It was the defenders of society advancing with the swinging step of assured triumph.
Oh, it was a splendid sight! In all the bravery of banners, and uniforms, and shining decorations, and amidst the majestic and inspiriting outpouring of music, they swept along, the thousands moving as one. How they did contrast with that gloomy, dark, ragged, sullen multitude who had preceded them. And with them came, rattling along, multitudes of those dreadful machine guns—those cataracts of fire and death—drawn by prancing, well-fed, shining horses. And the lips of the gunners were set for carnage; for they had received orders to take no prisoners! The world was to be taught a lesson to-day—a bloody and an awful lesson. Ah! little did they think how it would be taught!
In the gray light of the breaking day they came—an endless multitude. And all the windows were white with waving handkerchiefs, and the air stormy with huzzas and cries of “God bless you.” And at the head of every column, on exuberant steeds, that seemed as if they would leap out of their very skins with the mere delight of living, rode handsome officers, smiling and bowing to the ladies at the windows;—for was it not simply holiday work to slay the canaille—the insolent canaille—the unreasonable dogs—who demanded some share in the world’s delights—who were not willing to toil and die that others might live and be happy? And the very music had a revengeful, triumphant ring and sting to it, as if every instrument cried out: “Ah, we will give it to them!”
But it was splendid! It was the very efflorescence of the art of war—the culmination of the evolution of destruction—the perfect flower of ten thousand years of battle and blood.
But I heard one officer cry out to another, as they passed below me:
“What’s the matter with the Demons? Why are they not here?”
“I can’t say,” replied the one spoken to; “but they will be here in good time.”
The grand and mighty stream of men poured on. They halted close to the high barricade. It was a formidable structure at least fifteen feet high and many feet in thickness. The gray of dawn had turned into red, and a pale, clear light spread over all nature. I heard some sparrows, just awakened, twittering and conversing in a tall tree near me. They, too, wondered, doubtless, what it all meant, and talked it over in their own language.
The troops deployed right and left, and soon the insurgent mass was closely surrounded in every direction and every outlet closed. The “rat-trap” was set. Where were the rat-killers? I could see many a neck craned, and many a face lifted up, looking toward the west, for their terrible allies of the air. But they came not.
There was a dead pause. It was the stillness before the thunder.