Bar inherited the remuda when he was less than two years old, and still tolerated by his sire, Nomad. Nomad’s was a shameful death for a great leader and the winner of eight duels. After a long run from two Indian riders into the hot hills north of the reservation, he became careless in the dusk, plunged his right foreleg into a gopher hole and snapped it with a small explosion. Sage, the aging brood-mare, whimpered around him, shying from his thrashing, but finally led the helpless remuda on. It was starlight when they found the bitter spring towards which Nomad had aimed. They drank slowly, grazed, and slept on the meadow in the mouth of the canyon. Sage fretted Bar as he drank, but he did not understand, and she took the sentry post herself.
Bar stood alone in the box canyon above the well, but could not sleep. The stars moved slowly and together over the canyon, and once the coyotes talked in the far dark. The remuda was silent below him, each with one hind leg relaxed. A little after midnight his restlessness became a moving command, and he picked his way down to the trail, turned south, and opened into a swinging trot. Only Sage saw him go.
First dawn made a secret light over the great plateau before Bar slackened his pace. He stopped four times on one brush covered dome girdled by the trail, and cast with his tail up, and took the wind. When his excitement escaped in a high, vibrating blast, it was answered at once from above him. He swung, whinnying again, and ascended in long, driving strides, his scanty mane and tail of youth bannered behind him. On the summit he drew up in martial pose.
Across the dome, huge in the colorless light, his long mane sailing, his plume sweeping brush, stood Nomad, on three legs. The fourth was queerly bent, and bore no weight. Bar shrilled and stepped nervously, filled with dread of this master, feeling again the nips and shoulder blows Nomad had used daily to remind him he was a stripling. As he drew to battle, this dread was like seed barbs in him, yet he cantered proudly along a crescent aimed to come home against Nomad’s strong shoulder. It was a lofty and impudent approach, but also more, for when Nomad trumpeted again to check him, he broke into a gallop. Nomad shifted on the one great foreleg, so that the charge glanced off, and when Bar spun back, reared and broke his rise with a blow which nearly threw him, but Nomad could not follow up. They sounded and milled, Bar parading, Nomad pivoting slowly in the center with his neck stretched out. Bar struck diagonally at the bulging shoulder, and Nomad could not meet him with weight, and his teeth clacked in air. Bar continued the light flank attacks, slashing with his teeth, sometimes driving a rear hoof against the great barrel as he went away. Only once, over-confident from a dozen free sallies, he was slow to swing off, and was struck by both teeth and fore-hoof, so that his hind quarters winced under, and then nearly sank. Then he was consistently cautious, attacking fleetly in passing, and awaiting his break. It would come. Already Nomad, weary from enduring the broken leg, breathed like the rattle of drums, and rose more slowly against each charge. The smell of his fear began in the air, even over the trampled sage. It was a slow battle, but over by sunrise. There came finally the charge that Nomad could neither avoid nor meet in time, and then Bar did not swerve. Nomad squealed furiously, but fell, the broken leg refusing, and screamed so the wide valley echoed across. Bar whirled and crashed his hind hoofs against the great head struggling snake-like to come up, and the scream broke, and then the echo after it, in separate agony. Bar trampled in the dark skull, and when the first fluence the public!? If the American people ignored Wood-row Wilson and were “responsible for the collapse of the other peace,” were they not influenced by the Senator Lodges of the day and by the isolationist press? Apparently sure that the people will follow through this time, Mr. Johnson concludes: “Once the American decides that it is his duty to support law and order throughout the world, he will do just that.” If our soldier is fighting to put an end to lawlessness and disorder throughout the world, in an age when isolation for America is impossible, he should have better assurance than that a capricious people may or may not make up their minds to fix the guarantees of victory in the peace!
As to politicalizing the man on the military front, there would be many different opinions, most of them adverse at first, because all too many people naively think politics and war are entirely separate spheres. Tell that to Hitler!
