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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 469 pages of information about The Last Shot.

“Yes, only I roll mine,” said Tom.

“So do I mine,” said the judge’s son.

“But with a game hand I—­”

“Oh, I’ve the hands.  It’s my leg that’s been mashed up,” said the judge’s son.  “Labor and capital!” he added cheerily as he dropped the cosmopolitan tobacco on the cosmopolitan wafer of rice-paper.

They smoked and smiled at each other in the glow of that better passion when wounds have let out the poison of conflict, while the doctors and the hospital-corps men began their attention to the critical cases and on down the slopes the mills of war were grinding out more dead and wounded.

“At the hospital where I was interne before the war we were trying to save a crippled boy the use of his leg,” remarked a reserve surgeon.  “Half a dozen surgeons held consultations over that boy—­yes, just for one leg.  And now look at this!”

XLIV

TURNING THE TABLES

“I shall take a little nap.  There will be plenty to do later,” said Westerling, after the last telegram detaching the reserves for concentration had gone.

Yes, he would rest while the troops were in motion.  The staff should see that he was still the same self-contained commander whose every faculty was the trained servant of his will.  His efforts at sleep resulted in a numbing brain torture, which so desensitized it to outward impressions that his faithful personal aide entering the room at dawn had to touch him on the shoulder to arouse attention.

“There’s nothing like being able to order yourself to sleep, whatever the crisis,” he said.  But suddenly he winced as if a blast of bullets had crashed through a window-pane and buried themselves in the wall beside his bed.  “What is that?” he gasped “What?” With appalling distinctness he heard a cannonade that seemed as wide-spread as the horizon.

“I was to tell you that the enemy has been attacking along the whole front,” the aide explained.

“Attacking!  The Browns attacking!” Westerling exclaimed as he gathered his wits.  “Well, so much the worse for them.  I rather expected they would,” he added.

Then through the door which the aide had left open the division chiefs, led by Turcas, filed in.  To Westerling they seemed like a procession of ghosts.  The features of one were the features of all, graven with the weariness of the machine’s treadmill.  Their harness held them up.  A moving platform under their feet kept their legs moving.  They grouped around the great man’s desk silently, Turcas, his lips a half-opened seam, his voice that of crinkling parchment, acting as spokesman.

“The enemy seized his advantage,” he said, “when he found that our reserves were on the march, out of touch with the wire to headquarters.”

Westerling forced a smile which he wanted to be a knowing smile.

“Exactly!  Of course their guns are making a lot of noise,” he said.  “It seems strange to you, no doubt, that they and not we should be attacking.  Excellent!  Let them have a turn at paying the costs of the offensive.  Let them thrash their battalions to pieces.  We want them exhausted when we go in to-night.”

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