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   Chapter 21 STEVEN DAGG

The Long Roll By Mary Johnston Characters: 42223

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Steven Dagg, waked by the shrill reveille, groaned, raised himself from his dew-drenched couch, ran his fingers through his hair, kneaded neck, arms, and ankles, and groaned more heavily yet. He was dreadfully stiff and sore. In five days the "foot cavalry" had marched more than eighty miles. Yesterday the brigade had been afoot from dawn till dark. "And we didn't have the fun of the battle neither," remarked Steve, in a savagely injured tone. "Leastwise none of us but the damned three companies and a platoon of ours that went ahead to skirmish 'cause they knew the type of country! Don't I know the type of country, too? Yah!"

The man nearest him, combing his beard with ostentation, burst into a laugh. "Did you hear that, fellows? Steve's grumbling because he wasn't let to do it all! Poor Steve! poor Hotspur! poor Pistol!" He bent, chuckling, over the pool that served him for mirror. "You stop calling me dirty names!" growled Steve, and, his toilet ended well-nigh before begun, slouched across to fire and breakfast. The former was large, the latter small. Jackson's ammunition wagons, double-teamed, were up with the army, but all others back somewhere east of Front Royal.

Breakfast was soon over-"sorry breakfast!" The assembly sounded, the column was formed, Winder made his brigade a short speech. Steve listened with growing indignation. "General Banks, falling back from Strasburg, is trying to get off clear to Winchester. ('Well, let him! I don't give a damn!') We want to intercept him at Middletown. ('Oh, do we?') We want to get there before the head of his column appears, and then to turn and strike him full. ('O Lord! I ain't a rattler!') We want to beat him in the middle Valley-never let him get to Winchester at all! ('I ain't objecting, if you'll give the other brigades a show and let them do it!') It's only ten miles to Middletown. ('Only!') A forced march needed. ('O Gawd!') Ashby and Chew's Battery and a section of the Rockbridge and the skirmishers and Wheat's Tigers are ahead. ('Well, if they're so brash, let them wipe out Banks and welcome! And if one damned officer that's ahead gits killed, I won't mourn him.') Ewell with Trimble's Brigade and the First Maryland, Courtenay and Brockenborough are off, making as the bird flies for Winchester! ('We ain't birds. We're men, and awful tired men, too.') Steuart with the 2d and 6th cavalry are already at Newtown. ('What in hell do I care if they air?') Campbell and Taliaferro and Elzey and Scott and the Stonewall and the balance of the guns form the main column, and at Middletown we're going to turn and meet Banks. ('Gawd! more fighting, on an empty stomach, and dog-tired!') General Jackson says, 'Men, we're going to rid the Valley of Virginia of the enemy. Press on.' You know what an avalanche is. ('Knowed it before you was born. It's a place where you hide till the man you hate worse than pison oak comes by!') Let the Stonewall now turn avalanche; fall on Banks at Middletown and grind him small!-Fours right! Forward! March! ('Oh, Gawd! my cut foot! It's my lasting hope that-sh!-Fool Tom Jackson'll break you same as he broke Garnett')."

The morning, at first divinely cool and sweet, turned hot and languid, humid and without air. It made the perspiration stream, and then the dust rose from the road, and the two together caused the most discomfortable grime! It marked all faces, and it lodged between neck and neckband and wrist and wristband where it chafed the skin. It got deep into the shoes-through holes enough, God knows!-and there the matter became serious, for many a foot was galled and raw. It got into eyes and they grew red and smarting. It stopped ear and nostril. It lined the mouth; it sifted down the neck and made the body miserable. At the starting, as the men quit the green banks of Shenandoah, several of the ?sthetic sort had been heard to comment upon the beauty of the scenery. Possibly the soul for beauty lasted, but as for the scenery, it vanished. The brigade was now upon the Front Royal and Winchester pike, moving in the foot and wheel prints of the advance, and under and through an extended cirrhus cloud of dirty saffron. The scenery could not be viewed through it-mere red blotches and blurs. It was so heavy that it served for darkness. Men saw each other dimly at the distance of ten feet, and mounted officers and couriers went by, dun and shapeless, through the thick powder.

Steve could not be said to mind grime (Sergeant Mathew Coffin did; he was forever wiping it away with what remained to him of a handkerchief), but the stuff in his shoes made his feet hurt horribly. It was in his mouth besides, where it made him thirsty. He eyed an object dangling from the belt of the man next him, and since from long habit it had become easy to him to break the tenth commandment he broke it again-into a thousand pieces. At last, "Where did you get that canteen?"

"Picked it up at McDowell. Ef 't warn't covered with dust you could see the U. S."