Those who have been poking holes in the Four Freedoms, or trying to tie a “fifth freedom” joker to the four, would oppose the idea. They would say, “Pass the ammunition along to the boys—theirs not to reason why.” Those who criticize Mr. Wallace’s speech as “lacking in constructive suggestion for post-war reconstruction,” as did the editor of a religious magazine, probably would recommend more Bibles and chaplains. Others, thinking of politics in the ward-heeler sense, would hoot at the very idea and say, “Send the boys smokes and knitting.” Probably only the liberals, in whatever party, would favor sending political as well as religious commissars to indoctrinate the man who, we hope and pray, will live rather than die for what he’s fighting for.
Once having clearly and unreservedly stated our war aims, making them as official as our declaration of war and our fighters with doses of ideology.
We indoctrinate our man in uniform over the world in other ways. Wherever he goes, the Christian Herald tells us, he will “find Christian Endeavor to welcome him.” Christian Endeavor is international, with units in more than fifty countries—Australia, China, India, and every European country save Denmark. If it seemed inconvenient for the man in camp to read about the war’s underlying political realities, we might note another quotation from the Christian Herald: “First at Bataan and later on Corregidor, there was a young lieutenant of the Marines who as a Christian Endeavor took his faith with him into battle. He invited the men of his command to join him for a quiet moment with The Book and God before the day’s horrors began. . . . What fascinates most about this is the tremendous influence it will have on the Church and the world when the fighting is done.” Influence on the world after the war, when the soldier comes back—that’s what we are mainly discussing here.
In similar fashion, why not sec to it that the secular doctrine of freedom and democracy be sent to the soldier in a “war and peace aims” kit?
It may he true, or largely a publisher’s blurb, that millions of copies of Elbert Hubbard’s “The Message to Garcia” were bought by both nations in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and distributed to their opposing armies to inspire loyalty and morale. Profitable it was for the sagacious Fra Elbertus that he could thus inspire soldiers of both aggressor and defender 1 Why could not our Government pack millions of kits with inspirational Freedom literature, breaking it down in terms of everyday blessings, and send the packs to the soldiers on all fronts? It would be a kind of inspiration which the Axis could not afford for its armies to absorb.
sun showed on the peaks in the west, stood and sounded his triumph, his hoofs stained crimson to the fetlock.
Sage was too wise to bear green triumph unchecked. The remuda was gone from the spring, and only two red steers were there, drinking slowly in the dancing heat. When Bar nickered, they raised dripping muzzles and stared at him glassily, their ears twitching against flies, and again drank. A strength Bar had never perceived was fallen away, leaving him without will. He circled on the meadow and the slopes, pausing and whinnying like a colt. The spring was beyond the range he knew, and the desire increased to return to familiar land, to the naked hills south, and the trails along the lake cliffs. At noon he was passing under the battle dome again. He saw the great, loose wings of a vulture settling above, and heard a small squabbling as it sank from sight.
Through four days he raced, with growing panic, on the old trails, seldom grazing, and never sleeping. His ribs emerged, his hardened wounds ached, and he became crazy with weariness, seeing the remuda on shimmering dry lakes, or far down valleys where there was nothing. When he was unable to run steadily, he turned north again towards the sour spring, stopping often to rest and pull at the yellow bunch grass. He took three days for the journey, and curiously went over the battle hill. Nomad’s bones were already a nearly odorless white arch, and the military ants foraged in fragments of hide. He came to the spring at sunset of the seventh day, and the remuda was there.
His vexation returned, and he selected the yearling Rocky as his victim. When he blared, the remuda lifted startled heads and then scattered watchfully. Rocky nickered and cast in short, aimless runs because Bar blocked the open below him. But when Bar lifted towards the colt, Sage lumbered between them, and when he swung right to pass, bared her teeth and nipped him. He twisted aside, posed, and challenged again, but on descending scale and only to save his pride. Then he went up to the spring and drank, and returned to graze apart from the others, who lifted their heads with sudden jerks whenever he moved out of sight. Rocky grazed most nervously of all, and always near Sage.
