked my style. “He’ll be good,” he said to Andy, patting my neck as we walked over the field and back to his own mare. (She’d been let graze, but she came up to him of her own accord–a good sign, I figured.) “What’s his name?” “Jeff Davis,” says Andy, grinning. “Then I guess he’s _got_ to be a winner,” says Captain Broun, laughing back.
He got off, took my bridle, stroked my nose and blowed into it. “Howdy, Jeff!” he says. “I’m Joe.
Joe, see?” He talked to me some more–real friendly–and then one of the black folks, a groom called Zeb, took me away to unsaddle. “He’s bought you right ’nuff,” says Monarch later on, when we was side by side in our stalls and Zeb was cleaning the mud off us. “How do y’know that?” I asked. “I know the way they go ’bout it,” he said. “They sort of spit, and clap their hands, and then there’s some small, round, shining thing, and sometimes they stand and drink right where they are.
Yeah, you’ll be off and, Jeff, I must say I’ll be sorry to see you go.
As good a four-year old as ever I ‘member to have seed.
You’ll do well–‘long as you stay in the right hands. ‘Dare say you’re heading for a nice, safe, peaceful life, same as I’ve had.” After that I was jest waiting for this Joe to come in and take me away. ‘Fact, I was waiting all day, but he didn’t come.
He didn’t come the next day neither, and when we went out of stables I could tell the mare was gone.
I s’posed he’d come back, or maybe send a black fella to collect me, but as the days went by and nothing happened it jest slipped my mind and I went on loafing around as usual–as best I could for the rain, that is. ‘Bout then Jim disappeared right off the place altogether. ‘Course, he’d been gone before sometimes, a day or two here, a day or two there–buying and selling, I guess; but now he was gone the way we began to wonder if he was ever coming back.
This bothered me ’cause, as I’ve told you, he’d been there all my life and I’d always thought of him as my man. ‘Long as he was round, I could stand for him to be too busy to have time to play with me, but to have him real gone was jest to know how close, really, we’d always been.
Made me fret–same as I’d fretted after Ruffian went.
Zeb understood all right. “Aw, Jeff,” he says one day when he was rubbing me down. “Horses is like black folks–ain’t got no say-so.
Forever sayin’ good-bye.
But Marse Jim, he comin’ back–he comin’ back sure.” I didn’t feel so sure.
What men ‘say to horses is mostly jest what they reckon they’d like, you know, or what they can’t say to anyone else.
Even Marse Robert’s no different there. And then, one wet afternoon in the first of the fall, Jim _did_ come back! I was in my stable; I heared his voice outside and I started to whinnying and stamping all I could.
He opened the half-door, he was laughing up a storm, and he came striding in and slapped me on the withers.
Then he gave me half an apple and began making a real fuss ’bout me. “Hi, there, Jeff!” he keeps saying. “You ready? ‘Cause you’re off, boy, you’re off to the War!” What I hadn’t reckoned on was he’d turned hisself into a soldier, like Captain Joe.
All his clothes was that same kinda gray, butternut color, and they didn’t smell like any clothes I was used to.
It made me sniff over his jacket and his sleeve. ‘Course, he jest stood and laughed, all friendly-like. ‘Twas the same old Jim–he made me sure ’nuff of that, playing some of our old tricks, making me stand still while he shouted “Boo!” in my ear, and all that.
He’d brung me a new horse blanket, too, real smart, and he started in then and there trying it, folding it and getting it comfortable on my back.
Then he give me a bit of an extra grooming hisself, and all the time he was jest quietly singing away between his teeth, “War-war-war, War-war-war.” Now during these days while I was standing round the stable and waiting, Tom, I’d come to have quite an idea in my own head of what this here War place was gonna be like.
First off, it must be a mighty fine place, a whole lot finer’n where we was living now.
That stood to reason–why else would the men be so all-fired hankering to go there? I kinda visioned it as a real big house o’ red bricks–I’d seed one or two when we was coming and going to the fairs, you know–and it was going to have a big stone doorway in the middle and stone steps going up from the lawn out front.
Green shutters on the windows.
A nice, friendly touch of wood smoke in the air, trees round ’bout the house, and all the leaves red in the fall, maple and beech and sechlike.
Fine evenings, the black folks’d be singing and dancing bit of a ways off, back o’ the big house–near the stables, maybe, where I could hear ’em for company, evenings.
The sun’d shine and the grass in the big meadows’d be jest right.
Trees to scratch on, good spots for horses to dung in their proper ways–’cause that’s important to us, Tom, you know; stallions, mares, geldings, we’ve all got our ways and places and got to do it right.
Hay and oats.
Warm in winter, not too hot in summer but plenty of shade when ’twas.
Breezes at dawn and dusk so’s you’re a bit lively and playful.
I could believe ‘most anything ’bout it, but I jest couldn’t believe there’d be no flies; that’d be asking altogether too much, but maybe they’d be fewer. ‘Course, the men and the horses’d be the best of company.
I knowed I was a good horse, and they must be picking the good horses to go to the War. ‘Bout Jim an’ Joe, I jest couldn’t figure it out.
Would they both be there? Maybe Joe would take Andy’s place, ’cause Andy warn’t going.
I knowed that.
All summer I’d noticed that only young fellas went; the ones left now was the older men, an’ black folks like Zeb.
Well, at the War they’d have their own black folks, o’ course, born and raised there. Next morning, Jim and me was off, all in the rain: first yellow leaves blowing down from the trees, wind tugging at the long grass in the big field and the raindrops dripping steady off the fence rails.
Jest about everyone came out to see us go.
I felt real proud.
I arched my neck, tossed my head, held my tail up and nuzzled Andy’s shoulder.
What I couldn’t really make a guess at was whether it would be far to the War–a short road or a long ‘un.
I still don’t know the answer to that, Tom, ’cause o’ course, as I’m gonna tell you, we never got there.
We never did. IV Been riding out to that there Rockbridge today, Tom, to see the old lady.
Marse Robert brung her right up to me, too, in that rolling chair of her’n, and she stroked my nose and talked to me a piece.
Too bad she can’t walk.
She’s been at Rockbridge a while now, you know, and we ride over pretty reg’lar. It’s real nice in summer–’bout ‘leven mile of road an’ plenty of shade, sun through the leaves, creek winding in and out through the rocks down below.
Maybe stop for a mouthful of grass now and then.
Lotsa hills, too, and that’s what I like.
Y’see, me and Marse Robert, we don’t need all that much in the way of signals from me and orders from him.
I don’t think ’bout him on my back no more’n I think ’bout the shoes on my feet.
He’s jest natcherly there and he don’t aim to go holding me in.
I can’t abide holding in; I’m a big horse-big man, big horse–I mean big in our spirits, Tom; an’ if I ain’t ridden hard I get real fretful, like a dog chained in a barrel–‘ceptin’ I don’t howl none.
When we get to a hill, I aim to have what Marse Robert calls a breather–we jest light out and go galloping hard up them long hills. ‘Makes you feel real good to beat ’em–feel ’em falling away under your hooves, trees going by, dust a-kicking up.
S’afternoon, when we was galloping lickety-split, we overtook two fellas riding along, easy-like, gentlemen who live here and help Marse Robert with his commanding.
So he pulls me up and gives a howdy to ’em. “I thought a little run would be good for Traveller,” he says.
