"I'm goin' to try to be half-white," he mentally resolved; "at least, as long's I'm north o' the Ohio River. When I'm back agin at the front, I kin take a rest from being respectable."
He was alert, prompt, and observant, and before he was himself aware of it began running things about the ante-rooms to Headquarters. More and more the General and Chief Clerk kept putting the entire disposal of certain matters in his hands, and it was not surprising that he acted at times as if he were the Headquarters himself, and the General and others merely attaches. Shorty always had that way about him.
"No, you can't see the General today," he would say to a man as to whom he had heard the General or the Chief Clerk hint was a bore, and wasted their time. "The General's very busy. The President's layin' down on him for his advice about a campaign to take Richmond by a new way, and the General's got to think at the rate of a mile a minute in order to git it off by telegraph."
[Illustration: DON'T YOU KNOW BETTER THAN TO COME TO HEADQUARTERS LIKE THAT? 156]
"Here," to a couple of soldiers who came up to get their furloughs extended, "don't you know better than to come to Headquarters looking as if your clothes had been blowed on to you? How long've you bin in the army? Hain't you learned yit that you must come to Headquarters in full dress? Go back and git your shoes blacked, put on collars, button up your coats, and come up here lookin' like soldiers, not teamsters on the Tullyhomy mud march."
"No," very decisively, to a big-waisted, dark-bearded man; "you can't git no permit here to open no shebang in camp or anywheres near. Too many like you out there now. We're goin' to root 'em all out soon. They're all sellin' whisky on the sly, and every last one of 'em orter be in jail."
"Certainly, madam," tenderly to a poor woman who had come to see if she could learn something of her son, last heard from as sick in hospital at Chattanooga. "Sit down. Take that chair--no, that one; it's more comfortable. Give me your son's name and regiment. I'll see if we kin find out anything about him. No use seein' the General. I'll do jest as well, and 'll tend to it quicker."
"No," to a raw Captain, who strolled in, smoking a cheap cheroot. "The General's not in to an officer who comes in here like as if Headquarters was a ward caucus. He'll be in to you when you put on your sword and button up your coat."
It amused and pleased the General to see Shorty take into his hands the administration of military etiquette; but one day, when he was accompanying the General on a tour of inspection, and walking stiffly at the regulation distance behind, a soldier drunk enough to be ugly lurched past, muttering some sneers about "big shoulder-straps."
Shorty instantly snatched him by the collar and straightened him up.
"Take the position of a soldier," he commanded.
The astonished man tried to obey.
"Throw your chest out," commanded Shorty, punching him in the ribs.
"Little fingers down to the seams of your pants," with a cuff at his ears. "Put your heels together, and turn out your toes," kicking him on the shin. "Hold up your head," jabbing him under the chin. "'Now respectfully salute."
The cowed man clumsily obeyed.
"Now, take that to learn you how to behave after this in the presence of a General officer," concluded Shorty, giving him a blow in the face that sent him over.
The General had walked on, apparently without seeing what was going on.
But after they had passed out of the sight of the group which the affair had gathered, he turned and said to Shorty:
"Corporal, discipline must be enforced in the army, but don't you think you were a little too summary and condign with that man?"
"Hardly know what you mean by summary and condign. General, But if you mean warm by summary, I'll say that he didn't git it half hot enough. If I'd had my strength back I'd a' condigned his head off. But he got his lesson jest when he needed it, and he'll be condigned sure to behave decently hereafter."
Just then ex-Lieut.-Col. Billings came by. He was dressed in citizen's clothes, and he glared at Shorty and the General, but there was something in the latter's face and carriage which dominated him in spite of himself, his camp associations asserted themselves, and instinctively his hand went to his hat in a salute.
This was enough excuse for Shorty. He fell back until the General was around the corner, out of sight, and then went up to Billings.
"Mister Billings," said he, sternly, "what was the General's orders about wearin' anything military?"
"Outrageously tyrannical and despotic," answered Billings hotly.
"But jest what you might expect from these Abolition satraps, who're throttlin' our liberties. A white man's no longer got any rights in this country that these military upstarts is bound to respect. But I'm obeyin' the order till I kin git an appeal from it."
"You're a liar. You're not," said Shorty, savagely.
"Why, what in the world have I got on that's military?" asked Billings, looking himself over.
"You're wearin' a military saloot, which you have no business to. You've got no right to show that you ever was in the army, or so much as seen a regiment. You salooted the General jest now. Don't you ever let me see you do it to him agin, or to no other officer. You musn't do nothin' but take off your hat and bow. You hear me?"
