There were groups of gray infantry in the field, walking, running, or standing still and firing; groups of lancers and dragoons trotting here and there, wheeling, galloping furiously at the men on foot. A number of foot soldiers were crowding around a mixed company of dragoons and Lancers, striking at them, shooting into them. He saw the Lieutenant-colonel of his own regiment tumble out of his saddle; saw Major Lent put his horse to a dead run and ride over a squad of infantry; saw Colonel Arran disengage his horse from the crush, wheel, and begin to use his heavy sabre in the mass around him.
Bugles sounded persistently; he set spurs to his tired horse and rode toward the buglers, and found himself beside Colonel Arran, who, crimson in the face, was whipping his way out with dripping sabre.
Across a rivulet on the edge of the woods he could see the regimental colours and the bulk of his regiment re-forming; and he spurred forward to join them, skirting the edge of a tangle of infantry, dragoons, and lancers who were having a limited but bloody affair of their own in a cornfield where a flag tossed wildly—a very beautiful, square red flag, its folds emblazoned with a blue cross set with stars,
Out of the melee a score of dishevelled lancers came plunging through the corn, striking right and left at the infantry that clung to them with the fury of panthers; the square battle flag, flung hither and thither, was coming close to him; he emptied his revolver at the man who carried it, caught at the staff, missed, was almost blinded by the flashing blast from a rifle, set spurs to his horse, leaned wide from his saddle, seized the silk, jerked it from its rings, and, swaying, deluged with blood from a sword-thrust in the face, let his frantic horse carry him whither it listed, away, away, over the swimming green that his sickened eyes could see no longer.
On every highway, across every wood trail, footpath, and meadow streamed the wreckage of seven battle-fields. Through mud and rain crowded heavy artillery, waggons, herds of bellowing cattle, infantry, light batteries, exhausted men, wounded men, dead men on stretchers, men in straw-filled carts, some alive, some dying. Cannoneers cut traces and urged their jaded horses through the crush, cursed and screamed at by those on foot, menaced by bayonets and sabres. The infantry, drenched, starving, plastered with mud to the waists, toiled doggedly on through the darkness; batteries in deplorable condition struggled from mud hole to mud hole; the reserve cavalry division, cut out and forced east, limped wearily ahead, its rear-guard firing at every step.