“I’m mighty glad that you applied for transfer to this regiment when I was ordered to it. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Thank you, sir!”
Kelly had sprung to his feet. He now stood at salute as Prescott left the office.
The train due at 4.10 arrived after 8.30 that evening. Twelve new men, assigned to A company, were marched to barracks after ten. No man in the detachment had eaten since early morning. The mess sergeant had coffee and sandwiches ready.
It was midnight when Kelly, with the aid of other non-coms, had the measurements of the new men on paper and his clothing requisition ready. Dick Prescott was on hand to sign as company commander.
At six in the morning first call to reveille sounded from the bugles.
Like the other companies in the regiment A company tumbled out of its cots. Men dressed, seized soap, towels, brushes and combs, and hurried to the wash-room at the rear of barracks. Then back again, the final touches being administered. Outside a bugle blew, calling the men to first formation. Then mess-call caused two hundred and fifty hungry soldiers to file into the mess-room, kits in hand, and line up at the further end for food and hot drink.
At 7.46 Dick Prescott stepped briskly into the company office.
“Sergeant Kelly, have each man carry out his mattress to the incinerator and empty out the straw. Detail men to burn the straw. Have the cots piled at the end of each squad room. At 8.25 turn the company out with barracks bags and dismiss after the bags have been placed. At 8.40 turn out the company in full marching order, with arms and pack, for inspection. As soon as practicable thereafter the men will be turned out again for issue of razors.”
“Yes, sir,” Kelly replied with a quiver. “Of course you know what it means, Sergeant?”
“The regiment is moving, sir.”
“Moving by rail to the point of embarkation, Sergeant. We’re—–at last we’re going over!”
There must have been an eavesdropper outside the office door, for instantly, so it seemed, the news flashed through the building.
“Orders have come!”
“We’re going over!”
“Stop that cheering, men!” boomed Dick Prescott’s voice, as he stepped into the corridor. “This is Georgia, and you’ll wake all the sleeping babies in North Carolina.”
ON BOARD THE TROOPSHIP
North to an embarkation camp, not to a pier. There passed several days of restlessness and unreality of life.
Final issues of all lacking equipment were made at last. Then, one evening, after dark, the Ninety-ninth once more fell in and marched away, the bandsmen, carrying their silent instruments, marching in headquarters company.
No send-off, no cheering, not even the playing of “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”