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
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
'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?
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
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
Point moved over to a soft place, and dropped amid whatever traps he was
'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
'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
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
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
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
'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
'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
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
'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,
'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?
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.
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>
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
'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
Little Nell took the despatch. It was: 'Tell Nell can't understand his
inaction; tell him come home first steamer from Port Antonio, Jamaica.'