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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 27. At The Hospital Of Morgan's Men
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The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 27. At The Hospital Of Morgan's Men Post by :Arun_Pal_Singh Category :Long Stories Author :John Fox Date :May 2012 Read :2218

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The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 27. At The Hospital Of Morgan's Men

In May, Grant simply said--Forward! The day he crossed the Rapidan, he said it to Sherman down in Georgia. After the battle of the Wilderness he said it again, and the last brutal resort of hammering down the northern buttress and sea-wall of the rebellion--old Virginia--and Atlanta, the keystone of the Confederate arch, was well under way. Throughout those bloody days Chad was with Grant and Harry Dean was with Sherman on his terrible trisecting march to the sea. For, after the fight between Rebels and Yankees and Daws Dillon's guerilla band, over in Kentucky, Dan, coming back from another raid into the Bluegrass, had found his brother gone. Harry had refused to accept a parole and had escaped. Not a man, Dan was told, fired a shot at him, as he ran. One soldier raised his musket, but Renfrew the Silent struck the muzzle upward.

In September, Atlanta fell and, in that same month, Dan saw his great leader, John Morgan, dead in Tennessee. In December, the Confederacy toppled at the west under Thomas's blows at Nashville. In the spring of '65, one hundred and thirty-five thousand wretched, broken-down rebels, from Richmond to the Rio Grande, confronted Grant's million men, and in April, Five Forks was the beginning of the final end everywhere.

At midnight, Captain Daniel Dean, bearer of dispatches to the great Confederate General in Virginia, rode out of abandoned Richmond with the cavalry of young Fitzhugh Lee. They had threaded their way amid troops, trains, and artillery across the bridge. The city was on fire. By its light, the stream of humanity was pouring out of town--Davis and his cabinet, citizens, soldiers, down to the mechanics in the armories and workshops. The chief concern with all was the same, a little to eat for a few days; for, with the morning, the enemy would come and Confederate money would be as mist. Afar off the little fleet of Confederate gunboats blazed and the thundering explosions of their magazines split the clear air. Freight depots with supplies were burning. Plunderers were spreading the fires and slipping like ghouls through red light and black shadows. At daybreak the last retreating gun rumbled past and, at sunrise, Dan looked back from the hills on the smoking and deserted city and Grant's blue lines sweeping into it.

Once only he saw his great chief--the next morning before day, when he rode through the chill mist and darkness to find the head-quarters of the commanding General--two little fires of rubbish and two ambulances--with Lee lying on a blanket under the open sky. He rose, as Dan drew near, and the firelight fell full on his bronzed and mournful face. He looked so sad and so noble that the boy's heart was wrenched, and as Dan turned away, he said, brokenly:

"General, I am General Dean's son, and I want to thank you--" He could get no farther. Lee laid one hand on his shoulder.

"Be as good a man as your father was, my boy," he said, and Dan rode back the pitiable way through the rear of that noble army of Virginia--through ranks of tattered, worn, hungry soldiers, among the broken debris of wagons and abandoned guns, past skeleton horses and skeleton men.

All hope was gone, but Fitz Lee led his cavalry through the Yankee lines and escaped. In that flight Daniel Dean got his only wound in the war--a bullet through the shoulder. When the surrender came, Fitz Lee gave up, too, and led back his command to get Grant's generous terms. But all his men did not go with him, and among the cavalrymen who went on toward southwestern Virginia was Dan--making his way back to Richard Hunt--for now that gallant Morgan was dead, Hunt was general of the old command.

Behind, at Appomattox, Chad was with Grant. He saw the surrender--saw Lee look toward his army, when he came down the steps after he had given up, saw him strike his hands together three times and ride Traveller away through the profound and silent respect of his enemies and the tearful worship of his own men. And Chad got permission straightway to go back to Ohio, and he mustered out with his old regiment, and he, too, started back through Virginia.

Meanwhile, Dan was drawing near the mountains. He was worn out when he reached Abingdon. The wound in his shoulder was festering and he was in a high fever. At the camp of Morgan's Men he found only a hospital left--for General Hunt had gone southward--and a hospital was what he most needed now. As he lay, unconscious with fever, next day, a giant figure, lying near, turned his head and stared at the boy. It was Rebel Jerry Dillon, helpless from a sabre cut and frightfully scarred by the fearful wounds his brother, Yankee Jake, had given him. And thus, Chadwick Buford, making for the Ohio, saw the two strange messmates, a few days later, when he rode into the deserted rebel camp.

