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Title: Fables of Field and Staff - The March of the Forty Thieves—A Tale of Two Towers—One from the Veteran—Woodleigh, Q.M.—The Kerwick Cup—Officially Reported—Special Orders, No. 49
Author: Frye, James Albert
Language: English
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FABLES OF FIELD AND STAFF

by

JAMES ALBERT FRYE



Boston
The Colonial Company
1894

Copyright, 1893
BY
James Albert Frye

All rights reserved

Rockwell & Churchill Press Boston



    TO

    THE OFFICERS AND MEN

    OF THE

    VOLUNTEER SERVICE



PREFACE.


The seven fables flanked by the covers of this book have to do with as
many strange and wonderful happenings in the history of an infantry
regiment--an infantry regiment of volunteers--in time of peace. They
are seasoned abundantly, from end to end, with that which is stranger
than fiction, but they differ slightly from “muster-rolls for pay,”
which, I am informed, one has to submit under oath.

If you are of the volunteer service, you may be trusted, I think, to
catch the spirit of these stories; if you are of The Army, you may
consider the tales as illustrative of the customs of a service to which
your own is but distantly related; but if it is your great misfortune
to be an out-and-out civilian--why, then you must take your chance with
what follows, and lay no blame upon me should you find yourself on
unfamiliar ground.

In another and an earlier book I related how we of The Third came to
settle ourselves in our off-duty quarters up in The Battery; how Sam,
the veteran gunner of a by-gone war, won his medal, our most profound
respect, and a place among us second in importance only to that of the
colonel commanding; how our horse, “Acme,” gained for us great renown
and no little wealth; how Larry, our seventh major, rose to the rank of
hero; and many other odd truths concerning the Old Regiment. So it may
be that, by reason of having read these things, you are no stranger to
us, to our traditions, and to our easy-going ways. But even if to-day
you come for the first time into our midst, you are none the less
welcome--and you will find awaiting you a chair, a pipe, and a pewter
mug at our long oaken table, to say nothing of an open-hearted greeting
from as good a set of fellows as ever lent their names to the adornment
of a regimental roster.

            J. A. F.



INVENTORY.

“_On hand, as per last return, seven: taken up since last return, as
per inventory, seven; viz._--”


                                       Page
    THE MARCH OF THE FORTY THIEVES       13

    A TALE OF TWO TOWERS                 49

    ONE FROM THE VETERAN                 79

    WOODLEIGH, Q.M.                     103

    THE KERWICK CUP                     127

    OFFICIALLY REPORTED                 155

    SPECIAL ORDERS, NO. 49              185



THE MARCH

OF THE

FORTY THIEVES.


The long, low room that we call The Battery seemed most depressingly
quiet. Sam was there, to be sure, but his presence hardly counted, for
he was sound-and-fast asleep in his own little box, partitioned off in
the far corner.

I foraged ’round for pipe and plug-cut, lighted up, and wandered over
to the bookcase. There was nothing in it--nothing that I felt up to the
bother of reading. I went over to the long oaken table and picked up a
copy of the _Service Journal_, but it proved to be a back number, so I
tossed it down again upon the disorderly pile of periodicals, and then
climbed upon the cushions of the wide dormer-window, just as the rattle
of wheels upon the stone flagging in the court far below shattered the
stillness of the July afternoon.

A few words in a familiar voice came indistinctly up to me; the wheels
clattered again, but more faintly, as the unseen vehicle was driven
out through the archway to the street beyond; and steadily up the long
stairs, flight after flight, sounded a quick, firm tread. And then the
door swung wide upon its hinges, and Bones, our surgeon--Dr. Sawin,
outside the service--broke into the room, with his favorite greeting:
“Hello, inside! _Never mind the guard!_”

“The countersign is correct. Advance friend,” said I, from number-one
post on the cushions. “Likewise, the guard, being asleep, will not turn
out. Come over here, and make less riot.”

“Just been to see Ali Baba,” explained Bones, dropping upon a chair
near the window. “He’ll be mended now in a week or ten days. Thought
I’d run up here to glance through the papers. Sent my gig away because
it’s too hot to leave the horse standing.”

I slipped off my coat and tossed it to the other end of the
window-seat, preparatory to elevating my feet for my greater comfort.
Bones also reduced his apparel, and provided himself with smoking
materials. Then, with his first few puffs, he said, reflectively, “It’s
funny how that ‘Ali Baba’ title has been handed down from captain to
captain in ‘L’ company. Why, it must be more than twenty years since
the day of the first ‘Ali.’”

A side glance at the surgeon confirmed the impression I had received
from the peculiar intonation of his voice: his hands were clasped
behind his head, his long legs were draped over the arm of his chair,
his eyes were half closed, and he was on the point of being talkative.

Now I, as the latest comer upon the staff, have to serve in the
capacity of waste-basket, and all the older officers feel at liberty
to use me at any time when they feel the need of freeing themselves of
some mildewed old yarn. So I drew a long breath, gave a grunt by way of
signifying that I would suffer uncomplainingly, and settled myself to
stare vacantly out through the open casement, under the wide, striped
awning, and across the broad expanse of roofs towards the green hills,
far beyond the city’s limits.

“Yes, it must be all of twenty years,” said the surgeon, seeing that I
made no effort to escape, “for it was before I’d been enticed into the
service--and I’ve been dealing out ginger and pills to this regiment
for more years than I care to remember.

“Things were different in those days: the establishment wasn’t on quite
the footing that it’s on now. In fact, the true military spirit was at
rather a low ebb, and discipline, to put it mildly, was far from rigid.
So the service--even though there were good men in it then--was rather
in disrepute.

“At that time one Merrowbank was captain of ‘L.’ He was a typical
old-timer, a _milishy_-man from the word go, and a glittering example
of all that a volunteer officer shouldn’t be. It was a pet theory of
his that the commissioned officer should be able to find stowage for
just twice as much Santa Cruz product as the enlisted man could manage
to put away--and he lived up to his theory most consistently. Moreover,
he had a childlike faith that Providence would keep a watchful eye upon
his company property, and he never allowed himself any worry about
trifles like shortages in equipment. Well, he’s been out for a long
time now--and it’s _nihil nisi bonum_, you know--but he had a gay old
company, they say.

“When the brigade went into camp that year--whatever year it
was--Merrowbank took down three officers and forty men, which was a
good showing, so far as strength went, for those days. But he found
himself short on rifles and great-coats and any quantity of other
stuff, and his implicit faith in Providence was much shaken by the
discovery; so much shaken that he felt it incumbent upon him to rustle
’round a bit in his own behalf.

“So he got his non-com.’s into his tent the first night of camp,
explained the nature of the emergency, and issued a G.O., to the
effect that before the next morning every man in ‘L’ who was short of
equipment must manage to make up the deficiency--how, he didn’t care
a coppery cent, though he’d suggest that it mightn’t be a bad idea to
be neighborly with the other regiments of the brigade, just to see how
well off _they_ might be in the matter of State property.

“Well, the non-com.’s faithfully promulgated both Merrowbank’s general
order and the hint that went with it, and the captain went off on
a visit to each of the twenty-four tents in Line Officers’ Row, and
finally stowed himself away in bed with a comfortable sense of having
done his best to supplement the watchful care of Providence.”

“And in the morning, I suppose, he woke up to find his property
complete, and the company fully armed and equipped,” said I, feeling
that it was time for me to give some assurance of having been listening.

“Yes, that was about the size of it, as the story goes,” assented
Bones, sending a big puff of smoke on its way towards the open window.
“But poor Merrowbank had rather a rude awakening on that particular
morning, for he was roused by a volley of sharp raps upon his
tent-pole, and a good bit before reveille, too.

“As was only natural, he swore fluently, though politely, at the
people outside his canvas, and desired to know what the hallelujah
they meant by stirring him up at that hour. But on recognizing the
colonel’s voice--Hazeltine was colonel then--he tumbled himself out
of bed in two-four time; and when he had poked his head through the
tent-flaps and had discovered not only the colonel but also old
General Starbuckle standing outside in the dim, gray light, he found
his ideas coming very rapidly to him, and apologized most profusely for
the warmth of his first greeting.

“‘That’s all right, Captain,’ said the colonel, with ominous calmness,
glancing keenly at the blinking eyes and rumpled hair framed by the
opening in the tent curtain. ‘It’s very annoying, of course, to be
roused at such an unseemly hour, after a hard day--_and night!_ But
General Starbuckle wishes to see for himself how quickly you can
turn out your company, in heavy-marching order, as if in response to
a sudden call for special duty. I shall take time from the present
moment.’ And he sprung open the lid of his watch, holding it up to his
face to note the exact hour.

“Merrowbank desperately plunged into his uniform, stirred up his
lieutenants, routed out his first sergeant, and then joined his
superior officers; the sleepy men turned out, grumbling and growling,
and commenting profanely upon the proceedings; and finally ‘L’ stood
formed-up in its company street.

“‘Very fair work, Captain,’ observed Hazeltine, closing his watch with
a snap, but omitting any mention of the time taken by the formation;
‘very fair indeed. Now, General, at your convenience’--

“‘What’s your strength, sir?’ asked old Starbuckle, glancing along the
line of ill-tempered men.

“‘Three-forty, sir,’ said Merrowbank, suppressing a yawn, and wishing
that the old man would be done with his precious nonsense.

“‘Arms and equipments complete and in proper condition?’ questioned
the general, sinking his chin deeply into the upturned collar of his
great-coat, and sharply eyeing his unsuspecting victim.

“‘They should be, sir,’ replied the captain, catching the point of his
sword in his left hand, and bending the blade into a semicircle of
shining steel.

“‘H’m! Yes, they _should_ be,’ grunted old Starbuckle, with a tug at
his white imperial, ‘but I think I’ll inspect. You, sir, will remain at
your post. Will you accompany me, Colonel?’

“The two senior officers slowly passed down the opened ranks, making
a most minute inspection of every man. The colonel had lugged out a
note-book, and from time to time, at some muttered remark from the
general, he would make a brief entry, grinning wickedly at each fresh
line of pencilling--for he was no friend of Merrowbank’s, and he found
great joy in the task in which he was engaged.

“At length--just as the drowsy drummers of the regiment were turning
out to beat reveille--the inspection came to an end, and the general,
coming to the front of the company, said, ‘Captain, you will direct
your first lieutenant to report the result of reveille roll-call. I
wish a word with you in your quarters.’

“Entering the captain’s tent, old Starbuckle planted himself solidly
upon a camp-stool, frowned, and said, ‘You are aware, Colonel
Hazeltine, how strongly I object to having companies of line
organizations bear any designation other than that of regimental number
and company letter: has this company any name of an unofficial nature?’

“‘It used to be called the Norfolk Fencibles, I believe,’ replied
Hazeltine, wondering at what the brigade commander could be driving,
‘and that name is sometimes used even now--on social occasions.’

“‘Norfolk Fencibles, eh? Tasteful title, that--_very_!’ grunted the
gray-bearded old soldier. ‘And you report forty men, Captain?’

“‘Yes, sir: officers, three--and forty men,’ said poor Merrowbank,
feeling a caravan of cold shivers go travelling down his spine, for
from the general’s tone he felt abundantly certain that something nasty
was coming next.

“‘Well, from now on,’ fairly snorted old Starbuckle, ‘this company will
be known as _The Forty Thieves_!--and with my sanction freely given.
Kindly read what you have there, Colonel.’

“The colonel pawed over the leaves of his note-book. ‘One rifle, marked
“M, 4th;”’ he began; two ditto, marked “C, 4th;” one ditto, marked “B,
7th;” one great-coat, with red facings’--

“‘An infantryman stupid enough to rob the gunners ought to be
discharged for color-blindness, if for nothing else,’ interrupted the
general, in the deepest disgust.

“‘One ditto, with _yellow_ facings; two ditto, marked’--

“‘There, that’ll do!’ broke in Starbuckle. ‘There are two more pages
full of iniquity; but I haven’t the patience to listen to ’em. Not
a word, sir!’ as poor Merrowbank desperately began an incoherent
explanation; ‘_not a word_! It’s a bad enough business as it
stands--don’t try to make it worse. I’ll explain for your enlightenment
that I took a quiet stroll around the camp last night, to observe for
myself how the men were conducting themselves, and it so happened that
I was just outside your tent when you were giving your non-commissioned
officers instructions in petit larceny--and canvas walls are thin,
_very_ thin!

“‘To put it into plain English, I was eavesdropping--though
unintentionally--and I must apologize, of course, for the way in which
I caught you off your guard. But I wish to state right here, Captain,
that I can’t approve of your methods, however much I may feel compelled
to admire their results; and you therefore will be allowed to send in
your papers immediately upon your return from this camp. I let you down
easily, sir, for the sake of this regiment, which is a good one, and as
a mark of my consideration for your colonel, who is trying to bring
the service into efficiency and good repute.’ And with this the general
rose stiffly, and marched out of the tent, without bothering to bid
Merrowbank a good morning.

“And that was how The Forty Thieves came into their title. The story
leaked out, as such stories will, and for the rest of that camp
Merrowbank was known as Ali Baba. When his papers had gone in and he
had gone _out_, the nickname was handed down to the next captain of
‘L’--and it will be many a long day, I fancy, before the line of Ali
becomes extinct in the regiment.”

“But Ali Baba wasn’t _captain_ of the thieves--at least, as _I_
remember the original fable,” I objected.

“What’s that to do with it?” demanded Bones, getting up from his chair.
“Haven’t you been with us long enough to know that we of The Third are
never tied down by precedent?”

“But all this happened long before you were in the service,” I
ventured. “How does it happen that you can reel it off as smoothly as
if you’d been there to see and hear it?”

“Oh, I’ve heard the colonel tell it so often that I’ve got the whole
lesson by heart,” admitted Bones.

“Yes,” I said wearily, “_and so have I_!”

The surgeon came over to the window and for a moment stood looking down
into the deserted court. The sun had sunk lower, and now its rays came
slantwise under the awning and through the opened sashes, to flash in
dazzling brightness upon the polished blades and glittering spear-heads
of the barbaric weapons clustered on the wall above the bookcase. A fly
buzzed its way across the broad track of light, and Bones made a sweep
at it with his big hand, but the wary little insect promptly changed
direction by the right flank, gave the slip to his burly enemy, and
joined a squad of his kindred deployed in open order upon the ceiling.

“Quiet, isn’t it?” said the medicine-man; “quiet as an empty
fizz-bottle. Never knew the old shop to be so empty at this late hour
of the afternoon.”

“It’s July,” I suggested, “and half the fellows are out of town.”

Bones turned and glanced down the long room towards Sam’s corner,
whence at intervals came the low sound of a contented snore. “Seems
something like church, eh?” he said. “We haven’t the sermon, but the
proper accompaniment is all here. I take it that the veteran has
yielded to heat prostration. Well, I’ll not bother him: I can be my own
commissary. Ginger-pop and ice wouldn’t be deadly in the present state
of the atmosphere. What do you say?”

“I’ll follow your lead,” said I, rapping out the ashes from my pipe;
“ginger-pop’ll do for the foundation--and I can trust you to trim it up
properly.”

Stepping softly, the surgeon made his way into Sam’s province,
presently returning in triumph with two tall glasses of golden-brown
nectar, crested with finely crushed ice, and faintly suggestive of old
Monogram. I manœuvred a small table into position between two roomy
arm-chairs, and then refilled and lighted my pipe.

“Here’s fun!” said the doctor, politely nodding in my direction, and
causing a perceptible ebb in the icy tide in his glass. I made haste to
secure the remaining tumbler before replying, in deference to Bones’
profession, “Here’s hoping for an epidemic!”

“Now, speaking of The Forty Thieves,” said the doctor, setting his
glass back upon the table, and thereby adding another ring of moisture
to the two already in evidence upon the polished wood, “I suppose the
proudest day in their history was when--just hand over that pipe, will
you? It seems to be drawing like a regular flue; mine’s stopped.”

I groaned, but handed over my pipe and rose to hunt for another one.
“Now you can chatter along like an accommodation train,” I said, after
I had got myself finally settled, with a fresh corn-cob in one hand and
my glass within easy reach of the other.

“Meaning with plenty of smoke, and frequent stops for refreshments?
Precisely,” said Bones. “Well, it was a great day--the day when The
Forty Thieves did up All-Italy. And nobody told me about that, either:
_omnia ququæ vidi, quorum magna pars fui_--Latin!”

“Yes, I’m awake to the fact,” said I. “You needn’t construe.”

“It was all of eight years back,” Bones ran on, “for it was the year
before Hazeltine went up to the command of the brigade. Colonel Elliott
was major then, and Curtis, who’s senior major now, at that time was
captain of ‘L’ and reigning Ali of The Forty Thieves. And I?--well, I
hadn’t been commissioned, but was serving out the fag-end of my third
enlistment as hospital steward. Gad! how the roster’s changed since.”

“_Tempora mutantur_--Latin!” I hastened to put in at this favorable
point. “Proceed, you moss-grown veteran.”

“Well, this was the way of it,” said the learned doctor, acknowledging
by a grin that honors were a stand-off on the score of dead languages.
“When it came ’round to the time for our fall field-work that year,
Hazeltine packed us aboard the cars for Glastonbury, down on the line
of the B.S. & N.Y.

“For a wonder, the plan of operations was not at all complicated. The
main object of the day’s work was to practise the men in skirmishing
and in the gaining of ground by short platoon-rushes. So when we
reached our destination, we marched out from the village a couple of
miles, and then Elliott’s battalion was detached and posted along a
stone wall and among some farm buildings, facing a broad sweep of open
meadow, while the rest of the regiment footed it along for a mile
farther, to return later in the character of bloody invaders.

“Now, up to this point everything was simple enough. But Elliott
was--and, as you may have noticed, still is--a strategist of large
calibre, and he’d taken the liberty of making a slight addition to the
cut-and-dried plan of campaign. About a week before, he had run down
to Glastonbury to look over the ground alone, and in the course of his
travels he’d made some observations in regard to the lay of the land
that set him to thinking. And this is what he thought:

“His four companies were to be attacked in front by the remaining
eight, and in the nature of things he was fairly certain of being
defeated, but he’d noted the fact that on the left of his position
there was a thick growth of young timber, with an old wood-road running
off into it, and on following this up he found that it made a circuit
and came out into the meadow in his front, in such a way that a force
marching over it would find itself eventually in rear of the right
flank of the attacking party; and therefore he reasoned that he could
make things very entertaining for the colonel’s contingent by availing
himself of this feature of the landscape, and mentally made his
dispositions accordingly.

“Now, _I_ ought to have been with the main body; but when Elliott’s
battalion detached itself I somehow got mixed up with it, and when I
found out my mistake I decided to stay where I was--notwithstanding
the fact that the assistant surgeon had been assigned to duty with the
defence--rather than go chasing over a dusty road after the rest of the
regiment. And that was where I played in luck, for if I’d been at my
proper post I’d have missed my march with The Forty Thieves, and all
the sport that came in at the end of it.

“Elliott had disposed his four companies in line of battle along the
stone wall, but as soon as Colonel Hazeltine’s troops went out of sight
around a bend in the road he gave some hurried instructions to Curtis,
who straightway started ‘L’ company off into the woods. And then
Elliott came riding down the line, and caught sight of me.

“‘Hello!’ says he, ‘_you_ here? We seem to be pretty heavy laden with
doctors. Just you hustle along after Curtis and his Thieves; an
independent column ought to have a medicine-man of its own.’

“So I saluted, and went on a jog-trot after ‘L,’ with my field-case
bumping and banging against my hip, and”--

“And mighty sour you were at the detail!” I hazarded, getting up and
going over to the mantel after a supply of matches.

“And caught up with The Thieves just after they’d got well into the
bush,” said Bones, without noticing my interruption. “Well, I reported
to Curtis, and got orders to march either in the line of file-closers
or at the rear of the column; and choosing the latter alternative,
I trudged along quite contentedly, a little N.C.S. all by myself.
It was a cloudy day, with just enough coolness in the air to make
marching pleasant, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tramp along the leafy,
grass-grown path. The boys joked and guyed each other--we were marching
route-step--and once they started in on a song with a jolly, swinging
refrain to it, but Curtis shut ’em up in short order, for he didn’t
care to have his progress too widely advertised.

“Now, Elliott had said that a march of something like three-quarters
of a mile would bring us into the desired position for flanking the
colonel’s hostile forces, and he’d cautioned Curtis not to cover his
ground in less than half an hour; so we strolled along slowly and
took things easily. But when, after travelling for the best part of
an hour, we had seen no signs of a clearing, why, we rather began to
wonder where we were at, and wherefore. You see, we were making our way
through the thickest of thick cover, there wasn’t in the whole outfit
such an article as a compass, and there was no sun to tell us which way
our noses pointed.

“‘This begins to grow blamed ridiculous,’ said Curtis, after we’d
patiently footed it for about two miles and a half. ‘I’m not so dead
sure about our not being lost. But I’ve had my orders. “Follow copy if
it takes you out of the window” is a good enough rule for me’--in civil
life, you know, Curtis was a newspaper man--‘and so I’ll heel-and-toe
it over this blossoming path until we land in the middle of next week.’

“‘Hello!’ he broke out a moment later, ‘the advance guard begins to
show signs of life!’ And with that he halted the company, as the
sergeant--who, with two men, had preceded the company by a hundred
yards or so--came running back towards us. ‘Well, sergeant, what is it?
Are we in sight of land yet?’

“‘I haven’t _seen_ anything, sir,’ reported the sergeant, ‘but I just
heard something like shouting, and after that a few shots; not volleys,
just scattering pops.’

“‘The skirmishers starting in, most likely,’ commented Curtis, ‘though
that wouldn’t account for the shouting.’

“‘But the sound appeared to come from our left,’ went on the sergeant;
‘and that seems queer.’

“‘From your _left_?’ repeated Curtis, break-off a small twig and
thoughtfully chewing one end of it. ‘The deuce it did! Then we’ve
marched half ’round a circle, or else the colonel’s flanked _us_.
According to all the rules of the game the enemy ought to be engaged on
our right. _‘Tention!_ Silence in the ranks!’

“We all stood motionless in our tracks, and listened intently. And sure
enough, from somewhere ahead of us and to our left, there came the
faint sound of a distant uproar, and the echo of an occasional shot.

“‘H’m! I’m completely twisted,’ muttered Curtis, as with wrinkled brows
he stood listening to the far-off racket. ‘I can’t seem to make it out
at all. Sounds like a picnic of the Gentlemen’s Sons’ Chowder Club!
Well, push ahead with your men, sergeant, and keep your eyes and ears
well stretched. Keep quiet, and close up, there in the company!’ And we
took up our march again.

“‘_Halt!_’ commanded Curtis, in a low tone, but sharply, as we turned
an abrupt corner in the path and caught sight of the sergeant standing
with one hand warningly uplifted. ‘Great Scott! We seem to be operating
against field-works, and heavy ones too!’ For across the old road, a
couple of hundred yards away down the leafy vista, there loomed up
before us a high, steep embankment of bright, fresh gravel, clearly
outlined against the dull gray of the sky and the dark green of the
foliage.

