"God rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen"

Stephen Crane

LITTLE NELL, sometimes called the Blessed Damosel, was a war

correspondent for the New York Eclipse, and at sea on the despatch boats he

wore pyjamas, and on shore he wore whatever fate allowed him, which clothing

was in the main unsuitable to the climate. He had been cruising in the

Caribbean on a small tug, awash always, habitable never, wildly looking for

Cervera's fleet; although what he was going to do with four armoured

cruisers and two destroyers in the event of his really finding them had not

been explained by the managing editor. The cable instructions read: 'Take

tug; go find Cervera's fleet.' If his unfortunate nine-knot craft should

happen to find these great twenty-knot ships, with their two spiteful and

faster attendants, Little Nell had wondered how he was going to lose them

again. He had marvelled, both publicly and in secret, on the uncompromising

asininity of managing editors at odd moments, but he had wasted little time.

The Jefferson G. Johnson was already coaled, so he passed the word to his

skipper, bought some tinned meats, cigars, and beer, and soon the Johnson

sailed on her mission, tooting her whistle in graceful farewell to some

friends of hers in the bay.

So the Johnson crawled giddily to one wave-height after another, and fell

aslant, into one valley after another for a longer period than was good for

the hearts of the men, because the Johnson was merely a harbour-tug, with no

architectural intention of parading the high seas, and the crew had never

seen the decks all white water like a mere sunken reef. As for the cook, he

blasphemed hopelessly hour in and hour out, meanwhile pursuing the equipment

of his trade frantically from side to side of the galley. Little Nell dealt

with a great deal of grumbling, but he knew it was not the real evil

grumbling. It was merely the unhappy words of men who wished expression of

comradeship for their wet, forlorn, half-starved lives, to which, they

explained, they were not accustomed, and for which, they explained, they

were not properly paid. Little Nell condoled and condoled without

difficulty. He laid words of gentle sympathy before them, and smothered his

own misery behind the face of a reporter of the New York Eclipse. But they

tossed themselves in their cockleshell even as far as Martinique; they knew

many races and many flags, but they did not find Cervera's fleet. If they

had found that elusive squadron, this timid story would never have been

written; there would probably have been a lyric. The Johnson limped one

morning into the Mole St. Nicholas, and there Little Nell received this

despatch: 'Can't understand your inaction. What are you doing with the boat?

Report immediately. Fleet transports already left Tampa. Expected

destination near Santiago. Proceed there immediately. Place yourself under

orders. -- Rogers. Eclipse.'

One day, steaming along the high luminous blue coast of Santiago

province, they fetched into view the fleets, a knot of masts and funnels,

looking incredibly inshore, as if they were glued to the mountains. Then

mast left mast, and funnel left funnel, slowly, slowly, and the shore

remained still, but the fleets seemed to move out toward the eager Johnson.

At the speed of nine knots an hour the scene separated into its parts. On an

easily rolling sea, under a crystal sky, black-hulled transports --

erstwhile packets -- lay waiting, while grey cruisers and gunboats lay near

shore, shelling the beach and some woods. From their grey sides came thin

red flashes, belches of white smoke, and then over the waters sounded boom

-- boom -- boom-boom. The crew of the Jefferson G. Johnson forgave Little

Nell all the suffering of a previous fortnight.

To the westward, about the mouth of Santiago harbour, sat a row of

castellated grey battleships, their eyes turned another way, waiting.

The Johnson swung past a transport whose decks and rigging were aswarm

with black figures, as if a tribe of bees had alighted upon a log. She swung

past a cruiser indignant at being left out of the game, her deck thick with

white-clothed tars watching the play of their luckier brethren.

The cold blue lifting seas tilted the big ships

easily, slowly, and heaved the little ones in the usual sinful way, as if

very little babes had surreptitiously mounted sixteen-hand trotting hunters.

The Johnson leered and tumbled her way through a community of ships. The

bombardment ceased, and some of the troopships edged in near the land. Soon

boats black with men and towed by launches were almost lost to view in the

scintillant mystery of light which appeared where the sea met the land. A

disembarkation had begun. The Johnson sped on at her nine knots, and Little

Nell chafed exceedingly, gloating upon the shore through his glasses, anon

glancing irritably over the side to note the efforts of the excited tug.