"Empty, I reckon?"

"Nop. Buttermilk."

"O Gawd! I could drink Thunder Run dry!"

"Sorry. Reckon we'll come to a stream bimeby. Saving the milk 'gainst an emergency."

It did not appear that we would come to a stream, or a spring, or a well, or anything liquid-to anything but awful miles of dust and heat, trudged over by anything but three-leagued boots. Despite the spur of Winder's speech the brigade moved with dispiriting slowness. It was not the first in column; there were troops ahead and troops behind, and it would perhaps have said that it was not its part to overpass the one and outstrip the other. The whole line lagged. "Close up, men! close up!" cried the officers, through dust-lined throats. "If it's as hot as ginger, then let the ginger show! Step out!" Back from the head of the column came peremptory aides. "Press on! General Jackson says, 'Press on!'-Yes; he knows you marched twenty-six miles yesterday, and that it's hot weather! All the same we've got to get there!-Thank you, colonel, I will take a swallow! I'm damned tired myself."

Between nine and ten they came to a village. Boys and women stood in the dusty street with buckets of water-a few buckets, a little water. The women looked pale, as though they would swoon; beads of sweat stood on the boys' brows and their lips worked. Thousands of soldiers had passed or were passing; all thirsty, all crying, "Water, please! water, please!" Women and boys had with haste drawn bucket after bucket from the wells of the place, pumped them full from a cistern, or run to a near-by spring and come panting back to the road-and not one soldier in ten could get his tin cup filled! They went by, an endless line, a few refreshed, the vast majority thirstier for the Tantalus failure. The water bearers were more deadly tired than they; after it was all over, the last regiment passed, the women went indoors trembling in every limb. "O Jesus! this war is going to be a dreadful thing!" The column marching on and passing a signpost, each unit read what it had to say. "Seven miles to Middletown.-Seven miles to hell!"

Some time later, the brigade made a discovery. "They are willows-yes, they are!-running cross field, through the blur! Whoever's toting the water bucket, get it ready!"

The halt came-Jackson's ten minutes out of an hour "lie-down-men. You-rest-all-over-lying-down" halt. The water buckets were ready, and there were the willows that the dust had made as sere as autumn,-but where was the stream? The thin trickle of water had been overpassed, churned, trampled into mire and dirt, by half the army, horse and foot. The men stared in blank disappointment. "A polecat couldn't drink here!" "Try it up and down," said the colonel. "It will be clearer away from the road. But every one of you listen for the Fall-In."

Steve wandered off. He did not wait for clean water. There was a puddle, not half so bad as thirst! Settling down upon his hands, he leaned forward and well-nigh drank it up. Refreshed, he rose, got out of the mire back to the bank, and considered a deeper belt of willows farther down the stream. They were on the edge of the dust belt, they had an air faintly green, extremely restful. Steve looked over his shoulder. All the boys were drinking, or seeking a place to drink, and the dust was like a red twilight! Furtively swift as any Thunder Run "crittur," he made for the willows. They formed a deep little copse; nobody within their round and, oh joy! shade and a little miry pool! Steve sat down and drew off his shoes, taking some pains lest in the action side and sole part company. Undoubtedly his feet were sore and swollen, red and fevered. He drank from the miry pool, and then, trousers rolled to his knees, sunk foot and ankle in the delicious coolness. Presently he lay back, feet yet in mud and water, body flat upon cool black earth, overhead a thick screen of willow leaves. "Ef I had a corn pone and never had to move I wouldn't change for heaven. O Gawd! that damned bugle!"

Fall in! Fall in!-Fall in! Fall in! With a deep groan Steve picked up his shoes and dragged himself to the edge of the copse. He looked out. "Danged fools! running back to line like chicks when the hen squawks 'Hawk!' O Gawd! my foot's too sore to run." He stood looking cautiously out of an opening he had made in the willow branches. The regiments were already in column, the leading one, the 4th, formed and disappearing in the dust of the turnpike. "Air ye going now and have every damned officer swearing at you? What do they care if your foot's cut and your back aches? and you couldn't come no sooner. I ain't a-going." Steve's eyes filled with tears. He felt sublimely virtuous; a martyr from the first. "What does anybody there care for me! They wouldn't care if I dropped dead right in line. Well, I ain't a-going to gratify them! What's war, anyhow? It's a trap to catch decent folk in! and the decenter you are the quicker you try to get out of it!" He closed the willow branches and stepped back to his lair. "Let 'em bellow for Steve just as loud as they like! I ain't got no call to fight Banks on this here foot. If a damned provost-guard comes along, why I just fell asleep and couldn't help it."