“‘Now be perfectly silent, everybody; and you, Lane’--to the first
lieutenant--‘take charge of the company. I’m going to look into the
situation for myself,’ said Curtis. And then quickly running forward
he joined the sergeant and his men, scrambled with them up the high
bank, turned to the left, and disappeared behind the shrubbery.

“For perhaps ten minutes we stood waiting and listening. The noise
now was distinctly audible, and I counted the reports of eleven shots
before the captain’s figure again came into view upon the crest of the
gravel-bank. Well, he waved his arm as a signal for us to advance, and
we double-timed it down the path in beautiful form, for during that
halt of ours we had been growing terribly inquisitive about what was in
the wind, and we were in somewhat of a hurry to find out.

“At a gesture from Curtis we halted at the foot of the slope. He had
pulled out a note-book, and was scratching away in it like a crazy
reporter; but finally he ripped out two or three leaves, folded them
up, and sang out, ‘Corporal Campbell, you’re supposed to be a sprinter:
you will take this note, with my compliments, to Major Elliott--and
waste no seconds in doing your distance. Give your rifle and equipments
to the hospital steward. On your mark--set--_go_!’

“‘And now, boys,’ he continued, as the corporal, after loading me down
with his impedimenta, started off on his long run, ‘I’ve found out
what’s making all this row. In the first place, it’s evident that we’ve
been travelling the wrong road’--it afterwards appeared, though Elliott
hadn’t notified us of the fact, that there were _two_ old wood-roads,
of which we carefully had avoided the right one--‘and I haven’t the
slightest idea of where we are. But this embankment apparently is the
road-bed of that branch which the B. S. & N. Y. is building, and about
a third of a mile from us there’s a howling mob of Italians--something
less than a thousand and more than two hundred of ’em: I didn’t stop to
count--laying regular siege to a shanty in which, in all probability,
they’ve got their contractors cornered like rats in a trap. I don’t
know anything about the cause of the shindy--more than likely it’s the
old story of overdue pay and ugly tempers--but it’s a royal rumpus,
whatever started it, and if nobody’s been hurt yet, somebody’s bound to
be hurt soon, unless the strong arm of the law sits down hard upon the
troubled sea over yonder.’ And with this elegant example of metaphor he
stopped to catch breath.

“‘Now, after a fashion, _we_ are the strong arm of the law,’ went on
Curtis, ‘and I think it’s plainly our duty to sail in, and pour the
oil of peace upon the raging waters. I’ve no orders to cover the case;
I haven’t any “lawful precept” from mayor or selectmen or anybody
else, but--_now don’t yell!_--if you’ll follow me, I’ll take you along
to see the entertainment. All who’ll volunteer to go will come to
right-shoulder!’

“Up went the fifty-odd rifles in one-time-and-three-motions, and Curtis
continued: ‘That’s the proper stuff! Now, we shall be a half-hundred
against a very good-sized mob, and though we are well enough armed,
we’re without any ammunition except blanks. It’s dollars to dimes that
the bare sight of us will quiet down the ruction, but I don’t care
to take any chances. I’ve got to fit you out in _some_ way--how the
pretty-pink-blazes shall I do it?’

“He stood thinking for a moment, then made the company form fours--we’d
been marching column-of-twos, the path being so narrow--swung the fours
into line, and caused arms to be stacked. ‘Now every man of you,’ said
he, when the men stood clear of the stacks, ‘will provide himself with
ten bits of twig, of the same diameter as a lead-pencil, and about
half the length of one. See that the twigs are smooth and straight, so
that they’ll slip cleanly into the rifle-chamber--and, if you want to,
you may sharpen one end of ’em. _Break ranks!_--and start in on your
whittling.’

“‘Aren’t you afraid that those bullets will be liable to key-hole,
Captain?’ sang out one of the lieutenants, with a pleasant grin at his
own humor and the prospect of coming trouble.

“‘Can’t tell,’ replied Curtis cheerfully, ‘at least, until we’ve tried
’em. I’m all at sea about trajectories, initial velocities, and all
that. We’ll have to work out our musketry theories as we go along. All
fitted out, you lads down there? Then fall in!’

“The company formed up, and broke stacks; and then Curtis gave his
final directions. ‘Just a word more, boys: if I have to give the
command “_load!_” you will open chamber, thrust into the bore a wooden
bullet, and send home after it a blank cartridge. You must keep muzzles
elevated, or else your projectiles will slip out. And lastly, if the
wild men whom we’re going to visit should exhibit any desire to rush
us, I shall order you to drop your cleaning-rods into your barrels--and
we’ll try the effect of harpooning ’em at short range. That’s all.
Fours right--_march!_’ And like a small army of ants we swarmed up
the sloping bank of sliding gravel, and started on our march down the
railway.

“Picking up the advance guard as we went, we tramped rapidly forward,
and in a very short time came in sight of the theatre of operations.
Sure enough, the comedy--or, for all we then knew, the tragedy--was in
full blast, for a roaring mob of swarthy Italians was surging ’round
a roughly built shanty, and amusing itself by yelling, and sending an
occasional stone or bullet at the closed doors and windows. Whoever was
inside was lying very low indeed, for there was no response from within
to the demonstrations of the attacking party, and only the lively
interest shown by those outside made it appear that the place was
tenanted at all.

“The rascals caught sight of us when we were about forty rods from
them, and for a moment I thought that I detected signs of a stampede;
but when they saw how few we were--for fifty men in column-of-fours
don’t make a very imposing showing--they bundled together in a
devilishly ugly and suggestive sort of way, and waited for us to come
up.

“We left the railway, formed line upon a level stretch of ground, moved
forward a hundred yards or so, and then halted.

“‘Now may heaven forgive me the sinful thought,’ said Curtis, as he
stood sizing up the savage rabble before him, ‘but I’ve seven-eighths
of a mind to give it to ’em where they stand! That aggregation of
deviltry is too tempting!’ But, however strong the temptation may have
been, he manfully overcame it, and stepping half-a-dozen paces to the
front called out, ‘Is there any one among you who speaks English?’

“For answer the children of sunny Italy sent up a derisive and most
provoking yell; and so Curtis, failing to obtain an interpreter from
the ranks of the enemy, turned to us, with, ‘Not much satisfaction to
be had from them, apparently. Does anybody in the company know their
lingo?’

“It seemed that our ignorance was on a par with theirs, for nobody
confessed to a working knowledge of Italian. For one insane moment,
to be sure, I was impelled to step out and address the offending
foreigners in the ancient tongue of their native land; but to save my
soul I couldn’t lay hand upon anything besides _Arma virumque cano_,
and”--

“Latin again, by thunder!” I said, enthusiastically. “Ah! but you _are_
up in the humanities, Bones.”

“And that, you know,” placidly went on the surgeon, with a nod in
recognition of my admiration, “was hardly the extent of what I wished
to say--though it may have been, after a fashion, apposite to the
requirements of the occasion. So I let the chance to distinguish myself
slip by unimproved, and stuck to my place in the file-closers.

“‘Now I _am_ in a hole!’ admitted Curtis, after this double failure in
his attempt at opening the way to a parley. ‘I’m stumped at this phase
of the business--and blessed if I know just what card to lead next!’

“‘Ah! you _will_, will you?’ he growled, as three or four stones came
sailing over at us. ‘Well, that’s cue enough for me. _Fix bayonets!_’
There was a metallic rattle and clash, as the fifty steel jabbing-tools
were put into place for business. ‘With ball cartridge--_load!_’

“‘And now, in the name of the Commonwealth,’ bellowed Curtis, after he
had seen his men tuck away in their rifles wood enough to keep a match
factory running full time for a week, ‘I command ye to disperse!’

“‘Skip--scatter--_vamose!_’ he added by way of explanation, waving his
arms like a farmer driving away mosquitoes. ‘Get a move on you, and
clear out, you obstinate lunatics! _Sabe? Comprenez? Understand?_’

“It seemed to me that the mob displayed symptoms of wavering: and when
Curtis, in his deepest and most awe-inspiring tone, commanded, ‘_Aim!_’
I drew a breath of relief, for I felt that when The Forty Thieves
levelled their fifty rifles in one long, threatening line, a break must
surely follow. But just at this critical moment the door of the shanty
was flung open, and three men dashed out and went tearing off towards
the woods. And _then_ the break came!--though not just in the way I had
anticipated. For, utterly disregarding us, the swarthy madmen, with a
wild yell of delight, sprang off in pursuit of their escaping prey.

“It was a horrible sight--upon my soul, a _horrible_ sight!--to see the
brutal fierceness of that sudden rush. And it made me fairly sick to
think of the pounding and stabbing and murderous kicking that surely
would follow if the mob once caught the miserable men whom it was
hunting down. I only wish that those who frown upon the service could
have been with us then--for they would have had an awful object-lesson
in the necessity for maintaining the military establishment, even in
this enlightened land and in these peaceful days.

“I must admit that the unexpected hideousness of the whole thing threw
me clean off my balance for the moment; but Curtis kept his head,
and did his duty as he saw it cut out for him. ‘Aim waist-high!’ he
commanded, running to the windward flank of the company in order to
observe the effect of the volley. ‘_Fire!_’ And, with a report like
that of a single big cannon-cracker, The Forty Thieves came into the
game.

“I heard a chorus of outlandish yelps and howls immediately after the
volley rang out, and, to my infinite relief and satisfaction, when
the smoke drifted up and away I saw that the rabble was scattering in
every direction. Five or six men were down, but whether they’d been
hit or simply had tumbled over each other, I can’t say, for--with the
exception of one fellow--they all scrambled straightway to their feet,
and pranced off to cover in a way that convinced me that their wounds,
if they had any, weren’t liable to be instantly fatal.

“Well, there was _my_ cue. I handed to the nearest sergeant the rifle
I’d been carrying, and ran over to hold a _post mortem_--still more
Latin, you’ll observe--on the man that we’d bowled over. When I started
towards him he seemed to be out of it, for he lay quite still; but just
as I reached him he began to jabber and snarl and twist himself into
bow-knots, for all the world as if he’d eaten a peck of green apples,
and was undergoing the consequences. Flapping him over upon his back I
began to search for his hurt, but I didn’t have to make a very extended
hunt, for--well, what do you suppose I found?”

“Can’t guess,” said I, fishing out a bit of ice from the bottom of my
emptied glass; “unless your man was skewered on one of those wooden
plugs.”

“That’s not so wide as it might be,” laughed Bones, “for I found a
stylographic pen--yes, sir; a _stylographic pen_!--tightly driven
into the muscles of his neck. Regular hypodermic injection of ink, by
ginger! _That_ proved the pen mightier than the sword, eh?”

“So it would seem,” said I. “But whose pen was it?”

“I never found out,” said the surgeon. “Whoever it was that got excited
enough to shoot it away was too much ashamed to claim it afterwards,
and I still have it.

“Well, that’s nearly all the story of the war with Italy. We held the
field until Elliott came up with his battalion; and later, Hazeltine
came ploughing down the railway with the other eight companies--after
which, of course, peace reigned supreme. I daresay you remember the
court of inquiry on Curtis, and the newspaper discussion about the
whole business?”

“Yes,” said I, rising from my chair, after a glance at my watch; “and I
remember reading that Curtis came near getting into uncomfortably hot
water for taking the law so calmly into his hands.”

“Humph! That was all very well,” said the doctor, rising and going
towards the spot where he had tossed his coat. “But if those who
questioned Curtis’ authority to do as he did only could have seen what
_I_ had the privilege of seeing, they’d have chipped in to buy him a
presentation sword, instead of criticising his actions so freely. Well,
I must dine somewhere, I suppose, and I think your club will do me.”
And we slipped quietly down the stairs, leaving Sam still sleeping.



A TALE OF TWO TOWERS.


This tale might just as well have been christened _Under Two Flags_,
for it was under two flags, and through the medium of a third one,
that all the trouble worked itself out. But, since another and an
earlier writer has had the bad taste to apply this desirable title to
a creation frankly lacking in the first elements of that which is the
truth, I am constrained, because of its unfortunate associations, to
put it to one side and seek yet another--for I find myself restricted
to the setting-down of none but sombre facts. And the facts in the
matter are these:

One afternoon in late September it chanced that my personal affairs
took me up into the twelfth story of one of the lofty office-buildings
which rear themselves, crag-like, above the very fertile soil of those
shadowy and narrow valleys, our down-town streets. What was my exact
errand is here of no consequence. It is enough if I say that I was
endeavoring to make a man see a certain thing in the same light in
which _I_ saw it, and that, after having failed most miserably in the
attempt, I had risen to go, when he glanced out through the window and
said, “You’re up in that sort of thing: tell me, what’s going on over
yonder?”

I followed the direction of his glance, across a mile-wide wilderness
of ill-assorted roofs and chimneys, to where the great tower of the
regimental armory lifts its bulk above the brick-and-mortar dwarfs
that cluster in its shadow. And there, upon the summit of the topmost
flanking-turret, my eye caught the flutter of a speck of red bunting.

“That?” said I; “why, that’s a signal detachment at flag-practice.
Well, I must be going. Sorry I can’t make you listen to reason.” And I
went--to risk my life in the downward rush of an express elevator.

Now, that glance from the twelfth-story window sealed my fate for the
rest of the afternoon. My good nature had been placed under heavy
strain, and the never-ending rush and racket of the swarming streets
jarred so tormentingly upon my tired head that--with the blessed
recklessness of the boy who cares not one darn whether school keeps or
not--I consigned business to total smash, swung myself upon a passing
car, and was trundled gaily along towards freedom, sunlight, and the
armory.

“For Kenryck will be there,” I told myself, “and I can talk to him. And
my pipe will be there, and I can smoke it. And I can sit on the parapet
wall, and look out over the harbor--and forget how infernally mean
everything is.”

And Kenryck was there. I dropped off the car, walked down to the
armory, dived into the staff-room to get my pipe from its pigeon-hole
in my desk, dived into the armorer’s den after a bunch of matches, and
then climbed up and up, flight after flight of narrow stairs, to the
top of the main tower. And there, in luxurious ease, Kenryck sat in
state upon a camp-stool: a note-book on his knee, a bull-dog jammed
between his teeth, and his field-glasses well in play.

“Kenryck, I’m weary,” I announced, as my head emerged from the trap in
the tower roof, “and I’ve come to--”

“Shut up, will you, for a minute,” said Kenryck cordially. “Hi! you,
up there”--to the signalman twenty feet in the air above us, upon the
little turret--“what’s that? How’s that last message? _No enemy visible
on Lexington road?_ Yes, that’s right. Down flag! Rest!” Then to me,
“Hullo, old man. Pull the rest of yourself out of that hole, and come
on deck. Royal old afternoon, isn’t it?”

I stepped up and out upon the tiles. “Don’t mind me in the least,
Ken.,” I said. “I’ve not come to bother you. I’m only here for rest and
peaceful contemplation. So go ahead with your wig-wagging, and I’ll be
a non-combatant.”

“Oh, you’re no bother at all,” said Kenryck very kindly. “It’s the
inquisitive maniacs who ask fool questions and think it’s queer that I
don’t offer to teach ’em the whole code in five minutes--_they’re_ the
ones that make signalling an everlasting joy.”

“I suppose so,” said I, taking off my hat, to let the fresh breeze
rumple its way through my hair. “But I’ve stopped your game, just the
same. Wake up those flags of yours: I like to watch them waving.”

“You’ve stopped nothing,” protested Kenryck. “I’d been squinting
through these glasses until my eyes ached, and I was just going to take
a minute off, when you came popping up through the trap like the fairy
in a pantomime.”

“I’m breaking in three new men,” he went on, in a lower tone. “One of
’em”--with a nod towards the turret--“I’ve got in the box up there: one
of my sergeants has another, out on Corey Hill: and the third one’s in
charge of still another sergeant, over across the river, in Cambridge,
on the tower of Memorial Hall. Running a three-station circuit, you
see. Message starts here, goes through the hill station, and lands on
top of t’other tower: _vice versa_ with the answer. I’m taking it easy,
you’ll notice: just sitting here in the shade and keeping tabs on the
Cambridge station through that embrasure. My man overhead calls off the
signals from the hill: I jot ’em down: and so I can see that they tally
with the original. Great system!”

“Great head!” said I: then, with an upward glance at the clean-cut face
of the young soldier leaning easily against the parapet of the turret,
“You’ve pulled in some good men, eh?”

“Beauties, all three of ’em!” said Kenryck enthusiastically; “just out
of college; all from the same class. Only had ’em a trifle over three
months, but they’ve picked up the trick to a charm. Clever? Well,
rather! Just see how easily this boy handles his business.” And calling
out--“Attention! Call ‘B’ station”--my friend the signal officer went
on with his work.

For a time, as he told off the combinations to be made, I followed the
fluttering of the swiftly dipping and rising flag. But the whole thing
was Sanscrit to me, and it wasn’t long before I wearied of watching
it. So when Kenryck, in an interval between messages, turned to me and
said, “Simple enough, isn’t it? Begin to catch on?”--I answered, “Well,
perhaps in about twenty years I might, but just at present the waving
of a red flag conveys to me only four meanings--‘Auction,’ when it’s
waved before a building; ‘Miss,’ when it’s waved across the face of a
target; ‘Stop!’ when it’s waved in front of a railway train; and ‘Come
ahead fast!’ when it’s waved in the face of an ugly bull.” And having
thus frankly admitted myself a rank outsider, so far as concerned the
science of signalling, I gave myself over to the soothing influence of
tobacco and the contemplation of my surroundings.

It has been my fortune to find many a less attractive spot than the
tiled roof of our armory tower, with its encircling parapet, broken
by alternate embrasure and loop-holed merlon, and with its octagonal
turret at one corner, standing--like a sentry on post--in bold relief
against the sky. Moreover, the sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and
the combination was altogether comforting. And I speedily forgot, one
after another, the petty annoyances of my down-town day.

I stepped over to the breast-high wall, rested my elbows upon the
capstone, dropped my chin into my hands, and gazed out over the world.
Far down in the streets below I could see the pigmy shapes of men,
busily crawling to and fro in the anxious chase after money, and
seeming--they and their affairs, too--so pitifully insignificant. Which
caused me to reflect that it would be good that all mankind should
spend an hour each day upon a tower, to gain a better idea of the
relative size of things. And I farther was impressed. But never mind.
This is a tale of _two_ towers, and I am allowing myself to neglect the
other of the twain.

“Mother of Moses!” muttered Kenryck, just as I had turned--after a
sweeping glance around the range of low, green hills which, upon
three sides, hem in the city--to look out upon the harbor, with its
gray-walled forts and glistening sails, “_Mother_ of Moses! What ails
the boys in Cambridge?”

“Can’t tell, I’m sure,” said I, looking across the river towards the
spot where the other tower showed itself above the trees. “I fail to
see signs of anything distressful. Time _was_ when I knew what ailed
the boys in Cambridge--but that time’s long gone by! What seems to be
the excitement at the present moment?”

“That’s what I want to know,” said Kenryck, as the young fellow upon
the turret began to call off the signals from the second station.
“They’ve just sent this message--it’s being flagged over from the hill
now--‘_Big trouble here! Want advice. Shall we explain?_’ Now what does
that mean?”

“Ask ’em,” said I promptly. “Wig-wag the information that I’m
here--ready to furnish advice in car-load lots as soon as they’ve sent
on their explanation.”

“Thanks!” said my friend, with dry politeness. “I’m more than fortunate
in having you with me.” Then, to the man with the flag, “O.K. that last
message, Millar, and add, ‘_Explain._’”

Up and down, sidewise and to the front, went the flapping square of
red bunting with its core of snowy white; while Kenryck, in readiness
to catch the first responsive signal, trained his glasses upon the
‘cross-river station.

“Here it comes,” he said, as the distant speck of color awoke to
spasmodic and rapid motion. “Now we shall be given understanding.
Hello! the sergeant must be doing the flagging: Orcutt couldn’t send
the words along at that rate of speed.”

“Translate for my benefit, Ken., will you?” said I, coming over to his
side. “I’m consumed by curiosity. I’ll swear solemnly not to let any
information fall into the hands of the enemy.”

“Pick up my note-book,” he answered hurriedly, without changing
his position or allowing his eyes to wander for an instant from the
opposite tower, “and scratch down what I give you. Ready? Well, then,
start off with this: ‘Man--making--fuss--at--base--of--tower.’ Got
that? ‘Says--Orcutt--owes--him--big--money.’”

“Yes I’ve got it: all of it,” said I, snapping a rubber band across
the page as a check upon its tendency to get away from me in the fresh
breeze. “Very interesting, so far. Go on, old man: give us another
chapter of it. I’m waiting.”

“Ease away on your chatter, can’t you?” said Kenryck, a trifle
earnestly. “You’ll get me all balled-up in my receiving. Here,
take this: ‘Man’s--confounded--insolent: standing--in--street:
shouting--all--sorts--of--abuse--up--at--Orcutt.’ There, the sergeant’s
stopped sending, to give us a chance to digest what we already have.”

Word by word the message, unaltered by its transmission through the
hands of the party at the second station, was passed down to us by
the turret signalman. Something in his tone drew my attention, and I
looked up at him. He was red in the face with suppressed emotion.

“Is your man Orcutt efficient with his hands?” I asked Kenryck.

“Ought to be,” he replied. “He played left guard on the eleven for a
couple of years.”

“You’d better ask him, then,” I suggested, feeling that a rare
opportunity for testing the fighting capacity of the volunteer service
had arrived, “why he doesn’t fly down from his roost and punch the
fellow’s head?”

“I will!” said Kenryck promptly. And off went the question on its trip
around the circuit.

The reply came quickly back: “Citizen’s name is Boardman. Has policeman
with him, with some sort of papers. Orcutt’s willing to punch citizen,
but has serious doubts about punching policeman. Says it’s all mistake:
doesn’t owe anybody in Cambridge.” All of which I carefully entered in
the book, exactly as it was given to me.

“See here, Millar!” Kenryck shouted, as he caught the sound of laughter
from overhead, “do _you_ know anything about this business?”

“I think I do, a little--if not a good deal,” admitted that young man
in a choked sort of voice, grinning down at us through an embrasure.
“Yes, I think I’m in a fairly good position for understanding the whole
complication.”

“Humph! if it’s so almightily funny I fancy we’d better have
more light on it,” said Kenryck, with much dignity. “We’ll flag
over--‘_Instructions coming: wait!_’--and then I’ll trouble you to
explain the meaning of all this foolishness.”

“It’s this way,” said the signalman, appearing at the parapet wall,
after starting Kenryck’s order upon its travels: “Orcutt and I--you
may have noticed it--look almost enough alike to be taken for twins,
especially since he’s forced out that moustache of his. And that’s the
key to the mystery.”

“Give the key a twist, then,” said Kenryck. “Proceed with your
exposition.”

