The Steed "Oahu"

By Mark Twain
From The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Sketches (New York: C. H. Webb, 1867).


The landlord of the American hotel at Honolulu said the party had been gone nearly an hour, but that he could give me my choice of several horses that could easily overtake them. I said, Never mind -- I preferred a safe horse to a fast one -- I would like to have an excessively gentle horse -- a horse with no spirit whatever -- a lame one, if he had such a thing. Inside of five minutes I was mounted, and perfectly satisfied with my outfit. I had no time to label him, "This is a horse," and so if the public took him for a sheep I can not help it. I was satisfied, and that was the main thing. I could see that he had as many fine points as any man's horse, and I just hung my hat on one of them, behind the saddle, and swabbed the perspiration from my face and started. I named him after this island, "Oahu," (pronounced O-waw-hoo.) The first gate he came to he started in; I had neither whip nor spur, and so I simply argued the case with him. He firmly resisted argument, but ultimately yielded to insult and abuse. He backed out of that gate and steered for another one on the other side of the street. I triumphed by my former process. Within the next six hundred yards he crossed the street fourteen times, and attempted thirteen gates, and in the mean time the tropical sun was beating down and threatening to cave the top of my head in, and I was literally dripping with perspiration and profanity. (I am only human, and I was sorely aggravated; I shall behave better next time.) He quit the gate business after that, and went along peaceably enough, but absorbed in meditation. I noticed this latter circumstance, and it soon began to fill me with the gravest apprehension. I said to myself, This malignant brute is planning some new outrage -- some fresh deviltry or other; no horse ever thought over a subject so profoundly as this one is doing just for nothing. The more this thing preyed upon my mind the more uneasy I became, until at last the suspense became unbearable, and I dismounted to see if there was any thing wild in his eye; for I had heard that the eye of this noblest of our domestic animals is very expressive. I can not describe what a load of anxiety was lifted from my mind when I found that he was only asleep. I woke him up and started him into a faster walk, and then the inborn villainy of his nature came out again. He tried to climb over a stone wall five or six feet high. I saw that I must apply force to this horse, and that I might as well begin first as last. I plucked a stout switch from a tamarind tree, and the moment he saw it he gave in. He broke into a convulsive sort of a canter, which had three short steps in it and one long one, and reminded me alternately of the clattering shake of the great earthquake and the sweeping plunging of the Ajax in a storm.








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