So tired was he, and so soothing still his retreat, that to fall asleep was precisely what he did. The sun was twenty minutes nearer the zenith when noise roused him-voices up and down the stream. He crawled across the black earth and looked out. "Taliaferro's Brigade getting watered! All I ask is you'll just let me and my willows alone."

He might ask, but Taliaferro's seemed hardly likely to grant. Taliaferro's had a harder time even than the Stonewall finding water. There was less there to find and it was muddier. The men, swearing at their luck, ranged up and down the stream. It was presently evident that the search might bring any number around or through Steve's cool harbour. He cursed them, then, in a sudden panic, picked up his shoes and slipped out at the copse's back door. Able-bodied stragglers, when caught, were liable to be carried on and summarily deposited with their rightful companies. Deserters fared worse. On the whole, Steve concluded to seek safety in flight. At a little distance rose a belt of woods roughly parallel with the road. Steve took to the woods, and found sanctuary behind the bole of an oak. His eye advanced just beyond the bark, he observed the movement of troops with something like a grin. On the whole he thought, perhaps, he wouldn't rejoin. Taliaferro's men hardly seemed happy, up and down the trodden, miry runlet. "Wuz a time they wouldn't think a dog could drink there, and now just look at them lapping it up! So many fine, stuck-up fellows, too-gentlemen and such.-Yah!"

The brigade moved on as had done the Stonewall. There grew in the wood a sound. "What's that?" Scrambling up, he went forward between the trees and presently came full upon a narrow wood road, with a thin growth of forest upon the other side. The sound increased. Steve knew it well. He stamped upon the moss with the foot that hurt him least. "Artillery coming!-and all them damned gunners with eyes like lynxes-"

He crossed the road and the farther strip of woods. Behind him the approaching wheels rumbled loudly; before him a narrow lane stretched through a ploughed field, to a grassy dooryard and a small house. On the edge of the wood was a mass of elderbush just coming into bloom. He worked his way into the centre of this, squatted down and regarded the house from between the green stems. Smoke rose from the chimney. "It must be near eleven o'clock," thought Steve. "She's getting dinner."

Behind him, through the wood, on toward Middletown rumbled the passing battery. The heavy sound brought a young woman to the door. She stood looking out, her hands shading her eyes; then, the train disappearing, went back to her work. Steve waited until the sound was almost dead, then left the elder, went up the lane and made his appearance before the open door. The woman turned from the hearth where she was baking bread. "Good-morning, sir."

"Morning, miss," said Steve. "Could you spare a poor sick soldier a bite to eat?"

He ended with a hollow groan and the weight of his body against the lintel. The young woman dragged forward a split-bottomed armchair. "Sit right down there! Of course I'll give you something to eat. It ain't anything catching, is it?"

Steve sank into the chair. "It was pneumonia, and my strength ain't come back yet."

"I only asked because I have to think of my baby." She glanced toward a cradle by the window. "Pneumonia is dreadful weakening! How come they let you march?"

"Why, I didn't," said Steve, "want to be left behind. I wanted to be in the fight with the rest of the boys. So the captain said, says he, 'Well, you can try it, for we need all the good fighters we've got, but if you find you're too weak to go on, fall out! Maybe some good Seraphim will give you 'commodation-'"

"I can't give you 'commodation, because there's just the baby and myself, James being with Ashby. But I can give you dinner (I haven't got much, but what I've got you're quite welcome to). You kin rest here till evening. Maybe a wagon'll come along and give you a lift, so's you can get there in time-"

"Get where, ma'am?"

"Why, wherever the battle's going to be!"

"Yaas, yaas," said Steve. "It's surely hard lines when those who kin fight have to take a back seat 'cause of illness and watch the other kind go front!" He groaned again and closed his eyes. "I don't suppose you've got a drop of spirits handy?"

The woman-she was hardly more than a girl-hesitated. Because the most were heroic, and for the sake of that most, all Confederate soldiers wore the garland. It was not in this or any year of the war that Confederate women lightly doubted the entire heroism of the least of individuals, so that he wore the grey. It was to them, most nobly, most pathetically, a sacred investiture. Priest without but brute within, wolf in shepherd's clothing, were to them not more unlooked-for nor abhorrent than were coward, traitor, or shirk enwrapped in the pall and purple of the grey. Fine lines came into the forehead of the girl standing between Steve and the hearth. She remembered suddenly that James had said there were plenty of scamps in the army and that not every straggler was lame or ill. Some were plain deserters.

"I haven't got any spirits," she answered. "I did have a little bottle but I gave it to a sick neighbour. Anyhow, it isn't good for weak lungs."