For two days Sage heavily resisted Bar’s efforts to put the remuda on the trail. Once, when he bullied it into motion, blocking each turn with ears laid back, Sage appeared to surrender, gallumped into the lead, and with turning head watched Bar working the rear, as she had watched for Nomad’s orders. At the first Y, however, she swung into a pass to the left, and an hour later brought them down through the rattling shale to the spring again. Bar gave up, and contented himself with look-out excursions to near heights. The next day, in the shadowy cold before sunrise, Sage took the trail south, walking, and watching over her shoulder. Bar fumed and delayed, but at last drove the others up in a thundering bunch. Sage broke into the trail trot, and the remuda drew into file and became intent upon making distance. Sage continued to watch Bar, and for the first time he felt the urge of duty rather than pride, and chivied constantly along the flanks, or surged up to look-outs. When he drew abreast of Sage, she slowed to a walk or stopped, and the remuda fell apart to individual grazing. Before evening, Bar understood that he must work the rear only, and create no confusion of leadership.
In the following days Sage led over all the home trails, and Bar watched her steadily, learning to work by her lead, to select his look-outs, to chivy the remuda according to their natures, and give them the rest they needed. There was yet the master maneuver, which must await chance.
The chance came early in an afternoon in summer, while the remuda went south on a wagon road beside the shallow lake east of the big lake mountains. The air was still, and dust hung over the slow march and settled languidly behind. The only movement on the lake was of reflected heat waves on reflected chalky mountains. Insects clacked and sang in the brush. When Sage nickered gently in this silence, the remuda stopped and looked about with lifted heads. Then they all watched the tiny mark under its puff of dust far ahead. Something from the past nudged in Bar. The remuda spread into the brush, and alternately grazed and looked. Bar stirred uneasily about the edges, but Sage continued the grazing walk towards a fork, whence a wavering white trail climbed up through the gray and disappeared over a saddleback in the mountains between the lakes. At the fork they saw that the dust was made by three Indian riders in sombreros, two men and a boy. Bar began to chivy the remuda, but Sage balked, and they fanned out and resumed their nervous grazing. Bar shrilled lightly in protest, but stopped chivying, and Sage went on. The Indians turned up into the brush and separated widely, but still walked their mounts. Where a fainter trace went northwest from the saddleback road into the mountains, Sage stopped again. Most of the excited remuda pressed past her onto the saddleback road, but three turned into the trace and began to trot. Bar swung, plume raised, to chivy them back. The Indians lifted their ponies into a lope and began to cry shrilly, “Yippee, yippee, yippee.” Sage nipped the horses on the road into a lope also, Rocky on their rear, but swung against Bar and the other three. Bar blared at her, but she forced them back into the trace, and then, with her ears flattened, drove him up into the lead. He had never seen her so furious. He broke into a gallop, but kept swinging to watch her. When she stopped, he started to double, but she charged him again. Then he understood, and opening into a long lope, led the three up the trace, swinging only his head to watch Sage. She turned and went back through the brush in a heavy, weaving gallop. Before the main remuda, tiny with distance, disappeared over the saddleback, its dust streaming east in the wind from the big lake, she was leading again. The Indians stopped yipping, reined in one at a time, drew slowly together and turned back down towards the wagon road.
Bar kept his charges up to the lope until they came into a concealing pass, then trotted, and when the pitch steepened, let down to a steady, heaving walk. At the summit the expanse of the great lake opened below, rimmed with white rock. White, pointed islands stood up in the haze in the far north. During the descent manes and tails blew over to the cliff wall. An hour later the remuda was joined on the shore, and Bar had learned the split flight.
Sage taught Bar his place in me generation of the remuda also. When he attempted to seal his succession to Nomad upon her, she repulsed him, twice gently, but the third time savagely and finally. The stately, eight year old roan, Blue, who had been Nomad’s last favorite, also resisted him for two seasons. He selected, then, the trim and virginal sorrel, Fan, as his delight, though proving her election not by monogamous neglect of the others, but by delicate commonplaces, by protecting choice grazing bits for her, letting her drink first at the wells, and never nipping her when he chivied. All the mares, Sage helping viciously, taught him to let alone even the meekest mare when she was closed against him and already in love with the foal to come. And in spring, when the desert was sweet with tiny blossoms and flowering bushes, though snow still lay in the creases of the hills, he learned another limitation of his power.
