The procession went on, and stopped here and there at the little graveyards on the farms, leaving their bright flags to flutter through summer and winter rains and snows, and to bleach in the wind and sunshine. When they returned to the church, the minister made an address about the war, and every one listened with new ears. Most of what he said was familiar enough to his listeners; they were used to reading those phrases about the results of the war, the glorious future of the South, in their weekly newspapers; but there never had been such a spirit of patriotism and loyalty waked in Barlow as was waked that day by the poor parade of the remnant of the Barlow soldiers. They sent flags to all the distant graves, and proud were those households who claimed kinship with valor, and could drive or walk away with their flags held up so that others could see that they, too, were of the elect.
It is well that the days are long in the last of May, but John Stover had to hurry more than usual with his evening work, and then, having the longest distance to walk, he was much the latest comer to the Plains store, where his two triumphant friends were waiting for him impatiently on the bench. They also had made excuse of going to the post-office and doing an unnecessary errand for their wives, and were talking together so busily that they had gathered a group about them before the store. When they saw Stover coming, they rose hastily and crossed the road to meet him, as if they were a committee in special session. They leaned against the post-and-board fence, after they had shaken hands with each other solemnly.
“Well, we’ve had a great day, ain’t we, John?” asked Henry Merrill. “You did lead off splendid. We’ve done a grand thing, now, I tell you. All the folks say we’ve got to keep it up every year. Everybody had to have a talk about it as I went home. They say they had no idea we should make such a show. Lord! I wish we’d begun while there was more of us!”
“That han’some flag was the great feature,” said Asa Brown generously. “I want to pay my part for hirin’ it. An’ then folks was glad to see poor old Martin made o’ some consequence.”
“There was half a dozen said to me that another year they was goin’ to have flags out, and trim up their places somehow or ’nother. Folks has feelin’ enough, but you’ve got to rouse it,” said Merrill.
“I have thought o’ joinin’ the Grand Army over to Alton time an’ again, but it’s a good ways to go, an’ then the expense has been o’ some consideration,” Asa continued. “I don’t know but two or three over there. You know, most o’ the Alton men nat’rally went out in the rigiments t’ other side o’ the State line, an’ they was in other battles, an’ never camped nowheres nigh us. Seems to me we ought to have home feelin’ enough to do what we can right here.”