Steve looked at her with cunning eyes. "You didn't give it all away," he thought. "You've got a little hid somewhere. O Gawd! I want a drink so bad!"

"I was making potato soup for myself," said the girl, "and my father sent me half a barrel of flour from Harrisonburg and I was baking a small loaf of bread for to-morrow. It's Sunday. It's done now, and I'll slice it for you and give you a plate of soup. That's better for you than-. Where do you think we'll fight to-day?"

"Where?-Oh, anywhere the damned fools strike each other." He stumbled to the table which she was spreading. She glanced at him. "There's a basin and a roller towel on the back porch and the pump's handy. Wouldn't you like to wash your face and hands?"

Steve shook his tousled head. "Naw, I'm so burned the skin would come off. O Gawd! this soup is good."

"People getting over fevers and lung troubles don't usually burn. They stay white and peaked even out of doors in July."

"I reckon I ain't that kind. I'll take another plateful. Gawd, what a pretty arm you've got!"

The girl ladled out for him the last spoonful of soup, then went and stood with her foot upon the cradle rocker. "I reckon you ain't that kind," she said beneath her breath. "If you ever had pneumonia I bet it was before the war!"

Steve finished his dinner, leaned back in his chair and stretched himself. "Gawd! if I just had a nip. Look here, ma'am! I don't believe you gave all that apple brandy away. S'pose you look and see if you wasn't mistaken."

"There isn't any."

"You've got too pretty a mouth to be lying that-a-way! Look-a-here, the doctor prescribed it."

"You've had dinner and you've rested. There's a wood road over there that cuts off a deal of distance to Middletown. It's rough but it's shady. I believe if you tried you could get to Middletown almost as soon as the army."

"Didn't I tell you I had a furlough? Where'd you keep that peach brandy when you had it?"

"I'm looking for James home any minute now. He's patrolling between here and the pike."

"You're lying. You said he was with Ashby, and Ashby's away north to Newtown-the damned West P'inter that marches at the head of the brigade said so! You haven't got the truth in you, and that's a pity, for otherwise I like your looks first-rate." He rose. "I'm going foraging for that mountain dew-"

The girl moved toward the door, pushing the cradle in front of her. Steve stepped between, slammed the door and locked it, putting the key in his pocket. "Now you jest stay still where you are or it'll be the worse for you and for the baby, too! Don't be figuring on the window or the back door, 'cause I've got eyes in the side of my head and I'll catch you before you get there! That thar cupboard looks promising."

The cupboard not only promised; it fulfilled. Steve's groping hand closed upon and drew forth a small old Revolutionary brandy bottle quite full. Over his shoulder he shot a final look at once precautionary and triumphant. "You purty liar! jest you wait till I've had my dram!" An old lustre mug stood upon the shelf. He filled this almost to the brim, then lifted it from the board. There was a sound from by the door, familiar enough to Steve-namely, the cocking of a trigger. "You put that mug down," said the voice of his hostess, "or I'll put a bullet through you! Shut that cupboard door. Go and sit down in that chair!"

"'Tain't loaded! I drew the cartridge."

"You don't remember whether you did or not! And you aren't willing for me to try and find out! You set down there! That's it; right there where I can see you! My grandmother's birthday mug! Yes, and she saw her mother kill an Indian right here, right where the old log cabin used to stand! Well, I reckon I can manage a dirty, sneaking hound like you. Grandmother's cup indeed, that I don't even let James drink out of! I'll have to scrub it with brick dust to get your finger marks off-"

"Won't you please put that gun down, ma'am, and listen to reason?"

"I'm listening to something else. There's three or four horses coming down the road-"

"Please put that gun down, ma'am. I'll say good-bye and go just as peaceable-"

"And whether they're blue or grey I hope to God they'll take you off my hands! There! They've turned up the lane. They're coming by the house!"

She raised a strong young voice. "Help! Help! Stop, please! O soldiers! Soldiers! Help! Soldiers! There! I've made them hear and waked the baby!"

"Won't you let me go, ma'am? I didn't mean no harm."

"No more did the Indian great-grandmother killed when he broke in the door! You're a coward and a deserter, and the South don't need you! Bye, bye, baby-bye, bye!"

A hand tried the door. "What's the matter here? Open!"

"It's locked, sir. Come round to the window-Bye, baby, bye!"

The dismounted cavalryman-an officer-appeared outside the open window. His eyes rested a moment upon the interior; then he put hands upon the sill and swung himself up and into the room.

"What's all this? Has this soldier annoyed you, madam?"