The remuda, ragged from winter, drank snow water in a ravine. There had been a light rain at noon. The diffused sunlight made blue shadows of the new aspens, and high over the canyon, thin, windy vapors melted into azure. When they were cropping, a heavy bay mare, for whom they had stopped often on the trail, lifted her head as if stung, and nickered. Head lowered, but still nickering, she walked slowly down from the remuda. When Bar, irritated by her complaints, would have chivied her back, Sage thwarted him. He blew, and ran in circles, but Sage blocked each sally until the mare had gone slowly out of sight around the north wing of the canyon. At sunset Bar wanted to herd the remuda to a wind-break miles from the water, his habit when close to the reservation, but Sage prevented this also.
The bay mare returned in mid-morning, thin, and walking slowly, with many waits for the new foal. At sight of the erratic dwarf, Bar turned restlessly about and whistled. He reared and dropped and began to dance with light, rhythmic thunder in an arc towards the flank where the foal pressed. This rage was a new kind, squeamish and curdling, so that his lips curled back and his ears flattened without his knowing it. The tired mare extended her head at him with the same expression. But before he could reach her, Sage attacked him furiously and without warning, and when he wheeled again to come in, turned her heels to him, kicking repeatedly, so that he shied away. His murderous seizure returned several times during a day of uneasy grazing and short, fitful runs, but Sage blocked him each time. The remuda remained near the creek for three days, until the bay mare and her foal could travel. Thereafter Bar had few such rages, though he remained uneasy at each foal.
In the years before Sage resigned, Bar also learned battle. His first challenge came at a strange time, and from an unknown. The remuda was moving south at quick-trot under a gray sky, and kept behind a ridge for shelter from a northwest wind full of the smell of snow. There was already a thin snow on the desert, through which brush and rocks protruded with startling individuality. There is only one fear before a blizzard. Bar neglected his look-outs and drove the file steadily before him. The colors showed proudly on the snow, his own iron gray with the black bar along the spine and the black plumes, old Sage’s dapple, the many bays, bright Fan, the roan Blue, Rocky, black as his sire and starred, the buckskin mare Tinto, and Cloud, Bar’s son by Tinto, a queer powder gray colt with white crest and plume and one white eye, the dark pupil of which gave him a wild and evil look. Even in this lee the wind wrapped their tails to their haunches and blew their manes ahead like flags.
The first challenge was diminutive as the whinin of an insect, yet Bar winced, as if from Nomad’s teeth. Then he blared and chivied the remuda to a gallop, and swung back from it to stand listening. The second blast came with the wind, high and prolonged, and Bar discovered the enemy. He stood silhouetted on the ridge, his full mane and tail blown about him like smoke. Bar turned his head and saw the remuda going away well, and turned back and sounded his defiance. The intruder blared once more, dropped from the ridge, and raced in a long diagonal down slope. He was a long backed harlequin pinto with short legs which fled under him nimbly, and so big a head on a short neck that he seemed to run without lift, like a coursing dog. Bar could not meet this dropping charge at a standstill. Sounding nervously, he swung away in a half circle, plume lifted. The pinto swerved out of the line of charge into the flat and stopped, head high. Bar charged first, but at once the pinto matched his advance. When they closed, and Bar reared, squealing, to crush, the pinto ran under, making a long incision, like the rip of a hot point, in Bar’s flank. He swung back before Bar could pivot and gouged his haunch and struck once with a forehoof. He was much shorter than Bar, but his chest and shoulders were heavy, and his small hoofs wickedly rapid and sharp. Mature and mettled, and quicker in every maneuver, he nearly reversed against Bar his own victory over Nomad. Bar, rearing and hammering at each charge, was repeatedly marked and bruised. The thin snow about the trample was pencilled by flying streaks of his blood. It was perhaps a slip that saved him from defeat. Querulous with rage and growing fear, he reared once with his hind hoofs badly set, and fell against the pinto. His own fall checked, he recovered first, and as the pinto tried to double out, struck him behind the shoulder, bowled him over and hammered twice before the pinto rolled free and scrambled away to his feet. After that he met each charge on the level, slashed the harlequin often, and gradually took the offensive. Shunted off by the great weight, the harlequin in his turn began to rear and flail, twisting his head to get under Bar’s teeth to his neck. In these tactics he was not Bar’s equal. His white neck and shoulders blossomed and grew running streamers of red. Bar’s fury became a desire to annihilate. He pressed so constantly, shouldering, hammering, biting, that at last the pinto looked only for escape, and cried dread at each clash. Finally, only half rising against Bar’s rearing drive, he ducked under the great forehoofs and made his break, running for the open with streaming tail. Bar followed heavily. The pinto turned like a rabbit, drove up the slope zig-zag, and dropped from sight. From the ridge Bar saw him, like a little constellation of black stars, far out on the level and flying west, and abandoned the chase with a last high bugle of contempt.
