Evangelina found the girl sitting in the sun, her thin face radiant, her great eyes wet but smiling.
“Come, little dove,” said the negress, “there is nothing here to eat; we must get back to our weaving.”
SPEAKING OF FOOD
It was part of the strategy practised by the Cuban leaders to divide their forces into separate columns for the purpose of raiding the smaller Spanish garrisons and harassing the troops sent to their relief, reassembling these bands only when and where some telling blow was to be struck. Not only had the military value of this practice been amply demonstrated, but it had been proved a necessity, owing to the fact that the Insurrectos were compelled to live off the country.
When O’Reilly and Branch enlisted in the Army of the Orient they were assigned to the command of Colonel Miguel Lopez, and it was under his leadership that they made their first acquaintance with the peculiar methods of Cuban warfare.
Active service for the two Americans began at once; scarcely a week had passed before Leslie Branch gained his opportunity of tasting the “salt of life” in its full flavor, for the young Matanzas colonel was one of the few Cuban commanders who really enjoyed a fight.
There had been, at first, some doubt of Branch’s fitness to take the field at all—he had suffered a severe hemorrhage shortly after his arrival at Cubitas—and it was only after a hysterical demonstration on his part that he had been accepted as a soldier. He simply would not be left behind. At first the Cubans regarded him with mingled contempt and pity, for certainly no less promising volunteer had ever taken service with them. Nevertheless, he would doubtless have made many friends among them had he not begun his service by refusing to abide by discipline of any sort and by scorning all instruction in the use of arms, declaring this to be, in his case, a silly waste of effort. Such an attitude very naturally aroused resentment among the other men; it was not long before they began to grumble at the liberty allowed this headstrong weakling. But upon the occasion of the very first fight this ill-will disappeared as if by magic, for, although Branch deliberately disobeyed orders, he nevertheless displayed such amazing audacity in the face of the enemy, such a theatrical contempt for bullets, as to stupefy every one. Moreover, he lived up to his reputation; he continued to be insanely daring, varying his exploits to correspond with his moods, with the result that he attained a popularity which was unique, nay, sensational.
His conduct in the face of this general admiration was no less unexpected than his behavior under fire: Branch gruffly refused to accept any tribute whatever; he snarled, he fairly barked at those of his comrades who tried to express their appreciation of his conduct—a demeanor which of course awakened even greater admiration among the Cubans. He was uniformly surly and sour; he sneered, he scoffed, he found fault. He had the tongue of a common scold, and he used it with malevolent abandon.