BLTC Press Titles

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Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

Less than kin

by Alice Duer Miller


A new President having decided to add cavalry to the army, the recruits were being drilled on a flat furrowed savannah outside the city limits. Behind them a line of hills, rugged in outline but softened by heavy vegetation, were hidden by the mist that was rolling away over the Atlantic; and all about them, at the edge of the meadow, were tall flat-topped trees, under which were dotted little pink and blue houses, like toys.

The soldiers wore blue cotton uniforms, and many of them were barefooted. Their horses were diminutive, but sure-footed and nimble, not ill built forward of the saddle, but pitifully weak behind.

The instructor was very differently mounted. He rode a round strong bay mare, which, in contrast to the pony-like creatures about her, looked a hand higher than her actual height. Her rider sat still watching his pupils. Little of his face was visible under the brim of his broad Panama hat except a brown chin and a pair of long blond mustaches. Now and then he shouted to the men in excellent Spanish; and once or twice swore with the tolerant, unmistakable drawl of the Yankee. On the whole, however, one would have said after watching him for some minutes that his temper seemed fairly unruffled in a climate which tries men's tempers, and in an occupation which induces irritation.

Once, with some instinctive motion of his body, he put his horse at a hand gallop, and riding over to one of the soldiers offered some individual suggestions. The man plainly did not understand, and a minute later the instructor had changed mounts with the man, and presently the pony was wheeling hither and thither in response to his bit, as a boat answers its rudder.

Exactly at ten o'clock the door of a square building in the town opened; a little trumpeter came out, and the clear notes of a bugle—so appropriate to the fierce brilliance of the morning—were flung out like a banner upon the air. It was the signal that the lesson was over. The men formed into fours, and jogged away under the command of a non-commissioned officer, leaving the American alone.

He sat a moment, watching the retreating backs, as he took a grass cigarette case from his breeches pocket, and lit a little yellow native cigarette. Then he turned his horse with one hand, and cantered away across the savannah. As he did so, the motion and the clear brightness of the morning moved him to song. Pushing back his hat from his forehead he lifted his head:

"Oh, I'm not in a hurry to fuss or to worry,
For fear I should grow too stout,
And I don't care a bit if my boots don't fit,
For I walk just as well without."

He stopped in front of one of the toy houses, and shouted " Oh, Senor Doctor."

The door, which stood open, was at once filled by the figure of a man in crash clothes. He was middle-aged and wore spectacles, so powerful that the eyes appeared to glare upon you with unspeakable ferocity, until, seeing round them or over, you found the expression friendly in the extreme.

"Ah, ha, Don Luis," he said, "I did not know you were a singer."

"And a poet, my dear Doctor," returned the other, bowing. "My own words. Could you hear them across the savannah?"

"I could have heard them over the frontier. Will you come in?"

"No, gracias," he answered. "I only stopped in to ask you to a party this evening, Doctor, for the lovely Rosita. It became necessary to do something to cut out that handsome young dog of a native. Will you come?"

The doctor gave a sound indicative of hesitation.

"What kind of a party?" he asked cautiously.

"Oh, a perfectly respectable little party," returned Vickers, "not a bit like my last. At least it will begin respectably. It will end as my guests please. Will you come early or late, Doctor?"

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