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II THE DAY'S MARCH IN the gray dawn tents were struck, and five days' rations were issued with the marching orders. As Dan packed his knapsack with trembling hands, he saw men stalking back and forth like gigantic shadows, and heard the hoarse shouting of the company officers through the thick fog which had rolled down from the mountains. There was a persistent buzz in the air, as if a great swarm of bees had settled over the misty valley. Each man was asking unanswerable questions of his neighbour. At a little distance Big Abel, with several of the company "darkies" was struggling energetically over the property of the mess, storing the cooking utensils into a stout camp chest, which the strength of several men would lift, when filled, into the wagon. Bland, who had just tossed his overcoat across to them, turned abruptly upon Dan, and demanded warmly "what had become of his case of razors? " "Where are we going?" was Dan's response, as he knelt down to roll up his oilcloth and blanket. " By Jove, it looks as if we'd gobble up Patterson for breakfast! " "I say, where's my case of razors?" inquired Bland, with irritation. "They were lying here a 294 The Day's March moment ago, and now they're gone. Dandy, have you got my razors?" " Look here, Beau, what are you going to leave behind?" asked Kemper over Bland's shoulder. " Leave behind? Why, dull care," rejoined Dan gayly. "By the way, Pinetop, why don't you save your appetite for Patterson's dainties?" Pinetop, who was leisurely eating his breakfast of " hardtack" and bacon, took a long draught from his tin cup, and replied, as he wiped his mouth on his shirt sleeve, that he "reckoned thar wouldn't be any trouble about finding room for them, too." The general gayety was reflected in his face; he laughed as he bit deeply into his half-cooked bacon. Dan stood up and nervously strapped on his knapsack ; then he swung his canteen over his shoulder and carefully tightened his belt. His face was flushed, and when he spoke his voice quivered with emotion. It seemed to him that the delay of every instant was a reckless waste of time, and he trembled at the thought that the enemy might be preparing to fall upon them unawares; that while the camp was swarming like an ant's nest, Patterson and his men might be making good use of the fleeting moments. "Why the devil don't we move ? We ought to move," he said angrily, as he glanced round the crowded field where the men were arraying themselves in all the useless trappings of the Southern volunteer. Kemper was busily placing his necessary toilet articles in his haversack, having thrown away half his rations for the purpose; Jack Powell, completely dressed for the march, was examining The Battle-Ground his heavy revolver, with the conscious pride a field officer might have felt in his sword. As he stuck it into his belt, he straightened himself with a laugh and jauntily set his small cap on his curling hair; he was clean, comely, and smooth-shaven as if he had just stepped from a hot bath and the hands of his barber. " You may roll Dandy in the dust and he'll come out washed," Baker had once forcibly remarked. " I say, boys, why don't we start? " persisted Dan impatiently, flicking with his handkerchief at a grain of sand on his high boots. Then, as Big Abel brought him a cup of coffee, he drank it standing, casting eager glances over the rim of his cup. He had an odd feeling that it was all a great fox hunt they were soon to start upon; that they were waiting only for the calling of the hounds. The Major's fighting blood had stirred within his grandson's veins, and generations of dead Lightfoots were scenting the coming battle from the dust. When Dan thought now of the end to which he should presently be marching, it suggested to him but a quickened exhilaration of the pulses and an old engraving of "Waterloo," which hung on the diningroom wall at Chericoke. That was war; and he remembered vividly the childish thrill with which he had first looked up at it. He saw the prancing horses, the dramatic gestures of the generals with flowing hair, the blur of waving flags and naked swords...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817388294
Related ISBN
9780817310417
MARC Record
OCLC
47010965
Pages
559
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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