The slight second combat came in his fourth year. It broke on a clear night on the north shore, when Rocky, too long with the remuda, climbed Fan as she drank. Their commotion was loud in the still darkness. When Bar sounded, Rocky splashed off to the shore, but only half met the first charge, with a false challenge that rang in the stone islands, and then fled up through the boulders. Bar closed on his haunch five times, and each time Rocky squealed like a mare or a scared colt. Bar’s anger waned. He stopped and sounded once more. Rocky’s shadow swam small across the stars in the north-east, and he was gone.
Later Bar ejected Cloud, though not so easily.
After the first split remuda, Bar brought his charges off safely from three other human encounters, and began to feel easy about men. The fourth adventure, however, shook him into permanent caution. Fortunately for the remuda this occurred when Sage, steadily opposing Bar’s efforts to induct Fan, had promoted Blue to brood mare, and when she was established, had taken her own weakness off one night into the back hills to die.
There had been a dry spring after a winter of little snow, and both water and grass were gone from the home range. The remuda had gradually moved into a region unknown even to Nomad, the higher mountains north-west of the lake, where there were meadow ponds in which the water grass stood and the little frogs piped in the evenings, and where the mid-day air was full of the smell of rosin. Slowly, through the summer, they grazed southward and early in a September morning were coming down a canyon through stones and aspen leaves, with the sun in their faces. For some minutes the air had made Bar uneasy, but it was motionless, and the creek under them covered other noises. The uneasiness did not mature.
At the mouth of the canyon Blue stopped and swerved back, throwing the remuda into disorder. Bar came down the side angrily, but also checked. In a clearing, walled below by cottonwoods, was a gray barn, and a split-rail corral holding four jumping stands. At the corral fence stood two men in leather chaps, talking. One of them had one foot up on a rail, and was smoking a cigarette, which made the smell Bar had disliked. Two saddled ponies stood behind the men. The men saw the remuda, and at once the one heeled out his cigarette and they ran for the ponies, speaking short words in a changed way.
Bar felt behind him the stiff climb and the traps of the blind ravines, and that there was no time to chivy. Shrilling his order, he broke down slope into a wild gallop. Blue slithered on the creek bank, clambered, and came down after him, and then the remuda, with Cloud the second, who had two white eyes, tailing. Bar drummed onto a road through the cottonwoods, slacked until Blue closed, and rolled forward thunderously. The dust of their start hung in the canyon mouth. They flashed into sunlight past a long screened porch where people jumped up and called out, again fled under big trees, and emerged onto a long, grassy lane going down hill before them between a fence and thick brush along the creek. The human crying faded back, but then to intercept him. Bar slacked off, and Rocky walked at him again. Bar posed, and nickered his irritation. This new, intangible force shouldered him wherever he moved. He turned and ran north again. Rocky followed, but slowly, and Bar thrilled with confidence again, sounded it, and stretched.
