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II A STRAGGLER FROM THE RANKS IN two weeks it swept back, wasted, stubborn , hungrier than ever. On a sultry September afternoon, Dan, who had gone down with a sharp return of fever, was brought, with a wagonful of the wounded, and placed on a heap of straw on the brick pavement of Shepherdstown. For two days he had been delirious, and Big Abel had held him to his bed during the long nights when the terrible silence seemed filled with the noise of battle; but, as he was lifted from the wagon and laid upon the sidewalk, he opened his eyes and spoke in a natural voice. "What's all this fuss, Big Abel? Have I been out of my head?" " You sutney has, suh. You've been a-prayin' en shoutin' so loud dese las' tree days dat I wunner de Lawd ain' done shet yo' mouf des ter git rid er you." " Praying, have I?" said Dan. "Well, I declare. That reminds me of Mr. Blake, Big Abel. I'd like to know what's become of him." Big Abel shook his head; he was in no pleasant humour, for the corners of his mouth were drawn tightly down and there was a rut between his bushy eyebrows. 392 A Straggler from the Ranks 393 "I nuver seed no sich place es dis yer town in all my lifetime," he grumbled. "Dey des let us lie roun' loose on de bricks same es ef we ain' been fittin' fur 'em twel we ain' nuttin' but skin en bone. Dose two wagon loads er cut-up sodgers hev done fill de houses so plum full dat dey sticks spang thoo de cracks er de do's. Don' talk ter me, suh, I ain' got no use fur dis wah, noways, caze hit's a low-lifeted one, dat's what 'tis; en ef you'd a min' w'at I tell you, you'd be settin' up at home right dis minute wid ole Miss a-feedin' you on br'ile chicken. You may fit all you wanter - lain' sayin' nuttin' agin yo' fittin ef yo' spleen hit's up - but you could er foun' somebody ter fit wid back at home widout comin' out hyer ter git yo'se'f a-jumbled up wid all de po' white trash in de county. Dis yer wah ain' de kin' I'se use ter, caze hit jumbles de quality en de trash tergedder des like dey wuz bo'n blood kin." " What ar.e you muttering about now, Big Abel? " broke in Dan impatiently. "For heaven's sake stop and find me a bed to lie on. Are they going to leave me out here in the street on this pile of straw? " " De Lawd he knows," hopelessly responded Big Abel. "Dey's a-fixin' places, dey sez, dat's why all dese folks is a-runnin' dis away en dat away like chickens wid dere haids chopped off. 'Fo' you hed yo' sense back dey wanted ter stick you over yonder in dat ole blue shanty wid all de skin peelin' off hit, but I des put my foot right down en 'lowed dey 'ouldn't. W'at you wan' ketch mo'n you got fur? " "But I can't stay here," weakly remonstrated Dan, "and I must have something to eat - I tell 394 The Battle-Ground you I could eat nails. Bring me anything on God's earth except green corn." The street was filled with women, and one of them, passing with a bowl of gruel in her hand, came back and held it to his lips. "You poor fellow!" she said impulsively, in a voice that was rich with sympathy. "Why, I don't believe you've had a bite for a month." Dan smiled at her from his heap of straw - an unkempt haggard figure. " Not from so sweet a hand," he responde.!, his old spirit rising strong above misfortune. His voice held her, and she regarded him with a pensive face. She had known men in her day, which had declined long since toward its evening, and with the unerring instinct of her race she knew that the one before her was well worth the saving. Gallantry that could afford to jest in rags upon a pile of straw appealed to her Southern blood as little short of the heroic. She saw the pinch of hunger about the mouth, and she saw...


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