One of their horses blows out of his nose at me, “Hrrrrmph,” friendly-like, ‘much as to say “A little run, hunh?” I’d like to see _him_ try a full gallop up that there hill.
Guess he’d soon be hollering ’nuff. Early fall, 1861.
A bleak, rolling, precipitous wilderness, disclosing itself in glimpses between drifting rain clouds, stretching northward into an infinity of mist and wooded solitude: the Allegheny Mountains of western Virginia.
Between the cliffs and chasms, the desolate uplands are covered not only with virgin forest but also, in many places, with thick undergrowths of laurel, so dense and interlocked as to be almost impenetrable.
These are now heavy with water, millions of gallons of rain held in suspension among the branches and foliage, so that anyone trying to push through even a few yards is instantly soaked to the skin.
Daily, for weeks past, it has rained; it is still raining.
The more open uplands are quagmires in which advancing men sink suddenly to their knees, cursing and calling for help.
Every small creek coursing down these westward-facing slopes has covered its rocks, burst its banks.
Many are impassable; turbid brown torrents, chattering and growling.
From time to time the bleak wind, which stirs but never disperses the low clouds, creeps lower to swirl the mists hanging in the chasms, veiling and half-revealing the sheer drops, intensifying their naturally sinister aspect. In this fastness, a terrain where any kind of coordinated movement has become virtually impossible, where both motion and immobility are alike misery, where the few dirt tracks are morasses and a man without a compass can become lost and disoriented within minutes, two tiny armies–each numbering fewer than ten thousand–are engaged upon an almost mutual sequence of blunders, dissensions and suffering that for want of a better term must still be called a campaign.
It is to neither’s advantage to move.
The side attempting an attack will be defeated; or else, not improbably, never succeed in reaching the enemy at all, as has already happened at Cheat Mountain, in the wilds between Monterey and Huttonsville. — That there President’s horse, Thunder, was hitched nearabouts. “What’s going on?” I asked him. “What are they doing?” I hadn’t been expecting none of it, you see. “Killing each other,” he said. “Best they can, I mean.” “Killing each other?” I says to him. “For goodness’ sake, why they doing that?” He kinda looked me over for a bit without answering.
At last he said, “You really the General’s horse? You’re real green, ain’t you? Killing each other? That’s what men do.
You didn’t know?” “But why?” I said. “Oh, for gosh sakes!” he snorted through his nose. “You might’s well ask me why the sun goes acrost the sky.
It’s what they do, like flies bite.
They always have and they always will.” I thought ’bout this, best as I could for all the noise and confusion.
And it struck me that Jim and Andy and all the fellas back home hadn’t gone in for killing each other.
So there must be some sort of betweenwhiles now and then. “Don’t they sometimes stop?” I said. “Like flies in winter?” “That’s so,” he answered. “But if’n I’ve understood it rightly, they won’t stop for good until either the Blue men or our men quit and say they’ve had ’nuff.
And that’s a long time off, I reckon.
You can forget it.
Flies don’t stop biting, do they?” I was going to ask him some more, but jest then the President’s man came up and took Thunder away.
Next thing I knowed, the Little General was on his horse, too, and line after line of our soldiers was going down to the river.
They throwed down some planks and got acrost, even without no bridge, and pretty soon I seed the President go acrost on his horse. Then Marse Robert called for me, and we went down and over the river, too, and straight up the road on t’other side–straight up to that little village place.
And when we got there–oh, my! It was lots worse’n I can tell you, Tom. ‘Course, I seed plenty worse since, but that was the first time.
There was dead men–dead horses, too–laying round everywhere, and worse’n that was the wounded and the dying, all crying and hollering out something terrible.
And all the time the bangs kept on, right in ‘mongst where we was.
Suddenly there’d be a kinda howling noise in the air, coming closer, and then a great, bright flash and a bang that knocked all the sense out o’ you.
There was horses squealing and men running away and crawling under anything they could find fences, bushes–anything.
I couldn’t see a lot for the smoke.
I do remember a loose horse come charging down out of the smoke, straight towards us.
He jest missed me.
One of the flying stirrup irons hit me acrost the withers as he went by.
Once’t I actually had to step over two dead men on the ground.
Oh, I seed things I couldn’t tell you, Tom.
There warn’t no Blue men left in the village–only dead ‘uns.
We’d chased ’em all out.
But after a bit I realized what was happening.
Them bangs can go an awful long way through the air, y’see.
They can go as far as right acrost this town–further’n that, too.
The Blue men had run off–retreated, as they call it–a mile or so to a lot of trees out t’other side of the village, and that’s where the bangs was coming from.
Some of our fellas had gone out to get ’em there, too. In the middle of all this ruckus, Marse Robert was sitting on my back jest as quiet and steady as if we was out watching the men adigging.
I could feel his pulse perfectly regular, and his breathing real easy–which was more’n mine was.
After a bit I reckoned I understood.
The way I figured it at that time, nothing could hurt Marse Robert.
The bangs couldn’t hit him, and he knowed this.
I reckoned that’s why the President had made him head of the Army.
And if I was his horse, then maybe I couldn’t be hurt neither.
Well, I mean, _I hoped_ this more’n I really believed it.
I’d jest gone rigid–I couldn’t move my mouth or my jaw or my neck, and my hindquarters felt like they was made of wood and didn’t belong to me at all. Then I realized that Marse Robert knowed jest how I was feeling.
In the middle of all this, he was finding the time to reassure me.
He kept talking to me, quiet and steady-like, and every now and then he’d lean forward and stroke my face or my neck.
He wanted me to try’n relax, to trust him and believe that the two of us was on top of all this.
I knowed _he_ was, but I warn’t so sure ’bout me. Jest then a horse come a-tearing out ‘tween two of the shacks.
His ears was laid back and his eyes was rolling all white.
Anybody’d know he was terrified–bolting.
The man on his back was terrified, too.
He couldn’t stop his horse, and he was leaning right over its neck, which of course didn’t help him none.
They’d frightened each other to pieces, that was what it come to.
I’d no sooner seed them than they was gone, but I could hear the man shouting still–he was making ’nuff noise to frighten a whole pack of horses. Reckon I don’t want to be a horse like that, I thought.
A fine sight that’d be–the General’s horse bolting off with him.
I tried to stand entirely still, but I jest couldn’t help pawing the ground some.
What really fixed me was that there was no alarm or excitement at all in what Marse Robert was doing or saying.
If I’d ‘a been stone-deaf, and able to go by nothing ‘cept the feel of his hands and knees, I wouldn’t have knowed when there was a bang and when there warn’t. Not far off, standing in all the wreckage, I could see the President and a whole crowd of other fellas–they warn’t soldiers–‘long with him.
Marse Robert kept looking acrost to them, and after a bit he rode me over to where they was. “Mr.
President,” says he, real chilly-like, “who is this army of people and what are they doing here?” (Bang! Bang!) The President, he looked real taken aback. “Er–well–er, General,” he says. “It’s not _my_ Army.” “Well, it cert’nly ain’t _mine,”_ answers Marse Robert, “and this is no place for it.” And do you know, Tom, at that the President jest touched his hat and took the whole crowd off down the hill? I nickered after ThunderI couldn’t help it _”Who_ did you say was boss of this whole durned outfit?” He didn’t answer me back, neither. We stayed where we was, and the guns from beyond the village, out by the trees, they went on until well after sunset and for quite a while after that, even in the dark.
