"I don't rightly know what 'cryptic' means, but I guess I don't make myself understood well. In my campaign on the plains against the Indians I had a comrade named Bill Brayton. A Tennesseean, Bill was an' a fine feller, too. Him an' me have bunked together many a time an' we've dug out of the snow together, too, after the blizzards was over. But when we saw the war comin' up, Bill had fool notions. Said he didn't know anything 'bout the right an' wrong of it, guessed there was some of each on each side, but whichever way his state would flop, he'd flop. Well, we waited. Tennessee flopped right out of the Union an' Bill flopped with it.
"I felt powerful sorry when Bill told me good-bye, and so did he. I ain't seen or heard of him since 'till to-night, when I was cruisin' down there by the side of the river in the dark an' keepin' under cover of the bushes. Had no intention of shootin' anybody. Just wanted to take a look. I saw on the other side a dim figure walkin' up an' down, rifle on shoulder. Thought I noticed something familiar about it, an' the longer I watched the shorer I was.
"At last I crept right to the edge of the bank an' layin' down lest some fool who didn't know the manners of our war take a pot shot at me, I called out, 'Bill Brayton, you thick-headed rebel, are you well an' doin' well?'
"You ought to have seen him jump. He stopped walkin', dropped his rifle in the hollow of his arm, looked the way my voice come and called out, likewise in a loud voice: 'Who's callin' me a thick-headed rebel? Is it some blue-backed Yankee? You know we see nothin' of you but your backs. Come out in the light, an' I'll let some sense into you with a bullet.'
"'Oh, no I won't,' says I, still layin' close, an' not mindin' his taunt 'bout seein' our backs only. 'You couldn't hit me if I stood up an' marked the place on my chest. Nothin' will save you but them days on the plain in the blizzards when you was more useful with a shovel than you are with a rifle, 'cause to-morrow at sunrise we're goin' to cross this little river and tie all you fellows hand an' foot an' take you away as prisoners to Washington.'
"That made him mighty mad, but the part 'bout the blizzards on the plains set him to thinkin', too. 'Who in thunderation are you?' sez he. 'You're Bill Brayton, of Tennessee, fightin' in the rebel army, when you ought to know better,' says I. 'Now, who in thunderation am I?' 'Sufferin' Moses!' says he, 'that voice grows more like his every time he speaks. It can't be that empty-headed galoot, Dan Whitley, who never knew nothin' 'bout the rights an' wrongs of the war, an' had to go off with the Yanks!'
"'It's him an' nobody else,' says I, as I rose right up an' stood there on the bank, 'an' mighty glad am I to see you Bill, an' to know that your fool head ain't knocked off by a cannon ball.' He shorely jumped up an' down with pleasure an' he called back: 'The good Lord certainly watches over them that ain't got any sense. Dan, you flat-headed, hump-backed, round-shouldered, thin-chested, knock-kneed, club-footed son of a gun, I was never so glad to see anybody before in my life.'
"His eyes were shinin' with delight an' I know mine was, too. Reunions of old friends who for all each know have been dead a year or two, clean blowed to pieces by shells, or shot through by a hundred rifle bullets are powerful affectin'. He come down to the edge of the river an' he shot questions across to me, an' I shot questions at him, an' I felt as if a brother had riz from the dead. An' as we can't shake hands we reaches out the muzzles of our guns and shakes them towards each other in the most friendly way. Then another picket comes up, fellow by name of Henderson, from Mississippi. Bill introduces him to his good old pal, an' we three have a friendly talk. Guess they're down there yet, if you want to see 'em. I liked that fellow, Henderson, too, though he was a powerful boaster."
"All right," said Dick. "Lead on, but don't get us shot."
They went cautiously through the bushes to the bank of the river, and then the sergeant blew softly between his fingers. Two figures at once appeared on the other side, and Sergeant Whitley and the boys rose up.
"Mr. Brayton and Mr. Henderson," said the sergeant politely, "I want to introduce my friends, Lieutenant Mason, Lieutenant Warner and Lieutenant Pennington."
"Movin' in mighty good comp'ny, though young, Dan," said Brayton, who was about Whitley's age and build.
"They're officers, an' they're young, as you say," said Whitley, "but they're good ones."
"Them's the kind we eat alive, when we ain't got anything else to eat," said the Mississippian, a very tall, sallow and youngish man. "We're never too strong on rations, and when I eat prisoners I like 'em under twenty the best. They ain't had time to get tough. I speak right now for that yellow-haired one in the middle."
"You can't swallow me," said Pennington, good naturedly. "I'll just turn myself crossways and stick in your throat."
"What are you fellows after around here, anyway?" continued the Mississippian. "The weather's hot an' we all want to go in swimmin' to-morrow, bein' as we have two rivers handy. Shore as you live if you get to botherin' us we'll hurt you."
"You won't hurt us," said Dick, "because to-morrow we're going to surround you and drive you into a coop."
"Drive us in a coop. See here, Yank, you're gettin' excited. Do you know how many men we have here waitin' for you? Of course you don't. Why, it's four hundred thousand, ain't it, Bill?"
"No, it's just two hundred thousand. I don't believe in lyin' fur effect, Jim."
"I ain't lyin'. There's two hundred thousand men. Then there's Bobby Lee. That's a hundred thousand more, which makes three hundred thousand. Then there's Stonewall Jackson, who's another hundred thousand, which brings the figures up to exactly what I said, four hundred thousand. Now, ain't I right, Bill?"
"You shorely are, Jim. I was a fool for countin' the way I did. Will you overlook it this time?"
"Wa'al, I will this time, but be shore you don't do it ag'in. Now, see here, you Yanks: we like you well enough. You're friends of Bill, who is a friend of me. Just you take my advice an' go home. Start to-night while the weather is warm, an' the roads are good. If you're afraid of our chasin' you we'll give you a runnin' start of a hunderd miles."
"Wa'al now, that's right kind of you," said Whitley. "I for one might take your advice, but I was froze up so much in them wild mountains an' plains of the northwest that I like to go south when the winter's comin' on. It's hot now, all right, but in two months the chilly blasts will be seekin' my marrow."
"I was speakin' for your own good," said the Mississippian gravely. "Anyway, you won't be troubled by the cold weather 'cause if you don't go back into the no'th where you belong, we'll be takin' you a prisoner way down south, where you don't belong. But you could have a good time there. We won't treat you bad. There's fine huntin' for b'ars in the canebrake an' the rivers an' bayous are full of fish. Your captivity won't be downright painful on you."
"Glad to get your welcome, Mr. Henderson," said Whitley, "'cause we've heard a lot 'bout the hospitality of Mississippi, an' we're shorely goin' to stretch it. I'm comin', an' I'm bringin' a couple of hundred thousand fellers 'bout my size with me. Funny thing, we'll all wear blue coats just alike. Think you'd find room for us?"
"Plenty of it. What was it the feller said—we welcome you with bloody hands to hospitable graves—but we ain't feelin' that way to-night. Got a plug of terbacker?"
The sergeant took out a square of tobacco, cut it in exact halves with his pocket knife, and tossed one-half across the Antietam, where it was deftly caught by the Mississippian.
"Thanks mightily," said Henderson. "Mr. Commissary Banks used to supply us with good things, then it was Mr. Commissary Pope, and now I reckon it'll be Mr. Commissary McClellan. Say, how many fellers have you got over thar, anyway?"
"When I counted 'em last night," replied the sergeant calmly, "there was five hundred and twelve thousand two hundred and fifty-three infantry, sixty-four thousand two hundred and nineteen cavalry an' three thousand one hundred and seventy-five cannon, but I reckon we'll receive reinforcements of three hundred thousand before mornin'."
"Then we'll have more prisoners than I thought. Are you shore them three hundred thousand reinforcements will get up in time?"
"Quite shore. I've sent 'em word to hurry."
"Then we'll have to take them, too."
"Time you fellers quit your talkin'," said Brayton, "a major or a colonel may come strollin' 'long here any minute, an' they don't like for us fellers to be too friendly. Dan, I'm powerful glad to see you ag'in, an' I hope you won't get killed. I've a feelin' that you an' me will be ridin' over the plains once more some day, an' we won't be fightin' each other. We'll be fightin' Sioux an' Cheyennes an' all that red lot, just as we did in the old days. Here's a good-bye."
He thrust out the muzzle of his gun, an' Whitley thrust out his. Then they shook them at each other in friendly salute, and the little group moved away from the river bank.
"I'm glad I've seen Bill again," said the sergeant. "Fine feller an' that Mississippian with him was quaint like. Mighty big bragger."
"You did some bragging yourself, sergeant," said Dick.
"So I did, but it was in answer to Henderson. I'm glad we had that little talk across the river. It was a friendly thing to do, before we fall to slaughterin' one another."
They rejoined Colonel Winchester, and Dick worked through a part of the night carrying orders and other messages. A great movement was going on. Fresh troops were continually coming up, but there was little noise beyond the Antietam, although he saw the light of many fires.
He slept after midnight and awoke at dawn, expecting to go at once into battle. Some of the troops were moved about and Colonel Winchester began to rage again.
"Good God! can it be possible!" he exclaimed, "that another day will be lost? Is General McClellan instead of General Lee waiting for Jackson to come? With the enemy safely within the trap, we refuse to shut it down upon him!"
He said these things only within the hearing of Dick, who he knew would never repeat them. But he was not the only one to complain. Men higher in rank than he, generals, spoke their discontent openly. Why would not McClellan attack? He had claimed that the rebels had two hundred thousand men at the Seven Days, when it was well known that half that figure or less was their true number. Why should he persist in seeing the enemy double, and even if Lee did have fifty thousand men on the other side of the Antietam, instead of the twenty thousand the scouts assigned to him, the Army of the Potomac could defeat him before Jackson came up.
