“My boys! as sure as this war begins it’s going to last. There’ll be lots of killing and dying, and I warn you now, your share’ll be a double one. So, then, no indecent haste. Artillery can’t fight every day. Cavalry can—in its small way, but you may have to wait months and months to get into a regular hell on earth. All the same you’ll get there!—soon enough—times enough. Don’t you know why, when we have to be recruited—to fill up the shot holes—they’ll go by the cavalry to the infantry, and pick the best men there, and promote them to your ranks? It’s because of how you’ve got to fight when your turn comes; like devils, to hold up, for all you may know, the butt end of the whole day’s bloody business. That’s why—and because of how you may have to wait, un-com-plain-ing, in rotting idleness for the next tea party.”
Again he ceased. What was the matter? There sat his matchless hundred, still and straight as stone Egyptians, welcoming his every word; yet some influence not his was having effect and, strangest of all, was enhancing his.
“One more word,” he said. “You’re sick of the drill-ground. Well, the man that’s spoiling for a fight and yet has no belly for drill—he—oh, he belongs to the cavalry by birth! We love these guns. We’re mighty dogg—we’re extremely proud of them. Through thick and thin, through fire and carnage and agony, remembering where we got them, we propose to keep them; and some proud day, when the trouble’s all over, say two years hence, and those of us who are spared come home, we propose to come with these same guns unstained by the touch of a foe’s hand, a virgin battery still. Well, only two things can win that: infernal fighting and perpetual toil. So, as you love honor and your country’s cause, wait. Wait in self-respectful patience. Wait and work, and you shall be at the front—the foremost front!—the very first day and hour my best licks can get you there. That’s all.”
Bartleson advanced from the line: “By section!” he called, “right wheel—”
“Section,” repeated each chief of section, “right wheel—”
“March!” commanded Bartleson.
“March,” echoed the chiefs, and the battery broke into column. “Forward! Guide right!” chanted Bartleson, and all moved off save Kincaid.
He turned his horse, and lo! on the grassy crest of the earthwork, pictured out against the eastern pink and blue, their summer gauzes filled with the light of the declining sun, were half a dozen smiling ladies attended by two or three officers of cavalry, and among them Flora, Constance, and Miranda.
Anna? Only when he had dismounted did his eager eye find her, where she had climbed and seated herself on a siege gun and was letting a cavalier show her how hard it would be for a hostile ship, even a swift steamer, to pass, up-stream, this crater of destruction, and ergo how impossible for a fleet—every ship a terror to its fellows the moment it was hurt—to run the gauntlet of Forts Jackson and St. Philip on a far worse stretch of raging current some eighty miles farther down the river.