Marse Robert kept right on a-riding up and down; we went everywhere.
We went and talked to Old Pete, and then to Red Shirt and to the Little General.
Everyone struck me as being in pretty low spirits. ‘Far as I could understand it, we’d been ‘specting to beat the Blue men all hollow and drive ’em off, but we hadn’t managed to do it.
We’d only druv ’em out of the village, and they was still fighting out by the creek ‘mong the trees.
And top o’ that, a whole lot of our fellas had been shot–more’n what theirs had.
That was what it come down to. It was getting on to the middle of the night when Marse Robert rode me back acrost the river, and up to the farm on the hill.
When he got down, Tom, he stood by my head a while and petted me. “That’s my brave Traveller,” he says. “Well done! Well done, Traveller; you’re the greatest horse in the world! Thank you!” I was jest a-shaking all over, and when I got in to stable I couldn’t even have told you whether Richmond said anything spiteful or not.
If he did, I didn’t hear it.
I had a drink and a feed and went to sleep as tired as I’d ary been in my whole life. VII It was a short night–real short.
It was jest coming on daylight when all three of us was saddled up and led out into the farmyard.
There warn’t a cloud in the sky, but jest a purple rim to the horizon; it was going to be a real scorching day.
Marse Robert came out and Perry gave him his hat and his gloves, as usual.
He jest hesitated a moment, and then he spoke to Marse Taylor, mounted Brown-Roan and rode out into the lane.
Two soldiers followed behind, riding me and Richmond, and there was the usual little bunch of Marse Robert’s officers. We went back acrost the river and out t’other side of that little village; and there we waited, with Marse Robert watching the crowds of soldiers going forward.
There was still bangs, and a few bullets, too, like the day before, but pretty soon it seemed like the Blue men was gone out o’ the trees, and Marse Robert jined up with Old Pete and rode down into the bottom and acrost the creek.
There was dead fellasours and the enemy’s, too–laying around everywhere, but I never took no notice–didn’t shy jest went right on through ’em.
Once’t or twice’t it seemed like Brown-Roan was kinda fumbling in his tracks, and coming over the bridge I seed him falter and jib at the hollow noise of his own hooves on the planks.
Marse Robert jest spoke to him, gentle-like, coaxed him up t’other side, and we went up through the brush.
It was pretty thick, and there was big ditches and barricades of felled trees that the Blue men must ‘a made while they was holding the line of that creek.
There was a mill, I remember, jest ’bout there, but ‘course it was all smashed to pieces jest a lot o’ rubble.
Marse Robert kept pulling up to talk to the soldiers, and every time he did, I seed Brown-Roan sort of peering round and hesitating.
His mouth was very tight and he kept bobbing his head and then jerking it back, like he felt uneasy. ‘Course, I thought, he hasn’t come under fire before, poor fella.
I sure hoped for his sake he’d be all right, on account of I liked him.
Anyways, Marse Robert didn’t seem bothered, so I jest turned back to watching where I put my own hooves down in all that mess. Soon after, Marse Robert left us behind and rode off somewhere or other on his own account, with Major Taylor.
He was always doing that on the field of battle.
You never knowed where he’d be going next.
Me and Richmond was taken on down the lane, closer to the few bangs that was still a-comin’ over.
After maybe two mile we turned off and went down to a biggish house in a grove of trees ‘bove the river.
I remember there was bonfires–piles of stuff boots, boxes of food, all sorts of things–all a-burning.
I reckoned the Blue men must have set them afire before they skedaddled, so our fellas wouldn’t get ’em. We had a feed, but they wouldn’t put us out to grass–on ‘count o’ the bangs, I reckon.
We stood around in the front courtyard.
I tried to act friendly to Richmond–it’s my nature, Tom–but he warn’t having none of that.
Once’t, when I moved up close, he tried to kick out at me, so after that I jest let him be.
After a while Marse Robert came back on Brown-Roan, and then Old Pete an’ Red Shirt arrived and they all went in the house–to get to consulting ’bout the fighting, I reckon. And that was when I got a chance to listen to Brown-Roan.
There warn’t a lot of shade around by this time of day, and it was sweltering hot.
We was all given a drink and picketed together in what little shade there was. Brown-Roan was shaking all over and sweating real bad. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “Is it the bangs? You don’t have to be scairt of the bangs when you’re with Marse Robert.
They can’t hurt him, you know.” He didn’t answer right away jest sorta dropped his head and swung it from side to side.
At last he said, “Traveller, what’ll I do? I’m going blind!” “Never in the world!” I told him. “‘Course you’re not going blind!” I laid my head ‘longside his neck and nibbled and groomed him, friendly-like, and he switched his tail acrost my withers. “I am!” he says. “It kinda comes and goes, but more’n once’t or twice’t this morning I couldn’t rightly see at all–only this sorta swirling gray, like clouds moving, and the real things coming and going in between. ” “Can you see all right now?” I asked. “More or less,” he answered, “but not so clear as I used to.
I’ve felt it coming on before, but never so bad as today.” “I’d try to forget ’bout it if I was you,” I said. “Have a rest and cool down–it’ll pass.” “He’s scairt!” snorted Richmond. “The dad-burn–” “Oh, hush up!” I told him. “Ain’t we all scairt, for goodness’ sake?” Brown-Roan didn’t say no more–jest dropped his head and swished the flies.
It was quiet in the shade–real sultry–but you could still hear the bangs, every minute or so, coming from a distance. Then, suddenly, there come the crackling noise of muskets–a whole passel of it–what us soldiers call “furious fire,” Tom, y’know.
Marse Robert and the rest came out in a hurry, and he jest grabbed Brown-Roan’s bridle and galloped off up the lane.
Richmond and me was brought on behind. After maybe a mile–it was pretty thick country, all trees and brush–we came to another steep creek and another smashed-up millhouse.
There was some of the Blue men–yeah, I seed ’em, up t’other side–but they was soon gone, and we went acrost and up into open fields–corn and grain, all tromped down.
And now the bullets began a-flying all round.
They really do scare you, Tom, you know.
They come past–zip! zip!–and you don’t hear ’em come till they’ve gone, and every now and then there’s a kind of a _”y-ooow”_ noise when one of ’em bounces off of a stone.
I seed some of our officers pointing and asking Marse Robert to go back out of the way, but ‘course he didn’t.
He was riding round ‘mong the soldiers, cheering ’em up and telling ’em to go on and fight those people–he always used to call the Blue men “those people”for all they was worth. Well, soon after that we come up near to where the Blue men had fixed theirselves–the place where they meant to stick and fight us.
We was on a sort of a road by now–the air all full of dust–and the Blue men’s lines was way off to the right. Oh, Tom, you never seed sech a terrible place in all your life! I’ve often dreamed ’bout it since.
I reckon now that maybe of all the dreadful places where our fellas fought the Blue men, that was the very worst.
It began with a whole passel of trees and bushes, mighty thick.
Then a little ways off they all went sloping down out of sight, steep, and I could smell there was a creek down there, and a nasty, marshy one at that–real wide and muddy.
