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PRODIGY (chapter4)

2006-09-07 20:28

    CHAPTER IV

    But the capture of several wagon-loads of commissary whisky, and the destruction of two tons of stationery intended for the general commanding, which interfered with his regular correspondence with the War Department, at last awakened the United States military authorities to active exertion. A quantity of troops were massed before the "Pigeon Feet" encampment, and an attack was hourly imminent.

    "Shine your boots, sir?"

    It was the voice of a youth in humble attire, standing before the flap of the commanding general's tent.

    The General raised his head from his correspondence.

    "Ah," he said, looking down on the humble boy, "I see; I shall write that the appliances of civilization move steadily forward with the army. Yes," he added, "you may shine my military boots. You understand, however, that to get your pay you must first——"

    "Make a requisition on the commissary-general, have it certified to by the quartermaster, countersigned by the post-adjutant, and submitted by you to the War Department——"

    "And charged as stationery," added the General, gently. "You are, I see, an intelligent and thoughtful boy. I trust you neither use whisky, tobacco, nor are ever profane?""I promised my sainted mother——"

    "Enough! Go on with your blacking; I have to lead the attack on the 'Pigeon Feet' at eight precisely. It is now half-past seven," said the General, consulting a large kitchen clock that stood in the corner of his tent.

    The little boot-black looked up; the General was absorbed in his correspondence. The boot-black drew a tin putty blower from his pocket, took unerring aim, and nailed in a single shot the minute hand to the dial. Going on with his blacking, yet stopping ever and anon to glance over the General's plan of campaign, spread on the table before him, he was at last interrupted by the entrance of an officer.

    "Everything is ready for the attack, General. It is now eight o'clock."

    "Impossible! It is only half-past seven."

    "But my watch and the watches of your staff——"

    "Are regulated by my kitchen clock, that has been in my family for years. Enough! It is only half-past seven."

    The officer retired; the boot-black had finished one boot. Another officer appeared.

    "Instead of attacking the enemy, General, we are attacked ourselves. Our pickets are already driven in."

    "Military pickets should not differ from other pickets," interrupted the boot-black, modestly. "To stand firmly they should be well driven in."

    "Ha! there is something in that," said the General, thoughtfully. "But who are you, who speak thus?"

    Rising to his full height, the boot-black threw off his outer rags, and revealed the figure of the Boy Chief of the "Pigeon Feet." "Treason!" shrieked the General; "order an advance along the whole line."

    But in vain. The next moment he fell beneath the tomahawk of the Boy Chief, and within the next quarter of an hour the United States Army was dispersed. Thus ended the battle of Boot-black Creek.

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