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Then it occurred to his thoughtful sister Maria that he ought to have a good supply of stationery, including pens, a bottle of ink, and a portfolio on which to write when he was far away from tables and desks.
Thenceforward everything seemed to conspire to teach Si how vain and superfluous were the things of this world. The first rain-storm soaked his cherished album until it fell to pieces, and his sister's portfolio did the same. He put the photographs in his blouse pocket and got along just as well. When he wanted to write he got paper from the sutler. A mule tramped on his fancy coffee-pot, and he found he could make quite as good coffee in a quart-cup. A wagon-wheel lan over his cherished frying-pan, and he melted an old canteen in two and made a lighter and handier pan out of one-half of it. He broke his bowie-knife prying the lid off a cracker-box. He piled his knapsack with the others one day when the regiment was ordered to strip them off for a charge, and neither he nor his comrades ever saw one of them again. He never attempted to replace it. He learned to roll up an extra pair of socks and a change of underclothing in his blanket, tie the ends of this together and throw it over his shoulder sash fashion. Then, with his socks drawn up over the bottoms of his pantaloons, three days' rations in his haversack and 40 rounds in his cartridgebox, he was ready to make his 30 miles a day in any direction he might be sent, and whip anything that he encountered on the road.
"Dear Si," the letter began. He didn't have to turn over to the bottom of the last page to know what name he would find there. He read those words over and over a dozen times, and they set his nerves tingling clear down to his toe-nails. Si forgot his aches and blisters as he read on through those delicious lines.
A few days after this the whole regiment was ordered on fatigue duty to repair an old corduroy road. Si didn't want to go, and "played off." He told the Orderly he wasn't able to work, but the Orderly said he would have to shoulder an ax or a shovel, unless he was excused by the doctor. He went up at sick-call and made a wry face, with his hands clasped over his body in the latitude of his waistband.
"Never had 'em himself," thought Si. "What 'n the world does ha mean?" And Si's big eyes opened with wonder and fear at the thought that whatever it was he had "got 'em."
"Hello, Si," said Shorty; "whar ye bin? What d'ye mean, goin' off 'n' leavin' yer sowbelly half done?"
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