It was the night after the attack of the Indians, and the bloody repulse. All was quiet. The troops were reassembled in camp. The usual garrulity of the soldiers was checked by the recollection of their dead comrades, so recently laid to rest in soldiers’ graves. All, too, remembered the danger through which they had passed, and many were moody and silent. At length a bright-faced, light-headed young recruit spoke out, seeing the silence and sadness around the camp-fire. “I say, captain, that was a wretched red-skin of a chief that you hauled in yesterday. He looked more like the Prince of Darkness than the chief of a tribe. I thought once, cap’n, he had you; and I was just ready to pick him off, when I saw you were safe.”
“Yes, Carlos, that was a close place, and but for a kind fate, I should be sleeping with those brave fellows who have left us. Peace to their resting-places.”
“I was sorry you did not kill him; he deserved death. But how quick he did surrender, when he saw you close in on him with your sword! Ha! ha!”
“Yes, Mico is a bad, bad Indian, and has caused more trouble to this settlement than all the other Indians combined. I guess he will enjoy his freedom, when he gets it again. Confinement and chains are worse than death to him.”
“I tell you, cap’n, they are cowardly devils. They can’t stand gunpowder. At the very smell of it they run out from their hiding-places, like so many rats from a burning building. I hated to see one of them taken alive. It’s not like fighting civilized people; is it, cap’n? I am in favor of the black flag in a fight with these red devils.”
“War is war, Carlos, and brutalizes the most intelligent people on earth, if they indulge in it. I trust our troubles are ended here, for a long time, if not forever, now that Mico is our prisoner. At any rate, I hope all will remain peaceful and tranquil till I go home and return. For a month I have a leave of absence, to visit my native State.”
“Going home, captain, to see your mother?” spoke up a fair-haired young boy, scarcely eighteen, who had sat a silent listener to the conversation between Carlos and his commander.
“Ah! Franco, I have no mother; she died long ago,” replied the captain; “but I am going back to my native State. My father and a brother and sister live there.”
“It has been many a long day,” said Franco, “since I saw my native hills, and heard my mother’s gentle voice, as she went singing about our humble home. I often wonder how she could sing so, with so much poverty and care constantly about her. Maybe I shall never see her again ;” and a shade of sorrow crept over the fair young face of the French recruit.
The captain replied, “I trust that you may, Franco, though you are now so many leagues away. What brought you away from her, Franco?”
“Poverty, captain, poverty; and unless I can lighten the burden of my mother’s life by returning, I shall never go back!”