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An Indiana Campaign
by [?]


When the able-bodied citizens of the village formed a company and marched away to the war, Major Tom Boldin assumed in a manner the burden of the village cares. Everybody ran to him when they felt obliged to discuss their affairs. The sorrows of the town were dragged before him. His little bench at the sunny side of Migglesville tavern became a sort of an open court where people came to speak resentfully of their grievances. He accepted his position and struggled manfully under the load. It behoved him, as a man who had seen the sky red over the quaint, low cities of Mexico, and the compact Northern bayonets gleaming on the narrow roads.

One warm summer day the major sat asleep on his little bench. There was a lull in the tempest of discussion which usually enveloped him. His cane, by use of which he could make the most tremendous and impressive gestures, reposed beside him. His hat lay upon the bench, and his old bald head had swung far forward until his nose actually touched the first button of his waistcoat.

The sparrows wrangled desperately in the road, defying perspiration. Once a team went jangling and creaking past, raising a yellow blur of dust before the soft tones of the field and sky. In the long grass of the meadow across the road the insects chirped and clacked eternally.

Suddenly a frouzy-headed boy appeared in the roadway, his bare feet pattering rapidly. He was extremely excited. He gave a shrill whoop as he discovered the sleeping major and rushed toward him. He created a terrific panic among some chickens who had been scratching intently near the major’s feet. They clamoured in an insanity of fear, and rushed hither and thither seeking a way of escape, whereas in reality all ways lay plainly open to them.

This tumult caused the major to arouse with a sudden little jump of amazement and apprehension. He rubbed his eyes and gazed about him. Meanwhile, some clever chicken had discovered a passage to safety, and led the flock into the garden, where they squawked in sustained alarm.

Panting from his run and choked with terror, the little boy stood before the major, struggling with a tale that was ever upon the tip of his tongue.


The old man, roused from a delicious slumber, glared impatiently at the little boy. “Come, come! What’s th’ matter with yeh?” he demanded. “What’s th’ matter? Don’t stand there shaking! Speak up!”

“Lots is th’ matter!” the little boy shouted valiantly, with a courage born of the importance of his tale. “My ma’s chickens ‘uz all stole, an’– now–he’s over in th’ woods!”

“Who is? Who is over in the woods? Go ahead!”

“Now–th’ rebel is!”

“What?” roared the major.

“Th’ rebel!” cried the little boy, with the last of his breath.

The major pounced from his bench in tempestuous excitement. He seized the little boy by the collar and gave him a great jerk. “Where? Are yeh sure? Who saw ‘im? How long ago? Where is he now? Did you see ‘im?”

The little boy, frightened at the major’s fury, began to sob. After a moment he managed to stammer: “He–now–he’s in the woods. I saw ‘im. He looks uglier’n anythin’.”

The major released his hold upon the boy, and pausing for a time, indulged in a glorious dream. Then he said: “By thunder! we’ll ketch th’ cuss. You wait here,” he told the boy, “and don’t say a word t’ anybody. Do you hear?”

The boy, still weeping, nodded, and the major hurriedly entered the inn. He took down from its pegs an awkward smooth-bore rifle and carefully examined the enormous percussion cap that was fitted over the nipple. Mistrusting the cap, he removed it and replaced it with a new one. He scrutinised the gun keenly, as if he could judge in this manner of the condition of the load. All his movements were deliberate and deadly.