SOME IN RAGS
An old man, clothed in picturesque patches and tatters, paused and leaned on his stout oak staff. He was tired. He drew off his rusty felt hat, swept a sleeve across his forehead, and sighed. He had walked many miles that day, and even now the journey’s end, near as it really was, seemed far away. Ah, but he would sleep soundly that night, whether the bed were of earth or of straw. His peasant garb rather enhanced his fine head. His eyes were blue and clear and far-seeing, the eyes of a hunter or a woodsman, of a man who watches the shadows in the forest at night or the dim, wavering lines on the horizon at daytime; things near or far or roundabout. His brow was high, his nose large and bridged; a face of more angles than contours, bristling with gray spikes, like one who has gone unshaven several days. His hands, folded over the round, polished knuckle of his staff, were tanned and soiled, but they were long and slender, and the callouses were pink, a certain indication that they were fresh.
The afternoon glow of the September sun burned along the dusty white highway. From where he stood the road trailed off miles behind and wound up five hundred feet or more above him to the ancient city of Dreiberg. It was not a steep road, but a long and weary one, a steady, enervating, unbroken climb. To the left the mighty cliff reared its granite side to the hanging city, broke in a wide plain, and then went on up several thousand feet to the ledges of dragon-green ice and snow. To the right sparkled and flashed a wild mountain stream on its way to the broad, fertile valley, which, mistily green and brown and yellow with vineyards and hops and corn, spread out and on to the north, stopping abruptly at the base of the more formidable chain of mountains.
Across this lofty jumble of barren rock and glacial cleft, now purpling and darkening as the sun mellowed in its decline, lay the kingdom of Jugendheit; and toward this the wayfarer gazed meditatively, absorbing little or nothing of the exquisite panorama. By and by his gaze wavered, and that particular patch in the valley, brown from the beating of many iron-shod horses, caught and chained his interest for a space. It was the military field, and it glittered and scintillated as squadron after squadron of cavalry dashed from side to side or wheeled in bewildering circles.
“The philosophy of war is to prepare for it,” mused the old man, with a jerk of his shoulders. “France! So the mutter runs. There is a Napoleon in France, but no Bonaparte. Clatter-clatter! Bang-bang!” He laughed ironically and cautiously glanced at his watch, an article which must have cost him many and many a potato-patch. He pulled his hat over his eyes, scratched the irritating stubble on his chin, and stepped forward.