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over his propensity for sarcasm. "If ghosts et like you there'd have to be a steam bakery an' a pork packery run in connection with every graveyard."
"And I'd never take no ghost to board," said Billy.
"Come, Si," said Jimmy Barlow, filling his briarwood pipe with kinnikinnick, lighting it from the fire, taking a few puffs to start it, and handing it to Si, "tell us just what happened to you. We're dyin' to hear."
"Well," said Si, settling down with the pipe into a comfortable position, "I don't know what happened. Last thing I knowed I wuz runnin' ahead on Shorty's left, loadin' my gun, an' tryin' to keep up with the Colonel's hoss. Next thing I knowed I wuz wakin' up at the foot of a black-oak. Everything was quiet around me, except the yellin' of two or three wounded men a little ways off. At first I thought a cannonball' d knocked my whole head off. Then it occurred to me that if my head was knocked off I couldn't hear nor see."
"Nor think, even," injected Shorty.
"No, nor think, even. For what'd you think with?"
"I know some fellers that seem to think with their feet, and that blamed awkwardly," mused Shorty.
"I kept on wakin' up," continued Si. "At first I thought I had no head at all, an' then it seemed to me I was all head, it hurt so awfully. I couldn't move hand nor foot. Then I thought mebbe only half my head was shot away, an' the rest was aching for all.120
"I tried shuttin' one eye an' then the other, an' found I'd at least both eyes left. I moved my head a little, an' found that the back part was still there, for a bump on the roots of the oak hurt it.
"By-and-by the numbness began to go out of my head an' arm, but I was afraid to put my hand up to my head, for I was afraid to find out how much was gone. Nearly the whole of the left side must be gone, an' all my schoolin' scattered over the ground. I lay there thinkin' it all over how awful I'd look when you fellers came to find me and bury me, an' how you wouldn't dare tell the folks at home about it.
"Finally, I got plum desperate. I didn't seem to be dyin', but to be gettin' better every minute. I determined to find out just however much of my head was really gone. I put up my hand, timid-like, an' felt my forehead. It was all there. I passed my hand back over my hair an' the whole back of my head was there. I felt around carefully, an' there was the whole side of my head, only a little wet where I'd got a spent ball. Then I got mad an' I jumped up. Think of my makin' all that fuss over a little peck that might have been made by a brick-bat. I started out to hunt you fellers, an' here I am."
"Yes, but you wouldn't 've bin here," philosophized Shorty, examining the wound, "if the feller that fired that shot'd given his gun a little hunch. If that bullet'd went a half-inch deeper, you'd be up among the stars a bow-legged Wabash angel."
"Well, we've licked the stuffin' out of 'em at last, haven't we?" asked Si.
"Well, I should say we had," replied Shorty with an impressive whistle. "I thought the artillery would121 tear the foundations out of the whole State of Tennessee, the way it let into them. There won't ba more crashin' an' bangin' when the world breaks up. I'd a-bin willin' to serve 100 years just to see that sight. Lord, what a chance the cannoneers had. First time I ever wanted to be in the artillery. The way they slung whole blacksmith shops over into them woods, an' smashed down trees, and wiped out whole brigades at a clip, filled my soul with joy."
"We must go over there in the mornin' an' take a look at the place," said Si drowsily. "It will be good to remember alongside o' the way they slapped it to us the first day."
Si and Shorty woke up the next morning to find the chill rain pouring down as if the country had been suffering from a year's drouth, and the rain was going to make up for it in one forenoon.
"Lord have mercy," said the disgusted Shorty, as he fell into line for roll-call. "Another seepin', soppin', sloshin', spatterin' day. Only had 14 of 'em this week so far. Should think the geese 'd carry umbrellas, an' the cows wear overshoes in this, land of eternal drizzle. If I ever get home they'll have to run me through a brick-kiln to dry me out."
In spite of the down-pour the army was forming up rapidly to resume the advance upon Murfreesboro', and over the ground on the left, that had proved so disastrous to the rebels the day before.
While the 200th Ind. was getting ready to fall in, the sick-call sounded, and the Orderly-Sergeant remarked to Si:
"Fall into this squad, Corporal Klegg."
"What for?" asked Si, looking askance at the squad.122
"To go to the Surgeon's tent," answered the Orderly-Sergeant. "This is the sick squad."
"That's what I thought," answered Si; "an' that's the reason I ain't goin' to join it."
"But your head's bigger'n a bushel, Si," remonstrated the Sergeant. "Better let the doctor see it."
"I don't want none of his bluemass or quinine," persisted Si. "That's all he ever gives for anything. The swellin' 'll come out o' my head in time, same as it does out o' other people's."
"Corporal, I'll excuse you from duty to-day," said the Captain kindly. "I really think you ought to go to the Surgeon."
"If you don't mind, Captain," said Si, saluting, "I'll stay with the boys. I want to see this thing to the end. My head won't hurt me half so bad as if I was back gruntin' 'round in the hospital."
"Probably you are right," said the Captain. "Come along, then."
Willing and brave as the men were, the movements were tiresomely slow and laggard. The week of marching and lying unsheltered in the rain, of terrific fighting, and of awful anxiety had brought about mental and physical exhaustion. The men were utterly worn out in body and mind. This is usually the case in every great battle. Both sides struggle with all their mental and physical powers, until both are worn out. The one that can make just a little more effort than the other wins the victory. This was emphatically so in the battle of Stone River. The rebels had exhausted themselves, even, more in their assaults than the union men had in repelling them.
When, therefore, the long line of blue labored123 slowly through the mud and the drenching rain up the gentle slopes on the farther side of Stone River, the rebels sullenly gave ground before them. At last a point was reached which commanded a view of Murfreesboro' and the rebel position. The rebels were seen to be in retreat, and the exhausted Army of the Cumberland was mighty glad to have them go.
As soon as it was certain that the enemy was really abandoning the bitterly-contested field, an inexpressible weariness overwhelmed everybody. The 200th Ind. could scarcely drag one foot after another as it moved back to find a suitable camping-ground.
Si and Shorty crawled into a cedar thicket, broke down some brush for a bed, laid a pole in two crotches, leaned some brush against it to make a par tial shelter, built a fire, and sat down.
"I declare, I never knew what being tuckered out was before," said Si. "And it's come to me all of a sudden. This morning I felt as if I could do great things, but the minute I found that them rebels was really going, my legs begun to sink under me."
"Same way with me," accorded Shorty. "Don't believe I've got strength enough left to pull a settin' hen offen her nest. But we can't be drowned out this way. We must fix up some better shelter."
"The Colonel says there's a wagon-load o' rations on the way here," said Si, sinking wearily down on the ground by the fire, and putting out his hands over the feeble blaze. "Let's wait till we git something to eat. Mebbe we'll feel more like work after we've eaten something."
"Si Klegg," said Shorty sternly, but settling down himself on the other side of the fire, "I never knowed124 you to flop down before. You've always bin, if any thing, forwarder than me. I was in hopes now that you'd take me by the back o' the neck and try to shake some o' this laziness out o' me."