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!"

CHAPTER X - GENERAL ALISON AND DORCAS

"Too much company for her, Marse Tom. Betwixt you, and Shekels, the Colonel's wife, and the Cid - "

"The Cid? Oh, I remember - the raven."

" - and Mrs. Captain Marsh and Famine and Pestilence the baby COYOTES, and Sour-Mash and her pups, and Sardanapalus and her kittens - hang these names she gives the creatures, they warp my jaw - and Potter: you - all sitting around in the house, and Soldier Boy at the window the entire time, it's a wonder to me she comes along as well as she does. She - "

"You want her all to yourself, you stingy old thing!"

"Marse Tom, you know better. It's too much company. And then the idea of her receiving reports all the time from her officers, and acting upon them, and giving orders, the same as if she was well! It ain't good for her, and the surgeon don't like it, and tried to persuade her not to and couldn't; and when he ORDERED her, she was that outraged and indignant, and was very severe on him, and accused him of insubordination, and said it didn't become him to give orders to an officer of her rank. Well, he saw he had excited her more and done more harm than all the rest put together, so he was vexed at himself and wished he had kept still. Doctors DON'T know much, and that's a fact. She's too much interested in things - she ought to rest more. She's all the time sending messages to BB, and to soldiers and Injuns and whatnot, and to the animals."

"To the animals?"

"Yes, sir."

"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 send them."

"Yes, I don't doubt that part of it."

"Do you doubt they get them, sir?"

"Certainly. Don't you?"

"No, sir. Animals talk to one another. I know it perfectly well, Marse Tom, and I ain't saying it by guess."

"What a curious superstition!"

"It ain't a superstition, Marse Tom. Look at that Shekels - look at him, NOW. Is he listening, or ain't he? NOW you see! he's turned his head away. It's because he was caught - caught in the act. I'll ask you - could a Christian look any more ashamed than what he looks now? - LAY DOWN! You see? he was going to sneak out. Don't tell ME, Marse Tom! If animals don't talk, I miss MY guess. And Shekels is the worst. He goes and tells the animals everything that happens in the officers' quarters; and if he's short of facts, he invents them. He hasn't any more principle than a blue jay; and as for morals, he's empty. Look at him now; look at him grovel. He knows what I am saying, and he knows it's the truth. You see, yourself, that he can feel shame; it's the only virtue he's got. It's wonderful how they find out everything that's going on - the 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."

"Marse Tom, she don't WANT him hanged.

A Horse's Tale Page 17

Mark Twain

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