An hour later, the pursuit long out of sight, he crossed a saddleback, dropped to the flats, and ran south among the spasms of dust. He made many checks, but nothing appeared, and at last he trotted and began to regather the remuda in his mind. On a sandy rise he walked, but at its crest spun back in dismay, for Rocky stood close below, and the eyes of the thin rider stared up. Bar sensed their freshness as he cast right and left for the open and was always blocked, and at last turned up into the betraying pass and climbed without restraint. Clear distance was his only hope against this phantom of a greater horse that thought ahead of him. From the summit he fled down and north again in the late sunlight, against his yearning to go south, and did not slacken until he had made a rise nearly at his first crossing. From there, shaken by his breathing, he saw Rocky and the rider, tiny in the red light and nearly out to the road again. He sounded, and the figurine lifted a sombrero in token of defeat. Bar recrossed the hills, went slowly south in the dark, and picked up the two mares at dawn. It was sunset of the second day before the full remuda was joined, north of the shallow lake.
In time, Bar’s domination became absolute. He drove Cloud the second from the remuda less than a month after the long chase, eliminated two others before they were old enough to offer contest, and tolerated a third, the pinto Paint, because he remained small. In his tenth year, Blue felt her weakness beginning, and selected the quiet buckskin, Snow, as her understudy, but on the remuda’s first move after Blue’s death, Bar forcibly installed Fan, the last of his charges who remembered Nomad, and there was no longer even a silent question of his complete control. Yet vestiges of his early humiliation under Sage made him jealous of his power, and he began to develop the crotchets of an aging autocrat, becoming sharp and sudden even with foolish colts, and punishing the most trivial deviations with wicked severity. The subservient Fan afforded the remuda no defense against any of his whims. When he was fifteen, still giving little physical indication of this slow failing, an unknown buckskin made the first challenge against him in years, and though Bar beat him off, he could not break him, and was weary and evil tempered for days, harrying the feckless Paint without mercy. It was under a new kind of enemy, however, that the remuda first clearly perceived his aging.
They were standing in the winter sun on the north shore, their sterns to the wind which fretted the lake, and in the blast did not immediately recognize the sound as new. Finally they lifted their ears, and then milled gently. Bar scouted out, nickering, and Fan, because the drone seemed to come from everywhere, could not lead off. Nothing had ever taught them to fear sky or to expect such speed, and when at last they saw the monoplane because it gleamed in the instant of banking towards them, they milled wildly, and then, at its incredibly swift enlargement and increase of voice, became witless and exploded in all directions up the slope. Bar also felt the panic, but even more the insubordination, and spun and reared, but could not even hear his own challenge, and lost the foe over him before he could reach once, and then saw its great shadow sweep upslope over the scattering mares and wink off on the crest. Running and blaring, he turned the mares, but before they were joined the monoplane, which had circled behind the ridge and the islands to the west, came at them again from the water. Four times it circled and dove roaring, and then, when even Bar broke towards the islands, followed little groups of two and three far beyond the ridge, to the east, to the north, to the west, and only at dusk fled away again over the chapped waters into the south-west, leaving the wind alone. It required four days to reform the remuda, and Paint brought home more than Bar, who even then was so spent that for a week he made their movements too short and slow to j please them.
The first actual break in his control came three months ’ later, in the long veils of spring rain in the big open to the north. There the remuda again heard the drone, and began j to mill widely in spite of Bar’s summons. When he began to lead south-east at a run, however, they followed at once, though bunched. The monoplane swooped down over them twice from the rear, but having headway they only swelled apart a little at each dive and then drew together again. The first losses were four new foals, one driven under in the opening rush, and the others left behind. One of the mares was blind with panic and kept on with the remuda, but three swung back to their foals and were sheared off the course by a third roaring dive. When that roar receded to a drone, Bar went up on a low swell to call in the wandering. The remuda lost headway behind the uncertain Fan, and at the next dive, swept past her, disintegrating. Before Bar could pick them up, the plane changed tactics, circled wide into the south, and came back at the herd head on. and it broke wildly. Bar, rearing when the plane dove at him, so that it was forced to lift, galloped in great circles, blaring, and made short sorties after single mares, but each time the malicious enemy, roaring down close over its shadow, turned them again, and they scattered beyond hope. Then it charged repeatedly on Bar alone, until his great heart gave and he ran heavily north, shying away each time from its din and pummeling draft, and it did not leave him until the last sunlight shone through the rains over long shadows, miles north of the old sour spring.