Then at last they were in a sort of a cove, with troopships, newspaper

boats, and cruisers on all sides of them, and over the water came a great

hum of human voices, punctuated frequently by the clang of engine-room gongs

as the steamers manoeuvred to avoid jostling.

In reality it was the great moment -- the moment for which men, ships,

islands, and continents had been waiting for months; but somehow it did not

look it. It was very calm; a certain strip of high green rocky shore was

being rapidly populated from boat after boat; that was all. Like many

preconceived moments, it refused to be supreme.

But nothing lessened Little Nell's frenzy. He knew that the army was

landing -- he could see it; and little did he care if the great moment did

not look its part -- it was his virtue as a correspondent to recognise the

great moment in any disguise. The Johnson lowered a boat for him, and he

dropped into it swiftly, forgetting everything. However, the mate, a bearded

philanthropist, flung after him a mackintosh and a bottle of whisky. Little

Nell's face was turned toward those other boats filled with men, all eyes

upon the placid, gentle, noiseless shore. Little Nell saw many soldiers

seated stiffly beside upright rifle barrels, their blue breasts crossed with

white shelter tent and blanket-rolls. Launches screeched; jack-tars pushed

or pulled with their boathooks; a beach was alive with working soldiers,

some of them stark naked. Little Nell's boat touched the shore amid a babble

of tongues, dominated at that time by a single stern voice, which was

repeating, 'Fall in, B Company!'

He took his mackintosh and his bottle of whisky and invaded

Cuba. It was a trifle bewildering. Companies of those same men in blue and

brown were being rapidly formed and marched off across a little open space

-- near a pool -- near some palm trees -- near a house -- into the hills. At

one side, a mulatto in dirty linen and an old straw hat was hospitably using

a machete to cut open some green cocoanuts for a group of idle invaders. At

the other side, up a bank, a block-house was burning furiously; while near

it some railway sheds were smouldering, with a little Rogers' engine

standing amid the ruins, grey, almost white, with ashes until it resembled a

ghost. Little Nell dodged the encrimsoned block-house, and proceeded where

he saw a little village street lined with flimsy wooden cottages. Some

ragged Cuban cavalry-men were tranquilly tending their horses in a shed

which had not yet grown cold of the Spanish occupation. Three American

soldiers were trying to explain to a Cuban that they wished to buy drinks. A

native rode by, clubbing his pony, as always. The sky was blue; the sea

talked with a gravelly accent at the feet of some rocks; upon its bosom the

ships sat quiet as gulls. There was no mention, directly, of invasion --

invasion for war -- save in the roar of the flames at the block-house; but

none even heeded this conflagration, excepting to note that it threw out a

great heat. It was warm, very warm. It was really hard for little Nell to

keep from thinking of his own affairs: his debts, other misfortunes, loves,

prospects of happiness. Nobody was in a flurry; the Cubans were not

tearfully grateful; the American troops were visibly glad of being released

from those ill transports, and the men often asked, with interest, 'Where's

the Spaniards?' And yet it must have been a great moment! It was a great


It seemed made to prove that the emphatic time of history is not the

emphatic time of the common man, who throughout the change of nations feels

an itch on his shin, a pain in his head, hunger, thirst, a lack of sleep;

the influence of his memory of past firesides, glasses of beer, girls,

theatres, ideals, religions, parents, faces, hurts, joy.

Little Nell was hailed from a comfortable verandah, and, looking up, saw

Walkley of the Eclipse, stretched in a yellow and green hammock, smoking his

pipe with an air of having always lived in that house, in that village. 'Oh,

dear little Nell, how glad I am to see your angel face again! There! don't

try to hide it; I can see it. Did you bring a corkscrew too? You're

superseded as master of the slaves. Did you know it? And by Rogers, too! Rogers is a

Sadducee, a cadaver and a pelican, appointed to the post of chief

correspondent, no doubt, because of his rare gift of incapacity. Never


'Where is he now?' asked Little Nell, taking seat on the steps.