But McClellan was overcome by caution. In spite of everything he doubled or tripled the numbers of the enemy. Personally brave beyond dispute, he feared for his army. The position of the enemy on the peninsula seemed to have changed somewhat through the night. He believed that the batteries had been moved about, and he telegraphed to Washington that he must find out exactly the disposition of Lee's forces and where the fords were.
Meanwhile the long, hot hours dragged on. The dust trodden up by so many marching feet was terrible. It hung in clouds and added a sting to the burning heat. Dick was wild with impatience, but he knew that it was not worth while to say anything. He, Warner and Pennington, for the lack of something else to do, lay on the dry grass, whispering and watching as well as they could what was going on in Sharpsburg.
Meanwhile Sharpsburg itself seemed a monument to peace. It was deep in dust and the sun blazed on the roofs. Staff officers rode up, and when they dismounted they lazily led their horses to the best shade that could be found. Within a residence Lee sat in close conference with his lieutenants, Stonewall Jackson and Longstreet. Now and then, they looked at the reports of brigade commanders and sometimes they studied the maps of Maryland and Virginia. Lee was calm and confident. The odds against him—and he knew what they were—apparently mattered nothing.
He knew the strength and spirit of his army and to what a pitch it was keyed by victory. Moreover, he knew McClellan, whom he had met at the Seven Days, and he believed, in truth he felt positive that McClellan would delay long enough for the remainder of Jackson's troops to come up. Upon this belief he staked the future of the Confederacy in the battle to be fought there between the Potomac and the Antietam. His troops were worn by battles and tremendous marches. Jackson's men in three days had marched sixty miles, and had fought a battle at Harper's Ferry within that time, also, taking more than thirteen thousand prisoners. Never before had the foot cavalry marched so hard.
The men in gray, ragged and many of them barefooted, slept in the woods about Sharpsburg all through the hot hours of the day. Their officers had told them that the drums and bugles would call them when needed, and they sank quietly into the deepest of slumbers. From where they lay Red Hill, a spur of a mountain, separated them from the Union army. It was only those like Dick and his comrades who mounted elevations and who had powerful field glasses who could see into Sharpsburg. The main Union force saw only the top of a church spire or two in the village. But each felt fully the presence of the other and knew that the battle could not be delayed long.
Dick, in his anxiety and excitement, fell asleep. The heat and the waiting seemed to overpower him. He did not know how long he had slept, but he was awakened by the sharp call of a trumpet, and when he sprang to his feet Warner told him it was about four o'clock.
"What's up?" he cried, as he wiped the haze of heat and dust from his eyes.
"We're about to march," replied Warner, "but as it's so late in the day I don't think it can be a general attack. Still, I know that our division is going to cross the Antietam. Up here the stream is narrower than it is down below, and the banks are not so high. Look, the colonel is beckoning to us! Here we go!"
They sprang upon their horses, and a great corps advanced toward the Antietam, far above the town of Sharpsburg. The sun had declined in the West, and a breeze, bringing a little coolness, had begun to blow. They did not see much preparation for defense beyond the river, but as they advanced some cannon in the woods opened there. The Union cannon replied, and then the brigades in blue moved forward swiftly.
The officers and the cavalry galloped their horses into the little river and Dick felt a fierce joy as the water was dashed into his face. This was action, movement, the attack that had been delayed so long but which was not yet too late. He thought nothing of the shells hissing and shrieking over his head, and he shouted with the others in exultation as they passed the fords of the Antietam and set foot on the peninsula. The cannon dashed after them through the stream and up the bank.
A heavy rifle fire from the woods met them, but the triumphant division pressed on. They were held back at the edge of the woods by cannon aiding the rifles, and for some time a battle swayed back and forth, but the Confederate resistance ceased suddenly. Infantry and batteries disappeared in woods or beyond a ridge, and then Dick noticed that night was coming. The sun was already hidden by the lofty slopes of the western mountains, and there would be no battle that day. In another half hour full darkness would be upon them.
But Dick felt that something had been achieved. A powerful Union force was now beyond the Antietam, with its feet rooted firmly in the soil of the peninsula. It looked directly south at the Confederate army and there was no barrier between. Lee would have to face at once, Hooker on the north and McClellan on the east across the Antietam. The Union army had been numerous enough to outflank him.
Dick was quite sure of success now. They had lost two of the most precious of all days instead of one, but they had closed the gap on the north, through which Lee's army might march in an attempt to escape. It was likely, too, that the last of Jackson's men would come that way and the Union force would cut them off from Lee. Two entire army corps were now beyond the Antietam, and they should be able to do anything.
The Winchester regiment lay in deep woods, and the great division although it had rested nearly all the day was quiet in the night. But some ardent souls could not rest. A group of officers, including Colonel Winchester and the three young members of his staff, walked forward through the woods, taking the chance of stray shots from sentinels or skirmishers. But they knew that this risk was not great.
They passed near a mill, its wheels and saws silent now, and presently as the moon rose they saw the square white walls of a building shining in its light.
"The Dunkard church," said one of the officers. "I think we'd better not go any closer. The Johnnies must be lying thick close at hand."
"The dim light off to the right must be made by their fires," said Colonel Winchester. "I wish I knew what troops they are. Jackson's perhaps. It's a rough country, and all these forests and ridges and hills will help the defense. I understand that the farms in here are surrounded by stone fences and that, too, will help the Johnnies."
"But we'll get 'em," said another confidently. "The battle can't be put off any longer, and we're bound to smash 'em in the morning."
They remained in the darkness for a while, trying to see what was passing toward the Southern lines, but they could see little. There was some rifle firing after a while, and the occasional deep note of a cannon, mostly at random and the little group walked back.
"I'm going to sleep, Dick," said Warner. "I've just remembered that I'm an invalid and that if I overtask myself it will be a bad thing for McClellan to-morrow. The colonel doesn't want us any longer, and so here goes."
"I follow," said Pennington. "The dry earth is good enough for me. May I stay on top of it for the next half century."
Warner and Pennington slept quickly, but Dick lay awake a long time, listening to the stray rifle shots and the distant boom of a cannon at far intervals. After a while, he looked at his watch and saw that it was midnight. It was more than an hour later when slumber overtook him, and while he and his comrades lay there the last of Jackson's men were coming with the help that Lee needed so sorely.
Two divisions which had been left at Harper's Ferry started at midnight just as Dick was looking at his watch and at dawn they were almost to the Potomac. On their flank was a cavalry brigade and A. P. Hill was hurrying with another of infantry. Messenger after messenger from them came to Lee that on the fateful day they with their fourteen thousand bayonets would be in line when they were needed most.
Few of those who fought for the Lost Cause ever cherished anything more vividly than those hours between midnight and the next noon when they marched at the double quick across hill and valley and forest to the relief of their great commander. There was little need for the officers to urge them on, and at sunrise the rolling of the cannon was calling to them to come faster, always faster.
CHAPTER X. ANTIETAM
Dick arose at the first flash of dawn. All the men of the Winchester regiment were on their feet. The officers had sent their horses to the rear, knowing that they would be worse than useless among the rocks and in the forest in front of them.
A mist arising from the two rivers floated over everything, but Dick knew that the battle was at hand. The Northern trumpets were calling, and in the haze in front of them the Southern trumpets were calling, too.
The fog lifted, and then Dick saw the Confederate lines stretched through forest, rock and ploughed ground. Near the front was a rail fence with lines of skirmishers crouching behind it. As the last bit of mist rolled away the fence became a twisted line of flame. The fire of the Southern skirmishers crashed in the Union ranks, and the Northern skirmishers, pressing in on the right replied with a fire equally swift and deadly. Then came the roar of the Southern cannon, well aimed and tearing gaps in the Union lines.
"Its time to charge!" exclaimed Pennington. "It scares me, standing still under the enemy's fire, but I forget about it when I'm rushing forward."
The Winchester regiment did not move for the present, although the battle thickened and deepened about it. The fire of the Confederate cannon was heavy and terrible, yet the Union masses on either wing had begun to press forward. Hooker hurled in two divisions, one under Meade, and one under Doubleday, and another came up behind to support them. The western men were here and remembering how they had been decimated at Manassas, they fought for revenge as well as patriotism.
At last the Winchester regiment in the center moved forward also. They struck heavy ploughed land, and as they struggled through it they met a devastating fire. It seemed to Dick that the last of the little regiment was about to be blown away, but as he looked through the fire and smoke he saw Warner and Pennington still by his side, and the colonel a little ahead, waving his sword and shouting orders that could not be heard.
Dick saw shining far before him the white walls of the Dunkard church, and he was seized with a frantic desire to reach it. It seemed to him if they could get there that the victory would be won. Yet they made little progress. The cannon facing them fairly spouted fire, and thousands of expert riflemen in front of them lying behind ridges and among rocks and bushes sent shower after shower of leaden balls that swept away the front ranks of the charging Union lines. The shell and the shrapnel and the grape and the round shot made a great noise, but the little bullets coming in swarms like bees were the true messengers of death.
Jackson and four thousand of his veterans formed the thin line between the Dunkard church and the Antietam. They were ragged and worn by war, but they were the children of victory, led by a man of genius, and they felt equal to any task. Near Jackson stood his favorite young aide, Harry Kenton, and on the other side was the thin regiment of the Invincibles, led by Colonel Leonidas Talbot, and Lieutenant-Colonel Hector St. Hilaire.
