“Say, wouldn’t I like a real bath—an altogether!”
“And plenty of soap all over!”
“A welter of lather from head to foot and blowing bubbles from between my lips!”
“And to shave off this beard!”
“Think of the beards that are going when the war is over!”
“Not if you can’t grow any more than John!”
“I’m not fighting out of ambush like you!” replied John. “I haven’t got a place for the birds to nest!”
“I’m going to trim mine down gradually,” said another; “first an imperial and mustache with mutton choppers; then mow my cheeks; then a great, sweeping mustache; then a dandy little mustache; then—”
“Mow is the word! Don’t inflict a barber!”
“And, after the bath, clean underclothes, and, oh, me!—a home dinner!”
“Stop with your home dinners! That’s barred. Army biscuits!”
“Yes, we all prefer army biscuits!”
“We wouldn’t touch a home dinner!”
Stransky, his eyes drawing inward in their characteristic slant, was well pleased with his company, and the scattered exclamatory badinage kept on until it was interrupted by the arrival of the mail. Partow and Lanstron, understanding their machine as human in its elements, had chosen that the army should hear from home.
“How’s this!” exclaimed one man, reading from a newspaper. “They’re going to put up a statue of Partow in the capital! It’s to show him as he died, dropped forward on the map, and in front of his desk a field of bayonets. On one face of the base will be his name. Two of the other faces will have ‘God with us!’ and ‘Not for theirs, but for ours!’ The legend on the fourth face the war is to decide.”
“Victory! Victory!” cried those who had listened to the announcement.
“My mother says just what yours says, Tom. I needn’t come home unless we win.”
“The girl I’m going to marry said that, too!”
“If we go back with the Gray army at our heels we shall strike a worse fire than if we stick!”
Stransky was thinking that they had to do more than hold the Grays. Before he should see his girl they had to take back the lost territory. He carried two pictures of Minna in his mind: one when she had struck him in the face as he had tried to kiss her and the other as he said good-by at the kitchen door. There was not much encouragement in either.
“But when she gets better acquainted with me there’s no telling!” he kept thinking. “I was fighting out of cussedness at first. Now I’m fighting for her and to keep what is ours!”
“I’ve learned that the greatest, most desperate attack of all is coming,” Marta told Lanstron. “But I don’t know at what point. I see Westerling only when he comes into the garden, and he does not come so frequently of late.”