'He is down interfering with the landing of the troops,' answered

Walkley, swinging a leg. 'I hope you have the Johnson well stocked with food

as well as with cigars, cigarettes and tobaccos, ales, wines and liquors. We

shall need them. There is already famine in the house of Walkley. I have

discovered that the system of transportation for our gallant soldiery does

not strike in me the admiration which I have often felt when viewing the

management of an ordinary bun-shop. A hunger, stifling, jammed together amid

odours, and everybody irritable -- ye gods, how irritable! And so I -- Look!


The Jefferson G. Johnson, well known to them at an incredible distance,

could be seen striding the broad sea, the smoke belching from her funnel,

headed for Jamaica. 'The Army Lands in Cuba!' shrieked Walkley. 'Shafter's

Army Lands near Santiago! Special type! Half the front page! Oh, the

Sadducee! The cadaver! The pelican!'

Little Nell was dumb with astonishment and fear. Walkley, however, was at

least not dumb. 'That's the pelican! That's Mr. Rogers making his first

impression upon the situation. He has engraved himself upon us. We are

tattooed with him. There will be a fight to-morrow, sure, and we will cover

it even as you found Cervera's fleet. No food, no horses, no money. I am

transport-lame; you are sea-weak. We will never see our salaries again.

Whereby Rogers is a fool.'

'Anybody else here?' asked Little Nell wearily.

'Only young Point.' Point was an artist on the Eclipse. 'But he has

nothing. Pity there wasn't an almshouse in this God-forsaken country. Here

comes Point now.' A sad-faced man came along carrying much luggage. 'Hello,

Point! lithographer and genius, have you food? Food. Well, then, you had

better return yourself to Tampa by wire. You are no good here. Only one more

little mouth to feed.'

Point seated himself near Little Nell. 'I haven't had anything to eat

since daybreak,' he said gloomily, 'and I don't care much, for I am simply


'Don't tell me you are dog-tired, my talented friend,' cried

Walkley from his hammock. 'Think of me. And now what's to be done?'

They stared for a time disconsolately at where, over the rim of the sea,

trailed black smoke from the Johnson. From the landing-place below and to

the right came the howls of a man who was superintending the disembarkation

of some mules. The burning block-house still rendered its hollow roar.

Suddenly the men-crowded landing set up its cheer, and the steamers all

whistled long and raucously. Tiny black figures were raising an American

flag over a block-house on the top of a great hill.

'That's mighty fine Sunday stuff,' said Little Nell. 'Well, I'll go and

get the order in which the regiments landed, and who was first ashore, and

all that. Then I'll go and try to find General Lawton's headquarters. His

division has got the advance, I think.'

'And lo! I will write a burning description of the raising of the flag,'

said Walkley. 'While the brilliant Point buskies for food -- and makes damn

sure he gets it,' he added fiercely.

Little Nell thereupon wandered over the face of the earth, threading out

the story of the landing of the regiments. He only found about fifty men who

had been the first American soldiers to set foot on Cuba, and of these he

took the most probable. The army was going forward in detail, as soon as the

pieces were landed. There was a house something like a crude country tavern

-- the soldiers in it were looking over their rifles and talking. There was

a well of water quite hot -- more palm trees -- an inscrutable background.

When he arrived again at Walkley's mansion he found the verandah crowded

with correspondents in khaki, duck, dungaree, and flannel. They wore

riding-breeches, but that was mainly forethought. They could see now that

fate intended them to walk. Some were writing copy, while Walkley discoursed

from his hammock. Rhodes -- doomed to be shot in action some days later --

was trying to borrow a canteen from men who had one, and from men who had

none. Young Point, wan, utterly worn out, was asleep on the floor. Walkley

pointed to him. 'That is how he appears after his foraging journey, during

which he ran all Cuba through a sieve. Oh, yes; a can of corn and a

half-bottle of lime juice.'

'Say, does anybody know the name of the commander of the 26th Infantry?'

'Who commands the first brigade of Kent's Division?'

'What was the name of the chap that raised the flag?'

'What time is it?'

And a woeful man was wandering here and there with a cold pipe, saying

plaintively, 'Who's got a match? Anybody here got a match?'