Around the church itself were the Texans under Hood, stalwart, sunburned men who could ride like Comanches, some of whom when lads had been present at San Jacinto, when the Texans struck with such terrible might and success for liberty.
"Are we winning? Tell me, that we are winning!" shouted Dick in Warner's ear.
"We're not winning, but we will! Confound that fog! It's coming up again!" Warner shouted back.
The heavy fog from the Potomac and the Antietam which the early and burning sunrise had driven away was drifting back, thickened by the smoke from the cannon and rifles. The gray lines in front disappeared and the church was hidden. Yet the Northern artillery continued to pour a terrible fire through the smoke toward the point where the Confederate infantry had been posted.
Dick heard at the same time a tremendous roar on the left, and he knew that the Union batteries beyond the Antietam had opened a flanking fire on the Southern army. He breathed a sigh of triumph. McClellan, who could organize and prepare so well, was aroused at last to such a point that he could concentrate his full strength in battle itself, and push home with all his might until able to snatch the reward, victory. As the lad heard the supporting guns across the Antietam, he suddenly found himself shouting with all his might. His voice could not be heard in the uproar, but he saw that the lips of those about him were moving in like manner.
The two corps on the peninsula had a good leader that morning. Hooker, fiery, impetuous, scorning death, continually led his men to the attack. The gaps in their ranks were closed up, and on they went, infantry, cavalry and artillery. The fog blew away again and they beheld once more the gray lines of the Southerners, and the white wooden walls of the church.
So fierce and overwhelming was the Northern rush that all of Jackson's men and the Texans were borne back, and were driven from the ridges and out of the woods. Exultant, the men in blue followed, their roar of triumph swelling above the thunder of the battle.
"Victory!" cried Dick, but Warner shouted:
The keen eyes of the young Vermonter had seen masses of infantry and cavalry on their flank. Hooker, fierce and impetuous, had gone too far, and now the Southern trumpets sang the charge. Stuart, fiery and dauntless, his saber flashing, led his charging horsemen, and Hill threw his infantry upon the Northern flank.
It seemed to Dick that he was in a huge volcano of fire and smoke. Men who, in their calm moments, did not hate one another, glared into hostile eyes. There was often actual physical contact, and the flash from the cannon and rifles blazed in Dick's face. The Southerners in front who had been driven back returned, and as Stuart and Hill continued to beat hard upon their flanks, the troops of Hooker were compelled to retreat. Once more the white church faded in the mists and smoke.
But Hooker and his generals rallied their men and advanced anew. The ground around the Dunkard church became one of the most sanguinary places in all America. One side advanced and then the other, and they continually reeled to and fro. Even the young soldiers knew the immensity of the stake. This was the open ground, elsewhere the Antietam separated the fighting armies. But victory here would decide the whole battle, and the war, too. The Northern troops fought for a triumph that would end all, and the Southern troops for salvation.
So close and obstinate was the conflict that colonels and generals themselves were in the thick of it. Starke and Lawton of the South were both killed. Mansfield, who led one of the Northern army corps fell dead in the very front line, and the valiant Hooker, caught in the arms of his soldiers, was borne away so severely wounded that he could no longer give orders.
Scarcely any generals were left on either side, but the colonels and the majors and the captains still led the men into the thick of the conflict. Dick felt a terrible constriction. It was as if some one were choking him with powerful hands, and he strove for breath. He knew that the masses pressed upon their flank by Stuart and Hill, were riddling them through and through.
The Union men were giving ground, slowly, it is true, and leaving heaps of dead and wounded behind them, but nobody could stand the terrible rifle fire that was raking them at short range from side to side, and they were no longer able to advance. Now Dick heard once more that terrible and triumphant rebel yell, and it seemed to him that they were about to be destroyed utterly, when shell and shot began to shriek and whistle over their heads. The woods behind them were alive with the blaze of fire, and the great Union batteries were driving back the triumphant and cheering Confederates.
The Union generals on the other side of the Antietam saw the fate that was about to overtake Hooker's valiant men, and Sumner, with another army corps, had crossed the river to the rescue, coming just in time. They moved up to Hooker's men and the united masses returned to the charge.
The battle grew more desperate with the arrival of fresh troops. Again it was charge and repulse, charge and repulse, and the continuous swaying to and fro by two combatants, each resolved to win. There were the Union men who had forced the passes through the mountains to reach this field, and they were struggling to follow up those successes by a victory far greater, and there were the Confederates resolved upon another glorious success.
The fire became so tremendous that the men could no longer hear orders. Here was a field of ripe corn, the stems and blades higher than a man's head, forty acres or so, nearly a quarter of a mile each way, but the corn soon ceased to hide the combatants from one another. The fire from the cannon and rifles came in such close sheets that scarcely a stalk stood upright in that whole field.
Long this mighty conflict swayed back and forth. Dick had seen nothing like it before, not even at the Second Manassas. It was almost hand to hand. Cannons were lost and retaken by each side. Stuart, finding the ground too rough for his cavalry, dismounted them and put them at the guns. Jackson, with an eye that missed nothing, called up Early's brigade and hurled it into the battle. The North replied with fresh troops, and the combat was as much in doubt as ever. Every brigade commander on the Southern side had been killed or wounded. Nearly all the colonels had fallen, but Jackson's men still fought with a fire and spirit that only such a leader as he could inspire.
It seemed to Dick that the whole world was on fire with the flash of cannon and rifles. The roar and crash came from not only in front and around him, but far down the side, where the main army of McClellan was advancing directly upon the Antietam, and the stone bridges which the Confederates had not found time to tear down.
There stood Lee, supremely confident that if his lieutenant, Jackson, could not hold the Northern opening into the peninsula nobody could. His men, who knew the desperate nature of the crisis, said that they had never seen him more confident than he was that day.
On the ridge just south of the village was a huge limestone bowlder, and Lee, field glasses in hand, stood on it. He listened a while to the growing thunder of the battle in the north—the Dunkard church, around which Jackson and Hooker were fighting so desperately, was a mile away—but he soon turned his attention to the blue masses across the Antietam.
The Southern commander faced the Antietam with the hard-hitting Longstreet on his right, his left being composed of the forces of Jackson, already in furious conflict. Nothing escaped him. As he listened to the thunder of the dreadful battle in the north, he never ceased to watch the great army in front of him on the other side of the little river.
While Hooker and his men were fighting with such desperate courage, why did not McClellan and the main body of the Union army move forward to the attack? Doubtless Lee asked himself this question, and doubtless also he had gauged accurately the mind of the Union leader, who always saw two or even three enemies where but one stood. Relying so strongly upon his judgment he dared to strip himself yet further and send more men to Jackson. A messenger brought him news that more of Jackson's men had come to his aid and that he was now holding the whole line against the attacks of Meade and Hooker and all the rest.
Lee nodded and turned his glasses again toward the long blue line across the Antietam. McClellan himself was there, standing on a hill and also watching. Around him was a great division under the command of Burnside, and his time to win victory had come. He sent the order to Burnside to move forward and force the Antietam. It is said that at this moment Lee had only five thousand men with him, all the rest having been sent to Jackson, and, if so, time itself fought against the Union, as it was a full two hours before Burnside carried out his order and moved forward on the Antietam.
But Dick, on the north, did not know that it was as yet only cannon fire, and not the charge of troops to the south and west. In truth, he knew little of his own part of the battle. Once he was knocked down, but it was only the wind from a cannon ball, and when he sprang to his feet and drew a few long breaths he was as well as ever.
From muttered talk around him, talk that he could hear under the thunder of the battle, he learned that Sumner, who had come with the great reinforcement, was now leading the battle, with Hooker wounded and Mansfield dying.
Sumner, as brave and daring as any, had gathered twenty thousand men, and they were advancing in splendid order over the wreck of the dead and the dying, apparently an irresistible force.
Jackson, standing at the edge of a wood, saw the magnificent advance, and while the officers around him despaired, he did not think of awaiting the Northern attack, but prepared instead for an attack of his own. There was word that McLaws and the Harper's Ferry men had come. Jackson galloped to meet them, formed them quickly with his own, and then the Southern drums rolled out the charge. The weary veterans, gathering themselves anew for another burst of strength, fell with all their might on the Northern flank.
Dick felt the force of that charge. Men seemed to be driven in upon him. He was hurled down, how he knew not, but he sprang up again, and then he saw that their advance was stopped. Long lines of bayonets advanced upon them, and a terrible artillery fire crashed through and through their ranks. Two or three thousand men in blue fell in a moment or so. Fortune in an instant had made a terrible change of front.
Dick shouted aloud in despair as the brigades steadily gave back. The great Union batteries were firing over their heads again, but even they could not arrest the Southern advance. Their regiments were coming now across the shorn cornfield. Dick saw the galloping horses drawing their batteries up closer and around the flanks. And the rebel yell of victory which he had heard too often was now swelling from thousands of throats, as the fierce sons of the South rushed upon their foe.
But the North refused to abandon the battle here. These were splendid troops, so tenacious and so much bent upon victory that they scarcely needed leaders. Sedgwick, another of their gallant generals, fell and was carried off the field, wounded severely. Richardson, yet another, was killed a little later, but heavy reinforcements arrived, and the Southerners were driven back in their turn.
These were picked troops who met here, veterans almost all of them, and neither would yield. The superior weight and range of the Northern guns gave them an advantage in artillery, and it was used to the utmost. Dick did not see how men could live under such a horrible fire, but there were the gray lines replying, and wherever they yielded, yielding but little.