“To continue,” obediently went on the young man, “_I’m_ the party for
whom this Boardman is out gunning. He keeps a place where a lot of the
students have club-tables, and I used to belong to a club of fellows
that resorted there for nourishment--which, I may state, was not of
the highest grade, though we paid a princely price for it. Well, last
winter I had to be away from college for about three weeks, and I
left without giving notice to Boardman. Which resulted in two claims:
Boardman’s, that I owed him thirty dollars for three weeks’ un-eaten
grub--and _mine_, that he ought to be struck by lightning for his
superhuman nerve.”

“Ah! I have the clue now,” said Kenryck. “Come, let’s get to work on
straightening out things. Pick up your flag, and--”

“But that’s not quite all of it,” interrupted the occupant of the
turret. “You see, this man Boardman isn’t a pleasant person to have
dealings with. He’s very rough-tongued, and never sand-papers down his
sentences. And the last time we argued over our differences I was so
displeased by his lack of breeding that I--well, he made me hot under
my collar, and I hit him just above _his_. See?”

“Oho! he’s after you for assault, is he?” said Kenryck. “That’s
pleasant for Orcutt!”

“Yes, for assault--and battery,” assented Millar. “And I judge that
it may be _very_ pleasant for Orcutt. For Boardman swore that he’d get
square with me some day, and I fancy--though the reports from across
the river don’t go much into details--that he’s considerably in earnest
about doing the squaring-up without any farther delay.” And, in spite
of the seriousness of the situation, he gave way to another fit of
laughter.

“Ah, yes!” said Kenryck, frowning darkly upon his subordinate, “all
this is amazingly ludicrous, isn’t it? But you’ll have an aching arm,
just the same, before you get through with swinging that bamboo stick
of yours: for we’ve got to flag this story over to Cambridge--and a
very pretty bit of flagging it’ll make! Come, we’ve kept the other lads
long enough on pins and needles and anxious seats: we must get to work.”

The message to be sent was a long one. I sat down upon Kenryck’s chair,
pulled out my tobacco pouch, and charged my pipe afresh, for there
seemed to be nothing requiring my immediate attention. Minute slipped
after minute, while Kenryck’s voice kept along in steady monotone, and
the bunting above our heads--whirring and flapping in intermittent
accompaniment--busily went on with the task of changing the spoken
words into the symbols of the code.

“There, that’ll keep the hill men busy for a time,” Kenryck observed,
when the flag upon the turret gave a final downward sweep and then
became still. “Phew! it was a long pull.”

“Why don’t you cut your middle station out of the circuit?” I asked.
“It would save time if you did your talking direct.”

“Couldn’t think of it,” he replied. “These boys are out for practical
instruction, and I’m bound to see that they get it--_all_ of ’em.”

“Queer mix-up, isn’t it?” said I, with a laugh. “Wish I could have seen
the proceedings at the other end of the line.”

“So do I,” said the signal lieutenant, joining in my laughter; “but I’m
afraid this last message has spoiled the fun over there. Well, perhaps
it had gone far enough.”

“‘B’ station has finished transmitting, sir,” announced the youth above
us. “Cambridge has just made ‘O.K.’”

“All right,” answered Kenryck, lining his glasses upon the opposite
terminal. “Now we’ll get some results.”

“All ready,” said I, pulling my pencil from behind my ear and adjusting
my note-book. “Let it come.”

There was an interval of waiting, but at last the opposite tower began
to talk, and, as Kenryck passed the words to me, I spread upon the page
this remarkable entry:

“Told Boardman mistake. Says he knows better. Also, that we’re blanked
liars. Orcutt very uneasy: growing insubordinate. Proposes to smash
Boardman and policeman too. Tried to pitch loose tiles down upon their
heads. I stopped him. Tower door locked on our side. Which prevents
murder. Lieutenant better come over at once.”

This was cheeringly warlike. I burst into a roar of ill-timed mirth,
while Kenryck laid down his glasses and strode back and forth upon the
roof, giving profane utterance to his perplexity and paying no heed to
the calling-off of the signals from the hill.

I read over my last entry in the book, and roared again, which caused
Kenryck to pause in his tramping, glare at me, and snap out, “Can’t you
let me think? I’ve got to call a halt in this business somehow--and
there you sit, braying like a Himalayan donkey, and rattling the last
idea out of me! How about those car-load lots of advice? Come, suggest
something!”

“Heaven forbid!” said I, very earnestly. “This is your affair, and I’d
never venture to hint that you’re not more than able to swing it alone.
You’ve managed it beautifully so far as you’ve gone. But unless you
want your corps to come in for a heap of free advertising in tomorrow’s
papers, you’d do well to make another move--and a quick one.”

“I’ll call for a cab, and go over there myself,” announced Kenryck,
with a vicious stamp upon the tiles, “and, by The Great Indian! when I
_do_ get there I’ll give everybody--”

“Now just hold hard for a minute, my son,” I put in at this point.
“Consider things calmly. What’s the use of going to all that bother?
Besides, it would cost you all of three large dollars--and you can’t
draw mileage for that kind of travelling. There’s a much easier and
less troublesome way out of it.”

“Let’s have it then!” sputtered Kenryck. “You set yourself up to be a
sort of lawyer, don’t you? Well, here’s an elegant chance to show your
quality.”

“I am a lawyer,” said I, with unassuming dignity; “a young but very
subtle one. And since it’s your wish that I should be of counsel in
this case, why, I’ll settle your matter very speedily for you--and at
something off from my usual rates. In fact, I’ll call it a charity
job, and make no charge whatever. Now, pay attention to what I’m
telling you. Here’s what you’ll do: order your sergeant to keep Orcutt
quiet--if there’s no more convenient method, he may tip him over and
sit on him--until I can--”

“_Yes_, he may!” put in Kenryck, in a highly aggravating tone. “Why,
Orcutt weighs well up towards two hundred, besides being as full of
temper as a razor blade--and the sergeant’s a little man!”

“Will you hear me out, you gibberer?” I inquired gently. “I don’t
care how you manage it, but I want you to see to it that matters are
kept _in statu quo_, until I come back. Understand? I’ll be gone only
a minute.” And I gracefully lowered myself through the trap, and
went rattling down the many flights of stairs that twist their way up
through the tower’s dusky interior.

By rare good fortune I reached the ground floor without breakage
of bones, and straightway made for the staff-room, where I hastily
rummaged through my desk until I came upon a thin, black volume,
emblazoned with the arms of the State, and inscribed in golden letters,
“Militia Law.” Hastily running over its pages I found what I needed:
and then, turning down the leaf, I thrust the book into my pocket, and
started off for my second ascent into mid-air.

“Here you are, Ken.,” I cried, as I scrambled breathless out upon
the roof. “I’ve brought you a bomb, and you can chuck it over into
Cambridge as soon as you please.”

“You’ve been long enough in getting it,” was his ungracious response.
“It wouldn’t take more than five or six of your ‘minutes’ to make an
hour. Come, trot out your alleged bomb. Time’s precious.”

Withering Kenryck with a single expressive glance, I slowly drew out
my little black book, opened it at the marked place, and said, “It
would be serving you no more than properly, you ungrateful beggar, if
I should draw out of this case altogether, and leave you up the tree!
I may have taken a few seconds over a minute, but I’m willing to give
plump odds that--going and coming--I’ve made a new regimental record in
tower climbing. Well, here’s the medicine for your man Boardman--”

“You must excuse me, old chap,” said Kenryck hurriedly. “I dare
say you tobogganed down on the banisters, and galloped up again on
all-fours--but you certainly seemed a devil of a time in doing it.”

“Chapter three-sixty-seven, section one-nineteen, of the Revised
Statutes,” I began, after receiving this graceful and ample apology,
“would seem to furnish both the authority and the means for the
abatement of this nuisance of which you make complaint. It runneth
thuswise: ‘If any person interrupts or molests or insults, by abusive
words or behavior, or obstructs any officer or soldier while on duty or
at any parade or drill, he may be put immediately under guard and kept
at the discretion of the commanding officer of the detachment until
the duty is concluded: and such commanding officer may turn over such
person to any police officer or constable of the city or town: and said
police officer or constable shall detain him in custody for examination
and trial: and any person found guilty of either of the offences
enumerated in this section shall be punished by imprisonment in the
jail or house of correction not exceeding six months, or by fine not
exceeding one hundred dollars.’”

I flatter myself that I must have read this tangle of clauses with
truly judicial emphasis and solemnity, for--when I came to the end of
it, and demanded, “How’s that?”--Kenryck gave a yell of delight, and
shouted, “Out at the plate, by Jupiter!” And the youth upon the turret
displayed such violent symptoms of joy that I feared lest he should
tumble from his dizzy perch.

“Oh! that’s too good to be true,” gasped Kenryck, after a prolonged
paroxysm of laughter. “It fits like an old glove, too! Well, here goes
for trying it on: I’ll send over the whole blessed section, though
it’ll make an outrageously long message, and order the sergeant to
spout it down at ’em from the tower. Jumping Jonah! _won’t_ it do ’em
up?”

“It’s a beautiful bit of rhetoric,” said I, glancing through the
passage again; “there are just twelve _or’s_ in it--enough to fit out
a ‘varsity eight and two single scullers. But I consider that it will
answer your purpose very cleverly.”

I handed over the book, pointed out the all-powerful section, and sat
down, more than well pleased with my share in the proceedings. Kenryck
explored the interior of his braided blouse, discovered a cigar, and
silently handed it to me--an action which proclaimed more eloquently
than words his deep appreciation of the value of my services.

The transmission of this lengthy quotation from the law of the land
took some little time. My cigar burned slowly on until half its
original bulk had fallen away in ashes before we caught the first
signal in reply to our communication. But the response, when finally it
came, made us speedily forget the time we had spent in awaiting it.

“Stand by to register,” cautioned Kenryck, who for several minutes of
silence had been sharply scanning the far-off tower. I hurriedly drew
out my knife, and put a better point upon my pencil. “There she blows!
Ready are you? Then score up this--

“‘Have quoted law. No go! Boardman says law may be dash-double-blanked,
and men who made it may be blank-double-dashed. Policeman says law
doesn’t concern him: his orders are to arrest on warrant. Big crowd
gathered in street, guying us. Situation something awful. Orcutt in
open mutiny. Will Lieutenant _please_ come?’”

This was sufficiently definite, surely. Kenryck turned and stared
blankly at me. Out of respect for his feelings I refrained from
laughing.

“When you get that message from the hill,” he shouted to the man upon
the turret, “make your acknowledgment signal, and then send over
word that I’m coming. Can you do it alone?” And, upon receiving an
affirmative answer, he made for the trap in the roof and disappeared.

I hastily stuffed the note-book into my pocket, and followed him. Down
the shaking stairs we went, at a neck-or-nothing pace, until we landed
at the bottom. And then Kenryck shot himself into the armorer’s room,
and dropped into the chair before the telephone.

_Br-r-r-r!_ went the little bell. “Hello! Central? Give me Cambridge,
please.” A pause. “This Cambridge? Well, will you give me the chief of
police?” Another and a longer wait. “Hello! You the chief of Cambridge
police? I’m Kenryck--Lieutenant Kenryck--commanding signal corps, third
volunteer brigade. Got that? _Yes!_ Well, I’ve sent a detail over to
Memorial Hall, under duty orders. Now, my men are being interfered with
and insulted by a citizen. There’s a curious sort of mistake.” Here he
put in an elaborate explanation. “But the thing must be stopped, right
away. I make formal complaint to you, under section--wait a second,
please.”

I supplied him with chapter and verse for the text of his discourse,
and he went on, “Under section one-nineteen, chapter three-sixty-seven,
of the statutes. And I want you to take this citizen--_yes_, Boardman’s
his name, but I don’t know the initials--into custody until I can come
over to attend to him. What’s that? You’d like to look up the statute?
All right--only kindly be quick about it.”

Then came a long interval. I ventured to say a word or two, but
Kenryck turned upon me a warning scowl which reduced me at once to
silence. “Hello!” he finally sang out, in answer to some communication
over the wire. “You’ll see that your men take care of him? That’s good.
Thanks! Hope we may be able to do as much for _you_, some day. I’ll be
over later. Good day.”

He hung the receiver upon its hook, rang off, and rose from his seat,
smiling like one who feels conscious of having done a clever thing.
“It’s a poor law,” said he, “that can’t be worked both ways.”

“Yes, the law may be likened unto a double-edgéd sword--and woe upon
them that monkey therewith!” I replied. “And now what?”

“Now we’ll scale the tower again,” announced Kenryck, “to await
developments. And, unless I’m wide in my guess, we’ll find things
running _our_ way when we get our next news from over the river.”

“You’re not going over, then?” I asked.

“No,” said Kenryck very decidedly; “not if I know myself. It would cost
me all of three large dollars--and one can’t draw mileage for that sort
of travelling.” By which I was led to believe that a part, at least,
of my advice had not fallen upon stony ground.

“I shall let the police gather in my man,” he went on, as we panted up
the last steep flight of stairs, “and then, after the siege has been
raised, telephone over that I’ll not press the charge against him.
How’ll that do?”

We climbed out, one after the other, upon the roof. Kenryck in a few
words explained to his signalman what had been done, and then we sat
down to await the final report. It was not a long waiting. In less than
ten minutes the bit of color upon the Cambridge tower began its weird
dance and, signal by signal, industriously sent across to us these
tidings of comfort and joy:

“Patrol wagon just sailed up! Boardman bundled into it, speechless with
rage. Policeman gone, too. Crowd has applauded operations and mostly
dispersed. Orcutt manageable again--and coast clear.”

I shook hands with Kenryck. The youth upon the turret--who, without
waiting for the hill station to repeat, had translated all this for
his own benefit--waved his flag madly ‘round his head, and then hugged
himself with delight. And we all three roared in chorus and loudly.

“We’ll let it go at that,” said Kenryck finally, “and call it a day’s
work. Make your signal for closing stations, Millar, and pack up your
kit. Here,” as he happened to look in my direction, “you can’t have
those!”

“Oh, yes, I can,” said I, folding up and stowing away in my pocket the
two leaves that I had just torn from the note-book. “Of course I can
have ’em. Aren’t they in my own handwriting? And besides, they’ll be
useful--labelled ‘Exhibits _A_ and _B_’--when I’m retained to defend
you against a suit for false imprisonment.”

But the suit has never been brought, and the stolen leaves lie
undisturbed, pasted side by side in the big scrap-book which rests upon
the top of the bookcase, up in The Battery. Ask Sam to hunt them out
for you, when next you happen to find yourself up there.



ONE FROM THE VETERAN.


“Everything’s calm,” said the lieutenant-colonel, “and apparently
liable to stay so. I’ve been through the whole brigade--’way down
to the cavalry quarters, and back through the gunners’ and infantry
camps--and the peacefulness of things reminds me of the old nursery
jingle,

    ‘And all through the house
     Not a creature was stirring,
     Not even a mouse.’

Well, this tour of mine’s been an easy one. I’ve been under canvas with
the old brigade for just nineteen rolling years, and so when I say that
this camp walks right away with the trophy for quietness, I’m speaking
by the card.”

“Wouldn’t it be a pious idea if we were to turn in, then?” inquired
the adjutant, adding to his remark a suggestive and very audible yawn.
“Field officers of the day aren’t supposed to sit up all night--at
least, not in time of peace. I’m feeling just a wee bit sleepy myself.”

Midnight had come and gone. The camp lay silent, its snowy tents
looming out dimly in the faint, midsummer starlight. Not a murmur
hinted at the presence of the three thousand sleeping men hidden away
beneath the shimmering whiteness of the canvas. The sleepy sentry
pacing slowly to and fro before regimental headquarters seemed only
a deeper shade in the shadowy picture. His measured tread upon the
dew-dampened turf roused no echo.

There came into view a spectral shape, striding rapidly towards
the quarters of the non-commissioned staff. “Hi!” called the
lieutenant-colonel softly. “_Hi!_ that you, Sam?”

At this challenge the spectre changed its course and approached the
adjutant’s tent, in front of which, and under the protecting fly, the
two officers were sitting. “Yes, it’s me,” answered the voice of the
veteran orderly of The Third. “That you, Col’n’l Wentworth? Anything I
can do for ye?”

“I’d be glad to know why you’re prowling ’round at this time of night,”
said the lieutenant-colonel mildly. “You’re old enough to be setting
the boys a better example.”

“I judge ye’re correct, Col’n’l,” assented Sam, still standing
attention in front of the tent. “I’d oughter be in quarters. But down
in B Comp’ny’s street I run’d onto a feller that was in the war. Now,
them fellers is gittin’ scarcer’n honest men in the city gov’nment, an’
so it follered that we got to yarnin’, give an’ take, turn an’ turn
about, ’til we clean lost track o’ the time.”

It might be well to mention here that Sam is _the_ privileged character
of the Third Infantry. It has been explained elsewhere how Colonel
Elliott discovered the old man enjoying his well-earned _otium cum
dig._ in the Soldiers’ Home, down at Old Point. It also has been told
how, by a risky bit of work, back in ’64, he won the Medal of Honor
which he wears upon the breast of his dress-coat. To be sure, he
guesses, “Bein’ nothin’ but copper, ’taint worth much”--but by the
rest of the Old Regiment it is held at a somewhat higher valuation.

Now, the customs of The Third do not tend to encourage the spinning
of yarns by enlisted men in officers’ quarters, but to this
well-established rule there is one exception. That exception is made
in favor of Sam. And since his webs of fact and fancy are woven, for
the most part, after darkness has descended upon the face of the earth,
the breach of service etiquette is not sufficiently evident to be
demoralizing. All of which is explanatory.

The adjutant stepped back into the depths of his tent, and presently
returned with a fistful of cigars and an extra camp-stool. “Set ye,
Sam,” said he, appropriating one of the veteran’s pet idioms. “Set ye,
and lend a hand at smudging out mosquitoes.”

The old orderly borrowed a light from the lieutenant-colonel, and
seated himself, with his elbows resting upon his knees and his hands
comfortably clasped before him. “I’ve bin a-thinkin’,” said he, “how
this milishy business has changed since I was a boy. Never happened
to see an ol’-fashioned muster, did ye? Nat’rally not. Ah, them was
the days o’ plumes an’ swords, an’ gingerbread an’ rum, an’ _genuine_
patriotism!”

The adjutant, forgetting the darkness, winked at the
lieutenant-colonel. Wentworth rose, stepped outside for a final
survey of the sleeping-camp, and then returned to his place. “There
were giants in those days, eh?” he said, turning up the collar of his
great-coat.

“Yes, ther’ was,” said Sam, impressively, “ther’ was indeed. An’
giant-killers, too. Ol’ Col’n’l Leatherbee was a giant. You’d oughter
seen _him_! Six-foot-two, he was. My land! he was a rare sight when
he was in his milishy togs, with his boots an’ spurs, an’ his buff
breeches, an’ his blue coat with buff facin’s, an’ his flamin’ red
sash, an’ his terruble long sword, an’ his high shako, with the wavin’
plume a-top an’ the soarin’ brass eagle on the front of it.” Sam paused
for lack of breath.

“An’ Maj’r Otis Prouty was another giant,” he continued. “I’ve told
ye how the Maj’r trounced ol’ Col’n’l Leatherbee, up to Lond’nderry
muster. No? Oh, that was a tremenjous battle,” he chuckled softly to
himself, “a tremenjous battle while it lasted.”

“_So?_” queried the adjutant. “Was it the custom for junior
field-officers to thump their chiefs?”

“Gen’rally, no,” said Sam. “As a rule ’twa’nt a safe undertakin’,
’cause the men that rose up to be col’n’ls was men that run’d to pritty
large sizes. Ol’ Leatherbee was a man o’ consid’able breadth an’ heft.
But he was some lackin’ in sperrit. O-ho! he cert’nly _was_ lackin’ o’
gimp. An’ the time when Otis Prouty tipped him over was only one o’ two
times that he was downed with all four p’ints a-touchin’. For ther’ was
another time ’sides that ’un.” And here the old gunner again laughed
softly over some remembrance.

“I guess I’ll have to tell ye. ’Twas like this: the ol’ Col’n’l,
a’ter runnin’ in single harness for nigh onto fifty year, had to go
an’ git himself married. Not that ’twa’n’t right for him to do’t; the
Scriptures has established the principle that ’taint well for man to
be alone. Only, mistakes sometimes happens. An’ Col’n’l Leatherbee
added one more mistake to the list when he went an’ had himself
mattermonially yoked with Tildy Pettus. By doin’ which he shown the
beauty o’ the tex’ which states that fools goes a-rushin’ in where
angels is ’fraid o’ bein’ entertained unawares.

“I said, didn’t I, that ol’ Leatherbee was a giant? Wal, Tildy, _she_
was a giant-killer! ’Fore she was promoted to the command o’ the
Col’n’l’s establishment she used to be a school-ma’am. An’ if she
didn’t rule her little, red-painted institution o’ learnin’ with a
rod of iron ’twas only ’cause birch-rods come cheaper an’ handier,
besides bein’, when sci’ntifically applied to youthful students, more
blisterin’ than iron in a highly-het condition. Oh, she made a great
name for herself as a discipliner, an’ when she quit teachin’, the boys
an’ girls o’ that time felt that life still had some sweetness left
for the down-trodden an’ oppressed. They likewise made existence a
burnin’ torment for the nex’ teacher, which happened to be a dyspepsic
striplin’ from somewheres down-country.

“Now, Tildy Pettus--I mean Mis’ Col’n’l Leatherbee--were ’thout doubt
a good looker. She wa’n’t tall; the ol’ Col’n’l useter say, ‘She aint
long for this world’--meanin’ that she stood ’bout five-foot-three in
her high-heeled slippers. Her cheeks was quite red an’ attractive,
an’ she was plump an’ wholesome to the eye. But ther’ useter be a
kind o’ furrow that’d crease itself down ’twixt her eyebrows when
things didn’t go just to suit her, an’ when that occurred, which
wa’n’t unfrequent, them that knew her took it for a sign that ’twas
’bout time to display the better part o’ valor--which, so we’re told,
is discretion. For Tildy had a tongue--a _sharp_ ’un--an’ a copious
dictionary to draw words from when the sperrit moved her to the usin’
on ’em.

“Not that, in speakin’ o’ the sharpness o’ the female tongue, I’m
castin’ any reflections on wimmin-kind _as_ such,” explained Sam.
“Lor’ knows I’ve been admirin’ wimmin more or less for better’n half
a century. But some on ’em, havin’ tongues o’ great keenness, makes
remarks which cuts most distressful. An’ yet, if female tongues be
keen, the male tongue often is blunt; an’ I haint yet quite made up my
mind whether it hurts the worst to be cut by a sharp tongue or bruised
black-an’-blue by a blunt ’un. It’s some’at a’ter the fashion o’
politics--‘Both the Old Parties has grave defec’s in their make-up.’

“Wal, Mis’ Leatherbee settled down as commandin’ officer o’ the big,
white house wherein the Col’n’l hitherto had reigned alone, in fancy
meditatin’ free. An’ lackin’ her former exercise o’ disciplinin’
scholars, an’ havin’ no childern of her own to put through a course
o’ sprouts, she fell into the way o’ providin’ herself with amusement
by a-teachin’ her husband of his P’s an’ Q’s. An’ this was very
entertainin’ for the both on ’em. For she’d bin used to seein’ her
dear little pupils set up an’ take notice when she spoke to ’em; while
the Col’n’l--wal, he’d bin accustomed to doin’ pritty much whatever he
darn’ pleased, an’ furthermore had got well sot in the habit. However,
like most men that gits married late in life, he was fond of his wife,
an’ when she didn’t go for to nag him too hard they managed to jolt
along together well’s most married folks.

