The troops, from twelve to fifteen thousand, now fell into marching order, and went to attack a wood, where we were to suppose the enemy to be stationed. The sham-fight seemed to me rather clumsily managed, and without any striking incident or result. The officers had prophesied, the night before, that General K , commanding in the camp, would make a muddle of it; and probably he did.
And there was no chance of Nicky and Veronica going to Belgium and France and Germany for their honeymoon. For within nine days of Frances's Day Germany had declared war on France and Russia, and was marching over the Belgian frontier on her way to Paris. Frances, aroused at last to realization of the affairs of nations, asked, like several million women, "What does it mean?"
Heavy firing could be heard in the direction of our right flank, and we were hurrying toward the scene of action, to strengthen the threatened point. We arrived about dark. The fighting had almost ceased, and the enemy were handsomely repulsed. The attack had been made on a body of inexperienced troops, mostly heavy artillery, who were marching from Fredericksburg to join the Army of the Potomac.
These men had sprung from the earth as startlingly as Jason's crop of dragon's teeth. But, when the command rounded the shoulder of a protecting wall to await further orders, the ragged stride of their marching, and the all-too-obvious bearing of the mountaineer proclaimed them native amateurs. The murmur turned to a howl of derision and challenge.
Frequently, as we were marching on, we were saluted by a sound so like the crack of a whip, that Tommy and Pierce declared that some black boy near at hand must be amusing himself with one; and it was some time before we discovered that the sound was produced by a small bird either over our heads or perched on a tree near at hand.
We bade Kurua adieu in the early morning, as a caravan of his had just arrived from Karague, and appointed to meet at the second station, as marching with cattle would be slow work for him. Our march lasted nine miles. The succeeding day we passed Ukumbi, and arrived at Uyombo. On the way I was obliged to abandon one of the donkeys, as he was completely used up.
On the other side of the lines the Germans were busy in the same way, as busy as soldier ants, and the roads behind their front were cumbered by endless columns of transport and marching men, and guns and ambulances laden with bashed, blinded, and bleeding boys.
A grave had been dug at the back corner of the yard, and the procession of mourners was marching back and forth across the yard with many twists and turns, to make it last longer, until it at last reached the open grave.
"They'll give a good account of themselves." Came a word of command from Colonel Anderson the boys recognized his voice and more troops moved forward. As far as the eye could see dense masses of men were marching rapidly toward the front. It became apparent that this was to be no mere skirmish no mere feeling-out process.
But for heaven's sake try and keep cool, and I daresay when they see we look ugly at them, they'll trot on. How many of you have guns of any kind?" Four rifles and two shot guns were quickly produced, and then every one waited till the first of the Chinese appeared, marching one behind the other. The foremost man was dressed in European clothes, and the moment Scott saw him, he exclaimed