Shorty was rubbing it in on his old tormentor in hopes to provoke him to a fight. But the cowed man was too fearful of publicity just then.
He did not know what might be held in reserve to spring upon him. He shambled away, muttering:
"O, go on! Grind down upon me. You'll be wantin' to send me to a Lincoln bastile next. But a day will come when white men'll have their rights agin."
Unfortunately for Shorty, however, he was having things too much his own way. There were complaints that he was acting as if he owned Headquarters.
Even the General noticed it, and would occasionally say in tones of gentle remonstrance:
"See here, Corporal, you are carrying too big a load. Leave something for the rest of us to do. We are getting bigger pay than you are, and should have a chance to earn our money."
But Shorty would not take the hint. With his rapidly-returning strength there had come what Si termed "one of his bull-headed spells,"
which inevitably led to a cataclysm, unless it could be worked off legitimately, as it usually was at the front by a toilsome march, a tour of hard fatigue duty, or a battle or skirmish. But the routine of Headquarters duties left him too much chance to get "fat and sassy."
One day the General and his staff had to go over to Louisville to attend some great military function, and Shorty was left alone in charge of Headquarters. There was nothing for him to do but hold a chair down, and keep anybody from carrying off the Headquarters. This was a dangerous condition, in his frame of mind. He began meditating how he could put in the idle hours until the General should return in the evening. He thought of hunting up Billngs, and giving him that promised thrashing, but his recent experience did not promise hopefully that he could nag that worthy into a fight that would be sufficiently interesting.
"I'd probably hit him a welt and he'd go off bawlin' like a calf," he communed with himself. "No; Billings is too tame, now, until he finds out whether we've got anything on him to send him to the penitentiary, where he orter go."
Looking across the street he noticed Eph Click, whom he had known as a camp-follower down in Tennessee, and was now running a "place" in the unsavory part of the town. Shorty had the poorest opinion of Eph, but the latter was a cunning rascal, who kept on the windy side of the law, and had so far managed to escape the active notice of the Provost-Marshal. He was now accompanied by a couple of men in brand-new uniforms, so fresh that they still had the folds of the Quartermaster's boxes.
"There goes that unhung rascal, Eph Glick," he said to himself, "that orter be wearin' a striped suit, and breakin' stone in the penitentiary.
He's runnin' a reg'lar dead-fall down the street, there, and he's got a couple o' green recruits in tow, steerin' them to where he kin rob 'em of their pay and bounty. They won't have a cent left in two hours. I've bin achin' to bust him up for a long time, but I've never bin able to git the p'ints on him that'd satisfy the General or the Provo. I'll jest go down and clean out his shebang and run him out o' town, and finish the job up while the General and the Provo's over in Louisville. It'll all be cleaned up before they git back, and they needn't know a word of it. Eph's got no friends around here to complain. He's a yaller hound, that nobody cares what's done to him. It'll be good riddance o' bad rubbish."
He stalked out of the Headquarters, and beckoned imperiously to a squad that he saw coming down the street under the command of a Sergeant.
Seeing him come out of Headquarters there was no question of his right to order, and the Sergeant and squad followed.
They arrived in front of Eph's place about the same time he did.
"Take that man," said Shorty, pointing to Eph, "and put him aboard the next train that goes out. Think yourself lucky, sir, that you git off so easily. If you ever show your face back here agin you'll be put at hard labor on the fortifications for the rest o' your natural life. Hustle him off to the depot, a couple of you, and see that he goes off when the train does. The rest o' you bring out all the liquor in that place, and pour it into the gutter. Sergeant, see that nobody's allowed to drink or carry any away."
Nothing more was needed for the crowd that had followed up the squad, anticipating a raid. Bottles, demijohns and kegs were smashed, the cigars and tobacco snatched up, and the place thoroughly wrecked in a few minutes.
Shorty contemplated the ruin from across the street, and strolled back to Headquarters, serenely conscious of having put in a part of the day to good advantage.
That evening the Provost-Marshal came into Headquarters, and said:
"I'm sorry, General, that you felt that Click place so bad that you were compelled to take personal action. I have known for some time that something ought to be done, but I've been trying to collect evidence that would hold Glick on a criminal charge, so that I could turn him over to the civil authorities."
"I do not understand what you mean, Colonel," answered the General.
"I mean that Glick place that was raided by your orders today."
"I gave no orders to raid any place. I have left all those matters in your hands, Colonel, with entire confidence that you would do the right thing."
"Why, one of my Sergeants reported that a Corporal came from your Headquarters, and directed the raid to be made."