“’Tell me how you came to fall, and then I will tell you how I happened to come to your aid. It seems to me this horse story must be queer.’
“I began my tale; but as soon as I spoke of Brutus’s efforts to unhorse me, and the two reports of the gun, she exclaimed:
“‘I understand, I understand. You have bought a circus charger.’
“‘A circus charger!’
“’Why, yes; that’s it, and that explains everything. You have seen twenty times at the Circus of the Empress the performance of the circus charger—the light-cavalryman who enters the arena on a gray horse, then the Arabs come and shoot at the cavalryman, who is wounded and falls; and as you didn’t fall, the horse, indignant and not understanding how you could so far forget your part, threw you on the ground. And when you were on the ground, what did the horse do?’
“I related Brutus’s little work in burying me suitably.
“‘The circus charger,’ she continued; ’still the circus charger. He sees his master wounded, the Arabs could come back and finish him, and so what does the horse do? He buries the cavalryman. Then goes off galloping, didn’t he?’
“‘Yes, on a hard gallop,’
“‘Carrying the flag, which is not to fall into the hands of the Arabs.’
“‘It’s my hat that he took.’
“‘He took what he could. And where does the circus charger gallop to?’
“‘Ah! I know, I know,’ I exclaimed, in my turn, ’he goes to get the sutler.’
“’Precisely. He goes to get the sutler; and the sutler to-day, if you please, is I, Countess of Noriolis. Your big gray horse galloped into my grounds. I was standing on the porch, putting on my gloves and ready to step into my carriage, when the stablemen came running, upon seeing that horse arrive saddled and bridled, without a rider, and a hat in his mouth. They tried to catch him, but he shunned them and escaped, and came straight to the porch, falling on his knees before me. The men approached, and once more tried to catch him; but he got up, galloped away, stopped by the gate of the grounds, turned around, and looked at me. He called to me—I assure you, he called to me. I told the men not to bother about the horse any more. Then I jumped into my carriage and started; the horse rushed into the woods; post-haste I followed him by paths that were not always intended for carriages; but still I followed him, and I arrived and found you.’
“At the moment Mme. de Noriolis was speaking those last words the carriage received a tremendous shock from behind; then we saw in the air Brutus’s head, which was held there upright as though by a miracle. For it was again Brutus. Mounted by Bob, he had followed the carriage for several minutes, and seeing that the back seat of the little pony-carriage was unoccupied, he had, like a true artist, cleverly seized the moment to give us a new proof of his talent in executing the most brilliant of his former performances. In one jump he had placed his fore-feet on the carriage, then, that done, he quietly continued trotting on his two hind-legs. Bob, distracted, with his body thrown over and his head thrown back, was making vain attempts to put the horse back on his four legs.