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In the Midst of the Marvelous

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Dear Marengo,

I was so worried when my last letter to you went unanswered. I thought you might have been hurt in battle, but I overheard Wellington, which is Wellesley's name now, say that the war was all over and we did not even really need horses to fight the last battle since it was mostly decided by dragons so I am hoping that only the letter got lost and you are well.

Oh my horsey God! You'll never guess what happened today. Well you won't have to guess because I am telling you smiley face. Today I met a dragon. I am sure you have seen dragons in battle too smiley face because after all you have been in many more battles than I have and your Napoleon had his own dragon and everything. But anyway, today a man from the Aerial Corps came to visit Wellington and his dragon landed in my paddock. Brackets that is the horse word for field close brackets.

At first I was very afraid of him brackets the dragon not the man close brackets but he said he would not eat me because I was a famous horse now smiley face and I can't tell you how happy that made me but then I was sad to think he might eat you so I asked him about you and he said he would not eat you either because you are famous too now that the war is over and we have driven off Napoleon with our dragons.

I am sorry for talking about the war because you're probably still sore about losing, aren't you? I hope this will not come between us. I think we have done very well together so far and I certainly do not hold it against you. Neither do any of the other horses here. They quite like me to tell them all about you, and all the battles I have been in, and they share their apples with me, and it is absolutely wonderful like you would not believe, I am telling you.

But I was telling you about the dragon. The way dragons list their lineage and breeds is similar to horses which you would know all about being as you are a horse as well, and this dragon was a big black one with whiskers all round his face and he said he was a Celestial. That sounds awfully rare to me exclamation point but I do not think it is as nice as being an Arabian because I quite like being an Arabian. Anyway I asked him about his lineage and he said his name was Temeraire and he was out of Lung Tien Qian by Lung Qin Gao which all sounded very strange to me but I am sure you will think it is a better name than Death to the French. Speaking of which, last week I wrote to Thunderclap out of Stormfront by Death to the French, which I am telling you about so that you know there is nothing to be jealous of because there is nothing between me and him and there never was and he wrote back and said that you were captured and you are here in England, which is why I am writing again so that I can address this letter properly and not have it get lost this time.

Anyway you must write back as soon as you can and let me know if it true and you are really here! Temeraire brackets who says he speaks French and obviously his name is French even though he is a Chinese breed and a British dragon and I don't understand it either close brackets is still here and he says he knows a messenger dragon who can have this letter delivered to you straightaway, so I will give this to him.

Kiss kiss hoofprint,

P. S. I hope you are not afraid of dragons like most horses are, a fact that you would know because you are also a horse, because probably a dragon will bring this letter to you.

P. P. S. Temeraire says that since you are French I should say that you are my petit chou which he says you will think is very romantic even if it does mean cabbage. So I will tell you that.

My dearest Copenhagen,

I received your letter with the greatest delight, even though it was brought to me by a dragon -- a little Greyling whose name seemed to be Volly, or at least that was as much of it as he could manage. Indeed, I have seen a great many dragons myself in my years of battle, and I feel that Napoleon would take issue with any description of Lien as "his dragon," for she was always very clear that she was her own creature. She said she was a Celestial as well, a truly rare Chinese breed, just like this Téméraire you have met. The world is small, hein?

Yes, it is true that after the Battle of Shoeburyness I was abandoned by my Napoleon -- who did not even ride me to the final battle -- and, having been left behind along with some of his other unwanted horses, I was sold afterwards to one of your lieutenant-colonels. Many people wish to see me now that he has been vanquished. I hope you will not think ill of me and, indeed, I am truly gratified by your most charming use of endearments toward my equine personage.

When I am not being paraded as a sign of my Napoleon's defeat, I am beginning to enjoy your country; I will admit in my old age that a pasture is perhaps more welcome than another campaign, and they have at least given me land that has not been overly disturbed in the ground-fighting. Hélas! How sad it is, now, that you are a war hero and I am in disgrace. You probably have very little time for me and are surrounded by many fine stallions. Are they tall? Dare I ask? No, no, I am being silly.

I only wish you to know that even in the depths of my despair, I think daily of you. I have seen an oil painting of you now, and you are most handsome yourself. Surely you cannot lack for companionship in these times.

With affection,

Dear Marengo,

Don't be silly, silly! Of course I have not forgotten about you! Oh, I am so excited that you are in England. We are in the same country now and can finally maybe meet each other smiley face. Of course we have probably been in the same country before when we were fighting the Napoleonic Wars and all, but it is different now, isn't it?

I am writing of course to ask about one tiny thing. It's nothing, really. Hardly worth the paper. It's not even a concern. I only thought I would ask while I was already writing.

You see, in the meantime, while I was waiting for your letter, I wrote to Thunderclap out of Stormfront by Death to the French, who I just want to say means nothing to me, and he wrote back and said that you were at stud in Cambridgeshire now. I hope this is not true frowny face for I have always been faithful to you except for that one time and that other time and that other time with the stallion who did that wonderful thing with his tail that I already talked about in previous letters.

You must write me back at once and tell me that these horrible rumors are not true. Temeraire brackets you remember him, he's the dragon close brackets is here again and can find a dragon to take you my letter but he says he thinks this is the last time. Wellington is cross with his captain for some reasons Temeraire says I would not understand, and he says he thinks they will soon be sent to Australia. I shouldn't like to go to Australia. I have heard it is wild and rough and not a very nice place for gay horses like us. Because of course you are still gay aren't you smiley face you wouldn't abandon me for mares, would you? Joke brackets not really close brackets.