Noon came and then one o'clock. They had been fighting since dawn, and a combat so impetuous and terrible could not be maintained forever, particularly when the awful demon of war was eating up men so fast. Many of the regiments on either side had lost more than half their number and would lose more. They were human beings, and even the unwounded began to collapse from mere physical exhaustion. Some dropped to the ground from sheer inability to stand, and as they lay there, they heard to the south and west the rolling thunder that told of Burnside's belated advance upon the Antietam.
Down where Lee stood watching, the battle blazed up with extraordinary rapidity. The men who had been held in leash so long by McClellan were anxious to get at the foe. Burnside's brigades charged directly for one of the stone bridges, and Lee, watching from his bowlder, hurried the Southern troops forward to meet them. Again the Northern artillery proved its worth. The great batteries sent a hurricane of death over the heads of the men in blue and toward the town of Sharpsburg. Despite all the valor of the Southern veterans, the heavy masses of the Union men forced their way across the bridge to the peninsula. Lee's batteries and infantry regiments could not hold them.
It seemed now that Lee's own force was to be destroyed and that victory was won, but fortune had in store yet another of those dazzling recoveries for the South. At the very moment when Lee seemed overwhelmed, A. P. Hill, as valiant and vigorous as the other Hill, arrived with the last of the Harper's Ferry veterans, having marched seventeen miles, almost on a dead run. They crossed the Potomac at a ford below the mouth of the Antietam, then crossed the Antietam on the lowest bridge back into the peninsula, and without waiting for orders rushed upon the Northern flank.
The attack was so sudden and fierce that Burnside's entire division reeled back. Here, as in the north, the face of the battle had been changed in an instant. Not only could Colonel Winchester mourn over those lost two days, but he could mourn over every lost half hour in them. Had Hill come a half hour later Lee's whole center would have been swept away.
Lee and his great lieutenants, Jackson and Longstreet, were still confident. Despite the disparity in numbers they had beaten back every attack.
A. P. Hill was a man who corresponded in fire and impetuosity to Hooker. The number of his veterans was not so great, but their rush was so fierce, and they struck at such a critical time that the Northern brigades were unable to hold the ground they had gained. More troops from the dying battle on the north came to Lee's aid, and every attempt of McClellan to take Sharpsburg failed.
Dick, fighting with his comrades on the north, knew little of what was passing on the peninsula in the south, but he became conscious after a while that the appalling fury of the battle around him was diminishing. He had not seen such a desperate hand-to-hand battle at either Shiloh or the Second Manassas, and they were terrible enough. But he felt as the Confederates themselves had felt, that the Southern army was fighting for existence.
But as the day waned, Dick believed that they would never be able to crush Jackson. The Union troops always returned to the attack, but the men in gray never failed to meet it, and actual physical exhaustion overwhelmed the combatants. Pennington went down, and Dick dragged him to his feet, fearing that he was wounded mortally, but found that his comrade had merely dropped through weakness.
The long day of heat and strife neared its close. Neither Northern tenacity nor Southern fire could win, and the sun began to droop over the field piled so thickly with bodies. As the twilight crept up the battle sank in all parts of the peninsula. McClellan, who had lost those two most precious days, and who had finally failed to make use of all his numbers at the same time, now, great in preparation, as usual, made ready for the emergency of the morrow.
All the powerful and improved artillery which McClellan had in such abundance was brought up. The mathematical minds and the workshops of the North bore full fruit upon this sanguinary field of Antietam. The shattered divisions of Hooker, with which Dick and his comrades lay, were sheltered behind a great line of artillery. No less than thirty rifled guns of the latest and finest make were massed in one battery to command the road by which the South might attack.
To the south the Northern artillery was equally strong, and beyond the Antietam also it was massed in battery after battery to protect its men.
But the coming twilight found both sides too exhausted to move. The sun was setting upon the fiercest single day's fighting ever seen in America. Nearly twenty-five thousand dead or wounded lay upon the field. More than one fourth of the Southern army was killed or wounded, yet it was in Lee's mind to attack on the morrow.
After night had come the weary Southern generals—those left alive—reported to Lee as he sat on his horse in the road. The shadows gathered on his face, as they told of their awful losses, and of the long list of high officers killed or wounded. Jackson was among the last, and he was gloomy. The man who had always insisted upon battle did not insist upon it now. Hood reported that his Texans, who had fought so valiantly for the Dunkard church, were almost destroyed.
The scene in the darkness with the awful battlefield around them was one which not even the greatest of painters could have reproduced. When the last general had told his tale of slaughter and destruction, they sat for a while in silence. They realized the smallness of their army, and the immense extent of their losses. The light wind that had sprung up swept over the dead faces of thousands of the bravest men in the Southern army. They had held their ground, but on the morrow McClellan could bring into line three to one and an artillery far superior alike in quality, weight and numbers to theirs.
The strange, intense silence lasted. Every eye was upon Lee. When the generals were making their reports he had shown more emotion than they had ever seen on his face before. Now he was quiet, but he drew his lips close together, his eyes shone with blue fire, and rising in his stirrups he said:
"We will not cross the Potomac to-night, gentlemen."
Then while they still waited in silence, he said:
"Go to your commands! Reform and strengthen your lines. Collect all your stragglers. Bring up every man who is in the rear. If McClellan wants a battle again in the morning, he shall have it. Now go!"
Not a general said a word in objection, in fact, they did not speak at all, but rode slowly away, every one to his command. Yet they were, without exception, against the decision of their great leader.
Even Stonewall Jackson did not want a second battle. He had shown through the doubtful conflict a most extraordinary calmness. While the combat in the north, where he commanded, was at its height, he had sat on Little Sorrel, now happily restored to him, eating from time to time a peach that he took from his pocket. Nothing had escaped his observation; he watched every movement, and noticed every rise and fall in the tide of success. His silence now indicated that he concurred with the others in his belief that the remains of the Confederate army should withdraw across the Potomac, but his manner indicated complete acquiescence in the decision of his leader.
But in the north of the peninsula the remnants of either side had scarce a thought to bestow upon victory or defeat. It was a question that did not concern them for the present, so utter was their exhaustion. As night came and the battle ceased they dropped where they were and sank into sleep or a stupor that was deeper than sleep.
But Dick this time did neither. His nervous system had been strained so severely that it was impossible for him to keep still. He had found that all of his friends had received wounds, although they were too slight to put them out of action. But the Winchester regiment had suffered terribly again. It did not have a hundred men left fit for service, and even at that it had got off better than some others. In one of the Virginia regiments under Longstreet only fourteen men had been left unhurt.
Dick stood beside his colonel—Warner and Pennington were lying in a stupor—and he was appalled. The battle had been fought within a narrow area, and the tremendous destruction was visible in the moonlight, heaped up everywhere. Colonel Winchester was as much shaken as he, and the two, the man and the boy, walked toward the picket line, drawn by a sort of hideous fascination, as they looked upon the area of conflict.
The dead lay in windrows between the two armies which were waiting to fight on the dawn. Dick and the colonel walked toward the field where the corn had been waving high that morning, and where it was now mown by cannon and rifles to the last stalk. In the edge of the wood the boy paused and grasping the man suddenly by the arm pulled him back.
"Look! Look!" he exclaimed in a sharp whisper. "The Confederate skirmishers! The woods are full of them! They are making ready for a night attack!" Both he and Colonel Winchester sprang back behind a big tree, sheltering themselves from a possible shot. But no sound came, not even that of men creeping forward through the undergrowth. All they heard was the moaning of the wind through the foliage. They waited, and then the two looked at each other. The true reason for the extraordinary silence had occurred to both at the same instant, and they stepped from the shelter of the tree.
Awed and appalled, the man and the boy gazed at the silent forms which lay row on row in the woods and in the shorn cornfield. It seemed as if they slept, but Dick knew that all were dead. He and Colonel Winchester gazed again at each other and shuddering turned away lest they disturb the sleep of the dead.
When they returned to a position behind the guns they heard others coming in with equally terrible tales. A sunken lane that ran between the hostile lines was filled to the brim with dead. Boys, yet in their teens, with nerves completely shattered for the time, chattered hysterically of what they had seen. The Antietam was still running red. Both Lee and Stonewall Jackson had been killed and the whole Confederate army would be taken in the morning. Some said, on the other hand, that the Southerners still had a hundred thousand men, and that McClellan would certainly be beaten the next day, if he did not retreat in time.
None of the talk, either of victory or defeat, made any impression upon Dick. His senses were too much dulled by all through which he had gone. Words no longer meant anything. Although the night was warm he began to shiver, as if he were seized with a chill.
"Lie down, Dick," said Colonel Winchester, who noticed him. "I don't think you can stand it any longer. Here, under this tree will do."
Dick threw himself down and Colonel Winchester, finding a blanket, spread it over him. Then the boy closed his eyes, and, for a while, phase after phase of the terrible conflict passed before him. He could see the white wall of the Dunkard church, the Bloody Lane, and most ghastly of all, those dead men in rows lying on their arms, like regiments asleep, but his nerves grew quiet at last, and after midnight he slept.
Dawn came and found the two armies ready. Dick and the sad remnant of the Winchester regiment rose to their feet. Although food had been prepared for them very few in all these brigades had touched a bite the night before, sinking into sleep or stupor before it could be brought to them. But now they ate hungrily while they watched for their foes, the skirmishers of either army already being massed in front to be ready for any movement by the other.
As on the morning before, a mist arose from the Potomac and the Antietam. The sun, bright and hot, soon dispersed it. But there was no movement by either army. Dick did not hear the sound of a single shot. Warner and Pennington, recovered from their stupor, stood beside him gazing southward toward the rocks and ridges, where the Confederate army lay.
"I'm thinking," said Warner, "that they're just as much exhausted as we are. We're waiting for an attack, and they're waiting for the same. The odds are at least ninety per cent in favor of my theory. Their losses are something awful, and I don't think they can do anything against us. Look how our batteries are massed for them."