“Now, one o’ the Col’n’l’s pet habits, I must tell ye, was to employ
a consid’able share of his evenin’s, durin’ the winter, in settin’
into a congenial cotery which was in the way o’ gatherin’ themselves
together ’round the fire-place at the ta-avern. He were a man o’ some
prom’nence in them parts, an’ what he said carried great weight, he
havin’ bin to the legislatur’ for a couple o’ terms, an’ havin’ bin
selec’man time out o’ mind, ’sides havin’ held ’most every title in
the milishy ’ceptin’ jigadier-brindle--which is what the boys useter
call the brigadier gen’ral. So his remarks nat’rally was received with
great respec’, an’ when he explained the strategematical mistakes that
was made by both sides durin’ the Revolution an’ the War of 1812, ther’
wa’n’t no one that felt called upon to set up a very vehemient opinion
to the contrariwise. ’Specially while he was a-settin’ up o’ the
rum, which, for to give him his dues, he done as a rule, an’ freely;
sometimes so freely that when it come breakin’-up time, both him an’
his constituents would be a-showin’ sympt’ms o’ coagulation o’ the
speech.

“From all o’ which it follers that in some ways ol’ Leatherbee was the
darn’est man ye ever seen. Which bein’ so, his wife must o’ necess’ty
bin the nex’ to the darn’est. In the first place, ’twa’n’t proper nor
’cordin’ to the rules o’ polite behavior for him, havin’ saturated
his system with ol’ Santy Crooze extracts, to go home an’ try to
convince Mis’ Leatherbee that, if he’d bin in command o’ the American
forces, the maraudin’ British wouldn’t never’ve had occasion to make
a hollowcost o’ the city o’ Washin’ton; because she, not bein’ a
soldier, couldn’t be expected to take no int’rest in topics o’ them
kind, ’specially at the untimely hour o’ night at which they usually
was brought up for her consid’ration. _And_ which bein’ all granted,
’twa’n’t, in the second place, hardly good taste on her part to address
such remarks to her errin’ spouse as she sometimes allowed herself
for to do; ’cause, if he wa’n’t her superior, he cert’nly was her
senior. An’ no man o’ proper respec’ for himself enjoys bein’ called,
earnest-like, a ’sozzlin’ soak.’ This ye may set down for a fac’,
sure’s ye’re a foot high.

“P’raps I’m goin’ too heavy into details, an’ not figgerin’ my account
down to a p’int fine enough to match the lateness o’ the hour. But I’ve
told ye enough, anyways, to make it evident that the affairs o’ the
Leatherbee household was runnin’ along in a fashion that was bound to
wind up in a climax sometime. An’ finally the climax come, the arrival
of it bein’ somewhat in thiswise:

“’Twas on a terruble stormy night, ’long towards the end o’ Jan’ary.
The ol’ Col’n’l had went down to the ta-avern uncommon early, an’
had evened things up by stayin’ more’n respectable late. So when he
fin’lly got himself boosted out’n his chair by the fire, an’ started
off to go home, clean to t’other end o’ the town, the clock in the
steeple o’ the Orthodox church had got through with the business o’
knockin’ out midnight an’ was a-puttin’ up its hands to strike the next
hour which might happen to come along that way, feelin’ confident, as
ye might say, that it could send it to sleep in one round.

“‘Col’n’l,’ says the ol’ man to himself, as he went ploughin’ along
through the snow, ‘Col’n’l, ye have tarried too long with the serpint
which do lurk in the wine-cup.’ This, however, wa’n’t stric’ly
true, ’cause ther’ hadn’t bin no wine at all connected with the
evenin’s entertainment, he havin’ confined his attention exclusive to
rum-an’-molasses.

“‘Col’n’l Leatherbee,’ says he again, a little further on, ‘I’ve sore
misgivin’s in regards to the reception that’s a-waitin’ ye yonder.’ It
was a great trick o’ the ol’ man’s to talk to himself when a-laborin’
under stimulous excitement. But he always done it respectful, never
allowin’ himself to forgit the position in the community which he
held. At the proper time an’ place he was able an’ willin’ to swear the
legs off’n an iron pot; but he never swore at himself, nor at his wife,
neither.

“‘I must be firm in the hour of adversity,’ says he, when he had
steered himself far’s his own gate. ‘“Budge not, lest ye be budged”
shall be my motter. I will be silent under the wrath to come. It is
written that strong waters run deep; _I_ will run deep also.’ This is
what he actu’lly said. I know it, because the ol’ man had bin talkin’
in a very deep tone, so’s to give himself all the courage possible,
an’ the lan’lord o’ the ta-avern heard every blessed word, he havin’
follered the Col’n’l far’s his door, to make sure that he didn’t lay
himself down to slumber in no snow-drift, arguin’ that he were too
valuable a customer to be careless of.

“Wal, Col’n’l Leatherbee navigated careful acrost the door-yard,
leavin’ a trail as crooked as if’t had bin made by the serpint which
he’d mentioned, but the beautiful snow come down an’ covered the
tracks, so’s they shouldn’t set the neighbors to talkin’ next mornin’.
An’ that was the last seen o’ the Col’n’l, that night, by any mortal
eye ’ceptin’ his wife’s. However, the rest o’ what I’m goin’ to tell
ye sets on a pritty good foundation, for it comes direc’ from Mis’
Leatherbee herself, she havin’ bin so tickled by the subsequence of
events that she just couldn’t keep her mouth shet, an’ had to go
trottin’ over to tell the whole story to her nex’ best friend. By which
channels the report was duly an’ officially promulgated.

“After wrastlin’ successful with the latch o’ the door, the ol’ man
ushered himself into the house. An’ then, havin’ pulled off his boots
an’ dumped his big coat, snow an’ all, down onto the floor, he slipped
into the sleepin’-room an’ begun to diverge himself from the rest of
his clothin’. Everythin’ went fust-rate for a while, not a whisper
comin’ from the big four-posted bedstid to disturb his nerves. But Mis’
Leatherbee was just layin’ low, like a masked batt’ry. An’ all of a
sudden she opened onto him.

“My gor-_ri_! She begun with solid shot, an’ then changed off onto
percussion shell, an’ fin’lly started a-servin’ out canister. The
tempest outside had bin doin’ tol’able lively work up to this p’int;
but when Mis’ Leatherbee got fairly het up to the occasion the wind
give a last despairin’ howl, an’ went switchin’ down the valley an’
into the nex’ township, like it owned up that it wa’n’t runnin’ no
opposition to the rumpus she was a-raisin.’

“The ol’ Col’n’l, he were took completely by su’prise, bein’, as
it were, off’n his guard. He’d bin expectin’ a to-do o’ some sort,
but the rakin’ he was a-gettin’ went clean beyond his most cheerful
calculations. For a minute he stood stock an’ still in his tracks,
plumb dumb-foundered. An’ then his knees got wobbly, an’ he sot down
suddin on the floor, for to collec’ his idees.

“So far it had bin a jug-handled discussion--meanin’ that all the
talkin’ had bin on one side. An’ as the ol’ man sot ther’ a-rummagin’
for thoughts, he come acrost his original plan, layin’ tucked away safe
an’ sound under the roof of his head, an’ recollected that he wa’n’t
a-goin’ to say nothin’, no matter what happened.

“But, ’stid of abatin’, the roarin’ whirlwind of abuse kep’ growin’
stronger, an’ the Col’n’l kind o’ lost sight”--

“_S-st!_” broke in the adjutant, raising his hand, and leaning forward.
“Hear anything?”

“Yes; sabres a-clinkin’,” answered Sam promptly, cocking his head to
one side and peering out into the gloom. “Ye can’t fool me on that
sound; I’ve heard it too often, farther south than we be now. Guess
likely it’s the provo’s.”

The lieutenant-colonel stepped out from beneath the tent-fly, and went
to meet a little squad which was making its way up from the left of the
line. After a moment’s parley he returned to the tent, and the shadowy
group moved on, the clank of the sabres sounding more faintly as the
troopers vanished into the darkness. “Two of the provost-guard, running
in a tramp found asleep back of the cavalry stables,” he explained, as
he seated himself. “Proceed with your fiction, Sam.”

“Queer, how them tramps always hang ’round volunteer camps, aint it?”
said Sam. “Ther’ aint nothin’ in it for ’em, ’ceptin’ the guard-house
if they happens to git collared. An’ yit they turn up reg’lar, year in
an’ year out. Must be they’re sent providentially for to give practice
to the provo’s. Le’ me see; where was I? O, yes; ye left we two
a-settin’ here, an’ ol’ Col’n’l Leatherbee a-settin’ on the floor of
his bedroom, waitin’ for the clouds to roll by. Wal, I’ll proceed, but
not with no fiction; what I’m given’ ye is solemn an’ sacred fac’s.

“The clouds in the Leatherbee mansion, ’stid o’ rollin’ by, kep’
growin’ heavier an’ blacker, an’ Mis’ Leatherbee’s stock of ammunition
didn’t show no signs o’ runnin’ low. So fin’lly the ol’ Col’n’l’s
dander begun to come up, an’ ’fore he knew it, he’d forgot that he were
goin’ to suffer all things in uncomplainin’ silence.

“‘Mis’ Leatherbee,’ says he, ‘my dear mad’m, like the wintry snow, we
are driftin’--_hic!_--driftin’ apart. At the present moment we’re as
far apart’s the two ends of a stick. Which means bein’ sep’rated as
widely’s the feeble human intellec’ can conceive.’ Now, anybody with
eleven idees to the inch might have seen that the ol’ man wa’n’t in no
condition to pass remarks with his good lady; but, oncet havin’ got
fair started, he progressed right along, regardless o’ the fac’ that he
were violatin’ the agreement he’d made with himself previous.

“‘’Tis best that we should end this painful interview,’ he says,
a-climbin’ up onto his mutinous legs. ‘Alas! ther’ aint but one way,
an’ that a awful--_hic!_--awful gashly one! But ye’ve drove me to’t. I
ther’fore bid ye farewell, Mis’ Leatherbee. I also trust that your few
remainin’ years may be cheered by no remorse. Your very respectful an’
obedient servant, Nathan Leatherbee, Col’n’l commandin’ Tenth Reg’ment
Milishy.’ This may sound ridic’lous, but it’s word for word what the
ol’ man said. Honest! His brain was so shooken-up by the razzlin’ he’d
bin gittin’ that he truly couldn’t tell whether he were makin’ of a
speech or writin’ of an official letter.

“Wal, bein’ more or less firm established on his feet, he zig-zagged
himself out into the kitchen, his house follerin’ the plan o’ most
country houses o’ that time, an’ havin’ a thunderin’ big kitchen,
with a lot o’ rooms openin’ out of it. Here he sashayed over to the
cupb’d, an’ took out a slashin’ big carvin’ knife, an’ begun to whet
it up on the steel which went with it, makin’ more noise than a
hay-maker puttin’ an edge onto his scythe. Mis’ Leatherbee had stopped
talkin’, an’ ’twas plain to be seen that she were a-listenin’ to the
proceedin’s.

“The ol’ Col’n’l fixed the knife to suit him, an’ then slipped into the
closet an’ fetched out a ham which happened to be there, settin’ it
down careful-like onto the table. ‘Mis’ Leatherbee, do ye relent?’ says
he in a solemn tone. If she did, she didn’t say so. ‘Ther’s yet time,
ma’am,’ says he, pausin’ for a reply. Not a word come from the bedroom;
the silence was truly appallin’. ‘Once more, then,’ says he, in a
chokin’ voice, ‘an’ for the last time, farewell!’ An’, with that, he
plunked the carvin’ knife into the ham, with a sick’nin’ _chug_, give a
fearful groan, an’ flopped down heavy onto the floor.

“Now, ’twas gol-_dum_ cold out ther’ in the kitchin, an’, as I told ye,
the Col’n’l had dispensed with most of his clothin’ before bein’ drove
to the committin’ of his rash deed. Consequently, after layin’ ther’ in
the dark for a minute, he begun to have chills, an’, to keep his teeth
from chatterin’, he had to groan some more, which he done this time in
good earnest. But Mis’ Leatherbee staid comfortable in bed.

“Wal, fin’lly Col’n’l Leatherbee give a combination o’ groan an’ gasp
an’ guggle that fair rattled the dishes on the closet shelves. An’ then
his wife speaks up, an’ says, says she, ‘Aint ye dead yet, _Mister_
Leatherbee?’ To which he answered, truthful, ‘No; but I’m tormented
nigh to bein’!’--‘Hurry up an’ die, then,’ says she, ‘I want to be
gittin’ to sleep.’ An’ he heard her turnin’ over in bed, an’ smoothin’
down her piller.

“That was the last straw that done the giant-killin’ business. The ol’
man riz up slow, leavin’ the murdered ham layin’ in its gore on the
table, an’ sneaked back into the bedroom, an’ crawled in under the
quilts, feelin’ smaller’n a cent’s worth o’ soap a’ter a week’s hard
washin’. An’, for oncet in her life, Mis’ Leatherbee had sense enough
to hold her raspin’ tongue, an’ let her husband go to sleep in peace.”

“Here comes the relief,” said the lieutenant-colonel, as the sentinel
at headquarters advanced to meet an approaching knot of men, and
sharply challenged, “_Halt! Who’s there?_”

“Whew! then it’s two o’clock,” said Sam, hastily rising. “Who’d have
thought it? This aint no sort o’ way for a man o’ my age to be
a-keepin’ his roses fresh.”

“Any moral in all that?” asked the adjutant, rising in his turn.

“No; nor nothin’ un-moral, neither,” chuckled the veteran, raising
his hand to his cap in parting salute. “Which, in these days, is good
guarantee that ’twont never be printed. Wal, good-night to ye.”



WOODLEIGH, Q.M.


Most of us have cause for remembering the hospitalities of The Fourth.
The same being an up-country regiment, a visit to it involves a rail
journey of three hours and thirty times as many miles; but, in view
of what lies at the end of them, the ninety miles and the three hours
count as nothing. For in The Fourth they know how to do things properly.

The second battalion of The Fourth sent out cards for a ball,
last winter, and a round dozen of them turned up in our mail at
headquarters. As a rule, we never allow an invitation from that part
of the world to go unheeded; but this time we had to return our really
regretful regrets, because a meeting of the council of officers had
been ordered for that particular night. It was too bad.

But The Third, if for nothing more than old acquaintance’ sake,
had to be represented. And so the colonel, after thoughtfully
considering the varied attractions of the staff, sent for the
quartermaster--“Woodleigh, Q.M.,” he signs himself, when the paper
is an official one--and, after loading him down with his blessing
and our compliments to the fellows of the other corps, regretfully
saw him start off alone towards the scene of impending festivities.
“Woodleigh’s a fine shape of man,” the colonel argued to himself, “and
he’ll do for a sample of the rest of us. Besides, what earthly sort of
use _are_ quartermasters, except for ornament?” So off went Woodleigh
to the ball.

In course of time he came back again, telling strange things about what
had happened to him during his absence.

“About that ball?” said he, on a night in the following week, when
a half-dozen of us had bunched ourselves before one of old Sam’s
master-pieces of fire-building, up in The Battery. “Oh, well, it
was a big ball, a broad-and-wide ball, a very large ball indeed.
You missed it by not going. The armory was decorated right up to
the vanishing-point--out of sight, in fact. There were brass
twelve-pounders on each side of the Governor’s box, like signs to
call attention to the big guns inside of it; and there were oceans of
bunting; and all the regimental colors that The Fourth has had issued
to it in the last thirty years; and jungles of palms and other green
things; and girls--yes, there were girls, of course.

“There was _one_ girl-- Never mind: that wouldn’t interest you fellows.
But perhaps you’d like to hear about the supper. There was a very
nourishing supper, so they tell me. I didn’t stay for it, though.”

With our knowledge of the quartermaster’s customary prowess at
the banquet table, this last statement seemed to call for farther
explanation. We ventured to ask him about it.

“Why did I cut that supper? Well, because I wanted to. Why did I want
to? H’m! you’re hot for information, aren’t you? But perhaps I may as
well tell you. If I don’t, somebody else will; and if it has to be
told, I’d prefer to have it told truthfully.

“It was all on account of that girl--that _one_ girl. I’m not ashamed
to admit that it was a case of utter annihilation at first sight. I
had hardly stepped out upon the armory floor, when my eye fell on
her; and from that instant I knew that, for _me_, there wasn’t another
girl in that whole hall--no, nor in the whole wide world. ‘See anybody
you’d like to meet?’ says Major Brayton, who had me under his wing.
‘Yes, present me to that stunning girl in yellow,’ says I, like a
flash; ‘that girl sitting over there beside the stout woman in black.’
Confound Brayton! he might have warned me. But he didn’t: he only
grinned and said ‘Perhaps you’d better get Erwin to take you up. But
come along with me, I’ll risk it.’

“Whew! she _was_ a tearing beauty. Big, soft, brown eyes, and a regular
cloud of wavy, brown hair to match, and a general effect of having just
stepped out of one of Gibson’s drawings. When the major presented me,
my heart was thumping like a bass-drum. Fact! Her name? I didn’t quite
catch it. But I captured her card, and signed contracts for a waltz,
and some sort of country-dance just after it, and another waltz well
along towards the end of the list. How did I score her down on _my_
card? Why, I just scratched down ‘D’--which might have stood for most
anything.

“Well, we floated through the waltz. It was a treat, for she was a
divine dancer, as I’d thought she’d be. When the country-dance came
along, I suggested that we’d do well to hunt up some place in the
gallery from which we could look down upon it, explaining that I was a
little weak in my minor tactics, and really didn’t feel up to getting
tangled in any such complicated manœuvres unless I had a book of
directions with me. So up to the gallery we went, and I found an ideal
corner, all hidden by bunting draperies, and palms and things.

“And there we sat--just we two--in a ready-made paradise of our own,
utterly forgetful of the crush of prancing idiots who were toiling
away on the floor below us. H’m! I think I must have lost my head
completely. I said all sorts of things. As a matter of fact, I can’t
begin to remember half what I _did_ say. I only know that finally the
music stopped, and she rose with a sigh. ‘Can’t I steal this next
dance?’ says I, taking her card from her to see who the lucky man
was that had it. ‘No,’ says she softly, ‘I’m afraid that it wouldn’t
be possible.’ I glanced at the card, and for the first time noticed
that the next dance and fully two-thirds of the others were labelled
‘_J. E._’, in a painfully distinct and careful hand.

“And while I was assimilating this interesting fact, who should come
blundering into our little, private paradise but Jack Erwin, first
lieutenant of ‘C’, Fourth. You don’t know him? Wish _I_ didn’t! ‘Hello!
Woodleigh, old man,’ says he, grabbing my paw. ‘Found you at last.
They told me you were doing guard duty for me. Well, I’m waiting to be
congratulated.’

“‘I beg pardon, Jack,’ says I; ‘promotion?’ And then he laughed--one of
those silly, cheerful, lover’s laughs--and tucked _my_ girl’s slender
little hand under his arm. ‘No,’ says he; ‘or, rather, yes. Hadn’t you
heard of my engagement?’ And he smiled down on the girl in a way that
made me wild to toss him over the balcony railing.

“But I didn’t. I simply pulled myself together as best I could, and
shook hands with him, and mumbled something or other to her, and then
watched them go strolling off together. And just as they went out of
sight behind the palms, I saw her press closer to him, and heard her
say, ‘Oh, Jack, dear, I thought you never _would_ come!’

“That’s all I know about the ball. If you’re still thirsting for points
on it, I’ll refer you to Whateley, of ‘H’ troop. He was there. Danced
all night, I believe, and generally did his duty. Queer boy, Whateley!
It made me sorrowful to see him wasting his time in that way, when
he might have been putting it in to better advantage. But then, the
‘Yellow-Legs’ are always great on dismounted duty; nothing short of
‘Boots-and-Saddles’ ever rattles a really and truly volunteer trooper.”

Little Poore had wandered over to the bookcase, and was standing
before it, thumbing over the pages of the latest adjutant-general’s
report. “The first lieutenant of _‘C’, Fourth_, is here put down as one
Wilkins,” he said, turning towards us. “I don’t seem to find the name
of Erwin anywhere in the register.”

Woodleigh calmly looked over at him, and then addressed the rest of us.
“You’ll have to excuse him. He hasn’t been with us long, and doesn’t
quite understand my ways,” he explained. “Very likely he thought I’d
have the bad taste to lug real names into a personal story of that
sort. Come back here, Poore, and sit down. You must learn to save
yourself all un-necessary trouble.” Poore put away his book, and
returned to his place in the family circle.

“Care to hear anything more about my adventures, up there with The
Fourth?” inquired Woodleigh, rising and taking up a more congenial
position, with his back to the crackling fire. “Because, if you do,
there was another odd thing that happened that evening. After my heart
had been broken, in the way that I’ve told you, Tileson, the Q.M. of
The Fourth, ran up against me. He noticed that I wasn’t quite in gear.
‘You’re looking faint,’ says he. ‘Come along with me, and I’ll see if
something can’t be done for you. This ball business is all childish
folly.’ Tileson, you know, isn’t a dancing man.

“Well, he took me away from the armory, and over to the club--you
fellows remember that club they have up there?--and we played billiards
and other games for a while. Tileson also fixed me up with restoratives
until I felt quite like myself again; for he ranks high as a scientific
quartermaster. Finally we sat down to smoke, and while we were smoking
we got to talking shop.

“I don’t remember just what led up to it, but we drifted along from one
thing to another until we got into a discussion on athletics. Well, you
know how it goes: Tileson began to yarn about what he used to do in
that line, when he was younger; and that, of course, started me into
recalling certain feats of my own long-gone youth; and so we had it,
back and forth, until Tileson ended up by wanting to make some fool-bet
or other. And right at that point I conceived an idea.

“You see, it was growing late, and I found that I was becoming sleepier
than a stewed owl. Besides, that club was full of men, and thick with
smoke; and I wanted to get away from the confounded noise and chatter.
I’d engaged a room at the hotel, and had left my bag there; for I’d
made my plans to stay in town all night--but, as I said, I was attacked
by an idea.

“‘Tileson,’ says I, after the idea in all its beauty had paraded itself
before my mind’s eye, ‘I’m not a betting man. And least of all will I
bet money. Playing for money invariably leads to hard feelings. His
Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Germany, and likewise I, Woodleigh,
Q.M. of The Third, frown down upon all gambling among officers, both of
us holding that it is detrimental to the best interests of the service.
But I’ll tell you what I’ll do for your amusement: I’ll make you a
wager of a small dinner. _That’s_ not gambling, because we both have to
eat dinner, every day in the week, for which somebody has to pay. Am I
correct?’

