With the departure of Our Country’s Gallant Defenders, as they were loosely denominated by some—the Idiots, as they were compactly described by others—monotony again settled down upon Rivermouth. Sergeant O’Neil’s heraldic emblems disappeared from Anchor Street, and the quick rattle of the tenor drum at five o’clock in the morning no longer disturbed the repose of peace-loving citizens. The tide of battle rolled afar, and its echoes were not of a quality to startle the drowsy old seaport. Indeed, it had little at stake. Only four men had gone from the town proper. One, Captain Kittery, died before reaching the seat of war; one deserted on the way; one, Lieutenant Bangs, was sent home invalided; and only James Dutton was left to represent the land force of his native town. He might as well have died or deserted, for he was promptly forgotten.
From time to time accounts of battles and bombardments were given in the columns of the Rivermouth Barnacle, on which occasions the Stars and Stripes, held in the claws of a spread eagle, decorated the editorial page—a cut which until then had been used only to celebrate the bloodless victories of the ballot. The lists of dead, wounded, and missing were always read with interest or anxiety, as might happen, for one had friends and country acquaintances, if not fellow-townsmen, with the army on the Rio Grande. Meanwhile nobody took the trouble to bestow a thought on James Dutton. He was as remote and shadowy in men’s memories as if he had been killed at Thermopylae or Bunker’s Hill. But one day the name of James Dutton blazed forth in a despatch that electrified the community. At the storming of Chapultepec, Private James Dutton, Company K, Rivermouth, had done a very valorous deed. He had crawled back to a plateau on the heights, from which the American troops had been driven, and had brought off his captain, who had been momentarily stunned by the wind of a round-shot. Not content with that, Private Dutton had returned to the dangerous plateau, and, under a heavy fire, had secured a small field-piece which was about to fall into the hands of the enemy. Later in the day this little howitzer did eminent service. After touching on one or two other minor matters, the despatch remarked, incidentally, that Private James Dutton had had his left leg blown off.
The name of James Dutton was instantly on every lip in town. Citizens who had previously ignored his existence, or really had not been aware of it, were proud of him. The Hon. Jedd Deane said that he had. long regarded James Dutton as a young man of great promise, a—er—most remarkable young person, in short; one of the kind with much—er—latent ability. Postmaster Mugridge observed, with the strong approval of those who heard him, that young Dutton was nobody’s fool, though what especial wisdom Dutton had evinced in having his leg blown off was not clear. Captain