Little Nell's left boot hurt him at the heel, and so he removed it,

taking great care and whistling through his teeth. The heated dust was upon

them all, making everybody feel that bathing was unknown and shattering

their tempers. Young Point developed a snore which brought grim sarcasm from

all quarters. Always, below, hummed the traffic of the landing-place.

When night came Little Nell thought best not to go to bed until late,

because he recognised the mackintosh as but a feeble comfort. The evening

was a glory. A breeze came from the sea, fanning spurts of flame out of the

ashes and charred remains of the sheds, while overhead lay a splendid

summer-night sky, aflash with great tranquil stars. In the streets of the

village were two or three fires, frequently and suddenly reddening with

their glare the figures of low-voiced men who moved here and there. The

lights of the transports blinked on the murmuring plain in front of the

village; and far to the westward Little Nell could sometimes note a subtle

indication of a playing search-light, which alone marked the presence of the

invisible battleships, half-mooned about the entrance of Santiago Harbour,

waiting -- waiting -- waiting.

When Little Nell returned to the verandah he stumbled along a man-strewn

place, until he came to the spot where he left his mackintosh; but he found

it gone. His curses mingled then with those of the men upon whose bodies he

had trodden. Two English correspondents, lying awake to smoke a last pipe,

half rose and looked at him lazily. 'What's wrong, old chap?' murmured one.

'Eh? Lost it, eh? Well, look here; come here and take a bit of my blanket.

It's a jolly big one. Oh, no trouble at all, man. There you are. Got enough?

Comfy? Good-night.'

A sleepy voice arose in the darkness. 'If this hammock breaks, I shall

hit at least ten of those Indians down there. Never mind. This is war.'

The men slept. Once the sound of three or four shots rang across the

windy night, and one head uprose swiftly from the

verandah, two eyes looked dazedly at nothing, and the head as swiftly sank.

Again a sleepy voice was heard. 'Usual thing! Nervous sentries!' The men

slept. Before dawn a pulseless, penetrating chill came into the air, and the

correspondents awakened, shivering into a blue world. Some of the fires

still smouldered. Walkley and Little Nell kicked vigorously into Point's

framework. 'Come on, brilliance! Wake up, talent! Don't be sodgering. It's

too cold to sleep, but it's not too cold to hustle.' Point sat up dolefully.

Upon his face was a childish expression. 'Where are we going to get

breakfast?' he asked, sulking.

'There's no breakfast for you, you hound! Get up and hustle.' Accordingly

they hustled. With exceeding difficulty they learned that nothing emotional

had happened during the night, save the killing of two Cubans who were so

secure in ignorance that they could not understand the challenge of two

American sentries. Then Walkley ran a gamut of commanding officers, and

Little Nell pumped privates for their impressions of Cuba. When his

indignation at the absence of breakfast allowed him, Point made sketches. At

the full break of day the Adolphus, an Eclipse despatch boat, sent a boat

ashore with Tailor and Shackles in it, and Walkley departed tearlessly for

Jamaica, soon after he had bestowed upon his friends much tinned goods and


'Well, we've got our stuff off,' said Little Nell. 'Now Point and I must


Shackles, for some reason, carried a great hunting-knife, and with it

Little Nell opened a tin of beans.

'Fall to,' he said amiably to Point.

There were some hard biscuits. Afterwards they -- the four of them --

marched off on the route of the troops. They were well loaded with luggage,

particularly young Point, who had somehow made a great gathering of

unnecessary things. Hills covered with verdure soon enclosed them. They

heard that the army had advanced some nine miles with no fighting. Evidences

of the rapid advance were here and there -- coats, gauntlets, blanket-rolls

on the ground. Mule-trains came herding back along the narrow trail to the

sound of a little tinkling bell. Cubans were appropriating the coats and


The four correspondents hurried onward. The surety of impending battle

weighed upon them always, but there was a

score of minor things more intimate. Little Nell's left heel had chafed

until it must have been quite raw, and every moment he wished to take seat

by the roadside and console himself from pain. Shackles and Point disliked

each other extremely, and often they foolishly quarrelled over something, or

nothing. The blanket-rolls and packages for the hand oppressed everybody. It

was like being burned out of a boarding-house, and having to carry one's

trunk eight miles to the nearest neighbour. Moreover, Point, since he had

stupidly overloaded, with great wisdom placed various cameras and other

trifles in the hands of his three less-burdened and more sensible friends.