The girl set down the musket and took up the baby. "I'm downright glad somebody came, sir. He's a coward and a deserter and a drunkard and a frightener of women! He says he's had pneumonia, and I don't believe him. If I was the South I'd send every man like him right across Mason and Dixon as fast as they'd take them!-I reckon he's my prisoner, sir, and I give him up to you."

The officer smiled.

"I'm not the provost, but I'll rid you of him somehow." He wiped the dust from his face. "Have you anything at all that we could eat? My men and I have had nothing since midnight."

"That coward's eaten all I had, sir. I'm sorry-If you could wait a little, I've some flour and I'll make a pan of biscuits-"

"No. We cannot wait. We must be up with the army before it strikes the Valley pike."

"I've got some cold potatoes, and some scraps of bread crust I was saving for the chickens-"

"Then won't you take both to the four men out there? Hungry soldiers like cold potatoes and bread crusts. I'll see to this fellow.-Now, sir, what have you got to say for yourself?"

"Major, my feet are so sore, and I was kind of light-headed! First thing I knew, I just somehow got separated from the brigade-"

"We'll try to find it again for you. What were you doing here?"

"Major, I just asked her for a little licker. And, being light-headed, maybe I happened to say something or other that she took up notions about. The first thing I knew-and I just as innocent as her baby-she up and turned my own musket against me-"

"Who locked the door?"

"Why-why-"

"Take the key out of your pocket and go open it. Faugh!-What's your brigade?"

"The Stonewall, sir."

"Humph! They'd better stone you out of it. Regiment?"

"65th, sir. Company A.-If you'd be so good just to look at my foot, sir, you'd see for yourself that I couldn't march-"

"We'll try it with the Rogue's March.-65th. Company A. Richard Cleave's old company."

"He ain't my best witness, sir. He's got a grudge against me-"

Stafford looked at him. "Don't put yourself in a fury over it. Have you one against him?"

"I have," said Steve, "and I don't care who knows it! If he was as steady against you, sir, as he has proved himself against me-"

"I would do much, you mean. What is your name?"

"Steven Dagg."

The woman returned. "They've eaten it all, sir. I saved you a piece of bread. I wish it was something better."

Stafford took it from her with thanks. "As for this man, my orderly shall take him up behind, and when we reach Middletown I'll turn him over with my report to his captain. If any more of his kind come around, I would advise you just to shoot them at once.-Now you, sir! In front of me.-March!"

The five horsemen, detail of Flournoy's, sent upon some service the night before, mounted a hill from which was visible a great stretch of country. From the east came the Front Royal road; north and south stretched that great artery, the Valley turnpike. Dust lay over the Front Royal road. Dust hung above the Valley pike-hung from Strasburg to Middletown, and well beyond Middletown. Out of each extended cloud, now at right angles, came rumblings as of thunder. The column beneath the Front Royal cloud was moving rapidly, halts and delays apparently over, lassitude gone, energy raised to a forward blowing flame. That on the Valley pike, the six-mile-long retreat from Strasburg, was making, too, a progress not unrapid, considering the immensity of its wagon train and the uncertainty of the commanding general as to what, on the whole, it might be best to do. The Confederate advance, it was evident, would strike the pike at Middletown in less than fifteen minutes.

Stafford and his men left the hill, entered a body of woods running toward the village, and three minutes later encountered a detachment of blue horsemen, flankers of Hatch's large cavalry force convoying the Federal wagon train. There was a shout, and an interchange of pistol shots. The blue outnumbered the grey four to one. The latter wheeled their horses, used spur and voice, outstripped a shower of bullets and reached Middletown. When, breathless, they drew rein before a street down which grey infantry poured to the onslaught, one of the men, pressing up to Stafford, made his report. "That damned deserter, sir!-in the scrimmage a moment ago he must have slipped off. I'm sorry-but I don't reckon he's much loss."

Steve had taken refuge behind the lock of a rail fence draped with creeper. On the whole, he meant to stay there until the two armies had wended their ways. When it was all done and over, he would make a change somehow and creep to the southward and get a doctor's certificate. All this in the first gasp of relief, at the end of which moment it became apparent that the blue cavalry had seen him run to cover. A couple of troopers rode toward the rail fence. Steve stepped from behind the creepers and surrendered. "Thar are Daggs up North anyway," he explained to the man who took his musket. "I've a pack of third cousins in them parts somewhere. I shouldn't wonder if they weren't fighting on your side this dog-goned minute! I reckon I'd as lief fight there myself."

The soldier took him to his officer. "It's a damned deserter, sir. Says he's got cousins with us. Says he'd as soon fight on one side as the other."