T’other side went up jest as steep, and this was where the Blue men had got to–you could see ’em–they was stood waiting for us, guns and all. Oh, beans an’ clover, I thought, even Marse Robert’ll never go sending soldiers down there! Then I thought of what that horse had said: “That’s what men do–kill each other.” And jest then there come a flash and a bang, real close–my soldier jumped in the saddle–and I thought, That General Johnston that was wounded so bad–did _he_ have a horse? I wonder what happened to it. Marse Robert called for General Hill, and pretty soon Red Shirt rode up to him and began talking and pointing down towards the creek.
All the while he was a-talking, Marse Robert kept nodding his head.
I couldn’t believe it.
I felt as though everything that had gone before had been quiet and homey compared to this. Our side of the creek was some fields, right in front of where our fellas–thousands of ’em–was all strung out in long lines; and acrost them fields they went, Tom, like they was a-walking down the street, and the enemy firing right in among ’em all the time.
I was thinking, Men are crazy! They’re all crazy! Leastways, much as I could think at all.
We was drenched in noise and uproar like over your ears in water. They went out of sight, over the edge and down towards the creek, and a moment later there came sech a crash of guns as I’ve never heared since–no, not in no fight we was ever in later.
Our fellas had gone straight down into that. — Well, I could tell, from the way Marse Robert and Cap-in-HisEyes was talking together, that he was the general Marse Robert must respect and trust maybe most of all.
For a start, Cap-in-His-Eyes was doing the talking and Marse Robert was doing the listening.
Cap-inHis-Eyes was talking kind of quick and excited, and he kept pushing the toe of his boot around in the dust of the road and then looking up at Marse Robert.
Then all of a sudden he stamped his boot down hard. “We’ve got him!” he says, and with that he waved his hand for Little Sorrel. “I’ll see you again, Traveller,” says Little Sorrel as he started forward. “Don’t forget me! Today’s going to work out bad–don’t know ‘zactly how–but don’t worry, you’ll be all right.” Right till then I’d felt the equal of any horse I’d met, ‘ceptin’ maybe for Skylark.
But somehow Little Sorrel was different. ‘Fact, I ain’t bottomed it out yet.
Cap-in-His-Eyes must ‘a been a real smart judge o’ horses, ’cause most men would have jest walked past Little Sorrel and not reckoned him worth a handful o’ damp hay.
It took another horse, really, to catch on to the real spirit that was in him.
But there was something else, too–something strange ’bout Sorrel; I could sense it.
He was the sorta horse that gets hunches ’bout what’s going to happen.
I’ve knowed maybe two-three like that in my time–very few.
I even did it myself once’t–only jest the once’t.
But I’ve never knowed any horse that could feel things coming on like Sorrel could.
I figure maybe that kind of horse can sense what’s in his master’s fate that the master don’t know hisself.
To do that, you gotta be real close to your man. I don’t recall jest what we did after Cap-in-His-Eyes and his ‘uns had rode off.
But I sure remember something that happened that afternoon, ’cause it scairt me real bad; bad as I’d been scairt any time them last few days o’ fighting. ‘Twas ’bout the middle of the day, and so hot the ground was a-rippling acrost my eyes.
It was all forest and underbrush we was in, and they was dancing in the heat.
There was guns started firing up ‘way ahead, and soon as he heared them, Marse Robert rode me forward through the trees.
We came to a little clearing ‘mong some pines, and there was Old Pete, riding Hero, and the President on Thunder.
Thunder was pawing round in the dirt an’ didn’t look happy at all. Right off, ‘fore Marse Robert could say a word, the President speaks up. “Why, General Lee,” he says, “what are you a-doing here? It’s too dangerous, and you the boss of this here Army.” “Well,” says Marse Robert, very civil, “I’m trying to find out something ’bout those people,” he says, “and what they’re up to.
But come to that,” he says, “what do you reckon _you’re_ a-doing here, and you s’posed to be _my_ boss and everybody else’s?” Me and Thunder looks at each other. “Oh,” says the President, very airy-like, “I’m a-doing jest the same as _you’re_ a-doing,” he says–like what he meant was “If you figure on sending me away a second time, you’ve made a mistake.” So then they gets to talking, and jest then the Blue men, ‘way down through the trees, opens up with their guns and the bangs started in a-bursting all round us.
They was busting this side and that side–there was horses squealing and shying and bucking all over the clearing–and them two, Marse Robert and the President, jest a-sitting there like they was waiting for the mail cart.
I’ll say that for Thunder: he never moved a hoof. “Here’s General Hill,” says the President, peering into the smoke.
And with that up comes Red Shirt, full gallop. “Gentlemen!” he shouts through all the noise, “this is no place for either of you! I’m in command here, and I order you both to the rear!” So then the President kinda grins, making a joke of it, and says they’ll go, and the two of ’em rides off jest a little ways.
But Red Shirt warn’t having none of that–he follows ’em. “Didn’t I tell you to get to the rear?” he yells. “‘Nother one o’ them bangs and we’ll be clean out of bosses forever!” So then Marse Robert and the President, they both went back outen the way.
I don’t know ’bout Thunder, but I’ve never been so glad of anything in my life.
That night Dave found two bleeding scratches acrost my withers.
I hadn’t felt ’em at the time.
That’s often the way, you know, Tom. Well, jest ’bout then Marse Robert changed horses and I can’t say I was all that sorry.
He set off on Richmond, and he hadn’t been gone more’n a little while when the bangs got even louder, and more of ’em.
Well, I thought, Richmond’s welcome to ’em; I reckon I done plenty for one day.
I had a drink from a little creek and waited with Dave in the shade.
You couldn’t see a thing that was going on round there; it was all woodland and brush, creeks and swamp. There was terrible fighting all the rest of that afternoon and evening, but I hardly seed none of it jest waited, and kept listening to the bangs; and they went right on into the darkness.
Goodness knows where we spent that night.
I only know it was out in the open and we was picketed.
Marse Robert and Richmond came back to headquarters in the dark, and I could see right away that Marse Robert was in a real bad humor.
He had a hot temper, you know, Tom, in them days.
I could often feel it, but nearly always he kept it close-reined, and he never took it out on me–not once’t.
That night he was in real low spirits.
I figure we hadn’t killed as many Blue men as he’d been ahoping for.
He was gloomy and out of sorts.
He didn’t even have a word for me, the way he usually did. Still, I had something else to think about that night.
Richmond came in sweating, and it warn’t long before I realized he was one sick horse.
Well, I hadn’t been feeling none too good myself, so I could tell what the trouble was.
It’s what they call colic, Tom, you know, and horses are liable to get it when they’re living the way we was.
Horses, y’see–we-all got a terrible big gut–bigger’n any other animal, I guessand there’s a lot can go wrong with it.
If’n you’re a horse, you gotta keep your gut full and you got to dung reg’lar.
A horse that gets his gut blocked can find hisself in real bad trouble.
Overwork–unwholesome food–irregular feeding; yeah, and shock, too–they can all go to the gut.
And that there wind-sucking some horses do–that’s no durned good neither. I’ve told you, haven’t I, that Richmond was a jumpy, nervy kind of a horse–a squealer and a bad-tempered sort? ‘Course, we’d all been under a lot of strain, and Richmond had been under fire’s much as I had.