This made them fume and gnash, but in complete silence, since he was

hideously youthful and innocent and unaware. They all wished to rebel, but

none of them saw their way clear, because -- they did not understand -- but

somehow it seemed a barbarous project -- no one wanted to say anything --

cursed him privately for a little ass, but -- said nothing. For instance,

Little Nell wished to remark, 'Point, you are not a thoroughbred in a half

of a way. You are an inconsiderate, thoughtless little swine.' But, in

truth, he said, 'Point, when you started out you looked like a

Christmas-tree. If we keep on robbing you of your bundles there soon won't

be anything left for the children.' Point asked dubiously, 'What do you

mean?' Little Nell merely laughed with deceptive good-nature.

They were always very thirsty. There was always a howl for the

half-bottle of lime juice. Five or six drops from it were simply heavenly in

the warm water from the canteens. Point seemed to try to keep the lime juice

in his possession, in order that he might get more benefit of it. Before the

war was ended the others found themselves declaring vehemently that they

loathed Point, and yet when men asked them the reason they grew quite

inarticulate. The reasons seemed then so small, so childish, as the reasons

of a lot of women. And yet at the time his offences loomed enormous.

The surety of impending battle still weighed upon them. Then it came that

Shackles turned seriously ill. Suddenly he dropped his own and much of

Point's traps upon the trail, wriggled out of his blanket-roll, flung it

away, and took seat heavily at the roadside. They saw with surprise that his

face was pale as death, and yet streaming with sweat.

'Boys,' he said in his ordinary voice, 'I'm clean played out.

I can't go another step. You fellows go on, and leave me to come as soon as

I am able.'

'Oh, no, that wouldn't do at all,' said Little Nell and Tailor together.

Point moved over to a soft place, and dropped amid whatever traps he was

himself carrying.

'Don't know whether it's ancestral or merely from the -- sun -- but I've

got a stroke,' said Shackles, and gently slumped over to a prostrate

position before either Little Nell or Tailor could reach him.

Thereafter Shackles was parental; it was Little Nell and Tailor who were

really suffering from a stroke, either ancestral or from the sun.

'Put my blanket-roll under my head, Nell, me son,' he said gently. 'There

now! That is very nice. It is delicious. Why, I'm all right, only -- only

tired.' He closed his eyes, and something like an easy slumber came over

him. Once he opened his eyes. 'Don't trouble about me,' he remarked.

But the two fussed about him, nervous, worried, discussing this plan and

that plan. It was Point who first made a business-like statement. Seated

carelessly and indifferently upon his soft place, he finally blurted out:

'Say! Look here! Some of us have got to go on. We can't all stay here.

Some of us have got to go on.'

It was quite true; the Eclipse could take no account of strokes. In the

end Point and Tailor went on, leaving Little Nell to bring on Shackles as

soon as possible. The latter two spent many hours in the grass by the

roadside. They made numerous abrupt acquaintances with passing staff

officers, privates, muleteers, many stopping to inquire the wherefore of the

death-faced figure on the ground. Favours were done often and often, by peer

and peasant -- small things, of no consequence, and yet warming.

It was dark when Shackles and Little Nell had come slowly to where they

could hear the murmur of the army's bivouac.

'Shack,' gasped Little Nell to the man leaning forlornly upon him, 'I

guess we'd better bunk down here where we stand.'

'All right, old boy. Anything you say,' replied Shackles, in the bass and

hollow voice which arrives with such condition.

They crawled into some bushes, and distributed their belongings upon the

ground. Little Nell spread out the blankets, andgenerally played housemaid.

Then they lay down, supperless, being too weary to eat. The men slept.

At dawn Little Nell awakened and looked wildly for Shackles, whose empty

blanket was pressed flat like a wet newspaper on the ground. But at nearly

the same moment Shackles appeared, elate.

'Come on,' he cried; 'I've rustled an invitation for breakfast.'

Little Nell came on with celerity.

'Where? Who?' he said.

