Dwellers in the Hills (Chapter 1, page 2 of 7)


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Chapter 1

Then he talked to the mare sometimes, as he was doing now. "There is a little ridge in the hoof, girl, but it won't crack; I know it won't crack." And, "This nail is too high. It is my fault. I was gabbin' when old Hornick drove it."

On his feet, he looked like a clothes-pin with the face of the strangest old child. He might have been one left from the race of Dwarfs who, tradition said, lived in the Hills before we came.

His mare was the mother of El Mahdi. I remember how Ump cried when the colt was born, and how he sat out in the rain, a miserable drenched rat, because his dear Bay Eagle was in the mysterious troubles of maternity, and because she must be very unhappy at being on the north side of the hill among the black hawthorn bushes, for that was a bad sign--the worst sign in the world--showing the devil would have his day with the colt now and then.

I used, when I was little, to hear talk once in a while of some very wonderful person whom men called a "genius," and of what it was to be a genius. The word puzzled me a good deal, because I could not understand what was meant when it was explained to me. I used to ponder over it, and hope that some day I might see one, which would be quite as wonderful, I had no doubt, as seeing the man out of the moon. Then, when El Mahdi came into his horse estate and our lives began to run together, I would lie awake at night trying to study out what sort of horse it was that deliberately walked off the high banks along the road, or pitched me out into the deep blue-grass, or over into the sedge bushes, when it occurred to him that life was monotonous, tumbling me upside down like a girl, although I could stick in my brother's big saddle when the Black Abbot was having a bad day,--and everybody knew the Black Abbot was the worst horse in the Hills.

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