“Tileson had to admit that a daily dinner was of the nature of
a necessity, and that it wouldn’t be gambling to risk one. So I
proceeded to spread out the details of my proposition. ‘It is a
bright, moon-lighted night,’ says I, after taking a peek at my watch
for certain reasons of my own; ‘there’s no snow on the ground, and
there’s not a breath of wind: therefore a paper trail would lie
beautifully--which is something that I personally can’t do. Why
wouldn’t it be an educated scheme to arrange a hare-and-hounds chase,
as a means of settling this speed question?’

“This seemed to strike Tileson as a grand thought, and so I went right
along with my remarks. ‘Of course,’ says I, ‘I’ll be handicapped by
not knowing the country, but I’m reasonably certain that I can start
out from this club with two minutes lee-way, and lead you a chase for
forty-five minutes, without being caught. I’ll carry a basketful of
paper, and drop a handful of it, every twenty yards, as long as it
lasts. I’ll also agree not to enter any house or building during that
three-quarters of an hour; my time shall be entirely devoted to going
cross-country. Moreover, after leaving the club, and making one turn,
I’ll lay my course in a crow-line--I mean, as the bee flies--for a
distance of at least a half-mile, thereby giving you a chance to run me
down by a straightaway sprint. Now, what do you say?’

“‘It’s a go!’ says Tileson, gobbling down the bait, without a thought
for any hook that might be hidden inside it. ‘Well,’ says I; ‘that’s
all I wanted to know. Now I’ll just slide over to the hotel, and shift
out of these togs. I’m not going to travel cross-country in a brand-new
dress uniform. Can’t afford it. I shall have to insist on entering for
the event in citizen’s dress. I’ll be back in a minute, and we’ll draw
up final articles.’

“Naturally, Tileson claimed the same privilege, and made a break
for home, to change his outfit; while I tooled across to the hotel,
to look after a few arrangements of my own. First, I rushed up to my
room, stripped off my full-dress, and packed it into my travelling
bag, strapping my overcoat on the outside, with my sword snugly tucked
underneath it. Then I went down to the office, explained that I had
made other plans for the night, paid my bill, and asked for the night
porter. I bought him outright with a shining half-dollar, took him into
a corner, and carefully coached him in the part I’d laid out for him
to play in my programme. Furthermore, I grabbed a sheet of paper, and
wrote out exactly what I wished him to do, so that there could be no
possible slip-up. And then, having given him my bag and his written
orders, I went back to the club.

“I got there just before Tileson. When he came in, the fellows sent up
a yell that opened great cracks in the plastering, for he appeared in
the most marvellous get-up that ever was seen outside of comic opera.
I hadn’t believed it, but it seems that, in his day, he really used
to be something of an amateur athlete. Well, he’d gone down into his
old-clothes box, and had fished out all the sporty duds that he could
lay hand to: and there he stood, after he’d thrown off his ulster,
in a pair of spiked running shoes, his legs bare to the knee, a pair
of white flannel knickerbockers coming next, a striped sweater a-top
of that, and a faded old rowing cap crowning the whole crazy-quilt
combination. It was very obvious that he hadn’t appeared in his
nondescript regalia for some time previously, for the billiard-room
reeked like an apothecary shop with the odor of camphor.

“Wasn’t he a gaudy object! I had to sit down to laugh, and it really
was quite a time before I got into shape enough to put in a protest
against his turning up in such light marching order as that. But it
was no use. He maintained that his rig was citizen’s dress and nothing
else, and the rest of the fellows backed him up in his claim. So I
gracefully yielded the point. ‘If this isn’t citizen’s dress, what _is_
it?’ says he. He certainly had me there.

“By this time the excitement in that club was quoted at a high figure.
It was after two o’clock in the morning, and the men were beginning
to drop in from the ball in squads. At least a dozen of The Fourth’s
officers were there, besides a lot from out of town. All the odds
were on Tileson--nobody had the nerve to bet against that fearful and
wonderful rig of his.

“Well, we sent a select committee into the reading-room, and set them
at work tearing up the old papers on the files for the ‘scent’ that
was to be left along my trail. And they worked with a will, until
they’d filled a waste-basket heaping full. Then we selected judges,
and umpires, and referees, and time-keepers, until about everybody
in the place had some office or other. And all the while I kept one
eye on the clock that stood in the corner of the billiard-room. It
was an old-fashioned, tall clock, and I’d noted the fact that it was
eleven minutes slow. This, I’ll state, made it necessary for me to
perform some wonderful problems in mental arithmetic; and trying to
figure, in the midst of the row that was going on up there, wasn’t any
intellectual picnic. I managed it, though.

“Now, the billiard-room was at the rear, and in the third story, of
the club-house, and we’d agreed that the start should be made from
it. This, of course, was because I didn’t care to have anybody know
just what I was up to during the first two minutes of the race. I
also had stipulated that Tileson and all hands should stay in that
room until my time-limit had expired. Well, when the venerable clock
alleged that it was two-thirty-nine, I tucked the waste-paper basket
under my arm, shook hands with Tileson, and got on my marks at the
head of the stairway. ‘Start me at two-forty,’ says I, scooping up a
fistful of paper, and nodding up towards the clock. ‘_’Tention!_’ sang
out Major Brayton, whom we’d made head time-keeper. ‘By the numbers:
one--two--_go_!’ And at that I pitched a bunch of torn paper up into
the air, so that Tileson wouldn’t have any trouble in finding where my
trail began, and then bundled myself down those stairs like a thousand
of brick.

“But as soon as I landed on the sidewalk, I took it more easily; for
two minutes’ start was ample for my requirements. I lighted a cigar,
and then headed down the street at an ordinary gait, conscientiously
dropping paper at every twenty yards. You may bet that I didn’t run:
I wasn’t planning to have any country policeman scoop _me_ in for a
suspicious character. Wherein I displayed great brain-power.

“Now, the club up there, you’ll remember, is located on the main street
of the town. Very likely you’ll remember also that the railway station
lies only about a hundred yards down the street from the club-house.
Furthermore, the tracks of the railway run across that street at grade,
in the comfortably reckless way that they have in towns of that size.
Well, now you have the whole situation, and you can see, of course,
what my plan of campaign was like.

“I’d recalled the fact, while I was talking with Tileson, that
the down mail-train from Canada was due to strike the town at
two-forty-eight, and was scheduled to continue its run to the eastward
at two-fifty-three. I happened to know, too, that it seldom picked up
any passengers at that hour of the night: that, in fact, it stopped
mainly for the purpose of watering the engine and juggling mail-bags.
So I felt fairly confident that nobody would suspect me of having any
designs on _that_ particular method of performing a cross-country run.
And events proved that I was right.

“Well, after I’d cleared the club, I strolled down the street and took
up my position alongside the track, just as the locomotive gave a
warning snort and came slowly pulling out from the station. I looked at
my watch. It showed two-fifty-three, to a second. I turned and glanced
towards the club, and saw a white figure come shooting out into the
moonlight, followed by a running accompaniment of darker shapes. And
then, as the engine went puffing past, I faced towards the train.

“It gathered headway slowly, and the first cars seemed to crawl by
me. But by the time the baggage-car, mail-car, and a pair of ordinary
coaches had gone lumbering past, the whole outfit was making pretty
fair speed; and when I grabbed the handrail of the Pullman which came
along as rear guard to the whole procession, I had to hop like a monkey
with Saint Vitus’ dance. I got aboard all right, though, and brought my
paper-basket with me, without spilling more than a reasonable amount of
its contents. And then I looked back, and saw things happening.

“Now, while I was standing by the track, waiting for the Pullman to
get within boarding distance, I’d heard, above the roar of the train,
a perfect pandemonium of other sounds. But I hadn’t had the nerve to
look behind me, because I knew that I’d have to make pretty close
connections with my handrail, when it came along. I was painfully aware
that I should have a narrow squeak in getting away; for the distance
from the club was so short that Tileson stood a very brilliant show of
covering it before the train could gather headway enough to save me
from being run down. And, if it hadn’t been for a providential miracle,
I’m inclined to think that I should have had to pay for that dinner,
after all. But the miracle got there just in the nick of time.

“It seems that it’s the custom of the one policeman on night duty in
that town to go to the station to meet all trains, whereby he keeps
himself awake and exercises a sort of general supervision over the
in-comings and out-goings of the populace. Well, as the train left the
station, the policeman sauntered out upon the main street, just in time
to see coming tearing towards him a wild man in indecent garments,
followed by a mob of panting pursuers. Naturally enough he saw before
him the chance of a lifetime; and so he pulled himself into shape,
tackled Tileson, and down they went in a wild snarl of arms and legs
and bad language. And that’s what I saw as I stood there on the rear
platform; for it was a bright, moonlight night, and everything was
as plain as print. The show didn’t last long for me, though, because
the train was humming along on a straight stretch of track, and in
a little while the smoke and dust streamed out in its wake, like a
curtain falling on the last act of a tragedy. Did I laugh? _Did_ I? I
did--until I came perilously near rolling off the car! I kept my wits
about me, though, and religiously dealt out torn paper, every twenty
yards, until it was all gone. I didn’t forget that I’d made a solemn
agreement to leave behind me a plain and continuous trail.

“At the rate at which we were spinning along it didn’t take a great
while to exhaust my supply of ‘scent.’ When the last of it was gone, I
kicked the basket overboard, and went inside the car. And there I found
my luggage waiting me, and a berth all engaged; for my man from the
hotel had followed his orders to the letter.

“Now, I’d like to ask you if that wasn’t quite an event in amateur
athletics? I hold that the cross-country championship belongs to The
Third; and I also claim that I scored on Tileson and his suit of many
colors.” On which points the sentiment of the meeting seemed to be with
Woodleigh.

A day or two afterwards one of us happened to run across Whateley.
“That man Woodleigh, of yours, is a corker!” said he. “After I left
the ball, the other night, I went up to that club where The Fourth’s
fellows hang out. Got there just after Woodleigh had gone sailing off
in a chariot of fire, like old what’s-his-name. Well, it was worth
a four-cornered gold brick to hear ’em rubbing it into Tileson! Did
you know he came within an inch of being pulled in for assaulting a
constable? Oh, he’ll never hear the last of it! I’d like to go you five
that he sends in his papers before next camp. Old Woodleigh didn’t
cut a very wide swath at the dance, though. Did he tell you about it?
He was paired off with a little, stumpy, freckle-faced girl, and had
to tramp nine laps ’round the hall with her in the ‘Grand March,’
so called. Perhaps he wasn’t the picture of misery! He and Tileson
escaped, right after the march; sneaked for the club before the music
struck up for the first waltz. Really, you fellows ought to send
somebody else besides Woodleigh to represent you on occasions of that
sort. He doesn’t do his duty.”



THE KERWICK CUP.


Elsewhere in the annals of The Third it has been stated--and the
statement proven--that Major Pollard can shoot. Here it will be shown
that he can shoot not only well, but also most thoughtfully.

It was the night before Christmas. Pollard was walking slowly along the
street, on his way home from the theater. He felt at peace with himself
and with all the rest of the world; for that afternoon, by a despairing
and truly heroic effort, he had managed to dispatch a half-dozen neat
parcels conveying to the immediate members of his family the greetings
appropriate to the season. And this was an achievement of no small
magnitude; for everybody knows how difficult it is to pick out various
sorts of gifts for various sorts of people, especially when certain of
those people are women, and the giver of the gifts has the misfortune
to be a man--and a single one. Which will explain, it may be, why so
many men get themselves married, and then straightway delegate to their
wives full authority in the matter of selecting presents.

The air was keen. A light, powdery snow came lazily drifting down, only
to find its whiteness quickly lost upon the much traveled pavement. A
red-cheeked newsboy, whining the old, old story about being “stuck,”
placed himself in Pollard’s path; and the major, in the true spirit of
Christmastide, was exploring his pocket in search of the necessary bit
of silver--when, full in the glare of an electric lamp, there came into
sight a figure that somehow seemed familiar.

Stopping short in his hunt for a dime, Pollard stared hard at the
approaching form; and then, tossing to the expectant urchin the first
coin upon which his fingers chanced to close, he started in pursuit of
his man, who already had passed him, and was going at a rate of speed
that made it probable that in another minute he would be lost to view
in the midst of the theater crowd upon the sidewalk.

A few rapid strides brought the major to his side, and a last, quick
glance satisfied him that he had not been mistaken. “Hello, Kerwick,”
said he, laying his hand upon the shoulder of the other. “Thought I
couldn’t be wrong. Well, well! I’m more than glad to see you back
again.”

At the sound of Pollard’s voice the man stopped and shrank away. He had
been walking rapidly along, with head lowered and eyes fixed upon the
ground, as if to avoid any chance recognition. He wore no overcoat,
and the collar of his shiny, black cutaway was turned up to protect
his throat from the biting night air. Taken as a whole, he was not a
cheerful object to contemplate.

“Ah, it’s you, Pollard, is it?” he said, with a side glance at the
major. “How are you? I’m just back from the West today. Nasty night,
isn’t it?”

“Yes,” assented Pollard, noting that his ill-conditioned friend could
with difficulty keep from shivering; “too nasty for making visits on
the curbstone. I’m just going to raid some place for oysters and other
hot things. You’ll join me, Captain?”

At the sound of this title the other drew himself up a bit; but in
an instant he fell back a pace, flushing painfully. “Join you?” he
said bitterly, thrusting his benumbed hands deeply into his trousers’
pockets; “join _you_! Good God, Pollard, look at me!”

“Well, I _am_ looking at you,” said the major, allowing his gaze
to travel slowly up and down the shrinking figure before him. “You
certainly look terribly seedy, and not much like the Captain Kerwick
under whom I used to serve. But if that’s any reason for your refusing
to sit down to half-a-dozen Blue-Points with me, why, I simply fail to
see it.”

“I’ll not do it,” said the other doggedly. “No, Pollard, I’ll not do
it. I’m out of your world, and you’re out of mine. That’s the long
and short of it. Possibly you noticed that I didn’t say I was glad to
see you? Well, I’m not. I’m confoundedly sorry I set eyes on you; or,
rather, that you set eyes on me. Will you let me go _now_? Good night.”

Without a word in reply to this outbreak, Pollard slipped an arm under
that of his friend, and used the other to aid his voice in attracting
the attention of a passing cab. When the vehicle pulled up beside
the curbing, he wrenched open the door, good-naturedly pushed in his
prisoner, and followed, after having given to the driver the address of
his cosey bachelor rooms in an up-town hotel.

“My dear man,” said he, drawing up the heavy robe and carefully tucking
it around his thinly clad companion, “it’s useless for you to protest.
There’s been a change since you were lord high autocrat of ‘M’ Company.
I’ve climbed up from lieutenant to captain, and then from captain
to major; so you can see the utter folly of trying to dispute my
commands. You’ll have to submit, Kerwick, and you’ll do well to submit
gracefully.”

“And now,” said Pollard, twenty minutes later, after he had settled his
captive in a big arm-chair before the glowing coal fire in his rooms,
“now we’ll consider the question of supper, first. Other matters may
wait their turn. You may bring up,” to the neatly uniformed colored boy
who had appeared in answer to his vigorous assault upon the electric
bell, “two half-dozens of oysters on the shell, and a small tenderloin
steak, fairly well-done, and a bottle of--” He gave a side glance at
the man seated before his fire. “And a pot of coffee,” he amended.

“That last was well thought of,” said Kerwick, as the bell boy left
the room. “You’re still observant, I see. Well, you’ve guessed it; the
bottle has held altogether too prominent a place in my recent history.”

The ruins of the supper had been cleared away. Kerwick was again
installed before the fire, with a cigar. Pollard lighted his old black
briar, pulled a chair towards the hearth, and said, as he seated
himself, “We’re not to have a green Yuletide, this year, after all.
It’s snowing in earnest now.”

“H’m! tomorrow’s Christmas,” murmured Kerwick, with something like a
sigh. “So it is. I hadn’t thought much about it. Well, Pollard, you
haven’t asked me yet--but I suppose you’re waiting for me to give an
account of myself.”

The major nodded, and smoked on in silence while his friend told the
story of the past few years: How he had broken away from all his early
associations in order to grasp at what had seemed a chance for making
rapid fortune in the West; how reverses had come quickly, one upon
another, until--baffled and beaten at every point--he had yielded under
the repeated blows, and finally had staggered and gone down beneath the
weight of discouragement.

“And here I am, back again,” Kerwick wound up, flinging into the fire
his half finished cigar, as if its flavor brought to him some of the
bitterness of recent disappointment; “here I am, at forty-five, in what
should be the prime of my life--homeless, hopeless, penniless, and out
of the game.”

“Yes?” said Pollard, as the other finished. “Now, old man, see here:
you’re not to throw away my cigars in the same careless way in which
you’ve thrown away your chances. They’re too choice, if I do say it, to
be handled disrespectfully. Take another, and _smoke_ it.” He pushed
the box across the table towards Kerwick. “These weeds were made to be
burned--but not in open grates.”

Kerwick laughed shortly, picked a fresh cigar from the box, and lighted
it. “You’ll have to pardon me,” said he. “That was temporary insanity.
I haven’t smoked a decent cigar, before these, in nobody knows how
many months.”

“Now, as for your croaking,” resumed Pollard, giving emphasis to his
remarks by an occasional thump of his heavy fist upon the arm of his
chair; “I’m going to make the only comment that seems to fit the
case. Which is, ‘_Stuff!_’ For you’re playing now with nothing to
lose and everything to win. Why, Kerwick, you _must_ see it! Nothing
from nothing leaves nothing; but nothing plus something may amount to
almost anything. Confound you, old man! I used to look up to you as the
embodiment of grit and push--and I’ll not let you tumble down in my
estimation, nor in your own.”

“Too late, Polly,” answered Kerwick in a low tone, half unconsciously
letting fall a nickname of the old days. “You mean well, but it’s too
late--it’s too late now.”

“Blessed if it isn’t!” exclaimed the major, putting upon the words of
the other a construction of his own. “It’s quarter to twelve, and high
old time for us to be sliding into bed. There’s a good day’s work cut
out for both of us tomorrow. I dare say you haven’t forgotten the bit
of silverware that used to go by the name of ‘The Kerwick Cup’? Well,
tomorrow we shoot for it.”

Now, it might be well to mention that Kerwick, in the prosperous
days when he was captain of “M” Company, was a rifleman of great
enthusiasm, and of no small skill. And when, on leaving for the West,
he resigned his commission, he gave to his old command, as memorials
of his interest in the most manly of all sports, two trophies--The
Kerwick Cup, and The Kerwick Medal. These were to be shot for in annual
competition: the medal, by the enlisted men; the cup, by the active and
past officers of the company. And for a number of years it had been the
custom to shoot both these matches on the forenoon of Christmas day.

“Are those old things still in existence?” asked the captain, with a
slight show of interest. “Really! I’d half forgotten them. But then,”
wearily, “I’ve forgotten most of the things in which I ever found any
pleasure.”

“Bah! you couldn’t forget the fun we’ve had together; no, not for the
life of you,” Pollard burst out impatiently. “Well, the old cup’s still
waiting to be won; and so’s the medal. Sergeant Harvey--he was a
corporal in your day, wasn’t he?--won the medal three times straight,
which nearly gave it to him for keeps. But he’s out of the service
now. The cup? Oh, I’m bidding high myself for the cup. My name’s been
engraved on it for three years, hand-running, and tomorrow may or may
not send it my way for the fourth and final holding.”

“Ah, yes, I remember now,” said Kerwick; “both the old things had to be
won four times consecutively in order to pass the title. I hope you’ll
pull out all right, Pollard; I’d be glad to know that the mug was
decorating your mantel. I’ll look for your score in the papers. Well,
as you say, it’s growing late. You’ve given me a very pleasant evening,
and I’d like to tell you how it has brought back old times, being up
here with you in this way--but perhaps I needn’t. Good night.” And with
this he rose, buttoned his thin black coat closely about him, and held
out his hand.

In an instant Pollard was upon his feet. “What the deuce are you
thinking of doing?” he demanded, placing himself by a sudden movement
between Kerwick and the door. “Going to leave me, eh? Not much! You’re
my prisoner, sir; sit down.”

For a minute the captain faced Pollard, with an appealing look upon his
face; but he ended by yielding to the stronger will, and obediently
dropped back into his chair. The major came over to the fireplace, and
took up his position upon the hearthrug, with his back to the fire. His
teeth were firmly set upon the amber mouthpiece of his pipe, and as
he spoke he punctuated his sentences with an occasional short puff of
smoke. “Now pay attention to what I’m saying to you,” he began, looking
down kindly upon the man before him, “because it has ‘Official’ stamped
all over it, and it’s not to be disputed about, nor argued over.”

“Six years ago,” said Pollard, letting himself drop back until his
broad shoulders rested comfortably against the high mantel-shelf, “you
and I were good friends. As I recall it, we used to find life rather
a pleasant sort of thing. But, not content with leaving well enough
alone, you had to send yourself chasing away after the pot of gold at
the foot of the western rainbow. Well, luck didn’t run your way: either
you didn’t hold openers, or else the pot was buried too deeply to be
easily got at--and here you are, back again, after having made a most
praiseworthy attempt at going to the devil.”

“Is this a sermon?” asked Kerwick, at this point in Pollard’s discourse.

“No, it isn’t,” said the major earnestly; “at least, it’s not meant
for one. But what I’m getting at is this: you’ve got to borrow a leaf
from the politician’s book, and ‘put yourself into the hands of your
friends.’ Now, we can’t map out a whole career for you at a single
sitting; so we’ll simply settle the programme for the next forty-eight
hours, and call it a night’s work at that.”

“Thanks!” said Kerwick dryly. “To tell the truth, I _don’t_ feel quite
up to arranging my future at the present moment.”

“No?” said Pollard. “Neither do I. But you may consider this much of it
as having been already arranged: tomorrow we go out with the company,
shoot in the cup match--you may win your own mug, if you’re lucky
enough--then we come back to town, dine together, and wind up the day
with an old-fashioned evening of yarning and smoking, up here in these
rooms; day after tomorrow, we consider what’s to be done with you;
after that, we begin to do it. See?”

“I wish I could, Polly,” began Kerwick, “but--”

“Oh, about clothes and things,” broke in the major; “I can fit you out
to a button. We go out in fatigue, you know, tomorrow: well, when I got
my last promotion, I was so tickled over it that I treated myself to a
whole new outfit, so I’ve my captain’s uniform still on hand, and it’ll
fit you like wall paper unless you’ve changed several sizes since last
we ran together.”

The clock upon the mantel began to strike. From without, hushed and
mellowed by the thickly falling snow, came the sound of the chimes in
old St. Luke’s.

“Hello! it’s morning,” said Pollard, as the clock’s deep-toned gong
told off the last stroke of midnight. “Merry Christmas, Kerwick! _Merry
Christmas, old man!_ Got ahead of you that time, didn’t I? And now
we must crawl under the blankets, for in ten hours from now we’ll be
bullseye chasing.”