'Oh! some officers,' replied Shackles airily. If he had been ill the

previous day, he showed it now only in some curious kind of deference he

paid to Little Nell.

Shackles conducted his comrade, and soon they arrived at where a captain

and his one subaltern arose courteously from where they were squatting near

a fire of little sticks. They wore the wide white trouser-stripes of

infantry officers, and upon the shoulders of their blue campaign shirts were

the little marks of their rank; but otherwise there was little beyond their

manners to render them different from the men who were busy with breakfast

near them.

The breakfast was of canned tomatoes stewed with hard bread, more hard

bread, and coffee. It was very good fare, almost royal. Shackles and Little

Nell were absurdly grateful as they felt the hot bitter coffee tingle in

them. But they departed joyfully before the sun was fairly up, and passed

into Siboney.

The beach at Siboney was furious with traffic, even as had been the beach

at Daqueri. Launches shouted, jack-tars prodded with their boathooks, and

load of men followed load of men. Straight, parade-like, on the shore stood

a trumpeter playing familiar calls to the troop-horses who swam towards him

eagerly through the salt seas. Crowding closely into the cove were

transports of all sizes and ages. To the left and to the right of the little

landing-beach green hills shot upward like the wings in a theatre. They were

scarred here and there with block-houses and rifle-pits. Up one hill a

regiment was crawling, seemingly inch by inch. Shackles and Little Nell

walked among palms and scrubby bushes, near pools, over spaces of sand

holding little monuments of biscuit-boxes, ammunition-boxes, and supplies of

all kinds. Some regiment was just collecting itself from the ships, and the

men made great patches of blue on the brown sand.

Shackles asked a question of a man accidentally: 'Where's

that regiment going to?' He pointed to the force that was crawling up the

hill. The man grinned, and said, 'They're going to look for a fight!'

'Looking for a fight!' said Shackles and Little Nell together. They

stared into each other's eyes. Then they set off for the foot of the hill.

The hill was long and toilsome. Below them spread wider and wider a vista of

ships quiet on a grey sea; a busy, black dis-embarkation-place; tall, still,

green hills; a village of well-separated cottages; palms; a bit of road;

soldiers marching. They passed vacant Spanish trenches; little twelve-foot

block-houses. Soon they were on a fine upland near the sea. The path, under

ordinary conditions, must have been a beautiful wooded way. It wound in the

shade of thickets of fine trees, then through rank growths of bushes with

revealed and fantastic roots, then through a grassy space which had all the

beauty of a neglected orchard. But always from under their feet scuttled

noisy land-crabs, demons to the nerves, which is some way possessed a

semblance of moon-like faces upon their blue or red bodies, and these faces

were turned with expressions of deepest horror upon Shackles and Little Nell

as they sped to overtake the pugnacious regiment. The route was paved with

coats, hats, tent and blankets, rolls, ration-tins, haversacks -- everything

but ammunition belts, rifles and canteens.

They heard a dull noise of voices in front of them -- men talking too

loud for the etiquette of the forest -- and presently they came upon two or

three soldiers lying by the roadside, flame-faced, utterly spent from the

hurried march in the heat. One man came limping back along the path. He

looked to them anxiously for sympathy and comprehension. 'Hurt m' knee. I

swear I couldn't keep up with th' boys. I had to leave 'm. Wasn't that tough

luck?' His collar rolled away from a red muscular neck, and his bare

forearms were better than stanchions. Yet he was almost babyishly tearful in

his attempt to make the two correspondents feel that he had not turned back

because he was afraid. They gave him scant courtesy, tinctured with one drop

of sympathetic yet cynical understanding. Soon they overtook the hospital

squad; men addressing chaste language to some pack-mules; a talkative

sergeant; two amiable cool-eyed young surgeons. Soon they were amid the rear

troops of the dismounted volunteer cavalry regiment which was moving to

attack. The men strode easily along, arguing one to another on ulterior

matters. If they were going into battle, they either did

not know it or they concealed it well. They were more like men going into a

bar at one o'clock in the morning. Their laughter rang through the Cuban

woods. And in the meantime, soft, mellow, sweet, sang the voice of the Cuban

wood-dove, the Spanish guerilla calling to his mate -- forest music; on the

flanks, deep back on both flanks, the adorable wood-dove, singing only of

love. Some of the advancing Americans said it was beautiful. It was

beautiful. The Spanish guerilla calling to his mate. What could be more


Shackles and Little Nell rushed precariously through waist-high bushes

until they reached the centre of the single-filed regiment. The firing then

broke out in front. All the woods set up a hot sputtering; the bullets sped

along the path and across it from both sides. The thickets presented nothing

but dense masses of light green foliage, out of which these swift steel

things were born supernaturally.

