It was a pretty sight to see them negotiating this obstacle the jolting of the springless wheels up and down the stony sides and across the rails on top ought to have been enough to shake the teeth out of the men sitting on the limbers, and gripping hard to keep their seats. By the way, how loudly the nether part of a gunner's anatomy must sometimes cry out for a cushion!
Esther recognised him at once; she had often seen him before, though with her huge indifference for all that lay outside the circle of her love, she had never so much as wondered who he was; but now she recognised him, and found him ten years older, leaden and springless, and stamped by an abiding sorrow.
Once in the big, springless farm wagon he was himself again, looking eagerly around to catch another glimpse of Bessie Jones. Then he was a big, irreverent boy, shyly and awkwardly bent on mischief in the same old meeting house. Bessie Jones no longer turned and stared at him, but he exultingly discovered that he could still make her giggle on the sly.
No wonder the trooper hated to leave the foothills of the mountains, with the cold, clear trout streams and the bracing air, to take to long days' marching over dull waste and treeless prairie, covered only by sage brush, rent and torn by dry ravines, shadeless, springless, almost waterless, save where in unwholesome hollows dull pools of stagnant water still held out against the sun, or, further still southeast among the "breaks" of the many forks of the South Cheyenne, on the sandy flats men dug for water for their suffering horses, yet shrank from drinking it themselves lest their lips should crack and bleed through the shriveling touch of the alkali.
For our Western migration we had, in addition to three prairie-schooners, a large family carriage, drawn by a span of fine horses in silver-mounted harness. This carriage had been made to order in the East, upholstered in the finest leather, polished and varnished as though for a royal progress. Mother and we girls found it more comfortable riding than the springless prairie-schooners.
Thus Guerande bears no resemblance to any other place in France. The town produces somewhat the same effect upon the mind as a sleeping-draught upon the body. It is silent as Venice. There is no other public conveyance than the springless wagon of a carrier who carries travellers, merchandise, and occasionally letters from Saint-Nazaire to Guerande and vice versa.
'I did not believe this girl could care for me; I must not intrude; I must preserve the foppery of my indifference. What an impotent picture! 'Ay, we have the same blood, moralised Gotthold. 'You are drawing, with fine strokes, the character of the born sceptic. 'Sceptic? coward! cried Otto. 'Coward is the word. A springless, putty-hearted, cowering coward!
On this occasion we were to shoot in Baron Beust's forests, which extend over an area of about forty miles square; as it may be supposed, the sport is not the easy affair it is in the well-stocked parks of Bohemia. There was not snow enough for sledging, so we drove to the rendezvous on wheels, using the springless carts of the country, the roads being far too rough for ordinary carriages.
For a time it seemed that if he got a doctor at all he would have to follow a similar procedure, but the Briskow name was powerful, and Buddy talked in big figures, so eventually he set out on the return journey this time in a springless freight wagon drawn by the stoutest team in town. A medical man was on the seat beside him.
And the springless wagons jolted away over the rough road, and fortunately we had our bad cases to occupy our thoughts. An order came to prepare at once for some more wounded who might be coming in at any time, so we started at once to get ready for any emergency.