He never recovered the full remuda. When he gave up, after a week of weary ranging, eight mares, two foals, and Paint, besides the dead, were still missing. From then on his age began to show dreadfully, and he often fell asleep in the sun or wandered slowly off by himself. It was in his heart that he must find Paint, slay him, and unite the remuda, but even this knowledge was a burden.
As it was, he did not have to find Paint. Three weeks after the remuda had been broken, the pinto came in alone. Bar’s moment of the desire to kill passed. Paint offered no defense, but waited with his head down. His neck and flanks were torn, and where his left eye had been was only a festered swelling. The summer flies crept in his wounds. Bar drove him off without battle or triumph.
It was September before the full remuda was joined again. Bar’s herd had watered at dawn in a canyon north of the deserted mine, and were grazing downslope towards the lake. One of the younger mares first lifted her head and nickered gently, and then all stood listening. From the high trail on the cliff to the north came the faint and fluctuating sound of multiple trotting and the rattling of pebbles. Bar’s heart beat heavily between hope and dread, but when Fan neighed and was answered, and the little herd turned north, he checked them with a flash of the old authority, and beat out alone, head up and banners flying. A repeated challenge from the heights echoed like brass in the canyons, and scared four white pelicans from the shore out over the glassy water. Bar pressed up to a rocking gallop. The newcomers waited on the trail down from the cliff to the inner end of a canyon. Snow stood at their head. Bar slowed and circled, sounding, and blew again, very high and long, when he saw the challenger drop from the trail straight down under dust, and knew him, even at that distance, as Cloud the first. He lifted and rolled forward again.
They met midway between the remudas, on a great delta of gravel from the cliffs. Huge and widely separate boulders stood like monuments upon the delta. The upper field was still in the shadow of the cliffs, but the arena was in sunlight, and the two stallions brought long shadows with them, across the fixed shadows of the boulders. It was a long battle, but after the first few minutes its issue was clear. Cloud was nearly as big as his father, and newly come into the mettle Bar had lost. Bar staked all in a first fury, and Cloud met it and survived, turning as many charges as turned him, and won the offensive. Then Bar, waiting, lifting only slightly against the attacks, his breath coming in whistles, looked the old champion. In the searching light his bones made shadows and ancient scars showed through the thinning coat. Cloud was himself too massive to use destroyer tactics well, and tried to make each shock full, feeling his impetus gradually take toll. Twice, slipping his head under, but caught by the neck, he found the old stallion’s teeth worn and easily bearable.
For two hours of pausing, circling, charging over the same arena, the battle continued in an increasing dance of heat. Then Bar, no longer actively defending, but too exhausted and embittered to feel fear, simply bore the steady hammering of his young foe. Yet he would not fall, but with his feet planted wide, turned his front slowly, kept his long head snaked out with the lips curled back, and in the pauses balanced there, waiting, one side of his head and neck shining with blood, his body hung with a net of blood. Cloud’s temper sagged against this stubborn weight. He attacked wearily, and the battle became so slow that Bar’s blood made patches rather than flung marks upon the sand and gravel. In the end the veteran’s legs failed him, and Cloud, in a flurry of hope, drove him against a great boulder and hammered him to his knees. Then Bar wished to escape. It was not fear, but a dull yearning, like irresistible sleepiness, to avoid further punishment. After two beaten tries, he heaved himself to his feet again, and Cloud, spent in that burst, let him go, only chivying him southward by stages, tormenting him until he stood, then freeing him again. On the ridge of the peninsula south of the old mine, the new master, white banners flying and white eye shining, sounded a final, shivering triumph, and swung back to take up his command.
Diminutive on the descending track, Bar went very slowly south past the white stones like a sphinx and the brown island like a pyramid in the blue water. He stopped often to rest, but without raising his head.