Dick was watching through his glasses, and even with their aid he could see no movement within the Southern lines. Hours passed and still neither army stirred. McClellan counted his tremendous losses, and he, too, preferred to await attack rather than offer it. His old obsession that his enemy was double his real strength seized him, and he was not willing to risk his army in a second rush upon Lee.
While Dick and his comrades were waiting through the long morning hours, Lee and Jackson and his other lieutenants were deciding whether or not they should make an attack of their own. But when they studied with their glasses the Northern lines and the great batteries, they decided that it would be better not to try it.
When noon came and still no shot had been fired, Colonel Winchester shook his head.
"We might yet destroy the Southern army," he said to Dick, "but I'm convinced that General McClellan will not move it."
The hot afternoon passed, and then the night came with the sound of rumbling wheels and marching men. Dick surmised that Lee was leaving the peninsula, and, crossing the Potomac in to Virginia, and that therefore tactical victory would rest with the Northern side. The noises continued all night long, but McClellan made no advance, nor did he do so the next day, while the whole Confederate army was crossing the Potomac, until nearly night.
But the Winchester regiment and several more of the same skeleton character, pushing forward a little on the morning of that day, found that the last Confederate soldier was gone from Sharpsburg. Colonel Winchester and other officers were eager for the Army of the Potomac to attack the Army of Northern Virginia, while it dragged itself across the wide and dangerous ford.
But McClellan delayed again, and it was sunset when Dick saw the first sign of action. A strong division with cannon crossed the river and attacked the batteries which were covering the Southern rearguard. Four guns and prisoners were taken, but when Lee heard of it he sent back Jackson, who beat off all pursuit.
Dick and his comrades did not see this last fight, which was the dying echo of Antietam. They felt that they had defeated the enemy's purpose, but they did not rejoice over any victory. The sword of Antietam had turned back Lee and Jackson for a time and perhaps had saved the Union, but Dick was gloomy and depressed that so little had been won when they seemed to hold so much in the hollow of their hands.
This feeling spread through the whole army, and the privates, even, talked of it openly. Nobody could forget those precious two days lost before the battle. Orders No. 191 had put all the cards in their hands, but the commander had not played them.
"I feel that we've really failed," said Warner, as they sat beside a camp fire. "The Southerners certainly fought like demons, but we ought to have been there long before Jackson came, and we ought to have whipped them, even after Jackson did come."
"But we didn't," said Pennington, "and so we've got the job to do all over again. You know, George, we're bound to win."
"Of course, Frank; but while we're doing it the country is being ripped to pieces. I'll never quit mourning over that lost chance at Antietam."
"At any rate we came off better than at the Second Manassas," said Dick. "What's ahead of us now?"
"I don't know," replied Warner. "I saw Shepard yesterday, and he says that the Southerners are recuperating in Virginia. We need restoratives ourselves, and I don't suppose we'll have any important movements along this line for a while."
"But there'll be big fighting somewhere," said Dick.
CHAPTER XI. A FAMILY AFFAIR
Two days after the battle of Antietam, Dick went with Colonel Winchester to Washington on official duty. His nerves, shaken so severely by that awful battle, were not yet fully restored and he was glad of the little respite, and change of scene. The sights of the city and the talk of men were a restorative to him.
The capital was undoubtedly gay. The deep depression and fear that had hung over it a few weeks ago were gone. Men had believed after the Second Manassas that Lee might take Washington and this fear was not decreased when he passed into Maryland on what seemed to be an invasion. Many had begun to believe that he was invincible, that every Northern commander whoever he might be, would be beaten by him, but Antietam, although there were bitter complaints that Lee might have been destroyed instead of merely being checked, had changed a sky of steel into a sky of blue.
Washington was not only gay, it was brilliant. Life flowed fast and it was astonishingly vivid. A restless society, always seeking something new flitted from house to house. Dick, young and impressionable, would have been glad to share a little in it, but his time was too short. He went once with Colonel Winchester to the theatre, and the boy who had thrice seen a hundred and fifty thousand men in deadly action hung breathless over the mimic struggles of a few men and women on a painted stage.
The second day after his arrival he received a letter from his mother that had been awaiting him there. It had come by the way of Louisville through the Northern lines, and it was long and full of news. Pendleton, she said, was a sad town in these days. All of the older boys and young men had gone away to the armies, and many of them had been killed already, or had died in hospitals. Here she gave names and Dick's heart grew heavy, because in this fatal list were old friends of his.
It was not alone the boys and young men who had gone, wrote Mrs. Mason, but the middle-aged men, too. Dr. Russell had kept the Pendleton Academy open, but he had no pupil over sixteen years of age. There were no trustees, because they had all gone to the war. Senator Culver had been killed in the fighting in Tennessee, but she heard that Colonel Kenton was alive and well and with Bragg's army.
The affairs of the Union, she continued, were not going well in Tennessee and Kentucky. The terrible Confederate cavalryman Forrest had suddenly raided Murfreesborough in Tennessee, where Union regiments were stationed, and had destroyed or captured them all. Throughout the west the Southerners were raising their heads again. General Bragg, it was said, was advancing with a strong army, and was already farther north than the army of General Buell, which was in Tennessee. It was said that Louisville, one of the largest and richest of the border cities, would surely fall into the hands of the South.
Dick read the letter with changing and strong emotions. Amid the terrible struggles in the east, the west was almost blotted out of his mind. The Second Manassas and Antietam had great power to absorb attention wholly upon themselves. He had wholly forgotten for the time about Pendleton, the people whom he knew, and even his mother. Now they returned with increased strength. His memory was flooded with recollections of the little town, every house and face of which he knew.
And so the Confederates were coming north again with a great army. Shiloh had been far from crushing them in the west. The letter had been written before the Second Manassas, and that and Lee's great fight against odds at Antietam would certainly arouse in them the wish for like achievements. He inferred that since the armies in the east were exhausted, the great field for action would be for a while, in the west, and he was seized with an intense longing for that region which was his own.
It was not coincidence, but the need for men that made Dick's wish come true almost at once. A few hours after he received his letter Colonel Winchester found him sitting in the lobby of the hotel in which Dick had twice talked with the contractor. But the boy was alone this time, and as Colonel Winchester sat down beside him he said:
"Dick, the capital has received alarming news from Kentucky. Buoyed up by their successes in the east the Confederacy is going to make an effort to secure that state. Bragg with a powerful force is already on his way toward Louisville, and we fear that he has slipped away from Buell."
"So I've heard. I found here a letter from my mother, and she told me all the reports from that section."
"And is Mrs. Mason well? She has not been troubled by guerillas, or in any other way?"
"Not at all. Mother's health is always good, and she has not been molested."
"Dick, it's possible that we may see Kentucky again soon."
"Can that be true, and how is it so, sir?"
"The administration is greatly alarmed about Kentucky and the west. This movement of Bragg's army is formidable, and it would be a great blow for us if he took Louisville. Dispatches have been sent east for help. My regiment and several others that really belong in the west have been asked for, and we are to start in three days. Dick, do you know how many men of the Winchester regiment are left? We shall be able to start with only one hundred and five men, and when we attacked at Donelson we were a thousand strong."
"And the end of the war, sir, seems as far off as ever."
"So it does, Dick, but we'll go, and we'll do our best. Starting from Washington we can reach Louisville in two days by train. Bragg, no matter what progress he may make across the state, cannot be there then. If any big battle is to be fought we're likely to be in it."
The scanty remainder of the regiment was brought to Washington and two days later they were in Louisville, which they found full of alarm. The famous Southern partisan leader, John Morgan, had been roaming everywhere over the state, capturing towns, taking prisoners and throwing all the Union communications into confusion by means of false dispatches.
People told with mingled amusement and apprehension of Morgan's telegrapher, Ellsworth, who cut the wires, attached his own instrument, and replied to the Union messages and sent answers as his general pleased. It was said that Bragg was already approaching Munfordville where there was a Northern fort and garrison. And it was said that Buell on another line was endeavoring to march past Bragg and get between him and Louisville.
But Dick found that the western states across the Ohio were responding as usual. Hardy volunteers from the prairies and plains were pouring into Louisville. While Dick waited there the news came that Bragg had captured the entire Northern garrison of four thousand men at Munfordville, the crossing of Green River, and was continuing his steady advance.
But there was yet hope that the rapid march of Buell and the gathering force at Louisville would cause Bragg to turn aside.
At last the welcome news came. Bragg had suddenly turned to the east, and then Buell arrived in Louisville. With his own force, the army already gathered there and a division sent by Grant from his station at Corinth, in Mississippi, he was at the head of a hundred thousand men, and Bragg could not muster more than half as many.
So rapid had been the passage of events that Dick found himself a member of Buell's reorganized army, and ready to march, only thirteen days after the sun set on the bloody field of Antietam, seven hundred miles away. Bragg, they said, was at Lexington, in the heart of the state, and the Union army was in motion to punish him for his temerity in venturing out of the far south.
Dick felt a great elation as he rode once more over the soil of his native state. He beheld again many of the officers whom he had seen at Donelson, and also he spoke to General Buell, who although as taciturn and somber as ever, remembered him.
Warner and Pennington were by his side, the colonel rode before, and the Winchester regiment marched behind. Volunteers from Kentucky and other states had raised it to about three hundred men, and the new lads listened with amazement, while the unbearded veterans told them of Shiloh, the Second Manassas and Antietam.
"Good country, this of yours, Dick," said Warner, as they rode through the rich lands east of Louisville. "Worth saving. I'm glad the doctor ordered me west for my health."