Kerwick slowly rose from his chair. He placed both hands on Pollard’s
shoulders, looked him full in the face, and said, “God bless you,
Polly!” And then, the least bit huskily, he added, “Perhaps you’re
right, after all. Perhaps it’s _not_ too late.”

Pollard saw his old commander safely stowed away in the little box of
a room that he was pleased to call his guest chamber, and then went
about his preparations for the coming match. First, he put in order
his rifle, and filled his thimble belt with half a hundred cartridges
of his own careful loading. Then, after laying out his own uniform,
he hunted through closet and wardrobe until he had got together a
captain’s full outfit, which he placed upon a chair, just outside the
door of Kerwick’s room.

For a moment he stood there listening. From within came the sound of
deep, regular breathing. He softly turned the knob, and stepped into
the room. Kerwick lay sound asleep, with his face turned towards the
wall. Feeling like a full-fledged thief, Pollard laid hands upon the
waistcoat which hung at the head of the bed, and then stealthily crept
out of the room.

There was no watch in the waistcoat. Pollard opened a drawer of
his desk, took out a plain silver timepiece--a relic of his school
days--wound and set it, and slipped it into its proper pocket. He
explored the other pockets. In one he found a ragged two dollar bill;
in another, a stub of pencil and a card of common matches. That was all.

Tossing the vulgar brimstone matches into the fire, he went again to
his desk and rummaged about until he found a silver match box--one
of many that had come to him on birthdays and other times of the
sort--which he filled with parlor matches and placed in the lower,
left-hand pocket. Then he drew out a roll of bills, picked out three
crisp fives, folded them up, once lengthwise and once across, with
Kerwick’s poor, tattered banknote, and tucked the money snugly into the
lower, right-hand pocket. And then he stole back into the captain’s
room, and hung the garment in the place in which he had found it.

“Poor devil! He’s utterly done up,” he said to himself, as he left
the room, after a last glance at his sleeping guest. “And no wonder!
Well, there’s another Santa Claus tradition gone wrong! I haven’t put
anything into the old chap’s socks. Never mind. The chances are that
they’re too full of holes to make the filling of ’em a possibility.”

He went over to the mantel, filled a leather cigar case with
_Perfectos_, and stowed it away in the inner pocket of the fatigue
jacket which lay ready for Kerwick to don in the morning. This done,
he stood thinking for a moment before the fire, and then, beginning
rapidly to throw off his clothes, he muttered, “Yes, that will work.
It’s _sure_ to!” With which truly oracular remark he started off to bed.

Christmas day came in under a clear sky. Pollard rose at an early hour,
went to the window for a hasty glance at the snowy world outside, and
then rapped noisily at his friend’s door, singing out cheerily, “Hi!
Kerwick. Time you were getting up.” And to hasten matters, he whistled
the bars of _Reveille_, the lively call which, many a time, had brought
them tumbling out from their blankets when under canvas with the Old
Regiment.

Kerwick’s night of untroubled sleep had worked wonders. After a dip
into the bath, and ten minutes’ careful work with the razor, he looked
another man. And when at last, arrayed in captain’s uniform, he had
inspected himself in Pollard’s mirror, he faced about, threw back his
shoulders, and said with a healthy ring in his voice, “Polly, my son,
I’ve been pretty far down, but I’ll live up to my old rank again--if
only for today.”

“Did anybody ever see such a fit?” asked Pollard, gazing admiringly at
the natty appearance of his friend. “Talk about being melted and poured
into clothes! Why, that blouse looks as if it had been frescoed on you.”

Kerwick passed his hand over the breast of the snugly clinging blouse,
and became aware, in doing it, that something lay hidden beneath its
surface. Unbuttoning it, he drew out the cigar case. “Ah, that was
thoughtful of you,” said he. “Thank you, Polly.”

Struck by a sudden thought, he ran his fingers into the pocket where
the lone bill had been. The modest wad of money came into view. He
colored slightly, and then tried a second pocket, whereby he discovered
the little silver watch, which looked him boldly in the face, and
promptly ticked out its holiday greeting. In its turn, too, the match
box came to light. And all the while Pollard stood by, surveying the
proceedings with a grin of satisfied approval.

“The match box and the matches in it,” explained the major, “are from
Santa Claus. The same applies to the cigar case and its contents. The
watch and those few bills are a loan from me; you’ll return ’em when
it’s most convenient. And now we must be moving.”

The two ex-captains breakfasted together, and then hastened down to the
station for the early morning train. With a little group of other past
officers they were standing upon the platform, when the shrill squeak
of a fife and the lively rattle of a drum came clearly on the crisp
December air, to warn them that the boys were drawing near. And in a
moment, to the tune of _The Bold MacIntyre_, the company came swinging
in through the wide doorway and down the long platform, making the
vaulted roof of the trainhouse resound with the steady tramp, tramp,
tramp of the marching column.

Three officers, white-gloved and trim; fifty men, muffled in the
blue great-coats of the service; fifty rifles sloping at the trail;
belts black and glossy, buttons and brasses glittering like polished
mirrors--it all went to make as bright a picture of the pomp and
circumstance of volunteering as one could wish to see.

The train slowly pulled out from the long station, bearing the jolly
little army towards its peaceful battle ground. Pollard settled Kerwick
safely at the forward end of the car, with Colonel Elliott, and then
industriously began the final development of the grand idea which
had taken shape in his brain the night before. One after another he
button-holed the dozen or so officers in the car, attacking each one
somewhat after this fashion:

“Here’s old Kerwick back again. Seems good to see him, doesn’t it?
Blamed good fellow, if ever there was one! Well, he’s been having a
horrible run of luck lately. I happen to know that he’s hard pushed,
and is worrying over it. But he’s clear sand, grit ’way through to the
vertebræ--and none of us ever will find out from _him_ how he’s been
getting it in the neck. Now, I want to fix up a sort of benefit for
him. You’ll help me out in it? Of course; knew you would. But we can’t
chip in to _give_ him anything. He’s too infernally proud: wouldn’t
have it, you know.

“Here’s what I’d propose: we’ll make up a sweepstake in the cup match,
throw in five dollars apiece, and then let Kerwick win the whole
business. None of us will be killed by dropping a fiver, but the
aggregate pot will give the old chap quite a lift. He used to shoot
like a demon once. Don’t know if he can now--but we can make sure that
we shoot worse than he does, anyway. We’ll have to do all this quietly,
on account of the men; ’twouldn’t do to have ’em get the idea that
we’re gambling. Grand strategy on a small scale, isn’t it?” And with
this, Pollard would release that particular victim, and start off in
search of yet another recruit for his enterprise.

The annual shoot of “M” Company certainly was a notable success. The
Kerwick Medal was won on the phenomenal score of thirty-three points,
in seven shots; and no less than sixteen of the fifty men competing for
it managed to roll up an average of centers, or better. But when it
came to the struggle for the Kerwick _Cup_--well, that was a different
matter!

Pollard quietly had collected the entries for the sweepstake, and had
turned over the money to Colonel Elliott, who--not being a past officer
of the company--could not shoot for the cup. He had some difficulty
in getting Kerwick into the match, but finally succeeded in persuading
him that it would look odd if he, with his past reputation as a rifle
sharp, should persist in staying out. There were twelve competitors in
all, and consequently the colonel found himself the custodian of sixty
dollars’ worth of the Government’s paper.

The match began. Colonel Hamilton, of the retired list, and Captain
Bromstead, of the active company, made the first pair. Bromstead has
rather educated ideas about the handling of a rifle, and Colonel
Hamilton seldom scatters much lead outside the four ring; but in this
particular match the shooting of both was something fearful to behold
and wonderful to reflect upon. For the captain’s seven shots netted
just twenty-one points, while Hamilton, after piling up an even twenty,
fell back from the firing point in well feigned disgust.

And so it went, as pair after pair took their turn at the targets,
until--amid a storm of good-natured chaffing--all except Kerwick and
Pollard had fired. Up to this point, the top score was twenty-five.
It had been made by little Poore, junior lieutenant of the company,
who afterwards apologized to Pollard for doing such brilliant work,
explaining that, by way of experiment, he had closed both eyes when
firing his last shot, by which means--to his utter astonishment and no
small chagrin--he had plumped his bullet dead into the center of the
bullseye.

“Major Pollard and Captain Kerwick!” called the scorer. Kerwick stepped
quickly to his place, and the major slowly followed.

“After you, Pollard,” said Kerwick, with a nod towards the targets, to
signify that the major should lead off.

“No, no, Captain,” said Pollard; “after you. I’m defending the cup, you
know, and it’s my privilege to see what I must shoot against.”

Kerwick tested the pull of his piece, looked keenly at the sights, gave
just the slightest touch to the wind-gauge, slipped in a cartridge,
and then leveled the long barrel upon the target. For three seconds
he stood motionless, and then he fired. It was a bullseye. The group
behind him sent up a murmur of applause, which was promptly checked by
Colonel Elliott. Pollard threw his piece easily to his shoulder, aimed
quickly fired, and brought up a bullseye in his turn.

Kerwick’s second shot was a close four; Pollard’s, another bullseye.
On the third attempt, Kerwick again found the black, while the
major’s shot was a very chilly center. After the sixth round had
been completed, the captain stepped back and glanced at the scorer’s
blackboard. The story then read:

    _Captain Kerwick_     5, 4, 5, 4, 4, 5
    _Major Pollard_       5, 5, 4, 4, 4, 5

He went back to his place, and passed his hand across his eyes, as if
to drive away the dazzling glare of the sun upon the snow. Barring
a bright red spot on either cheek, his face was ashen pale. Those
who were watching him closely noticed that his knees were slightly
trembling.

Among the officers in rear of the firing point there was suppressed
excitement. Little Poore drew Bromstead aside, and in a whisper
confided to him his opinion that Pollard was a combination of
pirate, bunco-steerer, and all-’round brute. He also hinted at the
advisability of jamming a handful of snow down the back of Pollard’s
neck, in order to disarrange his nervous system. Colonel Elliott, with
one hand deep in his trousers’ pocket, savagely clutching the roll of
bills confided to his keeping, stood blackly scowling at Pollard, and
endeavoring to catch his eye. But the major calmly went on with the
operation of blowing through the barrel of his rifle, and never once
turned to see what might be going on behind him.

Kerwick raised his rifle, and aimed. But the barrel perceptibly
wavered, and after an instant of hesitation he lowered the piece. He
drew a long breath, aimed again, and then--_then_, with a convulsive
jerk, he pulled the trigger.

At the crack of the rifle a little spray of glittering snow spurted
up into the sunlight, just beyond the right edge of the target. The
strain had been too heavy. Kerwick’s last and all important shot had
gone wide! A small, red flag was raised before the face of the target.
Slowly, mockingly it was waved to and fro. “Miss,” said the scorer
softly, as he chalked down the fatal zero.

Pollard glanced quickly at the unlucky captain, and then settled into
position for firing. Kerwick laughed weakly, and faced about, to walk
away. But suddenly he stopped, turned from the sympathizing group
behind the firing point, and fixed his gaze upon the targets; for he
had become aware that the muscles around his mouth were twitching, and
that--because of the glaring snow, perhaps--his eyes were being blinded
by a hot gush of tears.

There came a sharp report. Pollard’s last bullet was speeding its way
across the two hundred yards of snow. And in a moment the white disk
crept into sight--_but not on Pollard’s target_! Bullseye though the
shot was, it could be scored only as a miss.

“Da’--thunderation!” yelled Pollard, giving an exhibition of realistic
acting sufficiently fine to have made Salvini faint dead away, could
he have seen it. “Oh, glory! I’m on the wrong target--and there goes
the blooming old cup! Kerwick’s score outranks. What luck! Oh, what
_infernal_ luck!”

There was a roar from the crowd. The knot of excited watchers did not
need to be reminded of the rule that, in the case of an absolute tie,
the winning score is the one in which the ranking shots lie nearest
towards the end. Half the officers sought relief for their feelings by
thumping Kerwick upon the back. The other half, among whom little Poore
was more than conspicuous, piled themselves upon Pollard. And it was a
long time before anybody heard Kerwick protesting that, whatever else
he might have won, the cup was Pollard’s, because of a clause in the
half-forgotten deed of gift by which the donor was barred from winning
his own trophy.

“Why did I do it?” said Pollard later, when reproached for the
brilliancy of his shooting in the earlier part of his score. “Well, you
see, I just had to. Old Kerwick wouldn’t have half enjoyed his winning
if he hadn’t been pushed for the place. Besides, if I’d shot much
worse, that child Poore would have gobbled the cup, which never would
have done. For I wanted that myself. But I felt like a beast, just the
same, when poor old Kerwick broke down, after he’d started a lead mine
in the snow with that last bullet of his.”



OFFICIALLY REPORTED.


This tale already has been in print. Browning, of the _Herald_,
Rodman, of the _Globe_, and Major Larry, of The Third, were jointly
responsible for its first appearance. But inasmuch as it was printed in
the papers, and since things that see the light in that way speedily
are forgotten--unless, to the confusion of those who first perpetrated
them, they happen to be available for resurrection in deadly parallel
columns--it has seemed good to rescue it from the oblivion of last
year’s dusty files.

Major Larry, it will be remembered, is the young gentleman whom Captain
Tom Stearns, of _A_ Company, once upon a time appointed “Company Kid”
of his command. How Larry afterwards demonstrated the wisdom of the
captain’s selection, and how he won promotion to the position for
which his soul yearned--the post of honor at the front of the big
bass-drum--already has been told. In fact, since Major Larry numbers
his friends and acquaintances by the hundred, he needs no farther
introduction.

It was two weeks after the regimental autumn manœuvres, and twenty
minutes after _recall_ had sounded on a certain drill night. The
adjutant threaded his way along the swarming corridors of the big
armory, climbed a flight of oaken stairs, and turned in at the doorway
of _A’s_ quarters. In the captain’s room he found Major Larry,
industriously plying a whisk broom upon a braided fatigue-jacket.

“Where’s Stearns?” demanded the adjutant, halting upon the threshold.

Larry promptly brought his heels together, tucked the jacket under his
left arm, and smartly raised his right hand, brush and all, to his
forehead. “Cap’n Stearns?” said he. “He’s flew.”

“Humph!” grunted the adjutant. “The captain’s _flew_, eh? And his
report’s ten days over-due!”

“W’at’s de report dat’s missin’?” anxiously inquired Larry.

The adjutant turned and looked down upon his questioner. “Oh, it’s not
a matter of life-and-death importance,” said he; “only Captain Stearns
ought to have sent in a written account of his company’s part in the
manœuvres, and I should have had it long ago.”

“I was wid _A_,” said the boy. “W’at’s de matter wid _me_ reportin’?”

The adjutant paused and considered. Major Larry is noted for keen
observation of men and things, and his command of words, such as they
are, is a source of joy to all at headquarters. The adjutant decided
accordingly. “What’s the matter indeed!” said he, starting towards the
colonel’s room. “Come along with me, Major. We’ll make this report a
verbal one.”

In the colonel’s private office a coal fire was glowing in the open
grate. Before it sat the chief, with Browning and Rodman, the two “war
correspondents,” who had dropped in to see if anything of interest in
regimental matters was about to happen. Everybody in the service knows
Browning and Rodman, and knows them, moreover, collectively; because,
as a rule, where one of them is found, there also is to be found
the other. What would the annual tour of camp duty be without their
presence? And how, but for them, would the great and careless Public be
kept from forgetting the very existence of that modest institution, the
volunteer service?

“Did you get that report?” asked the colonel, looking up as the
adjutant and Major Larry entered.

“No, sir,” replied the adjutant. “Captain Stearns is compelled to ask
for an extension of time. But I’ve done the next best thing. Here’s
Major Larry Callahan, the captain’s chief of staff, who has kindly
volunteered to report in person on the operations of _A_ Company.”

At the adjutant’s opening words the colonel frowned, but, as he
finished, the frown gave way to a very broad smile. Larry neither
frowned nor smiled, but stood attention, awaiting orders. He was very
much in earnest, feeling that his patron, the delinquent captain, was
in a bad box, from which it was his duty to extricate him.

Rodman leaned over towards his fellow journalist, and said something in
a low tone, at the same time placing a coin upon his knee, concealed
by his outspread hand.

“Heads,” said Browning, nodding assent to the proposition that had been
made.

“Guess again!” said Rodman, uncovering the silver piece; “it’s tails.
This is _my_ story.” And he quietly drew a note-book from his pocket.

“Well?” said the colonel, turning towards Larry.

“It’s be’n dis way wid de cap’n,” said the boy; “he isn’t had much time
since de battle, an’ to-night he was called out o’ town sudden. I jus’
got a cab for’m to hustle to de ten-t’irty express. But I c’n report
w’at A done, if youse want it right off, jus’ as well’s de cap’n could.
’Cause I was dere, see? An’ I didn’t have nuttin’ on me mind ’ceptin’
to catch on to w’at was happenin’. It was diffrunt wid de cap’n: he was
busy wid bot’ han’s, tryin’ to keep de boys from blowin’ de heads off’n
’emselves.”

“I see,” said the colonel. “But you should have been with the drum
corps, Larry. What brought you in with _A_?”

“Well,” said Major Larry in some confusion, “t’ings was terruble slow
in de drummin’ department. We wasn’t in de fight, you know, sir, an’
I didn’t feel like I was learnin’ nuttin’ ’bout war, a-sittin’ down in
de shade an’ listenin’ to de fellies tell yarns dat was grey headed
w’en Noah was yachtin’ in de ark. So w’en de drum major started in to
get off de rattiest ches’nut o’ de season, I oozed out o’ sight behin’
a big tree, an’ from dat I skinned across to anodder one, an’ den I
sneaked it, t’rough de brush an’ over de fields, to where _A_ was
posted.”

“H’m!” muttered the colonel, frowning darkly. “How long is it,
Adjutant, since we’ve had to have a regimental court-martial?”

“I didn’t mean to do nuttin’ wrong, sir!” said Larry hastily. “I wasn’t
no use where I was, an’ I t’ought p’raps I c’d be some help to de cap’n
if I happened over dat way. I didn’t t’ink de drum major needed me any
longer, sir. An’ he didn’t say I couldn’t go. Hones’!”

“Well, you can thank your lucky stars that I didn’t catch you away
from your post,” said the colonel grimly. “This time I’ll overlook the
breach of discipline on account of your extreme youth, but you’ll do
well to be careful in the future. And now go on with your report.”

The adjutant quietly slipped out of the room, going in the direction
of the staff office. He was back again in an instant, and soon after
he had seated himself, Langforth, the paymaster, and Woodleigh, Q.M.,
casually put in an appearance and took possession of a couple of chairs
near the door.

“I--I don’ know,” said Larry hesitatingly, in response to the colonel’s
command, “jus’ exackly how to begin. I was dere, for a fac’, an’ seen
de whole scrap--but I aint used to makin’ reports.”

“You’ll begin,” said the colonel, slowly and impressively, “by
describing the _terrain_--”

“_W’at’s_ dat?” interrupted Larry most respectfully.

“It means the lay of the land,” said the colonel. “You’ll describe to
us the lay of the land. Then you’ll state the disposition of the troops
engaged. And then you’ll tell what those troops did, paying particular
attention to the operations of _A_ Company. Go on.”

Major Larry fumbled for an instant with one of the shining brass
buttons of his blue blouse, then stiffened his back, cleared his
throat, saluted, and began his account of the battle.

“I have de honor to report,” said he, “dat de follerin’ t’ings took
place, sir, jus’ two weeks ago yesterd’y, w’ich was Toosd’y.

“First, ’bout de lay o’ de lan’: it lain dis way. Dere was a big
hayin’ field, shaped somet’in’ like a big piece o’ pie wid a big bite
tooken out’n one end of it--dat is, out’n de small end o’ de wedge. De
roundin’ edge o’ de field, same’s de part o’ de pie dat comes nex’ de
rim o’ de plate, was composed of a river. Dis was ’bout two foot deep,
an’ it couldn’t be forded across by militia, ’count o’ de danger o’
wettin’ pants, w’ich is State propity. So’s dis part o’ de battle-field
was dead-safe. See?”

Rodman desisted for a moment from inscribing distorted fish-hooks
in his note-book, and glanced towards the colonel. The chief was
vigorously twisting his grey moustache in a vain attempt to maintain
his official composure.

“Nex’ dat roundin’ edge,” continued Larry with his eyes fixed upon
the golden eagle surmounting the regimental color which occupied one
corner of the room, “come a straight edge. Dat was a road, an’ where it
joined de roundin’ edge was at a bridge ’cross de river. Den come de
point w’ich had be’n bit off. W’at youse might call de mout’ful was a
sort o’ mixed-up mess o’ bushes an’ trees.

“Dis ’counts for de crust edge, an’ one side, an’ de bit place o’ de
piece o’ pie. De side dat’s lef’ was made by t’ree little hills, wid an
ol’ stone wall runnin’ up an’ down along de tops of ’em, like de stripe
on a sergeant’s trowsies. An’ dat was de way in w’ich de lay o’ de lan’
lain.”

Langforth rose and stepped over to the corner in which stood the
black-board on whose surface have been worked out so many problems in
regimental strategy. He made a few rapid passes with the chalk, and
there came into being a map of a range of three low hills, looking down
across a triangular field towards a highway, and flanked on one side by
a river, on the other by a patch of scrubby woodland.

“Dat’s de stuff!” commented Larry approvingly, as this example of
topographical art took form. “’Twas _jus’_ like dat.”

“Now,” said the paymaster to the boy, “you can put in your troops.”

Larry took the crayon in his unwilling fingers, and doubtfully advanced
upon the black-board. He often had seen officers lay off the broad
white lines denoting the positions of battalions and companies, but he
was not quite sure that he could perform the feat himself. However, he
was not going to give up without a trial, and so, bracing himself for
the effort, he slowly and carefully scraped the chalk across the black
surface before him.

“De sec’nd battalion was de enermy,” said he, after he had chalked the
map to his satisfaction. “Dat is, we was de enermy o’ de first an’
t’ird battalions. Dey, o’ course, was _our_ enermy. _G_ was on dis
hill, _H_ was on de middle ’un, an’ _L_ was on de one at de lef’. _A_
was deplored as skirmishers.”

“‘_Deplored_ as skirmishers!’” said the colonel softly. “Wonder how
Stearns would like that bit of description.”

“Oh, I mos’ forgot tellin’ ’bout de disposition o’ de troops,” said
Major Larry, suddenly recalling one of the chief’s requirements.
“Near’s I c’d make out, de disposition o’ most of ’em was fine. Our
fellies was disposed to knock de stuffin’ out’n de enermy, an’ if it
hadn’t be’n for de cap’n and de lieutenants we’d have started a private
dead-yard down in our corner w’en _K_‘s boys come chargin’ inter de
woods.

“An’ dis brings me to de report o’ de share _A_ took in de purceedin’s.
Dis is w’at _A_ done: de odder t’ree comp’nies was squattin’ down a-top
o’ de t’ree little hills, an’ _A_ was shooken out in a skirmish line,
down ’long by de bridge, to make it unhealt’y for de furriners w’en dey
come promenadin’ ahead to cross de river.