He was a wind-sucker, all right, but ‘sides that he always used to pitch into his feed like he reckoned he was never going to get another. Well, that afternoon–the afternoon I got the splinters acrost my withers–Marse Robert and Richmond, they come under some real bad fire, so he told me that night.
It ‘pears Marse Robert actually rode out through our lines, right out in front, ’cause he wanted to see for hisself what the Blue men was up to.
Richmond hadn’t ‘zackly cared for that, and I don’t know as I blame him.
Anyways, when he got back that night he was shaking all over-shocked by the bangs as much as anything.
By golly! He even _smelt o’_ the battle smoke–and then he set to and bolted his feed fast as he could. “You’ll do yourself a mischief,” I says to him. “Ease up!” “Oh, go jump in the creek, Greenbrier!” says Richmond. “You think you can tell me anything? Jest hush up! I was carrying a man when you was sucking your dam.” That warn’t true, of course, but I jest let him be.
There was ’nuff to worry ’bout without quarreling with _him._ He bolted his feed, and it was a poor feed we both had that night.
The bran was sour.
I let young Dave know plain ’nuff I didn’t jest ‘zackly relish it, and he come and looked it over.
Then he emptied out my nose bag and fetched some more. ‘Warn’t his fault, I guess.
When you’re on campaign, you see, Tom, things is apt to get kind o’ wrong side up, and we’d been going so hard we was in what they call short supply. ‘Sides, like I said, it was dark jest lanterns.
Anyways, it was too late for Richmond–he’d eat it all and wanted more. ‘Fore first light next morning I heared him a-stamping round, and every now and then he’d pass wind something terrible.
He was in pain all right.
The way he was carrying on, I reckon his gut must ‘a been blocked.
I asked him how he was feeling, but all I got for my trouble was more cussing.
Young Dave was up well before first light–the sentry woke him–and it didn’t take him long to see Richmond was a sick horse. ‘Course, as far as I was concerned, that meant jest one thing.
I was saddled up for Marse Robert; it was my turn, anyway. It was a terrible bad battle that day–worse’n I can tell you, Tom.
The Blue men had got ’emselves up atop a big green hill, all open and plain, and our fellas was stuck down in the woods and swamps at the bottom.
It was nothing but guns, guns all that day.
The Blue men had more guns’n we did, and they was firing down the open hillside.
I was lucky, ’cause for some reason Marse Robert didn’t go acting crazy the way he’d done the day before.
Early afternoon, him and Old Pete rode out a ways to one side o’ that hill, looking round, I reckon, for the best chance of an attack.
But then he came back again.
Well, ‘tell the truth, Tom, I figure that day no one knowed what they was a–doing at all–it was having no sleep for days, as much as anything else–and even Marse Robert wasn’t jest rightly hisself.
I could tell from how he felt on my back and the way he was acting and speaking.
He wanted to drive the Blue men off n that there hill like he’d druv them out of the swamp with the Texans, but he didn’t rightly know how to go ’bout it.
And in fact it never got done.
When it came dark, our Army was still down to the bottom of that hill, ‘ceptin’ for a whole chance of our poor fellas laying dead and wounded on the open slope. I never heared the wounded cry worse’n they did that night. Headquarters had been set up at a house a ways back, and that was where I found Richmond that night, in the stable.
He’d plainly been took worse and worse all day, and now there warn’t no doubt he was very bad off.
He was sweating real hard, breathing fast and blowing.
Even from where I was, I could tell his pulse was too quick.
He kept a-walking round and round his box, and every so often he’d throw hisself down and roll about real wild.
Then he’d get up and stretch as if he wanted to pass water, but he couldn’t do it.
Every time the pain came on, he’d kick at his belly. I figured young Dave had been with him all day, but there’d been no help to be had on ‘count of the battle.
Marse Robert and me, we’d been riding through the bivouacs long after dark, Marse Robert talking to this general and that ‘un.
We was still out when Jine-the-Cavalry rode up to talk to Marse Robert and find out what he wanted him to do.
And when we got back to headquarters, Tom, ’twas all Marse Robert could do jest to get off’n my back, he was that tired, and Dave had no chance at all to talk to him ’bout Richmond. Getting on towards the middle of the night, a fog come up and covered everything.
You could feel it creeping and thickening all around the stable, round the house and out over the fields beyond, thick as blankets.
You could hear the sentries coughing, and cussing to each other, up and down outside.
I wondered whether it’d be laying high as the hill, soaking into the dead and wounded, the dead horses laid stiff alongside the guns they’d dragged up there.
After a while the air in the stable turned kind of moist and cloudy, and all you could see outside was jest thick gray. I couldn’t sleep.
It got hard, in that air, to draw your breath, and Richmond was forever shambling round and round his box, crouching down, getting up again and panting.
Somehow I could sense that our soldiers was down at heart.
You could tell from the tread of the sentries and the heavy kind of way they was a-speaking and acting.
We’d thought we was going to drive the Blue men off of that hill, and we hadn’t–and what was worse, there was a passel of our fellas laying out there dead as flies. First light, when it come at last, was thin and gray, sort of filtering through a damp mist wet as rain.
I’d been ‘specting Dave to saddle me up for Marse Robert, but nothing happened–nothing at all.
It seemed a long time ‘fore finally Dave and two-three other soldiers came in.
I thought they’d have ‘tended to Richmond, but ‘stead of that they started putting dry litter in the empty stalls.
That was a fair-sized stable, and best I could make out they was getting it ready for more horses.
After they’d been working a while, Dave broke off to have a look at Richmond.
He spoke to the other soldiers, and then he went away and came back with some sort of warm drink he’d made up for him.
I could smell it from where I was stood.
It had a kind of heady, herb-like smell.
I guess there was some drug in it.
Richmond drank some, but ‘far as I could see he didn’t drink it all, and I could tell Dave was flustered and felt he couldn’t give Richmond all of his time. By now the rain was jest streaming down.
The yard outside was like a duckpond, and in one part of the roof, where there was a fair old hole, the water was pouring through like a creek a-running.
Every man who came into the stable was drenched and cussing, and dripping all over the floor. All of a sudden a soldier comes in leading Little Sorrel.
He was put into the box next to mine.
He was wetter’n a frog in a ditch, and they began rubbing him down.
I asked him what was going on.
He told me Cap-in-His-Eyes had ridden him over from his outfit to talk to Marse Robert. “The Blue men have all gone off the hill,” he said. “Vamoosed in the night.
Stonewall’s crazy to get after ’em and blow ’em to bits, but with this durned rain it’s jest about impossible to move.
You oughta see it, Traveller.
Everything this side of the hill’s turning into a lake miles wide, and all the wounded fellas crawling ’bout ‘mong the dead ‘uns, crying for the ambulances to come and pick ’em up.
Our soldiers are trying to get fires going to dry theirselves out and dry their muskets.” “Where’s Cap-in-His-Eyes now?” I asked. — I never did jest rightly understand the rest of that day myself.
There was fighting sure ’nuff, but ’twas all too far off for me and t’other horses up on the ridge to take in anything much, ‘cepting for the battle smoke and the guns and the yelling.
Still, one thing was for sure.
Marse Robert and me, we never went forward, like we had in the swamps the year before, or like the day after Cap-in-His-Eyes marched away into the forest.
So I guessed that our fellas out there couldn’t be driving the Blue men like we generally did. ‘Nother thing that seemed out of ordinary was there was so few horsemen coming and going where we was at.