"He didn't order you west for your health," said Pennington. "He ordered you west to get killed for your country."
"Well, at any rate, I'm here, and as I said, this looks like a land worth saving."
"It's still finer when you get eastward into the Bluegrass," said Dick, "but it isn't showing at its best. I never before saw the ground looking so burnt and parched. They say it's the dryest summer known since the country was settled eighty or ninety years ago."
Dick hoped that their line of march would take them near Pendleton, and as it soon dropped southward he saw that his hope had come true. They would pass within twenty miles of his mother's home, and at Dick's urgent and repeated request, Colonel Winchester strained a point and allowed him to go. He was permitted to select a horse of unusual power and speed, and he departed just before sundown.
"Remember that you're to rejoin us to-morrow," said Colonel Winchester. "Beware of guerillas. I hope you'll find your mother well."
"I feel sure of it, and I shall tell her how very kind and helpful you've been to me, sir."
"Thank you, Dick."
Dick, in his haste to be off did not notice that the colonel's voice quivered and that his face flushed as he uttered the emphatic "thank you." A few minutes later he was riding swiftly southward over a road that he knew well. His start was made at six o'clock and he was sure that by ten o'clock he would be in Pendleton.
The road was deserted. This was a well-peopled country, and he saw many houses, but nearly always the doors and shutters of the windows were closed. The men were away, and the women and children were shutting out the bands that robbed in the name of either army.
The night came down, and Dick still sped southward with no one appearing to stop him. He did not know just where the Southern army lay, but he did not believe that he would come in contact with any of its flankers. His horse was so good and true, that earlier than he had hoped, he was approaching Pendleton. The moon was up now, and every foot of the ground was familiar. He crossed brooks in which he and Harry Kenton and other boys of his age had waded—but he had never seen them so low before—and he marked the tree in which he had shot his first squirrel.
It had not been so many months since he had been in Pendleton, and yet it seemed years and years. Three great battles in which seventy or eighty thousand men had fallen were enough to make anybody older.
Dick paused on the crest of a little hill and looked toward the place where his mother's house stood. He had come just in this way in the winter, and he looked forward to another meeting as happy. The moonlight was very clear now and he saw no smoke rising from the chimneys, but this was summer, and of course they would not have a fire burning at such an hour.
He rode on a little further and paused again at the crest of another hill. His view of Pendleton here was still better. He could see more roofs, and walls, but he noticed that no smoke rose from any house. Pendleton lay very still in its hollow. On the far side he saw the white walls of Colonel Kenton's house shining in the moonlight. Something leaped in his brain. He seemed to have been looking upon such white walls only yesterday, white walls that stood out in a fiery haze, white walls that he could never forget though he lived to be a hundred.
Then he remembered. The white walls were those of the Dunkard church at Antietam, around which the blue and the gray had piled their bodies in masses. The vast battlefield ranged past him like a moving panorama, and then he was merely looking at Pendleton lying there below, so still.
Dick was sensitive and his affections were strong. He loved his mother with a remarkable devotion, and his friends were for all time. Highly imaginative, he felt a powerful stirring of the heart, at his second return to Pendleton since his departure for the war. Yet he was chilled somewhat by the strange silence hanging over the little town that he loved so well. It was night, it was true, but not even a dog barked at his coming, and there was not the faintest trail of smoke across the sky. A brilliant moon shone, and white stars unnumbered glittered and danced, yet they showed no movement of man in the town below.
He shook off the feeling, believing that it was merely a sensitiveness born of time and place, and rode straight for his mother's house. Then he dismounted, tied his horse to one of the pines, and ran up the walk to the front door, where he knocked softly at first, and then more loudly.
No answer came and Dick's heart sank within him like a plummet in a pool. He went to the edge of the walk, gathered up some gravel and threw it against a window in his mother's room on the second floor. That would arouse her, because he knew that she slept lightly in these times, when her son was off to the wars. But the window was not raised, and he could hear no sound of movement in the room.
Alarmed, he went back to the front door, and he noticed that while the door was locked the keyhole was empty. Then his mother was gone away. The sign was almost infallible. Had any one been at home the key would have been on the inside.
His heart grew lighter. There had been no violence. No roving band had come there to plunder. He whistled and shouted through the keyhole, although he did not want anyone who might possibly be passing in the road to hear him, as this town was almost wholly Southern in its sympathies.
There was still no answer, and leading his horse behind one of the pine trees on the lawn, where it would not be observed, he went to the rear of the house, and taking a stick pried open a kitchen window. He had learned this trick when he was a young boy, and climbing lightly inside he closed the window behind him and fastened the catch.
He knew of course every hall and room of the house, but the moment he entered it he felt that it was deserted. The air was close and heavy, showing that no fresh breeze had blown through it for days. It was impossible that his mother or the faithful colored woman could have lived there so long a time with closed doors and shuttered windows.
When he passed into the main part of his home, and touched a door or chair, a fine dust grated slightly under his fingers. Here was confirmation, if further confirmation was needed. Dust on chairs and tables and sofas in the house in which his mother was present. Impossible! Such a thing could not occur with her there. It was not the white dust of the road or fields, but the black dust that gathers in closed chambers.
He went up to his mother's room, and, opening one of the shutters a few inches, let in a little light. It was in perfect order. Everything was in its place. Upon the dresser was a little vase containing some shrivelled flowers. The water in the vase had dried up days ago, and the flowers had dried up with it.
In this room and in all the others everything was arranged with order and method, as if one were going away for a long time. Dick drew a chair near the window, that he had opened slightly, and sat down. Much of his fear for his mother disappeared. It was obvious that she and her faithful attendant, Juliana, had gone, probably to be out of the track of the armies or to escape plundering bands like Skelly's.
He wondered where she had gone, whether northward or southward. There were many places that would gladly receive her. Nearly all the people in this part of the state were more or less related, and with them the tie of kinship was strong. It was probable that she would go north, or east. She might have gone to Lexington, or Winchester, or Richmond, or even in the hills to Somerset.
Well, he could not solve it. He was deeply disappointed because he had not found her there, but he was relieved from his first fear that the guerillas had come. He closed and fastened the window again, and then walked all through the house once more. His eyes had now grown so used to the darkness that he could see everything dimly. He went into his own room. A picture of himself that used to hang on the wall now stood on the dresser. He knew very well why, and he knew, too, that his mother often passed hours in that room.
Below stairs everything was neatness and in order. He went into the parlor, of which he had stood in so much awe, when he was a little child. The floor was covered with an imported carpet, mingled brown and red. A great Bible lay upon a small marble-topped table in the center of the room. Two larger tables stood against the wall. Upon them lay volumes of the English classics, and a cluster of wax flowers under a glass cover, that had seemed wonderful to Dick in his childhood.
But the room awed him no more, and he turned at once to the great squares of light that faced each other from wall to wall.
A famous portrait painter had arisen at Lexington when the canebrake was scarcely yet cleared away from the heart of Kentucky. His work was astonishing to have come out of a country yet a wilderness, and a century later he is ranked among the great painters. But it is said that the best work he ever did is the pair of portraits that face each other in the Mason home, and the other pair, the exact duplicates that face each other in the same manner in the Kenton house.
Dick opened a shutter entirely, and the light of the white moon, white like marble, streamed in. The sudden inpouring illuminated the room so vividly that Dick's heart missed a beat. It seemed, for a minute, that the two men in the portraits were stepping from the wall. Then his heart beat steadily again and the color returned to his face. They had always been there, those two portraits. Men had never lived more intensely than they, and the artist, at the instant his genius was burning brightest, had caught them in the moment of extraordinary concentration. Their souls had looked through their eyes and his own soul looking through his had met theirs.
Dick gazed at one and then at the other. There was his great grandfather, Paul Cotter, a man of vision and inspiration, the greatest scholar the west had ever produced, and there facing him was his comrade of a long life-time, Henry Ware, the famous borderer, afterward the great governor of the state. They had been painted in hunting suits of deerskin, with the fringed borders and beaded moccasins, and raccoon skin caps.
These were men, Dick's great grandfather and Harry's. An immense pride that he was the great-grandson of one of them suddenly swelled up in his bosom, and he was proud, too, that the descendants of the borderers, and of the earlier borderers in the east, should show the same spirit and stamina. No one could look upon the fields of Shiloh, and Manassas and Antietam and say that any braver men ever lived.
He drew his chair into the middle of the room and sat and looked at them a long time. His steady gazing and his own imaginative brain, keyed to the point of excitement, brought back into the portraits that singular quality of intense life. Had they moved he would not have been surprised, and the eyes certainly looked down at him in full and ample recognition.
What did they say? He gazed straight into the eyes of one and then straight into the eyes of the other, and over and over again. But the expression there was Delphic. He must choose for himself, as they had chosen for themselves, and remembering that he was lingering, when he should not linger, he closed and fastened the window, slipped out at the kitchen window and returned to his horse.
He remounted in the road and rode a few paces nearer to Pendleton, which still lay silent in the white moonlight. He had no doubt now that many of the people had fled like his mother. Most of the houses must be closed and shuttered like hers. That was why the town was so silent. He would have been glad to see Dr. Russell and old Judge Kendrick and others again, but it would have been risky to go into the center of the place, and it would have been a breach, too, of the faith that Colonel Winchester had put in him.
He crushed the wish and turned away. Then he saw the white walls of Colonel Kenton's house shining upon a hill among the pines beyond the town. He was quite sure that it would be deserted, and there was no harm in passing it. He knew it as well as his own home. He and Harry had played in every part of it, and it was, in truth, a second home to him.