“Major Pollard, he comes ridin’ down from de hills, an he says, ‘Cap’n
Stearns,’ says he, ‘w’en you’re drove back from dis position, youse’ll
fall back down de road here, an’ take y’r command into de cover o’ de
woods on our right flank dere,’ pointin’ at it wid his sword. ‘Dat’s
a strong position,’ says he, ‘an’ de div’l himself couldn’t drive yer
out’n it if dis was really bizness. By doin’ dis youse’ll purtec’ our
flank from bein’ turned, an’ at de same time’ll uncover de front of us,
so’s dat we c’n play fire-works wid de enermy’s advance. See?’ An’ de
cap’n said he seen, an’ later he done so.”

Here Larry armed himself with the long, tapering pointer, and then
proceeded with his narrative. “W’en I come up to reenforce de comp’ny,
de enermy was jus’ marchin’ down to shove us away from de bridge.
It was a dandy sight! De two battalions looked bigger’n brigades,
an’ de colors was wavin’, an’--” here Larry was caught by a sudden
inspiration--“an de colonel was lookin’ elegant, on a big, white hoss,
an’--” with a second inspired utterance--“de newspaper men was hustlin’
’roun’ an’ gettin’ on to everyt’ing!”

This bit of spirited description was most favorably received. The
personages mentioned bowed their acknowledgments, while Langforth and
Woodleigh and the adjutant applauded generously, and shouted in chorus,
“_Hear! Hear!_”

“I’d make me oat’,” said Major Larry, thus encouraged, “dat dis is de
bes’ regiment in de State. W’y, de odder regiments isn’t got no use at
all for us! Dey isn’t in it wid us, an’ anybody wid bot’ eyes shut c’d
tumble to dat. See?”

“You’re not disputed, Major Callahan,” said the colonel, clasping his
hands across his chest. “Proceed with your report.”

“Well, de enermy kep’ moggin’ along down to de river,” said the boy
obediently, “an’ w’en dey was gettin’ good an’ handy de cap’n assembled
de comp’ny, an’ sung out, ‘Now youse’ll all set y’r sights at t’ree
hunderd, an’ every popper’s boy of youse must take aim careful. For de
nex’ act on de programme,’ says he, ‘is goin’ to be a volley exercuted
by de full strengt’ of all de artists in de troupe.’”

“Hold up for a minute, Larry,” broke in the colonel, when this truly
remarkable order was quoted. “Were those Captain Stearns’ exact words?”

“Well, no-o, sir,” admitted Major Larry. “P’raps dat aint jus’ w’at
he said, but it’s w’at he was gettin’ at, anyhow. He ’xplained to ’em
dat if ’twas truly fightin’, ’stead o’ bein’ de imitation, he’d keep
’em all under his t’umb, an’ not let ’em give no exhibition of a lead
shower-bat’, by squirtin’ bullets all over de lan’scape at deir own
sweet conveniences. In odder words, he give ’em to understan’ dat, w’en
it come to firin’ by comp’ny, w’at he said _went_!”

“Perfectly proper,” said the colonel, who is a thorough believer in the
virtues of controlled fire. “Perfectly proper. I noticed that Stearns
handled his practice very well when he was at the bridge.”

“We done t’ree or four volleys,” continued Larry, “but it was sort o’
discouragin’ bizness, ’cause we didn’t seem to see no corpses carted
off, an’ all we could do didn’t seem like it was hurtin’ de enermy’s
feelin’s much. So w’en dey kep’ gettin’ closer an’ closer, we seen dat
dey was boun’ to waltz over de bridge, spite of us, an’ de cap’n come
to de conclusion dat he’d done all dat a brave man could to stan’ ’em
off. W’ich bein’ so, he marched de comp’ny off an’ fell back down de
road, leavin’ de premises clear for de t’ree comp’nies on de hills to
show w’at dey was good for.

“Well, we was marched down de road, an’ formed up in line among de
trees, where it was cool an’ shady. An’ den we got de chance to see
sights. De attackin’ battalions come swarmin’ over dat bridge like a
big mob o’ de unemployed, an’ begun to push forward for de hills, an’
de rifles started goin’ _poppety-poppety-pop_! An’ dere we was sittin’
like an audyence in de gallery, takin’ in de whole show for nuttin’.
But we wasn’t quite out of it, for all of a sudd’n de cap’n says,
‘Here’s w’ere we wipes out dat fool flank comp’ny!’ An’ wid dat he has
us plug a volley square into ’em.

“Now, dat was like yellin’ ‘_Rats!_’ in t’rough de door of a Chinee
laundry! O’ course dey wasn’t nobody killed by dat volley, ’cause de
odder fellies was too far off to be hit by de wads. But de effec’ was
queer, an’ youse c’n bet y’r sweet natyral dat was de size of it!

“_K_ was de comp’ny dat happened to be on dat flank, an’ w’en we
plunked dat volley at ’em dey seemed like dey was excited. I guess dey
t’ought we was gettin’ too funny wid ’m, for dey swung back so’s to be
facin’ our way, an’ den begun poppin’ at us for all dey was wort’.

“But _dat_ never fazed us, ’cause we knew dat deir rifles didn’t have
no slugs in ’em, an’ dat we was pretty well out o’ sight amongst de
trees. An’ besides all dat, we also was aware dat de fellies in _K_
couldn’t shoot well enough to hit a mountain if ’twas pushed up to
’em on rollers. Huh! most o’ de men in _K_ handles deir rifles like
dey was crowbars, an’ a flock of elerphants flyin’ low c’d sail over
deir heads widout no occasion for worryin’!” This was taking a mean
advantage. Larry had a personal grievance against _K_ Company, and
sought revenge by improving the opportunity to slander that command in
his report.

“Now, after t’ings had be’n goin’ on in dis way for a little w’ile,”
continued Larry, “I seen a chance to tally one for our side. W’at I
mean is dis--Say, d’youse know Hickey, dat big, fat-headed corp’ral in
_K_?”

The colonel was compelled to disclaim the acquaintance of any such
person. The adjutant, however, whose knowledge of the regimental
_personnel_ was necessarily more extended, came to time promptly with
an affirmative nod.

“Well, he’s a dam’ chump!” said Larry, with emphasis. “Oh, ’xcuse me!”
he hastily added, as it dawned upon him that his language had been a
trifle unparliamentary; “I didn’t mean to say jus’ dat. But he’s a
reg’lar galvanized gazaboo, an’ nuttin’ else. See? Him an’ his gang had
fun wid me, one night last camp, tossin’ me in a blanket, an’ I’ve be’n
layin’ low for’m ever since dat. I’m like an Injun--‘I never forgets
de face of a foe!’” This evidently was a quotation from some modern
master-piece of literature, and Larry delivered it most impressively.

“But dis aint tellin’ w’at I seen.” Here the boy picked up the chalk,
and made a few additional marks upon the map of the battle-ground.
“It was like dis,” said he, stepping back a pace and resting one hand
easily upon his hip, while he gracefully wielded the pointer with the
other; “de fellies in _K_ was in plain sight, out in de sun, an’ I was
here, ’way down at de right o’ de line. See?” He indicated his own
position by means of the pointer. “Dey was a tree dere, growin’ out’n
a crack in a big rock, an’ I was camped down behin’ de whole bizness,
blazin’ away for glory, an’ makin’ every shot tell, w’en I seen--”

“Eh?” said the colonel. “What’s that? What were _you_ doing with a
rifle?”

“Shootin’, sir,” said Larry briefly.

“Yes, so it would appear,” said the colonel. “But how came you to be
armed?”

“W’y, Smit’y de Invalid--he’s de felly, y’know, dat’s always tryin’
to sneak off from doin’ any duty--he’d tol’ me dat he wasn’t feelin’
jus’ well, an’ I’d tooken his rifle to hold for’m w’ile he went off
huntin’ for a drink o’ cold water. He didn’t give me no ca’tridges, but
I’d jollied de boys out’n a pocketful, an’ had organized meself into a
Mosby gorilla. De cap’n, o’ course, he didn’t know nuttin’ ‘bout all
dis, or he’d a-be’n wild. Dat’s de reason I was ‘way off dere to de
right--to keep out’n de cap’n’s way. See?”

The colonel silently nodded. Apparently he “saw.” Major Larry, having
given this satisfactory explanation of matters, resumed the delivery of
his interrupted report.

“I tol’ yer dat I seen a promisin’ openin’ for stratergy,” he said;
“an’ dis was it: me bein’ off to de right of _A_ brought me facin’ de
lef flank o’ _K_, an’ _who_ should I discover opposite o’ me but dat
same Hickey! Now, seein’ Hickey so convenient set me to t’inkin’.

“‘Hickey, me ol’ sporty,’ says I to meself, ‘I’m on y’r trail. Youse
once had fun, heaps o’ fun, a-joshin’ me,’ says I, ‘but dis is de time
I’m comin’ back at you,’ says I. ‘Dat’s de kind of a Reuben dat _I_
am,’ says I. An’ wid dat I fired two blank ca’tridges at’m, aimin’
careful at his stummick, so’s to ease me min’. Den I hid me rifle in
de scrub, so’s de cap’n wouldn’t see me wid it, an’ slid along back to
de nearest boys on de right of _A_.

“Big Jonesey was dere, an’ McKenzie, an’ Schultz--all of ’em aimin’
an’ firin’ like dey was expectin’ to put medals onto deir dress-coats
t’icker’n de scales on a fish. Dere wasn’t an officer widin hearin’,
bot’ de lieutenants bein’ off to de centre consultin’ ‘bout somet’in’
wid de cap’n. W’ich was lucky.

“‘_Whis-st, boys!_’ says I careful, wavin’ me arm ’round me head
to signal ’em to rally up to me. Dey seen dat I meant somet’in’,
an’ closed up to-wards me. ‘Sa-ay, youse t’ink you’re doin’ fancy
work, a-shootin’ holes in nuttin’, doesn’t youse?’ says I, w’en
dey’d assembled on me. ‘Well, if youse’ll quit y’r foolishness an’
foller me,’ I says, ‘youse’ll wear di’mon’s. Come on lively, ’fore de
lieutenant gets back to miss yer,’ says I.

“Well, dey gives me a look, an’ den dey looks back t’wards de comp’ny
an’ sees dat de chances is dat dey’ll not be missed for a little w’ile,
an’ den de four of us takes a quiet sneak off t’rough de shrubb’ry.

“‘Now jus’ listen to me w’ile I gurgle,’ I says, w’en we’d got to de
place w’ere me rifle was hid. ‘D’youse see dat phernomenum out dere in
de horizon? Well, dat bird o’ paradise,’ I says, ‘is Hickey, Corp’ral
Hickey, o’ _K_ Comp’ny.’

“‘I want to know if it is!’ says Jonesey. ‘An’ have youse pulled us out
here to give us dat important information! I’m t’inkin’ o’ breakin’ y’r
back, Larry,’ says he, ‘an’ I would, too, if ’twasn’t for losin’ yer de
job o’ luggin’ de big drum.’

“‘Is dat _so_?’ says I, dodgin’ a swipe he made at me head. ‘S’posin’
youse wait for me to get t’rough! I’m not talkin’ to fill up no
fonygraft; I’m talkin’ _war_.’

“‘Leaf’m alone,’ says Schultz, ‘an’ see vat he hass upon dot gr-reat
mindt off his.’ An’ Jonesey, he lef’ me alone.

“‘Yes, dat’s Corp’ral Hickey,’ says I, indicatin’ me objective again
wid me rifle. ‘I know’m easy by de size of his ears. An’ if youse
fellies isn’t all stiffs, we c’n capture him alive. W’at d’youse say?’
I says. ‘Are youse mugs wid me, or agin me?’

“McKenzie allowed dat ’twould be sport if we could scoop in Hickey, an’
Schultz was agreeable to de scheme, so den I ’xplained w’at I wanted
’em to do, an’ we started in on de conspiracy. An’ all dis time, mind
youse, de battle was goin’ on hot an’ heavy. But we wasn’t mindin’
nobody’s funeral ’ceptin’ ours--an’ I was de undertaker!

“Dis is w’at I done wid de boys: I posted ’em behin’ bushes an’ trees,
right up close to de edge o’ de woods, but so far from w’ere de flank
of _A_ lain dat nobody ever’d catch on to deir bein’ dere. An’ den I
give me rifle to McKenzie, an’ strolled out into de field an’ over
’cross t’wards de lef’ o’ _K_.

“Wen I got widin ’bout fifty yards o’ Mister Hickey, bein’ kind o’
quarterin’n a’ off to one side of’m, I sings out an’ says ‘Does yoore
face pa-ain youse, Hickey?’ I says. ‘I notices dat it kind o’ gets
twisted out o’ shape in aimin’. By de way youse wrinkles up dat lef eye
I should t’ink dat one o’ y’r lights was went out,’ I says. Dat seemed
to catch de boys in Hickey’s squad, an’ dey give’m de gran’ laff.

“‘Go chase yerself off’n de field, Larry,’ says Hickey, answerin’ me
back. ‘Dis aint no place for kids. ’Tisn’t safe for youse ’round w’ere
I am. I’m feelin’ dryer’n a covered bridge, an’ ’twouldn’t take much to
make me catch yer an’ drink y’r blood.’

“‘_Ya-as, yer would!_’ says I, t’umbin’ me nose to’m. ‘Catch nawthin’!
Youse couldn’t catch a cooky at a cake-walk!’

“‘I’ll give yer jus’ t’irty secon’s to clear out in,’ says Hickey,
gettin’ kind o’ looney, ’cause de squad was snickerin’ again, ‘an’ if
y’aint disappeared by dat time, I’ll collar yer, an’ roll yer up into
a small an’ bloody bundle, an’ stuff yer inter me haversack for safe
keepin’.’

“‘Huh! w’at youse say cuts no ice wid me!’ says I, scornful. ‘It’s
clean nutty dat youse are. See? Holdin’ down a slab in de morgue’s all
youse c’n do graceful. Sure!’

“Dat was jus’ a little bit more’n Hickey was prepared to stan’. ‘Here,
hang on to me rifle,’ says he, handin’ it over to de neares’ man o’ de
squad, ‘an’ watch me capture de firs’ prisoner o’ de campaign.’ An’ wid
dat he gives a proud leer, an’ makes a break for me.

“‘Some o’ youse hol’ de watch on us,’ I sings out. ‘Dis is for de
amachoor sprintin’ rekid!’ An’ off I starts for de brush, towin’ me
victim along behin’ me.

“Oh, ’twas hot stuff! At firs’ I was ’fraid dat some of his officers
would catch onto’m an’ call’m back; but de smoke was driftin’ off our
way, an’ we was travellin’ away from de flank o’ de battalion, an’ so
nobody paid no ’tention to us ’cept a few o’ de boys down at dat end.

“Well, I kep’ humpin’ for all I was wort’, an’ Hickey, he was after
me for all _he_ was wort’, an’ fin’lly we strikes cover at ’bout de
same time. I makes a flyin’ dive inter de bushes, like a rabbit wid de
shakin’ jim-jams, an’ Hickey shoots’mself in after me--an’ lands up
against de muzzle o’ Jonesey’s rifle!”

“‘Halt!’ sings out Jonesey, ‘an’ surrender, you red-handed cut-t’roat!’
An’ Hickey halts--prompt, too. But ‘stead o’ surrenderin’, he turned
an’ started to take a travel back for de open. An’ jus’ den Schultz, he
rose up out’n de eart’ on de one side of’m, an’ McKenzie, he surrounded
’m on de odder side, an’ den poor Hickey seen dat his goose was cooked.

“‘T’row’m down, boys,’ I says. An’ dey t’run’m down, an’ de place w’ere
dey happened to t’run’m was boggy, so’s dat w’en he rose up he looked
like he hadn’t shooken hands wid a piece o’ soap for more’n a mont’.

“‘Boys, it’s me sorrerful dooty,’ I says, ‘to tell yer dat Hickey’s
drinkin’ again.’ An’ den I tol’m w’at he’d said ’bout capturin’ me an’
drinkin’ me blood. An’ dey was astonished an’ shocked.

“‘Is dis civerlized war?’ says McKenzie, glarin’ at de pris’ner.
‘You’re worse dan a Dahomey cannib’l--scarin’ de life out’n dis
innercent child! Shall we give ’m quarter?’ he says, turnin’ to de
odder fellies.

“‘I’ve got a few t’ousand in me clodes,’ I says, like I was
considerin’, ‘but I aint got no quarter for _him_. Away wid ’m!’ I says.

“‘Dammit!’ says Hickey, growin’ excited, ‘can’t youse quit y’r foolin’?
I mus’ be gettin’ back to de comp’ny or I’ll be losin’ me stripes!’

“‘Hear de hardened vilyun cursin’ w’en deat’ stares’m in de eye!’ says
McKenzie, holdin’ up his hands wid horror. ‘Oh, Hickey, Hickey, you’re
in danger o’ losin’ de number o’ y’r mess--den w’y worry ’bout a little
t’ing like a pair o’ miser’ble corp’ral’s stripes?’

“‘Boys,’ I says, ‘I pity dis poor mug. S’posin’ we fin’ out how he’s
feelin’ ’bout dis time?’ An’ I turned t’wards de pris’ner. ‘Hickey,’
I says, ‘are youse ever goin’ to preside over anodder blanket-tossin’
convention--I mean, one wid _me_ in it?’ An’ he swore dat he hones’
wouldn’t.

“‘Higky,’ asks Schultz, ‘vill you dot pecos off dis affair dere shall
no hart veelin’ pe?’ An’ Hickey said dat dere shouldn’t.

“‘Hickey,’ says McKenzie, w’en it come his turn at de bat, ‘if you’re
lucky ’nough to come out alive at de end o’ dis awful day o’ strife
will youse remember dat odder people ’sides y’rself has t’roats--w’ich
needs occasional wettin’?’ An’ Hickey give his word dat he’d set ’em up
for de crowd w’en we got back to town.

“‘Dis all bein’ so,’ says Jonesey, ‘an’ no objection bein’ made, we’ll
spare y’r wort’less life. But we’re under oat’ to do our full duty by
de Commonwealt’ for a term o’ t’ree years, an’ so we can’t let yer go.
Private McKenzie on de right, Private Schultz on de lef’, de pris’ner
betwixt youse--_fall in_!’ says he. An’ dey fell in, an’ started back
t’wards de comp’ny, wid Hickey a-kickin’ himself for a t’underin’
jackuss, an’ me a-follerin’, t’umpin’ meself wid joy.

“Well, we comes back to de comp’ny, an’ I makes a break for de head
o’ de percession--’cause ’twas _my_ entertainment, y’ know--an’ w’en
de fellies sees us marchin’ up, dey sets up a yell, for dey all knows
Hickey. An’ w’en we gets to de cap’n I salutes an’ says, ‘Cap’n, here’s
a spy,’ I says. ‘W’at’ll we do wid’m?’

“Cap’n Stearns, he looked Hickey all over, an’ seen de dirt on’m, an’
says, ‘Whew! he looks like he’d be’n huntin’ for trouble an’ foun’ it!
Are dey diggin’ a mine under us, or w’at? Take’m away,’ he says, ‘an’
play de hose on’m an’ don’t bodder me wid’m.’ An’ he had to laff.

“But he didn’t get no time for a real _good_ laff, ’cause jus’ den de
enermy begun to charge us, an’ he had his han’s full keepin’ de boys
from fightin’ in earnest. For our fellies wasn’t goin’ to let _K_ walk
on deir necks. But ’twas ’gainst orders for bayonets to be crossed, an’
so we played dat we was captured. But we wasn’t, all de same, for if’t
had b’en really _war_ we’d have kep’ a coroner’s jury busy for a week
sortin’ out de remains o’ _K_.

“An’ dat, sir,” said Major Larry, facing towards the colonel with a
final salute, “near’s I c’n remember, is w’at _A_ done, two weeks ago
yesterd’y, at de right o’ Major Pollard’s line o’ battle.”

The colonel brought out a half-dollar. “Larry,” said he, handing it to
the boy, “we all are greatly indebted to you for your excellent and
most technical report. For my own part, I can truthfully say that I’ve
learned a great deal about grand strategy. You are excused, with the
thanks of all present.”

Larry left the room with the step of a grenadier. Rodman closed
his note-book with a snap, saying softly, “That’ll be good for two
columns.” There was an instant of awed silence. And then the colonel
turned to the adjutant, and said, “Hereafter, Charley, there’ll be two
reports made of anything that _A_ may be concerned in--one written, and
one oral. That’s a standing order. _See?_”

Rodman’s notes worked up to two columns and a half of the next day’s
_Globe_, and for a second time Major Larry Callahan found himself
locally famous. What Captain Tom Stearns said when his eye fell upon
the marked copy of the paper which was thoughtfully mailed to him
by the adjutant, is not upon record. But it is a fact that he has
been more than prompt, of late, in the matter of forwarding required
reports.



SPECIAL ORDERS, NO. 49.


They call it the incurable ward. In coming down the corridor one sees
above its doorway, upon the blank, white wall, a plain, black letter
_A_. It almost seems as though the painter had thought to transcribe
there, “All hope abandon”--and then had relented, after outlining
the initial letter of the grisly legend. Perhaps he well might have
finished his work, for those who enter that quiet room are borne
thither because their days are nearly numbered.

On that afternoon there was but one patient in Ward _A_. He seemed
content to lie motionless, watching with drowsy, half-closed eyes the
play of a stray shaft of sunlight upon the snowy counterpane. Beside
him, steadily swinging a fan, sat a white-robed nurse. The long June
day was wearing slowly on towards its ending.

In through the casement to the westward there came a soft breath of
flower-scented air. The nurse felt its caress upon her cheek, and laid
aside her fan. Then, with a little sigh of relief, she rose from her
chair, and quietly stole over to the window for a moment’s glance out
into the garden which lay below.

She was standing there when her trained ear caught the sound of a
restless movement upon the cot. “A glass of water, please,” murmured
the sick man, as she turned and came quickly towards him.

“Thank you,” said he, after a long, grateful draught from the glass
which she had held to his lips. “I must be a terrible nuisance to you.
But,” he added, in a lower tone, “it’ll not be for much longer, please
God!”

“_Sh-h!_” said the nurse, reprovingly. “You mustn’t say that. I can’t
see, I’m sure, why it should be thought that nurses are intended more
for ornament than use. Not,” with a smile, “but that we’re flattered by
that view of the situation.”

“But really and truly,” she went on, picking up the fan, “we should
grow terribly tired of the monotony if it weren’t for the relief that
comes from doing these little things.”

“I suppose I must believe you,” said the sick man, smiling faintly
in his turn. “And if--‘really and truly’--it will serve to break the
monotony, I’ll venture to ask you to do me one more favor. About that
packet of trinkets that I--”

“Oh, how stupid of me!” exclaimed the nurse, hastily rising from her
chair. “The superintendent sent them in while you were taking your
nap.” With the swift, noiseless step of one long trained in hospital
service she crossed the room, and took from the mantel a small package.
“Here they are,” said she. “Shall I take them out for you?”