It was a volunteer regiment going into its first action, against an enemy

of unknown force, in a country where the vegetation was thicker than fur on

a cat. There might have been a dreadful mess; but in military matters the

only way to deal with a situation of this kind is to take it frankly by the

throat and squeeze it to death. Shackles and Little Nell felt the thrill of

the orders. 'Come ahead, men! Keep right ahead, men! Come on!' The volunteer

cavalry regiment, with all the willingness in the world, went ahead into the

angle of a V-shaped Spanish formation.

It seemed that every leaf had turned into a soda-bottle and was popping

its cork. Some of the explosions seemed to be against the men's very faces,

others against the backs of their necks. 'Now, men! Keep goin' ahead. Keep

on goin'.' The forward troops were already engaged. They, at least, had

something at which to shoot. 'Now, captain, if you're ready.' 'Stop that

swearing there.' 'Got a match?' 'Steady, now, men.'

A gate appeared in a barbed-wire fence. Within were billowy fields of

long grass, dotted with palms and luxuriant mango trees. It was Elysian -- a

place for lovers, fair as Eden in its radiance of sun, under its blue sky.

One might have expected to see white-robed figures walking slowly in the

shadows. A dead man, with a bloody face, lay twisted in a curious contortion

at the waist. Some one was shot in the leg, his pins knocked cleanly from

under him.

'Keep goin', men.' The air roared, and the ground fled reelingly under

their feet. Light, shadow, trees, grass. Bullets

spat from every side. Once they were in a thicket, and the men, blanched and

bewildered, turned one way, and then another, not knowing which way to turn.

'Keep goin', men.' Soon they were in the sunlight again. They could see the

long scant line, which was being drained man by man -- one might say drop by

drop. The musketry rolled forth in great full measure from the magazine

carbines. 'Keep goin', men.' 'Christ, I'm shot!' 'They're flankin' us, sir.'

'We're bein' fired into by our own crowd, sir.' 'Keep goin', men.' A low

ridge before them was a bottling establishment blowing up in detail. From

the right -- it seemed at that time to be the far right -- they could hear

steady, crashing volleys -- the United States regulars in action.

Then suddenly -- to use a phrase of the street -- the whole bottom of the

thing fell out. It was suddenly and mysteriously ended. The Spaniards had

run away, and some of the regulars were chasing them. It was a victory.

When the wounded men dropped in the tall grass they quite disappeared, as

if they had sunk in water. Little Nell and Shackles were walking along

through the fields, disputing.

'Well, damn it, man!' cried Shackles, 'we must get a list of the killed

and wounded.'

'That is not nearly so important,' quoth Little Nell, academically, 'as

to get the first account to New York of the first action of the army in


They came upon Tailor, lying with a bared torso and a small red hole

through his left lung. He was calm, but evidently out of temper. 'Good God,

Tailor!' they cried, dropping to their knees like two pagans; 'are you hurt,

old boy?'

'Hurt?' he said gently. 'No, 'tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a

church-door, but 'tis enough, d' you see? You understand, do you? Idiots!'

Then he became very official. 'Shackles, feel and see what's under my

leg. It's a small stone, or a burr, or something. Don't be clumsy now! Be

careful! Be careful!' Then he said, angrily, 'Oh, you didn't find it at all.

Damn it!'

In reality there was nothing there, and so Shackles could not have

removed it. 'Sorry, old boy,' he said, meekly.

'Well, you may observe that I can't stay here more than a year,' said

Tailor, with some oratory, 'and the hospital people have their own work in

hand. It behoves you, Nell, to fly to Siboney, arrest a despatch boat, get a

cot and some other things, and some minions to carry me. If I get once down

to the base I'm all right, but if I stay here I'm dead. Meantime Shackles can stay here

and try to look as if he liked it.'

