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    Chapter 13

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    Chapter 13
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    CHAPTER XIII - GENERAL ALISON TO HIS MOTHER

    It was a prodigious trip, but delightful, of course, through the
    Rockies and the Black Hills and the mighty sweep of the Great
    Plains to civilization and the Missouri border - where the
    railroading began and the delightfulness ended. But no one is the
    worse for the journey; certainly not Cathy, nor Dorcas, nor Soldier
    Boy; and as for me, I am not complaining.

    Spain is all that Cathy had pictured it - and more, she says. She
    is in a fury of delight, the maddest little animal that ever was,
    and all for joy. She thinks she remembers Spain, but that is not
    very likely, I suppose. The two - Mercedes and Cathy - devour each
    other. It is a rapture of love, and beautiful to see. It is
    Spanish; that describes it. Will this be a short visit?

    No. It will be permanent. Cathy has elected to abide with Spain
    and her aunt. Dorcas says she (Dorcas) foresaw that this would
    happen; and also says that she wanted it to happen, and says the
    child's own country is the right place for her, and that she ought
    not to have been sent to me, I ought to have gone to her. I
    thought it insane to take Soldier Boy to Spain, but it was well
    that I yielded to Cathy's pleadings; if he had been left behind,
    half of her heart would have remained with him, and she would not
    have been contented. As it is, everything has fallen out for the
    best, and we are all satisfied and comfortable. It may be that
    Dorcas and I will see America again some day; but also it is a case
    of maybe not.

    We left the post in the early morning. It was an affecting time.
    The women cried over Cathy, so did even those stern warriors, the
    Rocky Mountain Rangers; Shekels was there, and the Cid, and
    Sardanapalus, and Potter, and Mongrel, and Sour-Mash, Famine, and
    Pestilence, and Cathy kissed them all and wept; details of the
    several arms of the garrison were present to represent the rest,
    and say good-bye and God bless you for all the soldiery; and there
    was a special squad from the Seventh, with the oldest veteran at
    its head, to speed the Seventh's Child with grand honors and
    impressive ceremonies; and the veteran had a touching speech by
    heart, and put up his hand in salute and tried to say it, but his
    lips trembled and his voice broke, but Cathy bent down from the
    saddle and kissed him on the mouth and turned his defeat to
    victory, and a cheer went up.

    The next act closed the ceremonies, and was a moving surprise. It
    may be that you have discovered, before this, that the rigors of
    military law and custom melt insensibly away and disappear when a
    soldier or a regiment or the garrison wants to do something that
    will please Cathy. The bands conceived the idea of stirring her
    soldierly heart with a farewell which would remain in her memory
    always, beautiful and unfading, and bring back the past and its
    love for her whenever she should think of it; so they got their
    project placed before General Burnaby, my successor, who is Cathy's
    newest slave, and in spite of poverty of precedents they got his
    permission. The bands knew the child's favorite military airs. By
    this hint you know what is coming, but Cathy didn't. She was asked
    to sound the "reveille," which she did.

    [REVEILLE]

    With the last note the bands burst out with a crash: and woke the
    mountains with the "Star-Spangled Banner" in a way to make a body's
    heart swell and thump and his hair rise! It was enough to break a
    person all up, to see Cathy's radiant face shining out through her
    gladness and tears. By request she blew the "assembly," now. . . .

    [THE ASSEMBLY]

    . . . Then the bands thundered in, with "Rally round the flag,
    boys, rally once again!" Next, she blew another call ("to the
    Standard") . . .

    [TO THE STANDARD]

    . . . and the bands responded with "When we were marching through
    Georgia." Straightway she sounded "boots and saddles," that
    thrilling and most expediting call. . . .

    [BOOTS AND SADDLES]

    and the bands could hardly hold in for the final note; then they
    turned their whole strength loose on "Tramp, tramp, tramp, the boys
    are marching," and everybody's excitement rose to blood-heat.

    Now an impressive pause - then the bugle sang "TAPS" -
    translatable, this time, into "Good-bye, and God keep us all!" for
    taps is the soldier's nightly release from duty, and farewell:
    plaintive, sweet, pathetic, for the morning is never sure, for him;
    always it is possible that he is hearing it for the last time. . .
    .

    [TAPS]

    . . . Then the bands turned their instruments towards Cathy and
    burst in with that rollicking frenzy of a tune, "Oh, we'll all get
    blind drunk when Johnny comes marching home - yes, we'll all get
    blind drunk when Johnny comes marching home!" and followed it
    instantly with "Dixie," that antidote for melancholy, merriest and
    gladdest of all military music on any side of the ocean - and that
    was the end. And so - farewell!

    I wish you could have been there to see it all, hear it all, and
    feel it: and get yourself blown away with the hurricane huzza that
    swept the place as a finish.

    When we rode away, our main body had already been on the road an
    hour or two - I speak of our camp equipage; but we didn't move off
    alone: when Cathy blew the "advance" the Rangers cantered out in
    column of fours, and gave us escort, and were joined by White Cloud
    and Thunder -Bird in all their gaudy bravery, and by Buffalo Bill
    and four subordinate scouts. Three miles away, in the Plains, the
    Lieutenant-General halted, sat her horse like a military statue,
    the bugle at her lips, and put the Rangers through the evolutions
    for half an hour; and finally, when she blew the "charge," she led
    it herself. "Not for the last time," she said, and got a cheer,
    and we said good-bye all around, and faced eastward and rode away.

    POSTSCRIPT. A DAY LATER. Soldier Boy was stolen last night.
    Cathy is almost beside herself, and we cannot comfort her.
    Mercedes and I are not much alarmed about the horse, although this
    part of Spain is in something of a turmoil, politically, at
    present, and there is a good deal of lawlessness. In ordinary
    times the thief and the horse would soon be captured. We shall
    have them before long, I think.
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