Marse Robert only sent one horseman out all that afternoon, and ‘far as I can remember only one came to headquarters. What I think now, after all this time, is that our fellas could surely have beat the Blue men good and proper, but the trouble was we didn’t all attack together.
I remember joker saying something like that the same evening. “They’re not doing what Marse Robert meant ’em to do,” he says to me. “It’s all got out of joint–different lots coming different times, and all the Blue men got to do is sit up there and hold their ground. ” By the late evening Marse Robert was in one of his silent, pondering moods. “What’s the trouble?” I asked Leopard–that was Major Venable’s horse. “We’re not beat, that’s for sure.” “No,” said Leopard, “but Marse Robert was hoping to beat _them,_ and the trouble is they’re still sitting up there where they was this morning.” ‘Twas dark now, and sultry and airless, too; the night seemed real close and oppressive.
There was still some muskets firing, but no more guns.
After a while the moon came up, out beyond the enemy’s ridge, and the whippoorwills began calling among the trees, setting out for hunting.
Marse Robert–yes, Tom, he did–he found the time to come and talk to me and Dave while I was being rubbed down and fed and watered.
He was fondling me around the neck and stroking my nose, like he often did; and then, jest as Dave had gone off to fill a bucket (or half-fill it, ’cause there warn’t all that much water to go round), “Oh, Traveller,” he says, so quiet that only I could hear him. “Oh, Traveller, we can still beat them.
We’ve won a lot of ground, and the men are in good heart.
We _can_ beat them, Traveller! Tomorrow we’ll beat them!” Then Dave come back and Marse Robert began talking to him ’bout what he thought might be a little strain in one of my fetlocks.
He’d be needing me next day, he said.
Dave told him he figured I’d be fine. I couldn’t honestly have told anyone I was feeling fine when Dave saddled me up again after a few hours’ rest that felt like half a feed of thin hay.
T’other headquarters horses looked as rough as I did.
I remember one of them, a mare called Ivy, actually stumbling over the stable threshold and falling on her knees.
Dave led me on over to where Marse Robert was waiting.
He looked tired, too.
I was beginning to wonder how much longer anyone, horse or man, could go on like this.
And yet if I’d only knowed, we’d hardly started. ‘Twarn’t a still morning, like the day before.
There was a bit of wind and a light haze, with blowing clouds dimming the stars.
I could smell ‘nother hot day coming, though.
There was plenty of gunfire already, ‘way off in the direction of the town.
Soon’s he’d mounted me, Marse Robert rode off t’other way, ‘long the ridge, to see Old Pete. Old Pete was jest as full of talk and argument as he’d been the day before, but though Marse Robert listened as patient as ever, all he had to say, near as I could understand, was that our fellas was going to attack the way he wanted. They rode up and down together, for quite a while, looking out acrost to where the Blue men was–too, far for me to make out anything much at all.
Old Pete seemed sort of aloof and glum, but Marse Robert, he kept stopping every now and then to talk to little groups of soldiers, or to ask some officer a question or look at a gun position.
Once’t he told a young gunnery officer to get hisself back from out in front, where the Blue men might hit him.
I couldn’t help wondering whether he was remembering the Little General and poor Chieftain that day last fall. Three times that morning we rode the whole length of our lines along the ridge.
The sun had gotten high before we was done; there warn’t a cloud in the sky and it seemed hotter’n ever. ‘Course, up there there warn’t a creek in sight, nor any water at all that I could smell. All the time, our guns was being pulled forward ahead of the infantry.
I remember seeing two of them huge white Percherons that we’d commandeered, a-hauling and a-straining on a gun to heave it out of a dry rut.
A hundred yards or so further on, a limber driver with the sun in his eyes cussed at Marse Robert and told him to get out the way ‘fore he ran him down.
We jest rode on and Marse Robert kind of hunched hisself over so the man wouldn’t see who he was.
All the guns that hadn’t already come down the day before was dragged down off the ridge and sited ‘longside a road running ‘tween our fellas and the Blue men.
Marse Robert and me rode all along them.
You jest can’t imagine, Tom, how many there was.
My withers! I thought; if’n that outfit’s going to start firing together, I jest hope I’ll be able to stand steady. The gunners all seemed easy and full o’ jokes, but that was more’n could be said for most of their horses, waiting behind the caissons.
A lot of ’em looked starved–ribs stickin’ out, coats all rough and staring. “It’s all right for _you,”_ says one of them to me. “You don’t even know what a counter-barrage is, do you? How many of us do you think’ll be left by tonight?” I didn’t answer him.
I never used to answer mules or artillery horses.
What could I have said, anyway? ‘Twas the real burning middle of the day.
When Marse Robert and me and the rest of headquarters stood waiting on the forward edge of the ridge for the guns to commence to firing.
Red Shirt and Old Pete was sitting together with Marse Robert on a log for a while, but then they got up and went different ways.
Marse Robert and me, we rode a little ways down the slope.
Behind us, a lot of our fellas was laying down under the trees, waiting.
You could smell them in the heat, and I could smell they was afeared, too.
I remember seeing two-three fellas making their way back of the bushes to drop their pants. ‘Twas still for quite a while.
Then, from down along the road, come a single gun, and then another.
That must ‘a been a signal, ’cause a few moments later there followed a noise ’nuff to make you wonder whether the earth was going to smash to bits.
The ground was all a-shaking, and I seed several horses bolt and whole groups a-rarin’ and having to be held in hard.
Men laying side by side couldn’t even shout to each other.
I’ve heared guns in my time, Tom, but never a barrage like that.
They was all a-firing at once’t–what’s called salvos, you know.
And ‘twarn’t more’n a minute or so before the Blue men’s guns began firing back.
You could see the flashes and hear the bangs from t’other ridge.
I’d say they must have had guns firing all along for a good two mile, near as I could tell.
Very soon the smoke and dust blotted out everything. ‘Twas like being shut up in the dark with a cloth over your head.
All that reached me from outside was the feel of Marse Robert’s hands, and Marse Robert’s voice saying, “Easy, Traveller–easy, now, boy!” You seemed to be choking on that gun smell, ’twas so thick in the air.
You couldn’t see the sun nor hardly the sky–only great streams of black smoke a-floating high up, like clouds.
Every now and then a shell’d hit one of the ammunition chests ‘longside our guns, and there’d come a huge roar, and fellas screaming so I reckon the Blue men theirselves could have heared them over on t’other ridge.
Sometimes the shells landed in among our infantry laying under the trees.
More’n once’t I seed the stretcher-bearers carrying off some poor lad crying and clutching hisself and bleeding all over the ground. I don’t know how long it went on.
After what seemed a long time our guns stopped firing, and a minute or two later the enemy guns died down, too.
And that was when I suddenly caught sight of General Ringlets, that I didn’t recollect to have seed since that day when him and Romeo crossed the river with me and Marse Robert, and we met the ladies with the flowers. General Ringlets was still riding Romeo, and I could see that though Romeo was doing all he could to keep steady under the fire, he warn’t far off from panicking.
Some of it, though, was coming to him from Ringlets hisself.
Ringlets was dressed jest as smart as he had been at the river, and he was smiling and saluting other officers here and there as though he hadn’t a care in the world.
But even from where I was, I could tell he was feeling near as bad as the artillery horses.