He rode slowly along the road which led to the quiet house. Colonel Kenton had all the instincts so strong in the Kentuckians and Virginians of his type. A portion of his wealth had been devoted to decoration and beauty. The white, sanded road led upward through a great park, splendid with oak and beech and maple, and elms of great size. Nearer the house he came to the cedars and clipped pines, like those surrounding his mother's own home.
He opened the iron gate that led to the house, and tied his horse inside. Here was the same desolation and silence that he had beheld at his own home. The grass on the lawn, although withered and dry from the intense drought that had prevailed in Kentucky that summer, was long and showed signs of neglect. The great stone pillars of the portico, from the shelter of which Harry and his father and their friends had fought Skelly and his mountaineers, were stained, and around their bases were dirty from the sand and earth blown against them. The lawn and even the portico were littered with autumn leaves.
Dick felt the chill settling down on him again. War, not war with armies, but war in its results, had swept over his uncle's home as truly as it had swept over his mother's. There was no sign of a human being. Doubtless the colored servants had fled to the Union armies, and to the freedom which they as yet knew so little how to use. He felt a sudden access of anger against them, because they had deserted a master so kind and just, forgetting, for the moment that he was fighting to free them from that very master.
All the windows were dark, but he walked upon the portico and the dry autumn leaves rustled under his feet. He would have turned away, but he noticed that the front door stood ajar six or eight inches. The fact amazed him. If a servant was about, he would not leave it open, and if robbers were in the house, they would close it in order not to attract attention. It was a great door of massive and magnificent oak, highly polished, with heavy bands of glittering bronze running across it. But it was so lightly poised on its hinges, that, despite its great weight, a child could have swung it back and forth with his little finger. Henry Ware, who built the house after his term as governor was over, was always proud of this door.
Dick ran his hand along one of the polished bronze bars as he had often done when he was a boy, enjoying the cool touch of the metal. Then he put his thumb against the edge of the door, and pushed it a little further open. Something was wrong here, and he meant to see what it was. He had no scruples about entering. He did not consider himself in the least an intruder. This was his uncle's house, and his uncle and his cousin were far away.
The door made no sound as it swung back, and soundless, too, was Dick as he stepped within. It was dark in the big hall, but as he stood there, listening, he became conscious of a light. It proceeded from one of the rooms opening into the hall on the right, and a door nearly closed only allowed a narrow band of it to fall upon the hall floor.
Dick, believing now that a robber had indeed come, drew a pistol from his pocket, stepped lightly across the hall and looked in at the door.
He checked a cry, and it was his first thought to go away as quietly as he had come. He had seen a man in the uniform of a Confederate colonel, sitting in a chair, and staring out at one of the little side windows which Dick could not see from the front, and which was now open. It was his own uncle, Colonel George Kenton, C. S. A., his gold braided cap on the window sill, and his sword in its scabbard lying across his knees.
But Dick changed his mind. His uncle was a colonel on one side, and he was a lieutenant on the other, and from one point of view it was almost high treason for them to meet there and talk quietly together, but from another it was the most natural thing in the world, commanded alike by duty and affection.
He pushed open the door a little further and stepped inside.
"Uncle George," he said.
Colonel Kenton sprang to his feet, and his sword clattered upon the floor.
"Good God!" he cried. "You, Dick! Here! To-night!"
"Yes, Uncle George, it's no other."
"And I suppose you have Yankees without to take me."
"Those are hard words, sir, and you don't mean them. I'm all alone, just as you were. I galloped south, sir, to see my mother, whom I found gone, where, I don't know, and then I couldn't resist the temptation to come by here and see your house and Harry's, which, as you know, sir, has been almost a home to me, too."
"Thank God you came, Dick," said the colonel putting his arms around Dick's shoulders, and giving him an affectionate hug. "You were right. I did not mean what I said. There is only one other in the world whom I'd rather see than you. Dick, I didn't know whether you were dead or alive, until I saw your face there in the doorway."
It was obvious to Dick that his uncle's emotions were deeply stirred. He felt the strong hands upon his shoulders trembling, but the veteran soldier soon steadied his nerves, and asked Dick to sit down in a chair which he drew close beside his own at the window.
"I thank God again that the notion took you to come by the house," he said. "It's pleasant and cool here at the window, isn't it, Dick, boy?"
Dick knew that he was thinking nothing about the window and the pleasant coolness of the night. He knew equally well the question that was trembling on his lips but which he could not muster the courage to ask. But he had one of his own to ask first.
"My mother?" he asked. "Do you know where she has gone?"
"Yes, Dick, I came here in secret, but I've seen two men, Judge Kendrick and Dr. Russell. The armies are passing so close to this place, and the guerillas from the mountains have become so troublesome, that she has gone to Danville to stay a while with her relatives. Nearly everybody else has gone, too. That's why the town is so silent. There were not many left anyway, except old people and children. But, Dick, I have ridden as far as you have to-night, and I came to ask a question which I thought Judge Kendrick or Dr. Russell might answer—news of those who leave a town often comes back to it—but neither of them could tell me what I wanted to hear. Dick, I have not heard a word of Harry since spring. His army has fought since then two great battles and many smaller ones! It was for this, to get some word of him, that I risked everything in leaving our army to come to Pendleton!"
He turned upon Dick a face distorted with pain and anxiety, and the boy quickly said:
"Uncle George, I have every reason to believe that Harry is alive and well."
"What do you know? What have you heard about him?"
"I have not merely heard. I have seen him and talked with him. It was after the Second Manassas, when we were both with burial parties, and met on the field. I was at Antietam, and he, of course, was there, too, as he is with Stonewall Jackson. I did not see him in that battle, but I learned from a prisoner who knew him that he had escaped unwounded, and had gone with Lee's army into Virginia."
"I thank God once more, Dick, that you were moved to come by my house. To know that both Harry and you are alive and well is joy enough for one man."
"But it is likely, sir, that we'll soon meet in battle," said Dick.
"So it would seem."
And that was all that either said about his army. There was no attempt to obtain information by direct or indirect methods. This was a family meeting.
"You have a horse, of course," said Colonel Kenton.
"Yes, sir. He is on the lawn, tied to your fence. His hoofs may now be in a flower bed."
"It doesn't matter, Dick. People are not thinking much of flower beds nowadays. My own horse is further down the lawn between the pines, and as he is an impatient beast it is probable that he has already dug up a square yard or two of turf with his hoofs. How did you get in, Dick?"
"You forgot about the front door, sir, and left it open six or seven inches. I thought some plunderer was within and entered, to find you."
"I must have been watched over to-night when forgetfulness was rewarded so well. Dick, we've found out what we came for and neither should linger here. Do you need anything?"
"Nothing at all, sir."
"Then we'll go."
Colonel Kenton carefully closed and fastened the window and door again and the two mounted their horses, which they led into the road.
"Dick," said the colonel, "you and I are on opposing sides, but we can never be enemies."
Then, after a strong handclasp, they rode away by different roads, each riding with a lighter heart.
CHAPTER XII. THROUGH THE BLUEGRASS
Dick's horse had had a good rest, and he was fighting for his head before they were clear of the outskirts of Pendleton. When the road emerged once more into the deep woods the boy gave him the rein. It was well past midnight now, and he wished to reach the army before dawn.
Soon the great horse was galloping, and Dick felt exhilaration as the cool air of early October rushed past. The heat in both east and west had been so long and intense, that year, that the coming of autumn was full of tonic. Yet the uncommon dryness, the least rainy summer and autumn in two generations, still prevailed. The hoofs of Dick's horse left a cloud of dust behind him. The leaves of the trees were falling already, rustling dryly as they fell. Brooks that were old friends of his and that he had never known to go dry before were merely chains of yellow pools in a shallow bed.
He watered his horse at one or two of the creeks that still flowed in good volume, and then went on again, sometimes at a gallop. He passed but one horseman, a farmer who evidently had taken an unusually early start for a mill, as a sack of corn lay across his saddle behind him. Dick nodded but the farmer stared open-mouthed at the youth in the blue uniform who flew past him.
Dick never looked back and by dawn he was with the army. He found Colonel Winchester taking breakfast under the thin shade of an oak, and joined him.
"What did you find, Dick?" asked the colonel, striving to hide the note of anxiety in his voice.
"I found all right at the house, but I did not see mother."
"What had become of her?"
"I learned from a friend that in order to be out of the path of the army or of prowling bands she had gone to relatives of ours in Danville. Then I came away."
"She did well," said Colonel Winchester. "The rebels are concentrating about Lexington, but the battle, I think, will take place far south of that city."
Before the day was old they heard news that changed their opinion for the time at least. A scout brought news that a division of the Confederate army was much nearer than Lexington; in fact, that it was at Frankfort, the capital of the state. And the news was heightened in interest by the statement that the division was there to assist in the inauguration of a Confederate government of the state, so little of which the Confederate army held.
Colonel Winchester at once applied to General Buell for permission for a few officers like himself, natives of Kentucky and familiar with the region, to ride forward and see what the enemy was really doing. Dick was present at the interview and it was characteristic.
"If you leave, what of your regiment, Colonel Winchester?" said General Buell.
"I shall certainly rejoin it in time for battle."
"Suppose the enemy should prevent you?"
"He cannot do so."
"I remember you at Shiloh. You did good work there."
"Thank you, sir."
"And this lad, Lieutenant Mason, he has also done well. But he is young."
"I can vouch for him, sir."
"Then take twenty of your bravest and most intelligent men and ride toward Frankfort. It may be that we shall have to take a part in this inauguration, which I hear is scheduled for to-morrow."
"It may be so, sir," said Colonel Winchester, returning General Buell's grim smile. Then he and Dick saluted and withdrew.
