The general, whom the boys knew as the commander of their division, looked at the other officer and spoke coolly, as if he were criticising his clothes. Th enemys formin over there for another charge, he said. Itll be directed against Whiterside, an I fear theyll break through there unless we work like thunder t stop them.
The other swore at his restive horse, and then cleared his throat. He made a gesture toward his cap. Itll be hell t pay stoppin them, he said shortly.
I presume so, remarked the general. Then he began to talk rapidly and in a lower tone. He frequently illustrated his words with a pointing finger. The two infantrymen could hear nothing until finally he asked: What troops can you spare?
The officer who rode like a cowboy reflected for an instant. Well, he said, I had to order in th 12th to help th 76th, an I havent really got any. But theres th 304th. They fight like a lot a mule drivers. I can spare them best of any.
The youth and his friend exchanged glances of astonishment.
The general spoke sharply. Get em ready, then. Ill watch developments from here, an send you word when t start them. Itll happen in five minutes.
As the other officer tossed his fingers toward his cap and wheeling his horse, started away, the general called out to him in a sober voice: I dont believe many of your mule drivers will get back.
The other shouted something in reply. He smiled.
With scared faces, the youth and his companion hurried back to the line.
These happenings had occupied an incredibly short time, yet the youth felt that in them he had been made aged. New eyes were given to him. And the most startling thing was to learn suddenly that he was very insignificant. The officer spoke of the regiment as if he referred to a broom. Some part of the woods needed sweeping, perhaps, and he merely indicated a broom in a tone properly indifferent to its fate. It was war, no doubt, but it appeared strange.
As the two boys approached the line, the lieutenant perceived them and swelled with wrath. FlemingWilsonhow long does it take yeh to git water, anyhowwhere yeh been to.
But his oration ceased as he saw their eyes, which were large with great tales. Were goin t chargewere goin t charge! cried the youths friend, hastening with his news.
Charge? said the lieutenant. Charge? Well, bGawd! Now, this is real fightin. Over his soiled countenance there went a boastful smile. Charge? Well, bGawd!
A little group of soldiers surrounded the two youths. Are we, sure nough? Well, Ill be derned! Charge? What fer? What at? Wilson, youre lyin.
I hope to die, said the youth, pitching his tones to the key of angry remonstrance. Sure as shooting, I tell you.
And his friend spoke in re-enforcement. Not by a blame sight, he aint lyin. We heard em talkin.
They caught sight of two mounted figures a short distance from them. One was the colonel of the regiment and the other was the officer who had received orders from the commander of the division. They were gesticulating at each other. The soldier, pointing at them, interpreted the scene.
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