At his nod of assent she deftly untied the faded blue ribbon with which
the packet was secured, removed the tissue-paper covering, and brought
to light a jewel-case, in which lay three military decorations--the
badge of the Loyal Legion, the plain, bronze star of the Grand Army,
and the enamelled Maltese cross of the old 19th Army Corps.

One by one she laid the medals upon the thin hand feebly outstretched
over the white coverlid, and for a moment the sick man’s tired eyes
kindled as he gazed upon them. But the feeble hand relaxed, the eyes
quickly became dim again. “Ah, well,” he said, a bit huskily, “I’m
through--through with all that now. And I’ve no son--there’s no one to
care--no one to whom I can leave these things. You’ll see that some one
pins them on my breast when--when I’m carried out?”

“Yes,” said the nurse, gathering up the medals as she spoke, “I’ll be
very careful about having it done.” And then she added quietly, “I’ll
attend to it myself.”

“I’m wofully helpless,” said the man upon the cot apologetically; “may
I trouble you to hand me the photograph?”

The nurse drew from beneath his pillow a faded and worn morocco case,
opened it, and handed it to him. Then she turned away and made pretence
of busying herself about some little matter, while her charge looked
long and wistfully upon the picture of a woman’s face that smiled back
at him from its resting place within the leathern frame.

The sick man sighed, but not unhappily. A look of peace came upon his
worn face, and a smile--a wonderfully tender smile--hovered about his
lips.

“Will you put the medals under my pillow?” said he, as the nurse came
towards the bed. “Thank you. Really, you’ve been very kind to me. I’d
like to tell you how grateful I am for it all--but may be I needn’t. My
mind’s quite at rest now: those letters that you wrote for me settled
the last of my worries. And now I’m not sure--I think--think that
perhaps I could sleep again for a little while.” He wearily turned his
head to one side, resting it upon the palm of his hand. And within the
hand, pressed close against his cheek, lay the photograph in its worn
and faded case.

The nurse smoothed out the pillow, passed her hand gently over the
iron-grey hair that clustered thickly above his forehead, and taking
her place by the bedside, once more began to swing the fan slowly to
and fro.

In the great, white room the shadows deepened as the sun went down.
The sick man was breathing regularly, but very lightly. He had fallen
asleep. Once the silent watcher saw his lips move, and caught the sound
of murmured words: then all was still again. The fan swung slowly back
and forth--still more slowly--and then it stopped.

The world outside seemed very beautiful in the June twilight, and the
confinement, by contrast, became doubly irksome. The nurse slipped
quietly over to the open window. She was standing there when the house
surgeon came briskly into the room. “S-sh!” said she, turning at the
sound of the footsteps, and raising a warning hand. “He’s asleep.”

But the surgeon already was standing beside the cot. He gave one keen
glance at the form lying before him, and placed his hand over the
heart. Then he straightened up and turned towards the nurse. His face
had become grave. “Yes,” said he, in answer to the look of anxious
inquiry; “yes, he’s asleep. I hadn’t looked for this before tomorrow,”
he went on quietly, “but he’s--he’s asleep, as you say.”

Dimness had come with the failing light, but it was not so dark that
the doctor and the nurse could not see upon the dead man’s face the
calm smile of perfect peace. “See,” whispered the nurse, gently drawing
the photograph from its resting place--and as she held the picture
towards her companion she gave a little sob. “Yes, I see,” said the
surgeon, softly. “I know his story.” And then in a lower tone he added,
“He’s asleep at last. _God send him rest!_”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was nearing nine o’clock. Colonel Elliott glanced at his watch, and
then leaned back in his chair with the comfortable consciousness that
his evening’s work was over. One by one he had gone through the pile of
papers that he had found upon his desk. He had written, “Respectfully
forwarded, approved,” upon each in its turn, and now they were ready to
go to the adjutant, to be entered up and sent along upon their sluggish
travels “through channels.”

The colonel gathered the scattered documents into a bunch, snapped a
rubber band about them, and then called, “Orderly!”

“Take these papers to the adjutant,” said the chief, as a soldier
stepped promptly into the room, with his hand at his cap. “Then find
Major Pollard, and say to him, with my compliments, that I’d like him
to report to me here.”

The orderly saluted, and disappeared. The colonel bit the tip from a
cigar, lighted it, and then drew from his pocket a half dozen letters.
Rapidly running through them, he picked out one, tossed it upon his
desk, and then, letting his head fall back, he fixed his eyes upon the
ceiling, and smoked away in thoughtful silence.

Along the broad corridors of the armory echoed the steady tramp of
feet, the rattle of arms, and the sharp commands of the line officers,
for it was a regular drill-night of The Third, and four of the
regiment’s twelve companies were at work in the great hall lying beyond
the administrative rooms. Presently, above the hum of the other sounds,
the colonel heard quick, firm footsteps approaching his door, and in a
moment Major Pollard and Van Sickles, of the staff, came into the room.

“You sent for me, Colonel?” said the major, inquiringly.

“Yes,” said the chief, adding, as Van Sickles made a motion as if to
withdraw, “I’d like to have you stay, Van. I’ve something to tell
that’ll answer a question you once asked me.”

Both drew up chairs. The colonel passed over his cigar case, and then
said, “A year ago you fellows got me to talking, one night up in The
Battery, about something that happened while I was out with the ‘Old
Regiment.’ As I recall it, I told you a yarn about the resurrection of
Bob Sheldon, and you, Van, asked me, when I’d finished, what had become
of Bob since the war. Do you remember?”

“Sheldon?” said Van Sickles. “Oh, yes. He was the man that was brained
by a splinter of shell, and afterwards came to time all right. Your old
captain, wasn’t he? Yes, I remember.”

“Well,” said the colonel slowly, “I had a letter from him this
morning--and he’s dead.”

“Not really!” said Van Sickles, as the chief made this odd
announcement. “Well, I’m sorry on your account, sir.”

“He’s dead, poor old Bob!” said the colonel, resting his elbow upon the
edge of his desk and letting his chin drop into the palm of his hand.
“Yes, he’s got his papers at last. And now, Van, I can take up the
story that I left unfinished. It was incomplete then, but now the last
chapter’s been written.”

“You’ve had the first of it already,” went on the chief, settling
back in his chair. “Here’s the rest of it--and the last of it. You’ll
listen, too, Pollard.

“I’ve told you already, I think, that Bob Sheldon and I were the
closest of friends. I stood up with him when he was married to his
Nell--his ‘little Nell’--the girl whose name came to his lips when
he lay in delirium after the shell had struck him down. Poor little
Nell--poor old Bob! Well, all the trouble’s ended at last.

“The friendships that are made in active service are lasting ones.
When the ‘Old Regiment’ came back, after doing its share of the work
of hammering our erring brothers into a peaceful state, Bob was on
the roster as major, and I’d been given his old company. But it never
occurred to either of us, when off duty, that such a thing as rank had
any existence. It was ‘Bob’ for him and ‘Harry’ for me, and he’d have
thought me crazy if I’d addressed him as ‘Major’ except when I was at
the head of my company.

“I’ll be older than I am now before I forget the day that we were
mustered out. We’d gone to the front with something over the full
thousand: there were three hundred and sixty of us, rank and file, when
we came home again. For we’d been a fighting regiment from start to
finish, and the hard knocks of four long years had cut the original
roll to ribbons. Those were the days when veteran regiments were
allowed to dwindle down to skeletons, through battle and disease, while
the recruits that should have been turned over to them to stop the
gaps were herded together in one raw, half useless lump, given a fresh
regimental number and a stand of colors bright and crisp from the shop,
and then bundled off to where there was _fighting_ to be done--and all
because some ambitious politician felt that a pair of eagles would be
becoming to his peculiar style of corpulent beauty.

“We had a royal welcome home. I needn’t tell you what battles were
gilded on the stripes of the old flag, because you know well enough the
sort of record that we fellows made when cutting out the pace for you
youngsters. We’d done our work, and we knew that we’d done it well, and
we felt that the people knew it, too. And when we made our last march,
that day, through the swarming streets, we took as rightfully ours the
cheers that went up as the wreck of the ‘Old Regiment’ followed the
faded colors home again.

“Then came the final breaking up; the time when ‘break ranks’ meant
that regimental line never would be formed again. I remember how, for
the last time, we presented to the colors--the ragged, blood-streaked
scraps of silk whose worn folds told our whole war story. Bob turned
to me when the tattered old things were being carried away from us
forever. His face was working, and--I doubt, though, if he knew it--a
big tear was rolling down each gaunt, sun-burned cheek. I--well, I was
sobbing like a child, I’m not ashamed to say. So were the boys at my
back--God bless ’em!

“‘Bob,’ says I, trying to swallow the lump in my throat, ‘Bob, old man,
what’s left for us now?’ He turned in his saddle and looked across the
parade to where a group of white gowns--his Nell was there, with the
colonel’s wife and a lot of other women--had gathered to watch the last
act in our war drama. ‘What’s left?’ says he, turning to me again,
‘What’s left? Why, _everything_!’ And though the tears still glistened
at the corners of his eyes, his face shone with the light that has but
one meaning.

“Well, we of the ‘Old Regiment’ shook hands, and drifted back to our
places in civil life. There are easier things than dropping the customs
of the service, and taking up the monotony of everyday existence. It
came hard at first, but we managed it somehow.

“Bob was married. He wouldn’t let a week go by, after we were mustered
out, before he had that much of his career settled. I volunteered to
stand by him to the last, and he held me in reserve as best man until
the knot was safely tied. It was a military wedding. Nearly all the
officers of the ‘Old Regiment’ were there. It was a dingy looking lot
of uniforms that gathered in the little church, but the men inside the
faded blue coats were all right.

“It wasn’t long before I followed Bob’s example. Then life ran on
smoothly with us both for a long stretch of years. To be sure, we
missed the excitement of the old days; but I’d come ’round to Bob’s
view of life, and was willing to admit that there was a good deal left
to live for, after all. There are several queer things about war: one
of ’em is the way in which it teaches old soldiers to appreciate the
comfort of peace.

“Yes, life ran on smoothly for a time,” repeated the colonel with a
sigh; “and then came trouble, big trouble for poor Bob. He had one
child, a boy. He was a bright, sturdy chap. Bob really believed that
the world revolved ’round him. But just after he’d had his tenth
birthday, he died.

“It was terribly rough! Bob had planned to send the youngster to ‘The
Point,’ when the proper time came; and he’d talk to me by the hour of
the pride he’d feel when he had a son in the service. ‘Harry,’ he’d
say, when we’d be smoking our old pipes together, ‘you and I were good
enough soldiers according to our lights: we could fight just as nastily
as though we’d been in the business for a lifetime. But when it came
to the fine points of the profession, we weren’t quite up to concert
pitch; the fellows from ‘The Point’ scored on us then. Now, there’s
going to be another war some day. It’s a long way ahead, and it’s two
to tuppence that we’ll not be in it. But I want to feel that the name
of Sheldon will be on some regiment’s roster then--and I’m thinking
that little Bob’ll take care of that for me.’

“It was cruel work for poor Bob when we laid the little fellow away,
and my heart went out to him in his trouble. But there was a heavier
blow yet to fall. Two years after we’d buried the boy, I stood by Bob’s
side and gripped his arm while his wife’s coffin was being lowered into
the grave. My God! I learned then what despair meant. When all was
over, Bob clung to me, and asked the question that I’d put to him on
the day they took our old colors from us. ‘Harry,’ he said, almost with
a groan, ‘Harry, what’s left for me now?’ And before I could think of
the words that I wanted, he answered his own question with, ‘_Nothing!_’

“And then I lost him for a time. He simply dropped everything and went
away. For three years he was abroad, and from time to time I’d hear
from him. But the letters were hopelessly unhappy, and I knew that he’d
not recovered from the wrench that he’d got. Then came four months of
silence.

“I was beginning to get alarmed at not hearing from him, when, one
fearfully hot day in August, I looked up from my work, and saw him
standing by the desk in my office. ’Pon my soul, I couldn’t have been
blamed for thinking that I saw his ghost! He was haggard and thin, and
his eyes had a troubled, haunted look that made my heart ache for him.

“‘I’m back again,’ he said, holding out his hand. ‘It’s hot, isn’t it?
I’m going to ask you a favor, Harry. The old house over in Cambridge
has been closed ever since--ever since I went away, and I’m going there
this afternoon: will you go with me?’

“I hadn’t lunched, but he seemed feverishly impatient to be off, and
fairly dragged me along with him. We took a cab, and started on the
long, hot ride. I did all the talking on the way: he sat silently by
me, and his face wore a look that made me terribly uneasy.

“When we were nearly at the end of our ride I happened to catch sight
of a doctor’s sign upon the door of a house, and to my surprise I saw
that it bore the name of the assistant surgeon of the ‘Old Regiment.’
A sudden idea came to me, and I made the cabman pull up, explaining to
Bob that I’d a message to leave for a friend. I was pretty sure that
he’d not notice anything: the look in his eyes told me that his mind
was busy with something besides his surroundings.

“Running up to the door, I pulled the bell in a way that meant
business, and in a very short time I’d explained matters to the doctor.
We agreed between us that the heat and the strain of coming back to the
desolate home might work upon Bob in a fashion that, coupled with the
effect of his old wound, would bring on bad results. So we arranged
that the doctor should follow, in about a quarter of an hour, and drop
in at Bob’s house as if by accident. It was a clumsy sort of scheme,
I must confess, but it was the best that I could think of under the
circumstances.

“Bob and I drove on. When we reached the house, he tried to unlock the
door, but his hand shook so pitifully that I took the key from him, and
let him in. The house was hot and close, and the air musty with the
damp of long disuse. It _was_ a mournful home-coming, and I felt that
it couldn’t help doing harm of some sort to poor Bob.

“We went about from room to room. I opened a window here and there, for
though the outside air was torrid anything seemed preferable to the
closeness of those long untenanted walls. Bob moved in a dazed sort of
way, as if he were walking in a dream. I’d tried to find out if he had
any definite object in coming, but he answered me incoherently, and I
gave up my questioning.

“We’d been there for a full quarter of an hour when the door-bell rang.
It sounded queerly, that tinkling peal in the silence of the deserted
house. Bob jumped as if he’d been struck, when he heard the bell.
‘What’s that?’ he said nervously.

“‘I’ll go to the door,’ says I, knowing well enough what it meant.
‘Thank you,’ said Bob; ‘if it isn’t too much bother. I don’t care about
seeing any of the neighbors just yet. I’ll run upstairs for a second,
and you can call me when the coast’s clear.’

“I opened the door, and there stood the doctor. ‘Hello, Elliott!’ he
sang out, in a purposely loud voice, ‘_You_ here? I happened to be
passing, and noticed that the windows were open. Has the major come
back?’ He stepped into the hall, and I closed the door behind him.
‘Yes, he turned up to-day,’ said I, also very loudly and distinctly.
‘He’ll be glad to see you. Funny coincidence, your dropping in on us
this way. Sort of regimental reunion, eh? We’ll have to--’

“I stopped right there. A pistol shot rang out in one of the upper
chambers, and after it came the sound of a heavy fall. ‘God! we’re
too late,’ gasped the doctor. But he rushed for the stairs without an
instant’s hesitation, and I tore up after him.

“Poor old Bob was lying on his face, in the room that had been his
wife’s. His old army revolver lay smoking beside him, where it had
fallen when he dropped. The blood was streaming from his head, and the
first horrified glance showed me that the track of the bullet almost
exactly followed the scar left by the splinter of shell that had bowled
him over years before.

“The doctor went down upon his knees. Rapidly examining the bleeding
wound, he looked up at me and said grimly, ‘This is bad business,
Captain, bad business. But he’s failed in his undertaking. Nerves must
have gone back on him. That was a glancing shot: it didn’t penetrate.’
He rapidly ran his eye around the room. ‘See where it went?’ he said,
pointing to a ragged break in the plastering.

“We lifted Bob from the floor and laid him on the bed. The doctor went
to work and stopped the bleeding, talking softly to me all the while.
‘I don’t like it at all,’ he said. ‘He’ll not die from this, but I’m in
doubt about the effect it’ll have on his brain. It’s a nasty shock for
a man in his over-wrought condition. Queer, isn’t it, that I should be
patching up the same place that I worked over so long ago? He’s in for
brain fever, poor devil! It’s a hard thing to say, Elliott, but I’m not
sure that he wouldn’t have been luckier if his lead had gone straight
in.’

“Well, the rest of the story can be told in few words. Bob didn’t die.
The doctors pulled him safely through, and saved a life that might
better have been allowed to slip away. For when the fever that followed
upon the shock of the wound had burned itself out, the delirium
remained, and all that was left of as fine a man as ever served was a
hopelessly insane wreck.

“It’s twelve years since I’ve seen him. They wouldn’t let me come to
visit him at the asylum, fearing that the sight of me might affect
him unfavorably. Poor Bob! he’s been out of the world for all that
time--waiting to wear out! From time to time I’ve had reports from the
doctors, but never a cheering one until to-day, when I received a
letter from Bob himself--and by the same mail got word that death had
come at last to bring him his release.

“It seems that the end came very suddenly. There was a physical
collapse, as if his vital machinery had run down all at once. But at
the very last the cloud lifted from his mind, and before he died he had
become, mentally, almost his old self. It was on his last afternoon
that he dictated this letter to me.” The colonel leaned forward and
took the envelope from his desk. “I’m going to read you a paragraph or
two from it, because it concerns you, in a way.”

The colonel glanced at his two listeners. Van Sickles was smoking
calmly, as is his wont. Pollard’s cigar had gone out, and he was
bending forward in his chair, with his eyes expectantly fixed upon the
chief. It was evident that he was not a little moved by what he had
heard.

“Here’s what he says,” said the colonel, rapidly glancing through the
contents of one sheet, and beginning to read from the second: “‘They
tell me, Harry, that you’ve found it impossible to stay out of the
service, even in these peaceful times, and that you’ve a command of
your own--that it’s fallen to you to be at the head of the regiment
that’s keeping our old name and number alive. If that’s true, I’ve a
favor to ask from you. Don’t think it the whim of a madman, for it’s
not. To come to it at once, I want a major’s escort when they put me
away. It’s my soberly sane desire, and the last one that I shall have
in this world. You’ll see that I’m not disappointed? I knew you would,
and I’ll thank you in advance. Perhaps you’d do well to let the boys
of the ‘Old Regiment’ know when and where the funeral will be: some of
them might like to be there. But I’ll leave it all to you.’”

The colonel paused. His voice had become just the least bit unsteady.
To cover his feelings he struck a match, but forgot to apply it to his
cigar until it had burned down so far that he had to drop it hastily
upon the floor.

“Is that all, sir?” asked Pollard, when the colonel stopped reading.

“Perhaps I might give you the last paragraph,” replied the chief
huskily, again turning to the sheet that he held. “‘Good-bye, Harry,’
it runs. ‘I’m tiring fast, and the nurse says I must stop and rest.
You’ll remember about the escort? I’ve no family left, and few friends,
so I must look to you for everything. We’ll meet again sometime, I’ve a
firm conviction. Things will be happier then, and brighter. So good-bye
once more, old fellow, and God bless--.’” The colonel choked, and
stopped abruptly.

Major Pollard pulled himself up from his chair. “Will you order out my
battalion as escort, sir?” he asked earnestly. “I should consider it
a great honor, and I’m sure that the men would look at it in the same
way.”

“I hope you’ll find something for me to do,” began Van Sickles, coming
towards the colonel’s desk. “I’d be glad to help in any way; about
flowers, or music, or--”

“Thank you both,” said the chief, giving a hand to each. “I knew you’d
help me out in this. Yes, I’ll order you out, Pollard. I’ll have the
adjutant issue a special order at once. Perhaps you’d do well to speak
to your company commanders about it now, before they dismiss. We’ll
have the funeral on Sunday afternoon. I shall call on you, Van, for
help in a number of little matters between now and then.”

Pollard left the room, going to pass word to his captains. The colonel
and Van Sickles went to the staff-room, where the adjutant and sergeant
major were wrestling with the never-ending “paper work” of regimental
headquarters.

“Charley,” said the chief, as he came to the adjutant’s desk, “what was
the number of the last regimental special order?”

“I think it was 48, sir,” said the adjutant, dragging the order-book
from its resting place, and rapidly running over its pages. “Yes, 48 it
was.”

“Then I’ll trouble you to make me out 49,” said the colonel. “Have
it run something like this: ‘The 3rd Battalion will report to Major
Pollard, on Sunday next, for the performance of escort duty at the
funeral of Robert Hunnewell Sheldon, late major of this regiment when
in the service of the United States, 1861-65.’”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a bright, warm Sunday. Against the cloudless sky the grim
battlements of the armory towered up in bold relief. Upon the tiny
flanking turret which caps one corner of the massive watch-tower,
the half-masted flag hung down in drooping folds of white and red,
unstirred by any passing breeze.

The streets were almost deserted. But within the great armory there
was unwonted life and movement: and when the clocks of the city were
striking the hour of three, the ponderous, iron-bound doors swung
heavily apart, and, company by company, Major Pollard’s battalion of
The Third came marching out, under the frowning archway and down the
wide granite steps.

The major formed his command in line, facing the entrance. A moment
later he brought the battalion to a “present,” faced about, and
saluted, as six sergeants of the regiment came slowly down the steps,
bearing out into the June sunlight a plain, black casket, which they
placed in the waiting hearse.

Then came a handful of men in citizen’s dress, the survivors of the
‘Old Regiment’--grey-haired men, most of them, but all wearing proudly
the bronze star, and the Maltese cross of their long-disbanded army
corps. These were followed by the colonel and nearly all the officers
of the active regiment, in full dress; for the story had spread through
The Third, and--though the chief had expressed no formal wish--it
somehow had become understood that he would be glad to have this mark
of respect shown for the dead officer who had been his friend and
comrade.

The escorting battalion moved to its position, the muffled drums of the
field music began to beat, and the column, leaving the deserted armory
to its Sunday quiet, slowly took up the march towards the elm-shadowed
churchyard where, beside two low, green mounds, an open grave lay
waiting.

The chaplain, book in hand, took his place beside the heap of freshly
turned mould, ready to begin the recital of the solemn service for the
dead. “Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God to take unto Himself
the soul of our brother here departed,” he read, slowly and distinctly,
as the coffin was lowered gently to its resting place; “we therefore
commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to
dust.”

The service ended, and the chaplain softly closed his book. Then came
the commands for the firing, given in a tone strangely unlike that to
which the men were accustomed. Three echoing volleys followed, telling
those who chanced to hear that another soldier of the half-forgotten
war had been laid at rest.

The blue-white smoke from the rifles, silvered here and there by
shafts of sunlight, drifted lazily up through the branches of the
overhanging elms: there was an interval of silence, finally broken
by the mellow notes of a bugle thrilling out the bars of _Taps_, the
soldier’s requiem; and then the escort broke into column and marched
away, leaving the little knot of older men still standing in the shady
churchyard.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were
not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unpaired
quotation marks were retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Redundant chapter titles have been deleted from this eBook.

Page 33: “break-off” probably is a misprint for “breaking off”





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