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We had three or four days to spend in Topeka, as it was there that we were to purchase our outfit for the buffalo region. With the latter purpose in view, we were wandering along Kansas Avenue the next morning, when a horseman came furiously down the street, shouting, at the top of his lungs, "Sell um as he wars har!" Semi hastily retreated behind Mr. Colon, thinking it might be a Jayhawker, while the professor adjusted his glasses.

 

Muggs said the individual reminded him of the famous charge at Balaklava. Muggs had never seen Balaklava, but other Englishmen had, which answered the same purpose.

The equestrian proved to be a well-known auctioneer of Topeka, who may be discovered at almost any time tearing through the streets on some spavined or bow-legged old cob, auctioneering it off as he goes. His favorite expression is, "I'll sell um as he wars har." What particular selling charm lies concealed in this announcement even Gripe could not tell. Sachem thought that possibly he had been brought up at some exposed frontier post, where, on account of Indian prejudices, wearing hair is a rare luxury. To say there that a man was still able to comb his own scalp-lock denoted an extraordinary state of physical perfection. Expressions of praise for humans are often applied to horses, and so, perhaps, the one in question. "I have heard," quoth our alderman, in support of this assertion, "Fitz say of a belle, at a charity ball, what a 'bootiful cweature;' and I have heard him, the day after, in his stable, say the same thing of his horse."

That horse-auction was a sight worth seeing. The crowd collected most thickly on the corner of Kansas Avenue and Sixth Street, and before it the cob came to a stand. And it was a stand--as stiff and painful as that of a retired veteran put on dress parade. The limbs would have had full duty to perform in supporting the carcass alone, which had evidently been in light marching order for years past. The additional weight of the auctioneer must certainly have proved altogether too much, had not the horse heard, for the first time, of the wonderful qualities with which he was still endowed.

Seeing a whole corner, with gaping mouths, swallowing the statement that he was only six years old, reduced by hard work, and could, after three months grass, pull a ton of coal, he would have been a thankless horse indeed, which could not strain a point, or all his points, for such a rider.

BUREAU OF ILLUSTRATION_"SPERIT, GENTLEMEN!"

And so, when the spurs suddenly rattled against his ribs, the old skin full of bones gave a snort of pain, which the auctioneer called "Sperit, gentle_men_!" and away up the broad avenue he rolled, at a speed which threatened to break the rider's neck, and his own legs as well. His tail having been cut short in youth, and retrimmed in old age, the outfit made but a sorry figure going up the street. The Professor said it suggested the idea of some fossil vertabra, with a paint brush attached to its end, running away with a geological student.

After the return and cries for more bids, Muggs must have winked at the auctioneer--possibly, to slyly telegraph him the fact that in "Hengland" they were up to such games. At least the auctioneer so declared, and advancing the price one dollar in accordance therewith, finally knocked the brute down to him. Then the British wrath bubbled and boiled. The auctioneer was inexorable. Muggs _had_ winked, and that was an advanced bid, according to commercial custom the land over. Articles were often sold simply by the vibration of an eyelash, and not a word uttered.

The Professor remarked that in law winks would doubtless be accepted as evidence. It was a recognized principle of the statutes that he who winked at a matter acquiesced in it, and indeed such signals were often more expressive than words. Sachem sustained this point, and added further that he had known many a man's head broken on account of an injudicious wink.

The crowd, with almost unanimous voice, pronounced the auctioneer right and Muggs wrong.

"Me take the brute!" exclaimed the indignant Briton; "why he can 'ardly stand up long enough to be knocked down. Except in France, he could be put to no earthly use whatever. 'Is knees knock together in an ague quartette, and 'is tail--look at it! It's hincapable of knocking a fly off; looks more like flying off hitself!" Muggs further declared the sale was an attempt on the owner's part to evade the health officer, who would have been around, in a couple of days, to have the carcass removed.

The auctioneer waxed belligerent, the crowd noisy, and Muggs, like a true Englishman, secured peace at the price of British gold. The horse was on his hands, having barely escaped being on the town, and an enthusiastic crowd of urchins escorted the purchase to a livery stable. Muggs christened the animal Cynocephalus, and soon afterward sold him to Mr. Colon, who was of an economical turn, for the use of his son Semi.

