CHAPTER I. CEDAR MOUNTAIN
The first youth rode to the crest of the hill, and, still sitting on his horse, examined the country in the south with minute care through a pair of powerful glasses. The other two dismounted and waited patiently. All three were thin and their faces were darkened by sun and wind. But they were strong alike of body and soul. Beneath the faded blue uniforms brave hearts beat and powerful muscles responded at once to every command of the will.
"What do you see, Dick?" asked Warner, who leaned easily against his horse, with one arm over the pommel of his saddle.
"Hills, valleys, mountains, the August heat shimmering over all, but no human being."
"A fine country," said young Pennington, "and I like to look at it, but just now my Nebraska prairie would be better for us. We could at least see the advance of Stonewall Jackson before he was right on top of us."
Dick took another long look, searching every point in the half circle of the south with his glasses. Although burned by summer the country was beautiful, and neither heat nor cold could take away its picturesqueness. He saw valleys in which the grass grew thick and strong, clusters of hills dotted with trees, and then the blue loom of mountains clothed heavily with foliage. Over everything bent a dazzling sky of blue and gold.
The light was so intense that with his glasses he could pick out individual trees and rocks on the far slopes. He saw an occasional roof, but nowhere did he see man. He knew the reason, but he had become so used to his trade that at the moment, he felt no sadness. All this region had been swept by great armies. Here the tide of battle in the mightiest of all wars had rolled back and forth, and here it was destined to surge again in a volume increasing always.
"I don't find anything," repeated Dick, "but three pairs of eyes are better than none. George, you take the glasses and see what you can see and Frank will follow."
He dismounted and stood holding the reins of his horse while the young Vermonter looked. He noticed that the mathematical turn of Warner's mind showed in every emergency. He swept the glasses back and forth in a regular curve, not looking here and now there, but taking his time and missing nothing. It occurred to Dick that he was a type of his region, slow but thorough, and sure to win after defeat.
"What's the result of your examination?" asked Dick as Warner passed the glasses in turn to Pennington.
"Let x equal what I saw, which is nothing. Let y equal the result I draw, which is nothing. Hence we have x + y which still equals nothing."
Pennington was swifter in his examination. The blood in his veins flowed a little faster than Warner's.
"I find nothing but land and water," he said without waiting to be asked, "and I'm disappointed. I had a hope, Dick, that I'd see Stonewall Jackson himself riding along a slope."
"Even if you saw him, how would you know it was Stonewall?"
"I hadn't thought of that. We've heard so much of him that it just seemed to me I'd know him anywhere."
"Same here," said Warner....