Kiss kiss and a desperately-attempting-to-look-casual hoofprint,

Dear Copenhagen,

Oh, how I devoutly wish that I could tell you that these things were all lies. But hear me out, please, before you consign this letter to the flames of the dragon who has brought it. (She is one of our French Flammes-de-Gloire, you see, another prize of war taken in the same manner as I, and her own exhibitions across the country has sent her in your direction, as I hope someday that mine will, if I am again exhibited. Kindly do not mind the smoke, for I know that you are very brave.)

I cannot say that the rumors are untrue, for you have, to my regret, heard correctly. I am indeed at stud. But do not think that my affection for you has in any way faltered, my dear Copenhagen, for I will not let them breed me. The endless parade of mares holds no appeal, I assure you. I do not wish to cover any of them; I believe you well know my desires in this regard. I know that over the years you have written of some particularly... intriguing ideas. Believe me, please, when I say I think only of you.

In fact -- perhaps you will think me a foolish old pony in my hope, hein? -- if I may say so, every time another horse is brought to me I think now, now, will it be you? Perhaps one day they will permit us to meet. I am sure they will think our affaire de coeur most odd, non? Perhaps they expect already that we would hate each other, as enemies might. But I know I could not hate you, and I hope your regard for me continues apace.

I must end this letter here; the dragon is beginning to look testy, and there are too many flammable items nearby.

With all of my heart,

Marengo exclamation point!

I can't lie to you. Well, I suppose I could lie to you because this is a letter, but that would be a rotten thing to do, so I won't. Anyway. I was sad to hear that Thunderclap out of et cetera et cetera was right after all brackets and not only because he will be insufferable close brackets but I realize now that I am jealous of those mares. Even if you are not touching them, which of course I believe, they have the chance to and I don't. It isn't fair at all! I suppose you will say life isn't fair either.

But you shouldn't worry, because I still care about you. How could I not? We have stayed together this long, and I have had time to think now that I am not racing or fighting, while I was waiting for your letter; I am older than I was and I know I have done awfully mean things to you before. Oh, this is so hard to say, but what I am saying is that I am hoping I will stop being so stupid to you and I am sorry. And even if we don't ever meet I want you to know how much I look forward to every one of your letters. I have saved them all, even the ones where you were insulting England.

The Flamme-de-Gloire is helping me practice my French as well. She says I should say you are délicieux, but I think she is only saying that because she is hungry.

Kiss kiss,

Mon cher Copenhagen,

I thank you for your very fine French, although I hope you would not mean that adjective in quite the same way as a dragon would, yes? And I am most heartened by your reply.

If you are saving all the letters -- I am too, I must confess -- I think you will want to save this one. For I have news! With my career at stud having been, I am proud to say, a miserable failure for all concerned, they are sending me... to you. It is incroyable, non? I am not sure if you have heard yet, but I hear tell that the idea has been put to your Wellington, and he has accepted. I think he thinks it fitting that the horses of such rivals should meet. I will be sent to your estate, they tell me.

That is... if you want to see me still, Copenhagen. The years have not been kind to me, and I say this without even the slightest attempt to flatter myself. I was an old pony when you first wrote to me, and I am only older still. I would understand if you wish to keep our relationship purely epistolary; surely you have imagined me as much more suave and dashing than I am, for I have often taken pains with my letters to present myself as so worldly. But I am, in the end, a poor gray pony who bears a defeated man's brand.

Please write at once and let me know your thoughts. If you wish not to see me, I shall feign illness or some such thing. But if you did want to see me, oh, my Copenhagen -- you would make an old warhorse so happy!


Marengo exclamation point exclamation point!

I am dashing this off as fast I can, so you will know as soon as the dragon flies that my answer is yes, yes, of course! I would love to see you! More than anything! More than apples and rolling in the mud and even more than racing! It does not matter to me what you look like now, not in the slightest. Besides, I am older too. We must only promise not to look at each other's teeth. Brackets that is a joke I think you will get because you are a horse too close brackets.

Wellington told me I could expect you too, only I do not think he thought I understood him. I would tell you what I will be wearing, but since I am a horse it will be much the same as always. I hope one of the grooms at this estate will braid my mane and tail for you. I want to look special, you see. Oh my horsey God! I am not sure I can handle the excitement!

At any rate, I will be in the closest paddock to the road, where I am sure to see you as soon as you are here. I will be here every day! I will wait for you!

Kiss kiss hoofprint,


In a few days, then!

All my hopes,

Dear Diary,

To be honest, I am not sure why I am writing this. Yes, you are. Actually, Marengo wrote that bit there.

Marengo and I are not writing letters to each other anymore now that he is here and I can see him every day and he is as wonderful as I ever imagined and he can do even better things with his tail than anyone! I am not just saying that because he is looking at the paper as I am writing! But he says we should keep writing things down now that we've started! I don't know what he even writes; it's all in French.

Moi, je voudrais dire que je t'aime -- toi, mon cher cheval -- plus que les autres! Le sujet m'interesse, bien sûr, et j'écrirai de toi chaque jour. Simplement -- je suis content d'être avec toi, toi qui es le plus beau cheval du monde...

See? He took the paper away just now. He's always writing things like that and I don't even know what it means. He just says I have to learn more French. He swears it's good, though. Anyway, I would write more, but we're very... busy. Yes, busy. Marengo says French is good to write the naughty bits in. Or Latin, but I don't know any of that. Oh, now he says I have a lot of time to learn.

I'm going to stop writing now. He's nuzzling my mane.