New Zealand Tablet, Rōrahi IX, Putanga 468, 31 Poutūterangi 1882, Page 7
A BUOAD prarie with blue-topped mountains fifty miles to the right — a column of cavalry riding by fours at a walk — a dozen white-topped wagons — a rear guard — and while you are looking at the picture you notice a slight commotion among the score of troopers following the wagons. What is it ? Nothing — nothing but a troop horse taken suddenly ill after days of hard riding and poor povender. The cruel spur urges him along for a few rods further, but then he stops and groans and shivers, and it is evident that he will soon fall. Trooper and saddle are off in an instant, and the gallant old horse, bearing the scars of war and faithful to the end, falls down to the ground and seems to be struggling with death. In five minutes the marching column has passed almost beyond hearing, and in another five the body of the poor old horsa on the grass is almost hidden from the view of the men in the saddle. The wagons are not three miles away when strange shadows begin to dance about on the grass around the horse. He is not dead. The terrible pains which racked him, caused perhaps by a poisonous weed, have passed away, and though weak and dripping with perspiration he feels life coming back to him. He raises his head to look at the shadows. How swiftly they flit to and fro ! How curiously they cross each other's track. Shadows, and yet the horse sees nothing but grass and flowers and weeds on every side. " Croak I Croak ! Croak !" Ah, there is the clue to the strange shadows. Five hundred feet abovojhis head there are a score of buzzards sailing to and fro, and the horse i« on bis feet before the last hoaise note has been uttered. Does he realise that the buzzards saw him from afar off find called each other to the feast ? If not, why did their direful croaks bring him to his feet, and why does he tremble as he gazes after the disappearing columns ? " Croak ! Croak 1 Croak I" The tone has changed. The call betrays surprise and anger, and the birds rise a little. The horse is moving away. His steps are slow and shoit, but his eyes are fastened on the far-away wagons. He trembles with fear as he hears the flap of wings above his head and sees the strange shadows flitting over the grass before him, but desperation has nerved him as it nerves the man who sees but one chance for life. His steps ejrow steadier and bis limbs feel stronger as he moves onward, and the angry and disappointed buzzards are lising higher and higher, when the horse suddenly stops. What is that ? Off to the left and a hundred rods ahead a gray object comes creeping out of a hidden ravine and skulks through the grass. Then a sec jnd — a third — a dozen. Shadows? No. They are wolves. As long as he kept moving the buzzards dared not descend, and here was a new and savage foe from which the fleetest horse could hardly escape. Now they divide to the right and left to form a circle, and the buzzards descend again and unnerve the poor beast with *their ominous cries. Is there no hope ? Bracing himself just a3 a man would to take advantage of a desperate chance, the horse suddenly darted forward on the trail at a gallop. To reach the wagons was to live on ; to fail now was to he dragged down and torn to pieces while alive. A sharp cry from the buzzards — a howl from the wolves— and the race had begun. Brave old troop-horse ! Eery leap was a gain on the wagons
— every rod opened a new chance for life. Fear made him forget those racking pains — terror gave him such speed as he had never shown. He was out of the circle. With ears laid back and head' pointed straight for the wagons, he was leaving the red-mouthed wolves behind. Hurrah. No. Out from the grass — from hidden gulch or grass-grown buffalo wallow more wolves appear, as if stationed there and told to wait their time. They are right ahead of him. With a groan of despair the horse swerves to the right, but it is too late. The old paina come back — great clouds of foam fly from his mouth to stain the grass, and all of a sudden he plunges forward to rise no more. Next instant there is a struggling, fighting, yelping ma3S of gray covering the spot, and the air is rent with one long quivering shriek of agony which the buzzards catch up in wild delight. An hour hence a trampled spot, a stain of blood and a few bones will catch the red man's eye for an instant as he rides apace, but the gorged wolves will have hidden away and the buzzards be watching elsewhere. — Exchange.