Presently, however, they began to believe that in truth their efforts had been called light. The youth could see this conviction weight upon the entire regiment until the men were like cuffed and cursed animals, but withal rebellious.
The friend, with a grievance in his eye, went to the youth. "I wonder what he does want," he said. "He must think we went out there an' played marbles! I never see sech a man!"
The youth developed a tranquil philosophy for these moments of irritation. "Oh, well," he rejoined, "he probably didn't see nothing of it at all and god mad as blazes, and concluded we were a lot of sheep, just because we didn't do what he wanted done. It's a pity old Grandpa Henderson got killed yestirday — he'd have known that we did our best and fought good. It's just our awful luck, that's what."
"I should say so," replied the friend. He seemed to be deeply wounded at an injustice. "I should say we did have awful luck! There's no fun in fightin' fer people when everything yeh do — no matter what — ain't done right. I have a notion t' stay behind next time an' let 'em take their ol' charge an' go t' th' devil with it."
The youth spoke soothingly to his comrade. "Well, we both did good. I'd like to see the fool what'd say we both didn't do as good as we could!"
"Of course we did," declared the friend stoutly. "An' I'd break th' feller's neck if he was as big as a church. But we're all right, anyhow, for I heard one feller say that we two fit th' best in th' reg'ment, an' they had a great argument 'bout it. Another feller, 'a course, he had t' up an' say it was a lie — he seen all what was goin' on an' he never seen us from th' beginnin' t' th' end. An' a lot more stuck in an' ses it wasn't a lie — we did fight like thunder, an' they give us quite a sendoff. But this is what I can't stand — these everlastin' ol' soldiers, titterin' an' laughin', an then that general, he's crazy."
The youth exclaimed with sudden exasperation: "He's a lunkhead! He makes me mad. I wish he'd come along next time. We'd show 'im what — "
He ceased because several men had come hurrying up. Their faces expressed a bringing of great news.
"O Flem, yeh jest oughta heard!" cried one, eagerly.
"Heard what?" said the youth.
"Yeh jest oughta heard!" repeated the other, and he arranged himself to tell his tidings. The others made an excited circle. "Well, sir, th' colonel met your lieutenant right by us — it was damnedest thing I ever heard — an' he ses: 'Ahem! ahem!' he ses. 'Mr. Hasbrouck!' he ses, 'by th' way, who was that lad what carried th' flag?' he ses. There, Flemin', what d' yeh think 'a that? 'Who was th' lad what carried th' flag?' he ses, an' th' lieutenant, he speaks up right away: 'That's Flemin', an' he's a jimhickey,' he ses, right away. What? I say he did. 'A jimhickey,' he ses — those 'r his words. He did, too. I say he did. If you kin tell this story better than I kin, go ahead an' tell it. Well, then, keep yer mouth shet. Th' lieutenant, he ses: 'He's a jimhickey,' and th' colonel, he ses: 'Ahem! ahem! he is, indeed, a very good man t' have, ahem! He kep' th' flag 'way t' th' front. I saw 'im. He's a good un,' ses th' colonel. 'You bet,' ses th' lieutenant, 'he an' a feller named Wilson was at th' head 'a th' charge, an' howlin' like Indians all th' time,' he ses. 'Head 'a th' charge all th' time,' he ses. 'A feller named Wilson,' he ses. There, Wilson, m'boy, put that in a letter an' send it hum t' yer mother, hay? 'A feller named Wilson,' he ses. An' th' colonel, he ses: 'Were they, indeed? Ahem! ahem! My sakes!' he ses. 'At th' head 'a th' reg'ment?' he ses. 'They were,' ses th' lieutenant. 'My sakes!' ses th' colonel. He ses: 'Well, well, well,' he ses. 'They deserve t' be major-generals.'"
The youth and his friend had said: "Huh!" "Yer lyin' Thompson." "Oh, go t' blazes!" "He never sed it." "Oh, what a lie!" "Huh!" But despite these youthful scoffings and embarrassments, they knew that their faces were deeply flushing from thrills of pleasure. They exchanged a secret glance of joy and congratulation.
They speedily forgot many things. The past held no pictures of error and disappointment. They were very happy, and their hearts swelled with grateful affection for the colonel and the youthful lieutenant.
dusty blue lines other Union regiments returning to their lines after participating in battles.
the depleted band the condition of Henry's regiment on returning from the offensive.
ragamuffin interest the soldiers' uniforms were tattered and torn (a ragamuffin appearance), yet the soldiers still had a keen interest in overhearing the conversation between the colonel and the general.
black words between officers the possible verbal confrontation between the general and the colonel is of great interest to the listening regiment.
the colonel's manner changed from that of a deacon to that of a Frenchman the colonel's initial response to the general's criticism of the regiment's efforts was "to defend with vigor" (a deacon's response) the regiment's actions; instead he chooses "to respond diplomatically" (a Frenchman's response).
elfin thoughts of or like an elf; here, meaning that Henry realizes on his return to his lines that the regiment really had not accomplished very much. What they had done they had exaggerated (fantasized—"elfin, fairy-like") into something more than what was actually accomplished.