All was over. Red Mars had passed beyond the horizon and the white Star of Peace already shone faintly on the ravaged South. The shattered remnants of Morgan's cavalry, pall-bearers of the Lost Cause--had gone South--bare-footed and in rags--to guard Jefferson Davis to safety, and Chad's heart was wrung when he stepped into the little hospital they had left behind--a space cleared into a thicket of rhododendron. There was not a tent--there was little medicine--little food. The drizzling rain dropped on the group of ragged sick men from the branches above them. Nearly all were youthful, and the youngest was a mere boy, who lay delirious with his head on the root of a tree. As Chad stood looking, the boy opened his eyes and his mouth twitched with pain.

"Hello, you damned Yankee." Again his mouth twitched and again the old dare-devil light that Chad knew so well kindled in his hazy eyes.

"I said," he repeated, distinctly, "Hello, you damned Yank. DAMNED Yank I said." Chad beckoned to two men.

"Go bring a stretcher."

The men shook their heads with a grim smile--they had no stretcher.

The boy talked dreamily.

"Say, Yank, didn't we give you hell in--oh, well, in lots o' places. But you've got me." The two soldiers were lifting him in their arms. "Goin' to take me to prison? Goin' to take me out to shoot me, Yank? You ARE a damned Yank." A hoarse growl rose behind them and the giant lifted himself on one elbow, swaying his head from side to side.

"Let that boy alone!" Dan nodded back at him confidently.

"That's all right, Jerry. This Yank's a friend of mine." His brow wrinkled. "At any rate he looks like somebody I know. He's goin' to give me something to eat and get me well--like hell," he added to himself--passing off into unconsciousness again. Chad had the lad carried to his own tent, had him stripped, bathed, and bandaged and stood looking down at him. It was hard to believe that the broken, aged youth was the red-cheeked, vigorous lad whom he had known as Daniel Dean. He was ragged, starved, all but bare-footed, wounded, sick, and yet he was as undaunted, as defiant, as when he charged with Morgan's dare-devils at the beginning of the war. Then Chad went back to the hospital--for a blanket and some medicine.

"They are friends," he said to the Confederate surgeon, pointing at a huge gaunt figure.

"I reckon that big fellow has saved that boy's life a dozen times. Yes, they're mess-mates."

And Chad stood looking down at Jerry Dillon, one of the giant twins--whose name was a terror throughout the mountains of the middle south. Then he turned and the surgeon followed.

There was a rustle of branches on one side when they were gone, and at the sound the wounded man lifted his head. The branches parted and the oxlike face of Yankee Jake peered through. For a full minute, the two brothers stared at each other.

"I reckon you got me, Jake," said Jerry.

"I been lookin' fer ye a long while," said Jake, simply, and he smiled strangely as he moved slowly forward and looked down at his enemy--his heavy head wagging from side to side. Jerry was fumbling at his belt. The big knife flashed, but Jake's hand was as quick as its gleam, and he had the wrist that held it. His great fingers crushed together, the blade dropped on the ground, and again the big twins looked at each other. Slowly, Yankee Jake picked up the knife. The other moved not a muscle and in his fierce eyes was no plea for mercy. The point of the blade moved slowly down--down over the rebel's heart, and was thrust into its sheath again. Then Jake let go the wrist.

"Don't tech it agin," he said, and he strode away. The big fellow lay blinking. He did not open his lips when, in a moment, Yankee Jake slouched in with a canteen of water. When Chad came back, one giant was drawing on the other a pair of socks. The other was still silent and had his face turned the other way. Looking up, Jake met Chad's surprised gaze with a grin.

A day later, Dan came to his senses. A tent was above him, a heavy blanket was beneath him and there were clothes on his body that felt strangely fresh and clean. He looked up to see Chad's face between the flaps of the tent.

"D'you do this?"

"That's all right," said Chad. "This war is over." And he went away to let Dan think it out. When he came again, Dan held out his hand silently.

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But the sun sank next day from a sky that was aflame with rebel victories. It rose on a day rosy with rebel hopes, and the prophetic coolness of autumn was in the early morning air when Margaret in her phaeton moved through the front pasture on her way to town--alone. She was in high spirits and her head was lifted proudly. Dan's boast had come true. Kirby Smith had risen swiftly from Tennessee, had struck the Federal Army on the edge of the Bluegrass the day before and sent it helter-skelter to the four winds. Only that morning she had