But it did not take the colonel long to make his preparations. Among his twenty men all were natives of Kentucky except Warner, Pennington and Sergeant Whitley. Two were from Frankfort itself, and they were confident that they could approach through the hills with comparative security, the little capital nestling in its little valley.
They rode rapidly and by nightfall drew near to the rough Benson Hills, which suddenly shooting up in a beautiful rolling country, hem in the capital. Although it was now the third day of October the little party marked anew the extreme dryness and the shrunken condition of everything. It was all the more remarkable as no region in the world is better watered than Kentucky, with many great rivers, more small ones, and innumerable creeks and brooks. There are few points in the state where a man can be more than a mile from running water.
The dryness impressed Dick. They had dust here, as they had had it in Virginia, but there it was trampled up by great armies. Here it was raised by their own little party, and as the October winds swept across the dry fields it filled their eyes with particles. Yet it was one of the finest regions of the world, underlaid with vitalizing limestone, a land where the grass grows thick and long and does not die even in winter.
"If one were superstitious," said Dick, "he could think it was a punishment sent upon us all for fighting so much, and for killing so many men about questions that lots of us don't understand, and that at least could have been settled in some other way."
"It's easy enough to imagine it so," said Warner in his precise way, "but after all, despite the reasons against it, here we are fighting and killing one another with a persistence that has never been surpassed. It's a perfectly simple question in mathematics. Let x equal the anger of the South, let y equal the anger of the North, let 10 equal the percentage of reason, 100, of course, being the whole, then you have x + y + 10 equalling 100. The anger of the two sections is consequently x + y, equalling 100 - 10, or 90. When anger constitutes 90 per cent., what chance has reason, which is only 10 per cent., or one-ninth of anger?"
"No chance at all," replied Dick. "That has already been proved without the aid of algebra. Here is a man in a cornfield signaling to us. I wonder what he wants?"
As Dick spoke, Colonel Winchester, who had already noticed the man, gave an order to stop. The stranger, bent and knotted by hard work on the farm, hurried toward them. He leaned against the fence a moment, gasping for breath, and then said:
"You're Union men, ain't you? It's no disguise?"
"Yes," replied Colonel Winchester, "we're Union men, and it's no disguise that we're wearing, Malachi White. I've seen you several times in Frankfort, selling hay."
The farmer, who had climbed upon the fence and who was sitting on the top rail, hands on his knees, stared at him open-mouthed.
"You've got my name right. Malachi White it is," he said, "suah enough, but I don't know yours. 'Pears to me, however, that they's somethin' familiar about you. Mebbe it's the way you throw back your shoulders an' look a fellow squah in the eyes."
Colonel Winchester smiled. No man is insensible to a compliment which is obviously spontaneous.
"I spent a night once at your house, Mr. White," he said. "I was going to Frankfort on horseback. I was overtaken at dusk by a storm and I reached your place just in time. I remember that I slept on a mighty soft feather bed, and ate a splendid breakfast in the morning."
Malachi White was not insensible to compliments either. He smiled, and the smile which merely showed his middle front teeth at first, gradually broadened until it showed all of them. Then it rippled and stretched in little waves, until it stopped somewhere near his ears. Dick regarded him with delight. It was the broadest and finest smile that he had seen in many a long month.
"Now I know you," said Malachi White, looking intently at the colonel. "I ain't as strong on faces as some people, though I reckon I'm right strong on 'em, too, but I'm pow'ful strong on recollectin' hear'in', that is, the voice and the trick of it. It was fo' yea's ago when you stopped at my house. You had a curious trick of pronouncin' r's when they wasn't no r's. You'd say door, an' hour, when ev'body knowed it was doah, an' houah, but I don't hold it ag'in you fo' not knowin' how to pronounce them wo'ds. Yoh name is Ahthuh Winchestuh."
"As right as right can be," said Colonel Winchester, reaching over and giving him a hearty hand. "I'm a colonel in the Union army now, and these are my officers and men. What was it you wanted to tell us?"
"Not to ride on fuhthah. It ain't mo' than fifteen miles to Frankfort. The place is plum full of the Johnnies. I seed 'em thah myself. Ki'by Smith, an' a sma't gen'ral he is, too, is thah, an' so's Bragg, who I don't know much 'bout. They's as thick as black be'ies in a patch, an' they's all gettin ready fo' a gran' ma'ch an' display to-mo'ow when they sweah in the new Southe'n gove'nuh, Mistah Hawes. They've got out scouts, too, colonel, an' if you go on you'll run right squah into 'em an' be took, which I allow you don't want to happen, nohow."
"No, Malachi, I don't, nor do any of us, but we're going on and we don't mean to be taken. Most of the men know this country well. Two of them, in fact, were born in Frankfort."
"Then mebbe you kin look out fo' yo'selves, bein' as you are Kentuckians. I'm mighty strong fo' the Union myself, but a lot of them officers that came down from the no'th 'pear to tu'n into pow'ful fools when they git away from home, knowin' nothin' 'bout the country, an' not willin' to lea'n. Always walkin' into traps. I guess they've nevah missed a single trap the rebels have planted. Sometimes I've been so mad 'bout it that I've felt like quittin' bein' a Yank an' tu'nin' to a Johnny. But somehow I've nevah been able to make up my mind to go ag'in my principles. Is Gen'ral Grant leadin' you?"
"No, General Buell."
"I'm so'y of that. Gen'ral Buell, f'om all I heah, is a good fightah, but slow. Liable to git thar, an' hit like all ta'nation, when it's a little mite too late. He's one of ouah own Kentuckians, an' I won't say anything ag'in him; not a wo'd, colonel, don't think that, but I've been pow'ful took with this fellow Grant. I ain't any sojah, myself, but I like the tales I heah 'bout him. When a fellow hits him he hits back ha'dah, then the fellow comes back with anothah ha'dah still, an' then Grant up an' hits him a wallop that you heah a mile, an' so on an' so on."
"You're right, Malachi. I was with him at Donelson and Shiloh and that's the way he did."
"I reckon it's the right way. Is it true, colonel, that he taps the ba'el?"
"Taps the barrel? What do you mean, Malachi?"
White put his hands hollowed out like a scoop to his mouth and turned up his face.
"I see," said Colonel Winchester, "and I'm glad to say no, Malachi. If he takes anything he takes water just like the rest of us."
"Pow'ful glad to heah it, but it ain't easy to get too much good watah this yeah. Nevah knowed such a dry season befoah, an' I was fifty-two yeahs old, three weeks an' one day ago yestuhday."
"Thank you, Malachi, for your warning. We'll be doubly careful, because of it, and I hope after this war is over to share your fine hospitality once more."
"You'll sho'ly be welcome an' ev'y man an' boy with you will be welcome, too. Fuhthah on, 'bout foah hund'ed yahds, you'll come to a path leadin' into the woods. You take that path, colonel. It'll be sundown soon, an' you follow it th'ough the night."
The two men shook hands again, and then the soldiers rode on at a brisk trot. Malachi White sat on the fence, looking at them from under the brim of his old straw hat, until they came to the path that he had indicated and disappeared in the woods. Then he sighed and walked back slowly to his house in the cornfield. Malachi White had no education, but he had much judgment and he was a philosopher.
But Dick and the others rode on through the forest, penetrating into the high and rough hills which were sparsely inhabited. The nights, as it was now October, were cool, despite the heat and dust of the day, and they rode in a grateful silence. It was more than an hour after dark when Powell, one of the Frankforters, spoke:
"We can hit the old town by midnight easy enough," he said. "Unless they've stretched pretty wide lines of pickets I can lead you, sir, within four hundred yards of Frankfort, where you can stay under cover yourself and look right down into it. I guess by this good moonlight I could point out old Bragg himself, if he should be up and walking around the streets."
"That suits us, Powell," said Colonel Winchester. "You and May lead the way."
May was the other Frankforter and they took the task eagerly. They were about to look down upon home after an absence of more than a year, a year that was more than a normal ten. They were both young, not over twenty, and after a while they turned out of the path and led into the deep woods.
"It's open forest through here, no underbrush, colonel," said Powell, "and it makes easy riding. Besides, about a mile on there's a creek running down to the Kentucky that will have deep water in it, no matter how dry the season has been. Tom May and I have swum in it many a time, and I reckon our horses need water, colonel."
"So they do, and so do we. We'll stop a bit at this creek of yours, Powell."
The creek was all that the two Frankfort lads had claimed for it. It was two feet deep, clear, cold and swift, shadowed by great primeval trees. Men and horses drank eagerly, and at last Colonel Winchester, feeling that there was neither danger nor the need of hurry, permitted them to undress and take a quick bath, which was a heavenly relief and stimulant, allowing them to get clear of the dust and dirt of the day.
"It's a beauty of a creek," said Powell to Dick. "About a half mile further down the stream is a tremendous tree on which is cut with a penknife, 'Dan'l Boone killed a bar here, June 26, 1781.' I found it myself, and I cut away enough of the bark growth with a penknife for it to show clearly. I imagine the great Daniel and Simon Kenton and Harrod and the rest killed lots of bears in these hills."
"I'd go and see that inscription in the morning," said Dick, "if I didn't have a bit of war on my hands."
"Maybe you'll have a chance later on. But I'm feeling bully after this cold bath. Dick, I came into the creek weighing two hundred and twenty-five pounds, one hundred and fifty pounds of human being and seventy-five pounds of dust and dirt. I'm back to one hundred and fifty now. Besides, I was fifty years old when I entered the stream, and I've returned to twenty."
"That just about describes me, too, but the colonel is whistling for us to come. Rush your jacket on and jump for your horse."