The Officers Led It Past The Figure In The Linen Suit, And So Close
To It That The File Closers Had To Part With The Column To Avoid
Treading On It.
Each soldier as he passed turned and looked down on
it, some craning their necks curiously, others giving a careless
glance, and some without any interest at all, as they would have
looked at a house by the roadside, or a hole in the road.
One young soldier caught his foot in a trailing vine, just opposite
to it, and fell. He grew very red when his comrades giggled at him
for his awkwardness. The crowd of sleepy spectators fell in on
either side of the band. They, too, had forgotten it, and the
priests put their vestments back in the bag and wrapped their heavy
cloaks about them, and hurried off after the others.
Every one seemed to have forgotten it except two men, who came slowly
towards it from the town, driving a bullock-cart that bore an
unplaned coffin, each with a cigarette between his lips, and with his
throat wrapped in a shawl to keep out the morning mists.
At that moment the sun, which had shown some promise of its coming in
the glow above the hills, shot up suddenly from behind them in all
the splendor of the tropics, a fierce, red disk of heat, and filled
the air with warmth and light.
The bayonets of the retreating column flashed in it, and at the sight
a rooster in a farm-yard near by crowed vigorously, and a dozen
bugles answered the challenge with the brisk, cheery notes of the
reveille, and from all parts of the city the church bells jangled out
the call for early mass, and the little world of Santa Clara seemed
to stretch itself and to wake to welcome the day just begun.
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