"I can't very well fight nowhere," whined Steve. "If you'd be so good as to look at my foot, sir-"

"I see. You deserted and they picked you up. Very well, Mr. Deserter, I want some information and you're the man to give it to me."

Steve gave it without undue reluctance. "What in hell does it matter, anyway?" he thought, "they'll find out damned quick anyhow about numbers and that we aren't only Ewell. Gawd! Old Jack's struck them this very minute! I hear the guns."

So did the company to which he had deserted. "Hell and damnation! Artillery to shake the earth! Middletown. All the wagons to pass and the cavalry.-It isn't just Ewell's division, he says. He says it's all of them and Stonewall Jackson!-Take the fellow up somebody and bring him along!-Fours right! Forward!"

Five minutes later they reached the pike, south of Middletown. It proved a seething stream of horse and foot and wagon train, forms shadowy and umber, moving in the whirling dust. Over all hung like a vast and black streamer a sense of panic. Underneath it every horse was restive and every voice had an edge. Steve gathered that there were teamsters who wished to turn and go back to Strasburg. He saw wagon masters plying long black whips about the shoulders of these unwilling; he heard officers shouting. The guns ahead boomed out, and there came a cry of "Ashby"! The next instant found him violently unseated and hurled into the dust of the middle road, from which he escaped by rolling with all the velocity of which he was capable into the depression at the side. He hardly knew what had happened-there had been, he thought, a runaway team dragging an ordnance wagon. He seemed to remember a moving thickness in the all-pervading dust, and, visible for an instant, a great U. S. painted on the wagon side. Then shouts, general scatteration, some kind of a crash-He rubbed a bump upon his forehead, large as a guinea hen's egg. "Gawd! I wish I'd never come into this here world!"

The world was, indeed, to-day rather like a bad dream-like one of those dim and tangled streams of things, strange and frightful, at once grotesquely unfamiliar and sickeningly real, which one neighbours for a time in sleep. Steve picked himself out of the ditch, being much in danger, even there, of trampling hoofs or wagons gone amuck, and attained, how he could not tell, a rank wayside clump of Jamestown weed and pokeberry. In the midst of this he squatted, gathered into as small a bunch as was physically possible. He was in a panic; the sweat cold upon the back of his hands. Action or inaction in this world, sitting, standing, or going seemed alike ugly and dangerous.

First of all, this world was blue-clad and he was dressed in grey. It was in a wild hurry; the main stream striving somehow to gain Middletown, which must be passed, hook or crook, aid of devil or aid of saint, while a second current surged with increasing strength back toward Strasburg. All was confusion. They would never stop to listen to explanations as to a turned coat! Steve was sure that they would simply shoot him or cut him down before he could say "I am one of you!" They would kill him, like a stray bee in the hive, and go their way, one way or the other, whichever way they were going! The contending motions made him giddy.

An aide in blue, galloping madly from the front, encountered beside the pokeberry clump an officer, directing, with his sword. Steve was morally assured that they had seen him, had stopped, in short, to hale him forth. As they did not-only excitedly shouted each at the other-he drew breath again. He could see the two but dimly, close though they were, because of the dust. Suddenly there came to him a rose-coloured thought. That same veil must make him well-nigh invisible; more than that, the dust lay so thickly on all things that colour in any uniform was a debatable quality. He didn't believe anybody was noticing. The extreme height to which his courage ever attained, was at once his. He felt almost dare-devil.

The aide was shouting, so that he might be heard through the uproar. "Where are the guns? Colonel Hatch says for the good Lord's sake hurry them up! Hell's broke loose and occupied Middletown. Ashby's there, and they say Jackson! They've planted guns-they've strung thousands of men behind stone fences-they're using our own wagons for breastworks! The cavalry was trying to get past. Listen to that!"

The other officer shouted also, waving his sword. "There's a battery behind-Here it comes!-We ought to have started last night. The general said he must develop the forces of the enemy-"

"He's developing them all right. Well, good-bye! Meet in Washington!"

The battery passed with uproar, clanging toward the front, scattering men to either side like spray. Steve's wayside bower was invaded. "Get out of here! This ain't no time to be sitting on your tail, thinking of going fishing! G'lang!"

