All about them were other small fires surrounded by men with their little black utensils. From one of these near came sudden sharp voices in a row. It appeared that two light-footed soldiers had been teasing a huge, bearded man, causing him to spill coffee upon his blue knees. The man had gone into a rage and had sworn comprehensively. Stung by his language, his tormentors had immediately bristled at him with a great show of resenting unjust oaths. Possibly there was going to be a fight.
The friend arose and went over to them, making pacific motions with his arms. "Oh, here, now, boys, what's th' use?" he said. "We'll be at th' rebs in less'n an hour. What's th' good fightin' 'mong ourselves?"
One of the light-footed soldiers turned upon him red-faced and violent. "Yeh needn't come around here with yer preachin'. I s'pose yeh don't approve 'a fightin' since Charley Morgan licked yeh; but I don't see what business this here is 'a yours or anybody else."
"Well, it ain't," said the friend mildly. "Still I hate t' see — "
There was a tangled argument.
"Well, he — ," said the two, indicating their opponent with accusative forefingers.
The huge soldier was quite purple with rage. He pointed at the two soldiers with his great hand, extended clawlike. "Well, they — "
But during this argumentative time the desire to deal blows seemed to pass, although they said much to each other. Finally the friend returned to his old seat. In a short while the three antagonists could be seen together in an amiable bunch.
"Jimmie Rogers ses I'll have t' fight him after th' battle t'-day," announced the friend as he again seated himself. "He ses he don't allow no interferin' in his business. I hate t' see th' boys fightin' 'mong themselves."
The youth laughed. "Yer changed a good bit. Yeh ain't at all like yeh was. I remember when you an' that Irish feller — " He stopped and laughed again.
"No, I didn't use t' be that way," said his friend thoughtfully. "That's true 'nough."
"Well, I didn't mean — " began the youth.
The friend made another deprecatory gesture. "Oh, yeh needn't mind, Henry."
There was another little pause.
"Th' reg'ment lost over half th' men yestirday," remarked the friend eventually. "I thought 'a course they was all dead, but, laws, they kep' a-comin' back last night until it seems, after all, we didn't lose but a few. They'd been scattered all over, wanderin' around in th' woods, fightin' with other reg'ments, an' everything. Jest like you done."
"So?" said the youth.
a heraldic wind of the day a morning breeze which will be the harbinger of the things that will transpire on this day.
a charnel place a place where corpses are deposited.
the soldier's bath the act of yawning and stretching at daybreak.
the rebs rebels, Confederate soldiers.
light-footed soldiers smaller men who are able to move quickly.