His breathing alone would be ’nuff to signal that much to any horse that had him on its back, and so far as I knowed, this was Romeo’s first battle.
I felt sorry for him. Ringlets pulled him in and held him steady while he looked along the lines of his fellas laying down in back of the guns.
Then he drew his sword and shouted to them to form line and go forward.
They was Virginians, Tom–fellas from round these here parts where we are now.
I remember their commanders riding out in front of the lines to lead them.
One of ’em was on a big black horse I’d seed once’t or twice’t before–‘never knowed his name.
Another–a white-haired old chapstuck his hat on the point of his sword and called up his fellas in a voice that carried like a bugle.
The soldiers was shouting “Virginia! Virginia!” And as they come out into the open they formed ranks as neat as if it had been for Marse Robert on a parade ground.
Soon’s they got clear of the trees, all the regiments formed into a single, great line.
You could see the red-and-blue cloths going in front, and the officers marching on foot with their companies.
I was thinking I wouldn’t like to be the Blue men on t’other end of that lot.
But I remember thinking, too, they had an awful long way to go acrost the open ground ‘fore they could commence to fighting. Marse Robert was sat real still and steady, watching as the line went off into the distance.
Once’t, I remember, he pointed and said something to Major Taylor ’bout how many of the fellas had bandages on their heads or their arms–fellas that had been wounded, but warn’t going to let that make no difference.
I’d never seed so many cloths on sticks goin’ forward together before.
Behind the whole line came Ringlets and his staff.
Once’t or twice’t I seed young Romeo jib and falter, and I hoped for his sake he’d come through it all right and do hisself credit.
I wouldn’t have liked his job. They went on, Tom; they went on quite steady over that dry, sunbaked ground for two–maybe three hundred yards.
And then the Blue men’s guns opened up again.
I’d thought our guns was s’posed to have blowed theirs to bits, but ’twas plain ’nuff now that they hadn’t. ‘Twas terrible to hear the shells explode and see the smoke blot out whole parts of the line, and then great gaps where our fellas had been.
There was men struggling on the ground, only you couldn’t hear ’em screaming, ’cause of the guns.
It put me in mind of the battle in the snow, only then it had been the Blue men, not ours, who’d come shoulder to shoulder up the slope into Red Shirt’s guns. Soon what was left of our fellas had got a long ways off too far for me to be able to see what was going on.
I could tell they must ‘a met the Blue men by now, ’cause there was musketry crackling, and I could hear the Yell, and see the flashes ‘way off acrost the field. ‘Twas all smoke and noise and confusion, a long ways off.
I never have rightly knowed jest what happened.
I was expecting Marse Robert and headquarters to go forward any moment, but we didn’t.
I seed a riderless horse with a great gash in his shoulder come plunging back out of the smoke, and I seed plenty of wounded men crawling ‘long the ground–only, some of them didn’t crawl far. And then at last–after what seemed a terrible long time–Marse Robert and me, we did ride forward.
Our men was beginning to come back–some by theirselves and some in little sort of broken-up groups.
A lot was wounded.
They came limping and staggering through the line of our guns, trying to get to the trees behind, where they’d started from.
And ’twas while this was going on that me and Marse Robert went out to meet ’em.
Old Pete was with us, and Major Taylor and quite a few more.
Marse Robert put me into a walk, and we was going from one bunch to ‘nother.
Marse Robert was encouraging them and cheering them up. “It’ll all come right in the end,” he kept saying. “It’ll all come right.
We want all good and true men jest now.” Some of them was so badly hurt or so tuckered out that they jest staggered on past as if they couldn’t hear, but there was a chance of others was mighty glad to see him, and any number who stopped to cheer. “It’s Marse Robert!” calls out one young fella to his mates, who was carrying a wounded man ‘tween them.
They all came a-crowding round me–I could smell the, blood–and one of ’em kept saying, “We ain’t whupped, General! We ain’t no ways whupped! Those Blue fellas have had ’nuff to keep ’em quiet for a long while, no danger!” ‘Twarn’t only the soldiers Marse Robert had time to spare for, neither.
I’ll tell you something, Tom, that I’ve never forgotten–never will.
In the middle of all our riding ’bout among the men and talking to ’em, there suddenly come some sort of a commotion, ‘way off in the distance.
Marse Robert tells one of the gunnery officers who happened to be nearby to ride off and find out what ’twas.
Well, as it happened, I knowed this officer’s horse–I’d been picketed with him more’n once’t since the spring.
He was a nice, easygoing gray called Misty, and he’d always been close friends with the artillery general’s horse, Buckthorn.
They’d been paired all the way on the march up, and I’d often seed them together.
They was standing together now, while Misty’s master went acrost to mount him and get on with what Marse Robert wanted done.
Well, as I’ve told you, Tom, horses set a heap of store by friendship.
Take a horse away from his friend and he’s likely to feel it bad.
And now here was Misty being unhitched and taken away from Buckthorn almost by force, at a time when every horse and man had been strained to the limit.
You could see he didn’t like it at all, but there was no time for his master to be bothering ’bout that.
He jumped up and spurred him to get going.
But Misty warn’t minded jest then to be all that obedient.
He simply wouldn’t go, so this officer began beating him with a stick. ‘Soon ‘s Marse Robert seed that, he called out, “Don’t whip him, Captain! Don’t whip him! I’ve got jest sech another foolish horse myself, and whipping does no good!” Well, maybe I am a foolish horse.
I’ve always knowed I warn’t a genius like Skylark, but jest the same, I don’t figure Marse Robert and me would’ve been together all these years if’n that was what he really thought of me, do you? He was certainly right ’bout whipping does no good.
He’s never had no need to take a whip or a spur to me, not one time since the day we met. Then General Ringlets came up to us on Romeo, who was all in a lather of sweat and rolling his eyes white.
Marse Robert hurried acrost to meet him. “General Pickett,” he says, “please get your division behind this hill and be ready to meet the enemy if they come.” Ringlets was looking jest ’bout frantic, almost like he was going to cry.
I can’t remember ever to have seed any commander look worse.
When he answered, ’twas in a kind of sob. “General Lee,” he said, “I have no division now.
They’re all dead”–or something like that. — ‘Twas a four-day trip, taking it easy, back to the big city.
We camped one night, but t’other two we stopped off at gentlemen’s homes. There warn’t a great deal happened.
One day I cast a shoe, but that was soon put right.
Marse Robert seed to it that I had feeds of oats–and mighty good they was, too. ‘Twas raining heavy, I remember, the afternoon we finally rode into the city, and I was plenty muddy–tired, too, and showing it, I ‘spect.
The place looked pretty knocked-about, and you could see and smell there’d been a lot of burning.
Still, I thought, that’s not surprising after all the fighting.
Marse Robert’ll soon change all that, now he’s in full command.
And in fact I did spot quite a passel of Blue men around.
They’d evidently been brung in to start cleaning up the mess they’d made and get down to putting things to rights. We can’t have looked all that smart, you know, Tom, what with the campaign we’d jest fought, the rain and the mud and the journey, and our rickety old wagons coming ‘long behind.
But that didn’t stop whole crowds of people turning out to cheer us.
If’n you’ll believe it, even some of the Blue men was jining in the cheering.
