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The War Trail The Hunt of the Wild Horse

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Land of the nopal and maguey—home of Moctezuma and Malinché!—I cannot wring thy memories from my heart! Years may roll on, hand wax weak, and heart grow old, but never till both are cold can I forget thee! I would not; for thee would I remember. Not for all the world would I bathe my soul in the waters of Lethe. Blessed be memory for thy sake!

Bright land of Anahuac! my spirit mounts upon the aerial wings of Fancy, and once more I stand upon thy shores! Over thy broad savannahs I spur my noble steed, whose joyous neigh tells that he too is inspired by the scene. I rest under the shade of the corozo palm, and quaff the wine of the acrocomia. I climb thy mountains of amygdaloid and porphyry—thy crags of quartz, that yield the white silver and the yellow gold. I cross thy fields of lava, rugged in outline, and yet more rugged with their coverture of strange vegetable forms—acacias and cactus, yuccas and zamias. I traverse thy table-plains through bristling rows of giant aloes, whose sparkling juice cheers me on my path. I stand upon the limits of eternal snow, crushing the Alpine lichen under my heel; while down in the deep barranca, far down below, I behold the feathery fronds of the palm, the wax-like foliage of the orange, the broad shining leaves of the pothos, of arums, and bananas! O that I could again look with living eye on these bright pictures, that even thus palely outlined upon the retina of memory, impart pleasure to my soul!

Land of Moctezuma! I have other souvenirs of thee, more deeply graven on my memory than these pictures of peace. Thou recallest scenes of war. I traversed thy fields a foeman—sword in hand—and now, after years gone by, many a wild scene of soldier-life springs up before me with all the vividness of reality.

The Bivouac!—I sit by the night camp-fire; around are warlike forms and bearded faces. The blazing log reflects the sheen of arms and accoutrements—saddles, rifles, pistols, canteens, strewing the ground, or hanging from the branches of adjacent trees. Picketed steeds loom large in the darkness, their forms dimly outlined against the sombre background of the forest. A solitary palm stands near, its curving fronds looking hoary under the fire-light. The same light gleams upon the fluted columns of the great organ-cactus, upon agaves and bromelias, upon the silvery tillandsia, that drapes the tall trees as with a toga.

The wild tale is told—the song is sung—the jest goes round—the hoarse peal echoes through the aisles of the forest, frighting the parrot on its perch, and the wolf upon his prowl. Little reck they who sing, and jest, and laugh—little reck they of the morrow.

The Skirmish!—Morning breaks. The fragrant forest is silent, and the white blue light is just tinging the treetops. A shot rings upon the air: it is the warning-gun of the picket-sentinel, who comes galloping in upon the guard. The enemy approaches! ‘To horse!’ the bugle thrills in clear loud notes. The slumberers spring to their feet—they seize their rifles, pistols, and sabres, and dash through the smouldering fires till ashes cloud the air....