"I have heard," said the thoughtful father, "that the buffalo grass of the plains is very nourishing. All that the poor steed needs is care and fat pastures. Semi can give him the former, and over the latter our future journey lies. I have also learned that what is especially needed in a hunting horse is steadiness, and this quality the animal certainly possesses."

From some months' acquaintance with the purchase, we can say that Cynocephalus was steady to a remarkable degree. We are firmly persuaded that a heavy battery might have fired a salute over his back without moving him, unless, possibly, the concussion knocked him down.

Our first hunting morning, the second day preceding our hegira westward, came to us with a clear sky, the sun shedding a mellow warmth, and the air full of those exhilarating qualities which our lungs afterward drank in so freely on the plains. Indian summer, delightful anywhere, is especially so in Kansas.

From the advance guard of the winter king not a single chilling zephyr steals forward among the tarrying ones of summer. Soothing and gentle as when laden with spicy fragrance south, they here shower the whole land with sunbeams. Earth no longer seems a heavy, inert mass, but floats in that smoky, fleecy atmosphere with which artists delight so much to wrap their angels. It is as if the warmer, lighter clouds of sunny weather were nestling close to earth, frightened from the skies, like a flock of white swans, at the October howls of winter. But I never could agree with those writers who call this season dreamy. If such it be, it is surely a dream of motion. All nature appears quickened. The inhabitants of the air have commenced their southern pilgrimage, and the oldest and leading ganders may be heard croaking, day-time and night-time, to their wedge-shaped flocks their narrative of summer experiences at the Arctic circle, and their commands for the present journey.

Sachem, I find, has recorded as a discovery in natural history that geese form their flocks in wedge shape that they may easier "make a split" for the south when Nature, with her north pole, stirs up their feeding and breeding-grounds in November gales, and changes their fields of operation into fields of ice. Sachem was sadly addicted to slang phrases.

All game, I may remark, is wilder at this season of the year than earlier. If the earth is dreaming, its wild inhabitants certainly are not. Men, too, have thrown off the summer lethargy, and shave their neighbors as closely as ever. If any one thinks it a dreamy season of the year, let him test the matter practically by being a day or two behindhand with a payment.

In reply to a question, the professor told us that the smoky condition of the atmosphere was probably caused by the exhalation of phosphorus from decaying vegetation. Sachem remarked that out of twenty different objects which he had submitted for examination, and as many questions that he had asked, nine-tenths of the results contained phosphorus in some shape. It was becoming monotonous and dangerous.

While the party thus mused and speculated, we had come out into the open country, south-west of town, and were now approaching Webster's Mound, a cone-shaped hill from which we afterward obtained some excellent views. For the trip we had been supplied with two dogs, one a setter, belonging to the private secretary of the Governor, and the other a pointer, the property of a real estate dealer. The former was an ancient and venerable animal. The rheumatism was seized of his backbone and held high revel upon the juices which should have lubricated the joints. Even his tail wagged with a jerk, inclining the body to whichever side it had last swung. He was so full of rheumatism that whenever he scented a chicken the pain evoked by the excitement caused him to howl with anguish. The pointer, per contra, was hale and swift, but had lost one eye; and a shot from the same charge which destroyed that organ, rattled also on his left ear-drum, and that membrane no longer responded to the shouts of the hunter. On one side he could see, and not hear--on the other, hear, but not see. Nevertheless, with gestures for the left view, and shouts on the right, fair work might still be obtained. Both dogs rejoiced in the uncommon name of Rover, and both possessed that most excellent of all points in such animals, a steady point.

If any of my readers are fond of field-sports, and have not yet shot prairie-chickens over a dog, let them take their guns and hie to the West, and taste for themselves of this rare sport. With the wide prairie around him, keeping the bird in full view during its passage through the air, one can choose his distance for firing and witness the full effect of his shot. I think the brief instant when the flight of the bird is checked and it drops head-foremost to earth, is the sweetest moment of all to the hunter.