Knowed what was good for ’em, I reckon. We came to the house they’d got ready for Marse Robert.
There was people a-crowding all round, cheering and crying, and he shook hands and spoke to as many of ’em as he could.
Finally he went indoors and I went off to stables. Well, after that I got a real good rest, Tom.
I can’t tell you how ‘greeable it was after all we’d been through–no more bugles, no more night marches, no more bangs to drive you crazy; easy exercise and plenty to eat.
Marse Robert, he had a good rest, too.
For quite some days, in fact, he didn’t leave the house at all.
But I guess that now he knowed he was going to become commander of the country–soon’s everything was ready, that is–he had a whole lot to be thinking ’bout.
Well, ‘stands to reason, don’t it? When I was taken out for exercise, I noticed there was often a Blue man standing sentry outside the front door.
Yeah, I thought, good idea–let one of _them_ stand about in the wind and rain, ‘stead of our fellas.
That really gave me satisfaction. Then, one day–I s’pose it must ‘a been ’bout a month later, or maybe a little more–Marse Robert had me saddled up and off we hightailed, jest us two and no one with us, acrost town and out into the country.
And would you believe it, Tom, we rode past that same village where I’d been in my very first battle three years before, and then right by the diggings where we fought those people the previous year? It all seemed so strange–the empty trenches, the silence, the greenness–you know? It felt–it _smelt–like_ another place, but I remembered it all right.
So did Marse Robert; he showed that.
Well, ‘course, it’s bound to make him feel sad, I thought, but leastways we don’t have to feel ’twas for nothing.
If I could talk, I’d tell him that–I’d remind him of all that them poor men and horses made happen. Anyways, we soon left it behind.
I wondered where we could be going–somehow it didn’t feel like more soldiering; and it warn’t.
Turned out we was off for a holiday at a country house–nice old-fashioned kind of a place ’twas; belonged to one of our artillery officers.
Soon’s I seed him, I remembered him well. Gee, Tom, that was fine, that holiday! When we arrived, they didn’t ‘pear to be ‘specting Marse Robert, but jest the same they was delighted to see him, same as people are everywhere. “And of course Traveller’s going to have a holiday,” he said. “He’s earned it more’n anyone.
Traveller’s going to have hisself a _real_ holiday!” Right off he turned me loose on the lawn.
The midsummer grass was long and jest prime, more’n ’nuff for a whole power of horses.
I ate it right down short.
Marse Robert, he says no more corn for me–I’d had ’nuff of that, campaigning.
He’d sit comfortable in the shade and watch me enjoy myself.
I used to roll in that grass, Tom.
I very soon picked out my favorite rolling places.
You know, I’d almost forgotten ’bout rolling.
I didn’t realize, till I had it back, how much I’d missed it.
Soldier horses don’t get much chance to roll at leisure, let alone settle on favorite places.
But on this holiday I made a proper job of it.
I’d start by sniffing the ground and pawing at it.
Then I’d put my nose to it and shake my tail.
Then I’d go down forequarters first and rub my withers well into the grass.
After that I’d lie on my back, squirm about and scratch the top of my head and neck–yeah, and my tail, too.
In my best place there was a nice rock to scratch your rump on as well.
Get up, shake myself all over and back to grazing.
Think of it! I could take as long as I liked over a roll and do it as often as I pleased! And Marse Robert sat there watching, jest as happy as I felt myself! We visited quite a few houses round about.
Very light work.
Plenty of friendly horses.
Still, like all good things, that holiday came to an end, and back we rode to the city. Somehow, though, I got the feeling that Marse Robert didn’t want to command the country and do all his judging and deciding and palavering from a headquarters in the city.
I guess he had a problem.
He wanted to live in a nice, quiet, countrified place, but of course it had to be somewheres he could have all his advisers and headquarters people round him, too.
He wanted to combine his commanding with some peace and quiet.
He needed to be out of the way of the people forever cheering and yelling and shaking hands; and of course now he could have it a whole lot more comfortable than them old tents.
We warn’t going fighting no more–never again. We tried this place and that.
Nigh on a month after the holiday I’ve jest told you about, Marse Custis rode me ’bout thirty mile out of the city.
Marse Robert, the old lady and the rest, they came along on the boat.
First of all we was a-visiting with a lady.
Then we-all lived a while in a little wooden cottage, an’ that really was out in the country.
I enjoyed it; Marse Robert and me used to ride round the neighborhood plenty.
I thought at the time that he was looking out on his own ‘count for the right place to take up this commanding business.
But if only I’d knowed, all that was being took care of. ‘Twas early fall, five years ago now, when Marse Robert and me lit out on our journey to come here.
We was four days altogether on the road. ‘Reckon we might have done twenty-five or thirty mile each day jest the two of us.
We took it easy; the weather was real sultry and the flies was jest as tiresome as usual.
We stopped off at gentlemen’s homes along the way. ‘Twas the third day when we rode up high into the mountains–these mountains, Tom–and next afternoon we rode down into town here. ‘Twas jest like Marse Robert–the way he arrived where he was going to take up command.
No show, no fuss.
But of course we was expected–people recognized him right away.
There was some of our old soldiers happened to be in the street at the time, and they welcomed him jest the way you’d reckon they would. I remember for the first few days we lodged out at the Baths.
Wonder how often we’ve ridden out there since? That was while they was finishing getting everything ready for him here, you see. Some of his counselors and advisers nowadays are men who used to be our Army officers.
For instance, one’s the chief of the guns, General Pendleton.
I often see him around.
I wonder what he does now there ain’t no guns? Marse Robert–well, ‘course, Tom, you know yourself how busy he is all the time, talking and advising and giving out the orders.commanding a whole country–gosh sakes! It must be an even bigger job than commanding the Army–‘ceptin’ there’s no enemy to mess us around, of course.
Important folks come to see him, and sometimes he has to go away, too, on ‘count of this here commanding–often for a good while.
I never know when he’s coming back.
Well, I ‘spect there’s still some Blue men left in back parts who need a good talking to now and then, to keep ’em in line.
But I always know the time’ll come when he’s back and we’re off again, jest the two of us, for a good, long ride through the fall woods, with the red and yellow leaves dropping; or maybe the spring woods, when the groundhogs are out and you can smell the new greenery.
Not a commander, not a great general’s campaigning horse; jest a couple of friends who’ve seed a lot together and understand each other through and through. I often think I must be the luckiest horse alive.
Sure, I’ve seed some rough times–there’s no denying that.
Oh, I’ve seed terrible things, Tom, and no one can say I ain’t seed hardships, too.
But for near nine years I’ve had the greatest General in the world for a master, and if’n there’s anyone, horse or man, who’s served him better, I’d like to know who ’tis. I’ve only one regret, even though it’s maybe kind of a fool one.
I often wish we’d managed to get to that War place, Jim and me–that there War we started out for, you know.
I’ve been to The White, sure ’nuff, and that was a real fine place.
But I never did get to the War, on ‘count of I was handed over to Captain Joe and the major in them there mountains full of rain.
I guess maybe it’s stupid of me to have any regrets at all, considerin’ how lucky I’ve been, but in my imagination I can jest see that War–all green grass and oats and friends–horses from whom you never have to part.
I’d like to have seed it, jest once’t, but of course I wouldn’t stay.
No Marse Robert–no, I wouldn’t like that. XXI
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