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Si got a little red in the face, but said:
It is scarcely necessary to say that the first trial was a sad failure. The line bulged out in the center, and the outer flank, unable to keep up, fell behind, the company assuming nearly the shape of a big letter C. Then the boys on the outer end took the double-quick, cutting across the arc of the proper circle, which soon resulted in a hopeless wreck of the whole company. The Captain halted the chaotic mass of struggling men, and with the help of the Orderly finally succeeded in getting them straightened out and into line again. The men had often seen practiced soldiers going through this most difficult of all tactical movements, and it seemed easy enough; they didn't see why they couldn't do it just as well as the other fellows. They kept at it, and in the course of half an hour had improved so much that they could swing around in some kind of shape without the line breaking to pieces.
The Orderly, with a big package of letters in his hand, was calling out the names, and as the boys received their letters they distributed themselves through the camp, squatting about on rails or on the ground, devouring with the greatest avidity the welcome messages from home. The camp looked as if there had been a snowstorm.
As soon as Si's hour was up, and he had eaten supper and "made up" with Shorty, he set about answering his letter. When, on his first march, Si cleaned out all the surplusage from his knapsack, he had hung on to a pretty portfolio that his sister gave him. This was stocked with postage stamps and writing materials, including an assortment of the envelopes of the period, bearing in gaudy colors National emblems, stirring legends, and harrowing scenes of slaughter, all intended to stimulate the patriotic impulses and make the breast of the soldier a very volcano of martial ardor.
When Si got up he burst off half the buttons on his clothes. He looked as if he was carrying a bass-drum in front of him. After he began to shrink he had to tie up his clothes with a string until he had a chance to repair damages. But during the next 24 hours he had something else to think of.
"I reck'n 'twont be long, now, till yer catches on ter the meanin' ol what a grayback is. Ye'll know all 'bout it purty sudden. This ain't the first one I ever seen."
In this way the soldiers spent the remainder of the night. Before daybreak the blast of a hundred bugles rang out, but there was little need for the reveille.
"Them fellers that's been in the service longer 'n we have think they're smart," said Si Klegg, as he and Shorty plodded on, both already a little blown. "Well show 'em that we can hoof it jest as fast as they can, and jest as fur in a day!"
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