Steve went, covered with dust, the shade of the uniform below never noticed in the furious excitement of the road. Life there was at fever point, aware that death was hovering, and struggling to escape. In the dust and uproar, the blare and panic, he was aware that he was moving toward Middletown where they were fighting. Fighting was not precisely that for which he was looking, and yet he was moving that way, and he could not help it. The noise in front was frightful. The head of the column of which he now formed an unwilling part, the head of the snake, must be somewhere near Newtown, the rattling tail just out of Strasburg. The snake was trying to get clear, trying to get out of the middle Valley to Winchester, fifteen miles away. It was trying to drag its painful length through the village just ahead. There were scorpions in the village, on both sides the pike, on the hills above. Stonewall Jackson with his old sabre, with his "Good! Good!" was hacking at the snake, just there, in its middle. The old sabre had not yet cut quite through, but there was hope-or fear-(the deserter positively did not know which) that presently it would be done. A tall soldier, beside whom, in the dream torrent, Steve found himself, began to talk. "Got any water? No. Nobody has. I guess it's pouring down rain in New Bedford this very minute! All the little streams running." He sighed. "'T ain't no use in fussing. I don't remember to have ever seen you before, but then we're all mixed up-"

"We are," said Steve. "Ain't the racket awful?"

"Awful. 'T is going to be like running the gauntlet, to run that town, and we're most there. If I don't get out alive, and if you ever go to New Bedford-Whoa, there! Look out!"

Steve, thrust by the press away from the pike into a Middletown street, looked for a cellar door through which he might descend and be in darkness. All the street was full of struggling forms. A man on horseback, tall and horrible in the nightmare, cut at him with a sabre as long as himself. Steve ducked, went under the horse's belly, and came up to have a pistol shot take the cap from his head. With a yell he ran beneath the second horse's arching neck. The animal reared; a third horseman raised his carbine. There was an overturned Conestoga wagon in the middle of the street, its white top like a bubble in all the wild swirl and eddy of the place. Steve and the ball from the carbine passed under the arch at the same instant, the bullet lodging somewhere in the wagon bed.

Steve at first thought he might be dead, for it was cool and dark under the tilted canvas, and there was a momentary effect of quietness. The carbine had been fired; perhaps the bullet was in his brain. The uncertainty held but a second; outside the fracas burst forth again, and beneath him something moved in the straw. It proved to be the driver of the wagon, wounded, and fallen back from the seat in front. He spoke now in a curious, dreamy voice. "Get off the top of my broken leg-damn you to everlasting hell!" Steve squirmed to one side. "Sorry. Gawd knows I wish I wasn't any nearer it than the Peaks of Otter!" There was a triangular tear in the canvas. He drew down the flap and looked out. "They were Ashby's men-all those three!" He began to cry, though noiselessly. "They hadn't ought to cut at me like that-shooting, too, without looking! They ought to ha' seen I wasn't no damned Yank-" The figure in the straw moved. Steve turned sick with apprehension. "Did you hear what I said? I was just a-joking. Gawd! It's enough to make a man wish he was a Johnny Reb-Hey, what did you say?"

But the figure in blue said nothing, or only some useless thing about wanting water. Steve, reassured, looked again out of window. His refuge lay a few feet from the pike, and the pike was a road through pandemonium. He could see, upon a height, dimly, through the dust and smoke the Rockbridge battery. Yellow flashes came from it, then ear-splitting sound. A Federal force, horse, foot and guns, had hastily formed in the opposite fields, seized a crest, planted cannon. These sent screaming shells. In between the iron giants roared the mêlée-Ashby jousting with Hatch's convoying cavalry-the Louisiana troops firing in a long battle line, from behind the stone fences-a horrible jam of wagons, overturned or overturning, panic-stricken mules, drivers raving out oaths, using mercilessly long, snaky, black whips-heat, dust, thirst and thunder, wild excitement, blood and death! There were all manner of wagons. Ambulances were there with inmates,-fantastic sickrooms, with glare for shade, Tartarean heat for coolness, cannon thunder and shouting for quietness, grey enemies for nursing women, and for home a battlefield in a hostile land. Heavy ordnance wagons, far from the guns they were meant to feed, traces cut and horses gone, rested reef-like for the tides to break against. Travelling forges kept them company, and wagons bearing officers' luggage. Beneath several the mules were pinned; dreadful sight could any there have looked or pitied! Looming through there were the great supply wagons, with others of lighter stores, holding boxes and barrels of wines and fruits, commodities of all sorts, gold-leafed fripperies, luxuries of all manner, poured across the Potomac for her soldiers by the North. Sutlers' wagons did not lack, garishly stocked, forlorn as Harlequin in the day's stress. In and around and over all these stranded hulls roared the opposing forces. Steve saw Ashby, on the black stallion, directing with a gauntleted hand. Four great draught horses, drawing a loaded van, without a driver, maddened with fright, turned into this street up and down which there was much fighting. A shout arose. Carbines cracked. One of the leaders came down upon his knees. The other slipped in blood and fell. The van overturned, pinning beneath it one of the wheel horses. Its fall, immediately beside the Conestoga, blocked Steve's window. He turned to crawl to the other side. As he did so the wounded soldier in the straw had a remark to make. He made it in the dreamy voice he had used before. "Don't you smell cloth burning?"

