PART II - IN SPAIN
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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.
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. . . .
. . . 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. . .
. . . 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.