A HORSEMAN IN THE SKY
by Ambrose Bierce
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was born in Virginia. He loved his parents, his home and the south. But he
loved his country, too. And in the autumn of eighteen sixty-one, when the
United States was divided by a terrible civil war, Carter Druse, a
southerner, decided to join the Union Army of the north.
He told his father about his decision one morning at breakfast.
The older man looked at his only son for a moment, too shocked to speak.
Then he said, "As of this moment you are a traitor to the south. Please
don't tell your mother about your decision. She is
sick, and we both know
she has only a few weeks to live."
Carter's father paused, again looking deep into his son's eyes. "Carter,"
he said, "No matter what happens -- be sure you always do what you think
Both Carter Druse and his father left the table that morning with broken
hearts. And Carter soon left his home, and everyone he loved to wear the
blue uniform of the Union soldier.
One sunny afternoon, a few weeks later, Carter Druse lay with his face in
the dirt by the side of a road. He was on his stomach, his arms still
holding his gun. Carter would not receive a medal for his actions. In fact,
if his commanding officer were to see him, he would order Carter shot
For Carter was not dead or wounded. He was sleeping while on duty.
Fortunately, no one could see him. He was hidden by some
by the side of the road.
The road Carter Druse had been sent to guard was only a few miles from his
It began in a forest, down in the valley, and climbed up the side of a
huge rock. Anyone standing on the top of this high rock would be able to
see down into the valley. And that person would feel very
down. If he dropped a stone from the edge of this
cliff, it would fall for
six hundred meters before disappearing into the forest in the valley below.
Giant cliffs, like the one Carter lay on, surrounded the valley.
Hidden in the valley's forest were five union regiments -- thousands of
Carter's fellow soldiers. They had marched for thirty-six hours. Now they
were resting. But at midnight they would climb that road up the rocky
Their plan was to attack by surprise an army of southerners, camped on the
other side of the cliff. But if their enemy learned about the Union Army
hiding in the forest, the soldiers would find themselves in a
trap with no
escape. That was why Carter Druse had been sent to guard the road.
It was his duty to be sure that no enemy soldier, dressed in gray, spied
on the valley, where the union army was hiding.
But Carter Druse had fallen asleep. Suddenly, as if a messenger of
came to touch him on the shoulder, the young man opened his eyes. As he
lifted his head, he saw a man on horseback standing on the huge rocky
cliff that looked down into the valley.
The rider and his horse stood so still that they seemed made of stone. The
man's gray uniform blended with the blue sky and the white clouds behind
him. He held a gun in his right hand, and the horse's
reins in the other.
Carter could not see the man's face, because the rider was looking down
into the valley. But the man and his horse seemed to be of heroic, almost
gigantic size, standing there motionless against the sky. Carter
discovered he was very much afraid, even though he knew the enemy soldier
could not see him hiding in the bushes.
Suddenly the horse moved, pulling back its head from the edge of the cliff.
Carter was completely awake now. He raised his gun, pushing its barrel
through the bushes. And he aimed for the horseman's heart. A small
of the trigger, and Carter Druse would have done his duty.
At that instant, the horseman turned his head and looked in Carter's
direction. He seemed to look at Carter's face, into his eyes, and deep
into his brave, generous heart.
Carter's face became very white. His entire body began shaking. His mind
began to race, and in his fantasy, the horse and rider became black
figures, rising and falling in slow circles against a fiery red sky.
Carter did not pull the trigger. Instead, he let go of his gun and slowly
dropped his face until it rested again in the dirt.
Brave and strong as he was, Carter almost
fainted from the shock of what
he had seen.
Is it so terrible to kill an enemy who might kill you and your friends?
Carter knew that this man must be shot from
ambush -- without warning.
This man must die without a moment to prepare his soul; without even the
chance to say a silent prayer.
Slowly, a hope began to form in Carter Druse's mind. Perhaps the southern
soldier had not seen the northern troops.
Perhaps he was only admiring the view. Perhaps he would now turn and ride
Then Carter looked down into the valley so far below. He saw a line of men
in blue uniforms and their horses, slowly leaving the protection of the
forest. A foolish Union officer had permitted his soldiers to bring their
horses to drink at a small stream near the forest. And there they were --
in plain sight!
Carter Druse looked back to the man and horse standing there against the
sky. Again he took aim. But this time he pointed his gun at the horse.
Words rang in his head -- the last words his father ever spoke to him: "No
matter what happens, be sure you always do what you think is your duty."
Carter Druse was calm as he pulled the trigger of his gun.
At that moment, a Union officer happened to look up from his hiding place
near the edge of the forest. His eyes climbed to the top of the cliff that
looked over the valley. Just looking at the top of the gigantic rock, so
far above him, made the soldier feel dizzy.
And then the officer saw something that filled his heart with horror. A
man on a horse was riding down into the valley through the air!
The rider sat straight in his saddle. His hair streamed back, waving in
the wind. His left hand held his horse's reins while his right hand was
hidden in the cloud of the horse's mane. The horse looked as if it were
galloping across the earth. Its body was proud and noble.
As the frightened Union officer watched this horseman in the sky, he
almost believed he was witnessing a messenger from heaven. A messenger who
had come to announce the end of the world. The officer's legs grew weak,
and he fell. At almost the same instant, he heard a crashing sound in the
trees. The sound died without an echo. And all was silent.
The officer got to his feet, still
shaking. He went back to his camp. But
he didn't tell anyone what he had seen. He knew no one would ever believe
Soon after firing his gun, Carter Druse was joined by a Union sergeant.
Carter did not turn his head as the sergeant
kneeled beside him.
"Did you fire?" The sergeant whispered.
"A horse. It was on that rock. It's not there now. It went over the cliff."
Carter's face was white. But he showed no other sign of emotion. The
sergeant did not understand.
"See here, Druse," he said, after a moment's silence. "Why are you making
this into a mystery. I order you to report. Was there anyone on the horse?"
Escucha la pronunciación y lee el texto de nuevo.
·Southerner: a person who comes from the south of a country
·Sick: ill, not well
·Duty: something that you have to do because it is part of your job,
or something that you feel is the right thing to do
·Dirt: dust, earth or any substance that makes a surface not clean
·Wound: a damaged area of the body, such as a cut or hole in the skin or
flesh made by a weapon: Example: a gunshot wound
·Bush: a low densely branched shrub
·Huge: extremely large in size or amount
·Dizzy, dizzyness: having a whirling sensation in the head with a
tendency to fall
·Cliff: a high area of rock with a very steep side, often on a
·Trap: something by which one is caught or stopped unawares / a
device for taking animals
·Fate: the principle or determining cause or will by which things
in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as
they do (destiny)
·Rein: a long thin piece of material, especially leather, which
helps you to control and direct a horse
·To squeeze: to press something firmly
·Trigger: a part of a gun which causes the gun to fire when pressed
·To faint: lacking strength or vigor; performed, offered, or
accomplished weakly or languidly
·Ambush: to suddenly attack a person or a group of people after
hiding and waiting for them
·Careless: free from care
·Foolish: lacking in sense, judgment, or discretion
·Saddle: a girthed usually padded and leather-covered seat for the
rider of an animal (as a horse)
·Witness: a person who sees an event happening
·Shake: to move backwards and forwards or up and down in quick,
·Kneel: to bend the knee Kneeled (USA) Knelt (UK)
·Whisper: a way of speaking very quietly, using the breath but not
the voice, so that only the person close beside you can hear you
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