But Emmeline did not want to go to Round Top, and she did not care to see the kittens and the calf; she wanted [Pg 36] to stay in Gettysburg. Eliza Batterson would stay, and would have a hundred boastful things to tell her. It was bitterly disappointing to be sent away. If Bertha had not been there to be taken care of she might have stayed. She agreed with Mrs. Bannon that Bertha could rise if she would. The little Schmidts made no sound on the journey.
Terrified by their mother's fright, they huddled in their various uncomfortable positions in the body of the wagon. Once Emmeline, hearing a gentle whimper, looked round, and saw that a chair had fallen upon Betsy, and that she looked out from between the rungs as if from a cage.
Scrambling back to rescue her, Emmeline observed a long line of wagons like their own coming from Gettysburg. She clucked sharply to him and switched him with the reins.
When all methods of hurrying his lagging gait proved futile, she proposed that she and the older children should walk, and thus relieve him for a while of their weight. Only Mrs. Schmidt remained in the cart, with Carl in her arms. Old Whitey lifted his head a little higher. Away to the north, beyond the seminary building, toward the dim line of blue hills on the horizon, there was a sharp crack! A deeper, heavier sound crashed upon the air and interrupted Emmeline's [Pg 39] sentence. The first great boom of cannon lengthened into a rumble—long, low, echoing, ominous.
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Whitey shivered and gave a strange snort; with a cry, Mrs. Schmidt seized the reins in both hands. But Whitey would not advance. Emmeline helped the numerous little Schmidts into the wagon, and then, climbing in after them, took the reins from Mrs. She assured herself that there was nothing to be afraid of.
The shooting, loud as it sounded, was far away. With strange, jerky motions, [Pg 40] Whitey started; but Whitey's efforts were exerted more in an upward than a forward direction. He pranced, if the word can be used to describe a motion so stiff; he tossed his head, he snorted again. His progress became even slower than before. The heat seemed to grow each moment more intense, but the travelers did not dare to stop in the shade.
To the north there now appeared puffs of white smoke and flashes of light. The roar became continuous; before one rolling echo was more than well begun, another hollow boom had started other echoes. Schmidt grew pale and the baby began to cry. Emmeline became impatient with the Schmidts, impatient with the dancing horse, impatient with the rough road. They had come now to a region [Pg 41] which had recently been drenched with heavy rains. The wheels sank deep into the mud. Several times the travelers had to dismount while Whitey pulled the wagon out of a hole.
Still the booming grew heavier and the white clouds thicker; but they were far away—far beyond the seminary building. Emmeline and her party gazed so intently in the direction of the sound that they neglected to look ahead. At a sudden turn in the road, Emmeline gave a cry and pulled at Whitey's reins, although Whitey had already stopped, paralyzed. The road before them was no longer open; it was filled from fence to fence with marching troops.
To Emmeline they numbered millions. Whitey snorted again; Mrs. Schmidt and her children [Pg 42] almost ceased to breathe. To Emmeline it seemed that she and Mrs.
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Schmidt and the children and the duck faced the combined armies of the world. The approaching troops made no amused comments, as the soldiers in Gettysburg had done. They were marching swiftly; some one shouted to the travelers to get out of the way, and Mrs. Schmidt tugged first at the right rein and then at the left, thinking that if Whitey would not go in one direction, he might in the other. But vainly she tugged, and vainly she adjured her steed with weeping and with strange German exclamations. At last Emmeline had to lead him to the roadside.
A corps of soldiers marched past, tramping with even, hasty step; caissons rattled by; great cannon rumbled [Pg 43] along; huge wagons drawn by mules lumbered through the mud. On and on marched the thousands of men, with eyes fixed before them, as those deeper, wilder eyes of the enemy had been. Emmeline shrank behind the broad body of Mrs. These were Emmeline's own soldiers, but they seemed grim and terrible. Surely they could whip all the other soldiers in the world! When they were almost past, Emmeline thought of Henry, and looked after them in dismay.
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Then she realized that, even if Henry had been among them, he could not have spoken to her. She suddenly began to long for the shelter of her grandfather's house. When the corps had passed, Whitey was with difficulty restored to the road—a [Pg 44] horrible road, in which the ruts were now much deeper and the stones more protruding.
At a snail's pace he crept. Stragglers following the soldiers passed constantly—here a man leading a string of lame horses, there a man in charge of a line of ambulances or a damaged cannon. These stragglers were not so set upon advancing that they did not have a word for Mrs. Schmidt and her children and her duck. Finally, when the sun was almost directly overhead, Whitey stopped at the entrance of the byroad on which the elder Willings lived. Schmidt must drive on another half mile, and then leave the Emmitsburg Road in the opposite direction.
She wept at parting from Emmeline, and the children wept, and Emmeline kissed the [Pg 45] sleeping baby. The road was now clear; the house of Emmeline's grandparents was in sight, half a mile away. Carrying her little satchel, Emmeline started to run. She was hungry, for she had forgotten to eat the luncheon her mother had put up for her, and she was anxious to tell her grandparents, who always listened to her with close attention, of the condition of affairs in Gettysburg. The booming sound had ceased; the battle was certainly over. Perhaps this afternoon her grandfather would drive into Gettysburg with her.
That would be glorious indeed! She opened the gate at the foot of the lane, and then, swinging it shut behind her with a slam, waved her hand toward the porch. Her grandmother knew that slam; it always brought [Pg 46] her hurrying out to greet her darling. Emmeline hastened toward the house. Still there was no answer.
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Emmeline approached the door with hesitation. Here the dog and the cat usually met her; but now no friendly animals were to be seen.follow link
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Moreover, the shutters were closed and there were no familiar crocks sunning themselves on the fence. The latch did not yield. The door was locked! Emmeline shook it, pressed her body against it, and called again. It seemed to her suddenly that everything was mysteriously still, that the woods beyond the house were strangely dark, and that the sky was very far above her.
The horse and the old-fashioned buggy were gone. Returning to the house, Emmeline sat down on the bench beside the door and thought. They will soon be back again.
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