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BOOK THIRD THE SCHOOL OF WAR I HOW MERRY GENTLEMEN WENT TO WAR THE July sun fell straight and hot upon the camp, and Dan, as he sat on a woodpile and ate a green apple, wistfully cast his eyes about for a deeper shade. But the young tree from which he had just shaken its last ftuit stood alone between the scattered tents and the blur of willows down the gentle slope, and beneath its speckled shadow the mess had gathered sleepily, after the mid~ day meal. In the group of privates, stretched under the gauzy shade on the trampled grass, the first thing to strike an observer would have been, perhaps; their surprising youth. They were all youngthe eldest hardly more than three and twenty - and the faces bore a curious resemblance in type, as if they were, one and all, variations from a common stock. There was about them, too, a peculiar expression of enthusiasm, showing even in the faces of those who slept; a single wave of emotion which, tising to its height in an entire people re283 The Battle-Ground vea1ed itself in the features of the individual soldier . As yet the flower of the South had not withered on its stalk, and the men first gathered to defend the borders were men who embraced a cause as fervently as they would embrace a woman; men in whom the love of an abstract prinCiple became , not a religion, but a romantic passion. Beyond them, past the scattered tents and the piles of clean straw, the bruised grass of the field swept down to a little stream and the fallen stones that had once marked off the turnpike. Farther away, there was a dark stretch of pines relieved against the faint blue tracery of the distant mountains . Dan, sitting in the thin shelter on the woodpile, threw a single glance at the strip of pines, and brought back his gaze to Big Abel who was splitting an oak log hard by. The work had been assigned to the master, who had, in turn, tossed it to the servant, with the remark that he "came out to kill men, not to cut wood." "I say, Big Abel, this sun's blazing hot," he now offered cheerfully. Big Abel paused for a moment and wiped his brow with his blue cotton sleeve. "Dis yer ain' no oak, caze it's w'it-Ieather," he rejoined in an injured tone, as he lifted the axe and sent it with all his might into the shivering log, which threw out a sh~wer of fine chips. The powerful stroke brought into play the negro's splendid muscles, and Dan, watching him, carelessly observed to a young fellow lying half asleep upon the ground, " Big Abel could whip us all, Bland, if he had a mind to." How Merry Gentlemen Went to War 285 Bland grunted and opened his eyes; then he yawned; stretched his arms, and sat up against the logs. He was bright and boyish-looking, with a frank tanned face, which made his curling flaxen hair seem almost white. "I worked like a darky hauling yesterday," he said reproachfully, "but when your turn comes, you climb a woodpile and pass the job along. When we go into battle I suppose Dandy and you will sit down to boil coffee, and hand your muskets to the servants." "Oh, are we ever going into battle?" growled Jack Powell from the other side. "Here I've been at this blamed drilling until I'm stiff in every joint, and I haven't seen so much as the tail end of a fight. You may rant as long as you please about marti~l glory, but if there's any man who thinks it's fun merely to get dirty and eat raw food, well, he's welcome to my share of it, that's all. I haven't had so much as one of the necessities of life since I settled down in this old field; even my hair has taken fo standing on end. I say, Beau, do you happen to have any pomade about you? Oh, you needn't jeer, Bland, there's no danger of your getting bald, with that sheepskin over your scalp: and, besides, I'm willing enough to sacrifice my life for my country. I object only to giving it my hair instead." "I believe you'll find a little in my knapsack," gravely replied...


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