“Oh, yes, I think I can,” said Archie. “You see I have walked a great deal in these last two months, and I don’t think I will have any difficulty in keeping up with the troops. And I do so want to see some fighting, and to learn whether you capture Aguinaldo. You don’t object to my going, now, do you?”
“No,” said the colonel. “If you think you can stand the marching, and are so anxious to come, why, I suppose you can do so. But you mustn’t blame me if anything should happen to you.”
Archie was ready enough to promise this, for he had no idea that he would meet with an accident of any kind, and so he continued to pack his things in the knapsack. The rebels had emptied everything in a corner, and had evidently intended taking the knapsack with them when they went; but they left so hurriedly they couldn’t possibly think of everything, and so had left it behind, much to Archie’s relief, for he would have been unable to secure another one anywhere outside Manila. In a very short time the regiment gathered in the streets immediately about the square, and soon the men were marching out of the town, much to the gratification of the residents, who watched them from their roofs and windows. Archie fell in at the head of the column, and found no difficulty in keeping up with the soldiers near him, though they were marching at a rapid rate.
The town limits were soon passed, and they swung into the white country road, which presented the same scene of desolation which had been everywhere visible to Archie on his way from Manila. The farm-houses were nearly all deserted, and there was but little attempt at cultivating the soil, which would have been productive enough had it not been overgrown with tangled vines and weeds. And as they went farther into the country the wilderness increased, until at last the road itself was filled with growing vines, and the men had difficulty in walking. Every little while some trooper would fall headlong, tripped by some vine, and the others would laughingly help him up before passing on. These little incidents did much to enliven the march, which became monotonous after the first six or seven hours, and Archie appreciated the mishaps very much until he took a few tumbles himself. He was usually, much to the amusement of the officers, marching at the very head of the regiment, and “setting the pace,” he said, so that he was more likely to trip than any of the others. He was always the first to discover a snake in the road, too, and kept a great stick with which to kill them. He seemed to have no fear of them, but walked up to lay them out, and on one occasion the colonel warned him just in time or he would certainly have been bitten by a snake whose bite is certain death. This experience made him more careful, but he still kept his place at the head of the regiment, and came to be called the mascot by the men.