There was no disobeying the man. Lying there with a little red hole in

his left lung, he dominated them through his helplessness, and through their

fear that if they angered him he would move and -- bleed.

'Well?' said Little Nell.

'Yes,' said Shackles, nodding.

Little Nell departed.

'That blanket you lent me,' Tailor called after him, 'is back there

somewhere with Point.'

Little Nell noted that many of the men who were wandering among the

wounded seemed so spent with the toil and excitement of their first action

that they could hardly drag one leg after the other. He found himself

suddenly in the same condition. His face, his neck, even his mouth, felt dry

as sun-baked bricks, and his legs were foreign to him. But he swung

desperately into his five-mile task. On the way he passed many things:

bleeding men carried by comrades; others making their way grimly, with

encrimsoned arms; then the little settlement of the hospital squad; men on

the ground everywhere, many in the path; one young captain dying, with great

gasps, his body pale blue, and glistening, like the inside of a rabbit's

skin. But the voice of the Cuban wood-dove, soft, mellow, sweet, singing

only of love, was no longer heard from the wealth of foliage.

Presently the hurrying correspondent met another regiment coming to

assist -- a line of a th>

Transfer interrupted!

jungle. 'Well,

how is it going, old man?' 'How is it coming on?' 'Are we doin' 'em?' Then,

after an interval, came other regiments, moving out. He had to take to the

bush to let these long lines pass him, and he was delayed, and had to

flounder amid brambles. But at last, like a successful pilgrim, he arrived

at the brow of the great hill overlooking Siboney. His practised eye scanned

the fine broad brow of the sea with its clustering ships, but he saw thereon

no Eclipse despatch boats. He zigzagged heavily down the hill, and arrived

finally amid the dust and outcries of the base. He seemed to ask a thousand

men if they had seen an Eclipse boat on the water, or an Eclipse

correspondent on the shore. They all answered, 'No.'

He was like a poverty-stricken and unknown suppliant at a foreign Court.

Even his plea got only ill-hearings. He had expected the news of the serious

wounding of Tailor to appal the other correspondents, but they took it quite calmly.

It was as if theirsense of an impending great battle between two large armies had

quite got them out of focus for these minor tragedies. Tailor was hurt -- yes? They

looked at Little Nell, dazed. How curious that Tailor should be almost the

first -- how very curious -- yes! But, as far as arousing them to any

enthusiasm of active pity, it seemed impossible. He was lying up there in

the grass, was he? Too bad, too bad, too bad!

Little Nell went alone and lay down in the sand with his back against a

rock. Tailor was prostrate up there in the grass. Never mind. Nothing was to

be done. The whole situation was too colossal. Then into his zone came

Walkley the invincible.

'Walkley!' yelled Little Nell. Walkley came quickly, and Little Nell lay

weakly against his rock and talked. In thirty seconds Walkley understood

everything, had hurled a drink of whisky into Little Nell, had admonished

him to lie quiet, and had gone to organise and manipulate. When he returned

he was a trifle dubious and backward. Behind him was a singular squad of

volunteers from the Adolphus, carrying among them a wire-woven bed.

'Look here, Nell!' said Walkley, in bashful accents; 'I've collected a

battalion here which is willing to go bring Tailor; but -- they say -- you

-- can't you show them where he is?'

'Yes,' said Little Nell, arising.

When the party arrived at Siboney, and deposited Tailor in the best

place, Walkley had found a house and stocked it with canned soups. Therein

Shackles and Little Nell revelled for a time, and then rolled on the floor

in their blankets. Little Nell tossed a great deal. 'Oh, I'm so tired. Good

God, I'm tired. I'm -- tired.'

In the morning a voice aroused them. It was a swollen, important, circus

voice, saying, 'Where is Mr. Nell? I wish to see him immediately.'

'Here I am, Rogers,' cried Little Nell.

'Oh, Nell,' said Rogers, 'here's a despatch to me which I thought you had

better read.'

Little Nell took the despatch. It was: 'Tell Nell can't understand his

inaction; tell him come home first steamer from Port Antonio, Jamaica.'