Steve did; in an instant saw it burning as well, first the corner of the canvas cover, then the straw beneath. He gave a screech. "We're on fire! Gawd! I've got to get out of this!"

The man in the straw talked dreamily on. "I got a bullet through the end of my backbone. I can't sit up. I been lying here studying the scoop of this here old wagon. It looks to me like the firmament at night, with all the stars a-shining. There's no end of texts about stars. 'Like as one star differeth from another-'" He began to cough. "There seems to be smoke. I guess you'll have to drag me out, brother."

At the end of the village a stone fence ran between two houses, on the other side of a little garden slope planted with potatoes. In the shadow of the wall a line of men, kneeling, rested rifle barrel upon the coping and fired on Hatch's cavalry, now much broken, wavering toward dispersion. At first the line was hidden by a swirl of smoke; this lifted, and Steve recognized a guidon they had planted, then the men themselves. They were the Louisiana Tigers, Wheat's Battalion, upgathered from levee and wharf and New Orleans purlieu, among many of a better cast, not lacking rufflers and bravos, soldiers of fortune whom Pappenheim might not have scorned. Their stone wall leaped fire again.

Steve looked to heaven and earth and as far around as the dun cloud permitted, then moved with swiftness across the potato patch. All about in the mingled dust and smoke showed a shifting pageantry of fighting men; upon the black earth below the rank green leaves and purple blooms lay in postures hardly conceivable the dead and wounded. In the line by the stone fence was here and there a gap. Steve, head between shoulders, made for the breastwork and sank into one of these openings, his neighbour upon one hand an Irish roustabout, on the other a Creole from a sugar plantation. He explained his own presence. "I got kind of separated from my company-Company A, 65th Virginia. I had an awful fight with three damned Yanks, and a fourth came in and dragged my gun away! If you don't mind I'll just stay here and help you-"

"Sorra an objection," said the Irishman. "Pick up Tim's musket behind you there and get to wurruk!"

"Bon jour!" said the other side. "One camarade ees always zee welcome!"

An order rang down the line. "Sthop firing, is it?" remarked the Irishman. "And that's the first dacint wurrud I've heard this half hour! Wid all the plazure in life, captin!" He rested his musket against the stones, drew himself up, and viewed the prospect. "Holy Saint Pathrick! look at them sthramin' off into space! An' look at the mile of wagons they're afther lavin! Refrishmint in thim, my frind, for body and sowl!"

Steve pulled himself up beside the other. "Thar ain't any danger now of stray bullets, I reckon? There's something awful in seeing a road like that. There's a man that his mother wouldn't know!-horse stepped on his face, I reckon. Gawd! we have gangs of prisoners!-Who's that coming out of the cloud?"

"Chew's Horse Artillery-with Ashby, the darlint!"

Ashby stopped before the stone house to the right. "There are men in here-officers with them. Captain, go bid them surrender."

The captain, obeying, found a barred door and no answer. An approach to the window revealed behind the closed blinds the gleam of a musket barrel. "Go again! Tell them their column's cut and their army dispersed. If they do not surrender at once I will plant a shell in the middle of that room."

The captain returned once more. "Well?"

"They said, 'Go to hell,' sir. They said General Banks would be here in a moment, and they'd taken the house for his headquarters. They've got something in there beside water, I think."

A sergeant put in a word. "There's a score of them. They seized this empty house, and they've been picking off our men-"

"Double canister, point-blank, Allen.-Well, sergeant?"

"It's not certain it was an empty house, sir. One of the Tigers, there, thinks there are women in it."

"Women!"

"He don't know-just thinks so. Thinks he heard a cry when the Yanks broke in-Ah!-Well, better your hat than you, sir! We'll blow that sharpshooter where he can look out of window sure enough! Match's ready, sir."

Ashby put back on his head the soft wide hat with a bullet hole beside the black plume. "No, no, West! We can't take chances like that! We'll break open the door instead."

"The others think that the Tiger was mistaken, sir. They say all the women went out of the other houses, and they're sure they went out of this one, too. Shan't we fire, sir?"

"No, no! We can't take chances. Limber up, lieutenant, and move on with the others.-Volunteers to break open that door!"

"Ain't nobody looking," thought Steve, behind the wall. "Gawd! I reckon I'll have to try my luck again. 'T won't do to stay here." To the big Irishman he said, "Reckon I'll try again to find my company! I don't want to be left behind. Old Jack's going to drive them, and he needs every fighter!"

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