The soldiers were quiet. The soldier who had received the blow began grumbling, as he rubbed his bleeding face, which had been scratched by his being knocked forward against the wattle.

“Ay, the devil; how he does hit a fellow! Why, he has set all my face bleeding,” he said in a timid whisper, as the sergeant walked away. “And you don’t enjoy it, eh?” said a laughing voice; and the soldiers, moderating their voices, moved on. As they got out of the village, they began talking as loudly again, interspersing their talk with the same meaningless oaths.

In the hut by which the soldiers had passed there were assembled the chief officers in command, and an eager conversation was going on over their tea about that day’s doings and the manœuvres proposed for the night. The plan was to execute a flank movement to the left, cut off and capture the viceroy.

By the time the soldiers had dragged the fence to its place they found blazing fires, cooking supper on all sides. The firewood was crackling, the snow was melting, and the black shadows of soldiers were flitting to and fro all over the space between trampled down in the snow.

Axes and cutlasses were at work on all sides. Everything was done without a word of command being given. Wood was piled up for a supply of fuel through the night, shanties were being rigged up for the officers, pots were being boiled, and arms and accoutrements set to rights.

The wattle wall was set up in a semicircle to give shelter from the north, propped up by stakes, and before it was built a camp-fire. They beat the tattoo-call, counted over their number, had supper, and settled themselves round the fires—some repairing their foot-gear, some smoking pipes, others stripped naked trying to steam the lice out of their clothes.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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